Fixing the MLB All Star Voting
On Sunday April 24th, Major League Baseball opened the voting to select the All Star Game starters. It’s another sign that the system is broken.
The concept of voting for your All Star Game starters is becoming antiquated, if it’s not antiquated already. The concept is that the fans get to vote for the players they want to see play in the game, but that’s not what it is, or what’s is become. Rather, the All Star Game voting has become an opportunity for a fanbase to stuff the ballot box to vote for their favorites. For example, in 2012, the San Francisco Giants fans stuffed the ballot box to make Pablo Sandoval the starting third baseman over the much more deserving David Wright.
Giants fans enthusiasm was much higher than Mets fans at the time with the Giants having recently won a World Series and the Mets being nowhere near contention. It also helped that the Giants’ organization led a huge push to get Sandoval elected. If we’re being honest, it’s not supposed to work this way. We’re not supposed to see fan bases making huge pushes to get their players elected. Rather, the fans as a whole are supposed to select the players that are the most deserving and who they want to see.
And yet, the Giants fans voting enmass for Sandoval fits into the spirit of the All Star Game.
The reason it fits into the spirit is even in the “This One Counts” Era of the All Star Game, each team no matter how bad gets a representative. The classic example is Dmitri Young representing a horrendous Tigers team that went 43-119. If 2003 didn’t force a change, nothing will.
The reason why it hasn’t changed is because the theory is your team having an All Star would generate your interest in watching the All Star Game. The belief is that you’ll tune-in to watch your guy play. Baseball wants to generate interest in the All Star Game, and whether it’s true or not, they believe this will generate fan interest in every city. In essence, Major Leagur Baseball loves when there is a concerted effort in a city to get the fans to vote for someone. It shows that fans care about their team and the All Star Game. The hope is that this translates to more viewers.
Now, if you want to generate as much fan interest as possible, you would want to try to ensure the fans actually get to see the players from their team they would actually want to see play.
For example, in two of his first four seasons with the Mets, Bobby Bonilla was the lone Mets All Star. This is the same player who was wearing earplugs so he couldn’t hear the fans booing him. There were no Mets fans in 1993 or 1995 watching just so they could see Bonilla enter the game. It wasn’t happening. As a result, in these circumstances, you defeat the purpose of the every team represented premise.
No, if your goal is to get the fans from a particular team to watch, you should pick out an All Star that they would actually want to watch play in the game. Better yet, why not let each team’s fans pick their All Star?
Instead of voting for the starters, let everyone vote for the one player from each team they would like to see play in the All Star Game. For the Dodgers, is there any question that player should be Clayton Kershaw? It’s possible Red Sox fans would like the opportunity to have David Ortiz go out as an All Star. If you’re a fan of a team like the Phillies, wouldn’t you want to see how your young hurler Vincent Velasquez pitches against the big boys?
This is also an opportunity the players themselves to market the biggest and brightest stars. Players can ask for people to vote for them and create their own hashtags. Jose Bautista could promise to do another epic bat flip if he’s selected as the Blue Jay’s representative. Maybe a slugger or two can make a reciprocal promise that if chosen they will participle in the Homerun Derby. This could be a chance for players to interact with the fans, let their personalities shine, and make themselves more marketable. Isn’t this exactly what baseball wants?
Also, you can eliminate something inane that has taken place in baseball. You could vote for a starter at every position, but you can’t vote for a pitcher. Doesn’t make sense. Kershaw could be the best pitcher in the game. He’s the pitcher most fans would pay to see pitch, but no, you as a fan cannot voice how much you want to see him pitch. Selecting one player from every roster ends that.
Another bonus is fans get to select more players to the game. Instead of electing 17, they get to pick 30. That’s 30 instead of 17 races to keep an eye on. Fans can get more involved. Throughout social media different factions of fanbase a can argue for their player and try to organize voting for that player.
Now, there are some inherent dangers in allowing fans to pick more players. The selection of say Freddie Freeman for the Braves could block a more deserving first baseman from getting selected. However, that is also a risk inherent in having each team have a representative.
The next hazard is there being too many players at each position. In some strange years, you may get three DH for the American League, which would create some potential roster issues. However, would that be any worse than Joe Torre going with five shortstops and one second baseman to the 2002 All Star Game? Furthermore, having a surplus at one position may force the best players to stay in the game longer, which would also be beneficial for the fans.
Overall, if you want to avoid the issue of having too many players at one position hampering the ability to field a team, expand the All Star Game rosters. It also wouldn’t hurt having an extra player or two to avoid another Milwaukee situation.
Now, there may be some people that would want to select the game’s starting lineups. There is no reason why that has to go away. You can replace voting for the last player to make the team with voting for which All Star gets to be in the starting lineup.
This would give an opportunity for fans to make a push to have their player start the game. Teams can launch their social media campaigns to have their players start the All Star Game. Then in an effort to increase ratings, baseball shouldn’t release the results of the fan vote until the players are introduced at the All Star Game. While we can debate the merits of whether or not more people would watch to see if Daniel Murphy or Neil Walker is the starting second baseman, we should be able to agree more would tune in to watch that than seeing the last All Star on each roster take the field.
One logistical note. This is a time when voting for a pitcher to start the game doesn’t make sense. Pitchers who pitched recently are unavailable to pitch in the game. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to permit fans to vote for Kershaw only to have him miss the game. Hopefully, this issue is alleviated by the fact that baseball and Dodger fans had the opportunity to vote for him to play in the game during the initial vote.
Overall, implementing these two ideas would create more fan involvement and interest. It would actually let the fans of each team get to see the player they would want to see play in the game. Hopefully, at the end of the day, this will lead to bigger ratings.