It might not “count” the way it once did.
The teams in Tuesday’s All-Star Game at Marlins Park won’t be playing for home-field advantage in the World Series.
But players say the All-Star Game still matters.
“We’re going to still want to win,” said Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
For the first time since the 2002 All-Star debacle, when the Midsummer Classic ended in an 11-inning tie after both teams ran out of pitchers, the first All-Star Game in Florida won’t determine which league receives the home-field edge in the Fall Classic.
And players aren’t complaining.
“I thought it was silly,” Reds first baseman Joey Votto said of the previous format. “World Series home-field advantage being predicated on this game didn’t really follow logic.”
It all started after the ’02 All-Star Game when then Commissioner Bud Selig decided — with the unanimous approval of all 30 league owners — that the All-Star Game would have a direct bearing on the World Series.
The pennant winner from the winning league in the All-Star Game received the home-field advantage in the best-of-7 World Series.
“This time it counts,” became the All-Star slogan.
But most All-Star players say it didn’t make much sense.
“I didn’t feel like the game counting was a huge motivation for the players,” Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said. “I think it was more unfair to the team that earned it [with the highest winning percentage] during the regular season.”
Said San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey: “If it counts, then why aren’t you running out Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer for six, seven, eight nine innings, if you’re really going to get down to it.”
But that was never the case, even when the game supposedly “counted.”
All-Star managers still allowed their starters to go only one or two innings.
Last year, the American League won the All-Star Game, giving home-field advantage to the Cleveland Indians in their World Series with the Cubs despite the fact the Cubs had a better record than the Indians during the regular season.
It turned out the advantage for Cleveland didn’t help the Indians. They lost three of their four home games, including the deciding Game 7.
“Trust me, I think we were happy to have Game 7 at home,” Indians reliever Andrew Miller said. “The Cubs had more wins than us last year, so we got it because of the All-Star Game.”
But Miller, like other All-Stars, didn’t like the concept, one in which home-field advantage might be decided by All-Stars on also-rans.
Now the All-Star Game will be nothing more than entertainment. The regular-season winning percentages of the two league pennant winners will decide who gets home field during the World Series.
Players say they doubt fans will notice one bit of difference.
“To me, it’s an exhibition game,” Zimmerman said. “People who think we’re not going to play hard are crazy, because when you put the best professionals in the sport on the same field, the competition is going to kick in. We’re still going to want to win.”
Said Colorado Rockies reliever Greg Holland: “When I go out there in the eighth inning, I’m not trying to give up home runs. I’m still going to care if it happens. I don’t think Bryce Harper is going to be up there trying to strike out. I don’t think the game’s going to change. I don’t think it’s going to effect the entertainment of the game in the least.”
Eliminating the World Series tie-in will remove the pressure from the two All-Star managers, as well.
“I think the biggest thing for me is to get everybody in the ballgame and let everyone see them,” AL manager Brad Mills said. “We’re here to celebrate these players.”
Said NL manager Joe Maddon: “I’m trying to choreograph it in advance who is going to play when, position players as well as pitchers. Of course, the object is always to win the game and get that National League pride going, winning for the sake of winning, which is a wonderful method.”
2017 MLB All-Star Game
Tuesday — All-Star Red Carpet and Parade, downtown Miami: 12:30 p.m.; Ballpark gates open: 4:30; NL batting practice: 4:40; AL batting practice: 6:05; 88th annual MLB All-Star Game: 7:30 (Fox; 790-AM).