Players Happy That 'This Time It Doesn't Count'
MIAMI—The verdict is in and it’s unanimous.
The players are overwhelmingly glad the All-Star Game no longer determines home-field advantage in the World Series.
"I thought it was silly,” Reds first baseman Joey Votto said during All-Star media day on Monday. "To have World Series home-field advantage predicated on this, it didn’t really follow logically I didn’t think.”
The winning league had been awarded home-field advantage in the All-Star Game every year since 2003, the year after the infamous tie in Milwaukee. Using the motto "This time it counts,” Major League Baseball instituted the tie-in with the World Series to avert lackadaisical play or players not caring about the final result. Instead the motto invited ridicule from all corners, and ultimately the arrangement ended when the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed last offseason.
The league that won the All-Star Game, and thus home-field advantage, won nine of the 14 World Series played under the setup.
"I’ve always been a fan of best record should have home-field advantage,” Astros lefthander Dallas Keuchel said. "The competitive edge in this game is going to be the same, it’s just going to take the stress off of pushing that pitcher to maybe go another inning or another out. Competing is the most fun thing you can do, it just so happens it’s not for home-field advantage, thank the Lord. But there is still going to be plenty of competitive edge and guys hustling their butts off.”
That was a theme repeated throughout the day by the players. Just because the World Series is no longer a factor, that doesn’t mean any less effort will be put in to win.
"I don’t feel like the game counting or what not was ever a huge motivation for the players,” Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said. "I do like that we took that away and now home-field advantage is decided by the team that earns it in the regular season. Guys were already taking this seriously, and they’re going to take it just as seriously this year as they did in the past.”
Memorials to late Marlins righthander Jose Fernandez have been a common sight around the city during the week, most prominently in the form of murals on the sides of buildings with Fernandez’s name and number displayed.
Scott Boras, Fernandez’s agent, arrived wearing a button with Fernandez’s No. 16 emblazoned on it and spoke tearfully about the former star, who died last September at age 24 in a boating accident.
"Last year (at the All-Star Game in San Diego) he pulled me aside and said ‘I need to let you know something: Next year, I’m going to start the All-Star Game in Miami,’” Boras said. "We talked about that a lot. He wanted to represent this city, this team, and the Cuban community.”
Fernandez’s No. 16 is retired and his locker remains untouched in the Marlins clubhouse.
TURNER MAKES HIS POINT
Kenley Jansen called out Dodgers fans for not casting enough votes to get have any of their players start the All-Star Game despite the team delivering the best record in baseball.
Days later, Justin Turner won the Final Vote contest with a record 20.8 million votes cast for him to earn the final NL roster spot.
"I think (Kenley) definitely sparked a fire in the fan base. I think he opened up a can of worms,” Turner said. "The bar is set really high now for what the Dodgers fans can do with the All-Star Game. Hopefully this means more guys will get voted in in the future.”
The Dodgers have won four straight division titles but had only one player elected by fans as an All-Star starter in that time: Yasiel Puig in 2014.
The Marlins placed Brad Hand on waivers in April 2016. One year later, he returned to Marlins Park as an All-Star.
Hand is representing the Padres after posting a 2.30 ERA in relief this season. To do so in the park of the team that cut him loose makes it that much sweeter for the 27-year-old lefthander.
"I get a little extra something, yeah,” Hand said. "I don’t necessarily feel like they gave up on me here. The way it worked out last year was they had other guys in the bullpen they were going to go with. Just the way the wanted to run their bullpen last year was with me not in it.”
Teams Continue Shedding Costs—With More Likely Ahead
Teams are aggressively cutting costs following a shortened 60-game season where no fans were allowed in the stands due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Marlins drafted Hand in the second round in 2008 and moved him back and forth between starting and relieving for each of his five seasons with the club. The Padres let him settle into the bullpen full-time, and he’s delivered a 2.71 ERA while making 124 appearances in a season and a half.