There is no more trivial event on the baseball calendar that manages to draw more ire than the All-Star game. The Midsummer Classic remains the only watchable exhibition among the four major North American sports, yet baseball fans manage to find fault in it every year.
The fan vote grows and becomes a referendum on not only the validity of their team but the entire worldview. Unworthy players are selected and sent to represent their teams, leaving great players or the authors of some great baseball at home in the cold.
Of course, that is rarely the case. Especially now when the “honor” of partaking in an overlong commercial enterprise has lost a little lustre as more and more players forgo their chance for recognition in exchange for a few days of rest and relaxation.
Being voted into the game comes with a little extra cache among fans, as though an oversight in the voting process cannot be corrected when the manager makes his selection.
The voting process is flawed, if getting the nine best players from the first half of the season onto the field in Minnesota is your goal. But it’s also a reflection of the regional nature of the game, as fans loyally support their local guys without paying much mind to teams in the other division.
The teams with the most fans cast their sizeable support behind the local options. Then it’s up to the manager to shine a light into the dark corners of the game and come up with hidden gems. The fans vote for stars - it’s the All-Star game, after all.
If David Ortiz receives more votes than Edwin Encarnacion, is that travesty of justice? No. David Ortiz plays for one the game’s glamor franchises, a team that also happens to be the defending World Series champions. He’s very famous, and an iconic figure in the game over the past decade. People will vote for him no matter how many home runs EE belts this month.
Those home runs will land Encarnacion in Minnesota this July, let there be no doubt. There is no chance he doesn’t end up on the AL roster. He’s an All Star and will be recognized as such.
All that said, the voters look like they’re doing a pretty good job in the AL. Josh Donaldson leads all third baseman in votes and Mike Trout, the faceless lump of calculated baseball excellence, leads all American League players in votes. More than Miguel Cabrera and more than Derek Jeter.
Let the All-Star game be what it is - part lifetime achievement award, part tip of the cap for a job well done. If anything, ASG voting is a small sample size litmus test, a “yeah but can you do it for a full season” trial writ large. It’s nice that a guy like Jean Segura was recognized for his great first last year but, uh Jean Segura, All Star? That isn’t exactly a deal that moves the needle.
Don’t like it? Get out and vote. Just like in the real world, there’s the illusion of participation in your hands! Make your tiny voice heard. If Giancarlo Stanton doesn’t start for the National League we riot!
Feature photo courtesy of THE STAR-LEDGER/William Perlman