The best thing about the results of The Final Vote? We all received a healthy reminder that absolutely nothing is inevitable. Just a few days ago, we all assumed that Yasiel Puig would win the National League vote, would actually run away with the National League vote. But of course that didn't happen. Jay Jaffe:
Thanks in part to an odd alliance in which the Blue Jays’ and Braves’ fan bases submitted votes for each other’s candidates, Toronto reliever Steve Delabar and Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman have won the 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote and will be added to the rosters of their respective leagues for next Tuesday’s contest. Just as notable as who won, however, is who didn’t: Dodgers rookie sensation Yasiel Puig, whose brief stint in the majors has led to a weeks-long debate about the merits of his All-Star worthiness, finished second in the NL vote and now, barring an unforeseen development, will not take part in the Midsummer Classic.
Freeman collected a record 19.7 million votes to finish ahead of Puig, who got more votes than any player in Final Vote history except for Freeman. The 23-year-old Braves first baseman, who is in his third full major-league season, is off to the best start of his young career, hitting .307/.388/.470 with nine homers. Those numbers, which have helped propel Atlanta into first place in the NL East, make him a reasonable if not clear-cut choice for his first All-Star team.
Still, this feels like a missed opportunity for baseball to capitalize on the sudden burst of popularity for Puig...
Gee, you think? Frankly, this is a stunning failure by Major League Baseball. Just utterly stunning. A short list of the most exciting young players of the last 40-odd years includes Fred Lynn, Mark Fidrych, Fernando Valenzuela, Dwight Gooden, Bo Jackson, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and ... Yasiel Puig. Some of those players were All-Stars as rookies, and some weren't. But few played as well as rookies as Puig has.
Of course, most played a lot more as rookies. As I've said, there's essentially no precedent at all for an All-Star like Yasiel Puig, which is a fine defense if Major League Baseball feels compelled to mount a defense.
Sometimes precedent doesn't convince me. It seems to me there's something wrong with a process that includes the fans and the players and the managers and the Commissioner's Office ... and still doesn't allow for the inclusion of the Most Exciting Player who also happens to be hitting .400.
Let's ask The Fundamental Question: If we weren't already doing it this way, is this how we would do it?
Of course not. The current system is a Frankenstein monster, an admixture of measures designed to satisfy an ever-growing number of constituencies. Unfortunately, Baseball has neither the will nor the ability to start all over. So in the absence of a revolution, let me instead suggest adding yet another stray body part to our monster ...
This isn't actually my idea. This is my friend Rob Nelson's idea. He has lots of good ideas (here's one example). This particular good idea, though, is a special "phenom" category for the All-Star Game. I don't know that I would restrict the category to rookies ... Maybe any player who's 24 or younger and hasn't been an All-Star before? More to the point, I would let the Commissioner's Office make the choices, with input from the managers and ... wait for it ... Major League Baseball's publicity people. This year, that would mean Yasiel Puig and probably Jose Iglesias.
But maybe there aren't two guys like that every year? Then the Commissioner's Office should just hold a couple of slots every year; if there's nobody like Puig and Iglesias who gets everybody excited, the slots can simply be handed back to the managers.
The problem with the current process is that, in trying to satisfy everyone, MLB has left itself little room to accomplish a truly worthy goal: making the All-Star Game compelling to casual baseball fans. Theoretically, the Final Vote was supposed to do that. But when the process gives you Freddie Freeman and Steve Delabar -- to be sure, both of them fine baseball players -- then you know the process has failed. Utterly.