Many years ago, Major League Baseball's All-Star Game was one of the must-see events of the summer. For most fans, the All-Star Game was the only true chance to see the absolute best players in baseball face one another.
There were no true utility players. There were no role players. There were no players who had simply been called up to fill-in for an injured star.
The All-Star Game was an event simply reserved for the absolute best players in Major League Baseball.
Of course, as time has passed, Major League Baseball has transcended into more of a casually viewed sport than it has ever been. Gone are the days of stat-junkies and kids studying the backs of baseball cards four hours upon end. Today, baseball is still a game trying to recover from one of the worst work-stoppages in sports history and regain it's one-time glory as America's pastime.
Like many aspects of baseball that have suffered a decline in Major League Baseball—attendance, television exposure, etc.—the quality and relevance of the All-Star Game has suffered severe decline in recent years. Gone are the days of acrobatic catches, collisions at home plate and a general sense that the players care about the outcome of the game. Instead, the All-Star Game has become a sideshow regarded simply as an exhibition "for the fans."
Though noble, baseball's dedication and subsequent bestowing of control of the game to the fans may be more irresponsible at this point in the game's history than ever before.
While the game should be an exhibition based on appreciation for devoted fans, Major League Baseball—now, more than ever—should reconsider allowing votes from the fans to decide who participates in baseball's summer showcase of its most talented players.
Here are five reasons why All-Star Game voting needs to be taken away from fans.
Ballots are everywhere.
At MLB stadiums, minor league stadiums, gas stations, convenience stores, on the internet — there's no escaping the general public's ability to vote for the cast of the All-Star Game.
With such easy access to All-Star Game ballots, there are most-likely millions of ballots cast by people who have no interest in Major League Baseball, let alone the All-Star Game. However, there is no doubting that punching-out little circles or coloring-in dots is a great way to occupy the kids while waiting for an oil change.
Around the time of the All-Star Game each year, there are stories about some radio station or some other group of fans attempting to stuff ballot boxes with votes for a particular player. Whether it's "Ballots for Bautista", "I Voted Votto" or some other catchy campaign for a player, ballot stuffing has had a negative impact on Major League Baseball's summer showcase.
The worst case of ballot stuffing occurred in 1957, when seven members of the Cincinnati Reds were voted starters in the All-Star Game: Johnny Temple (2B), Roy McMillan (SS), Don Hoak (3B), Ed Bailey (C), Frank Robinson (LF), Gus Bell (CF), and Wally Post (RF). The only non-Cincinnati player voted in was St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Stan Musial.
After an investigation was launched, it was found that over half the ballots submitted were from the Cincinnati area, and that the local newspaper, the Cincinnati Enquirer, had included pre-marked ballots in their circulation to help Reds fans easily identify Reds players. The investigation also produced stories of Cincinnati bars not serving alcohol to patrons until they had submitted All-Star Game ballots with votes for Reds players.
Let's face the facts here: Derek Jeter has been marred in what is the worst season of his career in 2011. Of course Jeter's performance has no bearing on his ability to garner All-Star votes, as Jeter is one of the most popular players in baseball. As a result of Jeter's popularity, he was voted as the American League starting shortstop for the 2011 All-Star Game.
Though Jeter is one of the greatest talents in the history of baseball, his legacy should not be an entitlement to the All-Star Game. For years, we saw aging superstars and charismatic heroes un-deservingly voted into the All-Star Game while more deserving lesser-knowns were passed on.
Historically, guys like Cal Ripken Jr., Benito Santiago and Ivan Rodriguez were perennial All-Stars regardless of their performance. Some seasons they were very deserving, other times they were not. On the occasions in which they were not having particularly good seasons, other more deserving players were passed up and never had another chance to be involved in the game.
Though superstars are created by fans, more players should have opportunities in the proverbial spotlight when proven stars are having less-than-spectacular seasons.
Like it or not, population goes a long way when considering All-Star Game voting. Players in major market cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston always have an advantage over players in smaller market cities.
Take for instance, Matt Kemp. Kemp has been a solid all-around player for the Los Angeles Dodgers for several years now. In 2011, Kemp has enjoyed the single greatest season of his career, and his performance has not gone without notice. Kemp was voted as a starter for the 2011 All-Star Game.
Meanwhile, Houston's Hunter Pence is having one of the best seasons in baseball by an outfielder, hitting .323 with 11 home runs and 60 RBI. Pence, however, managed to finish a lowly 17th in voting among National League outfielders.
The New York Yankees managed to have a player finish in the top three at all positions except designated hitter (Posada ranked fourth).
Additionally, the popularity of players who participated in 2010's World Series is astronomical, as a member of the Texas Rangers finished in the top five in voting at all positions. The Rangers sudden burst in popularity can only be attributed to the national exposure they received during last year's World Series run.
The facts are in the results. Players in major markets and players who garner national attention always have a significantly higher likelihood of receiving All-Star votes.
Attend any Major League Baseball game and you're sure to hear, on at least one occasion, fans requesting something be done "for the kids."
"Hey Don! Sign this ball for my kid!"
"Hey Derek, can my son have a ball?"
"You really should give that foul ball to that kid over there."
Kids, kids, kids—it's all about the kids.
The simple fact of the matter, however, is that kids have helped contribute to the decline of the All-Star Game. These days, most kids could care less about any of baseball's 162 games, let alone the All-Star Game.
With video games, television, the internet and cell phone apps, kids are far more into technology than baseball.
Even Major League Baseball agrees, as nearly every stadium has transformed into a theme park, complete with video game arcades, miniature golf courses, swimming pools and more.
Gone are the days when people attended a Major League game and actually watched the game.
By the end of the game, when it's time to submit their All-Star ballots, the kids have no idea who they're voting for, and usually just pick a name they've heard of or a local player.