Monday, July 11, 2011

The All-Popularity Game

In 1957, fans in Cincinnati stuffed the ballot box during the All-Star voting and got seven Reds players elected as starters. Any number of Reds players who didn’t deserve to be there made the team. What did Major league baseball do? They voided some of the votes. They removed two of the Reds players from the starting line-up, and inserted two players who, you know, were actually good. They also took the voting rights away from the fans. Boy, have times changed.

Now, MLB would encourage this type of behavior. More votes is all that counts. It’s not even about ability. It’s about popularity and social media. When Nick Swisher won the final vote last year thanks in large part to his Twitter followers, MLB loved it. Even articles on MLB’s own website devoted a majority of the space to that aspect. They didn’t care about his stats. The only hits they talked about were on websites. It was incredible.

This year, when you voted online, you got 25 votes. Per e-mail address. And, they didn’t even make it hard to vote the 25 times. At least in previous years they made you go through the effort of filling out a new ballot every time. This year, they just made you change your verification code. They were practically begging people to stuff the boxes.

Is that bad? I guess it depends on what you’re looking for when you watch the game. (It’s certainly not what I’m looking for, if you remember.) But, if MLB wants it to be a celebrity softball game instead of a showcase of the best talent in the league, that’s really their prerogative. I just better not here anyone say Derek Jeter deserves to be in the Hall of Fame because of the number of All-Star teams he was on. It also makes for a really boring game. I don’t know if you’ve ever checked the ratings for a celebrity softball game, but they’re not good. There’s a reason for that.

The reason the MLB All-Star game is the best of the four is because it’s so competitive. You get to see the game the way it’s usually played, just with better players. They don’t take out the hitting like they do in football and hockey. They don’t remove the defense like they do in basketball. When Pedro was facing the NL in the 1999 game, he tried to get them out. He fired fastballs. He threw curveballs. He played baseball. That’s what made it so amazing. We could see the best face the best, in a real competition, and see how it would turn out. We got to see the best pitcher in the game face four former MVPs in his six batters. (And the other two had finished second) Wow. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this year’s AL team only had two MVP winners voted into the starting line-up. But, there were four Yankees elected.

Contrary to some beliefs…that’s not the same thing.


  1. The All-Star game hasn't really been about the sports' stars for a while. It's sad, but it probably won't change while Selig is in charge.

  2. it's totally about the media! and fans. and a joke. if it was really about talent, they'd use the numbers and not have voting at all. but less people would watch. with people voting, they feel personally invested, are more likely to care, more likely to watch, advertisers more likely to buy, more money to be made. silly media making money when there's real baseball to be played.


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