This Day in Baseball History: January 16th, 2003

It started so promising but ended so disastrously.

On January 15, 2003:

The owners approved the measure changing the All-Star Game from a meaningless exhibition game to a home-field advantage-deciding game for the World Series.

The 2002 All-Star Game ended in a tie. After 11 innings, the National League and American League were deadlocked, 7-7. The game was exciting. Torii Hunter robbed a Barry Bonds home run, and Bonds retaliated by picking up Hunter and acting as though he would drop him/throw him/suplex him. Bonds would later add a home run anyway, and the game took on an offensive tone. The NL would hold a 4-0 lead and later a 5-1 lead before the AL came storming back behind a Alfonso Soriano homer and a four-run seventh. In the next inning, the NL grabbed two runs back off Kaz Sasaki, but the AL tied the game the next half inning. All 30 players for each team were used, and Bud Selig, Joe Torre, and Bob Brenly met before the bottom half of the 11th inning to decide what would happen. They decided the game would end after the 11th inning if the NL didn’t win it in the bottom of the inning. The NL didn’t score, and the game was declared a tie. The fans booed and chanted, “Let them play!” to no avail.

Selig, the managers, and the players agreed that the decision was the best one to be made at the time, but others clearly felt otherwise. Baseball fans take pride in that their sport will never end in a tie, and they were, therefore, upset the game ended that way (it had also in 1961 but because of a rain out). Mike Bauman summed their feelings up nicely by saying:

Baseball may be a timeless game, but a baseball game requires an ending. There were wonderful moments here, but the lasting memory will be of a Midsummer Classic that had everything but a real result. The game deserved something better. The game needed something better.

So what could have been done? Nothing really. The teams ran out of players, and no one could expect pitchers to have to warm back up and try to pitch another inning or two. Would it have been so terrible to ask? No, but I guarantee someone would have thrown a fit if someone had gotten hurt. I heard some people say the fans didn’t get what they paid for, but they actually got some free baseball. I understand you want a winner, but Selig was screwed either way. Should baseball have done something beforehand? What were they supposed to do? It doesn’t matter if you expand the rosters, it would just end instead in the 13th or 14th instead. They could have been better about using the pitchers, but the managers just wanted everyone to play. It’s nice to be selected to play in the game, but I imagine it’s better to get in the game (I made a few All-Star teams as a Little Leaguer, but I rarely played — it sucked).

The mistake wasn’t the decision to stop the game. It came after. It came after the ridiculous criticism. It came after the World Series. It came when Selig and others overreacted and turned the All-Star Game into something “more”. They made the All-Star Game the deciding factor in who received home-field advantage, instead of the rotation that had been in place. People would still have showed up for the next All-Star Game. People would still have watched it on TV (or as many that do anyway). There really isn’t a good reason they decided to make it “count”.

But I guess in the end, what did it really do? The players still play as hard as they did. They still seem to have fun with it. It just gives one team home-field advantage in the World Series. If you want to say that the AL has the clear advantage and will therefore always get the advantage, how much better are the All-Star teams? They both have great players, and the difference is really negligible. The DH doesn’t make a difference because the NL still has great hitters to put in that spot. As for the 12 year winning (or not losing) streak, 10 of the 12 have been close enough to have needed “saving” (the last 3 by 1 run). In other words, they could have gone either way. The NL won 12 of 14 (1 tie as well) from 1960 to 1970 (remember, some years had 2 All-Star Games). The leagues have dominated different eras, and I imagine that the NL will once again grab a few in a row. Individual AL teams may be better than individual NL teams, but I doubt the All-Star teams are all that different. Still, Selig became the target of another attack, a common theme for his reign.

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2 Responses to “This Day in Baseball History: January 16th, 2003”

  1. Ron Rollins Says:

    When did they lose the part about it being an exhibiton (something for the fans) and not something that is important and means anything.

  2. tHeMARksMiTh Says:

    About the time they decided it was a good idea to start World Series games at 9:30.

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