An all-too prevalent action this time of year is for fans to cry foul over their favorite team’s players not being selected to Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game. The only variation is whether the target of their venom is the stupid fans or the idiotic managers, who obviously do not know what they are doing.
A variation on the theme is employed by many a baseball writer – documenting all of the all-star “snubs” based on whatever criteria is chosen, whether realistic, objective or not.
Another dose of that tired whining is not what you are going to get here, however.
Instead, I am going to defend the system that is in place. No, it is not perfect, but it has three separate ways to ensure representative teams are chosen and I think it works ok.
Perhaps the most controversial is the highest profile segment, the fan vote. In it, MLB generates hundreds of millions of clicks on its website despite “limiting” fans to casting a measly quantity of 25 ballots per day during a voting period that begins in April and runs for over two months.
There is a lot of attention generated when a single team’s fans stuff the ballot boxes and skew the vote toward their team’s players as all-star starters, such as occurred with the Royals last year and the Cubs here in 2016. Yet in reality, the fans have a say in just nine of the 34 National League All-Stars and 10 of the 34 representing the American League.
In the Senior Circuit, the internet vote selects the eight starting position players plus the 34th and final player on the roster. The latter is chosen via another internet vote called the “Final Vote” from among five also-rans.
The AL has an additional fan-voted starter due to the designated hitter, and concludes with the same “Final Vote” process as the NL.
At least two-thirds of the rosters remain to be chosen. Based on scores of uninformed Twitter “hot takes” after the teams were announced Tuesday night as well as outraged comments on the Cardinals-themed message board I manage, it is very clear that most fans do not understand the selection process.
The ones who seem to realize that the fans do not select the entire rosters think the World Series managers from the year before are the ones who fill out the remainder of the 34-man teams.
What they are missing is how roughly half the all-stars are chosen each year.
A ballot is distributed to all Major League players, coaches and managers. The top vote-getter at each of the eight positions (nine in the AL) not already voted in as a starter is added to the all-star rosters as the primary position player reserves.
In addition, the top five starting pitchers and three relievers from this “player ballot” make up the core of each all-star pitching staff.
Yet it is the all-star managers who take most of the heat for creating the annual “snubs,” by not righting every perceived wrong across all 30 teams.
The reality is that the skippers have very little flexibility.
Specifically, nine roster spots remain for the NL manager to fill and just seven for the AL skipper. However, their hands are tied to a great extent, since MLB rules dictate that it is up to them to ensure all 15 teams in their league have at least one representative.
This year, there is one injured selection so far in each circuit, giving the managers an extra pick.
Let’s start with the NL skipper, Terry Collins. This year, the leader of the Mets had 10 choices to make, as one of the player-selected pitchers, Clayton Kershaw, is injured.
Even so, six of Collins’ 10 choices were dictated by the fact that the Phillies, Brewers, Cardinals, Padres, Braves and Pirates were not represented by any of the starters or player-selected reserves.
In the AL, Ned Yost had an eighth selection as his pitcher, Wade Davis, is on the shelf.
However, three of Yost’s eight spots also had to be earmarked to ensure the A’s, Rays and Twins have one all-star player each.
In other words, when it came right down to it, one manager had a free reign to choose only four all-stars of the 34 to be on his roster, while the other had five picks under his full control.
That is it.
Collins’ “free” picks are all pitchers and very good ones, indeed – Jose Fernandez, Jon Lester, Stephen Strasburg and A.J. Ramos. Note that not one of them is a member of the New York Mets.
Yost’s five are also exclusively made up of hurlers: Dellin Betances, Brad Brach, Will Harris, Craig Kimbrel and Kelvin Herrera. While the latter hails from Yost’s Kansas City club, it is fair to remember that the man he is replacing in player choice Wade Davis is a teammate.
Of course, there will be alterations to the rosters ahead, such as when injuries occur, as well as when starters pitching the Sunday before the All-Star Game bow out. But the fact remains that there seems a decent checks and balances system in place among the fans, the players/coaches/managers, and the league champion managers.
I am pretty sure that none of the critics have a more workable idea – at least I haven’t yet seen one.
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.