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Reviewing the MLB All-Star ballot

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What voting looks and feels like.

Detroit Tigers v Cleveland Indians Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

Voting for the All-Star Game is like making your bed. It’s ultimately meaningless, and no one will know or care if you do it or if you don’t. Still, it’s a nagging obligation; a compulsion that drives us to complete this menial task. We do it not because it makes us feel good, but mostly because we’ll feel guilty if we forget.

Or maybe it’s just me. Rarely does baseball require direct input from me or anyone else else outside the establishment, so when it does I feel compelled to oblige. However, I won’t do it without criticizing them along the way.

What follows is a review of this year’s All-Star Ballot. This has nothing to do with the players themselves, or who should and shouldn’t make the team. You’ll see plenty of that sort of content on Beyond the Box Score and every other baseball media outlet in the coming weeks. It’s also not a critique of the game itself, for which you should see our own Luis Torres’s work from last year. But for now, we need to have a conversation about baseball’s annual foray into democracy.

The Ballot

Right away, they get straight into the voting. I simply googled “All-Star Voting,” clicked on the first result, and the ballot came up immediately. No sign-in or weird, squiggly real-human checks required (or perhaps I just left my cookies enabled from last year).

Each person can vote 5 times per day for up to 35 total votes. That’s exhausting, and I’ll almost certainly give up after a day or two. Thank goodness we don’t elect political offices like that! There are absolutely no flaws with the US system of elections! (sarcasm alert)

We start with 1B, for some bizarre reason. From there, it goes 2B, SS, 3B, C, DH, and OF. Clearly, whoever designed this has never filled out a scorecard. I suppose the order of the positions doesn’t really matter, but the ordering of 3B-C-DH-OF makes my brain hurt.

Of course, we still can’t vote for pitchers for reasons unknown. Crash Davis said, “Strikeouts are fascist.” Apparently, so is pitcher All-Star selection. Perhaps it’s for the best; they’d probably only give us ERA, W, and SV anyway. Which brings us to...

The Stats

Player Name

Let’s start with the positives. Each stat is sortable ascending and descending, simply by clicking on them. That’s a nice, common sense feature. We don’t always give credit for doing something easy and obvious, so here you go MLB: good work with the sort feature. While we’re stating the obvious, player names are good to have as well (even though they failed to go further than the initials of first names). This concludes the positive feedback for stats.

HR and SB

Of the five actual statistics, maybe 1.5 are actually useful. There’s no dispute about HR as a valuable measurement. SB are also pretty straightforward, even if they are overrated. But without providing CS for context, they give an incomplete picture of a player’s base stealing acumen.

AVG

Everything else is simply awful. I thought we were better than this, MLB! AVG is more or less meaningless compared to OBP. Most TV broadcasts include OBP in stat lines. Even ballparks usually include OBP on the scoreboard! OBP really shouldn’t be that scary anymore, and there’s no excuse for excluding it from the All-Star ballot in 2018, even if AVG is still there as well. Would an AVG/OBP/SLG slash line be too much to ask? Maybe that would overload the sort feature or something? Even still, I’d take that trade-off.

RBI

RBI is the racist great uncle of baseball stats. It’s your aging, possibly-senile relative that uses several intolerant phrases that were probably accepted 60 years ago, but are definitely not OK in modern times. When you hear him describe the wait staff at family functions, you cringe and mentally wrestle with whether it’s worth it to try to correct him, knowing he’ll never change his vernacular no matter how uncomfortable it makes everyone else.

At best, RBI is quaint. It’s a relic of simpler times when no one knew the damage they were doing by ascribing value to a meaningless stat. But now, in 2018, we know better and we demand better. It’s long past due for MLB to dump the RBI. If we allow All-Stars to be ranked by RBI, the problem will only perpetuate. Racism is harmful and dangerous, even from octogenarians, and RBI is harmful and dangerous for player evaluation. Yes, you should correct your uncle, and no, MLB should not continue glorifying RBI.

AB

Next, we have AB. There is no excuse whatsoever for using AB instead of PA. Mike Trout leads MLB with 68 walks. As such, he looks like he’s had a lot less playing time than Nicholas Castellanos, who has 17 walks. This is probably an extreme example, because if you voted for Castellanos over Trout you need to reevaluate your life choices. Nevertheless, choosing AB over PA gives a much less complete picture of each player’s season, especially with no no OBP!

Finally, there’s nothing whatsoever about defense. Just with the given stats, Jean Segura looks like a much better All-Star candidate than Andrelton Simmons. Segura leads Simmons in every listed category. In real life, Simmons is the greatest defensive player of this generation- far superior to the middle-of-the-road Segura. Would DRS, UZR, or even dWAR be too much to ask for?

Submitting

This page looks familiar! I expected the info mining at the beginning, but they get us at the end instead, complete with weird squiggly numbers! In case you were wondering, the “Year” drop-down goes all the way back to 1900. The world’s oldest living person is Chiyo Miyako, born May 2, 1901.

Strangely, there’s no automatic check for “I would like to receive the MLB.com Newsletter...” There has to be some legal reason behind that. Otherwise, it’s a missed marketing opportunity from a multi-billion dollar entity that excels at not missing marketing opportunities.

Don’t worry, we do get automatic checks for entering to win a motorhome and receiving emails from Camping World. Thank you, MLB, for making sure I don’t miss out on all of the great Camping World content! No autocheck for “Yes, I currently own an RV.” That’s for the best- it would be a crime against data otherwise.

After submitting, it records the date and time of your last vote. Then, you’re prompted to vote again with a big royal blue button (perhaps this is subliminal bias towards Kansas City). Once you’ve voted 5 times in a given day, this message pops up:

Overall, I give the voting experience a D, mostly because the awful stats raised my blood pressure. I still voted 5 times though. I don’t know that I feel good about it, but at least I can say I did my part, for whatever that’s worth.


Daniel R. Epstein is an elementary special education teacher and president of the Somerset County Education Association. In addition to BtBS, he writes at www.OffTheBenchBaseball.com. Tweets @depstein1983