There are two camps that argue about the selection process of the all-star game. It is the great debate taking place every July and no one is ever happy.
One camp derides the game because fans are too dumb, dishonest, or knowledgeable to select deserving players. That of course is a subjective opinion. It is said by those who see themselves as smart, honest, and knowledgeable, believing they know who should be on the team. But then don’t we all? I know I do and I am, of course, always right.
But I am not of that camp. I understand that players who are having outstanding seasons deserve to go and I believe that baseball fans should be honest in their selections. I did not vote for any Mariner players, nor should anyone. Bear in mind fans do not select pitchers, otherwise I would have voted for King Felix.
I do not see that the all-star game should be decided solely on merit. It is a game for the fans. Does that make it a personality contest? Yes, but so what? Yasiel Puig won’t make the National League team because he made his debut June 3rd and does not have enough playing time-so the one camp says-to MERIT being on the roster. But this Cuban defector has carried the Dodgers on his back and excited the baseball world by hitting .436 in 26 games with 7 home runs and 16 batted in, stole 4 of 5 bases, and played the outfield with reckless abandon. He is must see TV. The way he plays the game, the way he excites the crowd, I have no problem in wanting to see him play in the all-star game.
In truth this debate is not new. The selection process has gone back and forth, the fans part of the process, then ignored, brought back, chastised (correctly in 1957), and here we are again today. I doubt the fans will be shut out of the process again, not in the social media world.
Arch Ward, sports editor of the Chicago Tribune, was the driving force for the first all-star game played in 1933. The owners were reluctant, but Arch was a persuasive fellow. He came up with the idea to bring more attention to Chicago’s Century of Progresso Exhibition. And for the first two years the fans, along with the manager got to select the rosters. It was a game for the fans after all and if it is a game for the fans, should they not have a say in who they want to watch?
And so it was for two years, then the manager of both teams selected the rosters. I doubt most of the fans cared. It remained that way until 1947 when the fans got involved again in the selection process, this time selecting the starting lineups. Fans being fans, it is surprising that not until 1957 did this backfire. In that year the Cincinnati fans stuffed the ballot box, selecting seven Reds. Commissioner Ford Frick made his power known by removing Reds outfielders Wally Post and Gus Bell and adding Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. That is a no brainer.
Once again the fans were relegated to the sidelines and managers, coaches, players, and a spirit in the sky selected the teams. In 1970 the fans once again selected the starting lineups. There have been tweaks and probably more to come. Today you can vote 25 times online, and if a registered subscriber to MLB.com you can vote 35 times. Now you can truly stuff the ballot box.
The game has gone from an exhibition to a three day marketing of baseball with a home run (yawn) derby, a celebrity (one’s barely celebrated) softball (yawn) game, and a Future’s Game made up of top prospects. Oh and the game itself. But nobody is happy, never will be. The game is not a real game, not when most players get two at bats. I do not subscribe to the notion that everyone, if possible, should get into the game. I would rather see a game of twenty or so players on each side play, then see a box score littered with over 30 names a side. But I do want to see Yasiel Puig.