MLB All-Star Game Ballot: Fans Should Lose Voting Power If the Game Counts
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"This time, it counts."
I'm pretty sure that's the slogan for Major League Baseball's All-Star Game, though I can't be certain seeing as how the league doesn't really need the "this time" part anymore. The game has "counted" for close to a decade at this point.
Deciding to have the game determine home-field advantage in the World Series was a cool idea at the time, but the charade has gone on long enough. MLB wanted to make the Midsummer Classic an actual meaningful baseball game, but the league hasn't done enough to convince people that it's anything other than a fun-and-games exhibition.
On the contrary, MLB is actually encouraging the notion that the All-Star Game is a fun-and-games exhibition. If it was a serious contest, the league surely wouldn't permit players to tweet during the actual game.
Yup, MLB is borrowing one of the NFL's tricks. As reported by the USA Today, this year's All-Stars will be allowed to use social media at computer stations set up adjacent to the two dugouts at Kauffman Stadium. Thankfully, there are some restrictions, as players will only be allowed to use tweet and such before the game or after they've been pulled from it.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports had the best reaction to the news:
The All-Star Game counts so much that players are allowed to tweet during it. Please, baseball, end the farce.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 5, 2012
Pretty much. The All-Star Game is always fun, but it should really stop counting.
There's obviously more to this than just the new tweeting rules. That announcement came Tuesday, and the league also announced the current top vote-getters in the All-Star voting.
As they usually do, these totals revealed the biggest problem with the All-Star game actually mattering. If MLB is going to continue to insist that the All-Star Game be so darned important, the league needs to do something to make sure both the American League and National League are able to field the best possible teams.
To do that, the first thing the league has to do is take voting powers away from the fans. They don't care about selecting the best possible team. They care about selecting the most popular team.
I shouldn't have to argue this point, but I will anyway. Since the American League is my main area of expertise, here's a rundown of where the fans are going wrong with the voting.
First Base: Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers
Fielder's having a solid season, as he's hitting .318 with nine homers and 35 RBI. However, he has no business starting over Paul Konerko, who has been the best hitter in the AL this season not named Josh Hamilton.
Second Base: Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers
Kinsler is having a decent season, but Robinson Cano, Jason Kipnis and Kelly Johnson are all having better seasons. Of the bunch, Cano is the best overall player.
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Third Base: Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
Beltre is doing fine offensively, but he's taken a step back defensively this season. Mike Moustakas has been the best all-around third baseman in the AL this season, and Brett Lawrie would also be a better choice than Beltre.
Shortstop: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
Um, no. Jeter got off to a hot start, but he's been slumping for weeks and he's a bigger defensive liability than ever before. Elvis Andrus deserves to start at short. Hands down.
Catcher: Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers
I like Napoli too, but A.J. Pierzynski deserves to start at catcher for the AL. And I don't even like Pierzynski (neither do you, I'm guessing).
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
No problems here, though Adam Dunn and Edwin Encarnacion have also been awesome.
Outfield: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
Yeah, he's pretty good.
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Outfield: Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees
Granderson can hit home runs, but 11 of his 17 home runs have come at Yankee Stadium, and he's still striking out a ton. He's also one of the worst defensive center fielders in baseball, if not the worst. Adam Jones should be in center field for the AL.
Outfield: Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers
No. Just no. Josh Reddick, Mark Trumbo, and Mike Trout are just three players who deserve to start over Cruz.
If the top vote-getters in the American League actually end up being in Ron Washington's starting lineup, he'll have a pretty good team. He will not, however, have the best team he can possibly have. Since the league is asking Washington secure home-field advantage in the World Series for the American League (potentially his club), this just isn't fair.
Granted, the All-Star starting lineups are only part of the equation. The starters only play a few innings, and after that, the game becomes about getting the reserves into the game. And aside from the final player added to the roster in either league, fans don't have a say in selecting the reserves.
The selection of the reserves used to be a major problem, as managers were prone to selecting their own players. That problem isn't so bad now that players have a say in the matter. When the reserves are announced these days, there's generally not all that much to complain about. There can be more snubs in the starting lineups than there are in the reserves.
What's more important?
Since the reserve selection works pretty well, why not apply that same process to the starting lineup? Unlike fans, players have a little incentive to choose the best players for the All-Star Game, as many of them dream of playing in the World Series in October. They'll want to put together the best possible team.
Fans aren't thinking about the World Series when they fill out their All-Star ballots. A vast majority of them are just picking their favorite players. All-Star voting is a popularity contest, nothing more.
Taking the voting privilege away from the fans would definitely have consequences. There's a danger fans would lose interest in the Midsummer Classic, and that would be a shame because MLB's All-Star Game is the only All-Star Game in America that's actually worth watching every year. MLB must do what it can to make sure people keep coming back to it.
This brings us back to our original dilemma: Does MLB want the All-Star Game to be taken seriously, or does it want the All-Star Game to be fun for the whole family?
If having the game taken seriously is MLB's bigger priority, voting must be taken away from the fans. Sorry, fans, but most of you don't know what the heck you're doing, and that's unfair to the players who have to play the game.
If having the game be a fun, happy, enjoyable experience for everyone involved is MLB's bigger priority, there's only one thing the league can do:
Stop making it count.
I vote for Option B.
If you want to talk baseball, hit me up on Twitter.
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