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MLB All-Star Game: Vote early and often for the home team

Now that primary voting for the 2009 All-Star Game is complete, I can express my dissatisfaction over the terrible process deployed by Major League Baseball. It is a sham in which credibility is totally sacrificed for the sake of marketing.

As most probably know, fans are encouraged to punch out players’ names on as many paper ballots as they choose to grab at ballparks all over the country. As such, it is almost expected that the masses of unknowledgeable fans will first opt for the home team players without regard to their current stats or even availability. In case there is any confusion, helpful public address and scoreboard announcements remind fans which players should receive their votes.

Otherwise how can one explain Rick Ankiel getting over 1.2 million votes despite having a terrible season and suspended Manny Ramirez receiving over 1.3 million votes? The two were ranked eighth and seventh respectively in the most recent NL outfield voting results.

To top it off, these “fans” then fill in the rest of the ballot with well-known names from the past. To wit, I would imagine that Babe Ruth would be voted in as a 2009 American League outfield starter if only he was listed on the ballot.

To make matters worse, fans can submit up to 25 additional ballots online – 25 times each email address one has, that is. The internet ballot held additional selections, enabling MLB capture more email addresses upon which to push their marketing initiatives. A total of 17.8 million ballots were cast this year – a new record.

Last week, I heard a television promotion for the following contest. It was worded in such a way that it was implied that voting for Cardinals players at least 20 times would automatically qualify one for the “Ultimate Cardinals Fan All-Star Summer Package.

It is worth paying attention to as the winner will receive a very good award: Two tickets to the 2009 MLB All-Star FanFest, two tickets to All-Star Sunday at Busch Stadium (including the Futures Game), two tickets to the All-Star Workout Day on Monday (including the Home Run Derby) and two tickets to the MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday, July 14.

Turns out that deep in the fine print, it states that one only had to select the Cardinals as their “favorite” or “other favorite” club 20 different times.

Of course, you and I know that anyone willing to do that is much more likely to blindly vote for a boatload of non-deserving Cardinals players.

I find the very concept of this kind of sweepstakes a very questionable pile-on to a totally flawed All-Star selection process.

During FOX Sports Midwest’s live chat this week, the question of the All-Star vote was thrown out for discussion after everyone shot holes in the ridiculous “This Time it Counts” rule that awards the World Series home field advantage to the winning league in the All-Star Game. No one supported that or the current voting process.

One poster, “philskill” from the message board, suggested that the fan vote be limited to four starters only, thereby limiting the chance of a Kosuke Fukudome being voted in as an all-star starter, as happened last season.

I would put my support behind an idea posed by FSM’s Pat Parris and seconded by former Cardinals hurler Cal Eldred. Parris suggested MLB adopt the approach followed by the NFL for their Pro Bowl. In that format, fan votes count for a third, with coaches and players making up the rest.

As long as they don’t have contests to try to influence the vote!

(Note: For those who care, the American and National League All-Star teams will be unveiled on the 2009 MLB All-Star Selection Show, on Sunday on TBS at 1 p.m. ET.)

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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