Of the many misguided changes made by Major League Baseball since the leagues expanded beyond the original 16 teams in 1969, none is more questionable than the idea to have fans select the players for the all-star teams, voting as many times as they like. Really? A wag might say, no wonder our democracy is in trouble, but let’s not say that, let’s just say, how can you expect true merit to be measured by a popularity contest where the big market teams have the clear advantage of more fans and therefore more voters? Plus, the mind-numbing exhortations by management to get out and vote for your local heroes is the most desperate and dumbed-down PR. People who watch baseball on TV must endure this nonsense every year about this time, leading up to the mid-season “classic.” It’s a joke.

Which is why I lost interest in the all-star game years ago. The sports pages and web sites breathlessly track the voting week by week now as a paean to the millions of fans suffering from attention deficit disorder, the same affliction that causes them to do “the wave” at the stadium when the game is on the line, oblivious to complexities underlying each pitch and situation on the field.

It stands to reason that the players themselves should be the ones determining who’s the best at each position (and maybe not being allowed to vote for themselves or teammates). Managers, too, might have a vote, as they once did. Or even the sportswriters who cover the teams (and vote for the Hall of Fame). But the fans? The people in each city who eagerly answer their cheerleading stadium PA announcer when asked to root, root, root for the home team? The wisemen who run the game must know how silly this is, but they don’t care. It’s all about fan-involvement by any and all means necessary, which now includes league-sanctioned betting on games online after all.

I’m not following this season’s teams and players closely enough to have an opinion about the starting lineups, but I do remember one year back in the early ’80s when Buddy Bell was playing 3B for the Texas Rangers at such a high level both offensively and defensively that he clearly deserved to be starting for the American League all-star squad. But no, I forget who — probably George Brett — got more votes because he was already familiar to lots of folks who had never heard of Arlington, Texas, where the Rangers played their games. USA Today however polled the players in each league that year to come up with a players’ all-star team, and Buddy Bell was selected by his peers as the AL third baseman. As a Rangers fan I took solace in knowing that the guys wearing fifteen different uniforms who saw every third basemen in the league under game conditions, had picked Buddy Bell. It meant something. I wish I could say the same for the current all star selections.

About Sean Mitchell

SEAN MITCHELL is a journalist, critic and former staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Herald Examiner and Dallas Times Herald. His articles and reviews have also appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine, and other publications. Born in Bethlehem, Pa., he grew up in Dallas and is a graduate of St. Mark’s School of Texas and Brown University. He lives in Dallas.
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