Thursday, 10 July 2008

All-Stars? Really?

I should probably make it clear right away that I'm not a huge fan of the All-Star game. I like the homerun derby, and the general concept of celebrating the best players each year.

But I don't like the fact that the result of the game decides home field advantage for the World Series. Probably not alone there.

And, unfortunately, I think that while the concept is good, the practicality of celebrating the year's best players is where the whole thing falls down. Let me explain.

Ok, giving the fans a say as to who they want to see play is a good idea. To a point. But the simple truth is always going to be that more fans=more votes. This year is a case in point. I'm trying not to be overtly Rays-orientated here, but they are who I know best, and so its easier for me to draw an example from them. Terry Francona said, on the Rays having only two representatives (and I paraphrase from memory), "at some point if the Rays want more representatives, then their fans are going to have to go out an vote."

Its reasonably logical, I suppose. But how many fans do the Rays have? Even including displaced fans (such as your author) and part-time fans and well-wishers, would we ever be able to outvote even that small percentage of Yankee fans who regularly attend 2 or more games a year at the Stadium? I think not. So already that plan has fallen by the wayside.

So what next? Ok, so we need the neutrals, and fans from National League teams to give our guys the vote. There's plenty of them, after all. It is possible that, with a good season, and lots of media attention, that a Ray could pick up enough votes from them to have a serious shot at making the team.

But here's the kicker. You can vote 25 times. Why? Why, oh why, oh why? I challenge anybody to come up with an election where you are allowed to vote for the person you want up to 25 times. Lets face it, its a system that could totally revolutionise democracy.

And it renders the neutral vote more or less useless. Why do I say that? Ok, I'm a Red Sox fan and I love David Ortiz. A big stretch of the imagination, I know. I want him on the All-Star team. What am I going to do? Yep, I'm going to go an vote 25 times. Big Papi 25-Everyone else 0. But what if I'm one of those neutrals. I'm thinking that Cliff Floyd (for example) is more deserving. So I vote for him. But do I care enough to go and vote for him 25 times? No. So its Big Papi 25 - Everyone else 1. Ladies and Gentlemen, democracy in action.

All of that is even before we get to who everyone is voting for. I could live with everyone having 25 votes if someone could guarantee that it was the best players who were being voted for, and not the most popular. But just look at the lineups. Someone please make the argument to me that Derek Jeter, Manny Ramirez, Ichiro or Ortiz have been the best at their positions so far this season? Someone tell me how Joe Mauer only squeaked home barely ahead of Jason Varitek? Carlos Pena came in the top five for first basemen. Not even I would have voted for him based on his first half (if I had voted). I literally do not understand the point of the All-Star game if it is not the players who are playing best that are selected. Especially not when the result of the game actually counts for something.

Of course, I don't really have an alternative suggestion. The other possibly acceptable one is for the players to choose. But look at their votes this year for the reserves. They voted on Scott Kazmir, who while I think he's great, missed the first month of the season, had 6 awesome starts in a row, but otherwise has actually been some distance off of his best form. And while the fans did eventually manage not to pick Jason Varitek, the players went right ahead and gave him the nod. Yep, the same Varitek who is hitting .220 on the year, and a bruising .133 over the last 30 days. The NL pitchers must be quaking in their boots.

Its a bit sad then, that for all this I am still ecstatic that Dioner Navarro got the nod. He truly deserves to be an All-Star this year. Don't get me wrong, I'm pleased for Kaz as well, but I could think of at least 2 or 3 other Rays pitchers who I think deserve it more than him this year. Sorry Kaz.

And I am certain that Evan Longoria is worthy of winning the final vote. He is an immense talent, and deserves the recognition that being an All-Star brings. And I'm enjoying the campaigns that are going on for the various players. Well, some of them. I like the fan-orientated, fun ones. I liked Giambi-tache night yesterday.

But I read this article on MLB.com and it actually made me feel a little ill at the whole All-Star experience. The final vote could be, should be - in fact, probably was meant to be - a way to get the fans really involved in the week, a chance for lovers of baseball to give a reward to a player who would otherwise have just missed out. I could cheer for that. Anyone could.

But sometimes the MLB, and MLBAdvancedMedia are just in their own little worlds. I quote from the article directly -

"...take the Giants as just one example. Their front-office people have been voting non-stop for Rowand online. Employees have been encouraged to vote as often as possible and have their families vote on their behalf. There are contests among employees to see who votes the most. Winners of those contests receive "cash prizes" and "memorabilia." Staci Slaughter, the club's senior vice president of communications, said the first time they counted how many times the employees had voted, some had already registered 10,000 votes."

How is that giving the fans a chance to reward someone who they think deserves it? If I sat at home and voted non-stop for the entire time that I wasn't working this week, could I vote 10,000 times? No. Nobody could. So my vote doesn't count. Your vote doesn't count. But hey, it is a nice job if you can get it, being paid to vote for someone. I believe that, in some democracies, it is considered illegal, but in the MLB it's positively encouraged.

I hope Evan wins. But I can't support a game that is created through this farce. And I can't believe that the MLB's own website is actually praising what I can only describe as vote-rigging.

What a joke.

4 comments:

Michael Norton said...

This is perhaps the most cogent--and damning--argument against the All Star game I've seen. I quit paying attention years ago, but wasn't too harsh in my criticism as long as it was a "fan's game". Now it appears MLB has screwed even that up.

Michael Norton
Some Clubhouse

Russell said...

Spot on.It's become a monster that almost seems designed to alienate fans.

John said...

Cheers guys, I'm glad I'm not the only one who is getting fed up of it.

That being said, I'm still glad the Rays all did well. Not impressed at all that Kaz had to pitch though...

Matt said...

Well said, John.