It seems like right after the jets fly over on Opening Day, an usher hands you an All-Star ballot. You mumble something about it being too early, and you make fun of some of the names on the ballot. Why is that guy listed as an outfielder when he’s clearly a first baseman? How can that guy be there if he’s in the minors? I thought Al Oliver retired?
Brandon Belt is on the ballot, and he has a great chance to make an All-Star team, but it will be in the Pacific Coast League, where he went shortly before the All-Star ballots were released. Kendrys Morales is the Angels’ representative at first base even though he hasn’t taken an at-bat this season. I’m thinking of going with Morales on my ballot, because if he breaks his leg celebrating a regular-season game, imagine what he’ll do if he hits a home run to win the All-Star game! Rip his other leg off and pretend to play it like a guitar? That’s probably a safe guess.
So the knee-jerk reaction is to make fun of the ballots coming out so early. But as a firm believer in the idea that it’s an All-Star Game and not an All-Hot-In-April-And-May Game, I’m all for getting the ballots out early. Get them out in December. Right now, everybody knows it's too early to make snap judgments. Albert Pujols is still good, and Kyle Lohse isn't going to win the Cy Young. So the earlier the ballots come it, the less temptation there will be to vote for the early-season flukes. A ballot that's filled out in April is probably one that will have Pujols and Carl Crawford punched out, regardless of slumps.
And that's how I'd prefer it. I'd rather that a Carl Crawford gets voted in, only to realize ten years later that he was already on a serious decline, than accidentally reward a player who should probably buy a ticket.
Of course, the voters usually err on the side of the familiar names, so maybe it doesn't matter when the ballots are released. If All-Star fan voting has a weakness, it's that people don't realize who's injured (check the vote totals for Josh Hamilton, Joe Mauer, and Chase Utley when they're released.) Still, releasing the ballots earlier and earlier can only lead to more familiar names -- and that's a good thing. I'll stop making fun of the early release of ballots.
Besides, didn’t you hear? This time it counts! So we'd all better make extra sure that we don't screw this up. This time it counts! Again for the first time. Should be a gas.