If you will, baseball fans, journey back with me to July 9, 2002. The devoted baseball fan cringes at the mere mention of that date, but for those of you who don’t, let me clue you in.
As you can imagine, it’s an All-Star game. Juicer Barry Bonds has already homered, and the game is deadlocked at 7-7 going into the 11th inning. Unfortunately, teams run out of pitchers prompting the commissioner to do the unthinkable and call the game a tie.
If this were all that happened, then baseball fans would forgive Bud Selig. But of course, leave it to him to completely overreact and decide to make the game decide home-field advantage for the World Series. Now, instead of the team with the better record earning home-field advantage like in most sports, a game that used to be fun has become the deciding factor.
This carried ramifications into the game itself, as well. Players and fans alike began to question multiple aspects of the game.
One of those is surely the rule that all teams must be represented by at least one player. Previously, this made sense because the game was supposed to be fun and an opportunity to include everyone. When you look at it now, it doesn’t make sense that the 31-win Rockies or Cubs should be required to have a player there when they obviously aren’t in contention for the playoffs.
The biggest problem that everyone seems to have with this now is that the fans get to pick the players that play in the All-Star game. In theory, this is a fun idea, but when this game carries significance, it’s not really fair to the players that the fans get to pick the people that play in the game.
Fan voting compromises the idea of a game that matters because it facilitates a popularity contest as opposed to picking the best players to represent each league.
This year more than ever before, it was proven that the fans shouldn’t have any say in the voting if the game is going to matter. With about five days remaining on the vote, the San Francisco Giants made a big push with their fans to get their guys into the starting lineup. The two biggest tragedies of this were Pablo Sandoval getting the start over David Wright at third base and Buster Posey over Philadelphia’s Carlos Ruiz as the starting catcher for the National League. Both Wright and Ruiz are in the top five in the league in batting average. Though Posey and Sandoval are both having strong years at the plate, it is completely incomparable to what Wright and Ruiz have done this season.
Players are displeased with the fan voting as well. Fans were put in charge of deciding the All-Star game’s final roster spot in one of the largest social media and propaganda events of the last ten years. When World Series MVP David Freese and Rangers’ rookie pitcher Yu Darvish were selected for the final spots, many players took to the Internet to show their displeasure.
In a comment directed to Braves’ injured reliever Peter Moylan, Oakland pitcher Brandon McCarthy posted on Twitter, “[Peter Moylan] for a game that ‘counts’, what I saw this afternoon was sad.” This prompted a simple “Amen.” response from Moylan. Furthermore, when a tweet was directed at McCarthy about the Giants’ abuse of the fan voting system, he brought up a good point when he said, “They did what they were allowed to do under the current rules.”
Ultimately, baseball has two options in fixing the All-Star Game. First, they can go back the old system and make the game simply for fun, and nothing more. This would be the simplest solution. However, they can also adjust some of these problems that I mentioned by removing the one player per team requirement and reducing or removing the fan voting.
All of this said, baseball’s All-Star game is the best and most competitive one in all of sports, but there are obvious flaws that will require action.
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