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High Tech, New Lows

June 29, 2015
June 29, 2015

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June 29, 2015

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High Tech, New Lows

WHEN I WAS growing up in the 1980s, voting for the baseball All-Star Game was simple. You picked up a paper ballot at the ballpark, you punched out the holes to vote for your favorite players, and you were confident that every vote was counted properly because Florida was not involved.

This is an article from the June 29, 2015 issue

There was no technology in baseball, and that was fine. An iPhone just would have gotten between a ballplayer and the body parts he wanted to scratch. But now you can vote for All-Star starters online—up to 35 times. Thirty-five times! Who came up with the idea to let everybody vote 35 times, and when does he run for mayor of Chicago?

You could cast multiple votes with paper, too, but at some point you would run out of ballots or patience. An online system is ripe for corruption. I grew suspicious when I saw that with 10 days left in fan balloting, the American League's nine projected starters were eight Royals and Sepp Blatter.

Actually, the only non--Kansas City players leading at their positions were Angels centerfielder Mike Trout and Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera. Royals fans insist this is all fair game. They spent a long time in baseball's wilderness—the low point came when the 2005 team was mathematically eliminated in August of 2004. Now they are just excited about their team, and they are all voting exactly 35 times. But it is fair to wonder if there is a little technological hanky-panky going on, and speaking of technological hanky-panky, let's join Pablo Sandoval on the toilet.

Surely you've heard: The Boston third baseman was benched recently for clicking "like" on an Instagram photo while he was in the bathroom during a game. Apparently the Red Sox wanted him to focus on the action at hand, or if that wasn't enough, on the game.

Meanwhile, the government is investigating the Cardinals for breaking into the Astros' computers. Here at the Society for No American Baseball Research, we believe this is Houston's fault for having computers. We prefer old-time scouting methods: Rate every player's ability to throw, catch, run, hit and look "strapping." You say "PITCHf/x" and we giggle because it sounds dirty.

Imagine a baseball world without technology. Sure, we would all be a lot dumber. But tell me: What's wrong with being dumb? Use small words, please.

Really, now: As much as you like watching games in high definition, wasn't your viewing experience more peaceful in low definition? You couldn't really tell if a ball was fair or foul, if a pitch was a strike or a ball, or even which teams were playing. You just knew you loved America.

Players weren't distracted by pictures of attractive women on their phones, which allowed them to concentrate on attractive women in the stands. They then focused on beating the best pitcher in the game, meaning the one with the most wins, which isn't really a good stat, but we didn't know that at the time and we liked it, O.K.?

Alas, there is no turning back. We can't return all the computers and smartphones we bought in the last 25 years, because who can remember where we put the receipts? We have technology, we have advanced stats, we have video of what makes players great ... and still, we have an AL All-Star team that looks like it was put together by an eight-year-old in Overland Park.

You must admit that's some way-above-replacement-level irony right there. Imagine this sequence of events: The Royals release Omar Infante—who leads the balloting at second base despite being the worst hitter in the AL—but he ends up as an All-Star starter anyway. On July 14 he steps into the box at Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark in a blank uniform. He bats once, with the bases loaded, and strikes out. The AL loses the game (and home field advantage in the World Series) by one run. Three months later, thanks in part to the passion of their own fans, the Royals have to play Game 7 of the World Series on the road.

What would we do then? As always, I have no idea. But I'm open to hearing any of the Astros' suggestions, which is why I'm calling the Cardinals.

Personally, I grew suspicious of fan balloting when I saw that the American League's nine projected starters were eight Royals and Sepp Blatter.

How should MLB handle the all-Royals All-Star vote?

Join the discussion on Twitter by using #SIPointAfter and following @Rosenberg_Mike

PHOTOCARLOS M. SAAVEDRA FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATEDILLUSTRATION