Voting shows democracy, baseball-style
Online selection of All-Star starters an exercise in choice
Without pandering unnecessarily to our very own readership, it is clear that online voters have once again made the baseball world safe for democracy.
There were more than 155 million total votes cast online in the balloting for the 2005 American and National League All-Star teams. This is, of course, a record. It is sort of the electoral equivalent of somebody hitting 90 home runs in a single season -- previously unthinkable.
But there are other aspects of this voting that are every bit as impressive as the numbers. For instance, while the voting was still going on at ballparks, much of the time the leading vote-getter at first base for the American League was Tino Martinez of the New York Yankees. I have nothing against Tino Martinez, but he did not belong on the All-Star team. He stopped being an All-Star sometime during the last century.
We all know what this was. Yankee fans were elated to have Tino back in the Bronx. He had some early success this season. A big wave of sentiment, a tidal thrust of nostalgia for the days when the Yankees won all the time, was all set to put someone hitting .222 into an All-Star starting lineup.
But in a late surge of online voting, what happens? The infinitely more deserving Mark Teixeira of the Texas Rangers is elected to that spot. Justice triumphs.
There was another first-base example, although not quite as dramatic, in the National League. There Albert Pujols was the leader for most of the way. Now Albert Pujols is a great hitter and a completely deserving All-Star in this season or any other. But the best hitter on the planet in the first half of the 2005 season was Derrek Lee of the Chicago Cubs. And another late surge of votes put Lee on top and into the NL starting lineup.
Am I saying that online voters are more intelligent than ballpark voters? I could not make that claim, not having seen the millions of IQ test scores in question. I especially would not make that claim because I think that everyone who enters a ballpark shows a certain amount of intelligence, simply by spending his or her discretionary dollars in such an astute way.
But what I am saying is that when you move away from the fan aspect of the voting, when you lessen the importance of mere name recognition, you might get a more precise result. And that is apparently what the millions of online voters are bringing to this particular party.
At the end of the day, we can debate the selections and we can regret the non-selections. But what we have here is really essentially democratic and fine. I believe that the voting for the All-Star teams is exactly the kind of election that Thomas Jefferson and the rest of the founding fathers had in mind.
Of course, Jefferson was not quite expecting 155 million votes to be cast online. And he also wasn't expecting voters from Japan or Canada or Aruba or any place else that are checking in from outside the USA. But this is part of the process now, and we need not turn back.
But when you think of the term "Jeffersonian democracy" you think of the classic well-informed electorate on the one hand and fully qualified candidates on the other. Ladies and gentlemen, that perfectly describes the balloting and the end results for the 2005 American and National League All-Star teams.
Fully qualified candidates? The supply always exceeds the demand. There are always terrific baseball players who don't make the cut. There is always a surplus of worthy names on the baseball ballot. If only some of the other American elections could make this same boast.
How much more fulfilling is it to ponder the choice between Derrek Lee and Albert Pujols than it is to decide between George W. Bush and John Kerry? How much more satisfying is it to weigh the considerable merits of Cesar Izturis and David Eckstein than it was to search for the merits in the choice between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole?
For those people who criticize the All-Star elections because the voters can vote more than once, hey, it's always worked in Chicago. And the truth is that in the average American presidential election, more than half of the eligible voters never vote at all. Let's be happy that somebody is holding an election in which the voters are so highly motivated that they want to weigh in more than once.
And here in this little portion of cyberspace it is a very good thing to observe the immense impact that online voting has had on this election. We have taken the worthy impulses of freedom-loving folk from the 1700s and added to them the technology of a brand new millennium.
Add it all up, and we have worldwide baseball democracy.
Mike Bauman is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.