Mariners’ Ty France victim of flawed All-Star voting system — how to fix it
Just days after Mariners rookie Julio Rodríguez was selected to the All-Star Game – which should be a joyous occasion in Seattle, hyping up and celebrating the accomplishments of a transcendent 21-year-old – the focus is instead on the glaring omission of Ty France.
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Yes, France will likely make it to the midsummer classic as some players drop out and injuries keep others away (though he wasn’t among the first announced replacements Tuesday), but that doesn’t adequately honor the accomplishments of someone who deserves to be recognized with the original crop of players who were chosen.
There is no need to dive into all the numbers that show why France should be an All-Star for the American League at first base – you have seen or heard them by now. Plus, the voting process showed that numbers don’t matter because those who have been empowered to make the selections aren’t taking the time to do their due diligence on who deserves to be there.
In case you aren’t familiar with the All-Star voting process, here is how MLB has designed it:
• Fans vote to elect the starting position players in a two-pronged event. After a certain amount of time, two finalists are announced at each position, and the voting begins again with the smaller field as the fans select the starters for each spot.
And as we learned with France, finishing as a runner-up for a starting spot does not mean you automatically make the team. Now, why is that?
• The All-Star reserves are selected in an entirely different manner. A player vote (with a fresh ballot of any player available) determines the reserves at each position. Then it’s up to the commissioner’s office to make sure each team has at least one representative in the game (which is how Rodríguez was selected).
It’s likely that most players had no idea that Ty France was even a finalist at first base. Mariners analyst and former MLB pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith was a guest host Monday on Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob, and he told us multiple times throughout the first hour about how little players know about guys on teams around the game, especially ones who aren’t in the same league.
I would be more surprised if these players did know a lot about who is having a good year at every position around baseball. They have real jobs to worry about, so let us who cover the sport for a living spend hours diving into the stats and numbers that quantify who is better than someone else.
With that in mind, here is a streamlined way to fix the voting process.
Keep the fan vote, eliminate “finalists”
There is certainly bias and favoritism at work when fans dictate who gets to play, but this is an event for the fans, as well, especially after MLB wisely eliminated putting home-field advantage in World Series on the line. A showcase of baseball’s biggest stars should include the people who pay money and invest their time and emotional well-being into watching these players every night.
The fans need to keep selecting the All-Star Game starters, but the process in how they select them is flawed.
The staggered voting to determine finalists at each position is a way to create drama, to try and spice up fan engagement. Well, if that’s going to be the case, then you can’t select one set of players (starters) one way and the other set (reserves) via a different set of criteria. The fan vote is important, so if you keep this current system then the runners up at each position need to automatically be placed on the team as reserves.
That isn’t an ideal way to do it, either; way too much power is given to the fans, but it makes no sense as currently structured. Ty France is voted as the second-best first baseman in the American League, yet he’s not in the All-Star Game as the backup first baseman in the American League.
So in order to remedy that, we come to the next step in this plan.
A committee selects the reserves
Take the All-Star Game vote away from the players and create a committee of writers and broadcasters to select the All-Star reserves. Would players be mad at not getting a say? I can’t imagine any would be upset about having less distractions away from the game to worry about. From my interactions with MLB players, the less they have to focus on extraneous things on a day-to-day basis outside of playing baseball, the happier they are. (But for any MLB player who is reading this article, please feel free to tweet at me if you disagree.)
Committees and sports go together perfectly. We have the NCAA Tournament selection committee, the College Football Playoff committee, the Baseball Hall of Fame selection committee, etc. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) already votes on the Hall of Fame, so why not form an amalgamation of those writers and some broadcasters who know the sport and follow it on a macro level to vote for the All-Star Game? Sure, there is a negative connotation about the inflated sense of self-importance and ego those writers have, but you can’t argue that they don’t take their job seriously.
A committee of members who thoroughly cover the sport on a daily basis, and have a wide breadth of knowledge about players all over the country, would be a significantly more equitable way than putting the vote in the hands of current players who are busy, might not pay attention to other teams, and may not even care to vote anyway.
Are we making too much fuss and needlessly wringing our hands over an exhibition? No, not at all. Being voted into an All-Star Game can define a career. It’s a recognition that only a small percentage in the sport ever get, and when you read about a player’s career, if they were an All-Star it is within the first few sentences of how they are remembered across generations.
MLB’s All-Star Game in particular holds unique weight compared to all other sports, too. For a regionalized game, it’s the one true showcase on a national stage. And in the desert of sports in July, on that night, the All-Star Game is the only show going on. It might not get the most viewers (the NFL could televise players sitting around on their phones and it would somehow outdraw every single other sporting event), but it does get the most attention compared to its sporting counterparts.
It is a career highlight, a dream come true for those who grew up playing the sport, and these players deserve a voting process that accurately reflects the significance of such an achievement.
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