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Is the Major League Baseball All Star Selection System Flawed?
MLB All Star Game 2014
Surprises on the final ballot
The final ballot for each league's all star team featured players that many were surprised to see not in the game already. The White Sox's Ace Chris Sale ended up winning the vote for the American League, and the Cubs first basemen Anthony Rizzo won the vote for the National League. In the American League, Chris Sale is one of the best pitchers in the league and fans were surprised that American League manager John Farrell had not already selected him for the all star game. In the National League, Justin Upton was on the final ballot, but with Anthony Rizzo ultimately winning the vote, a very deserving player was left off the all star team. This leads to the question of how did something like this happen? and is the all star selection system in baseball flawed? A closer look at the process will give a better idea of what changes can be made and what needs to remain the same.
An exhibition game for the fans
The middle of the week off from regularly scheduled games in Major League Baseball, to put on display the all star festivities, is done to bring in revenue by putting on a show for the fans. For this reason the all star balloting which puts significant weight on the fans votes, is the right way to select the all star teams. The fans chose not to vote Justin Upton into the all star game with his first opportunity on the ballot, and they passed over him again on the final ballot. While in the past, some fans have stacked the ballots to get their favorite team's players into the all star game, there is a certain balance in the vote that allows other fan bases to change the selection. Everyone who has a neutral stance on certain players, typically wants to see the most deserving players voted into the all star game. Seeing possible deserving players left out of the all star game makes fans unhappy when a certain fan base voted a bunch of times to get their favorite team's players into the game. This becomes a point of contention especially when certain players were voted in by an active fan base and their numbers fall well short of the standard that has been set for all star players in that given season. Ultimately the show is put on for the fans and every fan base has an equal chance to participate in the voting, so controversy can be avoided if every baseball fan is an active participant.
National League Manager chooses controversial players
The managers for each team are trying to assemble a team that gives them the best chance to win the game since the all star game decides home field for the World Series. National League manager this year, Mike Matheny selected five relievers for the all star game, which is a game that starters usually throw one to two innings each. This led to questions about why so many relievers would be selected to the all star game. Matheny's approach to the game has been that he wants to win and the logical answer to this question would be that relievers are more comfortable pitching in save situations. Pirates setup man Tony Watson was one noteworthy player that was considered to be controversial because he was on the team over Padres all star worthy closer Huston Street. Already having multiple closers on the team, led Matheny to choose a middle relief pitcher who is having a great year, to help get key left handed batters out in the later innings. One more starter could have been selected to the all star game with one less reliever, but Matheny decided to use his selections to give himself strong late inning relief pitching options in the game.
The other player that Mike Matheny chose and was controversial, was Pirates super utility player Josh Harrison. Harrison has made a number of starts for the Pirates in both right and left field this season, but he does not have the number of at bats that all the other all star players have this season. Matheny chose Harrison because he is a player having a great year and putting on display legitimate five tool ability. There is a strong argument that players like Casey McGehee, Justin Upton and final vote winner Anthony Rizzo should have been selected over Harrison, but none of these players have the ability to play every outfield position along with nearly every infield position. McGehee and Upton are both very deserving of all star bids this season, but without the fan vote, players vote or manager selection, neither of them are going to be participating in the all star game without an injury or declining of an all star bid before the game happens. While these players should have made the all star game, what is at stake with the outcome of the all star game, may have caused them to get excluded.
Unlike in some years past, the fan vote for the all star game put the most deserving players in the starting lineups. Controversy surrounding Derek Jeter's selection to the all star game would have more relevance if one American League shortstop had separated himself from the rest of the players at the position this season. As far as the managerial selections in the National League, with the game deciding home field for the World Series, the manager is going to pick the most deserving players that possess the versatility that he is comfortable with in the later innings. Until the all star game is once again truly just an exhibition game, some of the managerial selections will be somewhat controversial. Ultimately the fan vote worked out well this season, and the all star selection process has proved to be quite solid when all the fans are active participants.