July 8, 2012

Did All-Star Game rule cost Texas Rangers a World Series?

Michael Young says being the road team back-to-back is "not right."

There is no middle ground.

People either want an exhibition game to decide home-field advantage in the World Series or they're not buying the campaigns that the All-Star Game now "counts."

But everybody is on the same page with regard to the importance of home-field advantage when it comes to the World Series. Yes, it matters.

Home-field advantage used to alternate between the leagues, but this year marks the 10th anniversary since MLB decided that the winner of the All-Star Game would determine it.

The AL won the first seven All-Star Games with home field at stake and went on to win four of the seven World Series. The NL has won the past two All-Star Games and has gone on to two World Series wins.

The past two years had a direct effect on the Texas Rangers, of course. They had to start their title dreams on the road, playing under NL rules.

Would home-field advantage have made a difference?

"It's important to have home field simply because you like to play more games in your ballpark," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

"But if you're in the World Series and you use that as an excuse, you shouldn't be in the World Series."

Still, a handful of plays from last year's World Series, specifically in Game 6, make you play the what-if game.

Would right fielder Nelson Cruz have had a better read on David Freese's two-run, game-tying triple in the ninth inning at Rangers Ballpark, an outfield he is more familiar with?

"I don't know. I can't tell," Cruz said. "I definitely feel more comfortable at home."

If the Rangers are at home, there is no "slash" play with starter Colby Lewis bunting into a double play with two on and no out in the second inning. Instead, with the designated hitter in use, a batter, possibly Yorvit Torrealba or Mitch Moreland, with more than 415 plate appearances on the year is at the plate rather than Lewis, who had eight plate appearances during the regular season.

The result might have been the same, but the odds would have favored the position player.

"Who knows? It is what it is," Lewis said. "You can always look at what could have happened, but who knows?"

The Cardinals went on to win one of the more memorable games in World Series history, 10-9 in 11 innings, forcing a Game 7 after being within one strike of elimination twice. The Rangers had taken a two-run lead in the 10th on a home run by Josh Hamilton, but the Cardinals tied it in the bottom half and had a walkoff victory in the 11th on a solo home run by Freese off Mark Lowe.

St. Louis closed out the series with a 6-2 victory in Game 7.

"Game 6 or 7 would have turned out differently if we would've made some pitches," Washington said. "Being in St. Louis had nothing to do with it.... I think everyone knows why we lost. We didn't make pitches, and we didn't make a couple of plays."

Texas started the 2010 World Series at San Francisco, and lost the first two games on the road.

Adjusting to the NL rules was evident in Game 1. Vladimir Guerrero, Texas' designated hitter who played 17 games in the outfield during the regular season, started in right for Game 1 and committed two errors.

That likely wasn't too big of a factor, though, as the Giants were clearly the best team, winning in five games.

"I didn't hesitate when I put Vladimir in right field, I really didn't," Washington said. "In 2010, the San Francisco Giants did everything right to win a World Series. They did everything. They pitched. They got timely hitting. They played great defense. They ran the bases. ...It was over."

Nobody in the Rangers' clubhouse said outright that either World Series would have ended up differently if the Rangers had home-field advantage. But it certainly wouldn't have hurt.

"It can only help," veteran Michael Young said. "In no way am I saying that the outcome of both World Series would have been any different -- the Giants and the Cardinals executed and played extremely well.

"At the same time, we were away from our home ballpark for two straight years because of an All-Star Game and that's not right."

Let the debate continue.

Drew Davison


Twitter: @drewdavison

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