It takes an extra effort to pay attention to each year's All-Star hoopla. After all, with minor differences, it's the same show every year. Although a number of All-Star games have been memorable, everything about the event is in need of ideas.
This year, it actually gets one--or at least the selection process does: voting with the stars.
As in the past, the fans will vote for 23 players: eight position players, a starting pitcher, a middle reliever and a closer for each league and a designated hitter for the Pacific League. They should add a DH to the CL squad, since pitchers aren't going to bat in the All-Star game anyway, but that is another issue.
The players will vote for 19 players: eight position players and one pitcher in each league as well as a PL DH. Players can vote only for those on other teams.
Only No. 1 picks by players or fans will be named to the team. So if the players and fans agree on a player, the second choice at that position does not get in. The remaining slots will be filled by the managers, Hiromitsu Ochiai of the Chunichi Dragons and Masataka Nashida of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
Fans can vote over the Internet but can only vote once per e-mail address.
Although the purpose of the All-Star voting has been to get the fans involved, a lot of players and journalists love to gripe about the fans' choices. Now we can gripe about the players' choices. Since a large part of baseball's charm is considering the merits of teams, managers, strategies, plays and players, having one more thing to argue about only makes things better.
Now it will be the fans' and journalists' chance to turn the tables.
One can already hear the outburst: "Can you believe the players thought this guy was worthy? What were they smoking and why haven't more players tested positive for recreational drug use?"
There is another benefit to having players vote for their peers: pressure--not on the players, but on the fans.
Making the results' of the players' vote public may encourage many ballot-box-stuffing zealots to vote carefully. If the Hanshin hordes manage to get 11 Tigers on the Central League team, when the players choose three or four, it might reflect poorly on Tigers fans.
Until now, the mark of a fan was filling out more ballots than the crazies on other teams. With a system ripe for abuse, a loyalist was expected to abuse the system more than those supporting rival teams. Adding a players' vote gives the selection process some balance.
One would like to see coaches' votes thrown in with the players, so they can have their say. But for the time being, coaches, other team employees, owners, official scorers and umpires will have to--like the media--just vote along with the fans. Those in the media, whether possessing journalistic intuition or not, are probably the biggest group left out of the equation. Instead of choosing and being criticized for our choices, we can simply criticize. In the interest of fairness and giving the fans something more to criticize, The Hot Corner's vote is given below.
A few comments are necessary, the most obvious being that there is no vote for a DH in the CL, but Chunichi Dragons first baseman Tyrone Woods would be perfect for the job. There are also two write-ins: Yomiuri Giants' middle reliever Kentaro Nishimura and the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks' Nobuhiko Matsunaka at first base.
Starting pitcher: Colby Lewis, Carp
Middle reliever: Kentaro Nishimura, Giants
Closer: Kyuji Fujikawa, Tigers
Catcher: Shinnosuke Abe, Giants
First base: Takahiro Arai, Tigers
Second base: Hiroyasu Tanaka, Swallows
Third base: Shuichi Murata, BayStars
Shortstop: Hirokazu Ibata, Dragons
Outfield: Alex Ramirez, Giants
Outfield: Tomoaki Kanemoto, Tigers
Outfield: Norihiro Akahoshi, Tigers
Designated Hitter: Tyrone Woods, Dragons
Starting pitcher: Yu Darvish, Fighters
Middle reliever: Hisashi Takeda, Fighters
Closer: Alex Graman, Lions
Catcher: Takeshi Hidaka, Buffaloes
First base: Nobuhiko Matsunaka, Hawks
Second base: Kensuke Tanaka, Fighters
Third base: Toshiaki Imae, Marines
Shortstop: Hiroyuki Nakajima, Lions
Outfield: G.G. Sato, Lions
Outfield: Atsunori Inaba, Fighters
Outfield: Teppei Tsuchiya, Eagles
Designated Hitter: Takeshi Yamasaki, Eagles