Nightengale: MLB kills 'this time it counts' for stronger All-Star Game incentive

The idea was ridiculed from the outset, and the slogan mocked.

This time it counts.

Really, no one liked the idea that the All-Star Game winner determined home-field advantage in the World Series.

But you know what?

It actually worked.

The All-Star Game was immeasurably better after the 7-7 tie in the 2002 All-Star Game in Milwaukee.

Players actually stuck around until the end of the game. Managers managed the game as if it were a game that meant something. There were players even picked for the game based on their versatility that could come in handy in the late innings.

Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but come on, it beat the previous system when home-field advantage simply was alternated from one year to the next.

Besides, when Major League Baseball was continually asked why it couldn’t go to the team with the best record, or the league who won the most games in interleague play, the response was constant from MLB officials:

It can’t be done.

MLB officials insisted they needed more time. Time to set up all of the accommodations needed for hotels, flights and buses.

Sure, no one knew who would be playing in the World Series, but at least they could line up a scheduling of hotels depending on who reached the playoffs.

Well, magically, they no longer need that time.

Major League Baseball may have no more than 48 hours to know whether the World Series will start in the American League or National League city, and will have to adjust on the fly.

Yep, no different than the NBA or NHL, who manage to make it work.

Everyone seems thrilled that home-field advantage will now actually go to the World Series team that has the best record.

Yet, the repercussions could come as quickly as July 11 when the 2017 All-Star Game will be in Miami.

Will this become as meaningless and boring as the All-Star Games in the NBA and NHL, where no one plays defense? Will it become nothing more than a nine-inning home-run derby?

Surely, the executives at Fox are as curious as anyone, but Major League Baseball is hoping that their new incentive will keep the players’ competitiveness nearly as fiery as a regular-season game.

Instead of home-field average in the World Series, which was only going to affect a few players participating in the All-Star Game, there will be that juicy incentive that affects everyone.

Money, nothing but beautiful, green money.

Yes, there will be a pool of cash that goes to the winning players.

Sure, it may seem like be pocket change to the players, but whether it’s $10,000, $25,000 or even $50,000 a player, you can be assured that this will pique their interest.

It’s the reason why virtually everyone participates in March Madness pools every spring, or conducts, with great fanfare, fantasy football drafts in the dead of summer. Or hits the golf course with something besides pride on the line every hole.

The money involved may be small, but, oh, those bragging rights will stay around all year.

The American League won 11 of the 14 All-Star Games since 2002, but you never heard a single player bragging about their conquest.

Now, if you're talking about money, ooh, boy, you’ll hear about that.

Only time will tell how the All-Star Game will be affected.

But for now, hey, if you’ve got that 17-game lead like the Chicago Cubs did last September, and know that a team in the other league has nearly the same number of victories, maybe we’ll see some late-season incentive for teams that clinch early?

Then again, we saw what the home-field advantage meant in October for the Cleveland Indians. They lost three of four games at Progressive Field, including Game 7 against the Cubs.

The Kansas City Royals lost Game 7 at home in 2014 against the San Francisco Giants.

So, perhaps, the idea of home-field advantage was overrated all along.

Shh, just don’t tell anyone.

Copyright 2016 USA TODAY Sports


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment