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For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: December 4, 2022 4:49 pm PDT
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Your Vote Makes the Difference

The good folks here in Mudville were reminded again over the past few weeks of the importance of voting. Let your voice be heard. Make sure you take all factors into consideration. Vote for the person, who based on their body of work, shows to be the most deserving. That’s right folks, I’m talking about the All-Star game.

Every year we get the chance, as fans, to elect the starters to the Mid-Summer Classic. It’s an opportunity to reward the players  – based on their body of work up until the polls close – with the honor of representing we the fans at the All-Star game.

I’m not going to get into the nuts and bolts of whether the game is even worth playing. I’m not about to discuss players not going after being named. I’m not even going to talk about the potential for a tie game. Nope. That’s for another day. This time around, it’s all about the vote.

Many of us remember sitting in a seat at the ballpark and the ushers coming around during the game with paper ballots that we would then use our pencil that came with our scorecard (or Dad’s keys) to poke out the tiny tab signifying who we wanted to be the All-Star at each field position from each league. There was a spot at the bottom of the ballot where we could write in a player who wasn’t listed on the ballot (Hello, Billy Grabarkewitz).

We would then either hand them to the ushers who would come and collect them in a couple of innings or drop them in the MLB All-Star ballot box as we exited the ballpark.

The process wasn’t flawless, as teams with the best home attendance had the opportunity to stuff the boxes for their hometown players and as the results began to be posted, the uproar would begin.

Technology has entirely changed the process as voting is now online, and fans can vote up to 5 times in a 24-hour period. This leads to some additional issues with diligent fans can going crazy and stuffing the virtual ballot box with as many votes allowed for their hometown favorites. Not everyone has the time to vote like that as it would require a break from social media; and one might miss something very important such as a like, share or retweet of something they posted. Is it perfect? No. Has it ever been.  Not at all.

Fan voting started for the first two All-Star games in 1933 and 1934. From 1935 – 1946 the two All-Star Managers selected the teams and, much to the rejoice of the fans, the vote was returned to them in 1947 and all was right with the world. Well, at least until 1957 when Cincinnati fans stuffed the box and voted seven Reds starters to the game.  As a result, the fan vote was eliminated and players, managers and coaches voted until 1970 when it was once again returned to the fans.

“I strongly object to our league making a burlesque out of the All-Star game. I never want to see such an exhibition game.” – Commissioner Ford Frick, 1957.

Everything was fine until 1979 when a few teams started posting additional ballot boxes around their ballparks with ballots resting on top, and apparently the Phillies, Yankees and Red Sox took it the most seriously. The Phils ended up with their entire infield as starters and the Sox and Yankees made their marks in the AL. The players we so angry that 300 of them signed a petition to strip the fans of their voting rights!

“The commissioner wants to let the fans know they are part of the All-Star game.  It was a good idea when it was introduced in 1970. Now it’s gotten out of hand.” – Don Baylor, 1979.

As you can see, the shenanigans of fan voting haven’t always been limited to the online vote, but it certainly seems as though this season, again, a fan base is more motivated than some others to have their players represented. You certainly know the fans aren’t just voting for the players they see in the most television ads or all over internet advertising as baseball gets a solid F in that regard – so the law of familiarity isn’t a factor. Maybe fantasy baseball has some impact, but I would argue it should give one a fuller view of how all players are doing, not just the ones from our favorite teams. I’m not sure what the cause nor answer is, but I do know we get to argue who is most deserving again based on the vote right now.

The Blue Jays have a fun team of young emerging stars – many terrific players who certainly deserve All-Star consideration. Players whose names are recognized easily. Vladdy Guerrero, Jr. is one of those players and he is indeed having a fine season. He currently has almost double the votes of the next AL first baseman, Ty France of the Mariners.  Vladdy’s stat line: .268 Ave/ 17 HR/ 43 RBI / .860 OPS. France (prior to his injury over the weekend) was at .316/10/45/.866.  You can argue for both, but the gap should not be nearly 800,000 votes. At Shortstop, where Tim Anderson and Xander Bogaerts are also having fine seasons, they both trail Bo Bichette by over 200,000 votes – and his lead continues to widen.  In the outfield, George Springer sits in the third spot and while his numbers to date make a compelling argument, they’re not as strong than those of Byron Buxton of the Twins or Austin Hays of the Orioles.  Alejandro Kirk, at catcher, has the largest position lead to date and to be fair, it’s very difficult to argue against him as the starter.

Ty France #23 of the Seattle Mariners throws his helmet to celebrate after hitting a walk-off double in the ninth inning against the Houston Astros at T-Mobile Park on April 16, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners won 6-5. All players are wearing the number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

What’s it all mean? Probably nothing in the grand scheme of life, but specific to the All-Star game it means a great deal. Every team must have one representative so if a deserving player gets beaten out by vote stuffing for someone who may not even be selected if not for the fan vote, then that spot is no longer potentially available to a second deserving player from a given team (I see you and I hear you Luis Arraez). There are also bonus dollars at stake for some players if they are elected as starters. Yeah I know, what’s $100,000 when you make $7 million, but money is still money and come arbitration time you know the clubs will leverage it.

I don’t begrudge fans for having passion for their teams and players and this voting process gives them the chance to show appreciation. In a utopian world, fans would be open minded about the entire league and fans would consider all players’ performances through only the first half of the season. Heck, if that were the case, Fernando Tatis Jr., who hasn’t played a single inning yet in 2022, wouldn’t have close to a quarter million votes and Austin Hays wouldn’t be outside the top 20.

So, for now we have what we have and need to make sure we keep it in our hands. After all, if MLB took control of it what could possibly go wrong?

Mike Nelson is a Director of Sales by day but at night is a boomer baseball ranter who assumes the persona of Joe Blow from Mudville. His biggest baseball claim to fame was hitting for a double cycle in a sandlot game. Dick Allen was mean to him when he was 12 years old

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