I shouldn't do this. Because in the grand scheme of things, it isn't the biggest deal in the baseball world. But I gotta talk about David Wright not starting the All-Star Game on the strength of the fan vote. So be forewarned: If you don't want to read what is sure to be a long and drawn out process, then don't hit that "read more" button. Otherwise, join me for some good, old fashioned, tearing of the proverbial new one.
First off, David Wright not starting the All-Star game is ridiculously stupid. But it isn't surprising. Look, in 1957 the Cincinnati Reds fans put seven 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-Red elected to start for the National League was St. Louis Cardinals' first baseman Stan Musial. While the Reds were a great offensive team, most baseball observers agreed that they did not deserve seven starters in the All-Star Game. An investigation showed that over half of the ballots cast came from Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Enquirer had printed up pre-marked ballots and distributed them with the Sunday newspaper to make it easy for Reds fans to vote often. There were even stories of bars in Cincinnati not serving alcohol to customers until they filled out a ballot. Commissioner Ford Frick appointed Willie Mays of the New York Giants and Hank Aaron of the Milwaukee Braves to substitute for Reds players Gus Bell and Wally Post, and took fan voting rights away in future games. Managers, players, and coaches picked the entire team until 1969, when the vote for starters again returned to the fans. To guard against ballot stuffing, since 1969 until the start of internet voting, each team has been given the same number of ballots to hand out. In 1998, that number was roughly 400,000 ballots.
So in '57, Major League Baseball took the vote away from the fans because a city stuffed the ballot box for their guys. Now, Major League Baseball and their member clubs encourage ballot stuffing. Now, you can cast 25 ballots per e-mail address ... per day. So you could cast 250 votes for your favorite players per day, or more, if you are crazy enough to do it.
So what Pablo Sandoval's election basically proves that Giants have more fans who are diligent enough to vote 250 times a day than the Mets do. And that's fine. Congratulations to you. Every team does it:
So let's not pretend that this is about Giants fans or Mets fans or any group of fans. Brewers fans have been doing it for years, and some fan bases are better at it than others. But it is about how the all-star game is packaged. The game used to be about the best players over the first half of a season. But it hasn't been about that for years now. It's a popularity contest, and it's about "our guys". Get your guys in the all-star game!!! And go stuff the ballot boxes ... Do it!!!!! (And shop MLB.com.) It's much the same way that American Idol could care less if the best singer wins the competition. They want you to call in and vote for your favorite! Pablo Sandoval is nothing more than the Sanjaya Malakar of Major League Baseball. Is it fair that a guy who was injured for a month gets voted into the All-Star game? Doesn't matter. Because Giants fans aren't getting e-mails from Major League Baseball to vote for the best players. They're being given a message that they're much more likely to get behind: Vote for your guys. And they did it and hacked into the system better than anyone. Wright was up by 400K votes with two days to go and lost by 1.6 million. Hell, Brandon Belt got almost four million votes and he has four home runs. Nice job, Giants fans. Like Matt Cain, I tip my cap to you.
That said, if baseball insists on keeping up this charade about how the All-Star Game is for the best of the best and not the most popular, and if they insist on tying it to home field advantage for the World Series, then fan voting needs to die a horrible death. Best of the best need to get in, period. Let the fans vote for the final spot so that they can feel involved. In fact, let's revamp the whole thing with these two mandates:
- No more fan voting for the starters.
- Change the rule so that starters, who are the best of the best, can return to the game for the later innings. Do you want a game that decides home field in the World Series to come down to Ryan Cook pitching to Brian LaHair? Get those starters back in the game in the late innings and not in street clothes in the 8th and 9th while still letting everyone play.
Either those two things, or stop with the World Series home field advantage nonsense. This game cannot be a popularity contest and "count". Bud Selig wants to have it both ways and it's awkward and disjointed. Part of the problem is that we want these players to care about playing a baseball game and being into it, yet have them enter the stadium via a red carpet ceremony. (Tangent alert): Let me make the following point perfectly clear, and read this very closely because this opinion is a part of my very fabric: Red carpets events have no place in sporting events. They don't mix. And it happens all the time because sports leagues more and more are letting Hollywood seep into our big sporting events. Sports is entertainment, but I don't go to a sporting event to see movie stars. I certainly don't watch the Super Bowl for the commercials or the halftime show. The day the Mets and Yankees play a game during intermission of a U2 concert is the day I'll get behind a halftime concert at a sporting event. Of course people are going to vote for baseball players as if they're movie stars if that's how you're treating them. But how in the hell do you expect a baseball player to care about winning a baseball game after treating him like a movie star on the way into the damn ballpark?
"I play for the National League. I will win. Hey, is that Paris Hilton over there?"
The bigger problem is that this game is supposed to count for something, yet people are clamoring for Bryce Harper to be in the game because he's the wave of the future, or Larry Jones to get in for nostalgia purposes (both are in the National League's final five vote). Are we measuring Q ratings? Are we going to have Larry get in via sponsors exemption like it's the Valero Texas Open? It's our need for instant gratification. Bryce Harper is hip and hot and happening. Get him in the All-Star Game. Same nonsense with Stephen Strasburg two seasons ago. Five good starts? All-Star. He'll attract the eyeballs to the the televisions. It's nonsense. But if that's what we want ... If we want glitz and glamour over substance, then by all means, let's just make the game a big popularity contest. Let Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith draft the All-Star teams. Team Tebow vs. Team LeBron. Knock yourselves out. But then it shouldn't decide home field advantage for anything important let alone the World Series.
I know in my heart none of this will happen. I know that Bud Selig, if he's ever asked about it, will rave about how this is what fans want and that voting is fun and not to be taken so seriously even though the game is supposed to be taken seriously. It makes less than no sense, but okay Bud ... you spin it any way you want even though we all know this is to make up for that stupid tie ten years ago. Bless you and your legacy. Can't wait for Sanjaya to sing the anthem in Kansas City.