The Smoky Room: All-Star Edition

With the annual exhibition game taking place tonight, it seemed like a good time to talk to some of our writers about their thoughts about the All-Star Game and all the ramifications that go along with that.  Dathan has already written about that here at The Conclave and Daniel’s opined in length about it in the past, but it still seemed like a great place for a discussion, especially given the Cardinals weren’t playing.

Daniel kicked it off with the following discussion starter:

I don’t know that I have a specific question, just a general discussion about the All-Star Game that’ll hopefully lend to things spinning out of the talk.  Do you watch the ASG?  Should the fans vote?  Should it count?  Should every team have a representative?  Pick a spot and dive in!

Josh: Open topic with many different ways to go! It is hard to know what it would be like if our favorite team was subjected to the representative rule. As a fan of baseball, I would rather have the best players in the game or make it strictly an exhibition again. It should be fun and instead the running joke is how many of the ‘starters’ will elect out of the game due to a number of reasons.

I like the option of having the fans vote for the last pick or even for a few reserves. Keep the starters in the hands of the players or even the managers, but fans who turn it into a popularity contest drive me batty. It takes away from the game when you have Big Mac hitting .220 and starting in the mid-summer classic.
Injuries happen in sports and will always play a part in the game, whether or not it counts. I typically watch at least a few innings of the game but never again will sit through the entire thing after TLR didn’t play Albert. That was also the same time I decided that maybe drinking while watching baseball wasn’t such a good idea…
As far as the whole experience goes, I still get a kick out of the Home Run Derby and watch the Futures Game, but I really want the next commissioner to fix the ASG one way or another. Baseball can not keep having it both ways.
Daniel: OK, let’s focus it this way.  I don’t think anyone would disagree that the idea of tying home field in the World Series to the winner of this is fairly ridiculous.  If I’m wrong, please speak up, but we’ll assume that as a baseline.

So what about fan voting?  Should the fans vote?  Does it matter that they “get it wrong”?  I’m passionately for the fans keeping the ability to pick the players.
Dathan: To quote my brother from earlier in the week, “One ticket, one game, one seat, one vote.”.  I wouldn’t be opposed to allowing the fan base to collective account for a percentage of the total vote.  Or letting the fans select X number of players to the roster might be another way to approach it.  I fully support allowing the fans to vote…for an exhibition game.

Obviously (or not, rather), this isn’t fully an exhibition game, and I think that’s at the root of the problem–the game has an identity crisis.

HR derby?  Crystal clear–that’s for fun.
Futures game?  Solid–displaying talent.
Fan fest?  Good to go–all about fun.
Celebrity softball?  Fun, fun, fun.
All-Star Game?  <deadpan>
What if there were two?  One in the middle of the summer, that was a serious game (though, I’m not sure if HFA in the WS is a legit “prize” for winning), and one at the end of the season that was more of an exhibition?  It’d bring more money in, and as long as it were, say, within’ a week or so of the end of the WS, it wouldn’t interrupt the players’ vacations, or interfere w spring training, WBC…etc.  Obviously, this would put some serious limits on places it could be played (warm, southern? areas and/or stadiums w roofs–I know, let’s have the first one at Miller Park!).  One positive to that could be that it exposes “non-baseball cities” (New Orleans, for example) to some baseball, when they otherwise wouldn’t be.  That could nudge the needle a bit, and put some feelers out there as to possible sites for the expansion of two more teams, which baseball may eventually consider.  That, of course, starts to get into 4 four-team divisions per league…etc, and all sorts of other talk that expands way outside the scope of the ASG topic, which is for another time.
Josh: I have no problem with the vote if the game returns to what it was always intended to be — a showcase for the fans. Vote for who you want to see and that also takes care of the ‘getting it wrong’ angle. There is something almost magical to me about being able to fill out a ballot at the ballpark, and that is something that should never go away.
Dathan: Totally agree.  I don’t vote online, and I don’t vote until June.  There IS something special about punching chads on those paper ballots at the ballpark.
Daniel: Maybe so and I do remember doing that once as a child, but being part of the large portion of folks that don’t often make it to the promised land, I’m quite happy that there is an online option now.  Punching the ballots might be preferable, but clicking works just as well.

I don’t worry too much people being able to vote X amount of times, because if it’s even, I don’t think one fan base overwhelms the voting.  Look at this year, the starters are pretty reasonable and spread out.  There’s no stuffing of the ballot box–or, more accurately, there’s no EFFECTIVE stuffing of the batter’s box.
Not to end that discussion at all, but let’s open another front: every team has a representative.  I say that’s a good thing.  Am I alone?
Josh: Luckily this year the Marlins and Astros proved that even the ‘bad’ teams can have players step up and earn the spot. My only problem with every team being represented is if it keeps a players off the roster than belongs. Much like Mujica this year, he was almost penalized due to the Cards having five other deserving players. It is almost a moot point, however, since there are widespread changes now.
Dathan: Didn’t mean to imply that voting online or in April was less than a vote cast on paper at the ballpark-it’s just a personal thing for me.

As for each team having at least one player goes, I’m ok with it. I think doing so involves fans that might otherwise have little or no interest. That said, I think it’s another example of how conflicted the game & purpose of the game has become. A person could certainly argue that if you’re trying to win the game, you need to put the best players on the field, and that may result in some teams not being represented.
Daniel: Agree with that.  I think most everything that we talk about should be sitting on the bedrock of the game is a fun, fan-friendly exhibition with no “stakes”, especially since those stakes aren’t taken seriously anyway.  If you really wanted to win the home field advantage, would your best players just get 1-2 AB and your starter leave after the second–and that’s if he’s stretched out?
Steve: To be honest I’m largely indifferent about most everything that has to do with the All Star game anymore.  I’m not sure when that transition happened exactly but I seem to find myself caring less and less with each passing year.  That said, to answer one of the questions posed earlier, I think leaving the selection of the starters in the hands of the fans is just fine.  I’d wager if you look back at the short history of the players selecting participants you’d find just as spotty of a resume as the fans have and clearly the manager isn’t always going to get it right either (see Chris Tillman being selected by Jim Leyland because of his shiny 11 wins – despite and ERA ~4 and a FIP ~5).
Mike M: Lots of good points in this discussion. I probably won’t say much that hasn’t already been said.

The fact that the ASG decides home field for the WS is ridiculous. Baseball is the only major US sport that decides playoff seeding based on the results of an exhibition game. They might as well use Spring Training results; at least there’s a larger sample size, and we could see the starters for more than 4 innings.
World Series home field advantage should go to the team with the best record, and wild cards should never host a best of seven.
If Selig insists on keeping the current system in place then the every team represented rule should go out the window. If I’m fighting for a playoff birth I want the best 30 players in the NL at the ASG to help me secure home field. Sometimes bad teams have a guy who deserves to go (see Everth Cabrera). I would not want to be in the position of having to rely on a guy who made it because his team had to have someone in a key situation with the game on the line.
For fan voting – keep it. I like to vote. I haven’t punched chads in a long time but I do vote online. Yes we run the risk of one team stuffing the ballot box, but so what.
Daniel: Steve brings up something I’ve been thinking of as well.  Some “experts” will say that the fans mess up the starters for the All-Star Game.  Yet who else is going to do it?  Managers and players?  Their selections have been just as questionable at times.  Writers?  Don’t we spend every winter arguing about their choices for MVP or Cy Young?  Front office folks?  The ones that would have a significant incentive NOT to select the guy with the huge All-Star bonus in his contract?

Again, if you were going to make it really “count”, maybe you’d select the top two players at each position in WAR for a starting spot, but being that baseball needs as many reasons as possible for people to watch, fan voting seems like the easiest way to have that happen.
Josh: I just shake my head at the “experts” who know best when just about everyone has access to the same information now.

Of course being an unbiased fan takes work but is possible, you just have to want the best team. All-Star managers need a say but so do the players in my opinion. What about taking the average of the three views (fans, players, coaches) and keeping it open for all to see?

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