Another All-Star Flap
It seems like every year something incredibly silly happens with the
Last year, Major League Baseball decided to endow the game with
"meaning" by awarding home field advantage in the World Series to the
league that wins the mid-season exhibition. The year before, the
game ended in a tie after both teams "ran out" of pitchers.
This year, the fans are being slammed in the media because Nomar
Garciaparra is the leading vote-getter among AL shortstops. It's
not that Nomar is a bad player; it's just that he hasn't played a
single game so far this season. This is made even more amusing
because Derek Jeter is the second leading vote-getter at short so far
and he has probably created more outs than any player in baseball in
the first two months of the season, yet the fans who are voting for him
are given a pass.
First of all, fans voting undeserving players into the All-Star game is
nothing new. As great a player as Cal Ripken was, he was voted in
as a starter by the fans on three different occasions when not only was
he not the most productive candidate for a spot on the All-Star roster,
but was arguably the worst available choice in terms of actual game
value. In 1998, he was hitting .258 with a slugging percentage of
.362 and an on base of .322 at the Break, yet only Ken Griffey Jr. in
the midst of a 56-homer season got more AL votes. In 2000, Ripken
was hitting .239 (.289 on base/.444 slugging) when he was named to the
All-Star team by the fans. And in 2001, he bottomed out at
.240/.270/.324 but was still on the field at the All-Star Game when the
first pitches were thrown.
This might not have been so bad had he been a shortstop playing in the
deadball era, but at this point in his career he was a third baseman
playing in an era of unprecedented offense and in a league with Troy
Glaus, Corey Koskie, Travis Fryman and some kid named Chavez from
Oakland who still hasn't been named to an All-Star team. Yes, the
winner of the last three Gold Gloves at third base in the AL and
arguably the best third baseman in baseball since 2000, Eric Chavez
still has no All-Star appearances. Troy Glaus was the fans'
choice last year, but Shea Hillenbrand was the fans' other recent
Ripken isn't an isolated case, either: Pete Rose in 1982 (.287, but
.719 OPS for a first baseman), Reggie Jackson in 1984 (.247
average/.769 OPS for a DH) and Ozzie Smith in 1994 (.240/.632 OPS at
short) immediately come to mind. All great players but all
well-past their prime while denying a more productive candidate from a
roster spot. True, voting a player in who hasn't played a single
game is a new twist on an old story, but it's not as though we couldn't
see something like this coming.
However, this should be taken with one very giant grain of salt.
Because secondly, there are no written criteria for the fans to vote
for the All-Star players. They are simply handed a sheet and told
to vote for their favorite players. Not the most productive or
the best overall, career-wise. Their favorites. In fact,
most teams actively campaign for the fans to vote for their home team
players, regardless if they are worthy stars or not. There are
even occasions where the players that are listed on the ballots aren't
even the ones who are playing in the field regularly. That
doesn't matter to the clubs; just vote and vote often for the home town
The managers often get grief for their choices, but they are limited by
the fact that they have to have at least one representative from every
team and that just about every player in baseball has some sort of
incentive or bonus clause for being named to an All-Star team. So
it behooves a manager to favor players from his own team, as well as
potential free agents or trade targets. A little bonus at the
Break can go a long way in the clubhouse. However, managers and
players aren't immune to making squirrelly choices from time to time as
well, like voting Raphael Palmeiro a Gold Glove at first base when he
had only played 28 games there. Or like naming Ed Sprague or
Scott Cooper to an All-Star team.
And it's not like the media has a great track record when it comes to
giving honors to the right people. Their votes for the MVP awards
and their lack of support
for several very worthy candidates
for the Hall of Fame weigh
heavily against their claim of prudence.
What is baseball to do?
. That seems to be what
they are best at
But if they ever did decide to make the All-Star game an exhibition of
the best players in the game, this would be my suggestion: split the
Eliminate the requirement to have a player from every team, and give
fans, players, media and the combined group of managers, coaches and
front office personnel an equal share of voting for the entire roster,
not just portions of it. Make a roster of 17 position players
(two for each position on the diamond plus a DH) and 13 pitchers and
have every spot voted on by everyone. Each segment of the
population would get their collective vote weighted to 25% and
whichever players scored the highest would make the team.
Or, if they really wanted to keep with the spirit of many of baseball's
recent changes, they could just let Pete Rose randomly pull names out
of a hat.