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Terry Francona nails the central problem with the All-Star Game

Jul 14, 2011, 9:00 AM EDT

Boston Red Sox v Oakland Athletics Getty Images

The beauty of job security: you can tell the truth from time to time.  Here’s Terry Francona, pretty much hitting the nail on the head:

“Maybe the significance of this game has run its course … I know what they were trying to do with the game, and I think they accomplished it, but maybe it’s run its course. There’s maybe better ways to figure out home field … I just think the way they’re playing the game, with the fan voting, they want interviews in the dugout, they want a lot of things to make it not like a regular season game, and then at the end you end up treating it like the most important regular-season game of the year … It’s just not real consistent, and there is a lot riding on it.”


The incentives are the issue here. What will make players actually show up and play hard, what will make managers manage like it’s a real game and what will make fans actually want to watch?  You likely can’t make it perfect — it will never match game 162 between two teams tied for the final playoff spot — but there has to be a way to change the incentives, because the current ones don’t work.

Cable and the Internet have killed the original incentive — showing us players we rarely get to see — because we see everyone all the time now.  Home field advantage in the World Series hasn’t caused anyone to treat the game differently.  The All-Star Game is operating on eighty years worth of inertia at the moment, and eventually, inertia runs out.

I know the game isn’t going anywhere. And I know that, as long as Bud is in charge, we’re not going to see too many changes, because he loves the home field advantage thing.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t think about it some.

  1. Chris Fiorentino's Rash - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:06 AM

    While I agree with Francona, I cannot help but read his comment as sour grapes after a loss. A NL manager might be saying the exact thing if the NL lost.

    ASG Home Field Advantage and Interleague Play are gimmicks they have run their course.

    • halladaysbiceps - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:20 AM

      Chris F.,

      Are you OK? Are you ill? I hope your rash is not bad.

      • Chris Fiorentino's Rash - Jul 14, 2011 at 11:26 AM

        I’m doing ok. The rash started when my head swelled after a few winning seasons from the Phils. It ran from my head to my boys down below.
        Its really affected my love life with the gentlemen. Can’t get a piece at the YMCA to save my life…
        I use the spatula when I work at Gino’s to scratch but no relief. The heat from the horse meat only temporarily relieves the itch..

        Any suggestions? Rivals piss has not helped as much as you would think…

      • cur68 - Jul 14, 2011 at 1:15 PM

        CFR: Have you tried steroids? I hear their all the rage for this sort of thing.

      • cur68 - Jul 14, 2011 at 1:15 PM

        CFR: Have you tried steroids? I hear they’re all the rage for this sort of thing.

      • cur68 - Jul 14, 2011 at 1:16 PM


        Edit Function?

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:34 AM

      Interleague Play might be a gimmick, but there’s no way MLB will ever get rid of it due to the attendance numbers that come in.

      • dnc6 - Jul 14, 2011 at 12:04 PM

        If Interleague Play was such a great draw, you would think that MLB would start putting those games on weekdays in April and May to help get people in the park instead of during the nights that already get the biggest crowds and just perpetuates the self-fulfilling prophecy.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 14, 2011 at 12:43 PM

        If Interleague Play was such a great draw…

        Courtesy of Maury Brown at Biz of Baseball:

        The 2009 Interleague average is 16.1 percent higher than this season’s current intraleague average of 28,727 per game.

        Since its inception in 1997, Interleague Play has drawn 12.0 percent more fans than intraleague games; Interleague Play has averaged 33,260 fans per game, compared to the intraleague average of 29,706 fans per game during the same span

      • dnc6 - Jul 14, 2011 at 2:00 PM

        church – those intraleague numbers include games in April and early May, when its still cold for some cities, and September, when teams are well out of the race, that frequently draw poorly. Most Interleague games get played on weekends at the end of June/beginning of July. That’s the equivalent of playing on Monday Night Football.

    • philiplewis1 - Jul 14, 2011 at 5:56 PM

      I disagree that they have run their course. The problem is FAN VOTING. People are tired of seeing stuffed ballot boxes and an infield full of Yankees. Revert back to the old way of voting which I believe was by the players for starters with the managers choosing the rest. That way you always had the top players at every position and it was hard to argue with the choices of their peers. also, the best players played the whole game and the starting pitcher almost always went 3 innings which is the max by the way (probably no one knows that anymore since it never applies). It didn’t matter if the game was an exhibition or not. With the best players you get a top game and that’s what drew the crowd.

  2. paperlions - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    If they want being an AS to mean something to players and if they want the game managed like a regular season game….why not treat it like a real game. Have 25-man rosters with a roster composition similar to a normal 25-man roster (perhaps with fewer pitchers as you don’t need a 10-12 man staff for a single game). Have the starting pitchers go at least 5 innings, have the starting position players play pretty much the entire game, substituting only when you normally would do so (non-LaRussa rules), and if players on the roster don’t get in the game….well, at least they were on the team.

    The way it is now, by the 7th inning everyone is thinking things like “Cuddyer is an All-Star?” because most of the guys in the game at that point bear little resemblance to most people’s conception of what an All-Star player is. I know it is crazy, but why not have actual stars play the entire game instead of this crazy random substitution crap that drags the game down….there is no flow to the game, it is like someone randomly picked plays from throughout the league to generate a fake play-by-play.

    • Glenn - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:26 AM

      I completely agree with your sentiment on paper – it would be nice if the all-star game were played as it was in 1950. The only problem is that so much has changed about the game, especially media and economic issues, in the last sixty years, that it seems too unrealistic for the all-star game to operate as it did sixty years ago. We can’t expect it to exist in some bubble while the whole world changes around it. I don’t think we can ever bring the magic back.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:59 AM

      Given the number of articles titled: “It is a crime that PLAYER X did not make the All-Star game!” I am guessing we are headed in the exact opposite direction. Everyone wants all of their favorite players to be included in a game they don’t want to watch. At this point they should just make it a selection process and skip the game itself.

    • mox19380 - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:32 AM

      while I agree in principle. What team is going to want their player’s going nine innings, particularly a player. I’m here in Philly and all the radio DJ’s kept talking about is the outrage that would manifest if Halladay had been asked to go more than 2innings… and the Phillies are obviously a team competing for WS and should have a desire for the homefield

      As much as the league has tried to make it a competitve game in the eyes of most managers not involved it is still purely an exhibition.

      I see the game being better if they go further from realistic and make it more fantastic. Juiced Balls, maybe offer two outs for a strikeout. But I see more anger and outrage from teams if players are truly asked to play this like the 163rd game of the season

  3. Old Gator - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:20 AM

    Eh. I didn’t care to watch it. Partially to flip a bird to Arizona in general. Partially out of genuine lack of interest. I thought the home field advantage gimmick was decerebrated when I heard it, but considering the source that’s no surprise.

    Tell you what, though – if I had to keep the sort of grueling schedule that MLB players keep for seven and a half months of the year, I’d much appreciate a three or four day break in the middle of the season to hang with my family or go fishing or just veg out. I don’t blame any of the guys who found reasons or excuses to take one.

    • bklynbaseball - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:33 AM

      Thank you. Finally the voice of someone who gets it.

    • yankeesfanlen - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:01 AM

      Gator – Beep-beep appreciates your concern, it’s stressing to hit 3000 times by July, and the little woman was nagging to get the wallpaper hung in the atrium.

      • Jonny 5 - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:38 AM

        Powder room. It was the Powder room Len. A symbol of the rich and famous.

      • Utley's Hair - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:49 AM

        Yup. Jonny’s right. Minka’s been dogging Jeter to regrout the powderroom tiling—though Jonny might be better versed in doing that.

  4. dapperdan50 - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    I’ve never been interested in the ASG—-not when I was 13 and not…several decades later. I don’t think any devout fan is. But what has happened to it in the last several years (OK, here comes the old man grumble…) is that the media, in an effort (apparently in vain, judging from the ratings) to attract the ‘casual’ fan, has just turned it into a circus, with the fan voting, the bloated rosters, the increased substitutions, the HR Derby (would someone just shoot Boomer…please?), the self-serving charity tie-ins, and the incessant celebrity interviews. I guess it reflects what’s going on in the larger society. If there was ever any ‘baseball’ lurking in there, it was long ago buried for good.

    For us fanatics, it’s a 3-4 day baseball drought; I’ve come to see it as a ‘detox’ period—an enforced disciplinary period that allows me to step away for a few days, catch up on my non-baseball life (or what’s left of it), and come back to Part 2 with a fresh perspective.

    • jimbo1949 - Jul 14, 2011 at 1:43 PM

      just shoot Boomer?
      What the hell did Esiason do to you?

  5. pjmitch - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    Like anything else good in life, if you tinker with it too much like MLB has with the All-Star Game, you are bound to screw it up.


  6. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    Here is an idea, though I am sure it will be unpopular with many fans: extend the break to 5 days for every team. Half the league already has 4 days off, so it is not that big of a jump.

    The older players would generally prefer to rest instead of playing in an exhibition, the pitchers are not allowed to participate if they pitch the day before, and team managers are asking the All-Star manager not to play their guy. If there were a longer break, everyone could get a little rest, still play the game, then rest up again before the real games start. Of course, this means almost a week with no ‘real’ baseball, but if the idea is to add importance to this game, having a strung-out and needy fan base might actually drive us to do something desperate like watch the All-Star game!

    • dapperdan50 - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:25 AM

      By Tuesday, I’m already desperate for baseball and I STILL don’t watch the ASG. I don’t think that waiting for Wed. or Thurs. is going to make a difference.

  7. mikedi33 - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    Bochy clearly managed the game as if he wanted home field for the Giants. While it is not the ideal way to determine home field, I think it makes more sense than just rotating home field between leagues like it use to be. Francona is upset because this effects his team more than the other contenders. Gonzalez in right and Ortiz at first is an advantage fot the NL. I think overall team record should determine home field and that creates more decisions for managers in Sept.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:37 AM

      Francona is upset because this effects his team more than the other contenders

      Except every since the “THIS TIME IT COUNTS” has been instituted, no WS has gone to 7 games. It’s a red herring argument, and MLB should just give the team with the most wins home field.

      • paperlions - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:49 AM

        Would you rather start the WS on the road or at home? If you have home field advantage, you start at home…which can (but need not) dramatically affect how the series unfolds. Some teams are great at home and crap on the road. Some teams have rosters tailored to their home parks and have large advantages at home.

        No it doesn’t always matter, but the advantage is not just limited to game 7.

      • youngyankee - Jul 14, 2011 at 2:02 PM

        starting 2 games at home, then 3 on the road, then 2 more at home.


        2 games on the road, 3 at home, 2 on the road

        ALL 7 games of the WS is affected by this stupid home-field advantage.

    • delawarephilliesfan - Jul 14, 2011 at 1:12 PM

      “Bochy clearly managed the game as if he wanted home field for the Giants.”

      Mike, that is not the case at all. The NL made 12 offensive subsititutions – 12! Prince Fielder bashed a 3 run home run in the 4th…..and then was benched. Let me say that again – FOURTH INNING. Thats managing to win a game?

      Bochy managed the game to get everyone in, just like my little league coach did. I’m not trying to criticize Bochy, not at all. And I am sure he did want to win the game. But lets not pretend here – every All-Star game is managed so that everyone gets in the game

  8. larryhockett - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:17 AM

    I thought it was obvious that interleague play killed the All-Star Game. When I was a kid in the 70s and 80s, I loved the All-Star game. It was a chance to see players from my favorite team take on the stars of the other league, which was something that never otherwise happened. Now we get to watch Roy Halladay take on David Ortiz. So what, we just saw that a few weeks ago. Take away interleague play and the All-Star will be fun and interesting again.

  9. ricofoy - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:18 AM

    Will Selig just retire already? This guy is worse than a Supreme Court Justice – he’ll have to die first. Hopefully, I outlive him.

  10. Jonny 5 - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    I’ve decided to just live it. I’ve found it makes me happier to just accept and move on. Like when the weather just sucks. Yeah, kinda like that.

  11. Utley's Hair - Jul 14, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    Tito the chipmunk—seriously, just look at his cheeks—speaks the truth.

    The whole idea of tying homefield advantage to an exhibition game which boasts starters voted on by fans—thereby making it no more than a popularity contest with a tiny bit of current performance thrown in with eye of newt—and a mandate that every team must have a representative, regardless of performance, is ASININE. And it always was. If Selig feels the bizarre need to tie—interesting term, if I do say so myself, based on the whole reasoning—ASG results to anything, maybe it should be to the location of the next year’s ASG.

    As for the World Series, either go back to alternating years, or base it on interleague play results, whether MLB-wide or head-to-head or even the interleague record of the teams involved.

    I like the ASG. I always have. I just hate what Selig has done to it.

  12. psousa1 - Jul 14, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    Well it is still the most talked about all star game of all the major sports. I got a little sick and tired of the media whining “Have it mean something”. WTF do you want it to mean? Losing manager gets beheaded? Losing team has to run throught parking lot in their jockstraps? Who cares! These so called writers sound like they need counseling because of the MLB all star game. They want the top players to play more innings? Does anyone remember the attituded by managers, GM’s and owners that permeated the all star game around the mid to late 80’s? “Don’t play my guy too long” Anyone remember Steinbrenner going nuts because Dick Howser (when he wasy the all star manager and defending champ Royals manager) played Dave Winfield for 9 innings? I think it was 1986. Steinbrenner went nuts. After that every owner, GM and manager had the all star manager’s ear telling them not to play their guy for an extended period of time. That’s what did it. That is why they had to expand rosters so nobody played more than a few innings. So Bud Selig put WS home field as the carrot of winning the game – so what. People say “Well it should be determined by record” It’s not like the two world series teams have common opponents and playing the same competition (save for some interleague games).

  13. mogogo1 - Jul 14, 2011 at 11:31 AM

    The home field advantage thing is a stupid idea. It’s completely contrary to what the All-Star Game needs. It needs to be a fun event and having home field riding on the game completely flies in the face of that. Fans vote guys onto the team to see them play, not have part of them ride the bench just in case the game goes to extra innings.

    And if they want to stop guys from skipping the game, that’s incredibly easy to fix. And, no, it doesn’t involve bribing them to show up. They just need a rule that as long as a guy is ambulatory, he’s going to physically be at the game and all the events associated with it. If the guy has to be there for introductions, has to be in the dugout for the game, has to be hanging around watching the home run derby, etc. he’s almost certainly going to decide it’d be more fun to actually take part. And if he really is hurt and can’t play, then at least his fans have gotten a chance to see him associated with the game, so it’s still a win.

  14. eagles512 - Jul 14, 2011 at 1:23 PM

    I guess I’m in the minority but I still enjoy it and it’s a lot better than the other sports all star games.

    • tifosi73 - Jul 14, 2011 at 5:26 PM

      Just because it is the best all star game (by far), doesn’t mean it should count for home-field advantage of the World Series.

      MLB & FOX wanted more ratings and thought the home-field advantage factor would attract more ratings. .

      It doesn’t. Lowest ratings ever….again.

      Interleague play has weakened the ASG. I used to love it (before interleague play). Now I certainly don’t and don’t bother to watch it (mainly cause I hate the home field rule). It is still way above all other ASGs.

      • Utley's Hair - Jul 14, 2011 at 5:45 PM

        I don’t believe eagles512 said that it should count for home field advantage.

  15. scubagolfjim - Jul 14, 2011 at 6:20 PM

    Who remembers the game three years ago? Now who remembers the game when Randy Johnson threw a wild pitch toward John Kruk and Kruk’s reaction? THAT is what the All-Star Game used to be about: a fun event and a chance to see all of the players selected.

    The “game that changed everything” was played properly. To hell with the home-field-advantage crap. It’s just that. Crap. The managers wanted to use everyone possible in the game, to show appreciation to, and allow the fans, who chose the players, to actually see the people they voted for play in the game.

  16. schmedley69 - Jul 15, 2011 at 12:19 AM

    Now he knows how National League managers felt all those years when they lost home field because the NL lost to a juiced-up lineup of Red Sox and Yankees players. Too bad, Tito.

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