Another misconception is that free agency and trading have made the leagues virtually interchangeable. In fact, most free agents don't change leagues.
5) THE PETE ROSE SYNDROME
National League superiority involves intensity as well as talent. "Pete Rose, Carl Yastrzemski," says Montreal's Al Oliver, a two-league All-Star, "two superstars, two future Hall-of-Famers. One is outgoing and confident, the other reserved and confident. That, right there, is the National League and American."
"Having played on both sides, I'd say there's more emotion on the National side," says Giant Manager Frank Robinson, referring to the All-Star Game. "Some American League players didn't think it necessary to play hard." Williams says he could tell the difference the first time he walked into the Nationals' All-Star clubhouse, a few hours before game time: "Three-fourths of the players were already dressed."
Actually, National League intensity predates Rose's influence. "Willie Mays got them started by playing some of his best games at the All-Star," says Irvin. "He'd make a big play in games they should have lost and other guys would pitch in. It became the thing to do. Now they're in a groove, and they don't ever think they'll lose."
"Our players go out there with only one thing in mind," says Feeney. "Winning." The Americans also have only one thing in mind: not losing. Maybe that's why they've fared so poorly. Since 1960 they've come from behind to win twice; the Nationals, 11 times.
6) BALL-PARK FEVER
Six of the 14 American League stadiums, in Boston, Baltimore, New York, Detroit, Minnesota and Seattle, are home-run heavens, at least to one field, and only Oakland, Chicago and Texas have pitchers' parks. Four of the fields, in Kansas City, Toronto, Minnesota and Seattle, have artificial turf.
Only three National League stadiums are universally considered to be home-run parks; those in Atlanta, Chicago and L.A. Most of the others favor the pitchers. And fully six of the 12 parks, in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Cincy, Houston, St. Louis and Montreal, are carpeted.
Fields dictate strategy. In the American League slow grass infields hold up grounders and nearby porches beckon to sluggers; no wonder the batters swing for downtown, especially because some teams court lefthanded or righthanded sluggers exclusively, to aim for nearby fences at their home parks. In the National League, artificial turf more often converts rather routine grounders into singles and singles into extra-base hits up the alleys. Distant fences discourage home-run cuts; no wonder National batters are less inclined to go for the downs.