Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My Love/Hate Relationship with Fan Voting

MLB wraps up another year of fan voting for the All-Star Game on Thursday. I haven't even bothered to check the numbers closely, which is something I used to do for every sport back in the day. But it reminds me why the older I get, the more ambivalent I feel on fan voting.

It's great because it's the ultimate sign of fans being involved. But at what cost? Since we know that fans don't always get it right, it's just going to become a biased decision where guys who aren't deserving start because they happen to be on the right team.

It's great because the fans decide who they get to see in All-Star Games. But if the game is supposed to honor those who had great first halves, can we trust fans to get it right besides a popularity contest.

To be honest, I'm not one of those old school folks who think the All-Star Game should mean more than it does. I love the entertainment and relaxation of it (although the Home Run Derby is basically like the Slam Dunk Competition - a dog on Old Yeller status). It shouldn't be any more pressure than it needs to be.

But if the All-Star game is a reward, maybe we as fans should try to reward folks who earned it, not just because they rep our favorite team. Especially since ASG's can led to bonuses in contracts and leverage in free agent negotiations, not to mention how we evaluate somebody's career once it's done.

Case in point. Yasiel Puig (above). Is he an All-Star after one of the best debut months ever*? It shouldn't depend on the passion of my fellow Dodgers fans or the team on Twitter. It should be on his body of work. Excitement and buzz aside, how can a phenomenal month overshadow guys who put in work for three?

I love the effect Puig has on the team and the city, but I hope the managers decide it instead of the Fan Final vote. One look at reality show contests where the best talent doesn't always win or advance to the next round lets you know that fans' bias and emotional attachment is hard to separate. I think for kids, fan voting is great, but for adults, we should show a bit more thought into it.

I won't mind if he's selected. But I don't think one month is enough to show for it.

On the flip side, though, I know I don't remember how many times somebody started as opposed to them being selected in the first place.

Plus players, coaches and managers do select 2/3 of the MLB All-Star rosters. A better ratio than the NBA, where fans nearly select half of the 12-man rosters, and just the same as the Pro Bowl.  So fan voting, while popular, doesn't carry as much weight as it seems.

If it were up to me, I'd say consider who the fans want but leave the final decision to the managers who starts and plays. That might do a better job of eliminating most of the snubs and ensure we get the most deserving players instead of just a mix of them and the popular ones.

Yet I know it's also something I know we're stuck with. I can't advocate for getting rid of it especially when sports does a great job now of reaching the fans. Besides, thanks to injury replacements, snubs usually get honored anyway.

As for the games themselves being more watchable? That's a topic for another day.

*(Ed. Note. Puig's great month was validated by MLB naming him National League Rookie and Player of the Month. All-Star or not, he's off to a great start and I'm content to watch and see what happens next)


  1. i agree with the fans vote not being based on talent but more of popularity.. But in the case Puig, I feel he should go, based on the fact of performance in the current season.. yea he's young, new, and there are plenty of other guys who have been performing for years... But when it comes down to the current season, he has shown out.... i guess its kinda like, if a rookie should be allowed to start in NBA allstar game


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