The All-Star Game voting is clearly broken. If the game is going to mean something, we’re going to have to fix it, or risk making the game a joke.
Fans are what make any sport possible. Attendance, rivalries, obsession and players’ outrageous salaries are all made possible by you, the fan. Most fans have a team or two they passionately root for year in and year out. We follow every move our team makes, criticize coaching decisions and free agent signings or trades. We all like to think we know more than the next fan and sometimes the front office or coach. Although that’s absurd, it’s part of everyday fandom.
Major League Baseball gives those fans a chance to select which players participate in the All-Star game by way of vote. I ask for you not to take advantage this opportunity; I propose a change in this process that has a tremendous impact come October. And now, some zealous Royals fans may have begun that process.
The All-Star game is there for your entertainment, allowing fans to see many of the game’s best players compete at a single venue. Let’s not forget this event highlights the best players at their positions each year. It’s to be earned, based on production for the year. It’s not a popularity contest. Making an All-Star roster is a major accomplishment with hidden impact. A selection can make a player millions of dollars, or conversely they may lose money if they aren’t credited this honor. Some players may never duplicate stats in a banner year. Who are we to give that or take it away? Next time you fill out a ballot, vote for the player that actually deserves it.
I understand the position of: “I’m a fan, without me events like this wouldn’t be possible.” I get it; you want to see your team represented. Baltimore fans should be ashamed and proud at the same time. Your support was unmatched last year for Matt Weiters, who appeared in 26 games. He was on the shelf for 136 games, and you made it possible for him to be named the starting American League catcher.
Kurt Suzuki was hitting .309 with 37 RBI before the All-Star break and he didn’t earn a start? An atrocity on every level. Fans will attend the All-Star festivities or watch the game on TV regardless of who plays. I mean, the Toddfather Todd Frazier was better in three main offensive categories than Aramis Ramirez. This selection infers fans wanted to see a banged up Ramirez? Sorry, that just doesn’t register with me.
Fans are given the privilege to determine which position players start; be grateful the managers vote for the pitchers they bring on board. Managers and players decide the outcome for the reserves. So if we as fans screw up on the starting lineup – something happening right now, as EIGHT Kansas City Royals lead the vote – at least the guys who play every day and the managers who see things we can’t get to pick the guys who deserve it.
I’m sure I will catch heat for this. Derek Jeter was voted the starter last season, and over his career, he absolutely deserved it. Before the break he was hitting .272 with 25 RBI. Guys like Alexi Ramirez, Eric Aybar and Alcides Escobar were all better than him. Since it was Jeter, we took away a career opportunity these players may never get again. I’m all for giving Jeter one last send off at the Mid-Summer Classic, but not as a starter.
I’m enthused to see eight Royals starting in the All-Star game currently, because it sheds light on how ridiculous the fan voting actually is.
I’ll start with Salvador Perez. He is having a fine season; .285 avg., 10 HR, 29 RBI, .297 OBP and a 1.6 WAR. Go over to the Bay and see Stephen Vogt. He is hitting six points lower than Perez, .279, but the other numbers are in his favor; 11 HR, 40 RBI, .384 OBP and a 2.5 WAR.
Next man up is Eric Hosmer, who is also playing at a high level; .298, 7 HR, 36 RBI, .370 OBP and 1.6 WAR. There are a couple ways to go here. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are both putting up monster numbers. Cabrera: .333 avg., 13 HR, 44 RBI, .439 OBP and a 2.9 WAR. Fielder: .347 avg., 10 HR, 43 RBI, .407 OBP and a 1.6 WAR. Fielder has DH’ed in 51 games, so keep him at DH. Go take a peek at Kendrys Morales’ numbers, the leading vote getter at DH, and tell me if you can make a sound argument for him to start over Fielder.
Mike Moustakas is hitting for a great average, .318, but has only knocked in 20 runs. He leads Josh Donaldson in the average category by two measly points. Bringer of Rain has scored 51 runs, hit 17 home runs, driven in 45 and ups Moustakas’ WAR by 1.5 (2.5 for Moose and 4.0 for Donaldson).
Alicdes Escobar is at shortstop because the AL is lacking a good offensive one. Even so, Xander Bogaerts is hitting a full 40 points higher, has more RBI, a higher OBP and leads all AL shortstops in WAR.
The leading hitters in the outfield this year are nowhere to be found in a starting position. Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon are getting the nod thanks to their loyal fan base and their defensive skill. Meanwhile, Nelson Cruz, Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, and Michael Brantley should all start over those guys, but because their defense isn’t as great as Cain and Gordon, their WAR numbers are less. Frankly, if I was managing the AL roster, not one single Kansas City Royal would start. They would be on the team, just not listed in my starting nine.
WAR is a great stat. It really is. It provides us with a summary of what one player contributes to their team in a single stat. There are exceptions to every rule and Alex Gordon for me is one of those exceptions. He is a Gold Glove left fielder, but owns a career average of .268. He is a fine player, but does his plus defending outweigh his offense? Some will say yes, I say no. Fans love to see offense. The All-Star came should have it. Use Gordon as a defensive substitution later in the game. He should not start over Cruz, Cespedes, Reddick or Adam Jones.
A simple solution to all of this would be to make this event a simple exhibition. Give fans a chance to see players they don’t get to see live or see their favorite player from a different team. Take away the World Series home field advantage awarded to the winning team. This consequence for losing the game can impact the outcome of the World Series. This keeps the fans involved and allows them to see the players they want. If there are no World Series implications, than this solution is one to keep the interaction between the MLB and fans.
Another solution that ensures the best players are selected could be to have the fans vote for one player, the last player. The fans voted for Chris Sale and Anthony Rizzo last year as the final additions to the roster. This keeps the fans interested and gives them a certain amount of acknowledgement on behalf of the MLB. That’s it though, just one player, thus making the All-Star game full of guys that performed better than their peers.
Lastly, and my personal preference, is the most radical solution. Completely remove the fans from having any say. Since 2010, fans have butchered the voting, awarding injured players, hometown heroes and players far less deserving. This year isn’t any better, as Alex Rios is the fourth-leading vote getter in the outfield. He has played 18 games! He is also hitting an awful .197. Nearly as bad is Omar Infante, the AL’s leading second base vote-getter, with his .496 OPS.
People seem to love the competition part of the All-Star game because it means something. There is something to be had at the end of the contest. So keep that intact, but in order to make it right and the most competitive, fans shouldn’t vote.
Media, fans and players always bring up numbers. Numbers get players to the HOF. Numbers provoke debate about elite players and performance. Why do we suddenly ignore them when we’re voting for the All-Stars? Stick to the script; give these priceless nominations to the players that are playing at the highest level, not the guys that put on your team’s uniform. Quit being a homer in this instance, use your heads not your hearts please.
For those who are curious to know what nonsense circulates in my head, here are my 2015 starting lineups: