Tag Archives: All star game

MLB Moving All-Star Game from Atlanta Creates Political Hot Potato

Major League Baseball (MLB) recently made the decision to move the July 13, 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta, Georgia to a city to be named later.

The move was made in response to a new Georgia voting law that, depending on which side of the political fence one is on, either secures the elections in Georgia, or makes it harder for people to vote in Georgia. Critics of the new law call it a voter suppression measure and compare it to racist Jim Crow era laws. Proponents of the law note that they are just trying to make elections safer and more secure.

I will save the politics of the left versus right debate of the law for another day. I will say though that votes in Georgia for the 2020 election were counted four times and widespread voter fraud was not found. So, the new voting law might boil down to someone looking for a solution where a problem doesn’t exist, or it could scream of voter suppression and an attempt to silence a certain segment of the voting population in Georgia based on not liking the results of the last election.

Now that Major League Baseball set the ball in motion in terms of moving marquee events out of Atlanta in response to actions taken by the state legislative branch, time will tell if other events, like College Football’s Peach Bowl are moved out of Atlanta.
Photo R. Anderson

While some argue there are some good provisions in the new law, when it becomes criminal to offer someone waiting in line to vote a drink of water one has to question whether the legislation is really looking out for the welfare of the voters.

Either way, it is a political hot potato with passionate supporters on both sides that will likely ultimately be decided through litigation and perhaps a change in federal voting law. While the final fate of the voting process in Georgia is up in the air, MLB decided that in the current climate they did not want to be in Georgia for All-Star weekend.

MLB certainly has the power to decide where they want to play the All-Star Game. So, despite awarding the game to Atlanta back in 2019, MLB was completely within their rights as an organization to move the game to another city. However, much like the voting law has passionate backers and detractors, the move by MLB was also met with support by some, and condemnation by others.

Shortly after Major League Baseball announced that they were moving the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta, the Atlanta Braves made it clear to all who were listening that the decision to move the game was not made by them and that they did not agree with the move. Photo R. Anderson

Opponents of the game being moved cite that MLB caved to pressure from corporations and others in moving the game and missed an opportunity to draw attention to the very issue they are opposed to by taking their ball and going to another city.

In fact, the Atlanta Braves went on record as saying the decision to move the game was not theirs.

Wearing my cynical hat for a bit, the statement by the Braves about not making the decision to move the game sounds like an attempt by the team to distance themselves from the MLB decision in order to appease a certain subset of season ticket holders to avoid being a victim of “cancel culture.”

Had the game remained in Atlanta there likely would have been protests and other activities during All-Star Weekend that would have drawn attention to the issue of voting in Georgia and distracted from the true purpose of the All-Star weekend which is to create a bunch of for profit made for television events that give out bragging rights but not much else.

It also should be noted that had the All-Star Game been scheduled in Atlanta next year, or any other year for that matter, instead of this year it likely would not have been moved at all since the voting law would not have been as fresh in everyone’s mind. America is definitely a country of short attention spans and MLB just happened to roll the dice wrong and end up in Atlanta during a politically charged year.

So, faced with the possibly of protests, lost revenue from corporate sponsors, and the potential for players and at least one manager deciding to boycott the game, MLB did what many corporations do when faced with loud opposition from the people who write them big checks, they chose the road that they thought would best maintain their bottom line and standing within the community.

One should never underestimate the power of a sponsor threatening to withhold money when it comes to sports leagues and other entities dusting off their moral compasses, or at least fiscal compass during a variety of situations. I want to believe MLB did not let lost revenue factor into their decision but, if it walks and talks like sponsorship bucks, it usually is sponsorship driven.

Again, MLB was totally within their rights to move the game, but a case can definitely be made that keeping the game in Atlanta and using it as a platform for reform would have been a stronger statement. Lost in the debate about the game moving is the millions of dollars in local revenue that Georgia small businesses will lose since hotels, restaurants, and other establishments will no longer have the influx of people traveling to the All-Star Game.

Of course, it should be noted that we are still in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic so the idea of thousands of people traveling anywhere right now is likely keeping health officials and scientists up at night.

In response to MLB moving the All-Star Game, Texas governor Greg Abbott declined the Texas Rangers offer for him to throw out a first pitch at the home opener of the Rangers’ new Ballpark. When I saw that I laughed and laughed and laughed.

The governor grandstanding by refusing to throw out a pitch in front of his constituents based on something done 800 miles away in another state is a bit much. It should also be noted that Texas like many other states is trying to push through voter reform legislation which could make it harder for people to vote.

In response to MLB moving the All-Star Game, the Texas governor declined the Texas Rangers offer for him to throw out a first pitch at the home opener of the Rangers’ new Ballpark which replaced the open air sweat box that was Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Photo R. Anderson

So, with that context in mind one could see why the Texas governor would be so quick to side with the Georgia governor on the issue. Then again, this is the same man who often talks out of both sides of his mouth.

So, despite the Texas governor stating otherwise, perhaps his refusal to throw out the pitch in protest was really an invitation for MLB to move the All-Star Game to one of Texas’ two air-conditioned Ballparks.

While I really do not care where the All-Star Game is played this year, part of me really wants to see MLB call the governor’s bluff by offering to move the game to Texas so he has to go on record saying no to the millions of dollars in revenue that could go into the state economy.

Something tells me he will not still be vocally protesting the game leaving Georgia if those millions of dollars in revenue generated by the game come to Texas. But then again, the governor tends to change his mind faster than a Texas power plant goes dark in the middle of a freeze due to neglect.

My gut says the All-Star Game will get moved to Los Angeles, but it would definitely be interesting to see what would happen if MLB offered to come back to Texas.

The governors of Texas and Georgia are not alone in their anger towards MLB. Former President Donald Trump joined the conservative chorus of people seeking to punish MLB for its decision to move its All-Star Game out of Georgia by asking his red hat wearing faithful to boycott MLB.

Again, moving the game was totally within the foul poles of what MLB could do. By the same token, people certainly have the right to protest and/or boycott MLB for making the move.

Back when I was working on my Masters of Science in Sport Management, I studied many incidents where the worlds of sports and political protest collided. That is definitely a whole column series for another day.

While some argue that sports teams, league and athletes should just play the game and leave the politics out of it, professional and amateur athletes have long used their platforms to promote a political or social cause.

The invention and accessibility of social media platforms where athletes are less filtered through team media handlers to get their message out as created more opportunity for athletes from all sports and backgrounds to let their views be heard.

It was in part due to that chorus of athletes raising their voices in opposition to playing the All-Star Game in Atlanta which led to the game be relocated.

Of course, fans are free to agree or disagree with those views. The First Amendment guarantees people the right to state their opinion, but it does not guarantee the right that everyone will agree with it.

Time will tell where the 2021 MLB All-Star Game will take place. Time will also tell whether the action by MLB to move the game out of Atlanta to solve a short-term PR situation, will have long term impacts on the game, or if it will just be one of many blips in the history of the National Pastime.

One thing that is certain is in an ever-divided country, factions will continue to form and common ground will end up being not so common.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to warm up my throwing arm. I hear the Rangers suddenly have an opening for a ceremonial first pitch.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

All-Star Game Fan Voting is Still a Bad Idea

Anyone who has visited an official  Major League Baseball web page recently is likely to have noticed that the fan voting portion of All-Star Game balloting has begun.

Between now and July 3 fans can stuff the ballot box with the hopes of seeing their favorite players take the field Tuesday, July 15, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Inclusion in the MLB All-Star Game is certainly a hot ticket for the players selected since unlike other All-Star games in sports, the MLB game has the feeling that it is being played to win by both sides.

Of course some added incentive to win was added a few years back when home field advantage in the World Series was given to the league that won the All-Star Game.

The All-Star Game also allows players to show off their home run swing during the Home Run Derby leading up to the big game.

Even the players not selected to the game get the benefit of a few days off to spend with their friends and families.

Catcher Jason Castro of the Houston Astros was named to his first All-Star Game last season. Photo R. Anderson
Catcher Jason Castro of the Houston Astros was named to his first All-Star Game last season.
Photo R. Anderson

All in all, there is little to find fault in when it comes to the All Star Game. However,  there is one particular aspect of the MLB All-Star Game season that needs to change.

That element of All-Star Game party foul is the fan vote. I know I will get lots of grief for saying this but I do not believe that the fans should be voting for the All-Star participants.

Sure, people will say that as a reporter I am being unfair to the common fan by saying that only members of the media and league officials should have a vote but let us examine what the fan vote portion of the All-Star voting really entails.

Unlike say the election for the President of the United States where a registered voter is allowed to cast a single ballot there are no such restrictions for MLB balloting. In fact, excessive voting is encouraged by the 30 teams who offer various prizes for filling out excessive amounts of ballots.

This is also the time of year where Ballparks will be filled with super fans who take their devotion to their favorite players to the extreme by filling out boxes and boxes of ballots.

That boys and girls is called buying votes no matter how you slice it. And yes I am not trying to say that electing representatives to the All-Star game is more important than electing the President.

Sadly I would not be surprised if more people vote in the All-Star race than the general elections to decide who will run the country though.

All Star Games often have all the pomp and circumstance of a political campaign including campaign buttons. Photo R. Anderson
All Star Games often have all the pomp and circumstance of a political campaign including campaign buttons.
Photo R. Anderson

As part of the ballot stuffing certain power voters submit hundreds if not thousands of ballots. Of course it stands to reason that they are voting for their home town favorites so it becomes a battle of which team has the most active fan base in selecting some of the leaders of the voting pack.

So instead of an All-Star game where the most talented individuals at a given position are selected to represent both their team and their league, the All-Star Game becomes like high school with only the popular kids getting in to the party.

Granted, sometimes the most popular player is also the best player at that position but there has been a long history of players with better stats getting left out.

Let us use Cal Ripken, Jr. as an example. As noted numerous times, Cal Ripken, Jr. was my favorite player to follow growing up along with Don Mattingly.

Few could argue that Cal Ripken, Jr. was a great ballplayer and every bit deserving of induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot.

Cal Ripken Jr. had a Hall of Fame worthy career but some late career All-Star Game selections seemed based more on past performance than current stats. Photo R. Anderson
Cal Ripken Jr. had a Hall of Fame worthy career but some late career All-Star Game selections seemed based more on past performance than current stats.
Photo R. Anderson

But as happens with all of us as we age we are not as productive as we once were. So despite declining skills Cal Ripken, Jr. still was selected to All-Star games late in his career when he was still widely popular but no longer the best player at his position.

There are examples of players on the disabled list getting a large amount of votes for inclusion as well.

Regardless of what Derek Jeter does on the field this year it is a no brainer that he will be elected to the All Star Game during his farewell season.

In fact even if Jeter is somehow on injured reserve fans will likely still vote him onto the infield at Target Field for the American League.

Another wrinkle in the All-Star game is the rule that all 30 teams need to have at least one representative selected.

This rule helps ensure that no team feels left out and harkens to the age where everyone gets a participation ribbon regardless of where they finish in the race.

And yes there are good players on bad teams but am I really to believe that a player on say the Astros is playing at an All-Star level?

Granted there is probably not a perfect solution for balloting due to the fluid nature of the game and the ballots being released  over two months before the game.

But, The fact remains I do not feel that allowing fans to vote as often as they can based on their ability to pick up enough ballots at the ballpark makes a mockery of the whole process.

And for those people not wanting to spend a week in Minnesota there is always the Atlantic League All Star Game in Sugar Land.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I will not be filling out an All-Star ballot but I will start to plan my menu for the All-Star game tailgate.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Castro the Astro Named All-Star Cuz Someone Had to Be

Saturday night Major League Baseball announced the starters and reserves for this year’s All-Star Game.

With the exception of a final fan’s choice vote for each league, and some players to be named later by the managers, the rosters are pretty much set.

For the most part the rosters seem sound and despite the ill conceived notion of fan voting, the bulk of the players seem to have gotten on the team through merit.

Of course since the introduction of the “all teams have to be represented by at least one player rule” some of the reserve players would not be on the team were it not required for someone from their team to be there.

Jason Castro was named to his first All-Star game Saturday. Photo R. Anderson
Jason Castro was named to his first All-Star game Saturday.
Photo R. Anderson

This brings us to Jason Castro, catcher for the Houston Astros. Castro was named to the All-Star game as the sole representative of the Astros.

To think that his level of play reaches the level of an All-Star leads one to have to make a quantum leap of reasoning.

Even given the notion that someone from the Astros has to be selected as an All-Star, Castro does not even lead any offensive categories on the team. Which means that he is not even the best of the worst team in baseball.

Castro ranks second in batting average behind Jose Altuve (last year’s Astros All-Star representative) and also ranks second on the team in runs scored and home runs.

Granted Castro had a “see I belong in the game” moment Saturday night when he hit a three-run home run against the Rangers as part of a shocking upset in Arlington but the case remains puzzling as to why he is heading to the All-Star game as a reserve catcher.

To be fair I have nothing against Jason Castro despite the Astros seeming to have a man crush on him since drafting him with the 10th pick of the 2008 draft and repeatedly shoving him down the throats of the fans despite the presence of better catchers on the roster.

While there have been some catchers through the years that have swung the bat well those are usually few and far between. And in the case of former Astros catcher turned second baseman Craig Biggio catchers that can hit are usually moved to other positions to prolong their careers. Had Craig Biggio remained a catcher it is very probable that he would not have had the long career that allowed him to obtain over 3,000 hits.

So to me the job of catcher first and foremost is that of a defensive player that works well with the pitchers and can throw runners out at second base. Through the years prior to Jason Castro arriving at the Astros there were a string of such players who while not known for consistently driving in runs they definitely minimized opposing teams scoring through their work behind the plate.

Future Hall of Famer Ivan "Pudge" Rodriquez spent only part of a season with the Astros before being traded to the Rangers. Photo R. Anderson
Future Hall of Famer Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez spent only part of a season with the Astros before being traded to the Rangers.
Photo R. Anderson

To me the best catcher to ever wear an Astros uniform was Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez.  With a young team and a future Hall of Famer behind the plate, it seemed like a no brainer to keep Pudge in the Astro pinstripes for as long as possible to allow him to mentor the pitching staff and provide veteran leadership in the clubhouse.

Sadly the Astros traded Rodriguez to the Rangers midway though the 2009 season. But during his time there he was definitely fun to watch and showed Astros players and fans what a real catcher looks like.

J.R. Towles was another catcher who called a good game but fell short at the plate. Towles and Castro were both competing for the starting job at the same time. Towles beat out the injury prone Castro twice in spring training for the job and received high praise from many of the Astros pitchers for his presense behind the plate.

For my money former Astro J.R. Towles was twice the player Jason Castro is where it counts most, defensively. Unfortunately for Towles the Astros disagreed and kept sticking with the error prone Jason Castro behind the plate. Photo R. Anderson
For my money former Astro J.R. Towles was twice the player Jason Castro is where it counts most, defensively. Unfortunately for Towles the Astros disagreed and kept sticking with the error prone Jason Castro behind the plate.
Photo R. Anderson

Unfortunately Towles struggled mightily at the plate generating far more outs than hits. After a few seasons of battling between the Majors and Minors, and with Castro still the anointed catcher of the future, Towles was finally let go paving the way for the Jason Castro era to begin.

Still even after Castro was anointed the starter he still faced injury issues and actually missed the entire 2011 season with a knee injury received during Spring Training.

It seems that he is finally showing the offensive spark that they had hoped was there but there are still glaring defensive issues visible in his game in the amount of passed balls that get by him. His ability to call games and be in sync with his battery mates is also an area that is still in work.

I certainly hope that I am wrong and Jason Castro can become a successful every day catcher for years to come and help the team with both his bat and his glove. I just have not seen enough evidence of that to date to give me confidence in his ability to be that player down the road.

Granted, as a reserve there is no guarantee that Castro will take the field at any point in the game. The rules say a member from every team has to make the roster but it does not say that the managers are forced to use every player like some Little League pay to play situation.

I truly hope that both fan voting and guarantee representation from all teams are removed from the All-Star Game landscape in the coming years to return the game to its roots where the best players, regardless of team affiliation, are battling each other for bragging rights and home field World Series advantage.

Until that day comes the All-Star Game will carry a virtual asterisk next to it meaning that the accomplishments made within it should not be judged the same way as the the pre fan vote era.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to start planning my All-Star Game menu.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Fan Votes for All-Star Game a Bad Idea

As we cope with the fact that the year is entering its seventh month despite feelings of Christmas being only yesterday here at Triple B the arrival of July means two things.

First, it is another reminder that I have lived in Texas far too long as it was a first week of July move that brought me to the state that only recognizes one lone star.

The second thing that July means is that the Major League Baseball All-Star Game is upon us. This year’s game will be July 16 in New York.

And unlike other All-Star games in sports, the MLB game has the feeling that it is being played to win by both sides. Of course some added incentive to win was added a few years back when home field advantage in the World Series was given to the league that won the All-Star game.

While I enjoy the home run derby and the All-Star game itself there is one particular aspect of the Baseball All-Star game season that I can do without.

That element of All-Star Game party foul is the fan vote. I know I will get lots of grief for saying this but I do not believe that the fans should be voting for the All-Star participants.

Sure, people will say that as a reporter I am being unfair to the common fan by saying that only members of the media and league officials should have a vote but let us examine what the fan vote portion of the All-Star voting really entails.

Unlike say the election for the President of the United States where a registered voter is allowed to cast a single ballot there are no such restrictions for MLB balloting. In fact, excessive voting is encouraged by the 30 teams who offer various prizes for filling out excessive amounts of ballots.

That boys and girls is called buying votes no matter how you slice it. And yes I am not trying to say that electing representatives to the All-Star game is more important than electing the President. Sadly I would not be surprised if more people vote in the All-Star race than the general elections to decide who will run the country though.

As an aside, as we approach July 4th when the founding fathers declared America’s independence and envisioned the framework of democracy I really think they expected more participation by the people in that process.  The fact that voter turnout is so dismal means that those who do not vote really have no right to complain in the outcome of any election since they chose to not use their right to make a choice.

But enough about civics and responsible citizenship. Let us cast our gaze once more at the ballot process for the MLB All-Star game.

As part of the ballot stuffing certain power voters submit hundreds if not thousands of ballots. Of course it stands to reason that they are voting for their home town favorites so it becomes a battle of which team has the most active fan base in selecting some of the leaders of the voting pack.

So instead of an All-Star game where the most talented individuals at a given position are selected to represent both their team and their league, the All-Star Game becomes like high school with only the popular kids getting in to the party.

Granted, sometimes the most popular player is also the best player at that position but there has been a long history of players with better stats getting left out.

Cal Ripken Jr. had a Hall of Fame worthy career but some late career All-Star Game selections seemed based more on past performance than current stats. Photo R. Anderson
Cal Ripken Jr. had a Hall of Fame worthy career but some late career All-Star Game selections seemed based more on past performance than current stats.
Photo R. Anderson

Let us use Cal Ripken, Jr. as an example. As noted numerous times, Cal Ripken, Jr. was my favorite player to follow growing up along with Don Mattingly. Few could argue that Cal Ripken, Jr. was a great ballplayer and every bit deserving of induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot.

But as happens with all of us as we age we are not as productive as we once were. So despite declining skills Cal Ripken, Jr. still was selected to All-Star games late in his career when he was still widely popular but no longer the best player at his position.

There are examples of players on the disabled list getting a large amount of votes for inclusion as well. Derek Jeter has not taken the field all season long yet he is included on the All-Star Ballot. There are also players who have been released or optioned down to the Minor Leagues still on the ballot.

At least one member of the Houston Astros roster will travel to New York for the All Star Game. Does that mean that they are having an All-Star caliber year? Not necessary. It just means the rules say every team will have one player there to show support. Photo R. Anderson
At least one member of the Houston Astros roster will travel to New York for the All Star Game. Does that mean that they are having an All-Star caliber year? Not necessary. It just means the rules say every team will have one player there to show support.
Photo R. Anderson

Another wrinkle in the All-Star game is the rule that all 30 teams need to have at least one representative selected.

This rule helps ensure that no team feels left out and harkens to the age where everyone gets a participation ribbon so that no one is left out.

And yes there are good players on bad teams but am I really to believe that a player on say the Astros who have about 30 wins is playing at an All-Star level?

Granted there is probably not a perfect solution for balloting due to the fluid nature of the game and the ballots being released two months before the game. But, The fact remains I do not feel that allowing fans to vote as often as they can based on their ability to pick up enough ballots at the ballpark makes a mockery of the whole process.

For those people still wanting to get their votes in and take place in the mockery the polls close on July 4th this year.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I will not be filling out an All-Star ballot but I will start to plan my menu for the All-Star game tailgate.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson