The MLB All-Star Game has become such a jumbled mess, I doubt anyone – players, league officials, or fans – truly understands what it has become. The main issue with the game is pretty simple: it has no identity.
Bud Selig and the players union decided to add some weight to the game starting in 2003, by awarding the winning league with home field advantage in the World Series. The reasoning behind this decision was to get players to take the game more seriously, since their title hopes depended on it.
Why then, would the league trust the decision making of the majority of the teams’ rosters and starters to the fans, most of whom will vote solely for their favorite teams’ players? The MLB advertises the game as being for the fans; why then is this game more than a lighthearted affair for players and fans alike to celebrate the first half of a season?
The MLB needs to decide which identity it wants its All-Star Game to take because it certainly can’t be both. If the fans are the main say in who is on the team, then get rid of the game’s impact on the postseason and let home field advantage be determined by which team had the better regular season record.
But if Selig wants to keep the All-Star game as a competitive affair, give the fans less power in determining the rosters. If I were a team in contention for the World Series, I would much rather have David Wright at third base than Pablo Sandoval, who is hitting nearly 50 points lower and missed a month due to injury (and this is coming from a Giants fan).
The San Francisco Giants provide a perfect example of why fan voting shouldn’t be the main determinate for the All-Star roster, which was announced Sunday. Their aggressive voting campaign landed them three starters for the NL squad: C Buster Posey, 3B Sandoval, and OF Melky Cabrera. Of those three, only Cabrera is truly deserving of a starting spot, as he has lead or been amongst the leaders in hits and batting averaging for the league for most of the year.
Fan voting goes the other way too, keeping qualified players off the team. Some notable snubs this year include 1B Albert Pujols, OF Andre Ethier, SP Johnny Cueto, 2B Brandon Phillips, SP Yu Darvish, and 1B Edwin Encarnacion, among others.
While it’s fun for fans to see their favorite players in the Midsummer Classic, the honor for a player of being selected is almost like an award, and it doesn’t seem fair for fans, many of them not experts beyond their own team, to decide who to honor as baseball’s best. This line of thought doesn’t hold as true to baseball as it does to other sports such as basketball, where small rosters mean making the team is more prestigious. The MLB features at least 1 player from each team at it’s All-Star Game. Which brings us back to the point: if the game affects the World Series, why are unqualified players being chosen to play for it?
Texas Rangers’ manager Ron Washington, who will manage this year’s AL team, has decided to take the fan friendly approach, announcing each player elected to his team will play in the game. Now it’s up to the MLB to decide which of its All-Star Game’s dueling identities to embrace.