BASEBALL ALL STAR GAME IS THE BEST

For the first time since 2005, the Boston Red Sox are sending four starters to the All Star Game this year. It’s really an amazing mix of old and new that the Sox are parading out there.

On the one hand, there are the KILLER BEE’S, Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley, as talented a trio of players under the age of 25 as have ever arrived at the same team at the same time. They hold the future of the Red Sox franchise in the palms of their collective hands.

On the other hand, there is David Ortiz, who reminds me of that line of Hunter Thompson’s that went ‘ Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride’. ‘ Ortiz, who chose to make this his last year playing the game, is doing just that.

Hopefully, his broadside slide will end in a World Series Victory and, knowing David, he already has a place in his trophy room for the World Series Most Valuable Player Trophy.

The last time the Red Sox had four players in the starting lineup for an All Star Game was 2005 when Jason Varitek, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon and David Ortiz represented the team. Of course, the Red Sox were reigning World Champs so Terry Francona was the AL Team Manager. Damon led off for the AL, Ortiz hit third and Ramirez cleanup with Varitek in the eighth spot. Ortiz drove in Damon in the third to put the AL up 2-0 in a game they eventually won, 7-5. Varitek batted twice and had a walk and a single in the game played at Comerica Park in Detroit.

Of course, the festivities have already begun for this year’s version of the All Star Extravaganza. Tomorrow night the crowd in San Diego will be treated to the fireworks show that is the Home Run Derby. While this is a real crowd pleaser and draws a huge crowd, both in person and on TV, around the world, it bears more resemblance to slow pitch softball than to Major League baseball.

The Game itself, on Tuesday night, is perhaps the greatest of the All Star Games because of the unique individual confrontations that make baseball the most one on one of all the Major Sports. Whether it’s the pitcher against the batter, the batter against the fielder, the runner against the fielder or whatever configuration, baseball provides constant competition between individual team members.

It seems that no one, including myself, can talk about the All Star Game these days without bemoaning the fact that the winner determines home field advantage in the World Series. Trying to make the All Star Game more important than an exhibition game, Commissioner Bud Selig proclaimed that the winning team would win home field advantage for its representative in the World Series.

Of course, this decision was reached after the 2002 All Star Game ended in a tie, sending fans into a furor and probably prompting Selig’s reaction to save face for the game. While there is obviously an advantage to playing at home in any game, the real advantage in a seven game series is in playing that seventh and deciding game at home. The format has the home team playing games 1 and 2 at home, games 3, 4 and 5 on the road and games 6 and 7 at home. So, if the series goes 5 games, the visiting team actually had home field advantage, if it goes 6, they had equal advantage.

Since only two of the last ten World Series have gone to seven games, this advantage would seem to be miniscule. Baseball tarnishes its own image by pretending that this wonderful parade of the best of the best is anything more than that. It is a meaningless game, as it should be, and, while giving it more meaning may have helped baseball put a better spin on the 2002 debacle, there’s no reason to continue the charade.

Every team plays 20 games of its regular schedule against teams from the other league. Some people, myself included, have argued that the World Series home field advantage should go to the team with the best record in Interleague play. Since 2004, the American League has won more Interleague games than the National in every year. Perhaps the Designated Hitter rule contributes to this imbalance but for whatever reason this would not appear to be a fair way to make the determination.

Giving the home field advantage to the league that won the previous World Series would not appear to be fair either as the American League has won 64 of the previous 111 World Series and the National only 47.

The bottom line is, almost any solution will have its critics and valid reasons why it should or should not be the way. There are two very simple ways, each of which can be argued for or against, but both of which make more sense that the current method.

Those two methods are; alternate the home field advantage from year to year or make a random selection annually. Maybe the current genius in the Commissioner’s Office could schedule a coin flip during the seventh inning stretch at the All Star Game.

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