All-Star fan vote is broken, here is a solution to fix
The Kansas City Royals shocked the baseball world last October, rallying from near elimination in the American League Wild Card game all the way to within one game of their first World Series championship in nearly 30 years. Now they are shocking the baseball world in terms of their All-Star vote support. As of Monday June 8, Royals now sit in first place in 7 of the 9 starting spots. Their 2B Omar Infante is within 200K votes of Jose Altuve, and only MVP and the world’s most popular baseball player Mike Trout from the Los Angeles Angels is breaking up a Royals sweep in the outfield (Alex Rios is 4th, with Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon at 1st and 3rd bracketing Trout). Overall top vote getters are all Royals: Salvador Perez (4.4M votes), Cain (4.2M votes), and Mike Moustakas (4.0M votes).
If Salvador Perez or Mike Moustakas walked up to you on the street. Admit it. You would not recognize them. If Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, or Prince Fielder walked up, it would be a mob scene.
Let’s not immediately dismiss that the Royals are not deserving. Okay, we can:
OF Lorenzo Cain is batting .282 with 4 HR and 9 SB. Adam Jones is batting .308 with 9 HR. Alex Rios is ahead of Adam Jones and has played just 14 games and is batting .235. Houston Astros CF Jake Marisnick has a .259 average, 4 HR and 10 SB. Not that far off Cain.
SS Alcides Escobar is batting .263 with 2 HR. Oakland Athletics surprise star Marcus Semien is batting .275 with 6 HR.
2B Omar Infante (only 2nd place) is slugging .301 (batting average .216, 0 HR). Cleveland Indians 2B Jason Kipnis is batting .336 and slugging .513. Kipnis should start the AS Game, not Altuve or Infante.
DH Kendrys Morales is batting .292 with 7 HR. Seattle Mariners Nelson Cruz is batting .328 with 18 HR.
Legitimately, Royals 3B Mike Moustakas is the one player who clearly has better numbers than his position peers.
The fact that the Royals dominate the voting is not reason enough to change something. This has been going on for years. For most of the 1990s and 2000s, 70% of the starting lineup in the American League was either a New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox players. When picking from two teams, it was easier to find a Pedroia, Jeter, Damon, Posada, and Ortiz that were the best players at their position.
One change this year is that all voting is done online. I’d be willing to bet that over the past decade, fans have gradually done much more online voting (doesn’t require a ticket; you don’t have to miss the game to do it; and you can do it more quickly). But it does seem very different this year.
A knee-jerk might be to propose to get rid of fan voting. Let’s not go that far. The fan vote can matter, even if skewed. But it should only lead to a roster spot. Here is why.
Fans don’t vote in the best players. They vote in big names (and players from Missouri, apparently, as the St. Louis Cardinals also own 50% of the NL spots). And they don’t vote in a logical lineup. Managers that fill up a lineup card have a strategy. Speed and contact at the top. Batting average, then power through the middle. More speed and versatility at the bottom. Bench balanced with left and right hand hitters, some speed, and defense for later in the game.
With most fan votes, you end up with 7 cleanup hitters and someone like Larry Walker leading off. If you’re going to have the All-Star game “matter”, then let the manager use the fan vote, plus player vote, plus one player per team, plus his discretion picks and make a real lineup. It’s supposed to be a real game, then give the manager a roster and let him fill it out!
It used to be that small markets were shut out of the All-Star vote. Now it seems to be that campaigning is the thing. Do we really want the Mid-summer classic to resemble real politics? I hope not. Change it now. The fan vote counts, but only for a roster spot. Then let the manager manage.
Next topic: Manage the game like a real game and don’t feel like you have to get every player in…
– David Whitlock
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