Tuesday, July 3, 2012
All Star Outrage
Beginning in 1969, fans have been given the privilege of voting for All Star starters. I used to fill out two ballots as a kid. I would diligently scour statistics and choose players based purely on merit. Then I did a second one which included Met players, regardless of the season they were having. On this second ballot I admit, I voted for Wayne Garrett over Ron Santo, Felix Millan over Joe Morgan, Tommie Agee over Cesar Cedeno, Jerry Grote over Johnny Bench, and even Ed Kranepool over Willie McCovey.
Over the years, the fans generally got it right. The popularity contest and bias towards one's home team was, for the most part, outweighed by votes for the players having the best years. What helped making this system relatively fair was the rule that each team received the same number of ballots to hand out. But with the advent of internet voting and organized campaigns by the teams themselves, the process has gotten out of balance.
The San Francisco Giants' marketing department was particularly relentless and creative this year in urging their fans to vote for Giants players early and often. As a result, the Giants can boast three starters in this year's game: Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Melky Cabrera. Sandoval, who spent a good deal of time on the disabled list, is having a season that pales in comparison to David Wright, who is having an MVP-type year. Wright leads all third basemen in every offensive category. (Padres' third baseman Chase Headley is also having a far better year than Sandoval.)
Giants' catcher Buster Posey is having an excellent season, coming back from last year's injury, but he should not be the All Star starter -- despite receiving more votes than any other player in history. Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz, who is having a remarkable year, is far more deserving. So is Yadier Molina of the Cardinals.
Melky Cabrera is arguably worthy of a start in the NL outfield, but the outsized votes for Sandoval and Posey, and for other Giants such as 1B Brandon Belt and SS Brandon Crawford -- who just missed starting nods (and 2B Freddie Sanchez came in fourth despite being sidelined all year) -- demonstrate that the system is broken.
Fans have been disenfranchised before. In 1957, an organized campaign in Cincinnati resulted in seven Reds players being elected as starters: Johnny Temple (2B), Roy McMillan (SS), Don Hoak (3B), Ed Bailey (C), Frank Robinson (LF), Gus Bell (CF), and Wally Post (RF). (The only non-Red elected was Cardinal first baseman Stan "the Man" Musial.) The Cincinnati Enquirer apparently printed up pre-marked ballots to allow fans to vote early and often. After an investigaton, Commissioner Ford Frick substituted Willie Mays and Hank Aaron for Gus Bell and Wally Post as NL starters, and changed the system so that managers, coaches and players voted instead of fans.
It is time to take the vote away from the fans again.