According to ancient philosophies dating all the way back to 2004 – you know, when we were young – the ‘third time’s the charm.’
Well for the Texas Rangers, the 2012 All-Star Game shattered and spit on that expression and then lowered a spinning headlock elbow drop on the defenseless phrase before finally moving on to addressing the snapback issue with teenagers and why anyone besides Fernando Rodney gets away with a sideways hat in public.
As you very well know, Major League Baseball began awarding home field advantage in the World Series to the victorious league of the “Midsummer Classic” in 2003. Although just tentative and essentially a ‘trial run,’ an extension and eventual implementation was somehow agreed upon by the Players Union beginning at the 2007 All-Star Game.
So with this game-changing move, the formerly fan-oriented, relaxing, enjoyable 9 innings became immensly important, and as a Rangers fan…we know.
When the move was made, the American League seemed to be in prime position. Before the switch, home field rotated each season between the AL and the NL (why they don’t just use best record like the NBA is beyond me). With the change it seemed like the American League might have home field on baseball’s biggest stage forever…just for winning the All-Star Game…which takes place during the All-Star Break.
During my lunch break i’m not tasked with deciding the company’s annual budget. Well, that’s what baseball is doing here. Fans vote starters that only play a few innings then give way to reserves who give way to final vote-in guys. Constant substituions, pitching limits (duh) and a team consisting of teams within teams within teams. And aren’t we just trying to have fun?
This game decides home field in the CHAMPIONSHIP; Players were ENCOURAGED TO TWEET in the dugout during the game.
So anyway, back to the American League totally benefiting from this rule change….
….The American League should totally benefit from this rule change.
With the Designated Hitter and the force as their ally, the American League entered the 2010 All-Star Game with an incredible 12 game winning streak dating back to 1997 when Jose Rosado of the Kansas City Royals was the winning pitcher. (Me either)
So since the new rule in 2003, home field advantage belonged to the AL 7 years in a row. (Except for the 2011 Dallas Mavericks) Home field advantage is downplayed by players and coaches but there is no doubt that if there are 40,000+ screaming fans watching their every move, they would prefer them on their side. In the 7 years since the instillation of the rule with the AL holding home field in each World Series, they still only captured 4 of the 7 titles.
The Texas Rangers weren’t anywhere near the World Series during these years, but they certainly helped their league mates capture home field.
In 2003, Hank Blalock hit an unforgettable 8th inning 2-run home run off of Eric Gagne to give the AL a 7-6 lead that would last the 9th. Gagne did not blow a save all year outside of the All-Star Game, which doesn’t go on his season statistics. However home field couldn’t help the Yankees overcome the amazing story of the NLCS-Bartman-guided Florida Marlins from winning the championship.
In 2004, Rangers second baseman Alfonso Soriano was the All-Star Game MVP and the Red Sox swept the Cardinals in the World Series. (Just a frustrating side note I still haven’t gotten over: Rangers turned A-Rod into Soriano and were given a choice by the leverage-possesing Yankees to choose from 2 infielder prospects; Joaquin Arias or Robinson Cano…2 years later Texas flipped Soriano to Washington for Armando Galarraga, Termel Sledge and Brad Wilkerson and years after that Arias was dealt at the deadline for a Jeff Francoeur rental)
Okay….The non-contending Rangers aren’t done helping rivals gain a crucial advantage….
In 2005, Mark Teixeira belted a 2-run homer in the sixth inning off Dontrelle WIllis – obviously revenge for defeating the Yankees (Irony!) in 2003 when Hank Blalock captured the home field advantage for New York. Well, the Chicago White Sox swept the Houston Astros that year. (Lighten the mood, shall we? The Rangers traded Teixeira to Atlanta at the deadline for Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, Jarrod Saltala——- and Beau Jones, the first 3 have made all-star game appearances. However, the Rangers main rival Angels – yes Angels of all teams – would get the last laugh when Mark Teixeira signed with the Yankees after a brief stint with the Halo’s…..but the compensation pick from New York that LAA received turned into…Mike Trout. This world….)
Finally in 2006, 2B-turned-SS Michael Young was the game’s MVP. In the 9th inning with 2 outs, 2 strikes, and 2 on (oh, and home field on the line of course!) and the American League a strike away from it’s first defeat in a decade, Young hit a 2-run triple off Trevor Hoffman, scoring Jose Lopez and Troy Glaus, to give the American League a 3-2 lead which would prove to be final score. However the Cardinals defeated the Tigers in the 2006 Series. (Worth noting: Alfonso Soriano of the Nationals was voted a starting outfielder for the NL squad…Brad Wilkerson spent the next season on the benches of Seattle and Toronto)
Even while the Rangers were bad and badder, they managed to produce some fine all-star bats that would prove instrumental in determing the outcome of several All-Star Games and providing the AL with home field in the “Fall Classic.”
Under new management (Jon Daniels hired as GM 2005, Nolan Ryan becomes President 2008) and eventually new ownership (Chuck Greenberg buys team 2010) the Rangers have become more than A example of baseball’s best, but the example signified by back-to-back World Series appearances.
The American League continued to own the All-Star Game but the streak of 12 consecutive victories ended with brutal timing.
The Rangers finally broke through and made the World Series in 2010, but for the first time since 1996 and the very first time since the new ruling, the National League won the All-Star game and claimed home field.
They did it again next year, this time the Rangers contributing to their own fate when their own ace C.J. Wilson was tagged with the loss.
Last night the National League took their third in a row, pouncing on reigning MVP and Cy Young award winner and Kate Upton’s bff Justin Verlander for 5 first inning runs.
So if the Rangers are to return to the World Series this year, it will have to be without the advantage that they won for other teams in years past.