The Epic Battle For World Series Home Field Adv…zzzzzz

In the nine years since baseball’s Think-of-Something-Anything response to the embarrassing 2002 All-Star Game tie, the gimmick – deciding which league would secure World Series home field advantage for its playoff champion – has been annually hammered into our heads as not just Rationalization for a decreasingly relevant concept, but The Rationalization. It’s personal, it’s for pride, it’s for home field advantage, it’s not a break, a diamond is forever, promise her anything but give her Arpege. The sad part is, some people have now heard it so often, they believe it.

In point of fact, in those nine years The Rationalization has directly and personally impacted only seven players.

Only All-Stars Lance Berkman, Yadier Molina, and Albert Pujols of the 2011 World Champion Cardinals, and All-Stars Josh Hamilton, Alexi Ogando, C.J. Wilson, and Michael Young of the defeated Rangers, were even winged by what happened in an All-Star Game. When the N.L. won last summer, the Cards got Game 7 and the Rangers didn’t. But one can argue convincingly that a team blowing a three-run lead and then a two-run lead in Game 6 could’ve done just as badly at home as they did on the road (and we don’t even need to address the possibility that the Cards might’ve won the Series in Game 6 if Tony LaRussa hadn’t forgotten how to phone his own bullpen in a noisy stadium).

The simple fact is that since the Butt-Covering Home Field plan was instituted in 2003, we’ve only had one seventh game, and thus we’ve only had one seventh game whose venue was decided by what happened in the All-Star Game. Other than last year, we haven’t gotten close. Only two other Series even reached Game Six.

There is absolutely no recent evidence that home field advantage is even keenly influential, let alone decisive. Twice the American League All-Stars gave “their” winner home field advantage only to see the National League teams (the 2006 Cardinals and 2008 Phillies) still wind up playing more home games than their A.L. rivals, and prevailing in the Classic. The 2010 Giants had home field, and didn’t need it. They won even though they played more games on the road than at home. In all the other Series (save for last year, of course) winner and loser played the same number of home games.

There’s no measuring for the psychological impact of knowing you have that 7th Game in your yard, and there’s an obvious advantage to the front end of the equation in which you are in strong position to win the first two at home (as did the ’04 and ’07 Red Sox, ’05 White Sox, and ’10 Giants). But did the Red Sox and White Sox pull off their three sweeps because they started in their own ballparks, or because they were decisively stronger clubs than the ’04 Cardinals, ’05 Astros, and ’07 Rockies?

Besides which, although they’ve been on a great run since the 1979 Pirates won at Baltimore, last year’s Cardinals victory only improved the home team’s record to 19-and-17 in the sundry Games 7 of the modern World Series. Whichever method gives you that decider – All-Star Stunt, Alternating Year Rotation, or something new – it just isn’t a guarantee you’re going to win it.

The All-Star Game was doing just as well (or just as badly) as that of any other sport until the Tie Disaster Of 2002, and that could’ve been remedied by keeping a small reserve of emergency pitchers for each team. It didn’t require a decade of selling as an ultimately decisive advantage, a not-at-all decisive advantage, decided by players making cameos under rules designed to insure they’re still just playing an exhibition, that has only come in to play once in all that time.

Let’s end this “Home Field” farce, now.


  1. Sam

    Ok, you don’t like that MLB continues to try to sell the public on the idea that the winner of the All-Star Game gets home field advantage because as it turns out, home field advantage hasn’t proved to really make a difference in the World Series. So you just want the deception (i.e. commercialization) to end? From my point of view, this change had as much, if not more, to do with trying to make the All-Star Game more appealing to viewers, than it did actually impacting the outcome of the World Series. Doesn’t everything have to do with money and ad revenue? If you were going to make an argument against the “new” format, I would have mentioned television ratings. Ratings for the All-Star game have been lower the entire last decade which would indicate that if anything, the change in format has negatively impacted viewership. Of course the lower ratings could just as easily be blamed on FOX because coincidentally ratings slipped when FOX started carrying the game.
    So, I understand changing the “winner gets home field advantage” format because it is a failed television experiment, but changing it because it has had no impact on the outcome of the World Series is a weak excuse at best… except for the fact that you don’t like MLB’s false advertising. Again, I think MLB tells people it matters so they’ll watch the game, not because MLB really believes it matters.

  2. Matt Notley

    I think MLB knows it really doesn’t make a difference if they use the alternating method or the It-matters-now method. They just don’t want an ASG to end in a tie ever again. And neither do I. I want the NL manager to do whatever it takes to beat the AL. That’s always what I thought the point of it was. And it’s obvious MLB is just marketing the hell out of the It-matters-now method to get higher ratings. And I could care less as long as I see a good game.

  3. Kyle Arnett

    I’ve never understood why MLB just didn’t give the team that had the best record the home field advantage in the World Series. Seems to work for the NHL and gives teams something to shoot for in The President’s Trophy.

  4. Sam

    Home field advantage isn’t important– so let’s not make the All-Star Game decide it? If it’s not important– though 21 of the last 25 teams to win the World Series had home field advantage– then it’s a good gimmick to encourage people to watch the All-Star Game in the era of games on cable (including MLB Extra Innings– greatest thing ever!), interleague play, and opposing players who hang out together before the game (sometimes during). I like “This Time It Counts”– it keeps me watching for the entire game, whereas before I probably had my fill of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver right around the time Smirky said “I’m Joe and he’s Tim” or the first of fifty proclamations of “Speed slows down a game.” Alternating home field advantage wasn’t any better. As for the best record in the majors determining home field advantage in the World Series– that’s OK if interleague play is expanded. But what a team does in the NL East is not comparable to what a team does in the AL West.

  5. mary caruso

    Home field advantage… Where did I hear that before? Oh yes. It was on the last Mets game broadcast where the announcers were saying that being on the home field allowed the crowd to become the ‘tenth’ player. I don’t know if what was said worked. All I know is that the team just performed on an above par level and won. Oh and by the way: Leave the Arpege and give me the diamond. Hopefully it will be in NY somewhere at this season’s end.

  6. EarlNash (@EarlNash)

    Mr. Olberman, My point exactly! This former Journal-American copy boy and reporter is now writing for the Bosox Injection [no pay] and wrote this:
    “nd, this Bud’s for YOU:

    There is no connection between the league that wins the All-Star game and the team that gets the 4-3 home advantage in the World Series. Your moronic advertising phrase—“Now, it counts!”—is an insult to all the players who gave their best efforts to win bragging rights glory for their league since July 6, 1933, at Chicago’s Commiskey Park.

    Bud, do you think that it didn’t “count,” to Babe Ruth, when he won the first All-Star game with a HR?”

  7. vp19

    All I know is that if the Washington Nationals manage to retain the National League’s best record, they will have home-field advantage throughout the postseason. After nearly eight decades of bad baseball in D.C. (or worse, no baseball), karma finally seems to be smiling on South Capitol Street.

  8. Sam

    The only other point I wanted to make about the benefit of home-field advantage is economically. While playing at home may not automatically equate to a win in the box score, it does translate to a win financially- not only for the host team, but for the host city. The National League won the 2011 All-Star Game giving St. Louis home-field advantage. Last year’s World Series yielded four games in St. Louis compared to Arlington, TX’s three games. It was estimated that each of those games had an economic impact on the city of $6.1 million. So not only did St. Louis win the World Series, but by going to a game 7, the city earned an extra $6.1 in stadium, hotel, restaurant, and tourism revenue.

    • Juan

      Good point, and let’s not forget the fans themselves. In case the series goes to seven games, they get to cheer their team at home for four games, including that mystical seventh one!

  9. mattmaison

    The announcers during the game were sure to point out several times that the home team has won the WS more times than the visitors since this rule was put in place, totally ignoring the points brought up here that most baseball fans realize. I hate bad announcing.

  10. fumanchu32

    I don’t like the ASG home-field advantage fiasco either BUT to argue that home-field is not significant is to overlook the Minnesota Twins World Series Championships when they played in what I like to call the Silver Pimple.

  11. Kirby Ooten

    The format for the LCS is 2-3- The National league holds the home area advantage in the World Series because of their win in the All Star game, and the fall classic also uses a 2- 3-2 format. In the National League, the situations are much cleaner.

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