Archive for the 'All Star Game' Category

Early All Star returns show questionable balloting

After a while, my mantra makes me sound like a broken record.

Fix the voting, I squawk, much like a parrot stuck on his favorite phrase or an old LP stuck in a scratched groove. Fix the voting.

When the American League All-Star Voting results were announced on Tuesday, I wasn’t too disappointed. The fans, at least, got most of it right, and the ones they got wrong were excusable. The lineup, had voting ended on May 31, would have looked like this:

C Jason Varitek
1B Tino Martinez
2B Brian Roberts
SS Miguel Tejada
3B Alex Rodriguez
OF Manny Ramirez
OF Vladimir Guerrero

OF Ichiro Suzuki
DH David Ortiz

The ones that do not deserve to be there, in my mind, were Tino Martinez and Manny Ramirez. Tino’s All Star balloting appearance was propelled by his homer streak and the adoration of the Yankee fans. His power is good this year. In fact, his ISO (Slugging – Batting Average) is nearly .300. But he is hitting just .245 with a .341 OBP, 12 home runs and 30 RBIs.

Instead of Tino, I submit for your consideration the current American League first baseman in fourth place: Mark Teixeira. Down in Texas, the Rangers’ first baseman is slugging his team into contention. He is hitting .295/.349/.539 with 13 home runs and 38 RBIs. Teixeira has also created 30 years compared to Tino’s 27.

Like Tino, Manny Ramirez was propelled to the top of the ballot box by devoted fans and easy name recognition. He is hitting just .257/.352/.492 with 11 home runs and 43 RBI. Considering that Manny usually tears up the league in April and May, I don’t think his subpar season merits All Star consideration.

Instead, let me present Manny’s teammate, Johnny Damon. Playing for a new contract, Damon is hitting .350/.401/.453. He has just one home run – a significant decrease over last year – but 26 RBIs from the leadoff spot. He has created 40 runs to Manny’s 36. At this point, Damon is more deserving of the All Star spot than Manny is.

Two “wrong” picks are not the end of the world. I thought maybe the fans could really pick out the most deserving players to play in the Mid-Summer Classic. (Hey, this time it counts, right?) But then the National League balloting results were announced, and half the lineup was out of place. I was distraught!

C Mike Piazza
1B Albert Pujols

2B Jeff Kent
SS Nomar Garciaparra
3B Scott Rolen
OF Carlos Beltran
OF Jim Edmonds
OF Ken Griffey, Jr.

As someone who wants to see the American League get home-field advantage in the World Series, I liked it. As a baseball fan, I hate it. Mike Piazza? The Mike Piazza of the .312 on-base percentage and .244 average? Ken Griffey, Jr and no sign of Bobby Abreu? Scott Rolen over Troy Glaus? (Even Chipper Jones managed more votes than Troy Glaus. Ken Griffey over Miguel Cabrera? Cabrera, the new kid in town, is a great player, and he’s fun to watch. But hey, you never know when Griffey’s hamstring might pop. And how about Jim Edmonds over someone more deserving such as Cliff Floyd?

Then, there is the upset of the voting. Albert Pujols is outpolling Derrek Lee by a two-to-one margin. Derrek Lee is currently the Triple Crown leader in the NL. He has led the charge as the Cubs have climbed to within 5.5 of the complacent Cards. While Pujols is off to his usually stellar start, what does a first baseman in Chicago have to do to get his just recognition?

Finally, we come at least to Nomar. I can’t wait to see Nomar hobble out to short during the All Star game. Is that part of his rehab plan? Did the voters forget that, before tearing his groin, Nomar had gotten a grand total of one extra base hit in his 51 at bats this year? Did they forget that he hasn’t played a game since April 20?

Just what is the All Star game about? I know I’ve said this before. If it’s about putting forward the league’s best players to win a game, it’s time to take voting out of the hands of the fan. If it’s about giving the audience what they want to see, then the game shouldn’t count, not when the truly deserving All Stars don’t get to start.

Fix the voting.

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Early All Star voting reveals a flawed selection process

The ubiquitous advertising on MLB.com is a reminder to one of Bud Selig’s darkest days as baseball commissioners. The ads calling fans to vote for their favorite players as 2005 All Stars all repeat the same mantra. “This one counts.?

Major League Baseball won’t have a repeat of 2003, the ads are telling the fans. No more games ending in 11-inning ties because, well, baseball games just don’t end in ties. No more managers running out of pitchers just to get someone into the game. Plus the whole “this one counts? idea worked fine in 2004. Let’s do it again this year.

But for all of this emphasis on turning the Mid-Summer Classic into a meaningful game, Major League Baseball has to improve the All Star Game process. It’s now a meaningful game with players selected in a meaningless fashion. Until those in charge can figure out how to reconcile the competing interests of the fans and the integrity of the All Star Game, having this one – or any of the All Star games – count just seems wrong.

The first warning sign arrived in my inbox last Wednesday, April 20, when I got an e-mail telling me to vote for my favorite players for the All Star Game. At first, I thought this was a mistake. By last Wednesday, most teams had played all of 15 games, and the All Star Game in July was nearly three months in the future.

Fifteen games into the season doesn’t give anyone enough time to start evaluating players for the All Star Game, but it certainly gives those die-hard fans ample opportunity to vote for players only from their favorite team. After 15 games of the season, all we knew was that Brian Roberts was going to hit 64 home runs, that the Dodgers were going to win over 125 games, and that Dontrelle Willis was going to pitch 33 complete-game shutouts this season. So much for projecting stats based on the first two weeks of baseball. But, hey! Vote for your favorite Yankee everyday for the next three months. There’s plenty of time.

This ridiculously early voting kick-off date was of no concern to Major League Baseball. Selig and Co. need people to watch the game, and what better way to get people planning for the July game than early online voting. Furthermore, this is a system that inherently favors people off to good starts. Roberts, the Orioles’ second baseman, is doing exceptionally well this April, and I’m sure more than a few people will vote for him in the early going. What happens when June 10 rolls around and Roberts hasn’t hit a home run since late April? He’ll still have those All Star votes and could wind up starting in Detroit on July 12. As an American League fan, I may not want him out there come the second week of July defending my team’s shot at homefield advantage.

The second problem with the All Star game is the voting itself. If the game counts and players are supposedly motivated to play for homefield advantage in the World Series, the fans shouldn’t be the ones voting for the All Star starters.

Looking at the ballot, Kevin Millar and Tino Martinez enjoy the highest level of name recognition among AL first basemen right now. Playing on the two biggest baseball stages in the country, Millar and Martinez have great fan bases in Boston and New York respectively. But in the early going, the real All Star is Paul Konerko. The White Sox just don’t enjoy the same level of exposure as the Red Sox or Yankees do. How can a biased system be relied upon to pick a team of players who will really be the All Stars?

The issue of injured players also rings a similar bell. As Mark Newman introduced the All Star voting last Wednesday on MLB.com, he questioned whether or not Barry Bonds would get the votes this year. He does after all have a great deal of prestige and recognition attached to his name. Never mind that by July 12 he may not have even made his 2005 season debut. Are you really an All Star if you haven’t set foot on the field? How can a system that extols the game as counting this time allow for an injured player to have even the slightest shot at garnering a starting spot on the All Star team?

All of these flaws point to the biggest problem facing Major League Baseball and the All Star game. It’s an issue of defining the game. Is the All Star spectacle about securing homefield advantage in the World Series or is the game about giving the fans what they want so they’ll watch the game? If it’s about homefield advantage and rewarding the true All Stars, it’s time for the coaches, managers, and players to pick the guys who stand out as the real All Stars. If it’s about the fans and giving them what they want (as an All Star game should be), then it’s time to drop the whole “this one counts? mentality that surrounds the All Star game.

Either way, April 20 – Game 15 for many teams – is simply too early to start calling for All Star votes. Who knows what great players won’t get the call because fans are locked into their selection after just two weeks? Plus, we shouldn’t risk rewarding the wrong guys as All Star. This one counts.


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