In the end, the fans spoke. But does it really matter.
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and Blue Jays pitcher Steve Delabar are both headed to their inaugural All-Star Game next Tuesday thanks to their respective victories in the American and National League final roster spot voting. Freeman topped all 10 contestants with a record 19.7 million votes out of the unprecedented 79.2 overall ballots cast worldwide.
As a fan of both Freeman and the Braves, that’s great.
What isn’t, is how the whole process played out.
MLB and ESPN didn’t even try to hide their respective favoritism towards Dodgers budding superstar outfielder Yasiel Puig, purposely spotlighting the Cuban phenom over the nine other player options on all of their respective platforms, and doing so in every manner possible.
Equally as disturbing was the partnership formed by the Braves and Blue Jays in conspiring together to guarantee votes for Freeman and Delabar. The parlay worked to perfection and more than offset the combined efforts of the so-called Worldwide Leader in Sports and baseball’s governing organization to get Puig into the Midsummer Classic.
Those calamities, plus the ridiculousness of allowing voters to cast as many votes as possible either online or via Twitter – with hashtag madness such as #VoteFreddie for Freeman or #RaiseTheBar for Delabar – turned an already questionable popularity contest into an utter fraud.
Yes, this is a game for the fans. And yes, I did in fact participate in the madness myself by hawking on-air for folks to vote for Freeman (a deserving choice for a complete first half of excellence) over the flavor of the month (and what a month it was) option in Puig.
But this entire spectacle was an embarrassment for baseball. It’s bad enough that the All-Star game – an exhibition contest, at that – is played in order to determine which league gets the home field advantage in the upcoming World Series. Then for this whole chapter to play out the way it did, with networks and teams scheming and conniving to get their way, was nothing short of a joke.
In a way, I have more respect for how elections are rigged in North Korea or South America.
Commissioner Bud Selig and his crony owners certainly have a number of issues on their plate much more important to deal with than this fiasco. However, the brazen nature in which the All-Star game voting is conducted makes me wonder if it’s all really worth the trouble to begin with.