Sunday will forever be known as the day everybody tweeted about Blake Snell. A chance to cast aspersions on anything related to the game of baseball and its decision makers or processes generates buzz like nothing else. The public’s gripe, however, was a valid one.
Blake Snell was deserving of an All-Star selection, but the construction of rosters makes that belief tough to reconcile given the current voting parameters. Each roster is made up of 20 position players and 12 pitchers. Fans select the starting eight in the National League, nine players (add one DH) in the American League. Balloting submitted by the players accounts for five starters and three relievers in each league. The same clubhouses also select eight position players in the National League and nine in the American League (add one DH) on top of the fans’ votes.
Travis Sawchik’s entry into this debacle highlighted the issue with the player-voting aspect of the process with embedded thoughts from both Chris Archer and Justin Verlander via Twitter. (Note: pen and paper is still used, for some reason.) Voting as late as possible seems like the way for clubhouses to gain the best impressions of players and make accurate decisions, which according to Verlander, doesn’t actually happen. MLB.com via Anthony Castrovince, however, says this player balloting is done “shortly before the roster announcements.” Ambiguity is never a good thing, but I’ll leave this particular inconsistency for another day.
Sawchik also mentioned fans’ ability to judge performance this year possessed some holes, as it does almost every year. All things considered, I can’t blame the masses for wanting Bryce Harper to participate in the game at his home park despite his general mediocrity. I also can’t deny that Jose Abreu shouldn’t be an All-Star this year, but considering the top two American League first basemen by Fangraphs WAR are currently Matt Olson and C.J. Cron, I am really not surprised fans voted for a familiar - albeit less deserving - face.
After fans and players submit votes, the Commissioner’s Office steps in to add another four pitchers to each league’s team and a mix of position players, with the main directive of making sure each team is represented by at least one All-Star.
As Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports detailed, this is how Blake Snell got snubbed. The five starters selected by players included Chris Sale, Justin Verlander, Gerritt Cole, Luis Severino and Corey Kluber. Good luck campaigning to take one of those arms out of the game. The Rangers needed a representative, which effectively meant Shin-Soo Choo was in over the more deserving Eddie Rosario. This also meant Jose Berrios got the nod as a starter along with J.A. Happ to fulfill team representation. No spot existed for Blake Snell.
In the National League, a similar situation occurred, but because there are no snubs as egregious as Snell (Max Muncy is close), the narrative isn’t as strong. After the core of five starting pitchers (Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Aaron Nola, Patrick Corbin and Jon Lester), we can guess the following players were input for performance reasons, but with also with team representation in mind.
- Miles Mikolas (more performance than team representation)
- Brad Hand (more team representation than performance)
- Felipe Vazquez (more team representation than performance)
Looking at the National League All-Star roster creates a pair of questions.
The first is whether each team should actually be represented in the All-Star game. It is a distant thought in our minds because it’s radical and deviates from a lot of the things baseball does traditionally. Why alienate entire fanbases from participation in a game representing the entire league? Well, what if doing so didn’t substantially affect viewership or interaction?
Last year, the Home Run Derby came close to pushing over the All-Star game in terms of viewership. This rating might have been buoyed by strong overnight pull in New York markets because of Aaron Judge’s participation, but the event itself, one with no requirement of team representation, is almost as interesting (I would argue substantially more interesting) than the game itself. The affect of this idea would be hard to predict otherwise. Would fanbases boycott all the festivities because they simply want a representative of their team in the host city? I don’t mean to pick on the Padres, but I doubt San Diego’s contingent of fans would really be upset enough to not watch anything All-Star related if their third or fourth best reliever (hot take alert) wouldn’t be selected in favor of a player from another team who performed better in the first half? You can apply the same scenario to Vazquez and the Pirates and I don’t anticipate much difference in fan reaction. Without any objective data points to back up this argument, intuition suggests that other factors (similar to Aaron Judge participating in the Home Run Derby... or Ichiro) might affect viewership of the entire weekend more than pushing out small markets without a standout player. An important thing to acknowledge is that bad teams with smaller fanbases can have standout players (see: Realmuto, J.T.) and those players should without a doubt be All-Stars.
The second question is whether pushing aside the idea that all teams need a representative also means better representation of the “best” players in the first half?
Should every team be represented in the MLB ALL-Star game if removing the parameter meant better representation of the "best" players from the first half?— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBrozdow) July 11, 2018
The above question I posed on Twitter might be loaded given I provide the solace that the best players are represented despite every team not having a name on the roster. (Another way to frame the question is the one I will present at the end of this column.) If your team didn’t have a representative, I have a feeling the results might skew back to wanting all teams represented. But still, the aggregate difference in viewership might not change much even if the voting above moved.
Removing the team representation parameter would presumably create less snubs. The Commissioner’s office would be able to remove itself from the voting process, redistributing their selections to fans or players. This would still remain slightly inefficient given both their present-day tendencies, but more chances to get it right would lower the number of snubs.
Another way to look at this question is to consider whether the number of relievers included should be changed. Why not create a “pitcher” requirement without specification of reliever or starter? This idea comes from reliever value being fickle. The best reliever in the National League (Sean Doolittle) hasn’t been as valuable as Alex Wood or Zack Wheeler per Fangraphs WAR. (Yes, the same WAR metric that has Jon Gray above Blake Snell. You can see my point.) Most leaderboards present you with a variety of pitchers valued ahead of the relievers currently mentioned above like Hand and Vazquez. This drives home the idea that reliever representation might actually be too high in the All-Star game. If we shift towards allowing more starters instead of using reliever spots to fulfill team requirements, more people might be happy.
With all this said and acknowledging all my indecisiveness and presentation of theories as opposed to facts, the point remains that the argument for change is related to a game that no longer matters outside of player promotion and fanfare. Campaigning for. This argument really should have been presented to the National League for the years 2000-2016 when they fell to the American League in 13 of 16 games.
So I leave you with this question and kindly ask for your response if only to humor me as my mind wanders into thoughts we’ll likely never see come to fruition.
Would the absence of all Cardinals in any given year of the All-Star game substantially influence your decision to interact with All-Star weekend (Futures Game, HR Derby, ASG, etc.)?
This poll is closed