Siberian Baseball

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

It's not like they're the Steel Curtain

There's an old story about the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s that says in their heyday there were so many players on the defensive team on the Pro Bowl roster that they began calling their own plays on the field and confusing the handful of guys from the other teams.

It was just easier - and probably made for a better story - to call out the plays from the Pittsburgh playbook and let the non-Steelers fend for themselves instead of trying to play off of the same shortened page in the Pro Bowl.

I'm seeing elements of this as the All-Star balloting comes to a close shortly and players from the teams with huge fanbases are in the top three of each position, regardless of ability or this season's performance.

Primarily, I'm looking at the Cubs and how many are primed for a trip to New York. This shouldn't surprise me much anymore, because aside from being shocked that my e-mail client's spam filters let a message through imploring me that, "Kosuke needs your help!" without immediately dumping it to protect me from Japanese pornography, the rest of the experience is a carbon copy of what is becoming a yearly rant.

When the ESPN broadcast ran the graphic with current vote leaders on Sunday night, it was a little disappointing to see the screen awash in Cubbie blue, Red Sox red and the pinstripes of the Yankees.

Not that players who are having great seasons shouldn't be included, but once again, it seems that muscle memory and fan amnesia are helping to steer the ship.

In the National League, the Cubs are churning out votes with three players scheduled to start - Geovany Soto, Alfonso Soriano and Fukudome - if the voting ended today. This is despite Soriano's injuries which have kept him out of the Cubs lineup for long stretches this season.

Mark DeRosa and Aramis Ramirez are second in the voting, despite DeRosa not having a set position on the team, while Derek Lee and Ryan Theriot are in third place in their races.

For those scoring at home, every position has a Cubs player in the top three vote-getters. They're a good team through the first half of the season - last weekend at The Cell not withstanding - but they're not that good.

The American League is even worse. With the exception of Joe Mauer who just overtook Jason Varitek in the race to backstop the AL All-Stars, every leading vote-getter is a member of the Yankees or Red Sox (in most cases the top two are the New York/Boston connection).

Want proof that fans are voting a straight ticket for their team? There's no way that over 600,000 people truly believe Julio Lugo is the best shortstop in the AL.

The biggest oversight to fix is the omission of Carlos Quentin, who isn't among the top 15 in AL outfielders - despite the inclusion of Johnny Damon, Coco Crisp and Bobby Abreu - even though he's been the sparkplug for the White Sox in the first half.

While it's generally accepted that the whole exercise is just a way to make the fans feel involved and is nothing more than a popularity contest, it was nice to see Josh Hamilton make the cut after his hot start. Still, I think MLB could streamline the whole process by assigning votes like the government does in assigning members of the House of Representatives.

Teams with the largest fan bases as determined by merchandise sales and home attendance would receive the most votes for their players, while teams with small pockets of fans would receive the least.

Just think of all the time and energy we'd save not counting votes that would give us identical results.

(Image from:

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  • I was actually taken aback by how much Lance Berkman is ahead in the NL 1B race considering that his competition is Albert Pujols (even with him being injured) and Derek Lee, who are members of teams that historically have had ballot-stuffing fans.

    Quentin is a victim of the fact that he isn't actually on the ballot (so he has to be written in). White Sox fans are terrible at the starter round of the All-Star voting - we only seem to show up for the "last man on the roster vote" a la Scott Podsednik in 2005 and A.J. Pierzynski in 2006.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At Wednesday, July 02, 2008 11:33:00 AM  

  • Why waste your energy fighting the east coast firepower, right?

    Know what you guys need? A Japanese dude. The always get the votes with a whole country behind them.

    By Blogger Minneapolis Red Sox, At Wednesday, July 02, 2008 12:00:00 PM  

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