Major League Baseball released its early voting returns for the league’s 2010 All-Star Game on Tuesday, with five Milwaukee Brewers among the top five at their positions.
The most prominent of these is left fielder Ryan Braun (.328, 8 HR, 32 RBI), who currently leads all National League outfielders by a margin of almost 60,000 over the second-place outfielder, Philadelphia’s Jayson Werth (.327, 9, 33).
Other Brewers sitting pretty in the early voting results include first baseman Prince Fielder (.275, 7, 19), who’s in third-place behind the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols (.303, 8, 29) and the Phillies’ Ryan Howard (.302, 8, 32); second baseman Rickie Weeks (.246, 6, 24), who checks in at second behind the Phillies’ Chase Utley (.297, 10, 23); shortstop Alcides Escobar (.248, 2, 14), who’s third behind the Phils’ Jimmy Rollins (.341, 2, 7) and the Florida Marlins’ Hanley Ramirez (.299, 7, 24); and third baseman Casey McGehee (.308, 9, 40), who is also third, behind David Wright (.261, 8, 33) of the Mets and Philadelphia’s Placido Polanco (.307, 5, 21).
For good measure, let me note that outfielders Jim Edmonds (.280, 3, 8) and Carlos Gomez (.274, 3, 11) presently sit 12th and 14th , respectively, among Senior Circuit outfielders.
So with that said, way to go Brewer fans! Your enthusiasm is well-demonstrated and appreciated.
But nevertheless, the aforementioned rankings of Brewers starkly underscores the fallibility of the current MLB fan-voting system.
As much as I love Prince, Rickie, and Alcides, it is quite difficult—if not impossible—to justify where any of them are at this point in voting.
Although Fielder understandably comes in behind All-Star veterans Pujols and Howard, none of them is as deserving as Reds first sacker Joey Votto (.312, 10, 33), who has anchored Cincy’s improbable run to the top of the NL Central.
And Escobar? Come on. The guy is hitting .248 with 14 RBI! Sure, he’s a fantastic defensive shortstop, but defense alone cannot earn you an All-Star nod—especially when there are so many other qualified candidates, such as the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki (.307, 5, 22) and the Diamondbacks’ Stephen Drew (.298, 4, 19).
More egregious yet, however, is the guy who tops both Escobar and Ramirez at shortstop: Jimmy Rollins. Yes, Utley’s double play-partner is batting an impressive .341. It’s just that he is doing so through just 12 games, after spending much of the year thus far on the DL with a right calf injury.
As for Weeks, his play has certainly warranted All-Star consideration , but what about the Marlins’ Dan Uggla (.277, 12, 31)—who isn’t even among the top five for second basemen—or Martin Prado of the Braves (.314, 4, 20)? Objectively speaking, haven’t they outplayed Weeks?
Lastly, McGehee is the one Brewer getting shafted in the early fan voting. As it stands, the unsung third baseman and Prince-protector is looking up at both Wright and Polanco, despite having better numbers in all three Triple Crown categories, including a league-best 40 RBI.
Now let me be clear. I am obviously not faulting Brewer fans for flocking to the ballot box like it was a free tour of Miller. That’s what fans are supposed to do.
And judging from who’s ahead of the beloved Brewers infielders at this juncture, the only fans who are more passionate (or have more time on their hands) are Philly fans, who have managed to vault five of their players to starting positions.
No, what is sorely evident here is that the MLB needs to reconsider its formula for choosing the All-Star rosters.
Right now, fan votes choose the eight starting position players, a combination of player, coach, and manager voting selects eight pitchers—five starters and three relievers—plus back-up players for each position in the field. And the team’s manager gets the final say on nine more bench players, with the stipulation that each team is represented by at least one player.
Lastly, the fans get one final role in the process, choosing one out of five remaining players for All-Star designation.
Ultimately, then, this procedure yields a 34-player roster, which is far too large, but an issue for a different article.
The problem this system produces is what we see revealed in the early voting: certain teams (and their fans) dominate the voting process and skew the starting lineups.
Starting in an All-Star game should be one of the great honors bestowed upon a Major League player, but instead, we often see situations where a starter should feel guilty for their bid (here’s looking at you, Jimmy Rollins).
If only allowing the fans to elect the bench for the game is going too far, what at least needs to happen is a new weighting system, where the votes of players, coaches, and managers—the guys that actually know who has been playing at an elite level—can offset homer fan votes.
Although baseball isn’t the only sport where fan-voting is a problem (remember Allen Iverson?), its game does hold the most history and prestige. We’re talking about the freaking Midsummer Classic here!
So, Bud Selig, even if it’s too late to correct the voting routine for this year’s game (to be held July 13 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California), please do us one favor and compensate for the 2002 tie-game debacle by fixing this approach to picking the rosters.
Doing so, Mr. Selig, just could save your legacy.
Okay, well I probably shouldn’t get too carried away…