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All Star Game Winner
by Larry Ness - 07/11/2012
MLB’s All Star game returned to Kansas City for the first time since 1973 and with a “youth movement” in tow. Bryce Harper (19-years-old) of the Nationals became the youngest position player in All Star game history, as only pitchers Doc Gooden (1984) and Bobby Feller (1938) were younger participants, all-time. Joining Harper was 20-year-old Mike Trout of the Angels, as the two phenoms were part of a group of 19 All Stars in 2012 who still haven’t reached their 26th birthdays. The last time an All Star game featured that many players under 26 was back in 1967, when Catfish Hunter plus rookies Rod Carew and Tom Seaver (you may just remember those names) topped a list of 19 players under 26 at that year’s “Midsummer Classic.”
Tuesday night’s game also marked the 10th anniversary of that infamous 7-7 tie, played (fittingly) at Milwaukee’s Miller Park back in 2012. Bud Selig came under heavy criticism for calling that game after 11 innings and I must admit I enjoyed watch him squirm but really, what else could he do? Anyway, beginning the very next year, it was decreed that the All Star game’s winner would determine home field edge in the World Series. Now according to Selig the tie had nothing to do with that change. "People think that World Series home field was because of the tie,' Selig was quoted as saying in a Tuesday article in USA Today. "That's a popular misconception. We were going to change it anyway. We didn't have a great system before (alternating years). One year you've got it, the next year I've got it. It wasn't exactly Einstein's theory of relativity on how we picked somebody.'
I’m no fan of Selig but he’s certainly right about MLB not having much of a system in place for determining the home field edge in the World Series, prior to 2003. Clearly, giving the team with the best regular season record of the two World Series participants would not only be the fairest method but it would also be the simplest. So naturally, MLB doesn’t want to do that. Now many argue that the home field edge in MLB is not nearly as advantageous as in other sports (that may be true) but let me offer some recent history to disprove that thought.
The NL won last night’s game 8-0, meaning for the third straight season, the NL representative will get Games 1, 2 , 6 and 7 at home. The AL had earned home field advantage by winning the All Star game seven straight years, from 2003-09. However, the AL representative was able to take just FOUR of those seven series. The NL won the 2010 and ‘11 All Star games and rode the home field edge to back-to-back wins by the Giants and Cardinals, each time over the Texas Rangers. That gives the NL a 5-4 lead in World Series titles these last nine years, despite the fact that the AL has won every interleague season series since the NL won it during the 2003 season (that’s NINE in a row).
Now let me get back to my point regarding home field edge. I doubt any reasonable person (by definition that excludes Skip Bayless, whose Tim Tebow ravings are just a couple of months away) would disagree that the team with the best regular season record of the two World Series participants “has earned” the home field edge. This is a system that should have been in place from the very first World Series (played in 1903), but hasn’t. Note that if that system (best record equals home field edge) had been in place these last nine seasons (since 2003 when the All Star game winner determined home field), it would have only affected two of the series. In SEVEN of the last nine years, the team with the best overall record also owned the home field edge by virtue of its league winning the All Star game.
However, what is noteworthy is, in the two seasons in which the team with the worse record was awarded the home field edge because of the All Star game result, we saw that team prevail in the World Series. It happened first in 2004, when the 98-win Red Sox had the home field edge over the 102-win Cardinals (Boston won 4-0) and last year, when the 90-win Cardinals had the home field edge over the 96-win Rangers (St Louis won 4-3). Think I’m making a bit too much of such a small sample size? Fair enough, so let’s ‘drift’ back over the previous 20 World Series, from 1982-2002 (remember, there was no World Series in 1994, because of the strike). In that 20-year span, there were 12 times when the team with the worst record of the two World Series participants was awarded the home field edge because of MLB alternating years. How many of those 12 teams won? Try 11!
Now that’s nothing to sneeze at. Here’s hoping (in the spirit of fairness) that the NL team which reaches the World Series owns a better record than its AL opponent. Join me Friday afternoon when I’ll have my Midseason Report, featuring some second-half predictions.