I hope the San Francisco Giants are proud of their collective efforts to stuff the ballot box. Pablo Sandoval has been named the National League's starting third-baseman for the upcoming all-star game, over the Mets' David Wright. This, despite the fact that Wright has nine homers, 50 RBIs and a .355 average, compared with Sandoval's 6-25-.307. Not even close. Yes, I know it's nothing more than a ballot-stuffing popularity contest. But it shouldn't be. The fans who love baseball will watch the all-star game, whether they cast any votes or not. I should know. I was one of those fans as a kid, when the fans had no such vote. Guys like David Wright should be rewarded with their first-half achievements by being in the game's starting lineup.
At least Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford (with all due respect) failed to beat out Joey Votto and Rafael Furcal, respectively, at first and at short. I guess the Giants should have done more. Belt and Crawford only finished second, in contrast to Freddy Sanchez, who finished fourth in the voting at second, even though he hasn't played in a single major league game all season. Isn't that a clue, in itself, that something is wrong here?
When I was a kid, players, coaches and managers picked the starters. Nobody was a bigger fan of the game than I was, and I was fine with their selections, mainly because the selection process was fair and square, and it was hard to argue with the selections.
Prior to that, though, the fans actually did the voting, long before the internet. In fact, fans were given the vote as far back as 1947, but lost it after seven members of the Cincinnati Reds were voted to the starting lineup, leaving Stan Musial as the only non-Reds starter. The culprit, it turned out, was not the team itself, but rather the Cincinnati Enquirer, which printed pre-marked ballots and distributed them in their Sunday newspapers. The result was that over half the ballots cast in the National League came from Cincinnati. Major League Baseball immediately stripped the fans of the vote, beginning in 1958, and gave it to the players, coaches and managers. But in 1970, in a brilliant pandering...err, marketing ploy by MLB, the vote was returned to the fans. And this is the result: Instead of the players, coaches and managers picking the starters, the biggest contributors are those with enough free time on their hands to be able to submit hundreds and hundreds of ballots for their hometown heroes. In other words, people with no lives. I'm not being cruel here--those are the exact words of a caller to the Giants' flagship radio station, who admitted he voted over 800 times for Brandon Belt, because (and I'm paraphrasing here), "I live alone, have no life, and love the Giants." Wonderful! It's great when our beloved institutions appeal to the lowest common denominator.
Personally, I wish Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford had made it as starters, just to further illustrate the folly of this. Maybe then, MLB (and the Giants) would be embarrassed enough to think twice about what it has created. Then again, probably not.