Alternating is best home-field solution

Thanks to its 9-4 win in the All-Star Game, the American League will have the home-field advantage in the World Series for the second straight year.

I maintain that the home field is too important to be dictated by a glorified exhibition game. It's true that having the home-field edge didn't help the New York Yankees last year, since the Yankees lost deciding Game 6 to the Florida Marlins at Yankee Stadium. But the team with the home-field advantage -- which gets Games 1 and 2 at home (plus Games 6 and 7, if necessary) -- has won 15 of the past 18 World Series. And the home team has won the past eight Game 7s.

This is the last year of the two-year experiment to have the All-Star Game decide which league gets the home-field edge. Now, for it to continue, the players union and the owners must agree to extend it.

I believe it was a made-for-TV move to accommodate FOX after the All-Star tie two years ago. Now that MLB has appeased the TV people, we need to return to the traditional way of selecting home field in the World Series.

Yes, I'm in favor of returning to the time-honored alternating-years format that was employed before last year. I feel that the more we get away from tradition, the more the game suffers in the long run.

A significant problem with using the experimental method over the long haul is that All-Star victories tend to go in cycles by league. The National League is now winless in the past eight All-Star Games (counting the 7-7 tie in 2002) and in 14 of the past 17 games. Under the current format, the AL would have had home field in the World Series all but three times in a 17-year span.

Looking back at All-Star Game history illustrates my point even further. In my playing days, the National League won for 11 straight years (from 1972-82) and won 19 of 20 games overall. That's right, from 1963-82, the AL won just one All-Star Game (in 1971).

That's a major reason why the outcome of the All-Star Game is not the way home-field advantage should be determined for the World Series.

Another option that some have proposed is to give the home-field edge to the World Series team with the best record (the NBA does this with the NBA Finals).

That's not a fair solution, though, because each league has unbalanced schedules, and there's no way to ensure that each World Series team will have played a comparable schedule. Therefore, it's virtually impossible to assess fairly whether one team deserves home-field advantage over another based solely on their won-loss records.

So let's go back to taking turns each year. Last year was supposed to be the National League's year for having the home field, so it's already missed a turn.

Saluting the 500 Club
The highlight of All-Star weekend for me was the introduction of the living members of the 500 home-run club. I see most of them on occasion at the Hall of Fame, but I rarely get to see all of them at one time at that kind of venue.

I got chills watching each of them be introduced before the Home Run Derby, knowing that they all hold a vital place in baseball history.

I wondered, though, why the active players who've hit 500 homers weren't acknowledged at the same time. Ken Griffey Jr., Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds were acknowledged as members of the 500 club while they competed in the derby. But I wish they had been introduced separately before the derby, just as the retired players had been introduced.

Griffey became the 20th member of the 500 club this season. Fred McGriff, now a reserve with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, is the next closest active player (with 493 homers).

It was great to see all those old 500-club guys and to sit and talk with home-run king Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson and others. It was a thrill to talk with them again.

Reggie, as you might imagine, is still Reggie. He said he wished the Home Run Derby was part of the All-Star festivities in his day -- adding that he would have called his shot! I'm sure he would have put on a show.

The Home Run Derby is probably the greatest innovation in all of Major League Baseball -- not just in the All-Star Game -- in the past 20 years. It's fantastic. Every year the stands are filled. ESPN's TV ratings are typically great.

The first official Home Run Derby was held at the Metrodome as part of the 1985 All-Star festivities. Previous home-run contests had taken place but weren't officially sanctioned by MLB. Dave Parker won the '85 derby.

Highs and Lows
The All-Star low point was when the fans in Houston booed Astros manager Jimy Williams (and some of the All-Stars themselves) during pregame introductions. The Astros have struggled to a .500 record after high preseason expectations, and Williams was fired Wednesday, with Phil Garner becoming the new manager.

Still, there shouldn't be any booing at an All-Star Game -- that was distasteful to me. The Midsummer Classic is supposed to be a celebration of baseball and of baseball's best players.

One of the high points was Muhammad Ali being part of the first-pitch ceremony. Just as Reggie is still Reggie, Ali will always be Ali. Even with his Parkinson's disease, he pranced and shadow-boxed and even threw a few playful jabs toward Derek Jeter.

All the pregame glitz seems to take the All-Star Game itself down a notch, but it was still a good game. Not as dramatic as last year, but still entertaining.

Texas Rangers second baseman Alfonso Soriano won the Ted Williams Award as the All-Star Game MVP. I'm a big fan of Soriano, who joined me as one of four second baseman to win an All-Star MVP award (the other two are Roberto Alomar and Julio Franco).

The American League hitters were more aggressive and more prepared, it seemed, and I'm sure a lot of that had to do with the pregame hype faced by NL starter Roger Clemens. A 10-time All-Star, Clemens was forced to revisit his rocky history with Mike Piazza, his All-Star battery mate. The new questions about his 2001 beaning of Piazza and the Subway Series broken-bat incident, plus the normal All-Star hype, all added up to extra anxiety and pressure for Clemens. He also had the added pressure of playing in front of his hometown fans.

Perhaps Clemens' location was off on his home-run pitches to Boston Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez and Soriano, but give plenty of credit to the AL hitters. They simply hit Clemens hard. Home runs dominate the fans' interest today, and that's what won the game for the AL, which hit three (Ramirez's teammate, David Ortiz, hit the third). The NL hit no home runs in its own homer-friendly park.

AL starter Mark Mulder pitched well but no pitcher dominated on either side, as has happened in past games when aces like Pedro Martinez, Doc Gooden, Fernando Valenzuela and Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell simply mowed down batters.

Besides being the MVP of the 1972 All-Star Game, Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan won back-to-back National League MVP awards with the Reds in 1975 and '76 (the Reds won the World Series both years). An analyst for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, Morgan contributes a weekly column to ESPN.com.