I don’t want to be grumpy about Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, but I readily admit that I am.
No, this isn’t going to be another diatribe about the ridiculousness of the “this time, it counts” decision that is one of the bellwethers of the Bud Selig era. I do think it is incredibly stupid to tie home field advantage in the World Series to the results of an exhibition game, but I have yet to see an average fan who likes this idea. So there seems no reason to preach to this choir.
None of my individual All-Star concerns are big, but instead are a series of paper cuts that together, draw too much of my blood and ire.
The voting process: The good old days of sitting at the ballgame, punching out the perforated circles in the paper All-Star ballots have gone the way of Selig. In a process that generates millions and millions and millions of clicks to the MLB.com website, the lords of the game decided all votes would be cast on-line.
By releasing interim voting results, MLB generates even more attention and subsequent increases in voting from fans eager to see their hometown heroes in the starting lineup.
It also leads to many trying to game the system.
The controversy of the interim American League lineup consisting of eight Kansas City Royals led to ridicule from some corners and cries from others to take the voting away from fans.
In protecting its baby, MLB made the unusual move of disclosing that it nullified 60-65 million ballots, or about 20 percent of the annual total, because it was determined the votes were made illegally.
Even so, the old rule of “one man, one vote” is completely meaningless in the world of MLB.
All-Star snubs: This is the stupidest term I can think of, yet it is increasingly overused each year when All-Star rosters are announced. Fans of literally every team play this card when one or more of their hometown favorites are passed over for the Mid-Summer Classic.
The implication is that the fan voters - or players or managers - purposely passed over their favorite player because of some unspoken prejudice. In reality, the whining usually has nothing to do with the comparative value of the players and everything to do with homerism.
With the possible exception of Alex Rodriguez, who very well may in fact be the victim of a 2015 snub, this just isn’t true. Some cannot deal with the fact that other teams have deserving players, too.
Speaking of A-Rod, I am going to take a sidestep and a short bow. I came into the Xperts Fantasy League (XFL) draft last November with the express intent to secure the services of the Yankees star, who was coming off his year of suspension.
Throwing out his name relatively early in the draft at $5, not only did I receive crickets, as I had hoped, but I also had to absorb a number of snide remarks from my peers.
It looks like I am going to get the last laugh, though. Despite having been in a slump the last two weeks, as of July 9, the 39-year-old leads my team in four of the five offensive scoring categories – home runs (16), RBI (47), runs (45) and on-base percentage (.382).
A-Rod was not invited to this July’s Mid-Summer Classic – and did not even appear among The Final Vote nominees - almost certainly because of his high levels of PR-toxicity.
Speaking of which…
The Final Vote: One way MLB cleverly continues to draw attention (and millions more clicks) after the rosters are announced is to hold further voting for the final player on both the American and National League rosters from among a group of five from each league.
Unlike in the regular voting, there are no daily limits in the number of ballots per person that can be cast in The Final Vote process, creating a true free-for-all.
Teams go all out to draw attention to their nominees. Tactics include offering gifts to voters via drawings, teaming up with clubs in the other league to create a favored AL-NL ticket and incentivizing voters to spam Twitter with special hashtags, again with the allure of trinkets given to selected participants.
Never has there been such attention lavished on such a relatively insignificant act.
Final Vote snubs: Combining two of the above irritants leads me to The Final Vote ballots for 2015. Already mentioned is the obvious omission of Rodriguez. Further, this time around, pitchers and position players were thrown in together.
Among the NL five was Clayton Kershaw.
There is no doubt the three-time Cy Young Award winner and reigning National League Most Valuable Player is having a sub-standard 2015 season – by his lofty standards. Kershaw has “only” a 2.85 ERA to go with an MLB-leading total of 160 strikeouts.
This leads to my most irritating issue with the entire All-Star process – ignoring the second half of each season. Today’s process only considers the first halves with anything that happened after the prior year’s Classic through the end of that season completely ignored.
One of my to-dos each summer is to write a column listing who the All-Stars should be had full-year performances since the last game been considered. Every year, my friend Steve Gardner of USA TODAY beats me to the punch.
Not surprisingly, Gardner notes that from a statistical view, Kershaw leads the way for all NL pitchers from last All-Star Game until now. Relegating him to The Final Vote ballot is embarrassing, in my opinion.
It also doomed the lefty to miss the game since Los Angeles fans do not seem inclined to ballot stuff to the extent of those from the heartland. In the closing Final Vote results announced Friday evening, Kershaw finished a disappointing and unfair third of five behind Carlos Martinez of St. Louis and the Reds’ Johnny Cueto.
Now, that’s an All-Star snub if I have ever seen one! Whoops!
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.