I’m not the biggest Jim Leyland fan in the world. I was around him for a few days in Arizona spring training in 1999. You could see early that he was going to give a half-hearted effort to his new job as manager of the Colorado Rockies.Leyland has admitted the lousy attitude that he carried into that job. He has dived into the task since getting another shot with the Detroit Tigers in 2006.
On Tuesday night, Leyland did a tremendous favor for Major League Baseball. He demonstrated that determining home-field advantage for the World Series through the outcome of the All-Star Game does not have to be a ridiculous notion.
Leyland showed that you can manage to win in this game while also using most of the roster.
The infamous tie in the 2002 All-Star Game was the result of what the game had been turned into by managers. They had become fully fixated on getting every last body in the game, so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings..
Win or lose, it mattered not.
Arizona manager Bob Brenly reached the ridiculous extreme in 2002, when he wiped out his pitching staff by making sure everyone got into the game. Joe Torre, the AL manager, actually had a pitcher in reserve, but he decided not to put Brenly in the role of the stooge. Torre went with Brenly to MLB officials to say the teams were out of pitchers … leading to the declaration of a 7-7 tie.
There were hoots of derision when MLB – in cahoots with Fox – came up with the gimmick of giving the advantage for a potential seventh game in the World Series to the team representing the All-Star winning league.
It has been easier to go along with the idea that this is absurd, rather than to point out this makes about as much sense as any plan to decide the local for Games 1, 2, and 6, 7 (if necessary).
The schedules are so disparate between leagues and divisions over a 162-game season that overall record is no more equitable that pinning it to MLB’s No. 1 attraction of the summer. The idea that you’re getting the best team in both leagues – and the home field should go to best record of those two – has been long lost among three divisions of varying strength and now two wild cards.
Since 2003, these have been the World Series matchups and outcomes:
2003—Florida, 3rd best record in NL, beat the Yankees, best record in AL. Yankees had home field.
2004—Boston, 2nd best record in AL, swept St. Louis, best record in NL.
2005—White Sox, best record in AL, swept Houston, 3rd best record in NL. Sox had home field.
2006—St. Louis, 5th best record in NL, beat Detroit, 3rd best record in AL, in perhaps worst Series ever played. Detroit had home field.
2007—Boston, tied for first in AL, beat Colorado, tied for first in NL. Boston had home field.
2008—Philadelphia, 2nd in NL, beat Tampa Bay, 2nd in AL. Tampa had home field.
2009—Yankees, best record in AL, beat Phillies, 3rd best in NL. Yankees had home field.
2010—San Francisco, 2nd best in NL, beat Texas, 4th best in AL. Giants had home field.
2011—St. Louis, 4th best in NL, beat Texas, 2nd best in AL. Cardinals had home field.
2012—San Francisco, tied for 3rd in NL, swept Detroit, 7th best in AL. Giants had home field.
Look through those 10 World Series and the only time a team could whine that the All-Star Game outcome cost it a title might be Texas in 2011, and that was much more the fault of Ron Washington’s managerial blunders than the fact Games 6 and 7 were played in St. Louis.
I much enjoyed Tuesday night’s All-Star Game. I much enjoyed watching Leyland’s clinic on how to manage to win and still use most of his All-Stars.
The Mid-Summer Classic had deteriorated to a clear-the-bench fiasco by 2002. The World Series, home-field incentive has rescued it and put some pizzazz back in the game. It's as reasonable a method to decide how to schedule the World Series as matching the records of the second, third and fourth place teams from two leagues and divisions of very different strengths.