Tuesday, July 3, 2012

All Star Outrage

I have always revered the All Star game.  When I was growing up, it meant seeing Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente in the same outfield.  It also meant getting to see how some of my favorite Met players measured up to the greats.  True, the Mets did not usually populate the team, but at least Tom Seaver could be counted on to dominate American League hitters, and occasionally Bud Harrelson at short, Jerry Grote behind the plate, Jerry Koosman or Jon Matlack on the mound were worthy additions. 

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.

4 comments:

Ty said...

totally disagree! (not surprisingly) you say: "Fans have been disenfranchised before." how were nets fans disenfranchised? they had just as much right to vote as giants fans did. and for once, the east coast bias didn't prevail. west coast baby!!

Ty said...

that should have been METS not nets. Nets fans were disenfranchised b/c this is the baseball all star game

Lovechilde said...

By "disenfranchised," I meant after the 1957 fiasco. Anyway, I'm surprised you are not embarrassed as I would be if Met fans had voted in Andres Torres, Josh Thole and Jason Bay. Yes, the Giants' marketing department is better than the Mets' marketing department. I hope you are proud of them.

Ty said...

I love Andres Torres!

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