Everyone Is Wrong About: The MLB All-Star Game


“Everyone Is Wrong” is an occasional series in which Jay examines a popular position and goes the other way. To read previous EIWs, click here.

 

In a last gasp effort to redeem itself, 2016 turned to America’s Pastime. In the new MLB collective bargaining agreement signed last night, the baseball powers that be rolled back one of the most hated rules in sports. The winner of the MLB All-Star Game will no longer have home-field advantage in the World Series.

It was, without a doubt, a populist move along the lines of standing up for veterans or hating Nickelback. It was also completely and utterly the wrong call.

Major League Baseball has been awarding home field advantage in the World Series to the league that wins the All-Star Game since 2003. Discussions about how to make the midsummer classic more relevant had been going on for years, but the last straw came after the 2002 game. That infamous contest went 11 innings and both teams ran out of pitchers with the score tied 7-7. The managers huddled with Commissioner Bud Selig and decided to let the game end in a draw.

That decision was widely panned, and the owners vowed never to let that happen again. They voted for the new rule that everyone — except me — now hates.

At Indiana Explained, we think it was a good rule. For the last 14 years, the MLB All-Star Game has mattered. That hasn’t been the case in any other sport. In the NBA All-Star Game, you get fined for playing defense (the last one ended in a score of 196-173!). The NHL All-Star Game is now a Gus Macker Tournament. And the Pro Bowl is so irrelevant it might as well be a contest between members of the U.S. House and members of the Senate.

Meanwhile, you could make the case that baseball All-Star Games have been even more competitive. The average margin of victory in All-Star Games from 2003-2016 has been 2.6 runs. Five of those contests were decided by just one run. In the previous 14 years (1989-2002), the average margin of 3.1 runs (20 percent higher), and only two games were decided by one run.

As for the complaints about the rule? They just don’t hold up under scrutiny.

First of all, the league that has won the All-Star Game has also provided the team with the best record most of the time. In 10 out of 14 seasons, the team with the best record had home field advantage based on the All-Star result anyway.

Second, it’s pretty clear that home field doesn’t matter all that much in the World Series. In the last 14 years, the team with home field is barely over .500 (8-6). How can we pretend it’s a huge advantage?

Year All-Star Winner Best Record World Series Champion
2003 AL AL NL
2004 AL NL AL
2005 AL AL AL
2006 AL AL NL
2007 AL AL AL
2008 AL AL NL
2009 AL AL AL
2010 NL NL AL
2011 NL AL NL
2012 NL NL NL
2013 AL NL* AL
2014 AL AL NL
2015 AL AL AL
2016 AL NL NL

*In 2013, the Red Sox and Cardinals had the same record, but the Cardinals would have had home field based on the second tiebreaker.

 

The biggest complaint is that we are allowing players who will not play in the World Series decide who gets home field advantage. The problem with this argument is that at the All-Star break, almost every team still has a chance at making the playoffs.

Let’s figure out exactly how many “irrelevant” players are playing in the All-Star Game. The largest second-half comeback for a team was 11 games, by the 2006 Twins. So we looked back since 2012 (when the playoffs were expanded to include an additional Wild Card team). In those five years, only 20 teams have been eliminated from contention at the All-Star break. Only 14 players in those five years played during the All-Star game.

14 players out of 340 All-Stars played for a team that was out of contention. Combined, they’ve had 13 at-bats and pitched a total of 3 innings. Hardly enough to sway anything.

Even if you call an 11-game comeback impossible and move the threshold to 9 games back, only 28 eliminated players have played in an All-Star Game.

With yesterday’s decision, baseball made the fans happy, but they made the midsummer classic worse. In ten years, expect more players to sit the game out, and don’t be surprised when the MLB tries gimmicks like Hall of Famers drafting the teams or U.S. vs. International players.

It’s simple: without a benefit or consequence, sports All-Star Games are no longer relevant.

And that’s why everyone is wrong about the MLB All-Star Game.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *