One of the silliest experiments in baseball history died painlessly late Wednesday night. No one mourned.
The “This Time It Counts” fiasco — trying to legislate meaning to the All-Star Game by giving the winning league the home-field edge in the World Series — passed away after 14 years.
The stunt has been replaced by common sense. The team with the better record gets home-field advantage in the World Series, the most appealing wrinkle of the new collective bargaining agreement.
The new rule should eradicate memories of the most unappealing picture of Bud Selig’s 22-year reign as commissioner. When both leagues ran out of pitchers after 11 innings of the 2002 All-Star Game, Selig infamously shrugged his shoulders and called the game a tie.
Selig then shepherded the change, with an assist from Fox. Surely the drama would be greater, and the ratings would be higher.
Or not. The ratings were no higher. The managers were forced to keep a handful of players in reserve for extra innings of an exhibition game, even if some of those players might never again make an All-Star team.
And the players mocked the concept. In 2012, Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander gave up five runs in the first inning, and the American League lost. Verlander came out pumping fastballs, some at 100 and 101 mph, to see whether he could blow away the best of the National League.
In 2014 — the final All-Star Game for New York Yankees icon Derek Jeter — St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright said he had given Jeter “a couple of pipe shots,” one of which Jeter hit for a double.
Wainwright later said he “misspoke” and called himself an “idiot” for suggesting he grooved pitches to Jeter.
“If he grooved it, thank you,” Jeter said. “I appreciate it.”
The change in the All-Star format was first reported by the Associated Press. AP also reported smokeless tobacco would be banned, a proposal owners had made in previous negotiations and players had resisted.
The players’ union had said education about the dangers of tobacco use would be preferable to banning the use of a legal product. The ban should have little immediate impact, as current players will not be penalized. The ban will be applied to new players as they arrive in the majors, but smokeless tobacco has been banned in the minor leagues for years.