by Derek Franks
Tonight’s the big night! The moment we’ve all been waiting for. Tonight the World Series will be decided.
Well, at least a very important factor of the World Series: who gets home field.
But unlike any other sport, which does it the logical and most fair way, the team that gets that sacred home field advantage isn’t decided by records or seeds or division titles or even stats among the two teams representing their respective leagues. No, no. The team that gets home field advantage in the championship for America’s pastime is the winner of tonight’s goofy exhibition between players selected by fans.
Yep, the MLB All-Star game is tonight. And the winning league, made up of players who probably won’t even be in the World Series, will get to decide which league gets the all important home field in a series played three and a half months from now.
And I think it is time to address that elephant in the room, that one that’s been sitting in the room for so long that its trunk has started growing another trunk. Yes, it’s time we put an end to this out dated, despicably unfair regulation that has tainted baseball for years.
Yes, I said “tainted.” I said it because I’m not one of those “make everything as exciting as possible for the sake of money” jerks who sit in baseball’s empirical corporation-style front office.
Trying to establish the importance of the game is admirable, even for baseball. In a world where many professional sporting events that don’t have any impact on the actual season in play, Major League Baseball stands out for creating an extra draw to its all star game. And it’s interesting to note that it does create a draw to fans because the mid-summer classic does typically out-perform its counterparts in both ratings and hype. But let’s make no mistake, at least from my (and many others’) vantage point, I don’t care if the all-star game does well, gets publicity, has a lot of history or gives us a chance to watch the sluggers duke it out with the gunslingers.
If it doesn’t affect my team, or my team’s season, I don’t really care.
Oh but wait, it does affect my team’s season.
I remember when the Texas Rangers— I’m a Texan, you see— played the Cardinals in the 2011 World Series. Now, the Rangers finished with a better record, won their division and were clearly the favored club over St. Louis who barely squeaked into the playoffs as a Wildcard riding on a little winning streak and some help from others experiencing a late season collapse.
Despite these advantages, rightfully earned through making it through the grit of a 162 game season and coming out on top, Texas was forced to give home field advantage to the Cardinals, which eventually proved to be a very big reason they won the championship. (If David Freeze hits the go ahead home run at the Rangers Ballpark in the top of the eleventh, or better yet, if Josh Hamilton hits his home run in the bottom of the 10th, we would be talking a Rangers World Series win).
Why did this happen? Why were the Cards granted home field? Not because they earned it, not because Texas deserved it, but because of a stupid exhibition game played by players selected in a popularity contest, some 115 days and 100 some-odd games before it.
Oh and let’s not forget: how many Rangers played in that All-Star game? Oh that’s right, just two. How many Cardinals? Oh right, just two.
Seriously though, can we stop this charade? I’m not breaking new ground here. This isn’t some bizarre, unheard of concept. It’s simple, justified and well-supported in the community of baseball fandom. So why do we still grant the winning all-star team World Series advantages?
No other sport does this. It’s like taking the winner of the NBA summer league tournament (does that even exist) and giving that winning team’s conference home court in the NBA Finals. It’s like taking the winner of the NFL’s “Hall of Fame” game and giving that conference ten extra points in the Super Bowl. It’s like giving the candidate whose party won more mid-term elections the U.S. presidency. It’s a farce. A lame excuse to get more viewers and more publicity. And I’m tired of it.
If I had it my way, we’d do away with all-star games, which, in my opinion, are just another place for star players to get injured. But if that’s asking too much, perhaps making the All-Star games of each sport at the end of their respective seasons is more logical.
Sure the NFL’s Pro Bowl is usually the least exciting of the all-star games, and it is currently going on hiatus. But I still think that’s the best way to go: play it at the end of the season. A chance to see the sport one more time after the season’s concluded and also, another chance to see the big name players who likely didn’t play in the championship but who rightfully also shouldn’t be the ones to decide a very important variable of that championship.
To my disdain, these two “teams” made up of “all-stars” who won the popularity contest will “battle” tonight at the new Shea Stadium. And I’ll probably watch. That doesn’t mean that I care, or that I support the fact that it determines home field for the World Series. But it’s the middle of summer. I gotta have something to drink a beer to with friends.