Monday, October 22, 2012

M.L.B.: Beginning in 2014, spring training records to determine home-field advantage in N.L.C.S., A.L.C.S.

Commissioner Bud Selig loves what he did for Major League Baseball's all-star game back in 2003, when he awarded the winner of the mid-summer classic home-field advantage in the World Series. (A scene from that 2003 contest, incidentally, is the background photo on Selig's Facebook page.)

The move aimed to give more meaning to a game that lacked, well, any significance at all. Multi-million dollar players risking injury for an in-season exhibition game seemed ludicrous (mostly to owners?). Why not attach something valuable to the end result? The reviews have been mixed, but the updated version is definitely managed and played with (slightly?) more urgency.

Now, the good commissioner is about to leave another mark that may not go over as well. In fact, most have likened it to a skid mark, but not the kind left on asphalt from a locked Michelin. Spring training games, those lackluster contests filling the third month of the calendar year played in the shadows of palm trees and cacti, will now "have meaning."

These winter games played far away from home cities and stadiums, and often further from the average fan's awareness, will now determine home-field advantage in the A.L.C.S. and the N.L.C.S. The only round of the playoffs that uses regular season records in awarding home-field advantage will now be the divisional series and the single game between the wild card teams.

Once the four slots in the league championships series are set, spring training records will then be used to determine home-field advantage. For example, the best division winner during the year may be playing the worst division winner, but the latter can now have four out of seven games in their home park simply because they fashioned a better spring training record.

If the two teams had identical records in March, head to head spring records act as the tie-breaker. The next tie breaker is the capacity of the spring training stadium.

"Fans spend lots of their hard earned money to travel to Florida and Arizona to see their favorite team during spring training. Flights, hotels, meals ... and we're putting split squads out there? Give me a break. Shouldn't the games have more at stake?" said a fiery Selig. "I mean, split squads for Christ's sake."

Some have spoken up against the move. "With all due respect, the Commissioner is devaluing the regular season ... again," said one player on condition of anonymity. "It's really remarkable what is happening. Spring training is practice, so let it be practice."

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