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Report: MLB to change All-Star starter selection procedure

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Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that Major League Baseball plans to introduce an a new step to the All-Star voting procedure this season with something called “Election Day,” aimed at picking the starters at each position.

The regular All-Star voting will proceed as normal. Then, once that’s done, the the top three vote-getters at each position will be placed on a new ballot from which fans would then vote again during a single day to decide who starts.

Which sort of defeats the putative purpose of the weeks of fan voting to begin with, which has always been about selecting starters. Of course this greatly serves the actual purpose of All-Star voting, which is to drive internet traffic to the extraordinarily lucratively sponsored MLB.com All-Star voting site, brought to you by eSurance or whoever the heck it is now.

If you doubt that that’s the actual purpose of All-Star voting, ask yourself what interest is best served by allowing fans to vote a gabillion times and to easily circumvent even those restrictions, which they certainly can and do: (a) choosing the best, most deserving All-Star team possible; or (b) encouraging maximum site traffic and sponsor engagement. I submit to you that it’s the latter.

Now ask yourself what an additional round of voting does. Yeah, again, it drives traffic to the website and sponsor. And does so at a time — post regular voting — when, in the past, all the traffic has usually died. Now they’ll squeeze one massive traffic day out of it, all while, possibly, getting a top vote getter knocked out of an All-Star start for what is, in essence, a gimmick. Which, because it’s the All-Star Game and the All-Star Game doesn’t matter means I won’t lose much sleep over this, but just know what’s going on when MLB’s P.R. machine tries to sell it as some exciting new way to get a better All-Star team or whatever.

Another new wrinkle being discussed, according to Passan:  increasing prize money to the Home Run Derby to entice top talent to take part. Last year’s winner, Bryce Harper, just signed a $330 million contract, so if he’s reluctant and you still want to get him on board, you had better come with some pretty big money, guys.

Luckily, there will be more money on hand thanks to the Election Day gimmick.

Angels’ Andrelton Simmons opts out of final 5 games

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shortstop Andrelton Simmons has opted out of the remainder of the Los Angeles Angels’ season.

The Angels announced the four-time Gold Glove-winning shortstop’s decision Tuesday before they faced the San Diego Padres.

Los Angeles (24-31) is still technically in the playoff race with five games left in the regular season, and Simmons clearly caught the Angels by surprise, although the club said it respected his decision.

The 31-year-old Simmons, who can be a free agent this winter, is finishing his fifth year with the Angels. After spraining his ankle in late July and missing 22 games, Simmons is currently batting .297 with 10 RBIs while playing his usual stellar defense, albeit with four errors in 30 games.

“At this time, I feel this is the best decision for me and my family,” Simmons said in a statement. “We don’t know what the future holds, but we would like to sincerely thank the Angels organization and Angels fans for welcoming and making us feel at home.”

Manager Joe Maddon acknowledged he was caught by surprise when general manager Billy Eppler told him about Simmons’ decision Monday night after Simmons went 1 for 4 with an RBI single in the Angels’ home finale. Maddon texted Simmons, but hadn’t heard back by Tuesday afternoon.

“I’ve really enjoyed this guy a lot,” Maddon said. “I’m a big fan. This guy is a good baseball player, and I’ve enjoyed the conversations, too. It’s just unfortunate. He’s really a big part of what we’re doing right now.”

Simmons is a favorite of Angels fans for his defensive wizardry, and owner Arte Moreno has described Simmons as perhaps his favorite player to watch on the roster. Simmons has batted .281 with 36 homers and 281 RBIs during his five seasons with Los Angeles, and he won the Gold Glove in 2017 and 2018.

“He’s a thinking kind of a player, and I’ve enjoyed him a lot,” Maddon said.

Simmons will be a free agent this winter, and the Angels have an obvious replacement for him in David Fletcher, who has a .374 on-base percentage while regularly hitting leadoff for the Angels during his breakout major league season. Fletcher has been playing second base since Simmons’ return from injury.

But the Angels haven’t publicly closed the door on Simmons’ return, and he could be given a qualifying offer. Maddon has repeatedly said he would like Simmons to return in 2021 if possible.

The Angels haven’t had a winning season during Simmons’ five years in Anaheim, although Simmons said last week he wasn’t discouraged by the lack of team success. Simmons played his first four major league seasons in Atlanta, and he hasn’t appeared in the postseason since 2013.

Simmons also said he hadn’t been involved in any recent contract talks with the Angels, but he had enjoyed playing for the club. When asked if he wanted to return to the Halos, Simmons said he would have to “plead the fifth.”