Column: MLB All-Star selection process is not right for the league

By Justin Onslow

If Major League Baseball is to continue adding meaning to the All-Star game, the selection process needs to be changed.

In less than a week, the MLB will play its annual All-Star game, which takes place on the second Tuesday of each July. It is a time for players to take a few days off from meaningful competition–or at least it used to be.

In 1947, fans were given the opportunity to vote on the eight starting position players for the American League and National League All-Star squads. It was the first year for this type of fan interaction, and it allowed fans the chance to see their favorite players in action for the Midsummer Classic.

Unfortunately, the MLB hit some rough patches in the All-Star voting process. In 1957, Cincinnati Reds fans stuffed ballot boxes, resulting in seven Reds players being selected to the starting lineup.

That situation is uncommon today, but other concerns remain.

As with financial situations in baseball, big market teams often have an advantage. The All-Star voting situation is no different. New York, Los Angeles and Boston are all major markets in professional sports. With larger markets come a larger number of fans, and with more fans come more All-Star votes.

This year, Reds first baseman Joey Votto is among the league leaders in several statistical categories. Frankly, Votto is tearing up opposing pitching and putting together a phenomenal year.

Votto is not on the National League All-Star roster. He simply did not receive enough votes.

But even if Votto were not the leading vote getter at his position, there is still a way to get on the roster and be deemed an All-Star. Each team carries two or more players at each position. The team’s manager selects the reserve players.

Votto heads a long list of deserving players who were denied the opportunity to play in the All-Star game, the spots instead filled by fan and manager favorites, and up-and-coming rookie phenoms.

There is a big problem with that process. Many managers and fans favor their own players. Many of those players are selected to an All-Star squad.

If the All-Star game meant nothing but a break from a grueling 162-game season, I probably would not take exception to the process. Being labeled an “All-Star” is a notable accolade, but the extent of the honor is limited.

Before 2003, being awarded a spot on the All-Star roster was nothing more than an honor for the players. Since then, the game has taken on a whole new meaning.

In 2003, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig came to terms with the league’s player union on new ramifications for the All-Star game. The game would decide home-field advantage for the World Series.

Home-field advantage plays a major factor in the MLB playoffs. Each series consists of an odd number of games, thus ensuring one team an extra game on its home turf. In 2003, the league decided one of the most important factors in the playoffs was to be decided by an exhibition game, played by Major League ballplayers selected by a flawed system.

As long as fans and biased coaches are selecting All-Star squad rosters, players like Joey Votto are going to continue to be snubbed and home-field advantage in the World Series will continue to be a joke.

The talking heads of Major League Baseball are trying to make the All-Star game into something it is not–meaningful. For so many years, the Midsummer Classic represented a much-needed break for players to spend time with their family, heal injuries and take time away from the mental aspect of the game for a few days. The All-Star break should continue to be just that.

Perhaps the new ramifications of the All-Star game are good for the competitive nature of the league. If that is the case, why is the selection process so blatantly out of date?

Fans should continue to choose players they want to see in one of America’s favorite exhibition games. Managers should continue to be allowed to select a few players they want on the roster. But, the process needs to be tweaked.

The MLB needs to bring statistics into the equation. It cannot allow the selection process to be a popularity contest with so much on the line. The best players need to be on the field for the All-Star game. The fate of two MLB ball clubs depends on it.

The World Series is the ultimate destination for every Major League player and team. A World Series Championship is what separates one team from the other 31 in a given year. Because the World Series is so important, shouldn’t the All-Star selection be held to a higher standard?

The MLB has struggled with a decline in popularity in recent years. The biggest reason for that is the shortsightedness of MLB officials, and their unwillingness to make the changes needed to clear up issues like this. From steroids to instant replay to rule changes, Commissioner Selig and the players union have dropped the ball repeatedly.

If the All-Star game could potentially decide the fate of World Series participants, the league needs to address the issue and make changes before it is too late.

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