In a few words... a pathetic joke.
Major League Baseball allows its fans to vote for the hitters who will start the annual All-Star game (the managers of last year's AL and NL Champs pick the pitchers). While this is a good idea, because it actively involves the fans in their own game, it's a very, very bad idea, because a good portion of the voters don't follow baseball enough to have the slightest clue to vote for, or even worse, get told who to vote for by obnoxious P.A. announcers. Cases in point:
- Jose Canseco was elected starting outfielder by fans in 1989 despite the fact that he had not played a single game that season.
- Cal Ripken, Jr., who has not been All-Star material since the 1996 season, was elected again on name recognition alone. Ripken's stats: .239-13-43. Meanwhile, Troy Glaus (.293-23-54) sits at home and waits to be added as a reserve
- Rather than shut up and let fans vote for the best players, the P.A. guy at Cleveland's Jacobs Field informs fans of how many votes behind each of the Indians is, and encourages fans to help them over the hump.
- The Colorado Rockies had a booth where a woman sat and punched All-Star ballots a dozen at a time against a pre-formatted nailboard, so that all the Rockies players received several thousand votes per home game.
The argument, of course, for taking the decision out of the fans hands, is that the All-Star Game
is a game for
the fans, and they should be allowed to choose who they want to play in their game. If the fans choose Cal Ripken, Jr., even though he's not playing his best, than that's truly who should start the game. That's who the fans want.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The average hot-dog-and-beer fan votes for Cal Ripken, Jr. because he doesn't know any better. He looks at the names on the ballot: David Bell, Troy Glaus, Eric Chavez, Corey Coskey, Cal Ripken, Jr..... HEY! There's a name he knows. And Cal Ripken's, like, a future Hall-Of-Famer, and the Iron Man, and he hits all kinds of home runs, and... HEY! Why's he listed as a third baseman?
Fans follow their own team, then the teams in their division, then the teams in their league, and THEN the rest of baseball. If the Sports Illustrated at the doctor's office has a story about Jason Giambi, then maybe they remember the name. Maybe they don't.
Players get elected on name recognition alone. Ken Griffey, Jr. deserved to be this year's All-Star team, but not a starter. Jim Edmonds and Vladimir Guerrero have played better this year. Hell, Mark McGwire threatened not to play if Edmonds didn't make the team. Doesn't matter. He's Ken Griffey, Jr. Of course he's starting the All-Star game. Even fifteen years from now, when he's finishing his career, batting .201 with five home runs, he'll probably still be the leading vote getter.
The solution, is to split voting three ways: Votes from coaches and players comprise 33% of the vote, the BBWAA another 33%, and the fans the remaining 33%. Coaches and players are going to vote for their most admired peers, sportswriters will vote for the best players, and the fans will continue cluelessly voting for whichever names they recognize. And most of them probably won't realize that their power now has checks and balances.
But what's going on now... is just ridiculous.