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Friday, January 10
Believe it or not, Bud is right this time

By Jim Caple

I almost hate to say it, but I agree with Bud.

What with interleague play and a Little League system of getting everyone in, the All-Star Game has declined so far that not only do none of the participants care who wins, they don't even care if anyone wins at all. And the fans aren't far behind.

Bud's solution is just the ticket. Under his plan, the winning league gains home-field advantage during the World Series. While this won't mean a hill of beans to the lone Tigers/Brewers/Royals representative, it will mean something to many players.

More importantly, it will mean quite a lot to the managers.

The managers are the problem. They're the ones, with the league's silent approval, who turned the Mid-Summer Classic into the Pro Bowl minus sand and palm trees. Joe Torre, especially, placed all importance on making sure no one's feelings were hurt, while growing unconcerned with who wins or loses.

That won't be the case under the new plan. Because the All-Star managers are the managers of the previous year's World Series, their teams are usually contenders at midseason as well. So they'll care a great deal about home-field advantage in the next World Series because they have ample reason to think they'll be playing in it.

For good reason. The World Series has gone the distance seven times in the past two decades and the team with home-field advantage won every series. Home-field advantage has become even more important since 1986, with the use (or non-use) of the DH alternating by American League and National League stadium.

Some say that such an advantage is too important to base on the outcome of an otherwise meaningless exhibition game. They're wrong. One team has to have home-field advantage in a seven-game series and you have to determine who it is with some method. Giving it to the winning All-Star team is not worse than alternating it every year. It's better.

It adds spice to the game. It puts something back on the line. It gives distinction to leagues that are becoming increasingly similar. It gives fans something to argue about. And it turns a "meaningless exhibition'' back into what it had been for decades. The only All-Star Game that mattered.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at cuffscaple@hotmail.com.

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