If Chicago Cubs fans actually want to do what they can to help the Cubs win the team’s first World Series since 1906, they did not show it through All-Star voting. Well they got it half right at best, but they only did the easy part by voting in every player with a CHC next to his name.
Geovany Soto received 3,096,135 fan votes to be named the National League’s starter at catcher over deserving players like Brian McCann, Russell Martin and Bengie Molina. Competing against Jimmy Rollins, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Miguel Tejada and others, Ryan Theriot was voted for over two million times to finish just shy of Ramirez for the starting NL shortstop nod. At every position on the ballot, the Chicago Cubs had a player who received more than two million fan votes for the All-Star game (7 of the 19 NL players who eclipsed that mark).
Similarly, Brewers fans made a big push, specifically by helping to tally a record 41 million final day votes en route to bumping Ryan Braun ahead of Ken Griffey Jr. in NL outfield voting and almost putting Jason Kendall and J.J. Hardy in the game at catcher and shortstop respectively – ahead of all the deserving players mentioned above.
Yet with the fans of two contending National League teams voting so feverishly to see their players, Jason Bartlett, Kenji Johjima, Richie Sexson, Melvin Mora and Jose Vidro did not finish in the top five for any of their respective positions. Wrong move.
We could debate whether or not the general public should be able to have a say on another day (see: 2008 AL 2B voting where the worst full-time second basemen, Robinson Cano finished third and a possible league MVP, Ian Kinsler, finished second behind a pedestrian Dustin Pedroia; or the fact that another AL MVP candidate, Carlos Quentin, is not even on the ballot; or that pitchers and reserves cannot be chosen by fans; or that ballots come out before even a quarter of the season has been completed…remember Chris Shelton?), but it does, so the fans should take full advantage.
In 2002, MLB commissioner Bud Selig determined that the All-Star game was no longer worth playing when he ended a tied game in the 11th inning at his own ballpark in Milwaukee. Instead of staying consistent with that thought and canceling the game for good (especially after it had already brought cash to his city – think he would have done the same thing in 2001 before the game made it to Milwaukee?), Selig did the opposite. He tried to make it count for something.
Now, the league that wins the All-Star game will "earn" homefield advantage in the World Series. This means that four of the seven playoff games, including the first two and last two (if necessary) are played in the ballpark with the winning All-Star team. This is another silly decision that we could debate for a while, but it also provides the other piece to the puzzle of the discussion at hand, and it actually gives the fans a means by which they can help their favorite teams (if the team has a chance at the World Series).
Based on the results above, Cubs fans do not appear to want Wrigley Field to host Game 1 of the World Series - if the team makes it that far. They want to see Cubs players play in the All-Star game, but they did not give the NL the best chance to win it. The only logical approach for a fan of a team in contention for the World Series should be to vote for the best players from the league of the fan's favorite team and the worst players from the opposing league.
One caveat to that is to vote for healthy players who will be able to play. And, while we have said that Cubs fans may have gotten it half right by voting for Cubs, that is just because most of the Cubs are among the best at their positions. In fact, it may have actually been better to vote for the best non-Cub in the NL at every position to reduce the chance of injury to a Cub (plus they should be playing the AL’s scrubs, so it may not make that much difference).
What can Major League Baseball do if Jason Bartlett and his .592 OPS get voted in and he wants to play? He has to play, and he has to start.
One would think that the 5.6 million Cubs and Brewers fans who voted for Soto and Kendall could have elected Johjima (.548 OPS) to start the game for the AL.
Of course there is no guarantee that either the Cubs or Brewers will make the World Series, but they may. And the fans can play a role in helping the team win it if they do – not to mention those very fans could be there to watch games one, two, six and seven of the series.
Maybe this column is just a week or two late to make a difference this year. When Cubs fans see Carlos Zambrano pitching to Alex Rodriguez in New York on Tuesday, hopefully they will be dreaming of "Big Z" (or Rich Harden, or Ryan Dempster) whizzing strikes past Freddie Bynum (former Cub!) in St. Louis next year.
Could this fans of both leagues vote so unanimously for the worst players in the opposing leagues that this becomes the No Star Game instead of the All-Star Game? Sure, but they would be doing what they have every right to and should do. Maybe then Bug Selig could see how this is just another illogical fix to a problem that Major League Baseball first fabricated, then ignored, before twisting the message so much that fans are encouraged to work against themselves and the game. Does the All-Star Game matter? Should the fans have a say? Based on the actions of the commissioner's office, I have no idea.
Oh, but first let's make sure to spend $50 million and 18 months to have some famous lawyer and/or politician talk about the history of that big maple bat issue yet not really do much about it going forward.
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