Tommy Pham on All-Star voting: ‘It’s always unfair. It’s never going to be fair.’

Getty Images
32 Comments

Over at The Athletic, Josh Tolentino has a story up that makes a good point: the Rays currently have only one guy — Austin Meadows — in starting position in All-Star voting despite having multiple guys who are deserving on merit. He goes through the Rays’ roster to see who is deserving.

Before he does that, though, he gets a quote from Tommy Pham that’ll probably get picked up by a lot of people and cast in a certain way but which, really, makes a good point in a less obvious way.

Here’s what Pham said about the Rays’ so-far poor showing in All-Star voting:

“We won’t get credit, man. It’s always unfair. Big market vs. small market. It’s never going to be fair. With Avisaíl [Garcia] and me, when I saw the ballot of the guys ahead of us – (Red Sox) Jackie Bradley Jr. and (Yankees) Brett Gardner – and they’re hitting around .200 or lower. That tells you it right there.”

I presume some in the Boston and New York media will pick up on the comments to Bradley and Gardner and try to make hay out of it, because that’s just how these things go. Pham goes on to talk about how the Rays are never featured on ESPN and how big market vs. small market rules such considerations and I suppose people will cast that as whining in some way as well.

But there’s something else Pham said that is more notable to me:

“It’s never going to be fair. It has to change because when you go into arbitration, that’s a big thing that’s talked about with accomplishments. Baseball has to be better to fix it.”

Do All-Star credentials have a big impact on arbitration. I dunno. I think it’s more of a side factor — something thrown out in passing — as opposed to the meat of an arbitration presentation, but it’s not nothing. If it has even a slight effect, though, it’s garbage because we have an All-Star voting system that is, frankly, ridiculous in its randomness and geared far more toward maximizing web traffic and sponsorship engagement than it is in actually picking players for the All-Star Game. To the extent an All-Star selection — especially a selection as a starter — impacts arbitration awards Pham is right to be mad about it because those arbitration awards, in turn, have a big impact on later salary negotiations. It’s bad enough that voting leaders get cash bonuses now, but if MLB’s farce of an All-Star voting system costs players money down the road, it’s way worse.

As for the larger stuff about the Rays not getting exposure: well, yeah. That’s a tale as old as baseball, unfortunately. But even if it’s an old complaint, and one about which not much can be done, it doesn’t negate what Pham is saying about the arbitration angle.