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Fans clearly a motivated electorate
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07/04/2004 7:00 PM ET
Fans clearly a motivated electorate
Candidates receive more than 141 million online votes
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Cards slugger Albert Pujols was one of 10 players who received more than 2,500,000 votes. (Tom Gannam/AP)

There were more votes cast in the 2004 All-Star Game election than there were in the 2000 American presidential election.

Why? Baseball has better candidates.

Take, for instance, the choice in 2000 between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Please.

How much more rewarding it is to choose among the merits of the National League candidates at first base, such as Jim Thome, Albert Pujols, Sean Casey, Todd Helton, and yes, Lyle Overbay? Or some of the American League outfield candidates, such as Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, Ichiro Suzuki, Gary Sheffield, Carl Crawford and Magglio Ordonez? You cannot go wrong with any of these people. We are talking about an argument where the issue is merit, not an argument in which the one guy might be slightly less damaging than the other character.

The record will show that roughly 106 million votes were cast in the 2000 presidential election. For the All-Star Game, there were 141 million votes cast online alone, right here at MLB.com. There are extenuating circumstances in comparing these totals, but there is no question that what we have here in the All-Star balloting is what is known in the political trade as "a highly motivated electorate." Yes, baseball seems to have "energized the base."

There are, of course, more candidates for the All-Star teams than there were for the presidency, at least on the final ballots. (Although in 2000, you had to count Ralph Nader and Patrick Buchanan. Right away, the presidential race grew from a battery to an infield.) But, in baseball, more viable candidates translate into more voting. That might not be the case in national politics.

2004 All-Star Game

And the nay-sayers will argue that in the All-Star selections people get to vote more than once. So what? Numerous reliable reports have indicated that this was a way of life in Chicago for a very long time. How do you think the phrase "vote early, vote often" originated?

The baseball voting has clearly demonstrated the power of online voting. Again, there will be those, buried deep in a pre-techno past, who will complain that this method of voting is open to abuse. The 2000 national elections of course, ended up focusing on a bunch of "hanging chads" in Florida. There are no chads, hanging or otherwise in the All-Star Game voting. Compared to an election that had to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, online voting is a model of purity. Or, look at it this way: In politics, Florida produced an electoral quagmire. In baseball, Florida produced the world champion Marlins.

Here is another way in which the baseball elections are superior to the national elections. The guy who gets the most votes actually wins. There is no anachronistic electoral college in the All-Star voting. You do not get, well, Barry Bonds led all vote-getters but he's trailing in the electoral college so he won't be a starter. No. There is grass-roots democracy at work. I know, it's a radical concept, but it does seem to be succeeding, in the summer elections.

The baseball elections also have both a broader candidate base and a wider electorate. Ichiro Suzuki once led the All-Star voting. Yet, he could not be elected president of the United States, even if he were to renounce his Japanese citizenship and eventually become a full-fledged American. This is our loss. You've seen Ichiro. Extremely talented, intelligent, diligent fellow. In a president, we could do much worse. We already have. Warren G. Harding.

Non-U.S. citizens obviously cannot vote for president, but they can vote in All-Star elections. Why? Baseball is in a better position internationally than American society. Each year, the American game is enriched by the growing contributions of, for instance, players from Latin America and Asia. As a society, what we currently get from abroad can be summed up in the phrase "higher oil prices." And that's the best of it.

The truth is that while the NBA parades itself as an international game, and the NFL persistently tries to develop a European market, it is now baseball that leads the way in having international players in integral roles. So it is more than fair that the All-Star ballot be open to the entire globe. And we eagerly await the arrival of the first Estonian outfielder, or the scrappy second sacker from Uzbekistan, or the crafty left-hander from Sri Lanka.

Of course, some people will say that the All-Star balloting is a trifle, while the presidential election is a matter of the utmost importance. There cannot be a serious quibble with the importance of the presidential election, although with home-field advantage for the World Series now at stake in the All-Star Game, I think we can agree that the gap has been narrowed.

With all the crucial precincts in for the 2004 All-Star voting, we can say, without fear or favor, that this election has two clear winners, beyond the elected starters themselves: The game of baseball and participatory democracy, an American way of settling arguments.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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