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 a 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.
The Dodgers have enough to worry about, but the construction in which Rafael Furcal is healthy, Dee Gordon has the makings of a lighter-hitting Jose Reyes, and Jamey Carroll actually has trade value – and they send Gordon back to Albuquerque – is nuts…you trade Carroll before he turns back into a pumpkin, shift the willing Furcal to second and thus reduce some of the wear and tear on his body, and let Gordon run wild and free at the major league level. Anything else suggests the Dodgers are operating under a delusion bigger than any of Frank McCourt’s – that the team is competitive this year….
A lot of leeway has to be given to All-Star managers about selecting pitching staffs, especially members from their own team, but the only man I’ve ever met with a bigger head than my own, Bruce Bochy, swung and missed, twice. One could stretch a point and say Tim Lincecum deserved a trip to Phoenix based on his Cy Young yields and post-season work last year and goofy popularity, but it’s still stretching a point. But Ryan Vogelsong? Helluva story, but not an All-Star. Not even close. Desperate homerism, pathetic, embarrassing. He was an All-Star, and you guys sent him back to AAA in the spring?
Just amazing to see that my Derek Jeter Injury Conspiracy Theory has played out almost exactly as I had written it. As I compose this we are still a few hours away from seeing the line-ups for the last game of the Yankees’ series in Cleveland, but Joe Girardi had already set up Part 2 of the theory by saying Jeter might not play all the games against the Indians. The true test of the theory is if Jeter does not cross the 3,000 hit plateau at home against Tampa Bay, and suddenly has a relapse that takes him out of the team’s subsequent road trip after the All-Star Break.
It may be academic since they may not have any more save situations this year, but if Mark Melancon keeps giving up runs in carload lots, the next youngster to get an audition as Astros’ closer could easily be young David Carpenter. He’s the ex-catcher they got last year from St. Louis for Pedro Feliz. His scoreless streak and minor league domination is obviated a little bit by the fact that he did it in A-ball at ages 24 and 25, but there is some leeway given to the fact that he only moved to the mound full-time in 2009. His demeanor and the strength of his fastball and top breaking pitch seem to make him an ideal candidate, or, at minimum, a suitable set-up man.