Players agree to add spoils to All-Star game

Friday, May 2, 2003

By Josh Dubow ~ The Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Baseball players agreed to a two-year experiment Thursday to give home-field advantage in the World Series to the league that wins the All-Star game.

Owners approved the proposal Jan. 17, and union lawyers have discussed it with players since then before agreeing to it on a trial basis.

"I am very pleased that we have agreed to this important structural change to the All-Star game," commissioner Bud Selig said. "Baseball, like all institutions, must continually reevaluate and reassess itself, and make necessary changes to sustain its fan base and attract new ones.

"To keep the game vibrant and more compelling for our present fans and future fans, we must be vigilant in seeking out fresh, bold, and creative ideas. This change is one of them. It will ensure that the All-Star game, which its founder Arch Ward called the 'Mid-Summer Classic,' remains just that."

Since the start of the World Series in 1903, home-field advantage has alternated between the American and National leagues. Selig proposed the change after last year's All-Star game in Milwaukee ended in a 7-7, 11-inning tie when both leagues ran out of pitchers.

The team hosting Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 of the World Series has won 15 of the last 17 titles and the last eight Series that went a full seven games.

Fox, baseball's national network broadcaster, has lobbied players to support the plan as ratings for the All-Star game have dropped.

Like network ratings in general, the All-Star game rating has steadily declined. From a peak of 28.5 in 1970, it dropped below 20 for the first time in 1987. The game drew a 15.7 rating in 1994, then dropped to 13.9 the following year after a strike wiped out the World Series for the first time in 90 years. Last year's rating was an all-time low 9.5.

"The sport has always prided itself, and justifiably so, on its sense of tradition," union head Donald Fehr said. "But change that is tailored to the times does not necessarily detract from tradition. It can sustain it. The players hope this experiment works well."

The two sides also agreed to increase the roster size from 30 to 32, and gave players, managers and coaches a say on who makes the team.

Fans will select the starting position players -- eight in the National League and nine in the AL this season because the game will have a designated hitter. A separate ballot of players, managers and coaches conducted during the final week of fan balloting will determine nine additional position players in the AL and eight in the NL, as well as eight pitchers in each league.

If that vote has the same winner as the fans, the second-place finisher will make the team. The All-Star manager, in consultation with the commissioner's office, will select the rest of the team, which must include 12 pitchers. All teams will still be guaranteed at least one All-Star.

Also, no pitcher will be required to pitch more than three innings and all starting position players must get at least one at-bat.

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