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Around the Horn

All-Star Snubs

American League All-Stars
Player Pos Team Chosen by
Wilson Ramos* C TBR Fan vote
José Abreu 1B CWS Fan vote
José Altuve 2B HOU Fan vote
Manny Machado SS BAL Fan vote
José Ramírez 3B CLE Fan vote
Mike Trout OF LAA Fan vote
Mookie Betts OF BOS Fan vote
Aaron Judge OF NYY Fan vote
J.D. Martínez DH BOS Fan vote
Alex Bregman 3B HOU Player vote
Michael Brantley OF CLE Player vote
Shin-soo Choo OF TEX Commissioner
Nelson Cruz DH SEA Player vote
Yan Gomes^ C CLE Commissioner
Mitch Haniger OF SEA Player vote
Francisco Lindor SS CLE Player vote
Jed Lowrie^ 2B OAK Commissioner
Mitch Moreland 1B BOS Player vote
Salvador Pérez C KCR Player vote
Jean Segura+ SS SEA Final Vote 
George Springer OF HOU Player vote
Gleyber Torres* 2B NYY Player vote
Trevor Bauer^ SP CLE Commissioner
José Barrios SP MIN Commissioner
Aroldis Chapman* RP NYY Player vote
Gerrit Cole SP HOU Player vote
Edwin Díaz RP SEA Player vote
J.A. Happ SP TOR Commissioner
Joe Jiménez RP DET Commissioner
Craig Kimbrel RP BOS Player vote
Corey Kluber* SP CLE Player vote
Charlie Morton^ SP HOU Commissioner
Chris Sale SP BOS Player vote
Luis Severino SP NYY Player vote
Blake Snell^ SP TBR Commissioner
Blake Treinen RP OAK Commissioner
Justin Verlander* SP HOU Player vote
* Injured or will not play
^ Replacing injured or withdrawn player
+ Winner of Final Vote spot
National League All-Stars
Wilson Contreras C CHC Fan vote
Freddie Freeman 1B ATL Fan vote
Javier Baez 2B CHC Fan vote
Brandon Crawford SS SFG Fan vote
Nolan Arenado 3B COL Fan vote
Nick Markakis OF  ATL Fan vote
Matt Kemp OF LAD Fan vote
Bryce Harper OF WAS Fan vote
Jesús Aguilar+ 1B MIL Final Vote
Ozzie Albies 2B ATL Player vote
Charlie Blackmon OF COL Player vote
Lorenzo Cain OF MIL Player vote
Scooter Gennett 2B CIN Commissioner
Paul Goldschmidt 1B ARZ Commissioner
Yaider Molina^ C STL Commissioner
Buster Posey* C SFG Player vote
J.T. Realmuto C MIA Commissioner
Trevor Story SS COL Player vote
Eugenio Suarez 3B CIN Player vote
Joey Votto 1B CIN Player vote
Christian Yelich OF MIL Player vote 
Patrick Corbin SP ARZ Commissioner
Jacob deGrom SP NYM Player vote
Sean Doolittle* RP WAS Player vote
Mike Foltyne­wicz SP ATL Player vote
Zack Greinke^ SP ARZ Commissioner
Josh Hader RP MIL Player vote
Brad Hand RP SDP Player vote
Kenley Jansen RP LAD Commissioner
Jeremy Jeffress^ RP MIL Commissioner
Jon Lester* SP CHC Player vote
Miles Mikolas* SP STL Commissioner
Aaron Nola SP PHI Player vote
Max Scherzer SP WAS Player vote
Ross Stripling^ SP LAD Commissioner
Felipe Vazquez RP PIT Commissioner
* Injured or will not play
^ Replacing injured or withdrawn player
+ Winner of Final Vote spot

So, the fans, the players, and the Commissioner's office have spoken. Only three Seattle Mariners have been selected for the 2018 AL All-Star team: Edwin Díaz, Mitch Haniger, and Nelson Cruz. Something is broken.

Now, there is a shot for a fourth, as Jean Segura is among the five options in the "final vote" ballot for the last spot. He's up against Andrew Benintendi, though, and Red Sox Nation can stuff the ballot box with the best of them. Andrelton Simmons, a fellow shortstop, is also in the mix. Segura's chances aren't that good, frankly, which is a shame. (Unless starting shortstop Manny Machado gets traded before the 17th; he's almost certainly going to end up in the other league and would thus need to be replaced.)

[UPDATE: Segura's in! Yay Northwest ballot-box-stuffers!]

There are a number of odd choices in this year's squad. That's the case most years. In the old days, any weirdness could be blamed simply on favoritism by the All-Star manager (always the manager of the team that won the previous year's pennant); that's how you ended up with seven Blue Jays when Cito Gaston had the reins, or All-Star catcher Damian Miller under Bob Brenly, for example. Now its different.

The fan vote is the same as always (save for the "final vote" thing, a fixture only since 2002), that's how we get the starters. But then the players, managers, and coaches have a say; that started in 2003, and accounts for 16 NL selections and 17 AL choices (because of the DH), strictly relegated by position (five starting pitchers, three relievers, one at each defensive position and DH). After the players' choices are added to the fan vote selections, there are only a few slots remaining that generally need to go to teams with no representation and to fill a pitcher quota that didn't exist before.

In one way, this is a better system: managers can no longer play favorites and pick their own players ahead of more deserving ones on other teams, and having the players choose their peers has merit. But it's flawed in its regimentation. The old way gave a manager freedom to construct his roster as he saw fit, and not necessarily have X pitchers or Y outfielders or whatever. If it wasn't for the favoritism, this would be preferable. Requiring 12 pitchers and 20 position players (or DHs), with at least two from each position (and DH), is too constricting. Worse, five of the pitchers have to be relievers.

Most criticism of the All-Star selection process gets focused on the fan vote, as we fans tend to make dumb choices from time to time. Like this year, when Bryce Harper—yes, a "star" player, but one having a bad year—won the fan vote in the outfield with a .219 batting average; or 2016, when five of eight elected starters were Cubs, including Addison Russell (.237/.329/.402 at the break); or 2012’s election of .228-hitting Mike Napoli over three better-performing catchers. You get the idea. But in my view, this is a problem of infrastructure rather than a fundamental flaw—that is, fans stuff the ballot box for their favorites and are even encouraged to do so. There is a theoretical limitation on how many times one can vote, but it's easily circumvented and abused. It's a problem, but I approve of the concept of the fan vote for the starting lineups and for now it is what it is. It's the rest of the process that I'd like to tweak.

Here are some dubious player selections, understanding the rule that they have to pick by position only with no flexibility:

  • George Springer is batting .248/.333/.425 with 43 RBI. Eddie Rosario is batting .301/.342/.546 with 53 RBI, Nick Castellanos has a .301/.352/.518 line with 55 RBI, Benintendi a .293/.379/.515 line and 55 RBI. The Commissioner's office named Rosario and Benintendi to the final vote group, but at least two of these three more deserving guys are out because the players picked Springer.
  • Gerrit Cole is having a great year, to be sure, but Shoreline's own Blake Snell is having a better one. Cole: 9-2, 2.70 ERA; Snell: 12-4, 2.09.
  • Ozzie Albies of the Braves hits a lot of home runs, but his batting line of .281/.320/.512 is hardly All-Star caliber. A far better choice was available in Scooter Gennett (.326/.368/.515). Gennett was chosen later by the Commissioner's office, but as only a few get picked there, Albies is taking a spot away from someone more deserving in another position (e.g. Jesús Aguilar, Corey Dickerson, José Martínez).
  • Charlie Blackmon may be the defending NL batting champ, but that was last year. This year, outfielders Corey Dickerson, David Peralta, and Ben Zobrist are all more deserving of an All-Star selection. Had Dickerson gotten this spot, then the Commissioner picks would not have had to include a Pirate.
George Springer

Why is George Springer an All-Star?
(Photo: Keith Allison, Wikimedia Commons)

By the time the Commissioner's office has to fill out the remaining spots, there are only a few left and there is the stupid rule that says you have to have 12 pitchers and a good rule that says every team gets at least one representative. That's why we have José Barrios and Joe Jiménez on the AL team and Felipe Vazquez on the NL squad. By all rights, the Twins rep should be Rosario, but we can't have an outfielder instead of a pitcher, so we get Barrios; likewise, the Tigers should be sending Castellanos, but we gotta have a reliever, so we get Jiménez instead. (And if the player vote had tabbed Rosario or Castellanos instead of Springer, a starting pitcher spot would be open for James Paxton or Blake Snell or a releiver spot for ... well, there isn't another AL reliever that should go, so ditch that rule!) Vazquez is the sole Pittsburgh rep only because there's no spot left for Dickerson, and that kicks ex-Mariner Brandon Morrow to the curb despite his fine season closing games for the Cubs.

I don't have a perfect solution, but something should change.

The players vote before the fan vote is completed, so in many cases there is overlap and in such cases the second-place vote-getter is the players' selection; I propose that when there is overlap, no secondary selection is made and these vacancies are filled by the Commissioner's office. This way the players still act as a check on the fans' picks of undeserving favorites (Harper) over better choices (Lorenzo Cain), but it doesn't take so much flexibility away from the league that a team's best player gets left out. Or, have the player vote happen after the fan vote is concluded and fan-elected starters are off the players' ballots; it won't help flexibility, but will be a more up-to-date reflection of players' opinions.

Forget having a pitcher quota, or at the very least don't force a particular split between starters and relievers; don't force the player vote to be position-based; or else find some other way to be less restrictive in constructing the teams. Guys like Segura, Jesús Aguilar, and Rosario should not have to depend on their fan bases' ballot-box-stuffing skills in the final vote. The best player on a team should not get snubbed because a quota needed filling in another position.

Maybe do away with the player vote again, let the execs fill out the rosters. I don't know. But the system needs work.

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