After its 2002 All-Star Game ended in a disappointing 7-7 tie, Major League Baseball decided to add more drama to the midsummer classic by awarding the winning league home field advantage in the World Series.
In theory, the move should have resulted in more exciting games by giving players an added incentive to win. In practice, I’m not certain the change has made much of an impact.
For starters, other than a few notable exceptions, the concept of home field advantage is overstated. And those few exceptions generally do not occur on a baseball diamond.
Of more significance, however, is the frequency with which today’s athletes change teams – and leagues.
Since Major League Baseball’s annual trading deadline is July 31 (a little more than two weeks after the All-Star game), it is quite possible that a player who helps his league win the game and gain home field advantage could actually end up playing for a team in the opposing league during the World Series. In fact, he very well could be personally responsible for giving his team’s opponent home field advantage as a result of his performance in the All-Star game.
So how do we make the All-Star game more interesting and exciting?
How about injecting a bit of fantasy baseball into the contest? It would be strange, but interesting, to see what would happen if the MLB were to award players points for what they do in the All-Star game. Batters would earn a certain number for hits and total bases. Pitchers would accrue points through strike-outs and scoreless innings. Once the season resumes, teams could cash in their players’ points at pivotal moments, adding a whole new dimension of strategy to the game.
Let’s say, for example, the Nationals’ Bryce Harper is at the plate with the winning run in scoring position, and the Pirates’ Mark Melancon, the National League saves leader, is on the mound. If Melancon accrued enough points from the All-Star game to earn an extra strike (for use whenever he wanted), Harper would come to bat knowing he only has two strikes to work with.
On the other hand, what if Harper earned an extra base because of his All-Star performance? If so, he might only need a single to plate the winning run, making Melancon’s job all the more challenging.
Players also could increase their trade value by accruing fantasy points to complement their achievements on the field. A GM evaluating the pros and cons of a trade may be convinced to pull the trigger if he knows a player will arrive with 50 or 60 fantasy points in his back pocket.
Of course, baseball purists will object. But they objected when the designated hitter was introduced in 1973 and it’s still here more than 40 years later. Instant replay review also had its share of skeptics when baseball started the practice in 2008, but the system seems to be working well and has been expanded during the past two seasons.
With this new proposal, however, baseball purists may not be the only obstacle. Convincing rabid fantasy sports players to allow the MLB to use their game could be a challenging task with a very ironic twist.
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