The MLB All-Star Game continues to set itself apart from other sports by being the only All-Star game that counts for something: home field advantage in the World Series for the team whose league wins the game.
It’s too bad that fan voting completely undermines its entire purpose.
This year, the voting system has taken the concept of “snubs” to a whole new level. The backlash has transcended beyond the anger a fan base might feel because a hometown player they know deserves it was not recognized properly by fans around the league.
This time, everyone is angry because Cubs fans ruined it.
The entire Cubs infield, consisting of Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell, and Kris Bryant, in addition to outfielder Dexter Fowler, were all voted to start the All-Star game for the National League.
Now, the Cubs are the second-best team in baseball, with a record of 52-32, behind only the 54-33 San Francisco Giants. Logic would indicate that a team with that good a record would have a team so good that five out of their nine starters are some of the best in the league, right?
Let’s get this out of the way; Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant absolutely deserve it. There is little doubt in my mind that they are some of the best at their position right now.
But take a look at the others.
First off, Dexter Fowler is currently on the disabled list with a hamstring issue, and just recently began his rehab assignment. A player who has not played baseball since June 18 was deemed worthy by fans to take a spot away from someone more deserving.
In his defense, the voting began far before he was on the DL, and it’s not like votes become void for an injured player. But even so, his .290 average, seven home runs and 28 RBI don’t exactly jump off the page. Compare it to Carlos Gonzalez, who has a .319 average, 18 home runs and 51 RBI, and you might scratch your head wondering what happened. Even away from the hitting haven that is Denver, he has a .279 average and a .337 OBP, which isn’t sparkling, but it isn’t awful.
You can even make a stronger case for Marcel Ozuna of the Miami Marlins, who’s having a career year with a .310 batting average, 17 home runs and 47 RBI for a relatively worse team. Sure, both of those players are reserves and will more than likely see some action, but the implication is that neither of them are the best of the best, which is simply not the case.
Moving on to second base, the territory of both Ben Zobrist and Daniel Murphy, the two prime candidates for the starting spot. As a Mets fan, it pains me to say this, but Murphy is far and away the best hitter in the National League right now, batting a whopping .346 with 14 home runs and 56 RBIs for the first-place Washington Nationals. Zobrist isn’t terribly far behind, batting .291 with 13 home runs and 44 RBI.
Since people like to compare raw numbers when voting, it’s clear that Murphy’s stats are superior. The vote was a little closer here, as Murphy only lost by a count of 88. But the point still stands: Murphy deserved a starting spot, but was denied it at the hands of Cubs fans who stuffed the ballot box.
Perhaps the most egregious snub of them all is Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager. The 22-year-old sensation is batting .303 with 17 home runs and 41 RBI, solidifying his place as one of the best hitters in the National League right now.
Addison Russell is batting .242 with 11 home runs and 49 RBI.
Sure, he has more runs batted in, but it’s a fickle stat when you realize how many more opportunities he has on a significantly better team than Seager’s team. Not only that, but their defense is more or less on par with each other, though I would give the edge to Seager.
The bottom line is that it’s clear that Cubs fans voted in almost their entire starting nine because they know how good their team is. But that isn’t the point of the All-Star Game. It’s to honor the best PLAYERS and secure home field advantage, no matter how bad the team they play on is.
And it’s not just Cubs fans who are guilty of this.
The American League wasn’t as snub-ridden as the NL, but a similar issue arises in the sense that a single team (or two) seem to dominate the roster: the Red Sox and the Royals.
It’s certainly not as bad as the NL, but the Red Sox have three starters and the Royals have two. The races are much closer as well, and all of the players who could arguably start (Miguel Cabrera, Mark Trumbo) are reserves. A case could be made for Didi Gregorius (who isn’t an All-Star at all), batting .297 with nine home runs and 38 RBI.
Of course, it’s nothing stellar, but Gregorius got less votes than Kansas City Royal Alcides Escobar (who is not an All-Star either), who is batting .261 with one home run and 22 RBI.
In the end, the stats may be so close to each other that maybe it won’t make a difference, but the fact that fans of certain teams just pour in votes because they want to see their players is asinine at this point. In a game with so much on the line, a game where the result actually matters, decisions should not be left up to the fans.
If I had it my way, the players would vote on who they think should make the roster, and the manager for each league would devise their starting lineups from there.
But I’m not in charge. I’m just here to write hot takes.
In UConn related news, George Springer is currently in second place in the AL final vote, where fans vote to send one final player in a pool of five to fill the last roster spot. To vote for the former Husky, who is hitting .267 with 19 home runs and 51 RBIs for the Houston Astros, you can text A5 to 89269 or follow this link to cast a ballot online.
Ironically, I’m advocating for stuffing the ballot box for Springer votes, but if the system is broke, why not break it some more.