MIAMI (AP) The new All-Star Game rules were picture-perfect for Nelson Cruz.
Yadier Molina didn’t mind them, either.
And come Game 1 of the World Series in October, no one will be harkening back to how a play here or there at the Midsummer Classic might have ultimately played a role in deciding baseball’s champion for 2017.
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World Series home-field advantage is now decided by winning percentage and no longer by the result of the All-Star Game – and not coincidentally there were no shortage of hijinks at Marlins Park on Tuesday night. Cruz got a photo with plate umpire Joe West before an at-bat, Molina was high-fiving opponents after a home run and someone stuck a used piece of chewing gum on the hat of unsuspecting American League manager Brad Mills.
”I tried to do it in 2013 but I couldn’t do it,” said Cruz, who planned the stunt pregame. ”This time, if I had to take a picture with someone it was Joe West. He’s the legend.”
The AL beat the NL 2-1 in 10 innings.
Odds are, the shenanigans like what Cruz pulled off will be remembered a lot longer than that score.
”That was one of the best moments in the game,” said Robinson Cano – whose homer in the 10th inning gave the AL the win, exactly 50 years to the day after Tony Perez hit what had been the last extra-inning home run in All-Star history.
Cruz walked to the plate with his phone – ringer on silent – in his back pocket. He wanted to take a selfie with West, but his batting gloves made maneuvering the buttons impossible. So he handed the phone to Molina, the NL catcher who was wondering what was happening before he agreed to take the photo.
The loquacious West, who recently worked his 5,000th game and is nicknamed ”Cowboy Joe” for singing country songs, also was caught off-guard.
”I’ve never seen that before – ever,” he told The Associated Press. ”That’s the first time I ever think I’ve been speechless on a field.”
Said NL manager Joe Maddon of the reigning World Series champion Chicago Cubs, after Cruz’s phone gag: ”I would bet if the game had counted, he would not have done that, yes.”
It wasn’t all fun and games.
Washington’s Bryce Harper lost his hat as he sprinted for a sprawling, spectacular catch in right field. Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez gave up his body a couple times late to keep pitches that could have cost the AL the game in front of him.
AL starter Chris Sale of the Red Sox, according to Statcast, got one pitch up to 99.5 mph for his hardest toss of 2017. NL starter Max Scherzer also came out letting it fly.
”I don’t need anything on the line,” Scherzer said. ”I don’t need home-field advantage. I want to go out there and have success against them.”
Despite the motto – ”This time it counts” – that MLB attached when the correlation between the All-Star result and home field for the World Series began in 2003, it’s unclear how much the whole thing counted. Former Commissioner Bud Selig put in the rule as part of the response to the 7-7 tie that was widely criticized in 2002.
There’s no absolute conclusion to draw from these numbers:
– Out of the 14 years, nine teams with home-field advantage won the World Series.
– But in 10 of those years, the team with the better regular-season record had the home-field edge anyway.
– And home teams went 1-2 in Game 7s of the World Series under those rules, St. Louis beating Texas in 2011, Kansas City losing to San Francisco in 2014 and Cleveland losing to the Cubs last year.
The Cubs’ Wade Davis, who was an AL All-Star in 2015 and 2016 before becoming one for the NL this year, said Royals manager Ned Yost reminded players in 2015 how much home-field will matter to someone from their league come October. And those words came in the season after Yost and the Royals lost a title-deciding Game 7 at home to the Giants.
”I don’t know what the right way to do it is,” Davis said. ”I’m not sure. I mean, I guess you’re flipping a coin either way. I thought it was kind of cool. Ned gave a pretty cool speech a couple years ago about winning the game and how it would benefit to have home-field advantage.”
Davis gave up Cano’s home run in the 10th on Tuesday.
If the Cubs get back to the Fall Classic, it won’t matter.
”I never liked that rule,” Giants catcher and three-time World Series champion Buster Posey said. ”We benefited from it a couple of times, but I think anybody that plays a six-month, 162-game season probably is going to feel like whoever has the best winning percentage should have home-field advantage.”