With the deadline to reach a new CBA agreement sneaking up, the owners and the players reached a deal late last night to prevent a lockout. There were a number of, what I’d call, small changes made to the agreement, which will be in place for the next five years. Most of them centered around things we’d be hearing about for days and most of them were also much less dramatic than what we were hearing.
This morning I woke up to the news, from AP Sports, that the All-Star Game will no longer determine home field advantage in the World Series. Yes, that’s right, one of the dumbest rules I’ve ever seen is now dead. Home Field will now be decided by the team that has the best record, a novel idea if I do say.
APNewsBreak: Baseball’s All-Star Game no longer to determine World Series home-field advantage. https://t.co/WHNiErncmu
— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) December 1, 2016
The idea behind using the All-Star game to determine home field advantage came from Bud Selig after the tie in the 2002 ASG. So in 2003, the owners voted 30-0 to make the change. The American League promptly won seven straight All-Star games. Since the change the AL has gone 11-3 in ASGs. And the change didn’t do a thing to make the games one bit more exciting.
In the end, it seemed like a fairly random way to determine who got home field advantage in the most important series in all of baseball. And it worked against the National League the most.
This change comes only after the Cubs finally won the World Series. They will be the last team that was impacted by the old rule. And here’s the thing, I really believe that not having home field advantage actually benefited them this year. Of course, that’s easy to say now that the World Series is over and the Cubs won, but hear me out on this one.
First, I was at every game of the World Series and I saw, first hand, what the entire scene was like in both Cleveland and Chicago. For the first two games in Cleveland, it was a little crazy but it really just felt like a busy version of a normal baseball game outside of the stadium. And keep in mind, while that’s not where the players play the game it is where they live. It’s what they see.
As we all know, the Cubs split the first two games (game 1 and game 2) in Cleveland before returning to Chicago. In Chicago, it was crazy. For a 2 mile radius around Wrigley you couldn’t get into a bar or restaurant. The streets were all blocked off, people were literally every where, helicopters were a constant presence in the skies, it was totally insane. And guess where most of the players live? They live a few blocks away from Wrigley near the Southport corridor.
I love Wrigley Field. I believe it is the greatest ballpark on this earth. I thought going to a World Series game at Wrigley was an honor, a badge that I will wear for the rest of my life with soulful pride and humility. While the scene around Wrigley was certainly fun, it was absolutely wild. I knew the players lived close and that there was no way to escape the insanity for them. That concerned me but I shrugged it off.
Of course, the Cubs lost the first two games at Wrigley. The first game was a tight pitcher’s duel. The second game was an ugly lose marred by missteps. It was then that I thought about how all of the chaos, the pressure of thousands of people in the streets with no hope of getting into the game, the lens of the entire world watching as evidenced by the cameras in the streets, the helicopters in the skies, all right at the doorsteps of the players, all of that had to impact the players. No way would anyone say that but the human psyche is not infallible.
Meanwhile, where were the Cleveland Indians? They were somewhere away from Wrigley Field, holed up in their hotel room, with nothing to do except focus on the game at hand. No relatives calling for tickets, no family issues to deal with and, perhaps most importantly, no sense of how important this thing was to their entire city. In fact, they were there to crash the party, motivated by wanting to take that party away from Chicago.
After the Cubs’ loss in game four I truly believed they were going to win it all.
If someone asked me, ever, if I’d take the Cubs being 3 wins from a World Championship with 3 games left, I’d take that every time. #Believe
— Cubs Kingdom (@CubsKingdom) October 30, 2016
For those of you counting the Cubs out, don’t. Glory beckons.
For those of you that believe, I’ll see you in Cleveland.
— Cubs Kingdom (@CubsKingdom) October 30, 2016
I knew that winning game 5 was going to be hard but I felt that if the Cubs could pull it out – which, of course, they did – then all of the pressure would shift back to the Indians. The Cubs would be the team holed up in the hotel, focusing on the game, and the Indians would be the ones who would feel the pressure of the hopes and dreams of an entire city on their shoulders.
The dynamic of this series was just different that any other we’d seen in our lifetimes. Never before had two teams played who hadn’t won a championship in at least 68 years, as was the case for the Indians. So both cities, both teams’ fans, were pining for a win. A win literally meant everything. The pressure created in the psyche when that is the case, and when, as a player, you look and see it, feel it, can practically touch the desire to win from an entire city, that pressure is great.
But even more than that type of pressure, is the other side. The benefit of not being immersed in that pressure. The upside of the hopes and dreams of your city not being in full view of you. When the Cubs got back to Cleveland, all of that type of pressure was washed away. They left their hotel on a bus, together. They drove through the streets of Cleveland as if they were going to what could have been any away game for them. And, the bottom line is, this team was better than Cleveland, better than any team on the planet.
Would the Cubs have won the World Series if they had home field advantage? We’ll never know. Do I think that, the way this World Series went, not having home field advantage worked in the Cubs favor? I absolutely do.
And here’s the thing. The Cubs got over the World Series Championship hump with the help of not having home field advantage in the last year that rule was in place. Next year, when the Cubs will invariably be marching towards another World Series, they will know that if they finish with the best record they will have home field advantage in the playoffs. Next year, the weight of the entire city of Chicago, of the World, won’t be on their shoulders like it was this year.
Next year is gonna be a lot of fun.