- Tuesday, July 6, 2010 10:59 AM
- Written By: Andrew Simon
The All-Star Game selection process is broken.
This has been true for a while, but if there was any doubt about it, that was put to rest with NL Manager Charlie Manuel's mind-boggling selection of Braves backup infielder Omar Infante while the Reds' Joey Votto -- arguably the best hitter in the NL this season -- is left to try to make the roster through the fans' vote for the final spot.
The issue at the heart of the ASG's problem is that MLB has no idea what it is even trying to do. The selection process is like a movie that attempts to be an action-packed romantic comedy for the whole family and winds up being not particularly action-packed, funny or romantic and just disappoints Mom, Dad and the kids. You can't try to have it all ways. In the case of the ASG, it can't be an exhibition for the fans, a meaningful game with playoff implications and a reward/showcase for the game's best players at the same time.
When you aim for all of those things, you just wind up with a jumbled mess.
MLB needs to pick one course of action and stick with it. Either ...
-- the game belongs to the fans, in which case just give them total control of the rosters. If it's their game, why limit them to picking eight or nine players per squad? Of course, this will lead to some bad snubs, but at least there will be no confusion about why certain players were selected. The whole thing will be a transparent popularity contest.
-- the game is a reward to the guys having the best seasons, in which case, take the power out of the hands of the fans, players and managers, none of whom have shown any ability to get this right. The fans vote on popularity, track record and based on team affiliation. The managers are caught in the unenviable position of having to decide whether their own players should make the team and cannot be unbiased (some of them with names rhyming with 'Marlee Granule' might also be making selections with the assistance of a bottle of moonshine). The players, being inside the game, have a lot of factors to consider beyond objective analysis. If you want to reward the guys having the best seasons, then get it right. Form some sort of panel of experts -- hopefully including plenty of sabermetric types -- and have them select the team based on a set of clearly defined criteria. This will make things much less fun but a lot more fair.
-- the game should be as close to a real game as possible, considering it decides home field advantage in the World Series. In that case, use the same sort of objective analysis as in Option No. 2 to pick a roster not of the players having the best seasons but one that will give the league the best chance to win. This would have to balance how a guy is playing recently with his true talent level while doing away with the rule requiring at least one player from each team. There would probably have to be a bit more emphasis placed on positional versatility and specialists such as left-handed relief pitchers. Personally, I don't care for the idea of the All-Star game "counting," but if it's going to "count," at least make it fair to the teams who eventually will be involved in the World Series by making the team representing them in the ASG as likely to win as possible.
I'd prefer any of these options to what we have now, which is a system with so many moving parts and conflicting motivations that nobody knows what defines an "All-Star" (If Omar Infante is an All-Star and Joey Votto isn't, that's one screwed up definition) or what the purpose of the game is other than being anti-climactic and providing a thrilling opportunity to watch Jose Bautista pinch-hit against Evan Meek in the seventh inning of a 90-percent exhibition game.
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