The Associated Press
NEW YORK -- Now that the All-Star game "counts," AL manager Mike Scioscia thinks it's time to drop the rule requiring every team to have a player in the game.
"It does water down the honor sometimes," Scioscia said Thursday. "It should be a guideline, not the structure."
Because of the rule, Scioscia and NL manager Dusty Baker were given little leeway in picking the teams for this year's game, which will determine which league will get home-field advantage in the World Series.
Of the 12 selections the managers made to the original roster, nine of the players were the only All-Stars from their team, including some who aren't nearly as accomplished as some of the players who will miss the game.
Scioscia picked Lance Carter despite a 4.08 ERA and six blown saves for Tampa Bay and C.C. Sabathia even though he has only eight wins for Cleveland.
Baker was forced to pick six players, including Pittsburgh's Mike Williams (6.62 ERA), New York's Armando Benitez (six blown saves), San Diego's Rondell White (.284 average) and Cincinnati's Aaron Boone (.268 average).
Some of the game's bigger stars like Pedro Martinez, Sammy Sosa, Mariano Rivera and Roger Clemens, and emerging ones such as Dontrelle Willis won't be in Chicago for next Tuesday's game.
"That's something that's been a question for a long, long time," Baker said. "I wouldn't be opposed to it necessarily, but I think teams in those particular towns that aren't represented would be opposed to it. Their kids, fans and people in that town look to see their local heroes. That's what the All-Star game is all about."
But this year's game is about much more. Because of dwindling television ratings and last year's tie game in Milwaukee, baseball decided to link its most important event to a summer exhibition.
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.
"It's more important how a team is playing than home-field advantage," said Scioscia, whose Anaheim Angels won Game 7 at home last year after winning the first two rounds of the playoffs without home-field advantage.
Despite the added importance, Scioscia doesn't anticipate players trying any harder than in past years once the game starts.
"I think league pride is everything," said Scioscia, an NL All-Star in 1989 to '90. "I don't think guys will play hard because of home-field advantage. I don't see guys playing harder than when I played. You want to win. The real pressure is being not only on the national stage but on a stage where the whole world is watching. The pride motivates you to go out there to perform well for yourself, your organization and your league."
Baker, a two-time All-Star, will also be managing his first game. He agrees that players of this caliber don't need any extra motivation to play hard.
"If a guy has that much pride and inner drive to succeed to where he is, that will certainly translate to the All-Star game," Baker said. "These guys will have the same attitude in an Old-Timers game. Most of these guys, all they know how to do is to play hard and try to win."
Both managers are waiting to see how their pitchers feel after this weekend's games before picking a starter. Baker said he's leaning to two of his former pitchers -- Atlanta's Russ Ortiz and San Francisco's Jason Schmidt -- and one on his Cubs' team: Kerry Wood.
"Those are probably the guys I'm considering first because those guys probably will be most rested," he said. "I might be leaning toward Jason Schmidt. It's been a tough year for him, his mother died earlier this season. It would be a nice honor and reward for him."
Scioscia said Esteban Loaiza would be one of the contenders for the starting nod at his home ballpark.
"Esteban is certainly a candidate," Scioscia said. "He's having an incredible year. He's always had good stuff. He's putting it together and having a great season."
Scioscia said he considered taking Clemens, who has said he plans to retire after this season. The six-time Cy Young winner reached the 300-win and 4,000-strikeout milestones earlier this season.
Scioscia said he would have liked it if baseball had been able to add Clemens to the team for his career accomplishments.
"There's nobody who respects Roger Clemens more than I do. Roger Clemens' reward for doing what he does obviously is the Hall of Fame. That's an incredible accomplishments for anybody," Scioscia said. "Guys are having tremendous feats this year that I thought we had to acknowledge them."