August 1993 - All-Star Game... Or Some-Star Game?

If you laid the 8,477,630 ballots cast in this year's All-Star voting side by side, they'd stretch from Boston to St. Louis. This represents either the epitome of the American way and the democratic process, or a colossal waste of paper and money, as well as a lousy way to choose the All-Stars. I'd like to see a change in the selection process, not only to save some trees, but to put a better product on the field.

Call me a cynic, but I've been boycotting the All-Star voting for years. The baseball lords would like you to believe it's Joe Fan getting deeply involved, when the whole process is really kind of a farce. Included in the all the hoopla is a sweepstakes with odds greater than 8 million-to-one, and the ballot itself is as much an advertising tool as it is a voting device. Your conscious mind may not have picked up on ads from nine corporations, but those companies were betting that your subconscious was, because they paid dearly for the right to have their names waved under your nose. The Commissioner's office (there's still an office even if the chair is vacant) declined to divulge any financial details, but you know we're talking big bucks here. What do you think it's worth to a corporation to have 8 million folks hold their logo in their sweaty hands?

Every year, alleged fans vote for the All-Stars, and every year there's justifiable grumbling about guys who got left off the squads in favor of a few bums. Is it any wonder there are such blatant inequities when the motto appears to be "Vote early and often?" Stuffing the ballot box has become its own sport in some locales -- apparently some well-intentioned but misguided folks once devised a machine that punched out a thick stack of votes for their heroes with one fell swoop.

Another incongruity: Does it make sense for a fan to vote for both teams? Few serious fans are neutral; you're rooting for either the American League or the National League, even though you may follow teams in both. Back in my voting days, my brilliant strategy was to vote for the stars in the AL and the bums in the NL.

If you hadn't noticed, I think the whole process is a crock. But not being one to point out problems without offering solutions, I offer an alternative way to pick the participants in the Mid-Summer Classic.

Who can discern the stiffs from the stars better than the players themselves? So why not have the players pick their league's roster via secret ballot two weeks before the game? To avoid any hint of cronyism, players couldn't vote for anybody on their own team. What higher honor than to be selected by a jury of one's peers? Just like the sandlot: Choosing up sides. What's more American than that?

As with the current system, there's historical precedent for this proposal. In the first two All-Star games in 1933 & '34, fans voted with ballots found in newspapers (the idea of the All-Star game finally became reality in large part to the efforts of Arch Ward, an editor at the Chicago Tribune). In 1935, big league managers did the picking, and that method continued through 1946. Fans again ran the show from 1947 to 1957. The players and coaches joined the managers from 1958 to 1969, and the current fan system was introduced in 1970 during the regime of Bowie Kuhn, which should be reason enough to change it.

As long as we're making up new rules, why not dump the requirement to have at least one representative from every team? While it's politically correct to include a representative from each team, let's face it: There are always four last place teams, and the cellar-dwellers just might be where they are because they don't have any all-stars. This requirement alone dilutes the talent on display in this showcase event, thus giving us seemingly-so-important fans an inferior game. I want my All-Stars to earn their privilege, not to be part of a quota system.

On the other hand, I'm also favor the proposed "lifetime achievement" designation. Some guys were born All-Stars. Even if Reggie was having a marginal year, I wanted to see Mr. October be Mr. July. It's sacrilegious that Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Pudge Fisk weren't exalted in Camden Yards last month. For what they've meant to the game, it's safe to say they indeed earned it.

Alas, with all the money changing hands and the marketing angle of fan involvement, it's unlikely that this process will change in the near term. But what's more appealing to you: Having the illusion of participating in a seriously flawed, pseudo-democratic process that produces incalculable inequities, or having the most talented, deserving, and thus entertaining players on the field? If it's the latter, let the players decide. If it's the former, I have another idea: Call it the Some-Star Game.

©1993 - 2007 Douglas T. Dinsmoor


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