Tim Kawakami: Use interleague play to decide Series home-field edge
By Tim Kawakami San Jose Mercury News (MCT)
Updated Jul 16, 2014 at 10:33 PM
Adam Wainwright was trying to help out the show, and it should have had no bearing on October, the World Series or anything other than the All-Star exhibition itself.
In a logical world and sport, it would have just been a good moment on a nostalgic night, that’s all.
But we’re talking about Major League Baseball and Fox here, so “logic” had no operating relevance.
On Tuesday, Wainwright threw a self-described first-inning “pipe shot” fastball to Derek Jeter, and Jeter lined it into the right-field corner, then quickly scored the game’s first run.
Big applause, nice moment, Jeter was properly saluted, American League up 1-0.
There are many examples of other pitchers serving up other legends in past All-Star games, and Wainwright did it well.
But wait: The American League went on to win the game 5-3, which earned the A.L. home-field advantage in the World Series.
And the team with home-field advantage has won the last five World Series and 16 of the last 20, including, of course, the Giants in 2010 and 2012.
The Giants did not have home-field advantage in 2002, when the Angels won Games 6 and 7 at Anaheim Stadium to win the title, you might remember.
Home-field advantage isn’t the most important thing in the World Series, but it is some important thing.
After long playoff journeys, playing the first two games of the World Series at home is significant.
Which should not be affected by the whims and mercies of players in July, just putting on a show, as they should.
So when Wainwright at first admitted he eased the fastball to give Jeter a better shot at a hit in his final All-Star appearance (Wainwright later backpedaled), that had all kinds of potential October repercussions.
For instance: What if Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals win the National League pennant?
His nice gesture to Jeter would, in part, lead to St. Louis having to play the first two World Series games in hostile territory . . . and also potentially Game 7, if it goes that long.
This is so obviously illogical that it occasionally staggers my mind, but it has been wrong for all 12 years since Bud Selig’s initial home-field advantage decree (after the 2002 All-Star tie game debacle).
So I’m used to it. For 12 years, Selig and Fox have tried to prop up their fading All-Star telecast by giving it a concocted and ill-fitting purpose.
“This one counts,” they’ve bellowed since 2003.
It shouldn’t, because the meaning is invented. It’s styrofoam reinforcement. It’s false.
And I’ll keep proposing my simple and logical solution, especially after Tuesday’s Jeter moment:
Home-field advantage in the World Series should be awarded to the league that wins the most games in interleague play.
If you’re going to have interleague play, why not use it to decide home-field advantage for the ultimate interleague series?
Obviously, copying the NBA and NHL would be fairest—the team with the best record in the last round gets home-court/field/ice advantage.
But MLB insists it needs weeks of lead time to prepare the host cities and reserve hotel rooms for the 50,000-plus incoming fans and bigwigs and therefore needs to narrow down the possibilities as early as possible.
That’s why it used to alternate yearly between N.L. and A.L. for World Series home-field advantage and then switched to the All-Star game device.
So my proposal accounts for that MLB need; I’ll even adjust to baseball moving interleague play all the way through September: Make the home-field call based strictly on interleague games from April through August.
Whichever league has the best record in interleague play by Sept. 1 would get World Series home-field advantage (with run-differential in the games as the tiebreaker) and there’s the lead time right there.
But I know deciding home-field with interleague play will never happen.
The All-Star game decider is Selig’s baby and also Fox loves it, and Fox’s money rules baseball.
Is interest in the All-Star game declining? Yes, no doubt. But that’s because of the over-saturation of the game on TV and the loss of N.L. vs. A.L. mystique thanks to interleague play.
You can argue that the A.L. is at a great advantage for World Series home-field advantage because it has “won” interleague play every year from 2004 on.
But that’s because the A.L. has been better, overall, than the N.L., for a long time. And has proved it in real games.
Good news for the N.L.: The A.L. prevailed only 153-146 last season and it is fairly tight again this year (102-88 A.L.).
Under my proposal, every interleague series from now until Aug. 31 would have increased meaning, and that’s better than heaping false meaning on an exhibition game in July.
It’s just fairer to award something based on season-long supremacy head-to-head rather than on an exhibition game that mainly served to salute a great player, who happens to play in the A.L.