The latest American League All-Star vote totals were released Monday, and you might be pleased (or not!) to find out that there are no longer eight Royals in the lead for starting positions -- now there are just seven. Miguel Cabrera passed Eric Hosmer at first base, piling up over four million votes in the last week. But if this voting holds up, it will be Cabrera, Mike Trout and seven Royals as the starting A.L. All-Star team.
Last week, in a well-publicized move, MLB cancelled more than 60 million votes because of a "multi-step process of verification" (the words of MLB Advanced Media CEO Bob Bowman). This is the first year that all All-Star balloting has been online, and there appear to have been some abuses (though MLB says they've been doing this for more than just this year).
You know what? It's just fine with me if Royals fans, or anyone else, want to play around with the voting procedure. Let 'em vote 10 billion times if they want -- as long as the game itself is treated as the exhibition it should be, rather than THIS TIME IT COUNTS.
"THIS TIME IT COUNTS" was an extreme overreaction to the 2002 tie game at Miller Park, and that gives me a chance to once again post one of my favorite photos of former Commissioner Bud Selig:
Photo: Getty Images
That was supposed to be designed to avoid tie All-Star games, but in reality, the way MLB has avoided tie games is the huge expansion of All-Star rosters. Last year, the National League had 19 pitchers on its roster and the American League 14, far more than enough to cover most contingencies. Granted that some of those pitchers couldn't go due to injury, having pitched the previous Sunday, or having been traded to the other league after selection (Jeff Samardzija).
Selig also famously said, in July 2007, that one of the primary reasons for "THIS TIME IT COUNTS" was hotel rooms:
We can't wait until September 30th or October 1st to determine where the World Series is going to be played. You have thousands of hotel rooms to book and a lot of other things and right now we take a chance. But at least you know it's going to be in a league and our people can work on that.
Funny thing: the NHL and NBA, both of whom also have similar seven-game championship series, manage to get the hotel-room thing right even though they often don't know exactly what their finals dates will be until a few days before. MLB schedules the World Series a year or more in advance -- we already know what this year's dates will be (October 27-28, then a travel day, then October 30-31-November 1, then a travel day, then November 3-4).
Read that Selig quote again. Essentially, he's saying they're doing "THIS TIME IT COUNTS" because it cuts down the number of possible host cities in half. How hard could it be to start booking hotel rooms as soon as a team clinches a playoff spot, then cancel the ones you don't need?
Although home field in baseball might not mean as much as it does in hockey or basketball, home-field advantage in the postseason is granted to baseball teams in every playoff round except the World Series. Guess those kinds of hotel rooms are easier to book, I suppose. Further, having a possible seventh World Series game at home is a nice reward for the team with the better record over the regular season.
I went to the All-Star Game and related festivities in Kansas City in 2012, the seventh ASG I'd attended in person, and I mention that one only because it's the most recent. Baseball has created several events that are fun and enjoyable: the Futures Game is terrific, the Home Run Derby is silly but fun, and I even found myself having a good time at the celebrity softball game. The ASG itself that year was one-sided and dull and essentially over after the N.L.'s five-run first inning. Obviously, that's not going to be the case every year, but I'd much rather the players just had fun with it and not have a World Series home field potentially decided by a player who isn't even going to sniff the postseason (as it was in 2010, when Marlon Byrd's great throw helped win the game for the N.L.).
In the past, there was much more league loyalty and passion than there is now. Players back in the early days of the All-Star Game really did want to win for their league. Now, with year-round interleague play and free agency, the lines between the leagues have been blurred. Oh, sure, players pay lip service to wanting to win for their league, but in reality, I think they'd be just as happy to have a true exhibition game. The game's played essentially like a split-squad spring training game, so why not have it just be fun like that?
I hope the new commissioner is open to changes like this. Rob Manfred says he is. Quote from Manfred:
"We'll see how it all turns out. ... We are responsive and open to change if we get a result that is not consistent with the goals of the system that is in place."
Let the voters have fun with the balloting -- that increases interest in the game, right? -- and let the game just be for fun, part of a midsummer festival of baseball, and let the team that shows it's better over a full season get the extra Fall Classic home game.