After the debacle in the 2002 All-Star Game, commissioner Bud Selig declared that future All-Star Games would determine home-field advantage in the World Series. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Miguel Cabrera stood motionless at home plate as the ball whizzed past him. “He stood there like a house at the side of the road,” the late, beloved Ernie Harwell would have said.
Strike three. Final out. Game over. World Series lost.
And on the turf of Comerica Park, the San Francisco Giants jumped into a swirling pile to celebrate the winning of the World Series last October. They won it on the road, in downtown Detroit, outlander champions.
So what is the advantage of winning home-field advantage in the World Series by a league’s victory in Bud Selig’s midseason All-Star Follies?
Another of Buddy’s pipedreams has gone up, poof, in smoke.
And here’s proof — in just two of the 10 World Series played since 2003, the year the commissioner ventured to make the All-Star Follies more significant, has the home ballpark been any sort of factor.
We’ll give it to the home ballpark in 2011, when the Cardinals defeated the Texas Rangers in World Series Games 6 and 7 in St. Louis. That is, if Nelson Cruz’ misplay of a flyball when the Rangers were on the verge of clinching Game 6 — and the world championship — might be attributed to playing on a foreign field. The play turned the World Series inside out.
That 2011 World Series, incidentally, is the only one of the 10 since Bud’s home-field advantage decree that packed any drama. The only one that extended to a Game 7. The only World Series of the home-field era that was played to the limit. The team with the home-field advantage also won the World Series in 2009 in its home park, although without much flair or suspense.
Bud is not to blame that most of the World Series in this 21st Century have been collossal duds. But I know he wishes that would be more competitive, more appealing to television, more memorable, more challenging to say a Super Bowl, or the Stanley Cup Finals and NBA Finals.
Four of those last 10 World Series ended in sweeps, 4-0 — including the Tigers’ pratfall last October. Again, not Selig’s fault.
But the home-field advantage gimmick is!
Facts dispute 'advantage'
It became part of the lore of the All-Star Follies after Selig’s monumental goof-up in 2002.
That July the Midsummer Classic — as it has been called often, in sweet truth — was staged in Milwaukee. By coincidence, Bud’s hometown.
It started off well enough. Henry Aaron, Warren Spahn, Robin Yount and Paul Moliter — all Hall of Famers from the Milwaukee Braves past or the Brewers — collaborated to throw out ceremonial first pitches. Torii Hunter leaped over the fence to deprive Barry Bonds of a home-run shot. In keeping with the festive air, when the teams changed sides, Bonds lifted Hunter up high in congratulations as America giggled on Fox TV.
Then the fun started as the National League and the American League blasted the other team’s pitchers.
The leagues went at it for 11 innings, a messy ballgame, with the scored tied at 7 at Miller Park.
And then ooops — both teams were out of pitchers, all position players had been used from both sides. Buddy huddled the All-Star managers, Joe Torre and Bob Bronly — and then declared Major League Baseball’s 73rd All-Star Game, officially, would be a tie.
Final out. Game over.
Into eternity, the 2002 All-Star Follies would be etched in MLB’s precious record book as a 7-7 deadlock.
The reaction of the customers who purchased tickets — along with anybody else who regards baseball as precious — was outrage. Inside Miller Field, Selig was castigated with cries of “refund,” “ripoff,” and “Bud must go!” according to reports. Bottles were thrown onto the field.
MLB was humiliated.
So Selig ordained that a change must be made to spiff up the All-Star Follies. The Home Run Derby already was a part of it. Bud figured the home-field would create an advantageous atmosphere.
Thus was started, Bud’s campaign: “This Time It Counts.”
And when the American League won the 2003 All-Star Game, its pennant winner later was awarded the home-field advantage for the Fall Classic.
The Yankees won the pennant and New York was rewarded with World Series Games 1 and 2 and then 6 and 7 at Yankee Stadium, with the usual caution of “if necessary.”
Yankee Stadium did not work for the Yankees in the 2003 World Series. They were defeated on their own turf by the then-Florida Marlins, in six games. Shame upon shame, the Marlins were one of Selig’s pet wild-card teams — you know, second-place finishers, the top losers in the National League.
But they were world champions, nonetheless.
So it went, the AL would win every All-Star Game until 2010 — seven in succession. Then the NL would win the next three, through last year.
And the process proved to be flawed — there would be scant evidence the home-field advantage would be much of an advantage in the World Series. Except, perhaps, the exception of 2011 and 2009.
In 2004, the Red Sox opened the World Series at home at Fenway Park in Boston, and won the World Series in a sweep of the Cardinals. The funky Red Sox sprayed their champagne in St. Louis.
Next year, the White Sox swept the Astros, winning the first two in Chicago and then the next two in Houston.
OK, Bud might have an argument here. But it would be weak. Both the Red Sox and White Sox did jump out to 2-0 leads in their home ballparks. But a World Series is contest as a best-of-seven event — and Boston and Chicago won their championships on the road.
The home-field disadvantage. Supposedly.
Now in 2006, the wild-card Tigers were considered to have the home-field advantage at Comerica Park. Games 1 and 2 and 6 and 7 were scheduled for Detroit. The Tigers split the first two games at home with the Cardinals. Then the Cardinals won the next three and the World Series at home in St. Louis. Games 6 and 7 back in Detroit were not necessary. Home-field advantage team ousted.
In 2007, the World Series was similar to 2004. The Red Sox won the first two games in Fenway Park, against the Colorado Rockies. Then they won the next two for the sweep in Denver.
The home-field had little impact again in 2008. The Tampa Bay Rays owned the alleged advantage in St. Petersburg. The Phillies clinched the World Series in five games, in Philadelphia.
Finally, Selig got his wish in 2009. The Yankees were back in the World Series and won it this time, in six games, against the Phillies. But it was a World Series in which the home team lost three of the six games. The Phillies won one in Yankee Stadium, the Yankees won Games 3 and 4 in Philadelphia.
Not quite an endorsement for Selig’s home-field advantage theory.
Alas, the National League broke through in 2010 to win an All-Star Game. The Giants won the World Series — but not at home in San Francisco. They clinched in five games over the Rangers in Texas.
Then the classic World Series of 2011.
The Cardinals split the first two games with the Rangers in St. Louis. Then the Cardinals won Game 3 and the Rangers won in Texas in Games 4 and 5. The teams returned to St. Louis for Games 6 and 7. The Rangers were one out — one strike, actually — from a World Series victory in Game 6, on the road, when Cruz misjudged David Freese’s flyball in right field. The Cardinals rallied with two runs to tie Game 6 in the bottom of the ninth. Then the Cardinals tied it again with two more runs in the bottom of the the 10th after the Rangers again were one out, one strike, from winning the World Series. The Cardinals won Game 6 on Freese’s home run in the 11th.
Then the Cardinals won Game 7 in St. Louis.
Little will be up for grabs Tuesday
A home-field advantage. Debatable. But it was an epic World Series, so much in contrast with the Giants vs. the Tigers last year.
Last October, the Giants won the first two at home in San Francisco and then won the next two in Detroit. They completed their sweep on the road, beating up on the Tigers without any significance for the environment.
The All-Star Follies resume Tuesday in New York’s Citi Field, home of the Mets — following a Monday stageshow, another Home Run Derby. Whichever All-Star side wins, the Nationals or the Americans, its pennant winner will acquire this so-called home-field advantage.
And there is 80 percent chance the wondrous home-field advantage will mean diddly. Winning the All-Star Game hardly ever counts.
But two things are certain — Bud Selig will pound his drum about it, and he won’t declare the All-Star Follies a tie.
Jerry Green is a retired Detroit News sportswriter. Read his web-exclusive column Sundays at detroitnews.com.