That dark, cursed cloud has finally been lifted from the skies over Chicago’s North side. After 108 years, the Chicago Cubs have won the World Series, an event that might fuel a tidal shift in the sport’s popularity.
At a time when NFL ratings and popularity are plummeting, 40 million viewers watched the decisive
Game 7 of this year’s World Series. The comeback from a 3-1 deficit was the first time a team has accomplished the feat since the Kansas City Royals in 1985. No more goat. No more curse. No more “Wait ‘til next year.”
But keep in mind, this is Chicago.
Had the Cubs not won the series, an excuse had been teed up for several weeks in the pubs of Wrigleyville: The Curse of Bud Selig, the greatest curse that never was.
The Chicago Cubs were the best team in baseball with 103 wins on the regular season, but they did not the host the World Series. Even though the Cubs won three of four games on the road, the Cleveland Indians had no business holding home-field advantage.
With disaster averted, it’s time for Major League Baseball (MLB) to change the convaluted way home-field advantage in the World Series is awarded.
Prior to 2002, the provision determining which league hosted the Series depended on the calendar. Each year, the World Series alternated between the National League and the American League, an imperfect system to say the least. Then, former Commissioner Bud Selig proposed an even more substandard idea.
The MLB All-Star Game had been known as the only such exhibition in professional sports that mattered.
ut by the early 2000s it has lost a great deal of its appeal as well as TV ratings. Selig said that raising the game’s stakes would return it to its former glory. So, he decided that the winning league of the All Star game would host the World Series. When the American League won the game 4-2 this meant that the Cleveland Indians would eventually host the Cubs.
Put another way, the Indians got to host the World Series because San Francisco starter Johnny Cueto gave up two home runs to two players from the Kansas City Royals.
Home field advantage matters less in baseball than all other major sports, but it does matter. According to the Chicago Booth Review, NBA home teams win 62.7% of the time. NHL home teams win 59%, and in the NFL it’s 57.6%. MLB teams win 54.1% of their games at home.
But MLB’s Phil Rogers found that home teams had a .563 win percentage in the playoffs from 2004 to 2013. Why doesn’t matter.
A Modest Proposal
Fans of the current system argue that it forces players to treat the All-Star event like an important game; it isn’t, though Ray Fosse may take issue with that. It’s a ceremony like the NFL Hall of Fame Game.
Does any other league think that making an event this inconsequential the reason for something as psychologically critical as Home Field advantage? A coin flip would make more sense. It’s time to end this.
There has been pressure on MLB to award the World Series to the team with the best record in baseball. The Chicago Cubs won 103 games compared to the 94 wins earned by the Cleveland Indians. Over a 162-game slog, every single game would matter. Awarding it to the top team seems logical. However, the idea has flaws. Chicago played in an inferior league in 2016. Only six of the 15 teams in the National League had winning records. The American league had 10.
This concept also punishes teams that play in a good division. This year, four out of five AL East teams had winning records. The Cubs played 72 games against teams with a collective record under .500.
Which brings us to an idea. The other great experiment of MLB during the last 17 years has been interleague play. Each year, teams play 20 interleague games, a large sample size. So make the team with the best interleague record the host of the World Series.
This year, the Cubs went 15-5 in interleague play compared to the Indians 13-7 record. Should there be a tiebreaker needed, look at the overall league versus league record. It’s not a perfect idea, but at least teams would be allowed to control their own destiny.