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June 13 - All-Star Ideas

Hey, you, Joe Baseball Fan!  Remember when the MLB All-Star Game actually mattered?

Okay, maybe not.

A once-proud tradition (even dubbed the Midsummer Classic) has now been reduced to ridiculous skills
competitions, one at-bat cameos, and on-air appearances by FOX Sports’ very own Scooter mascot.  
The fact that Bud Selig ever allowed this game to end in a tie shows that most people within baseball
just don’t care.  

The average fan sees the All-Star Game as a chance to see his favorite players all together on one field.  
The average player apparently sees the All-Star Game as a meaningless hindrance.

Therein lies the problem.

Attempts have been made of late to force baseball people to care, with the advent of the home field
advantage in the World Series being presented to the victorious league.  Along with this, incentives have
been built into player contracts for All-Star appearances and awards.  However, these changes have
seemed to make very little impact.  Gone are the days when a Pete Rose-Ray Fosse type situation
would determine an All-Star game.

Player apathy, however, has not been the only death knell to the All-Star festivities.  One could easily
argue that fan voting has been equally detrimental.

On its face, fan voting is a great thing.  Fan voting allows the individual sitting in his box seat or on his
couch to have a hand in who he sees on the field.  However, online voting and teams encouraging fans
to stuff the ballot boxes for their hometown guys have helped kill this great idea.

Perhaps an even more dangerous problem than potential fraud is that of the clueless fan.  Not every fan
who picks up a ballot has the Extra Innings package or sits in front of his computer watching MLB.tv for
15 hours a day, so he votes for the names he knows.  The ballots don’t tell the fan that Nomar
Garciaparra was barely hitting his weight before suffering a groin injury which, by the way, would likely
keep him out for the festivities anyway, and they can’t pass along the message that Barry Bonds has not
even knocked the dirt off his spikes between pitches in 2005.  The fact that we see guys like Yadier
Molina (.255/2/19 for the Cardinals), Doug Mientkiewicz (.208/7/20 for the Mets) and Tino Martinez
(.230/12/32 for the Yankees) in the top five at their respective positions is further evidence that fan voting
is a sham.

With that, I offer three simple suggestions to regenerate interest in the All-Star Game.

Take away/devalue fan voting.  We all know the problems inherent in fan voting, and while a lack of
emphasis on the fan vote may chase away the casual observer, those interested in the actual game
would be more apt to watch.  Baseball people need to have the vote in their hands in order for the game
to truly work.  The game needs to be about Cesar Izturis and Rob Mackowiak as much as it does Ken
Griffey, Jr. and Ichiro.    Baseball personnel are on the field with these guys every day.  An easy way to do
this is to have managers submit a list of players they feel to be worthy of All-Star consideration, and let
that list be voted upon by players and other managers.  No manager would be allowed to vote for his
own player.   Conversely, if a deserving player is omitted, that player could also be up for discussion.

Alternately, if you wanted to allow fan voting…

Remove online balloting completely, and mark ballpark-distributed ballots for each home area.  This
would be easy enough to do, with a little bit of effort.  All ballots that went to, say, the San Francisco
Giants could be marked with “SF-“, and then a unique ballot number.  The same procedure could be
used for all minor league affiliates of that club.  Along with this, fans with those marked ballots would not
be allowed to vote for players on that team (or parent team, in the minor league affiliates’ case).  This is
another measure to prevent ballot-box stuffing, and could not only ensure a bit more valid result, but
force fans to learn about players other than their own.  Of course, as this method would not be
applicable for more widely-distributed ballots (those obtained outside of a ballpark), fans could be made
to sign their name to a ballot.

Eliminate the one all-star per team requirement.  This is another example of a move designed to
generate interest in the game in the past that has gone horribly awry.  Colorado, with Clint Barmes out,
who is your 2005 all-star?  Tampa Bay?  Kansas City?

Some of the most fervent Monday morning quarterbacking all year takes place the day after the
selections are announced.  In truth, many of the players snubbed are snubbed because of this
requirement.  If players and managers could select the 30 most deserving candidates from all teams,
instead of scrambling to find a deserving Devil Ray, the All-Star game may again truly become more
worthy of its name.