Casey Stengel caption

Homefield Advantage in MLB Was Kind of Weird

Major League Baseball has always been weird when it comes to giving homefield advantage in the World Series. For a long time the leagues would alternate between leagues where every other year the NL would have the advantage and the next year would be the AL. In some ways this made sense as up until the 90’s the leagues never played each other until the World Series.

Ultimately, the leagues never played each other so the teams are playing unequal schedules thus I can see how it was decided this way. It was still odd when a team who won 100 plus games had to visit a team who won much less in a very important game 7, after all, while each team aren’t playing the same competition they are both playing similar competition so one would think that would be enough to, at least, give an idea as to who deserves the advantage but at least I can see the logic in this (I will also throw the aside in that I’m not completely sure if this was the thought behind deciding homefield advantage in this manner, I just always kind of assumed it was. It wouldn’t surprise me, knowing Major League Baseball, if it wasn’t just decided to be done that way for no other reason than it’s easy to do it that way)

What I don’t understand is why, in the playoffs starting in 1969, it was decided to alternate between divisions when it came to hosting. At least the American League and National League were two separate leagues and alternating hosts would appease both but the division was just a way to split a league by geography (which didn’t always make sense, like the Atlanta Braves being in the West was always kind of weird, their state borders the Atlantic Ocean which is the one on the east. I could see it if they had moved from Milwaukee during the division era but they didn’t, divisions started in 1969, the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966)

 

Painting of umpires checking for rain
Here’s a picture of umpires checking for rain but I like to think the dudes behind them are discussing hot to set up homefield advantage for the League Championship Series in the early days of MLB playoffs.

None of those obstacles existed when it came to the League Championship Series. The West and East weren’t separate entities and while the schedules weren’t balanced (I don’t believe) the teams still would still play games between divisions. It makes even less sense to me that the league would just…alternate homefield advantage between division. And the format at the time was 2-3, meaning you finish the final three games of the series at home, which, to me seems like quite the advantage.

Me and the Famous Chicken
Here’s me and the San Diego Chicken in complete agreement that the 1973 New York Mets were stupid.

I’m okay with that format when homefield would be decided in a more competitive manner but it wasn’t. The major trigger for this rant is when I look at the 1973 NLCS. This series was between the 1973 New York Mets, at team that went 82-79, and the Cincinnati Reds, a team that went 99-63.

It’s bad enough, in my eyes, that the New York Mets, a team that had less wins than 8 other teams in baseball (at the time the league had 24 teams so 1/3 of the league was better than them) only had to win 8 ball games to be champion of the league (something they almost did, losing to the defending champion Oakland A’s in game 7) but add to it the fact that they had homefield advantage vs a team with 17 more wins than them and, well, the system just didn’t make any sense.

I don’t really know how else to end this. It was eventually changed to where the team with the better record has homefield advantage. They even do it in the World Series now! Granted, it took until 2017….over 20 years after interleague play began and there was that weird time period where the All-Star game decided it but hey, at least we have many, many more opportunities to have the 8th best team in baseball be champion due to playoff expansion so that’s kind of fun.

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