View Full Version : McCaffery: Final Vote another Bud idea gone bad

07-08-2009, 06:19 PM

PHILADELPHIA —- Hours before their game against the Cincinnati Reds and three-plus months before the World Series, the Phillies were taking batting practice, and Charlie Manuel was doing his thing. He was talking hitting, and he was passionate, and he was detailed, for he knew the importance.

Manuel’s message, simply: Practice now, and practice the right way now, and the baseball rewards will arrive. Literally at the same time upstairs, three fans, one clad in a Hawaiian shirt, were fixated on computers, voting as many times as physically possible for the final National League All-Star. Their reward: The promise of some press-box food and free baseball tickets.

Consider, then, that collision. On the field, ballplayers were working and managers were scheming to win a game, and then a playoff spot and ultimately the World Series, which well could hinge on the home-field advantage in October. Yet upstairs —- and everyplace a radio station, a P.R. firm, an advertiser, a politician or an outright baseball foof could have access to a computer and a chance at a famous 15 minutes —- an All-Star Game roster spot was being manipulated, not earned.

“That’s a pretty important spot,” said Dusty Baker, the Reds manager, himself twice an All-Star. “It’s a very important spot, especially with the importance that is put on the All-Star Game. Not that that spot is the most important, but that spot could be the person who wins the game for their respective league. And it is important now. The home-field advantage has gone to the American League the last few years. It doesn’t mean they are always going to win it, but I’d rather have that fourth game in my spot than that fourth game at their spot.”

Batting 0-for-1,000 as the commissioner, Bud Selig has waved some absurdities past his checkpoint, although some have been when he has meant well. Since the All-Star rosters were expanded to 32 players in 2007 (a 33rd player, a pitcher, will be added this year), the selection of the final spot has been turned over to the fans, to be chosen from pre-screened candidates who were less-than-qualified to make the final cut. The concept? Acceptable. The fans matter; the fans rule. The fans deserve a voice, even beyond the selection of the starters.

But that’s not what is happening. It’s the lobbyists, not the customers, who have snared control. Radio stations are conducting ballot-a-thons, offering prizes to the most prolific voters. Advertisers are firing-out e-mails, supporting not the most qualified candidates, but their own spokesmen. “Here’s one from Motrin,” Shane Victorino said Tuesday, checking his BlackBerry. “They are supporting the Phillies. I did something for them once.”

That was the same Victorino who spent the other day with the mayor, going door-to-door, two candidates begging for their own kind of votes. No wonder a headache-pill firm has checked in. For hours before the game Tuesday, the Citizens Bank Park scoreboard screamed, “Vote Victorino!” But do the Phillies need Victorino on the All-Star team to win the game, or just to prove to prospective advertisers that their scoreboard has stronger gravity than the one in San Francisco?

“I guess they are trying to get people more involved,” said Baker, who stressed that he did not feel that the process has been trivialized. “I just hope the general public picks the best player —- the most deserving player. And as a whole, outside of a couple of spots probably, the public has done a pretty good job. I just hope they pick the most deserving player, not the most popular player.”

The streamlining of the ballot is a firewall. In the National League, Victorino is in competition with four others, all marginally qualified. There are five reasonable American League candidates. That is, it would be impossible to ramrod Manny Ramirez into the game, no matter how much the national cable networks deify him.

But baseball history can change if the wrong player is elected. Careers can change. Some deserving player might be denied an All-Star appearance on his record just because three guys cloistered in the Phillies’ press room are trying to win some hunk-of-junk give-aways.

Manuel will manage the National League All-Stars, meaning he will be under pressure to win not just the game, but the home-field advantage in the World Series, where the Phillies well may again close their season. And should the game come down to that fan-appointed player?

“I’d probably want,” Manuel said, “to pick that guy.”

Manuel did select the final five. But he won’t select the final player. Game-show contestants will —- contestants who didn’t even stop what they were doing Tuesday long enough to see the players taking batting practice, players trying to win their baseball rewards the right way.

07-08-2009, 06:55 PM
I hate fan voting.

I hate Bud Selig, and his ideas.

My grandmother used to tell me that hate is an awful strong word. Well, I'm not exactly sure that hate is strong enough for the way I feel about those things.

07-09-2009, 07:30 PM

By Mark Newman / MLB.com

07/09/09 5:15 PM ET

"Bran-Torino" is now a joy ride.

Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge and Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino are your choices in the dramatic 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote, comeback survivors of the wildest overall balloting in the history of a four-day event that decided the 33rd and final roster spots for the 80th All-Star Game on July 14 at Busch Stadium.

Fans smashed Final Vote records by casting 68.6 million votes at MLB.com and ultimately they decided on the two first-time All-Stars whose respective clubs forged a voting alliance after seeing Inge and Victorino in second place on the second day. The Tigers and Phillies called it "Bran-Torino" and that catchphrase would become a campaign sensation.

Inge is an American League All-Star for the first time after receiving 11.8 million votes, the most by an AL winner, and holding off Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler in a battle that was seesaw for the first 48 hours and then close for the final 48. They were followed in order by Angels third baseman Chone Figgins, Rays first baseman Carlos Pena and Blue Jays designated hitter Adam Lind, all of whom drew impressive fan support but not enough.

Victorino now can add a Midsummer Classic to an eight-month party that also includes a World Series championship. He racked up a Final Vote record of 15.6 million votes and managed to overcome and then outlast a powerhouse campaign for Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, the "Kung Fu Panda" from Venezuela who all baseball fans now know if they didn't already. D-backs third baseman Mark Reynolds, who had that home state endorsement from 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain, finished a strong third. They were followed by Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp and Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman.

This year's record number of votes represents an increase of 43.5 percent from the previous mark of 47.8 million set in 2008. Since its inception in 2002, the All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote has now recorded nearly 200 million votes.

It was the first time in Final Vote history that two players won after trailing in each of the first two voting updates. The alliance unquestionably mattered, as fans in Detroit voted heavily for Victorino and fans in Philadelphia did the same for Inge.

This was the year of numerous lead changes and unprecedented suspense, and also the year that Twitter entered the equation as a natural companion. Campaigning reached new levels with that real-time element, as people from McCain to Sandoval's teammate Barry Zito to clubs and local TV stations got involved with tweets. People posted twitpics of images such as Victorino's teammate Chan Ho Park wearing a Vote Victorino sandwich board and Uncle Sam saying "Vote for Pablo" and links to videos and blogs.

This was the year that Kinsler always seemed to be a shoo-in and then was left on the outside looking in. Kinsler was a fixture atop the weekly voting updates at AL second base, but he was overtaken at the end by Boston's Dustin Pedroia and then left off the roster by AL manager Joe Maddon of the Rays. Kinsler was the announced leader in each of the first two Final Vote updates, but he was passed by Inge on Day 3 and finished runnerup.

Mainly, it was the year of Bran-Torino.

It's a sweet ride.

The two clubs encouraged businesses in Michigan and Pennsylvania to allow their workers some time Wednesday and Thursday to vote for Inge and Victorino.

Victorino had mentioned a potential pairing to reporters Tuesday.

"The Giants and Texas did it," Victorino said. "We [were] both in second place. Why don't we join forces and join together?"

Inge said he has talked with Victorino a couple times during his career, but never really got to know him.

"I've spoken to him a couple of times," Inge said. "That's funny, though. What did they call it, Bran-Torino? That's funny."

Inge and Victorino have another thing in common: They are both key cogs for teams that have been in first place for quite a while now.

Inge entered Thursday batting .264 with 19 homers and 54 RBIs, and he is known mostly for his brilliant defense at the hot corner. He hit a big homer on Sunday, right after being announced as one of five nominees in the AL.

"The best part about it is, if it ends well and he makes it, no matter how it got there, he deserves it," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said before the Final Vote ended. "That's the main thing. It's like an umpire getting it right."

Victorino, the Flyin' Hawaiian, also had the backing of governors in his homeland of Hawaii and his home playing state of Pennsylvania. They had bet a friendly wager over which state could cast the most votes for him. So many people campaigned for Victorino, it almost seemed like a heavy political campaign. In the end, though, his own campaigning on the field may have mattered the most. He had four hits in the 22-1 wipeout of Cincinnati on Monday and then may have sealed the deal with a walk-off single Wednesday night.

Victorino is hitting .306 with 22 doubles, six triples, six home runs, 39 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. Now he is the second Phillies winner in Final Vote history, joining Bobby Abreu, who won it in 2004.

Previous winners of the All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote are: Evan Longoria (AL, 2008); Corey Hart (NL, 2008); Hideki Okajima (AL, 2007); Chris Young (NL, 2007); A.J. Pierzynski (AL, 2006); Nomar Garciaparra (NL, 2006); Scott Podsednik (AL, 2005); Roy Oswalt (NL, 2005); Hideki Matsui (AL, 2004); Bobby Abreu (NL, 2004); Jason Varitek (AL, 2003); Geoff Jenkins (NL, 2003); Johnny Damon (AL, 2002); and Andruw Jones (NL, 2002).

The 80th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

07-09-2009, 09:27 PM
Just another joke of an idea from a used car salesman. Philadelphia turned the Victorino saga into baseball's version of Napoleon Dynamite.

07-09-2009, 09:38 PM
It seems a lot of drama and worry (by the writer) about nothing. The rosters are so huge that the last spot is pretty insignifcant. The writer is getting all worked up over the last guy on the roster which might marginally impact the homefield advantage of the WS?

Bud is smarter than people think. Look at all the publicity this generated for a game no one really cares about.

07-09-2009, 09:45 PM
Bud is smarter than people think. Look at all the publicity this generated for a game no one really cares about.I don't happen to think the willingness and ability to manipulate the masses is a sign of intelligence.