A baseball game ending in a tie is one of the nightmares facing every bookmaker. It can’t happen you say? Bud Selig says it can, and since he is the commissioner of Major League Baseball, his opinion is apparently the only one that counts in this matter!
You may recall the All Star Game in 2002 – that was the reason for me bringing this up. The score was tied at 7-7 after 8-innings of play and was still there 3-innings later. Unfortunately the managers had already used up all their pitchers in an effort to get everyone into the game. Vicente Padilla and Freddy Garcia had already pitched two innings each and their respective clubs would probably not have been very happy if they had to pitch too much longer so Selig stepped in and called the game a tie after 11-innings of play.
Why is this a nightmare for bookmakers? Simple – anything that causes confusion for bettors is bad for business. Moneyline bets were a push, but since the game had gone past 9 innings, runline and total bets had action. Bettors that had the National League -1.5 on the runline were upset and we even had bettors who had taken under 9 runs calling in, asking to have their wagers refunded since the game didn’t end in their minds. I didn’t get any calls from bettors with the American League +1.5 runs or the over! Basically, bettors that lost on the game were simply left with a bad feeling, and as I have said in other columns, bad beats are bad for business. I can think back to the power outage shortened Wisconsin/UNLV college football game or Robin Ventura’s walk-off 2-run Grand Slam (he was mobbed before touching 3rd base or home plate so the other two runs didn’t count) as other examples in recent years.
As much as it was confusing for bettors, it was embarrassing for baseball, so last year they added a rule that gave home field advantage in the World Series to the league that won the All Star Game, starting with the 2003 game. The idea has critics and supporters but it definitely produced one of the most exciting All Star Games in recent years as the two sides recognize the importance of the game (now baseball just has to get rid of the rule requiring at least one player from every team so the Leagues can field their absolute best possible teams).
Bettors definitely loved the new format and volume went through the roof. The All-Star Break was traditionally the only 3-day period of the year where a book could close to move, upgrade servers, etc. – not any more! The All-Star game last year had the aura and volume of a playoff game. Hank Blalock of the Texas Rangers hit a late home run and the American League won 7-6 to ‘steal’ Home Field advantage from the NL as it was their turn under the alternate year system that had been in place.
I doubt that Major League Baseball takes wagering volume into consideration, but if they did, I think they would realize they are on the right track. How different would NBA or NHL All-Star games be if those leagues followed suit? The NBA All-Star games wouldn’t just be the alley-oop/slam dunk contest it has become, as teams would be motivated to play defense! The NHL All-Star game would actually have checks and would be closer to the level of Olympic Hockey games, but with even more talent on both sides. I think fans would love it, I know bettors would love it, but I don’t really care as long as the games never end in a tie!
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