Walter Mencken 9:15 a.m., March 28
The Major League Baseball summer break is upon us, those few days in July that frame the All-Star game, the game that is supposed to mean something now (between the National and American leagues where the game winner ensures home-field advantage during the World Series). But the entire process in inherently flawed. In the silly and warped process of selecting what is supposed to be the best of the best baseball players in each league, MLB continues to insult the intelligence of even the most casual fan by insisting that the voting is fair.
It isn't. If Nicaragua had adopted MLB All-Star voting rules a few decades ago, there would probably still be a Somoza running that country into the ground.
Among the many sordid rules and regulations? Well, you, as a fan, may vote up to 25 times. And that's 25 times for each position, in both leagues. Why 25 times? There is no rational explanation to be found for that, it seems as though MLB is inviting folks to participate in their own version of ballot stuffing.
Now, you - as a fan - get to choose 9 position players from the American League, and 8 position players from the National League, as starting players. While there are only 8 positions on the field other than the pitcher, the American League plays using a designated hitter to bat in the place of the pitcher, so that makes sense, right? Well, except that All-Star games now use the designated hitter for both sides, regardless of the location of the game. So, no, it doesn't make sense.
But anyway, fans can vote for 17 players a total of 25 times each. And you get to do that over the internet, and we all know there are no shenanigans going on when it comes to the world-wide web. So, that's 425 times you can exercise this convoluted form of democracy. Unless you feel like getting some real exercise and you decide to create an infinite number of anonymous fake accounts, drive around all over your favorite city, and cast 425 ballots from whichever free wireless connections you can gain access to.
Also, 16 more players from each league are also voted on by the players themselves, which includes 8 pitchers from each league and 8 position players to back up the starters. Assuming that the players only get one vote for each position and cast their ballots in an accountable manner, it seems a reasonable part of the process. So why can't the fan voting be equally accountable, or at least closer to this level of accountability?
Then, after the results of the first two steps, the manager of each squad (the managers that managed the team from each league in the World Series the season prior) fill the roster to 33 players. And every team in both leagues must have at least one player representing their team in the All-Star game. Because teams that lack talent should still be rewarded, apparently.
And since 33 players on each side just isn't quite enough, fans will then get to vote for one more player for each squad from a selected list of five choices from each league. This is accomplished entirely on the internet, and fans can even tweet their choices using a hashtag. And as we've already discussed, there are never any shenanigans on the internet.
There are issues with the MLB All-Star selection process, a lot of issues. Certainly, there are always complaints concerning the All-Star type of exhibition games in all sports. These complaints usually concern whether a player selected is deserving and whether a player was left out that should have been selected. There is rarely a point in arguing those complaints in print, they are better left for bar stool fodder in a sports bar. And they're irrelevant in most sports.
The results from no other All-Star type games have any bearing on the games that count, only Major League Baseball does that. ESPN.COM points out that, "Since 1985, the team with home-field advantage has won 21 of 26 World Series." And this rule that the winner of this All-Star exhibition game, in place for 10 years now, determines that?
MLB might wish to rethink the importance of the annual All-Star game in terms of what it means for the winning team. Or else, MLB might wish to fix the obvious flaws in the selection process. Either way, it seems that something has to be fixed, otherwise, the fix is on.
Event: 2012 Major League Baseball All-Star Game
Where: Kansas City
When: 5:00 PM PDST, July 10th
Television: Fox Network
Radio: XX 1090 AM
Noteworthy: Padres Closer Huston Street is the representative for the Padres. While he hasn't had brilliant numbers, his selection makes sense, as he has been effective and consistent while not getting a lot of chances on a team that has played poorly in the first half of the season. It is Street's first All-Star appearance.