I thoroughly enjoy the MLB All-Star Game. The fanfare, festivities and camaraderie are all a blast to watch.
Who wouldn’t enjoy watching the best of the best duke it out?
I say this because I’m also thoroughly disgusted with the All-Star promise, so I thought I would try to serve it up with a compliment sandwich.
So, I said something nice—now for an area that needs improvement.
The voting process has become a joke.
If the All-Star Game was simply meant to be a fun and friendly game, that would be fine. However, that's not the case.
With home-field advantage in the World Series on the line, there is no room for error—or ballot-box stuffing.
As opposed to being the one time of the year when the best players from the American League face the best players of the National League, it’s turned into a glorified popularity contest.
Again, with nothing on the line, that would be perfectly fine, but the early vote totals illustrate the current process is quite flawed.
We’ll start with the catcher slot on the ballot.
Posey was three more home runs, but Molina’s .351 batting average is 49 points higher than Posey’s. The two are reasonably similar, but there’s no doubt Molina is having a better season.
The debate continues at first base. I’m not arguing against Joey Votto, but it’s ridiculous that Paul Goldschmidt is more than 500,000 votes behind him. If the numbers mattered, they would be neck and neck (or Goldschmidt would be ahead).
Goldschmidt has a higher batting average (.333), more home runs (14) and more RBI (54) than Votto. He also has more stolen bases (six) and doubles (17) with a 1.016 OPS. Why is he behind Votto and Brandon Belt?
The question at second base is once again clearly a matter of popularity.
Brandon Phillips is a stellar second baseman—I’m not arguing against that. He deserves to be near the top in the voting. However, for Matt Carpenter to rank fourth is nonsense.
Carpenter is ahead of Phillips in batting average (.335), OBP (.415), runs scored (49) and walks (27). Phillips has the edge in home runs (nine) and RBI (45).
While I can see a case for Phillips at the top based on runs produced, Carpenter belongs above Chase Utley and Marco Scutaro.
I’m not going to argue with Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop. The 28-year-old slugger looks like the Tulo of old. He’s at the top and he deserves to be there.
I’ll also leave third base alone, because there are no real standouts among the five in the lead. The Atlanta Braves third baseman Chris Johnson is hitting for the best average (.333), but lags behind in other key categories.
Choosing three outfielders won’t be easy either—especially when Shin-Soo Choo (.431 OBP) and Carlos Beltran (.306 average/40 RBI) aren’t in the top three. I would argue that Choo and Beltran should make the roster before either Justin Upton or Bryce Harper either.
Harper and Upton might sell tickets, but Choo and Beltran might play a bigger role in bringing World Series home-field advantage back to the National League…again.
Of course, the American League faces the same struggles, so in reality one might expect it to balance out. Regardless, this is not the way to handle it.
I see three possible solutions—any of which would help the competitive balance and ensure that the best players are on the field when it counts.
The easiest answer would be to leave things the way they are, but make the All-Star Game meaningless again. With nothing serious on the line, it could be exactly what it is intended to be—a week for the fans.
That’s the simple answer. Revert back to letting the best record to determine home-field advantage. It could even be the best record from interleague play if MLB wanted to keep it spicy.
The next option is to remove fan participation altogether.
If MLB insists that the All-Star Game must count, then one option is to simply keep the fans out of the vote. Let a committee base it on the numbers and determine which players would give the league the best shot at a win.
Another option, and my preference, would offer the best of both worlds.
Let the managers choose the starting lineup. This ensures that the guys who need to be in the game are, in fact, selected.
In an effort to keep the fans involved, let them vote for the reserves. Under this scenario, the game could still count, but there’s no concern that the league won't field the best team possible.
I’d even go as far as to recommend leaving an additional two slots for the manager to make a final pickup or two as insurance after the vote tallies are in.
Regardless of how they do it, the time has come to revisit the issue.
With so much on the line, it’s time for the All-Star Game to be a true game of All-Stars.
Statistics from ESPN.com current through June 6, 2013.