Of the four major sports in North America, there is no question that baseball has the best formula when it comes to their midseason All-Star game. In fact, only the MLB All-Star Game has some sort of significant meaning, as the winner secures home field advantage in the World Series.
But for everything done right in this game, there is in fact still one glaring problem, simply being the fact that fans vote on who gets in and who gets snubbed. Unlike the other three All-Star contests, the MLB All-Star Game is exciting to watch and the product is of quality. This is partially because there is actual effort from both sides to secure the win and not just a bunch of hotshots showing off their offensive abilities.
So why then, if the game has so much meaning, does MLB allow the fans to ultimately decide who starts, who makes the roster and who gets snubbed?
It is a valid point and shows really just the one area of improvement MLB can make to their Midsummer Classic.
Take for example this year’s race in the NL for the top three outfielders.
If placement in the game was based on performance only, your starters would be Carlos Gonzalez (top-five in 10 offensive categories among OF) Jay Bruce (top-five in six offensive categories among OF) and the third one to be determined as the stats are very close between Domonic Brown, Justin Upton, Carlos Beltran, Shin Soo Choo and Hunter Pence.
As of the last balloting update (July 2) however, the NL All-Star Game starters would be: Beltran (first), Gonzalez (second) and Upton (third) with Bryce Harper only about 15,000 votes out of a spot as he sits in fourth.
The top three are acceptable, but not perfect.
Gonzalez should be leading and Beltran should be borderline. He ranks top-five in just three categories, although they may be the most important to fan voters (HR, RBI, AVG). Upton, who ranks top-five in three categories as well, should be competing tightly for the third and final spot, but not with Harper.
Harper may have been deserving last year but for him to make the game over guys like Brown, who is second among OF in HR and RBI, or even Pence who is in the top-five of four categories, would be a travesty.
But again, Harper is a more polarizing name and one that fans know, so it makes sense that despite ranking 21st among OF in AVG, 32nd in RBI, 28th in R and having played nearly half of the games of Pence (seventh in voting) and Brown (15th in voting), that Harper would start over them.
Even worse though is the fact that Bruce, who is third in RBI, fourth in HR, second in hits and first in doubles, has earned only enough votes to be in 14th place, likely making his only shot of getting in the game a manager’s decision. And with San Francisco Giants‘ Manager Bruce Bochy helming the NL squad, that spot could likely go to Bochy’s own player, Pence.
The All-Star Game is always going to have some snubs. It is just the nature of the sport. But MLB could make things significantly better if they just left the choice out of fans’ hands.