Fans’ “Voting” For All-Star Lineups Deserves To Be Scratched (Special from the IBWAA)
By Dan Schlossberg (Special from the IBWAA)
This article was featured in “Here’s The Pitch” the newsletter of the IBWAA and is shared with permission. This article was published in June 2022.
The Atlanta Braves are shamelessly marketing their players to fans in an effort to stack the National League’s starting lineup for the All-Star Game.
That, my friends, is a travesty.
Instead of showing short videos in movie theaters throughout the Southeast, the Braves should spend their money on pitching help.
The whole thing was predictable: allowing fans to pick the starting lineups for the All-Star Game not only compromises the integrity of the Midsummer Classic but also results in more commercials both in the ballpark and on the air.
Ever since blustering Bowie Kuhn returned the vote to the fans in 1970, the results have been ridiculous — and sometimes abysmal.
Under the current system, fans can vote five times with any 24-hour period — and presumably as often as they like ad nauseum. Mike Pence won’t certify those results for sure.
Consider the facts that mitgate against fan participation:
Mike Schmidt was once elected a National League starter in a season he didn’t play; he had actually retired from the game!
Luis Aparicio had the same experience in the American League but fans picked him anyway because they recognized his name.
And how many years was an over-the-hill Ozzie Smith picked because people remembered his somersaults at shortstop?
Detroit catcher Bill Freehan once admitted he didn’t deserve to go. Neither did Davey Lopes, elected to start with an all-time low batting average of .169, or even Reggie Jackson, who was also under the Mendoza Line at .199.
For far too many years, Major League Baseball and its franchises have encouraged votes to vote early and vote often. The only problem with that formula is that MLB does not live or operate in Honduras. Baseball should not operate like a banana republic, though it so often slips on its own peel.
When players, coaches, and managers voted, the system was fair. They were not allowed to vote for teammates or vote more than once. Then the 30-somethings in the Office of the Commissioner got their mitts on the process and created the concoction that exists today.
Beyond the voting, the All-Star Game should be played during the day on a Sunday afternoon, as it was after the 1981 player strike ended. Tuesday nights are bad because the game starts too late, lasts too long, and loses more than two-thirds of its audience (those who live on the East Coast and have to get up early for work the next morning).
The All-Star Game used to be a showcase event before add-ons like the Home Run Derby polluted the product. It’s time MLB rolled back the clock and considered the original intent of Chicago sports editor Arch Ward, who conceived the All-Star Game as a Depression antidote in 1933.
Just the game, please. And just the best players, not necessarily the most popular ones.
We should be seeing the guys with the best numbers this year, not blasts from the past. That means letting managers pick the rosters and letting fans enjoy the results much more than they do now.
The 2022 All-Star Game is scheduled for Dodger Stadium on July 19.
Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is weekend editor of Here’s The Pitch and author or co-author of 40 baseball books. He’s been making the rounds of libraries, civic clubs, and anywhere else that wants a baseball historian to speak.