Regular-season record should be rewarded in World Series
By Mike Bauman
Let us introduce this Interleague topic by asking a question: If home-field advantage in the World Series were decided by the winner of Interleague Play, what would the difference be?
Over the past 12 seasons, the American League team would have had the World Series home-field advantage all 12 times.
The AL won the All-Star Game nine times in those 12 years, so that wasn't a vehicle for the National League to gain the advantage, either.
Major League Baseball began awarding World Series home-field advantage based on the outcome of the All-Star Game in 2003. It was thought that this would endow the game with added importance and weight. You know the theme: "This time it counts."
This may have been in part a reaction to the 2002 All-Star Game, which ended in a tie. All parties agreed that this was an unsuitable conclusion for the Midsummer Classic.
The World Series is obviously baseball's premier event. The All-Star Game is a pleasant diversion, a showcase for individual talent, but in the end, it remains an exhibition game. In a more nearly perfect world, the one wouldn't be connected to the other.
This is where Interleague Play comes in as an alternative solution. Giving the league that was the overall winner of Interleague Play the World Series home-field advantage would be a far more comprehensive method to determine something this important.
The fact that it would have been, over the past dozen years, a virtually automatic in for the AL is interesting, but ultimately incidental to the process.
For starters, maybe we should forget the thing about "the Junior Circuit." Even if you like the NL game better -- without the designated hitter, but with more managerial decisions -- it is exceedingly tough in these circumstances to make the argument that the NL is superior.
But the 9-3 home-field advantages that the AL All-Star Game victories have provided for the AL have not resulted in runaway World Series triumphs. In fact, the leagues are 6-6 in World Series over those 12 years. In this era of competitive balance, that would seem like an ideal blend.
Still, there are all those AL Interleague victories. At times, the outcomes have been truly one-sided, as in 2006, when the AL went 154-98, for a .611 winning percentage. The closest the NL came was in 2004, the first year of its 12-year Interleague losing streak, when the AL went 127-125 for a .504 winning percentage.
In total, since Interleague Play began in 1997, the AL has won the overall Interleague Series 15 times. The NL has won four times.
Small sample-size alert: The NL is off to a credible start in 2016 Interleague competition. As we speak, the NL is 22-16 against the AL this season. One of the reasons for this early lead is that the rebuilding Milwaukee Brewers have managed to go 6-4 against AL opponents. Still, it is entirely too soon to call this race.
Interleague Play -- whether you love it, like it, or merely tolerate it -- is now a Major League way of life. The one-team realignment of the Houston Astros to the AL evened the leagues at 15 teams each and thus mandated that on any given date a full schedule was being played, at least one game would be Interleague.
Before the 15-15 split, 252 games Interleague games were played per season. Now, there are 300.
This has two noticeable effects. We now have a larger sample size on which to make any judgments regarding Interleague baseball. And with Interleague Play becoming a daily big league component, the novelty value of the All-Star Game has been further reduced.
The days when the leagues only met in the World Series and the All-Star Game have been replaced by the leagues meeting almost every day for six months.
All the more reason to let the All-Star Game be itself and have home-field advantage be determined by which league won the overall Interleague series. You don't need an advertising campaign to tell you that each one of the 300 Interleague games counts.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.