Rewriting history with new WS home-field rules

Maz's walk-off HR in '60, Fisk's iconic shot at Fenway in '75 wouldn't have happened

December 1st, 2016

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement comes with its fair share of legalese, the menial mumbo jumbo that makes up many a binding document. And inquiring fans will have to familiarize themselves with the complex new free-agent compensation scenarios, among other changes.

But here's the easiest element of the new CBA to wrap your head around: Game 1 (and Game 7) of the World Series will be hosted by the pennant winner with the better regular-season record.

This replaces the provision in which home-field advantage went to the team whose league won that season's All-Star Game, which was implemented in 2003, after the All-Star Game ended in a tie in '02. It was a hotly debated decision, which itself replaced an arbitrary and equally debatable one: home field alternating back and forth between leagues.

Rave situation: Owners, players deliver

And sure, the new arrangement has an inherent imperfection, because not all schedules are created equal. In 2016, the National League had significantly more rebuilding teams than the American League. And so while the Cubs clearly had a better regular-season record (103-58) than that of the AL-champion Indians (94-67), Chicago played 105 (or 65.2 percent) of its 161 games against teams that finished with a sub-.500 record, whereas Cleveland played 67 (or 41.6 percent) of its slate against such teams.

But much like life itself, there is no perfect answer, unless you're one of those people in favor of a neutral site -- but even then we'd probably argue over who should bat last.

This new setup is as equitable as we're going to get, and more equitable than what we've gotten in the past. There have been 90 World Series under the 2-3-2 format, and in only 46 of them did the team with the better regular-season record have the home-field edge.

More important, of the 38 World Series to come down to a winner-take-all game (that's 37 Game 7s and one Game 8, in 1912), only 19 had what we would consider to be this fair arrangement of the team with the better record hosting.

It's only natural, then, to wonder how different baseball history would look had this been the procedure all along.

Consider these 10 submissions (listed in chronological order) for significant World Series moments or outcomes that might have been different had the new format been in place at the time.

1925: The Pirates became the first team to rally from a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven World Series, with the benefit of having Games 6 and 7 in Pittsburgh. The Washington Senators had the better regular-season record.

1954: In Game 1, Willie Mays made "The Catch" on a ball the Indians' Vic Wertz hit approximately 420 feet to deep center field. It would have been a goner in many ballparks, including Cleveland's Municipal Stadium, where the center-field wall was 410 feet from home plate. The Giants went on to score three runs in the 10th to spark a Series sweep, but they wouldn't have had home-field advantage under the new format, because the '54 Indians won 111 games.

1960: Bill Mazeroski hit the first -- and thus far only -- walk-off home run in a World Series Game 7. But under the current conditions, the Pirates wouldn't have had the last at-bat. The Yankees (97-57) were two games better than the Bucs during the regular season.

1975: The ultimate result was unaffected. But Carlton Fisk's iconic Game 6 winner off the Fenway foul pole happened in a game that wouldn't have even taken place at Fenway under the new format. The Big Red Machine went on to win a Game 7 that, by regular-season record, it should have hosted.

1982: The Milwaukee Brewers have not yet won a World Series. Would the 1982 tilt against the Cardinals, which went the full seven games, have gone differently had the Brew Crew's superior regular-season record (they were three games better than the Cards) been honored with hosting rights?

1985: Would the name Don Denkinger live on in such infamy had the Cardinals hosted this Series? Impossible to know, but the Royals' Game 6 rally and Game 7 win both occurred in the comforts of home, even though the Cards had a regular-season record that was 10 games better than theirs.

1988: With injuries to both legs, Kirk Gibson limped to the plate at Dodger Stadium in the bottom of the ninth of Game 1 and hit one of the most famous game-winning home runs in history off Oakland's Dennis Eckersley. The underdog Dodgers went on to win the Series. Maybe Gibson's heroics still would've happened under the new format, but they would have had to happen in the top of the inning at Oakland Coliseum.

1993: Mazeroski wouldn't have been the only one robbed of his date with destiny. The Blue Jays' Joe Carter hit the only other World Series-ending home run at SkyDome in Game 6, but the Phillies, with a record two games better than that of the Blue Jays, would have been hosting this one.

2001: Luis Gonzalez's walk-off, bases-loaded blooper off Mariano Rivera wouldn't have happened under the new format. Yankee Stadium would have served as the setting for Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 of the Series, which followed soon after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

2011: The Wild Card-winning Cards having the home-field edge over the division-winning Rangers by virtue of the All-Star Game result was a subject of controversy before this World Series started, and there's no doubt it had an impact on the ending. The Cards' incredible Game 6 comeback, capped by 's home run, might not have been possible under different conditions.