Major League Baseball is trying to "re-energize" its mid-season All-Star game by having it mean something. Tuesday night's winner between the National and American League will have the home field advantage in the World Series.
For the last century, the teams that have reached the World Series from the National and American Leagues have rotated home field advantage from year to year in the best-of-seven game championship. One year the National League team would host four of the seven games and the next year the American League team hosted four of the seven games. It had nothing to do with how many games the teams won during the regular season, as is done in both the National Basketball Association and the National Ice Hockey League.
Teams that get to host four of the games get to play at home if there is a deciding game seven. That has proven to be a huge advantage throughout the years in basketball, hockey and baseball. The last eight times that baseball's World Series has gone to a game seven, the championship has been won by the home team.
Baseball purists are calling the change for this year's All-Star game a grab for viewers to prop up the falling television ratings of a usually meaningless game, that is supposed to be about fun and pride.
Commissioner Bud Selig, who angered fans by letting last year's All-Star game end in a tie, said giving the contest meaning will "re-energize" the game.
But American League manager Mike Scioscia of the World Series Champion Anaheim Angels said he does not think the players need any extra incentive. "Pride is what has motivated players to compete and to give everything they have in this game for years and that won't change," he said. "That's going to be the motivating factor for the players and it's going to be an exciting ballgame."
Scott Rolen, the starting National League All-Star third baseman of the Saint Loius Cardinals, agrees. "You know, maybe it's nice for the fans, maybe it's nice for the media and a publicity type thing," he said. "But the players, they put the uniform on everyday and go out there and play hard."
And many of the baseball players, like American League home run leader Carlos Delgado, the first baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays, don't like the idea that the outcome of the All-Star Game will determine the home field advantage in the World Series.
"I'm not a fan of the whole idea that this game should dictate what's going to happen in the playoffs," he said. "So I personally am going to go out and play hard, and I'm just going to play the same way I always play; try to do what the situation calls for and help the team win."
The National League manager for the All-Star game is Dusty Baker of the Chicago Cubs, who gets the honor because he managed the San Francisco Giants into the World Series last year.
Baker was asked if he will do anything differently now that the game counts. "Well, you know a lot depends on the score and the game. I mean I'm going to try to play guys. I'm going to try to win the game as well," he said. "Anybody that knows me knows I try to play every game to win. And I don't care if I'm playing my Mom or my daughter or my wife. It doesn't matter who, I'm going to try to win."
All-Star game managers have always tried to get as many of the players into the mid-season classic as possible. Now that the game will be more than an exhibition, many wonder how that will affect strategies. Awarding the winner of the game home field advantage in the World Series is a two year trial.