The Early MLB All-Star Voting Start Debate… A Royal All-Star Game?

April 29, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

Another season, another desperate promotional crawl toward the MLB All-Star game this July. And, of course, if you promote something enough through various media outlets then it simply MUST be important, right? That’s the only possible explanation. Well, if that’s the rule you live by, I hope you’re enjoying your Furby and Pet Rock. I have some GREAT Snake Oil I’d like to sell you, too.

Too often sports marketing becomes about repetition of message and not quality of product. No example better illustrates this fact like Major League Baseball’s promotion of All-Star voting for fans. Fans are asked after a short three weeks of actual baseball to vote on which players deserve to play in the All-Star game – you know, that game that decides home field advantage for the World Series. Sure, it is an exhibition game, but it is also a game designed to award the best league with home field advantage. Are you ready to pick those players in April, knowing full well that those players might be deciding if your team gets home field advantage in the World Series? I know I’m not.

This debate depends entirely on context. What is the context for the fans voting in the All-Star game? Are fans expected to pick the best players across the league to represent their preferred league in the All-Star game? Or, are fans simply voting for their favorite players? It seems that there is a substantial disconnect here. Fans are voting based on popularity in the current structure. Allowing fans to vote after three weeks of actual games is absurd because fans have very little sample size to go off of. The kicker is, of course, that the All-Star game is a game fans and players alike want to win.

So, to recap. Fans want to vote for their favorite players early and often. A smaller faction of fans, coaches, and players want to win the game to secure home field advantage in the World Series… a goal that the best players are required to accomplish. The equation simply does not add up, and the early voting perpetuates the problem. Any democratic situation requires the electorate be informed, but in this case the electorate is misinformed with bad information with a small sample size.

Popularity dictating the vote does not seem to make sense, then, because, popular players are not always the best players. And, the inverse is true also in that the best players are not always popular. The problem is, the best players a few weeks into April will not be the best players still after June 1. Consider this very real scenario, folks. If voting were ended right now here is a likely starting lineup for both sides:

American League
1B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
2B Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
3B Ty Wiggington, Baltimore Orioles
SS Yuniesky Betancourt, Kansas City Royals
LF Scott Podsednik, Kansas City Royals
RF Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland Indians
CF Franklin Gutierrez, Seattle Mariners
C Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
P Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins
DH Vladimir Guerrero, Texas Rangers

National League
1B Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
2B Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves
3B Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants
SS Ryan Theriot, Chicago Cubs
LF Andre Ethier, L.A. Dodgers
RF Kosuke Fukudome, Chicago Cubs
CF Michael Bourn, Houston Astros
C Ivan Rodriguez, Washington Nationals
P Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets
DH Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers

Do those lists showcase the best talent in MLB, across the board, that is most deserving of an All-Star game apperance? No. Some of the players deserve recognition, but many will likely fade after the adrenaline of April wears off. And frustrated All-Star managers will be left holding the bag. I mean, do the Royals REALLY deserve that much All-Star attention? As a business issue – are fans going to PAY to see the stars from ROYALS? No, but then we’re back at the popularity scenario where the best players are not guaranteed a roster spot. The entire conundrum can be avoided easily if fan voting does not begin until a reasonable amount of baseball has been played.

Plus, if the World Series home field advantage depends on this game, why aren’t the selected managers able to build the type of club they want in order to win the game? Taking fan voting completely out of it, there is potentially a great deal at stake. It doesn’t make sense to put every manager in a difficult situation by forcing underqualified players on them in a playoff series that is a must win should their team reach the World Series.

If fans must be included in the voting, at least recognize that there is no baseball value in beginning the vote this early. It is an effort to pander to fans – an effort I find both insulting and useless. There are some aspects of the game that should be taken seriously, like contracts and championships. Opening the vote even earlier to fans makes a mockery of contracts by triggering All-Star incentives in contracts for players that do not deserve them, and by forcing less skilled players on managers charged with the responsibility of winning a game.

Allowing fans to vote at all is enough. Opening the vote up after three weeks into the season just stuffs the roster with questionable players and works against the goal of the game being taken seriously. Restore pride in the All-Star game… or just don’t bother.

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The Best Pitcher of 2009 Debate – A Reason To Watch Baseball In Kansas City!

September 21, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s and Loyal Homer’s arguments about which pitcher was the best in 2009.

We are in the home stretch for the 2009 baseball season. As the season draws to a close, we wanted to take a look back over the past six months to determine who the best pitcher of the year was.

Sports Geek is going to look at Chris Carpenter’s season, Loyal Homer will argue on behalf of Tim Lincecum, and Bleacher Fan will be arguing for Zach Greinke.

This is really not that complicated of a problem to solve. The best pitcher is the one who gives up the fewest runs… It really is that simple. Greinke, who is the ace in the Kansas City Royals rotation, is the owner of the best ERA in baseball.

The question is not to discuss the winningest pitcher in baseball, or the pitcher with the best shot to lead his team into the postseason. The fact that Greinke is a pitcher for one of the worst teams in baseball does not diminish the fact that he is a dominant pitcher. Greinke was named to his first All-Star team in 2009 (many believed that he SHOULD have been the starter), and is considered a favorite by many to win the American League Cy Young Award.

I hate to say it, but just imagine how bad the Royals would be if they DIDN’T have Greinke in their rotation! The Royals’ team ERA is a pathetic 4.69 (the fifth worst in baseball), and that INCLUDES Greinke’s league leading 2.14 ERA. The fact that he has lost six games this year is due primarily to a lack of run support by the Royals offense, who ranks in the bottom ten for total runs scored at 626 (as a side note, the New York Yankees have scored 856 runs as a team in 2009 – that is 230 MORE runs than the Royals).

Do not hold it against Greinke that the Royals are a bad team. As far as individual performance is concerned, Greinke is the most dominant pitcher in baseball today.

As already discussed, he leads the league in ERA. He also ranks third in the Majors in strikeouts with 224, and has only walked 44 batters. It is unfortunate that Greinke can’t have a better supporting cast around him. If that were the case, the Royals might actually be in contention for the postseason (especially in the American League Central division). Unfortunately for Kansas City fans, though, Greinke is only available to pitch once every five nights.

When Greinke does step onto the mound, though, fans know they are going to be treated to something special. At only 25 years old, Greinke is LOADED with upside! Since his rookie season in 2004, he has progressively improved in every single aspect of his game. His ERA has dropped every year, his strikeouts have increased, he is pitching for more innings, and his record has improved with each season. Who knows what lies ahead for Greinke? If he keeps this pace up, though, they might as well begin planning his induction ceremony into Cooperstown now!

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The MLB 2009 Division Race Debate – The AL Central Hollywood Blockbuster

July 13, 2009

Read Loyal Homer’s argument that the NL East is the best division race for the second half of the MLB season, and Sports Geek’s argument that it is in the NL Central.

The MLB 2009 Season, Part 1, is now at an end. What have we learned so far?

We’ve also seen the Mets struggle with injuries, the Dodgers get off to their best start in 32 years (maybe Manny was doing them a favor by sitting out 50 games!), and we saw the AL dominate interleague play once again (perhaps a little World Series foreshadowing?).

So, which division race will be the most exciting to watch as we move into MLB Season, Part Deux? For me, it’s gotta be the AL Central. Hollywood writers couldn’t have created a more perfect set-up for the drama, excitement, and eventual payoff that will come from this race. No other division in baseball is going to offer as much as the battle between the Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, and Minnesota Twins.

Let’s break it down:

This will be a three team race.
Out of all three teams at the front of the AL Central, none have emerged as a clear favorite. When you consider head-to-head standings between these three teams, the Tigers (the current AL Central leaders) are a combined 6-10 against the White Sox and Twins. At the same time, the White Sox are a combined 9-8, and the Twins (currently the farthest back from Detroit) are a combined 10-7 against each other.

While the Tigers have built an early 3.5 game lead in the Central, their inability to perform against their primary competition calls into question whether or not they will effectively hold onto that lead.

There is little to no potential for a consolation prize.
In the AL Central, more than any other division, the race will truly be for all the marbles, meaning that the losers of the AL Central race have the least likelihood of contending for a wild card spot, as the likely winner will either come from the AL East or AL West. It’s do-or-die, and do-or-die is high drama.

To put it another way: Which is more exciting to watch in a seven game postseason series, game one or game seven? Game seven is more exciting because it’s do-or-die. Sure, teams WANT to win game one, but losing game one doesn’t mean you go home. There is greater pressure to succeed when you are in a do-or-die situation, making the stakes much higher.

This race is timed to peak perfectly.
What is rule number one for any great story? Don’t climax too early (okay, so that’s a rule for more than just story-telling, but I digress…).

In any race, the most dramatic games are when the contending teams actually play each other. People would rather watch the drama unfold on the field than watch for scoreboard updates from across the league. When I look at the close of the season for the White Sox, Twins, and Tigers, I have to stand up and cheer!

Rather than close their schedules against teams like the Indians, the Royals, or the Orioles, all three of these teams are scheduled to close their respective seasons out in epic fashion by facing off against each other. It’s the equivalent of starting the playoffs two to three weeks early.

In the Detroit Tigers final five series, they play the Twins and Indians, and then they play the White Sox, the Twins AGAIN, and then the White Sox AGAIN! That means 13 of their final 16 games are played against the very teams trying to knock them off the top of the mountain. When you consider their previous performance against those teams (winning only six of their first 16 combined meetings), it seems like an uphill battle… and they’re currently in first place!

The White Sox, in similar fashion, finish by playing Minnesota, Detroit, Cleveland, and then Detroit again. That makes for nine of their final 12 games against the other contenders.

Last, the Twins wrap up against the Tigers, the White Sox, the Royals, then the Tigers and Royals one more time (10 of their final 16 games against the division’s top teams).

The AL Central race will not be decided until the final games of the season, and will be decided ON THE FIELD, where the champion will be crowned because they earned it in blood, sweat, and tears!

The MLB Trade Deadline Target Debate – Jermaine Should Have Buyers “Dye” –ing to Snag Him!

July 3, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s and Loyal Homer’s arguments and find out who they believe the best player available at the trading deadline is.

To all the buyers in the MLB Trade market, look no further than Jermaine Dye. That is, of course, unless you don’t want to contend for a strong post-season run.

Why Jermaine Dye? Well, the first reason is entirely selfish… as a Cleveland Indians fan I would LOVE to see him get FAR away from the American League Central. I’m tired of watching him kill the ball every time he’s at the plate!

The second, less selfish reason is that he is the single best hitting talent on the block. He will bring you veteran leadership in the locker room and an outstanding performance on the field.

After failing to deal for Jake Peavy earlier this season, it was believed that the White Sox would consider dealing Dye. His contract, which is due to expire after this season, includes a $12 million option for the 2010 season. Considering the impact that his bat brings to any lineup, my expectation is that teams will be (or at least SHOULD be) on their hands and knees BEGGING to sign this very talented right-fielder. All appearances now are that Chicago does not intend on keeping him.

Consider that though he’s a 35-year-old player, he continues to hit like one of the best among the White Sox organization and in the entire American League. So far in 2009, Dye is batting .291 with 18 home-runs, and 46 RBI. He also is currently among the top-10 in HRs, slugging percentage (.558), and his On-base + Slugging percentage (OPS) sits impressively at .918. Not bad for a 35-year-old, huh?

Dye is making a strong case for himself as the trade deadline draws nearer, having recently put on a hitting clinic that surely has upped his value. In his last 10 games, he has hit 17 for 38 (a .447 average), including five doubles, three home-runs, nine RBI while scoring seven runs on his own.

Last year Dye hit for a team best .292 batting average and scored a team best 96 runs. His 34 home-runs, 172 hits, and 96 RBI were all second-best for the White Sox.

Dye also earned a Gold Glove winner when he played for the Royals in 2000, and won the Silver Slugger award (2006) for being the best offensive player at his position with the White Sox. With all those statistics and accolades, he also won a World Series title in 2005 where he was named the World Series MVP.

He brings depth and experience that would be valuable to any organization and his batting ability is among the best in the league today, having hit for more home-runs AND RBI than any other AL Outfielder since 2005.

Having been recognized both offensively and defensively as being the best at his position, Jermaine Dye would be a very strong addition to any starting lineup. His resume speaks for itself, and I fully expect that the organization that is wise (and lucky) enough to sign him will enjoy the thrill of playing some October ball!


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