I think it'd be cool if Zack Cozart was the starting shortstop for the National League All-Star team, in part obviously because he's a Red, and in large part because I cling to the outdated belief that the starting gigs in All-Star games should go to the most deserving players.
Among NL shortstops, there's little doubt that Zack is the most deserving guy. He leads fellow Senior Circuit players at his position in OPS, homers, RBI, batting average, on-base-percentage, slugging, and runs created, and his lead is many of those categories is quite substantial. His bat is one the reasons why the Reds haven't been as bad as expected, and his play at shortstop makes up in steadiness what it lacks in sizzle.
I'd love to spend the next month making loud, passionate pleas for voters to make Zack the NL starter. I'd love to fill my Twitter feed with #VoteCozart, I'd love to use airtime encouraging fans to voter for Cozart, and I'd love to whip myself into a frenzy over results like the latest balloting update that had LA's Corey Seager polling ahead of Zack Cozart.
I just can't.
All-Star voting in most sports has really never been about choosing the most deserving players. Fans getting All-Star voting wrong is as old as All-Star games themselves. But over the last decade, league like Major League Baseball has taken what was once the fun pastime of filling out a ballot while debating the merits of the candidates and turned it into something more about hashtags, marketing, and getting you to go - and stay - on their websites.
I wrote about this two years ago, as considerable angst was building that, as Royals and Cardinals fans followed orders and stuffed virtual ballot boxes, Todd Frazier faced the possibility of not being voted as the NL starter (which eventually, he was)...
The moment voting begins, every single team begins imploring their fans to vote exclusively for their players as often as humanly possible, regardless of whether they're remotely deserving.
Go check the "Vote Reds" page. You'll see a listing of not only deserving players like Todd Frazier, but players like Devin Mesoraco and Billy Hamilton, guys who have as much business as All-Stars as I do. Recently, with Frazier needing the type of voting surge only seen in Middle East elections to overtake Matt Carpenter, the Reds have begun pushing fans to vote as often as possible for their star third baseman, inducing potential voters with prizes and further turning All-Star voting from an election into a battle into which team can find the most people with way too much free time.
Every team does this, some more aggressively than others - Royals TV announcers talk so much about All-Star voting that you forget they're actually calling a game - and you know what?
I'm okay with it.
MLB is at least being transparent. They're very upfront about All-Star voting being nothing more than a vehicle to get you and I to go to their websites, where we will drop off our email addresses so we can get reminders to buy stuff in our inboxes, and where they hope we'll buy some tickets or apparel while we're casting our ballots. They don't tell you to vote for the most deserving players. They don't recommend you spend time doing research to determine which players at each position are having the best seasons. Hell, they'll go out of their way to take any work out of voting. For example, if you click here from the "Vote Reds" page, you'll see that the ballot automatically eliminates any non-Red voting option.
Major League Baseball could not be more open and honest about what this process is all about, and what it's all about ain't about a fair and just selection of the players who have the best first half stats....
...if MLB is being upfront about how selecting the All-Stars is less about merit, and more about fan mobilization, can we really get that upset at the results?
Two years later, I feel the same way. Major League Baseball has turned voting into something that used to be at least based on the idea that fans should choose the most-deserving players into something different, and given the 21st Century's realities, inevitable. Every team is mandated to use All-Star voting as a means to get people clicking, tweeting, and most importantly, buying. In a day and age when there's no time for the nuance that goes into a good discussion about which players are having the best seasons, it almost makes sense that this is what's become of voting for All-Star Games. And given how transparent the league and its clubs are about this, I really don't have a problem with it.
But as a result, All-Star voting is as little about who's deserving as ever. And as much as I love a good All-Star argument, and as much as I hope Zack Cozart is rewarded for the season he's having, it's really hard to care that much about the results.