The American League All-Star Game starting lineup looks to be a travesty, thanks to online voting. Everybody knows this, but no one can do anything about it. It’s a flat-out embarrassment that eight Kansas City Royals may be in the lineup when the game begins.
This is not the first time that fan voting has produced ridiculous results for the All-Star Game, but it’s certainly the most egregious. On the one hand, it’s no big deal—it’s still just an exhibition game, despite the recent desperate attempt to make it relevant by giving the winning league the home-field advantage in the World Series.
The All-Star Game used to mean a once-in-a-lifetime chance for fans to see the stars of the other league in person. In 1971 at Tiger Stadium, Detroit fans got a rare glimpse of legends like Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Willie Mays, and Willie Stargell in action.
In 2005 at Comerica Park, thanks to interleague play, the game was not nearly such an astounding experience—because by then there were other days during the season when you could see National League players in your hometown. The All-Star game is much less of a big deal now. But it’s still an important showcase—and it should feature the true stars of each league.
Fans have had the vote for a long time, and their selections have naturally always been imperfect. You can’t blame fans for being homers and voting for members of their own team. Not everyone who roots for the home team is a true student of baseball, and certainly very few fans can rise above prejudice and be a fair judge of the truly worthy.
Throughout recent decades, there have been various attempts to mitigate the impact of fan prejudices while still preserving their electoral franchise. And often the fans do a credible job. Even this year, for instance, in the National League voting, fans appear to be making reasonable selections for the most part. So the current process can work.
And who would seek to deny the enthusiasm of fans of a franchise like Kansas City, where supporters thirsty after their team’s long drought want to show their appreciation for their players’ success? But it is also very clear that, with almost anything that happens online, it’s easy to game the system and vote more than the allotted thirty-five times—a truly arbitrary and nonsensical number anyway. And clearly Royals fans have come up with a way to stuff the virtual ballot box.
How could you fix this? I liked the old system of ballots being available only at games. Fans who buy tickets have a measure of more serious involvement in their team and deserve to have the money they paid for their seats mean something. On the other hand, restricting voting, say, only to Internet kiosks at the ballpark and limiting it somehow to once per fan (or thirty-five, if you insist!) would exclude seniors and others who, for health or monetary reasons, don’t have the privilege of going to the ball park, though some such fans are among the most loyal and informed of all.
I don’t have a solution that is not draconian, and I’m not sure a solution is needed—but it sure is going to be laughable if the midsummer classic is a game between the National League’s best players and the Kansas City Royals featuring a guest appearance by Mike Trout. But that’s what it looks like will happen absent an intervention of some sort.
We’ll have to live with it. But here is how I’d make the AL All-Star lineup if I were solely in charge—always a fun pastime this time of year.
- Jason Kipnis, Indians, 2B. My leadoff man is clearly the best second baseman this season.
- Mike Trout, Angels, CF. The most exciting star in the game and the best all-around player.
- Miguel Cabrera, Tigers, 1B. Not even close; the game’s best hitter.
- Prince Fielder, Rangers, DH. Cheating a little here because he’s listed on the ballot as a first baseman. But Prince is having a great comeback year. Stephen Vogt of the As would fit here too—and he should be on the team for sure as a backup.
- Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays, 3B. Again, this shouldn’t even be close. Clearly the best at his position.
- Jose Bautista, Blue Jays, RF. The league’s most potent and consistent power threat throughout this decade.
- Alex Gordon, Royals, LF. Offense, defense, great arm; he’s deserving—though Nelson Cruz would provide more power (but at the cost of terrible defense).
- Russell Martin, Blue Jays, C. The league’s best catcher by a close call over the Royals’ Salvador Perez.
- Jose Iglesias, Tigers, SS. You can call me a homer for this pick, but I think he’s a wizard and the league’s best defensive shortstop, and he’s also no easy out at the plate. Who’s better?
- My starting pitcher would be Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays, though Dallas Keuchel of the Astros, Sonny Gray of Oakland, Chicago’s Chris Sale, and David Price should take the mound too—and the Yankees’ Dellin Betances should be the closer.