A couple of Orioles fans submitted 38,000 All-Star Game ballots

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The headline says 12,500, but that was just the last batch of ballots that 19-year-olds Christian Walston and Kelsey Thomas brought to Camden Yards. They submitted 38,000 in all, according to this City Paper article. Why?

Christian Walston, 19 and Kelsey Thomas also 19, are 13-game plan season-ticket holders from Crisfield, MD and Temperance, VA respectively, who were turning in their ballots as part of the Orioles’ Vote-Orange program, that rewards ballot-box stuffers with all sorts of team swag for ensuring that the Birds will be well-represented at the mid-summer classic taking place at Minnesota’s Target Field on july 15, 2014.

Walston and Thomas are getting a 12-person catered suite for an upcoming, game at Oriole Park.

Good for them! Sounds like a lot of work and a lot of fun and it’s a pretty spiffy way to show the love for their favorite team (all 38,000 ballots were straight-ticket Orioles ballots).

Of course, the only thing that bugs me about this is that while everything else about the All-Star Game is geared toward fun and fan-friendly events — as it should be, by the way — Major League Baseball still insists on making the All-Star Game decide which league gets home field advantage in the World Series. Having this one actually significant matter remain a part of things always makes me look at fun stuff like what these two kids have done with a twinge of angst.

Bud Selig got embarrassed on national television by an All-Star Game tie over a decade ago and so he made a rule to make that not happen anymore. Except the rule has done absolutely nothing to make the leagues and players treat the All-Star Game more seriously than they had been and now makes an increasingly unimportant exhibition/celebration determine a thing that actually matters a whole lot. I’m not saying these 38,000 votes makes a difference to all of this, but I do have to wonder why, other than Bud Selig’s pride, we are sticking with this dumb home field advantage rule.

Replay review over base-keeping needs to go

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The Red Sox are off and running in the first inning of Game 1 of the World Series against the Dodgers. Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez each hit RBI singles off of Clayton Kershaw to give the Red Sox an early 2-0 lead.

Benintendi’s hit to right field ended with a replay review. Rather than throw to the cutoff man, right fielder Yasiel Puig fired home to try nabbing Mookie Betts, but his throw was poor. Catcher Austin Barnes caught the ball a few feet in front of and to the right of home plate, then whipped the ball to second base in an attempt to get Benintendi. Benintendi clearly beat the throw, but shortstop Manny Machado kept the tag applied. After Benintendi was ruled safe, the Dodgers challenged, arguing that Benintendi’s hand may have come off the second base bag for a microsecond while Machado’s glove was on him. The ruling on the field was upheld and the Red Sox continued to rally.

Replay review over base-keeping is not in the spirit of the rule and shouldn’t be permitted. Hopefully Major League Baseball considers changing the rule in the offseason. Besides the oftentimes uncontrollable minute infractions, these kinds of replay reviews slow the game down more than other types of reviews because they tend not to be as obvious as other situations.

Baseball has become so technical and rigid that it seems foolish to leave gray area in this regard. A runner is either off the base or he isn’t. However, the gradual result of enforcing these “runner’s hand came off the base for a fraction of a second” situations is runners running less aggressively and sliding less often so there’s no potential of them losing control of their body around the base. Base running, particularly the aggressive, sliding variety, is quietly one of the most fun aspects of the game. Policing the game to this degree, then, serves to make the game less fun and exciting.

Where does one draw the line then? To quote Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, describing obscenity in Jacobellis v. Ohio, “I know it when I see it.” This is one area where I am comfortable giving the umpires freedom to enforce the rule at their discretion and making these situations impermissible for replay review.