Outside of Opening Day, October baseball, and pennant races, the All-Star Game is one of the highlights of the season in my opinion. The backwards hat of Ken Griffey Jr. in the Home Run Derby, Larry Walker turning around to bat from the right side of the plate against Randy Johnson, Torii Hunter robbing Barry Bonds, and Mark McGwire hitting moonshots in the derby at Fenway Park are just a few of my favorite All-Star weekend memories. It’s a time to award the players who have had outstanding first halves of the season, as well as superstars like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant. Then, you have Addison Russell who was voted in as the starting shortstop for the National League.
It’s great that fans can have a voice in deciding who they want to see in the Midsummer Classic, but with the evolution of internet voting, the process needs to change. This game is one of the few times a year that Major League Baseball has a chance to attract new fans. Unless they are hurt, the best and brightest are playing in the game. It’s fun to see Chris Sale take on Harper or Noah Syndergaard face Trout. Currently, you can vote for every player on your favorite team whether they are hitting .500 or .100 on the season. This season, the Cubs are off to a great start, and the fan base that has been down for so long has a legitimate reason to be excited for a possible deep run in October. The voting proved their excitement, as the fans voted in five Cubs to start in San Diego next week. Those players were Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Bryant, Dexter Fowler and Russell. All of those players are arguably deserving of the start, except Russell.
I’m not here saying that Russell is terrible — he is the starting shortstop for one of the best teams in baseball — but he isn’t the best, or even a top-five shortstop in the NL. He is batting .242 with 11 home runs after slugging two homers on Tuesday against the Cincinnati Reds. That isn’t a bad start for a 22-year-old in his second season in the big leagues, but it’s not All-Star worthy.
What follows are a few names of shortstops who are more deserving of the start than Russell.
Corey Seager, who is an All-Star in his first full season the big leagues, is hitting .305 with 17 home runs going into the Los Angeles Dodgers’ game Tuesday. Brandon Crawford is hitting .270 on the season with 8 home runs and 53 RBIs, while helping lead the Giants to the most wins currently in the National League. Jean Segura and Aledmys Diaz are both hitting .313 for the year. Segura has 15 stolen bases in his first year with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Diaz has slugged 11 home runs in his first season for the St. Louis Cardinals. Trevor Story, who started with six home runs in his first four big league games, is batting .264 with 19 bombs for the Colorado Rockies.
Seager, Crawford and Diaz have the biggest arguments for the starting All-Star spot, as their teams are either in first or second place in their respective divisions, and their stats are some of the best in the NL at the position.
The current format gives fans all the power to vote in players from their favorite teams. It normally works out fine, and the best players on the best teams are starting. Last year, the Kansas City Royals fans almost voted Omar Infante to start at second base, but Jose Altuve edged him out the last couple of days to avoid that embarrassment. Infante hit .236 with a slugging percentage of .308 before the All-Star Break in 2015.
The Royals fans last year and Cubs fans this year played by the rules, but just because it’s not against the rules doesn’t mean it’s right. Major League Baseball needs to adjust fan voting if they are going to continue to make this game decide home field advantage in the World Series. One solution would be reducing the limit to four players from each team to be put on the fans’ ballot. If five players from a team are deserving to be included on the roster, fans can vote in four and then the managers for each league can select the fifth if they feel they should be there.
Addison Russell has all the tools to be one of the best shortstops in the game, and a future All-Star — but not this season. Congratulations to the Cubs fans for rocking the vote, but shame on Major League Baseball for letting this happen. Please make a change before this becomes a trend.