Over the years I have developed a love/hate relationship with the Major League Baseball All-Star game. On the one hand I love the idea of the best players from each league getting together on the same field and showing what it would be like if we could build a team from our favorite baseball cards where money and economics are of no consequence. It is the one time of year where every fan feels like the general manager of the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox.
The game is a one-and-done proposition. You are not worried about pitch counts, team chemistry, or any of the other current buzzwords. You simply put the best players from each league on the playing field and see what the outcome will be.
That of course is the rub and the “hate” part of the equation. Hate is probably too strong of a qualifier. Perhaps I should take a line from the musical group Plain White T’s and simply say, “Hate is a strong word but I really, really, really don’t like you.”
No matter what term you use to describe it, the fact remains that the all-star game rosters are not the best players from each respective league. In its current state the roster is concocted like something out of a 1950’s B-movie horror film. It’s not simply a collection of the best statistics or most deserving players from each league. No there have to be qualifiers around each.
Commissioner Bud Selig like many of his predecessors wanted the fans to be involved in the selection of the participants in the all-star game. The fans are therefore allowed to vote for who should attend. Ballots are produced and distributed to each stadium where fans are allowed to vote for their favorite player.
On the surface this seems like a good idea assuming the fans were intelligent about the game of baseball and actually took time to research who was deserving and who was not. Of course that isn’t the case. Most casual fans look at a ballot and try to find names that they are familiar with and start punching chads (not Qualls, that’s a different story).
Another interesting aspect of stadium voting is that each team is only allowed to have ballots available for a specified number of home games. This means that depending on the schedule each season voting may or may not be open at a particular stadium when you visit.
At first that seems like kind of an odd criteria but the reasoning behind it is based somewhat on logic. To make it fair to all teams MLB limits the number of opportunities to vote for the hometown players by giving all teams the same number of dates where fans can cast their ballot. The problem with that theory is that not all teams draw the same number of fans and therefore the voting is significantly skewed towards larger market teams. The other problem of course is that MLB does not limit the number of times a fan can vote bringing into play the old motto of Chicago politics, “vote early and vote often”.
A prime example of this was played out this year when San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval saw his overall vote total climb exponentially at the very end of voting handing him an all-star spot despite other players perhaps being more deserving.
Like perhaps most voting in this country in many cases the fan all-star vote becomes a popularity contest. Each season when the vote totals are announced there are a few selections that you are left scratching your head and wondering what the fans were thinking.
Major League Baseball has attempted to alleviate that to a certain degree by limiting the number of selections the fans have and allowing the players to choose a certain number of roster spots. The thing is, the players are as guilty as the fans at choosing favorites when others may be more deserving.
Managers of the all-star game are made up of the managers from the previous World Series. They too have some say over the roster choosing the reserves for their respective league. Since they are the ones who will be managing the game trying to win the proposition is they would fill out the roster with those players who give them the best opportunity at victory. History has shown though that the managers tend to choose players they are comfortable with rather than who is the most deserving. You need not look any farther than the 2002 all-star game when Diamondbacks manager selected Junior Spivey. Yeah the Junior Spivey that within a few short seasons was not on a major league roster.
To their credit, the manager does have his hands tied to a certain degree. Major League Baseball has a rule that all teams must have at least one representative on the all-star roster. So despite the Chicago Cubs having only 31 wins and playing miserably they must have a representative. In the case of this season they got two, don’t ask me why, they just did.
The roster size is limited to 34 players. The fans vote for the starters for each league. The players and manager select the reserves and pitching staff with the manager having the most say. The rosters are set for 33 players for the National and American League with one roster spot held open.
In what has been deemed “The Final Vote”, five players from each league are offered up to the fans as candidates for the last roster spot on each team. Fans are then allowed to vote for who they think should be in the all-star game.
The problem of course is that it is impossible to right the snubs that occur and it is put back on the fans, many of who caused the problem of deserving players not making it, to decide the fate of the final roster spot.
In years past this final vote occurred online at MLB.com. The voting was then expanded to allow fans to text message their selections as well. Now this year Major League Baseball took the next step in extending voting. Using the social media service Twitter they allowed “hash tags” for each player to be used and counted the number of mentions as appropriate votes.
When I logged into my computer this morning I was immediately inundated with requests to rush over to Twitter and begin using the “FinHillVote” hash tag to try and get Aaron Hill to the All-Star game. I can’t tell you how wrong this felt but hey Aaron Hill is having a monster year including hitting two cycles in the course of 11 days so I was willing to do what I could.
For the remainder of the morning up until voting ended at 4 PM Eastern Time I got as creative as I could with “FinHillVote” while walking the fine line of putting myself in Twitter jail thereby locking my account of a specified time period. I’d like to think I made a difference but by the end of the day when the votes were counted it was two larger fan bases who draw more fans than the Diamondbacks who will see their players represented at the all-star game in Kansas City.
Sure I’m disappointed. I would love to see Aaron Hill being introduced and taking part in the game. He deserves it after the year he has put together but it is what it is, a flawed system. Until someone can come up with a better way there are going to be fans who will see deserving players standing on the sidelines while others perhaps less deserving playing in the mid-summer classic. I’d be ok with that if the commissioner had not tied home field advantage in the World Series to a meaningless exhibition game. Don’t even get me started on that one.