Tag Archive: baseball


Just call the game, Blue!


Lately there has been a lot of talk around Major League Baseball about umpires. Last year a few key blown calls during the postseason had fans up in arms, and last month Jim Joyce made headlines after his blown call cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game. There have been plenty of other bad calls lately that have brought umpires into the spotlight, but that’s not the spotlight I’m here to talk about.

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The issue of tradition versus modernization has always been a hotly debated one in the world of sports. Purists believe that departing from time-honored traditions will be the downfall of the game, while progressives feel the same about stubbornly refusing to change with the times. Everybody–the professional commentator, the casual fan, and my friend Nick, who inspired this post–has their own opinion on the matter. Personally, I’m somewhere in between. I can see the value of sticking to tradition and of changing with the times, but neither of those should be the sole reason for doing anything. Sticking to an obsolete, outdated tradition just because “That’s the way we’ve always done it” isn’t beneficial to anybody, and it can greatly hinder the natural evolution of a sport. But at the same time, doing away with perfectly valid traditions just for the sake of being modern can be just as harmful.

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One thing you’ll find out about me very quickly is that I love baseball.  I’m cool with football, I can deal with basketball, and soccer is tolerable in small doses (as long as the fans aren’t blowing those ridiculous horns), but what I really love is baseball.  And if you follow baseball, you know that the MLB All-Star Game is coming up in a few weeks.  This is the game where the best of the best in professional baseball get together for one game.  Being labeled an All-Star is a huge achievement in a player’s career.  It’s the baseball equivalent of the Honor Society, or the Dean’s List, or one of those other ridiculous things that the smart kids get to put on their resumes so they can gloat about how much better they are than the stupid kids.  It’s kind of a big deal.

So the starting players (with the exception of pitchers) are selected entirely by vote from fans.  Think about that for a minute.  100% fan vote.  Am I the only one that sees something wrong with this picture?  It’s kinda like when you were in middle school, getting ready to vote for class president, or prom queen, or some other stupid thing I never got picked for.  Who did everybody vote for?  Was it the guy that had the well thought-out campaign speech about all the reasons he was the best man for the job, and all the things he planned on doing for the school if elected president?  No, it was the girl who was popular because her boobs developed early, or the guy who everybody thought was cool because he played the guitar and handed out candy to the audience after his speech.

Bottom line, it’s a popularity contest, nothing more.  Players on teams like the Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Phillies have a huge advantage in the All-Star race because they have a huge fan base.  They’re the popular kids in school.  That’s right–the Yankees are that girl whose boobs developed early.  The Red Sox are the guy that played guitar and gave out candy.  The Phillies… well, I’m out of metaphors, but you get the idea.

When the fans are doing 100% of the selection, things like statistics, performance, teamwork, sportsmanship, and all those other crazy things that make a baseball player great take a backseat to things like what team he plays for, or how popular he is.  Good example, take Braves’ second baseman Martin Prado.  He’s #1 in the National League in batting average (.336) and hits (103), and he’s #2 in runs scored (53).  He has been red-hot this year.  He’s played like an All-Star all season, no doubt about it.  The problem is, he’s almost a million and a half votes behind Phillies 2B Chase Utley, who trails Prado in just about every hitting-related stat.  It has nothing to do with the stats.  Utley’s a good second baseman, and I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve to be an All-Star, but with numbers like those, there’s no reason he should be that far ahead.

What I’m getting at is that 100% fan voting just doesn’t provide an accurate sampling of the best players in baseball.  There are plenty of great players who aren’t even contenders in the race because of significantly worse players who play for popular teams.  The label of “All-Star” is meant to indicate that the player is among the best of the best in the sport, not just the most popular with the fans.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing fans for voting for their favorite team’s players. Everybody does it, that’s is just the nature of being a fan.  Case in point: I’m a huge Braves fan, and I’d love to see Jason Heyward play in the All-Star game.  It’s his rookie season, he’s been considered the most exciting new prospect in baseball, everywhere you turn you see him described as a “phenom” (a word that I honestly had never heard before I started reading about Heyward), and he’s been a driving force in the Braves’ offense this season.  I think seeing him as an All-Star in his rookie year would be pretty darn cool, so I voted for him.  Like 300 times.  But in all honesty, there are outfielders in the National League who have played better than he has this season, who aren’t even close to the 1.7 million votes he’s received, which put him a close second place to Brewers’ Ryan Braun.  Reds’ outfielder Johnny Gomes is far ahead of Heyward in batting average, slugging percentage, and RBIs, but he plays for the Reds (and come on, let’s be honest–nobody likes the Reds), so nobody’s ever heard of him.  Because he, like Prado, is a relative unknown to the mainstream baseball world, he’s sitting at 547,000 votes, to Heyward’s 1.7 million, despite his stats.  I’m not saying Heyward isn’t All-Star material based on his playing ability–I honestly believe that he is.  But if Heyward wasn’t in the picture and, say, Matt Diaz posted the exact stats that Heyward has posted this year, would he have shot to the top of the race that fast?  Maybe I’m crazy, but I really don’t think so.

The point is, Jason Heyward was one of the most celebrated new prospects in baseball at the beginning of the season, and he has received a lot of national sports media attention.  That makes him popular.  I hate to say it, but Jason Heyward is going to start in the 2010 All-Star game not because of his numbers and performance, but because his boobs developed early.  Metaphorically speaking.

So 100% fan vote doesn’t seem to work, but taking fans completely out of it doesn’t seem right to me, either.  So my proposal is, maybe 50% of the vote could come from fans, and the other 50% come from managers and players, who aren’t as affected by the hype and idol worship, and should be able to come up with a more impartial idea of who deserves to be an All-Star.  Maybe throw in some other rules, like you can’t vote for yourself or any player on your team, and the percentages could be different… I’m just throwing an idea out there, because if you ask me, something’s got to change for this to really be fair to the players.

Anyway, that’s just my 2 cents, for what it’s worth.  Feel free to comment, I’d love to hear some other opinions on the matter.