Saturday, May 3, 2003

World Series home-field plan won't affect Baker

By Nancy Armour
The Associated Press

CHICAGO - Dusty Baker won't change how he manages the NL All-Star squad just because it could affect the World Series.

Players agreed to a two-year experiment Thursday that will give home-field advantage in the World Series to the team from the league that wins the All-Star game. But Baker said that won't be a factor in any of his decisions - even if his Chicago Cubs are still in first place in mid-July.

"If there's a game, I don't care who I'm playing, I might as well win," Baker said Friday. "If I'm playing you or my son, I don't care. I'm here to win."

Home-field advantage had alternated between the American and National leagues since the first World Series in 1903. Commissioner Bud Selig proposed the change after last year's All-Star game in Milwaukee ended in a 7-7, 11-inning tie when both leagues ran out of pitchers.

Baseball officials also hope the format change will increase dwindling fan interest in the game. The Chicago White Sox are the host for this year's game o on July 15.

"I'm all for creative thinking," Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said. "Anything to help the public embrace the All-Star game more, heighten the degree of credibility that goes to it, the importance of it, that's fine.

"We just need to come to some type of viable solution that everyone's good with and go."

The intensity of the All-Star game has lessened recently, with increased player movement reducing the allegiance players have to their leagues. Also, managers have become more focused on getting every player into the game than winning it.

"Now it's more of a fun, entertainment thing than a serious competition," said Baker, a two-time All-Star as a player. "Plus it's different now. Most of the guys played on U.S. teams, Olympic teams together. So there's more of a camaraderie between the guys whereas before, there was more pride in whose league was best."

And Baker said he's not sure if the new plan can change that.

With each team required to have an All-Star representative, there will be plenty of players for whom the postseason won't be a factor.

"You might think it matters to some of the guys that are still in contention at that time," Baker said. "But at the same time, how many guys think that far in advance?"

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