The 2016 All-Star break is behind us and the MLB is revving up for a dramatic second half of baseball. Let’s begin with an All-Star break recap. Giancarlo Stanton went absolutely crazy at the homerun derby last week, racking up an astounding 61 homeruns in a single night…The guy is an absolute beast and to say I have a man crush on him is an understatement. The next night, the American League beat the National League 4-2, in what was a snooze-fest of a game. What was important was with that victory, the American League now has home-field advantage in the World Series.
Dating back to 2003, former commissioner Bud Selig thought it was a brilliant idea to give the All-Star game some incentive. He decided that home-field advantage in the World Series would be awarded to the winning team. The fact that any rule that was implemented by that schmo is still in place today is remarkable. The All-Star game is a glorified exhibition game that should have no influence on the outcome of the season.
As the lights get brighter and the weather gets colder, divisional races seem to get tighter. Each and every game is important to teams in contention. One bad coaching decision or a missed call can cause your team to miss the playoffs entirely. The best 10 teams throughout the entirety of the grueling 162 game season have the opportunity to strut their stuff on the biggest stage in baseball. Fans from every venue come out to support their team, in hopes to capture a World Series Championship. Stadiums are sold out and the fans begin to have a huge impact on the outcome of games. Instituting a rule that allows the winner of an All-Star game to get home-field advantage is downright idiotic and unfair to the team who actually deserves it. The National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association use the regular season records to determine home-field advantage in their championship finals. In the MLB they use the team’s regular season records for the divisional and championship series but decide to discard that for the most important series, the World Series. I’m not making a big deal out of nothing either. This has affected many teams.
Let’s take 2011 as an example. The National League took home the win against the American League in the All-Star game, giving home-field advantage to the National League in the World Series. The 2011 World Series was played by the 96 win Texas Rangers (American League) and the 90 win St. Louis Cardinals (National League). If home-field advantage was chosen by regular season record, then the Texas Rangers would have had home-field advantage. But because Selig is a moron, the Cardinals were awarded home-field advantage because they had a few players play in an exhibition game a few months back and happened to win.
Nonetheless, the 2011 World Series was one for the record books. The series was so evenly matched that it went to a pivotal game 7 played at Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals. Ultimately, the Cardinals ended up winning and taking home the World Series title. But what if that game was played in Texas? Would that game have turned out differently? In fact, I believe it would have. The starting pitcher for the Rangers in game 7 was Matt Harrison. Looking at his split statistics it shows that in 2011 he was a slightly better pitcher at home rather than when he was away. He tallied an 8-5 record at home opposed to a 6-4 record away. His strike outs to walk ratio was also higher at home than it was away. So again, I ask what if this game was being played in Arlington rather than in St. Louis. Was it the 47,399 Cardinal fans that were in attendance, screaming and chanting that got into Harrison’s head that game? We are always going to ask what if?
If I haven’t convinced you yet that the MLB is deciding home-field advantage the wrong way, then you probably were dropped on your head as a child or you just simply don’t believe that home-field advantage matters in baseball. Well either way, it goes hand in hand. Home-field advantage is huge in any sport. You know the saying “baseball is 90% mental and the other half physical”? Well that statement couldn’t be any truer unless the math made sense. Imagine being a pitcher. You are the center of attention. 47,000 fans are watching your every move and you can’t throw a strike. They start chanting your name and no matter how much you try and block it out, you can’t get away from it. That is a pitcher’s worst nightmare.
Now you may be thinking, you are a professional pitcher so you should be able to throw a strike. Well let’s take Johnny Cueto in 2013 for example. The Pittsburgh Pirates hosted the Cincinnati Reds in a one game playoff. On the mound for the Reds was their ace Johnny Cueto. The fans in Pittsburgh that night were like I have never seen before. The atmosphere was electric and their chants and jeers directly interfered with Cueto’s play.
The MLB using the All-Star game as a determinant for home-field advantage is so hipster, it hurts. They are trying to not go by the status quo and use regular season record as the determining factor like other professional sports do. It’s time for a change in the MLB and I think it should start here. Award the teams that deserve it on the basis of record, not by the exhibition game that nobody cares about anyway. I’d rather watch Giancarlo Stanton hit the ball to the moon in the home run derby, than watch the All-Star game even if it has the importance of home-field advantage. If you want fans to watch the All-Star game, then come up with a better idea. Fans aren’t interested and teams are being shorted the advantages that they deserve. The MLB needs to FIGURE IT OUT!
-Sam Vinciguerra (@SVinciguerra5)