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Internet - Only All-Star Ballot Exposes Alphabetical Advantage

If Internet Ballots Determined Pitchers for All-Star Game, Neither Justin Verlander nor Cy Young Would Have Much of a Chance of Being Top Vote Getter


Call me a dinosaur, or a curmudgeon, or an old fuddy-dud, and you would not be completely wrong. I usually find myself preferring the old ways to do things, such as holding a newspaper in my lap rather than on my phone, or listening to music in a physical format like a compact disc or on vinyl.

Regarding America's pastime, I feel the same way. I can live with the practical changes like a universal DH or three batter minimum for relief pitchers, but the new way of voting for all-stars is terrible. . . and downright unfair.

Back in the days of paper ballots, voters could scan the entire slate of players at the same time. Casual fans could see the name Yastremski as quickly as they could Griffey, moving nothing but their eyes until they decided on their selections.

Baseball's current format, which is online only, requires more than just eye movement. In order to see the entire list of guys for each position, fans have to scroll down.

Granted, it is not a difficult physical activity, but it is still more difficult than just simply holding the entire list of names in one hand. Given that our society is lazier now than it was in the days of paper, it is not hard to imagine casual fans not bothering to scroll down.

They would simply choose a player on the first screen, someone with a name at or close to the beginning of the alphabet. Had that been the case in the Seventies, late-alphabet players like Carl Yastremski and Richie Zisk would have never been selected to start an All-Star game.

The evidence that there are many voters too lazy to scroll down past the first page of the candidates, simply look at the votes for the 2022 All-Star game. Of the twenty positions on the ballot, ten players whose names start with A or B finished in the top two.

How else does someone explain the fact that Jose Altuve was the top vote getter at second base for the American League, in spite of being booed at every park he visits? Few knowledgeable fans would have vote for the player most associated with the cheating scandal of the 2017 Houston Astros, so it was the lazy fan who saw Altuve's name appear on the first screen and clicked the circle beside it.

Although Ozzie Albies was never involved in a cheating scandal, his election as a top vote getter at second in the Senor Circuit. Albies did get some recognition after the Atlanta Braves won the World Series last year, but he is not a well-known name and he has been hurt much of this season.

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Speaking of being hurt, a teammate of Albies has spent the past two seasons on the injured list. Ronald Acuna has played in few games since his rookie season, yet he because of his alphabetical advantage he was a top vote getter for the National League outfield.

Starting a few feet to his left is another A guy, Pete Alonso of the New York Mets. Alonso has been a consistent slugger for the past two seasons, yet he is not nearly as well-known or as well-liked as Freddie Freeman.

After all, Freeman was the face of the World Series Champions last fall before joining the Los Angeles Dodgers in March, so any true baseball fan would have assumed Freeman would win the All-Star first baseman selection. Unbelievably, he finished fifth, leaving one to wonder how much he was ignored because his name was on the second screen of the internet ballot instead of the first.

Across the diamond, at the hot corner, stands another player who likely benefited from the alphabetical listing on the ballot. Nolan Arenado is a great third baseman and deserves serious consideration for the All-Star game, but he probably benefited from being listed first on the ballot.

Austin Riley is having a better year than Arenado, yet finished far behind him in votes. Riley has many advantages over the Cardinals star, such as a larger city and a World Series ring, but his last name pushed him to the second screen on the Internet ballot.

Look at the other top vote getters in the American League, who like Altuve got the benefit of first screen voting. Shortstops Tim Anderson, Bo Bichette, and Xander Bogaerts are all great players on losing teams, but Julio Pena has outplayed them all while leading the Houston Astros to the second best record in the league. It is unfortunate that his last name is not Apena or Albuena, or even something that starts with a B.

In order to eliminate the alphabetical advantage in All-Star voting, MLB needs to bring back the option of the paper ballot. It would also help if they abandoned the alphabetical listing on the Internet ballot, and rank the candidates instead by their WAR (Wins Above Replacement) for the current season.

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