Let’s make one thing clear. The MLB All-star game is still the best contest among the four major professional leagues.
The NHL and NFL all-star games are exhibitions at best and the NBA game features 145-140 shoot-outs with little to no defense and players attempting to showcase their dunking skills.
Having said all of that, the MLB game isn’t perfect.
The imperfections are more about the selection process of the players rather than the game itself.
Tuesday night’s battle will probably be entertaining, low-scoring and tightly contested.
It just might not have all of the real All-stars.
The idea that the fans and players vote is commendable.
Unfortunately, there are still problems with the system.
Speaking of the fans, how many of them keep track of MLB statistics?
In other words, what kinds of fans are giving their opinion on who should make the team?
The casual baseball follower probably knows the major stars in the game like Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds.
But what about the next level of fans? Where are the fans that fill out their ballots intelligently based on All-star caliber statistics?
The common view is that the majority of MLB followers look for the most familiar names on the ballot and select them.
That opinion seems to be losing its relevancy over the past years as more and more fans have become knowledgeable of players across the league.
A case can also be made for ballot stuffing via the Internet and across the world (Japan among other places).
New York’s Hideki Matsui (.307 average, 64 RBIs) made the AL All-star squad. There aren’t too many people who would question that selection.
However, the fact that he is starting over someone like Toronto’s Vernon Wells (.298 avg, 21 homers and 80 RBIs) can directly be attributed to the fans and stuffed ballots. Fans vote for the All-star game starters.
The next issue is the fact that MLB players get to vote for the All-star reserves.
The problem with this is voter turnout.
Approximately 50 percent of MLB players voted this season.
Why such a low number?
According to several managers, MLB officials didn’t allow them enough time to make selections.
According to Joe Torre of the Yankees, MLB officials told him that his players had “an hour” to fill out the ballot.
An hour doesn’t seem like enough time to make educated decisions. Although in the ESPN era, many players do keep track of other guys and how they are doing.
So a potential player might know that Hank Blalock is in the top five in the AL in batting average.
In any case, the idea of letting MLB players vote failed this season.
Another flaw with the selection process seems to be this notion that every team needs a representative.
An All-star game should be filled with the best of the best.
If a guy is deserving, he should go.
If Detroit and San Diego, two of the worst teams in the league this season, don’t have players with top-notch statistics they shouldn’t have a representative.
It’s that simple.
What happens with this rule is that a more-deserving player will be cast aside for someone with lesser stats. The idea is that the best possible player on a bad team earns the right to play in the game.
Unfortunately, this year fans won’t get to see the best player on Tampa Bay, the Mets and Pittsburgh.
Instead, we get to watch three relief pitchers with an average ERA of 4.63 and a combined 17 blown saves.
If anyone thinks that Tampa Bay’s All-star representative should be Lance Carter and not Rocco Baldelli then that person hasn’t watched enough baseball.