The Associated Press
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Now it's up to baseball players to decide if the All-Star game winner gets home-field advantage in the World Series. Owners unanimously approved the change Thursday as their two-day meeting ended.
"This energizes it. This gives them something to really play for," commissioner Bud Selig said after the 30-0 vote. "People pay a lot of money to see that game. They deserve to see the same intensity they see all year long. Television people pay a lot of money for the game. It was not and should not be a meaningless exhibition game."
Home field has rotated between the American and National leagues since the World Series began in 1903, and the team hosting Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 has won 15 of the last 17 titles and the last eight Series that went a full seven games.
Owners made the change following last year's mess in Milwaukee, when both teams ran out of pitchers and the All-Star game ended in a 7-7, 11-inning tie. Management officials say Fox, which holds baseball's television rights, was strongly in favor of the proposal.
Some players have voiced opposition.
"That's crazy. You've got the All-Star game with players from different teams. I don't think that's right," said Chicago White Sox catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., a six-time All-Star. "That's totally ludicrous."
Alomar was MVP of the 1997 All-Star game at Cleveland, and was a member of the Indians team that lost Game 7 of that year's World Series at Florida - which would have been played at Jacobs Field under the new rule.
The union said it's not sure of its stance, but it appears management and Fox has work ahead to convince players to accept the change.
"We appreciate what they're trying to do," said Gene Orza, the union's No. 2 official. "We'll talk to the players and get a more widespread reaction than we've gotten so far. We'll also talk to the networks. It's not problem-free, but nothing in this sport is."
Management can't understand any opposition.
"Their arguments are kind of hollow, whatever they are," Arizona owner Jerry Colangelo said.
Selig also will have his staff direct the All-Star managers to keep players in reserve in case the game goes extra innings and urge them to keep starting pitchers in the game longer.
"In the last few years, it's basically been an exhibition game," Los Angeles Dodgers chairman Bob Daly said. "That isn't the way I grew up watching the game."
Some players don't want the game to have more importance. Boston's Johnny Damon thinks forcing players to put more importance on the game would cause more to turn down invitations.
"You're going to see guys reject it even more. They won't take a chance of injuring themselves for a game that's for the league," he said. "Imagine if Nomar (Garciaparra) goes there and he gets hurt?"
In other news, baseball's committee on the future of the Montreal Expos will start contacting communities interested in acquiring the team to set up meetings. Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia and Portland, Ore., are the leading candidates to obtain the franchise, which is among the poorest draws in the major leagues.
"We'll be ready when they are," said Bobby Goldwater, president of the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission.
The Expos will play 22 home games this year in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to increase revenue. As part of a deal to get the team, several owners said baseball would like a community to have financing in place for a new ballpark. Thus far, no area has gone that far.
Selig refused to say whether 2003 would be the last season in Montreal for the Expos, who began play in 1969.
"Ask me that question as the year goes on, and I'll give it a more definitive answer," he said. "Nothing is for certain right now."
On other topics:
Selig will issue a directive establishing 14 as the minimum age for batboys, a move that takes away the job of 3-year-old Darren Baker, who nearly got into a collision during the World Series.
Sandy Alderson, Selig's executive vice president of baseball operations, said baseball will push speedup initiatives designed to lower the average time of a nine-game game to 2 hours, 45 minutes. It was 2:52 last year, down six minutes from 2000.
Selig appointed the first 15 members of his marketing task force, a group that includes former NL president Len Coleman, Orza, Daly, News Corp. chairman Peter Chernin, ESPN president George Bodenheimer, John Hancock Financial Services Inc. chairman David D'Alessandro, former NFL marketing head Sara Levinson, columnist George Will and former San Francisco general manager Al Rosen. Selig also will appoint two current players.
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