Over the weekend Major League Baseball announced the All-Star rosters for the Mid-Summer Classic that will be held at Citi Field in New York City on July 16th. That may have just been the most commercial sentence I have ever written. About all that was lacking was the game will be a 4:30 PM on the Fox Network and will feature some of your favorite players and announcers.
The All-Star game is an interesting event. It is held in the middle of the season where baseball stops all games so that everyone will focus on an exhibition game. Yes, I used the “E” word. Despite MLB wanting us to believe that this is a meaningful game it is still structured as an exhibition. If you want proof you need not look any further than the rule that stipulates that every team must have at least one representative.
Seriously, if it were not for that rule do you really think there would be a Houston Astros or Miami Marlins player on the All-Star roster? I’m not taking a pot shot at those two teams but they are clearly in rebuilding mode and most of the parts on their rosters are there as a stop gap until they can gain enough prospects to put a winning team on the field. And I’m not quite sure what would happen if the Marlins representative was traded before the All-Star break, would that person then be un-invited and a new and slightly degraded representative be sent as the sole rep?
The roster is a combination of selections by fan vote, the players, and the managers. The fans select the starting position players while the players and managers select the reserves and the pitchers. I think the fans need a voice but even that process is flawed.
Teams provide Major League Baseball with a list of their expected starters as the season starts and those are locked into the ballot. There are always cases each year where there is a change due to position change, trade, or injury and some deserving players are left off the ballot. A perfect example this season is Gerardo Parra of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
When the season began, it was expected that Parra would be the fourth outfield with Adam Eaton patrolling centerfield for the Dbacks. An injury during Spring Training put Eaton on the shelf and he is still working to come back not having played in any major league games yet this season. Parra who has been filling in for him has done an outstanding job and should have been on the ballot as a selection but was not.
Another point of contention with Players and fans is how long the voting is open. Voting for the All-Star game began April 24th this year and ran through July 7th. I would challenge that much of the early voting was based on too small a sample size. The season was less than a month old. Some players such as Justin Upton got off to a torrid pace while others may have started slowly but over the course of the first half of the season are worthy of All-Star consideration. The problem is there are millions of votes that have to be overcome to right the vote to the appropriate candidate. Instead of starting the vote so early, perhaps it should be concentrated more in the late-May to early-June so that fans have an opportunity to evaluate players over a longer period before casting a vote.
I get that you could continue to vote and hone your selections but you shouldn’t have to overcome the early season ballots to make the system work. Furthermore, the stadium vote system is skewed to the larger market teams. Those franchises that have larger fan bases are more likely to have representation than the smaller-market teams. This is further exacerbated by the fact that some teams such as the Arizona Diamondbacks or San Diego Padres have limited exposure to a large audience due to national television only focusing on a small number of teams. Nearly every week the MLB Network, ESPN, or Fox will show the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox while most of the other teams are relegated to smaller regional exposure. It makes it impossible for fans to make an educated selection resulting in the fan vote being more of a popularity contest versus giving recognition to those players having a great season.
I’m not trying to condemn the All-Star selection process but I do think it needs to be tweaked to reduce the snubs that occur each season. I applaud the selection of LHP Patrick Corbin and 1B Paul Goldschmidt. They are very deserving of these accolades but it is sad that players such as OF Gerardo Parra were completely overlooked while players with less than a month of major league service are on the ballot because of media hype.
It is time for Major League Baseball to take a step back and look at the All-Star selection process and see if they can adjust it slightly to make it more equitable to all teams regardless of market size and provide exposure to stars that are sometimes being ignored due to television contracts and marketing choices that are out of the control of the teams.