When I first learned Bryan LaHair was DFA the one thing that came to mind was his All Star selection.
Two months of hot hitting put LaHair in the Midsummer Classic when it shouldn’t have. That’s not Bryan’s fault, but rather the result of a flawed voting system for the All-Star Game.
The voting by both players and fans has become so fuzzy it’s hard to tell anymore if the All Star Game is more about baseball All-Stars or baseball Pop-Stars.
By the time LaHair left Kansas City to rejoin the Cubs he was already relegated to a platoon role, eventually became a bench warmer and now he’s headed to the Japanese League. That’s not the story of a slumping All Star, but the tune of a player who can’t quite cut it in the big leagues.
When one of the game’s supposed ‘best’ players is out of the league in the same year he was selected an All Star, you know something is wrong with the voting system. Although, that’s a big assumption on my part that the All-Star Game remains a gathering place of the league’s very best players.
That may have been the case 20-25 years ago, but it isn’t any longer. For years now the All Star voting has been something of a crap-shoot, a confusing blur of opinions about what exactly makes a player an All Star.
Is it strictly performances based, is it a popularity contest, or is it both? Honestly most fans don’t seem to know, or worse, even care…and quite frankly the same can be said about many of the league’s players.
Players tend to cast their votes like fans do, punching the ballot for fellow teammate or friends. In fact, it was LaHair’s peers who chose him over arguably more deserving candidates. In the end, the players wanted to see LaHair and that’s who they selected.
That’s not such a big deal if the All-Star Game remained an exhibition contest as it was prior to Bud Selig’s approval to fix World Series home field advantage to the outcome of the game (and that alone might be the single most ridiculous thing going in baseball).
But it is an issue when a player’s feel-good story trumps his rapidly declining production. Both leagues, after all, are trying to win an important game. And just how important? Well, imagine how the World Series might have played out differently if Justin Verlander was pitching Game 1 at home instead of on the road at San Francisco.
Nonetheless, you would think the general lack of excitement around the All-Star Game would get baseball scrambling to chart a better course for its summer break; that team owners would be unwilling to dole out player bonuses based on popularity vs. performance and that the league could still find a better way to rake in the tons of revenue generated by the All-Star Game festivities.
The biggest issue is baseball doesn’t seem to know what the All-Star Game is, or what it should be–aside from just being a money-maker for the league.
If the All-Star Game is about showcasing who the fans want to see play, and who the players want to see play, then drop the connection to World Series home field advantage and concentrate on putting forth the best exhibition contest the game’s ever seen. Bryan LaHairs welcomed.
Otherwise, allow each team to submit a list of candidates the managers and coaching staffs can choose from to build a team that’s best suited to actually win a one-game showdown with potentially huge implications tied to the World Series. Sorry Bryan, feel-good stories are no longer welcomed.
It frustrates the heck out of me baseball continues to botch a fine opportunity to grow the game because of its flawed All-Star voting system and an unclear direction for the All-Star Game itself.
Baseball needs to determine whether the All-Star Game is an exhibition for the fans or a meaningful game with World Series implications. What it can’t be is both, but unfortunately that’s currently how it’s being played out.
Until the league decides what the All-Star Game truly is, there’s no clear purpose to the voting. And that will always leave the players and fans more confused than captivated.