In my opinion, the MLB All-Star Game is by far the best all-star game in American professional sports. The NFL Pro Bowl is an unmitigated disaster. The NBA All-Star Game is a glorified dunk contest — with a few wide-open three-pointers mixed in — because none of the players can be bothered to play defense. This year, the NHL introduced a new three-on-three All-Star Game format, which received mostly good reviews — but does not resemble an ordinary NHL game.
By comparison, the MLB All-Star Game looks mostly the same as a regular MLB game — maybe even a higher quality game. Pitchers often throw even harder than they normally do, because they are pitching fewer innings than they would during the regular season. The league’s stars shine brighter than ever.
We see spectacular velocity. We see tremendous home runs. We sometimes even get a hilarious moment. Most of all, the game celebrates the sport’s greatest stars.
However, the MLB All-Star Game has one great flaw — it decides home-field advantage for the World Series.
After the 2002 All-Star Game ended in a tie when both teams ran out of relief pitchers, MLB decided that the winning league in the All-Star Game would win home-field advantage for its representative in the World Series. The change was made in order to incentivize the leagues to try harder to win the game.
However, even though the All-Star Game is a celebrated event, it is still just an exhibition game. The quality of the game is high — pitchers throw their hardest and batters swing their hardest — perhaps even harder than usual. Still, it is simply not fair to punish a World Series team for its league’s performance in the All-Star game, a game in which that team likely only had a few players playing.
The 2002 All-Star Game was embarrassing for the league. All baseball fans know that there are no ties in baseball — the two teams continue playing extra innings until someone wins. However, rather than overreacting to one embarrassing tie, the league should simply ensure that the game continues until there is a winner, just like any other MLB game.
Home field advantage in the World Series is a critical advantage. In the last 30 series, the team with home-field advantage has won 24 of the 30 series. Because baseball can be such a random game, home-field advantage may not seem like it is as important as football and basketball, but it still offers a solid advantage in a series that is often decided by the tightest of margins.
There is an easier, fairer way to decide home-field advantage in the World Series — award the advantage to whichever team has the best record. In the past, this might not have made sense because the American League and the National League were entirely separate.
Now, however, with the implementation of interleague play and the introduction of social media and sports television, the two leagues have never been more connected. In fact, since the Houston Astros moved from the National League to the American League, there is at least one interleague series going on at all times, as the leagues now each have 15 teams — an odd number.
There still may be a disparity in the strength of the teams in the two leagues in any given season, meaning that one team may have an easier schedule, thus allowing them to win more games. Still, strength of schedule is a somewhat random variable in all sports, and variation in strength of schedule does not invalidate any given team’s record.
If the MLB would like to increase interest in its All-Star festivities, I would recommend implementing more individual skill competitions. The MLB Home Run Derby and the Slam Dunk Contest and Three-Point Contest in the NBA are highly celebrated and widely watched, and MLB could easily implement more of this type of competition to create more excitement. Possible examples include a race around the bases or a fastest-pitch contest.
The MLB All-Star Game is a great event and is well worth watching for baseball fans. However, at its core, it is just an exhibition game, designed primarily for the fans rather than the players or the league. There is no reason to attach something as important as home-field advantage in the World Series to a single exhibition game.
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