One of the things that’s bothered me most in my experience as a baseball fan has been the outcome of the 2002 All-Star Game. The outcome of this game was a unique event that fell upon the Commissioner to rule upon with little haste, and falls under the type of things I’d like to discuss in this blog.
2002 All-Star Game – What did Happen:
After nine innings of play at Miller Park on July 9, 2002, the score was tied at seven runs apiece. After the tenth inning came and went without either team scoring, it became evident neither side had enough spare relief pitchers to continue throwing out there for the customary one inning of work. With Commissioner Bud Selig in attendance, what better solution than to get both managers, the crew chief, and the Commissioner himself together to decide on a solution? With the score still tied at seven at the beginning of the bottom of the eleventh, the public address announcer told the crowd that if the N.L. didn’t score, the game would end in a tie. When Benito Santiago struck out to end the frame, the game was called, fans threw trash on the field, then began chanting “Refund!”
and “Let them play!” (Nightengale, Bob. “Tie in ’02
All-Star Game mattered.” USA Today, July 10, 2007.) This meant that under the rules at the time, rule 4.10 d was enforced, where, “If each team has the same number of runs when the game ends, the umpire shall declare it a “Tie Game.” (Make The Right Call. Chicago:Triumph Books, 1994. P. 68. ISBN# 1-880141-59-0)
What Should Have Happened:
According to Official rule 4.10 b in the 2008 edition of MLB’s rules, “If the score is tied after nine completed innings
play shall continue until (1) the visiting team has scored more total runs than
the home team at the end of a completed inning, or (2) the home team scores the
winning run in an uncompleted inning.” (2008 Official MLB Rules)
My question is; was this rule in existence on July 9, 2002? With some research, I discovered that this was the exact same wording of rule 4.10 b even in the 1994 edition of the rules. (Make The Right Call. Chicago:Triumph Books, 1994. P. 68. ISBN# 1-880141-59-0)
If rule 4.10 b was to be interpreted word for word, then the game should have continued with the players currently on the field, and played to a
conclusion. Here’s what Commissioner Selig said at the time; “The decision was made because there were no players left, no pitchers left.”
(Associated Press. July 10, 2002. SI.com). There is a precedent that in times of crisis, teams turn to position players to pitch, as Jose Oquendo did in a marathon extra-inning game on May 14, 1988 (St. Louis Post-Dispatch). In my research for this piece, Commissioner Selig has never acknowledge the idea that a non-pitcher could have taken the mound in accordance with discussion about his decision, and for some reason, the media wasn’t too quick to bring this possibility to the forefront of discussion either.
Pros and Cons of Continuing the Game:
As Commissioner, the worst thing that could’ve happened by continuing the game was that a player became injured. Here’s what catcher Damian Miller said at the time; “If I was a fan, too, I would be disappointed. Obviously, you want to see someone win, but you have to look out for the players and their health.”(CBC Sports) The second worst thing would be that a pitcher or player wore himself out so much he hampered his ability to be productive once the season began again, decreasing his statistics that are used a leverage in free agency and contract negotiations. Let us not forget that at the time, the labor agreement was set to expire in about a month (Stark, Jayson. July 9, 2002. ESPN.com). Not the best time to anger Donald Fehr.
The best thing that could’ve happened by continuing the game would be for a position player to pitch and the game to continue, turning a potential negative into one of the most memorable and interesting All-Star Games in baseball history, a situation where the fans the were happy, and widespread press coverage resulted in positive word-of-mouth conversation from people who are regular baseball fans.
Argument for Continuing the Game:
As Selig asserted five years later, “There was nothing we could do.” (Nightengale, Bob. “Tie in ’02
All-Star Game mattered.” USA Today, July 10, 2007.). Here the Commissioner seems to forget the powers granted his office. The Commissioner is the only person in the known Universe who has complete and absolute authority over every aspect of Major League Baseball, and even five years later, he does not take responsibility for the situation or his decision. In fact, here is a part of text in the Major League Agreement that provided Judge Landis his broad powers; Under the Major League Agreement, the new Commission was broadly empowered to “investigate, either upon complaint or upon his own initiative, an act, transaction or practice, charged, alleged or suspected to be detrimental to the best interest of the national game of baseball, (and to determine and take) any remedial, preventive or punitive action (he deemed appropriate).” The Agreement also expressly provided that the Commissioner’s decisions would be final and could not be challenged by the clubs in court. (MLB.com)
My argument; the fans have and always will come first. As the world’s premier Professional Baseball League, Commissioner Selig’s first responsibility was ensuring that the product on the field was what people had paid to see. Commissioner
Selig invited a public relations disaster by making this decision; would the public really side with the Player’s Association if some of the players had said it was too much of a risk for guys to get hurt?
By continuing the game, it would have been the right thing for the fans. The Commissioner’s decision was an oversight of tremendous proportions.
Neither the Commissioner nor the players themselves upheld their
responsibilities as professionals.
Hindsight may be 20/20, but I believe I’ve proved that rule 4.10 b demanded the game be continued, that Commissioner Selig had the power to continue the game, and that it was his duty to do so in his capacity to uphold the integrity of Major League Baseball.
The short-term decision to call the game as a tie was an egregious mistake. However, the long-term efforts (which I left out to keep this post
concise) to hinge World Series home-field advantage to the game, and the wording change to the rules in 2008 to get rid of talking about a “Tie Game” in rule 4.10 d, are spot-on, logical ways to deal with the outcome of the 2002 All-Star Game.
1.) What would have been Donald Fehr’s reaction to a continuation of the game?
2.) Would Commissioner Selig have been blamed for inciting more tension in the labor negotiations by continuing the game?
3.) Should refunds have been offered to fans who attended the 2002 All-Star Game?
4.) Could home-field advantage determination for the World Series seen the light of day without this fiasco occurring?