Upon Further Review: Does the MLB All-Star Voting Process Need to be Fixed?
There always seems to be a huge outcry the day after the MLB All-Star teams are selected. Every year, someone is left out, or someone is starting that shouldn’t be. And yet, this year, there seems to be even more drama surrounding the team than usual. Our writers Greg Kaplan and Vinny Ginardi got together, let their emotions get the best of them, and try to fix what seems to be a broken system.
Greg Kaplan: Vinny, I know there are always snubs and exclusions from All-Star rosters. I understand that every player deserving of an appearance in the All-Star game won’t get it because its a numbers game. I get all that.
And yet, more than ever before in my life, this year’s All-Star voting actually made me sick and angry. It didn’t make sense to me, and I’m at the point where it may be time to overhaul how teams are selected.
If we had written this Selection Sunday, I probably would’ve went on a tirade of how fan voting needs to be eliminated completely. David Wright entered the final few days of voting 450k votes ahead of Pablo Sandoval for the starting gig at third base. Then, something inexplicable happened. Kung Fu Panda didn’t just catch Wright, he obliterated him. Sandoval received 1.6 million more votes than Wright. How in the world is that humanly possible?
I understand stuffing the ballot boxes is common practice in Major League parks. I get that last week, the Mets spent the entire time on the road, while the Giants had six home games. I get all that. But, that doesn’t make it right. If this game is supposed to count and mean something for the playoffs, the best players need to be on the field! Nobody, and I mean nobody, will argue Pablo Sandoval is having a better season than David Wright, who would likely finish somewhere in the Top 5 if MVP voting was held today.
Fans didn’t stop failing me there. Somehow, Dan Uggla of the Atlanta Braves will start the All-Star Game for the NL. Uggla starting pushes Jose Altuve (the Houston Astros lone rep) to the bench, and apparently eliminated the need for Brandon Phillips on the roster. One problem, Brandon Phillips is the best second baseman in the NL! The stats show it. If you watch him play, its obvious. So, that’s two the fans screwed up (we can also talk about how Mike Napoli is starting in the AL, but that’s less of a problem right now).
Speaking of snubs, what the hell is Johnny Cueto not doing on this roster? I get that La Russa claimed Cueto is starting Sunday and likely would’ve had to be replaced on the roster anyway, but he should’ve been put on and that decision be figured out later. That’s a crime. And now, Dusty Baker is fanning the flames by saying La Russa is holding a grudge against Reds players.
Vinny, before we get into possibly fixing the system, this is getting worse before it gets better, right?
VG: I’m not sure it could get much worse Greg. I agree with everything you said so far. When fan voting allows for a player who shouldn’t even be on the roster to start (Mike Napoli) it eliminates a spot for a more deserving player (A.J. Pierzynski). Fan voting is a popularity contest and it allows for teams with larger fan bases, such as the Yankees and the Rangers, to send more players as starters. You can make strong arguments that Napoli (Joe Mauer or Pierzynski), Derek Jeter (Asdrubal Cabrera), and Curtis Granderson (Adam Jones) don’t deserve to start for the AL squad.
Also, I’m tired of hearing how fan voting works because this game is “for the fans” as was said by Terry Francona and Orel Hershiser . Is it really? Or is this game a walking contradiction? It can’t hold such a significant result as home field advantage in the World Series and have the starting rosters by the fans because most fans don’t know enough to make the right choice. And really, why is this game more for the fans than for players? You’re going to tell me that the players don’t care if they make the team or not? Of course they do! The All-Star rosters should be made up of the players who are most deserving to be there, not the players the fans most want to see.
I’m going to switch gears for a second and talk about the Final Vote. I heard the announcers of the Twins-Tigers game mention that it’s possible that Ron Washington purposely selected Matt Harrison for the AL team so Yu Darvish could be in the Final Vote because he’s a lock to win it (because of the votes he will receive from Japan). Frankly, the other candidates don’t have a chance and (if true) Washington essentially cheated the system here. Pretty shady stuff. Assuming that Darvish is selected, that will give the Rangers eight All-Stars, or almost a third of the team. What I’m getting at here is that while eliminating fan vote is something I am for, having the manager select the team isn’t reasonable either because the manager can’t help but feel obligated to select his own players (Ozzie Guillen’s White Sox had six representatives in 2006 despite not having a single player voted as a starter).
Okay Greg, before I give my solution, what’s yours?
GK: Well, I completely agree with you Vinny. Whatever ideas we come up with, it’s still a sham. Someone will always be left off the team that should be on, but this year, it really feels more egregious than in years past.
Bud Selig is preaching that this game is for the fans, but you’re absolutely right. It’s also for the players. Simple fact: you will make a lot more money in free agency if you have an All-Star appearance next to your name. It also allows a player more opportunities off the field if they can increase their popularity. But, I digress.
OK, so Selig is dead set on keeping the fans involved in the voting. I’m fine with that. I have two ideas that could help eliminate some of the problems we have encountered over the years.
The first, if you really want fans to feel included in the process of selecting All-Stars, I say allow fans to vote in one player from each position to appear in the All-Star Game. Wait, isn’t that what is done now? No. I say appear, not start. I don’t understand why a manager can’t fill out a line-up card with the best available players against the opposing starting pitcher. Why is he forced to make due with the hand he’s dealt? If managers were able to start the deserving players instead of who the fans decide should start, it would allow a player like David Wright, an MVP candidate, to start over a player like Pablo Sandoval, a DL candidate. This switch would allow the fans to still put in their favorite players, but doesn’t guarantee them a start.
The second idea I have, and to me seems like the better option, if every team needs to have a representative at the game (I rule I like, by the way), allow the fans of that team to choose who they want to represent their team. Fans vote for their favorite players on their favorite team anyway, why not leave the selection for each team up to the fans? This way, managers won’t have to stretch to determine who from each team needs to be there in order to meet requirements, and it gives them the flexibility to select their own starting line-ups.
The voting is a popularity contest. Fans vote for their own guys all the time. Let the fans choose the one rep from their team. That’s the most logical fix to the whole problem for me. If the fans choose the wrong player because they think a manager will pick others, or they want to make the voting a joke, well, I got news for you. Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt of the Giants finished second in the voting for shortstops and first baseman. THE VOTING SYSTEM IS ALREADY A JOKE! Why not limit the joke to hey, pick a guy from your team. If you get it wrong, that’s your fault. Now, shut up and vote. Really, I don’t see a better system available.
VG: Greg, I like both of your ideas, and while I agree that no system will be perfect, your ideas would certainly improve the system that is in place. Looking at your first idea, that one should be introduced immediately. I like your second idea, but I’m going to introduce a similar alternative.
I know fan voting is never going to be eliminated because from a marketing perspective it makes so much sense, but in my solution it is not included. I know this isn’t realistic, but this is my proposal to fix the the problem with the method for roster selection. Instead of using your suggestion of having fans vote for their team’s representative, why not have that team’s manager select their representative? Who knows who is most deserving from a specific team than that team’s manager? The one problem I do see here is the potential for managers to cheat the system. For example, Dusty Baker could select Brandon Phillips knowing that Joey Votto is a lock to make the team.
Assuming that this method is in place, the managers of all 15 teams in each league (as of next year) could then decide on the remaining 19 roster spots by voting for the players who they feel are most deserving with the exception that they can’t vote for their own players.
Hey, I know it’s not perfect. But I think it would be a better method in order to include deserving players.
GK: I’m totally on board, Vin. The fairest way to pick the best players in the league would probably be to have the individual managers vote on the team, without being allowed to vote for their own players. That way, no bias would be involved in terms of “this guy is the leader of my team, he deserves to be there”.
The sad part, there is no chance any of these happens. The fans will always be in charge of picking starters, and likely picking them incorrectly. Considering that “this game counts”, the fact that the best second basemen in the National League (Brandon Phillips) and the pitcher with the lowest ERA over the last calendar year (Johnny Cueto) won’t be on the team at all, and either the catcher having the best offensive year (Carlos Ruiz), the best all-around catcher in the league (Yadier Molina) and an MVP candidate at third (David Wright) are all forced to come off the bench in favor of inferior starters because fans liked other guys is outrageous.
And that’s just the National League. The harsh reality is either fans shouldn’t have a say who plays in the All-Star Game, or it shouldn’t determine home field advantage. You can’t have both. It doesn’t work.
But hey, this is the bed fans in San Francisco made for themselves. If you want to play a potential Game 7 on the road at an AL ballpark when you have to face a deeper line-up with a designated hitter, the blood is on your hands. You’ll have nobody to blame but yourself.