At some point you have to admire Bud Selig. No, really. You do. Because after all these years, with the world still telling him he's wrong about the way he runs his All-Star Game and without a shred of compelling evidence in his defense, Selig just sits there and takes it. Doesn't care how stupid he looks.
It's impressive, really.
That kind of self-confidence, delusional as it may be, is remarkable. We should all go through life as tunnel-visioned as Selig, not hearing anything being said or reading anything being written about us. He's kind of like the religious zealots that walk through my neighborhood, knocking on doors, waving their literature and having our doors slammed in their faces.
Still they come back. Why? Because they're convinced they're right, and there is peace in such conviction. The rest of the world thinks they're spooky and possibly insane -- but here they come again, walking up my driveway.
That's Selig, the baseball commissioner who insists, all these years later, on tying the most important game of the season to its most meaningless game. He insists, despite universal disapproval and with no possible reason to believe he's right, that the winning league of the All-Star Game will get home-field advantage for the World Series.
So Game 1 of the World Series, the most important game of the postseason, is tied to the All-Star Game, the least important game -- not even a game -- on the massive baseball calendar. That's so indefensibly dumb, it's awe-inspiring. It's the price of gas in October hinging on the amount of coffee sold at Shell stations in July. It's the adjustable interest rate on your house being tied to the number of kids living inside.
It's unfathomable. But Selig does it every year. For kicks and giggles, let's take a real-world look at this system and see how it impacts the game. Let's not stack the deck, either. Let's not go sifting through a decade of Selig's silliness for the best example. Let's just look at last season and see what happened.
By golly, last season makes Selig look silly.
Last season, an All-Star Game at-bat between a member of the Atlanta Braves and a member of the Chicago White Sox dictated that the Texas Rangers would play Game 1 of the World Series in the ballpark of the San Francisco Giants.
Braves catcher Brian McCann hit a based-loaded double in the seventh against Matt Thornton of the White Sox, driving in all three runs of the National League's 3-1 victory. Scoring those runs for the National League were three players from the NL Central: Scott Rolen of the Reds, Marlon Byrd of the Cubs and Matt Holliday of the Cardinals. Also pitching that inning for the American League were members of the Yankees (Phil Hughes) and A's (Andrew Bailey).
What that has to do with San Francisco playing Texas in the World Series, only Bud Selig could tell you. Ask him, but only if you can get his attention. He has two fingers in his ears, duct tape over his eyes and a T-shirt that says "I'm with stupid" wrapped around his forehead, bandana-style.
Make no mistake about the importance of home-field advantage in a World Series, and not only for Game 7, though that's a galling place to start. Game 7 of the 2011 World Series, one of the three or four most dramatic moments in American sports, will be bestowed upon someone in October because of the 4-H Fair in July known as the All-Star Game.
|Bud Selig insists the winning league of the All-Star Game get home-field advantage for the World Series. (Getty Images)|
The team that wins Game 1 goes on to win the World Series 62 percent of the time. Last season Game 1 was played in San Francisco, thanks to the catcher for the Braves. And San Francisco won Game 1, then won Game 2, and basically the World Series was over. The Giants finished off the Rangers in five games, thanks to the pitcher for the White Sox.
The winner of Game 1 has won seven of the past eight World Series. And 12 of the past 14.
Imagine that. Something as coin-flip even as the World Series comes down to something as lopsided as a 62-38 split -- and much more lopsided than that in recent years -- based on the outcome of Game 1. And the most important aspect of Game 1?
Where it's played.
To DH, or not to DH. To bat last, or not. To have 50,000 people supporting your team. Or not.
And all of that is a direct result of the All-Star Game, a game so important to the players involved that 16 All-Stars picked for this year's game bailed out on it. A few of them were starting pitchers who threw on Sunday and therefore would be ineligible. A few were position players on the DL. But several of them bailed out because, well, because. They had an excuse about health, but let me tell you something: If Derek Jeter is healthy enough to go 5 for 5 on Saturday, he's healthy enough to play three innings on Tuesday.
And that's all he would be asked to play. That's all any of these guys are asked to play. The starting pitcher goes two innings, and then almost everyone else -- even starters, pitching out of the bullpen -- goes one inning. Three guys played left field for the National League last season. Three guys played third for the American League. Nineteen different pitchers pitched. Thirty-eight hitters hit.
That game was a carnival, as well it should be. The All-Star Game is fun, or should be. It's meaningless, or should be.
If you go to the game this year and see Selig at the ballpark, don't bother telling him he's screwing up the World Series. He can't hear you. See those buds in his ears? He's listening to Milli Vanilli on his iPod, and let Selig tell you something -- those guys can sing!