When the Fans Fail: All-Star Voting

Sean LaveryCorrespondent IJanuary 11, 2009

When a GM makes poor choices about which players to put on his roster, he is fired.

When a coach starts and plays the wrong players, he is fired.

Commissioners Selig, Goodell, Bettman; it's time to fire the fans.

All four major United States team sports use fan balloting to decide who plays in their All-Star games. NBA fans do a respectable job. NFL, NHL, and MLB fans, however, don't fare as well.

If you glance around Bleacher Report, it's not hard to find articles detailing who got snubbed and who shouldn't be playing, so I won't detail each and every case, but rather highlight some extraordinary ones and reasons why this has to change.

All-Star games are not just pageantry and exhibition. They are used as incentive clauses and bargaining chips in contract negotiations (see Albert Haynesworth), factors in deciding if a player makes the Hall of Fame, and even decide home-field advantage for the World Series. It is important who makes these teams.

Too long have teams been decided by "homer" votes by fans voting for their team's players. This gives far too much power to the major market teams, and results in poor decisions.

Brett Favre (3,472 yds, 22 TDs, 22 Ints) making the AFC squad over Philip Rivers (4,009 yds, 34 TDs, 11 Ints) has as much to do with where they play as anything else. Two-thirds of the 2008 AL All-Star starters either played for Boston or the Yankees.

Too long have the big-name players automatically been invited despite inferior seasons.

Once again Favre over Rivers serves as a perfect example, but only one of many. Cal Ripken Jr. played in an MLB record 17 consecutive All-Star games.

He deserved some of these, but even an Orioles fan like myself admits he was not always the best choice at shortstop or third base.

Perhaps the best example of both of these factors is the 2009 NHL All-Star game.

To have a full understanding of the situation, you must also know that this the 100th anniversary of the Montreal Canadiens franchise.

The All-Star game is also being played in Montreal. As a result the Montreal fans are voting in flocks to see their players during the All-Star game.

Among the 12 total starters for both the East and West squads, only four total teams are represented. Montreal and Pittsburgh in the East and Chicago and Anaheim in the West.

None of the top twenty goal scorers in the NHL are starting. In fact, NHL goal leader Jeff Carter wasn't even on the ballot and had to be written in if you wanted to vote for him.

Neither starting goalie is in the top 5 in GAA, Save%, or Wins. J.S. Giguere, the starting net minder for the West, is 37th in GAA, 24th in Save%, and T-23rd in Wins. He doesn't even have the best GAA or Save% on his own team, let alone in his conference.

Perhaps most ridiculously, at the end of balloting Sergei Gonchar had enough votes to be a starting defensemen for the Eastern Conference. Gonchar was injured in the preseason and HASN'T PLAYED A SINGLE GAME ALL YEAR.

Of course, due to the injury he won't actually start or play in the All-Star game, but that shows the flaws in the process. Well, one of the flaws in the online voting process anyway.

In November it was reported that Montreal fans were using an auto-script to vote for Habs players. Reportedly around 20,000 votes were removed from the players in question, but it once again demonstrates another huge flaw in the online voting system.

As a rabid hockey and NHL fan, I am honestly insulted and disgusted by the horrid All-Star roster.

So what can be done to fix it? If the fans don't vote, who should?

There are a number of options, ranging from coaches, to players, to scouts, to the media.

Media votes wouldn't likely be much better than fan votes, although it would hopefully lessen the role of regional bias.

My personal suggestion is that players vote for the starters (take the role currently occupied by fans) and the managers/coaches of the team fill in the rest of the roster appropriately.

This enables the NHL and MLB to keep the current rules that require each franchise to have at least one All-Star. Whether those rules should exist is a separate debate.

I know this will alienate some fans. So let the fans vote for something different.

The skills competitions.

Many fans already prefer the Home Run Derby, Slam Dunk Contest, and the similar events held by the NHL and NFL. And these events have far less impact that the main game, so I think they're innocuous enough to allow the fans to vote for the participants (although perhaps from a limited ballot).

Then again, maybe that's the same logic that led to our current debacle with All Star Games...

Bottom line is that we, the fans, have blown it. It's time to give up our power.