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They should smoke some Bud!

They should smoke some Bud!
Fans of World Series contenders in the National League should stuff All-Star ballot boxes with the Detroit Tigers' whole lineup, maybe tossing in a few Tampa Bay Devil Rays for fun.

American League fans looking for an edge in October should write in the names of the worst of the San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers and New York Mets. Plenty to choose from there.

That way, cunning fans could conspire to influence the way the next couple of World Series turn out under baseball's new plan to give home-field advantage to the league that wins the All-Star game.

Thanks to an overreaction to last year's All-Star game tie, the least important game of the summer suddenly might have an impact on who wins the last and most important game in the fall.

Whether it's the cooking or the crowds or a dozen other things, home-field advantage is huge in the World Series. Too huge to be determined by the vagaries of one game that should be about fun and pride.

Teams hosting Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 of the World Series have won 15 of the last 17 titles - and the last eight seven-game series.

Baseball is changing something that doesn't need change - alternating home advantage in the World Series each year between the leagues - and tilting the playing field, so to speak, for its showcase event.

Even without any mischief at the ballot box, the shifting balance between the leagues' stars (the NL won 21 of 23 from 1963-85; the AL won 11 of the 14 prior to last year's tie) now will weigh on series that are supposed to define the best team.

If the two-year experiment approved by the players last week is extended, and one league happens to go on a long run of All-Star game wins, the World Series teams from those leagues would have an annual advantage.

Players brought up all those objections and more at meetings this spring. In the end they threw a bone to commissioner Bud Selig and the ratings chasers at Fox-TV who wanted to pump up the sagging All-Star game and wipe out the bad taste of last year's 7-7, 11-inning tie, called by Selig when the managers ran out of pitchers. It was a hard sell, especially to jaded older stars who like to hit the showers after three innings and fly home before the game is over.

 They settled on a deal, starting with the game July 15 in Chicago, that gives players, coaches and managers a say in who makes the team - besides the starters picked by fans - and an increase in rosters from a bloated 30 to an even more bloated 32.

Now, with the stakes raised, the best players from the best teams, looking toward October, will be taking it all a lot more seriously. Which is exactly the point. But the same point could have been made far less intrusively.

Why not simply play the game straight and play it to win as All-Star teams did for so many years?

Why not tell each manager to go with the starting lineup picked by the fans - they usually do a pretty good job, absent the means or incentive to cheat - and make moves as he would in any game? Everyone doesn't have to play.

Why not leave superstars like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, or Alex Rodriguez in the whole game? In the 1960s, the top players often batted four, five or six times, rather than bowing out after two or three appearances, as they have recently.
In one of the most famous All-Star moments, Pete Rose entered the 1970 game in the fifth inning and was still hustling hard in the 12th when he slammed into catcher Ray Fosse and scored the winning run.

Why not have a starter go four, five, even six innings instead of three if he's throwing well? He could be back pitching for his own team a few games later.

The All-Star game used to be about personal and league pride. Some of that has been eroded in the era of fantastic salaries and league-jumping deals, but there's enough left that could be tapped by a manager resolved to win. It shouldn't take a link to the World Series to play the game the way it's supposed to be played.

In recent years, baseball has turned the All-Star break into a midseason festival, jazzing it up with Home Run Derby and FanFest. At least one tour operator is selling an "All-Star holiday package" in Chicago for up to $2,495 per person, including two nights at a hotel, a box seat and passes to all events.

For that much, or for the $175 or $200 a ticket it costs just for the game, "you want to see a game played hard," Selig said.

Viewers at home, too, want to see it played hard, even if it doesn't count in the standings. They tend to turn off the tube or change channels when the superstars leave.

Baseball didn't have to resort to a public relations stunt to show that it cared and it didn't have to sacrifice the integrity of the World Series by chasing ratings in midsummer.


 by CityCowboy

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