Stop the All-Star Game Insanity and Awarding the Winner a World Series Advantage

That Major League Baseball has the best all-star game of all the major professional sports speaks more to just how crappy all-star games are than how good the MLB game is. Any fond memories that fans might have of this game are those lingering from when that game was the only time, outside of the World Series, that players from both leagues faced off against each other. Starters would play the complete game; players would risk injuries for wins.

The MLB All-Star Game has always been an exhibition game. But this has become more and more evident over the years. Fans elect the starting rosters. Social media campaigns are employed to get the last bench guy selected for each team. There must be a player selected from each team, and position players rarely go more than three innings in a game, with most pitchers seldom throwing more than an inning.

The 2002 MLB All-Star Game ended in a tie after 11 innings, when both managers ran out of relief pitchers.
Since the game didn't count in the standings, managers wanted to get every pitcher into the game, no matter who was winning.

The solution of then-commissioner Bud Selig was to make the All-Star Game matter. So, he decided to give World Series home field advantage to the league that won. Thus the Yankees got home field advantage in 2003 thanks to Roger Clemens's being shelled in the All-Star Game (the Yankees lost the series to the Marlins). And the Chicago White Sox, for instance, got home field over the Astros in 2005 after Morgan Ensberg struck out against Mariano Rivera to seal the NL loss in the All-Star Game (the White Sox swept the Astros).

Home field advantage in the World Series should not be based on the outcome of an exhibition baseball game. Sure, the games had become boring before Selig’s pronouncement, but frankly, the All-Star Game is still rather a boring affair that none of the players really seem to care about. Because here’s the thing: If the players did care about the game, then would Adam Wainwright still groove pitches to Derek Jeter so that Jeter could get a hit in his final All-Star Game? Those meatballs came in the first inning and resulted in a Jeter double in an inning in which the AL scored 3 runs to take a 3-0 lead on the way to a 5-3 win.

The Astros are once again in playoff contention, 5.5 games behind the Rangers for first in the AL West, and two games back of the Red Sox and Blue Jays for the final Wild Card spot. So should the Astros' hope of home field advantage in the World Series really have to rest on the hope that one of the AL pitchers doesn’t decide to serve up a fat pitch to a pal of his on the National League team, or should the Astros have to hope that someone decides to groove David Ortiz a pitch or two because this is Ortiz’s final season?

For the NBA and the NHL, the home field advantage goes to the team that has the best regular season record. And while the Super Bowl is played on a neutral field, the hosting sites for the playoff games leading up to it are based on either which team had the best record, or which team won a division and which team won the wild card. While the NFL has many, many faults, there’s no way the league would ever allow something like home field to be awarded on the basis of which conference won the Pro Bowl.

MLB wants the All-Star Game to matter for something. But as long as the players and coaches treat it as an exhibition game, nothing that MLB does will change that. If the league really wants the game to have an electric feel, to go back to the days when it really, truly mattered to the players who won the game, then MLB has to do away with inter-league play so, outside of the World Series, the only way players in one league can demonstrate dominance over the other is to win the All-Star Game.
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John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.
Contact: John Royal