|Bauman: Fans speak, justice prevails
The people have spoken. And they have spoken with intelligence and acumen.
For all the fears that have been voiced about the balloting for the 2001 All-Star Game -- oh, no, they're going to elect nine Mariners -- the results largely represent victories for common sense and good judgment.
And by the way, there will be no issues about a recount in Florida. Online balloting, international balloting, a record number of ballots cast; the whole thing taken together produced something resembling a rational election.
Quibbles? Always. This is baseball. This is now-international politics. If you don't want an argument, don't hold an election.
For instance, the election of Cal Ripken at third base for the American League is a triumph of sentiment. On merit, the selection should have gone to Troy Glaus. But the election of Ripken, in this, his final season, is so understandable, that it almost becomes, in its own sentimental way, all right. This is the baseball public paying tribute to one of the game's greats, saying thank you to a man whose perseverance set a standard for all times. That's not fair to Troy Glaus, but on the larger scale, we don't have to appeal this one to the Supreme Court.
Four Seattle Mariners were elected? This looks more like the result of merit than ballot-box stuffing.
The Mariners have been by far the best team in baseball during the first half of the season. Where is the argument against Bret Boone, John Olerud, Ichiro Suzuki, and Edgar Martinez?
All right, we know where the argument is. At second base, the argument would be Roberto Alomar. At first base, the argument would be Jason Giambi. But these are close calls. All four Mariners are richly deserving of these honors, based on their performances. They are not the only deserving candidates. But they are deserving.
This is not like 1957, when Cincinnati turned the All-Star voting into an old-time, Chicago-style election and the then-commissioner, Ford Frick, stepped in and booted two Reds off the starting lineup.
"Everybody goes back to those instances with the Reds when Ford Frick stepped in because he felt that the thing was really stacked," Commissioner Bud Selig said in an interview with MLB.com. "But I see none of that here at all. Look, the Mariners are having a wonderful season, and they deserve recognition. On balance, I think the voting came out very well."
There were some Mariners further up the electoral food chain than their numbers might have suggested. So what's the alternative? Do you tell people in Seattle they shouldn't be so excited about one of the greatest half-season performances in the history of humankind? Do you say: "Look, we know your team is tearing up the league, we know the All-Star Game is in your city, but for the sake of a quiet election, don't get all excited and vote for your favorite players or anything."
If there were four Tampa Bay Devil Rays in starting positions, then you'd have a fundamental problem. But what you have here is probably a reflection of the tremendous excitement created by an astonishingly successful ballclub. Let's not make that illegal.
Elsewhere, those of us who like to think of catcher as a defensive position would have liked Charles Johnson to be voted in as the National League starter. And in the outfield, maybe the NL voters could have found room for Larry Walker or Lance Berkman, both of whom are having tremendous seasons. But the voters couldn't have found room for both, because Barry Bonds or Sammy Sosa and Luis Gonzalez have to be there.
But these are individual, subjective judgments, just as votes often are. Overall on this All-Star election, there were a few foibles and a few obvious areas of dispute, but on balance the voters held up their end of the deal. Done the right way, this democracy thing is really kind of enjoyable.
Mike Bauman is a columnist for MLB.com based in Milwaukee.