Thanks to fan-voting and online ballot-stuffing, the Cubs will become the second team in baseball history to have their entire infield starting in the All-Star game (the other was the 1963 St. Louis Cardinals).
Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist are all slated to start — the first two deserve the honor more than the ladder two, more on that in a minute, but a case could be made against each player. I don’t want to be a cynic, I just want Cubs fans to tap the brakes.
This is not the honor that it seems; moreover, it might not be the best thing for the Cubs in the long haul.
A case for…
Rizzo (2.8 WAR) led all vote-getters in the National League while joining Derek Lee as the only Cub first baseman to be voted in by the fans. He’s been the rock in the middle of the Cubs lineup, hitting.281/.401/.563 with 20 long balls and 61 runs driven in. Diamondbacks’ 1B Paul Goldschmidt (2.8 WAR) is hitting .292/.416/.508 on the season. If you couple that with his defensive prowess, a legitimate case could be made for the two-time Gold Glove award winner, but, the D-Backs lowly fan-base stood no chance against the Cubs fan coalition.
Bryant is having a superb sophomore season, slashing .278/.370/.578, with a league-leading 25 homers and 68 runs scored. Rockies’ third-baseman Nolan Arenado has similar numbers at the plate, hitting .290/.365/.579 with 23 round-trippers and 69 runs driven in. Their offensive numbers are nearly identical, but Arenado has the edge at the hot corner. He’s won the Gold Glove Award in each of his three seasons in the bigs, making highlight-reel plays each night with ridiculous range and a cannon for an arm.
In short, Rizzo and Bryant are undoubtedly deserving of All-Star bids — but, as for who starts, you could flip a coin on both of these guys up against Goldschmidt and Arenado.
Russell is the most difficult to defend considering his 1.8 WAR ranks sixth amongst shortstops in the NL. The Dodgers’ Corey Seager (3.9 WAR) deserves the honor for his performance at the plate, he’s batting .304/.362/.539, which is far better than Russell’s .242/.338/.416. A case could be made for Giants’ SS Brandon Crawford (3.3 WAR). FanGraphs ranks him the best defensive player in the NL and he also gets it done at the dish, hitting .270/.345/.426. The 22-year-old Russell will be back in the midsummer classic — he just didn’t deserve it this season.
After the first two months of the season, a strong case could have been made for the versatile Zobrist. But now, halfway through the season, it’s clear that this honor belongs to Nationals’ 2B Daniel Murphy, who’s batting .349/.388/.581, leads all NL second basemen in WAR and is first or second amongst second baseman in the triple crown stats (HR, RBI, .BA). Even after a slow month of June, Zobrist is hitting .291/.398/.465. Nonetheless, his numbers simply can’t compare with Murphy’s.
I recently read a prominent baseball columnist’s piece on All-Star voting—he called fan voting a “democracy” and said that baseball fans deserve the right to vote the players in. In the end, it’s all about the fans, so they should decide, he said.
What about this is a democracy? In what democracy can the people vote 35 times? Not to mention, in this “democracy,” fans can create as many email addresses as they wish and vote 35 times from each of those as well. If this year’s primaries abided by this system, Bernie Sanders would’ve blown Hillary Clinton out of the water en route to winning the Democratic nomination.
Smaller fan bases like Arizona, Tampa Bay and Oakland stand no chance against the Cubs and Red Sox.
My alternative would be to let the coaches and players decide. Give them the vote — that would increase the honor for the players and the entertainment for the fans. If you still want fan involvement, you could have their votes count to some extent. Perhaps give them a percentage of the vote, or allow them to vote in the final player or two in each league.
Right now, this is a competition of which fan bases can encourage their fans to vote the most. It’s not a democracy — if anything, it’s an oligarchy — with the ruling powers being Chicago, Boston and those crazy fans in Kansas City.
Major League Baseball was lucky, the fans didn’t do anything crazy. The NHL, who also has fan voting, wasn’t as fortunate this season. An online campaign that began as a joke to vote infamous-goon John Scott into the All-Star game actually worked.
So, why does all of this matter?
Well, if you’re a Cubs fan, you want the very best players in the NL lineup considering that home-field advantage in the World Series is on the line. Now that the Cubs are legitimate October contenders, that extra game at Wrigley Field could be the difference in bringing a title to the north side for the first time in 107 years. They need all the help that they can get.
It might sound silly and I’m definitely looking too far into the future — but, it’s important to consider. This game actually matters for the Cubs.
Quite simply, fans shouldn’t vote. Even if they were only allowed to vote once, I would be against it — a simple conversation with the average baseball fan would lead you to believe the same thing.
Kevin McCarthy, a junior at the University of Illinois, is serving an internship at Scout.com this summer and covering the Cubs for NorthSidersReport. You can follow him at @KevOMcCarthy on Twitter or contact him by e-mail at Kevin.McCarthy00@yahoo.com