Before we talk about the current All-Star voting structure, here's a bit of history. The All-Star Game began with fans helping choose the teams for the first two games in 1933 and 1934; from 1935 through 1946, managers selected the All-Star rosters.
In 1947, fans began voting via local newspapers. This continued through 1957... after which the fan voting was taken away, because fans in Cincinnati stuffed the ballot boxes and elected seven starting players. (The Reds were good, but not that good.) Commissioner Ford Frick substituted Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, and fan voting ended until 1970, when the current system was devised.
The current system, which includes old-fashioned punch cards at the ballpark and online voting, has outlived its usefulness, in my opinion. Teams have to submit lists of starting players soon after Opening Day, which means that often, players who aren't playing every day are listed as a voting possibility. Fans seem to vote for popular players they've heard of, instead of players genuinely having good seasons.
And then there's the push by individual teams to vote for all their players. You likely saw the "VOTE BREWERS" written in white behind the plate at Miller Park during the Cubs' recent series there. The Cubs are pushing their own players, too:
Two-time All-Star Starlin Castro heads the list of Cubs players on this year's All-Star Game ballot, which was released Friday. Castro, who was selected to the National League team in 2011 and '12, is joined on the ballot by second baseman Darwin Barney, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and third baseman Luis Valbuena. Cubs catcher Welington Castillo also is on the All-Star ballot with outfielders Ryan Sweeney, Nate Schierholtz and Justin Ruggiano. Cubs fans may want to write in names, such as Mike Olt, who has emerged as a mainstay at third base. Manager Rick Renteria has used a variety of players in his lineup, including Junior Lake and Emilio Bonifacio, who ranks among the National League leaders in batting average and on-base percentage.
Well... no. Just, no. There's no Cub, in my view, who rates election to the starting lineup, not even Castro or Rizzo, who are off to good starts. And write in Olt? Uh... as you know, I like Olt and hope he gets more playing time, but he's not anywhere close to being an All-Star. The Cubs will, of course, have a representative, since every team must have one. At this writing, it appears that will likely be one of the Cubs' starting pitchers, three of whom are off to good starts: Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood and Jason Hammel.
I'd like to see the best players represent their leagues in the starting lineup for the All-Star Game, and I think the people who know that best would be their fellow players, as well as coaches and managers. The fan voting gets fans interested, to be sure, but often the results aren't desirable, especially since "This Time It Counts."
That's a subject for an entirely different article, but the All-Star Game sometimes doesn't show off the best players in each league because fans have voted for someone popular instead of good.
What say you? Vote in the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments.