Fan voting for the 2012 MLB All-Star Game began last week. How it works this year: MLB.com is distributing more than 20 million ballots to the 30 major league ballparks and to 100 minor league parks. The MLB parks will have 23 All-Star voting days, which will conclude by June 22. After which, fans can continue to stuff the ballot box online until 11:59 p.m. ET on June 28. You can vote up to 25 times online. 25!
It seems early to start voting. The most at-bats anybody has now (a week into the voting) is 85, which is a small fraction of the 500-600+ an every day player will have by the end of the season. And most pitchers have only started 3 or 4 games. It just seems too soon to have a realistic idea as to the kind of season any individual is going to have. Although I like the break in the season the All-Star Game provides, I’d rather have it closer to the end of the year so you can see the full scope of a player’s productivity.
It wasn’t always like this. I remember going to the old Municipal Stadium and seeing stacks of All-Star ballots. You were supposed to get one, but people would grab a handful and fill them all out for the Indians. Fans have always stuffed the ballot box, which is why fan voting has come and gone a few times in the All-Star Game’s 79-year history.
The first MLB All-Star Game was played on July 6, 1933 at Comiskey Park in Chicago. Arch Ward, a sports editor for the Chicago Tribune, came up with the idea to coincide with Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition (i.e., the World’s Fair). MLB managers and fans selected the teams for the 1933 and 1934 All-Star games. The Indian had three players in the inaugural All-Star Game: pitcher Wes Ferrell, pitcher Oral Hildebrand, and some outfielder named The Earl of Snohomish (Earl Averill went on to be selected five more times). From 1935-1946, managers selected the teams.
In 1947, fans got the All-Star vote back and were allowed to choose starters while the manager chose the pitchers and bench players. And all was well for 10 years. Then in 1957, fans of that team downstate (the Cincinnati Reds) stuffed the ballot boxes like a desperate chef making foie gras. In the end, seven Reds players (Ed Bailey, Johnny Temple, Roy McMillan, Don Hoak, Frank Robinson, Gus Bell, and Wally Post) had been elected All-Star Game starters. The only non-Red elected as a starter was Stan Musial, who even the ballot stuffers realized was a better choice than Reds first baseman George Crowe. After an investigation, in which it was found that half the ballots had come from Cincinnati, then-Commissioner Ford Frick appointed Willie Mays and Hank Aaron in place of Gus Bell and Wally Post.
Frick also disenfranchised the fans. Managers, players, and coaches picked the entire team until 1970, when the vote again returned to the fans. That same year, future Indian Rico Carty was the first write-in candidate to ever be elected to the All-Star team.
For kicks, I went back and looked at which Indians have appeared on the All-Star roster the most times (total times on the roster, not the number of times they were an All-Star with the Indians, because we don’t get a whole lot of those).
Frank Robinson 12
Roberto Alomar 12
Manny Ramirez 12
Joe Gordon 9
Harvey Kuenn 8 (Hey, he spent 1960 season with us.)
Lou Boudreau 8 times
Bob Feller 8 times
Earl Averill 6 times
Mel Harder 5 times
For comparison’s sake, Hank Aaron was on the All-Star roster 21 times; Willie Mays and Stan Musial were on it 20 times.
People complain that the All-Star voting has become a popularity contest, and I tend to agree. And the more the game and voting becomes commercialized, the more it’s a popularity contest. MLB.com even has a Chicago Voting Facilitation Button so you can highlight and vote all the players from a single team without having to search for them on the ballot. (Okay, they don’t really call it that, but they do make it awfully easy to stuff the ballot for your team’s players, whether or not they deserve to be on the roster.) At this point, I don’t think they could ever take the fan vote away again, but perhaps they could modify the voting. Maybe allow fewer online votes (like five ballots instead of 25) and condense the voting into four weeks instead of two and a half months.
I will certainly use my Bowie Kuhn-given right to vote, but I think I’ll wait awhile to do so.