The first batch of voting results for the All-Star game will be out today. And as Bob Nightengale notes, there are a lot of players who, based on performance, should be All-Star candidates but who may not get much support. Specifically, the Biogenesis-connected players like Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera and Nelson Cruz. All of whom are having great years, but all of whom served PED suspensions last year.
Each of them had different circumstances involving their use of performance-enhancing drugs. All served suspensions. They apologized. And, soon, we will all find out whether they’ll truly be forgiven . . . Considering the All-Star Game is a showcase for the fans, who determine the starting lineup, perhaps this will be a barometer for whether fans are softening their stance toward PEDs.
Eh, no. Because that implies that fans have ever considered performance on the field n the first half of the season as the be-all, end-all of All-Star Game worthiness. Maybe the fan vote has hewed closer to rewarding worthy first-half players in recent years, but there are still a plethora of reasons fans will or will not vote for a guy. A lot of it is totally disconnected from performance and has more to do with how often the team reminds fans to vote, how strong the ballpark’s cell phone reception is and what kind of attendance the team had in mid-April when MLB starts pushing All-Star voting for some damn reason.
More fundamentally — and this may blow your mind — fans often vote for stars when they vote for All-Stars. Derek Jeter will likely be the starting AL shortstop. This is not because of his performance. It’s not because fans will be punishing Alexi Ramirez for some sort of transgression the rest of us have missed. It’s because he’s Derek Jeter and Derek Jeter is a big star and he’s famous and Alexi Ramirez ain’t. Which is fine, because it’s a fan vote and they can vote for any reason they want to. Often times, being famous or compelling or playing for a popular team matters a hell of a lot more than anything.
Ryan Braun had always been famous and popular before the PED stuff, so sure, I imagine if suddenly becomes an All-Star also-ran it’s in large part because of his now-sullied reputation. Jhonny Perlata could get a surge of support because he now plays for the Cardinals, not because fans have suddenly softened their stance on PEDs. Guys like Melky Cabrera and Nelson Cruz might get soft support because of the drugs or it could be just as much a function of them being Melky Cabrera and Nelson Cruz. Which, in terms of star power puts them a lot closer to Alexi Ramirez than it does Derek Jeter.
Poring over All-Star voting is fun to some, but mostly pointless. Trying to draw definitive conclusions about any specific fan opinion from them, however, is a fool’s errand.