I have a confession to make. Last Friday, I went online and voted for the entire Kansas City Royals starting lineup 35 times to be the American League starters in the upcoming Major League Baseball All-Star game.
I have no particular affection for the team or any of its players, especially as they are a division rival of the Twins. Rather, I decided to join the bandwagon of Royals fans voting religiously for their players as my way of protesting the entire fan voting process.
If you follow baseball at all, you surely know how the Royals have allegedly “co-opted” the All-Star voting scheme by imploring their fans to vote online until they run out of dummy email addresses to register with. As a result, eight-ninths of the American League starting lineup will likely be composed of Royals players.
This may not be all bad. Kansas City is, after all, the reigning AL champion and the team’s lineup is quality across the board. But in an age when World Series home field advantage is determined by the league that wins the All-Star game, there’s just no way to justify choosing Omar Infante, who has an OPS of just .549 and is one of the worst everyday players in the league, as the AL starting second baseman.
The masses are complaining that Kansas City has managed to make a complete mockery of a seemingly good system designed at boosting fan engagement and loyalty over the first half of the season. But the Royals have responded by saying essentially “if you don’t like it, go vote for your own players.”
What Kansas City is doing is perfectly legitimate, and I support it for two reasons. The first reason is that the All-Star game has long been a joke anyways (a subject for another column). The second is that the controversy is living proof that direct democracy – whereby people directly vote on policy matters, cannot possibly work in practice and will never be more than a publicity stunt.
This situation highlights the reason direct democracy was abandoned by the ancient Athenians and has since been supplanted by the representative model in which people elect knowledgeable representatives to make these decisions on their behalf.
All-Star fan voting is a form of direct democracy, and thus it makes certain assumptions about its electorate – namely that they are knowledgeable and informed and that they vote rationally based on their own best interests. Cleary, voting for Omar Infante as the starting 2B over somebody like Brian Dozier, who has had a monster year, is neither informed nor in anyone’s best interest considering that the All-Star game actually means something now.
Is it ironic that the Royals, a monarchical name, would be the team that shows democracy in All-Star voting is a bad idea?
The ancient Greeks, and to some extent the U.S. republic, sought to mitigate this problem by restricting who can vote, realizing that some protections needed to be in place to keep the elections from being overrun by crazies.
Clearly, no such restrictions exist in MLB All-Star fan voting. This leads us into the other dirty secret about winning elections, which is that producing voter turnout is far more important than the actual substance of the candidate.
To illustrate, Democrats nationwide enjoyed mass success in 2008 and 2012 when the master orator Barack Obama convinced minorities and young people who don’t normally vote to go to the polls. They got crushed in 2010 and 2014 when he wasn’t on the ballot.
Critics who say the Royals have corrupted the All-Star voting scheme must realize that you cannot support the concept of fan voting on one hand, but then protest the results and call for the vote to be rejected because people actually got out and voted and produced an unfavorable result. This is what happens in sham democratic countries such as Russia, China or Venezuela, where “elections” serve only to reinforce the legitimacy of the ruling party.
Without drawing furthers comparisons between baseball and fascism, it’s fair to say that now is a good time to do away with a bizarre voting scheme that is just a gimmick and likely doesn’t have any significant effects on fan attendance or total spend.
But fear not, because I have an alternative. Concomitant with the patriotic spirit of July 4th, I hereby propose a baseball constitutional convention in which fans and Major League Baseball will come together and lay a framework for a representative system by which baseball fans will select esteemed and enlightened delegates to choose the ideal All-Star game rosters.
Only then will we be liberated from the tyranny of All-Star fan voting.