The Major League Baseball All-Star Game team voting by the fans is hardly a model of fair democracy. Most fans vote for their favorites rather than the best qualified players, and are not very informed even about their favorites. They also are guided more by loyalty than analysis, choosing local heroes over more accomplished players from another team. In other words, it’s basically the same as political elections.
Well, there are other factors that make the All-Star Game voting less than admirable. You can vote up to 25 times from each e-mail address, giving an edge to computer geeks. The teams in the biggest cities and with the best attendance have an advantage over the rest, because there are more of their fans voting. And players on teams like the Phillies, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Yankees that are on national TV a lot, along with last season’s World Series adversaries, the Texas Ranger and the San Francisco Giants, have more name recognition nationwide, giving their players another unfair edge.
Still, it is an election, the votes count, and the various franchises should be trying to uphold whatever minuscule smidgen of integrity the current system has. The Boston Red Sox and the San Francisco Giants, however, don’t think they have enough advantages in the All-Star voting already, and have found a loophole in the rules that allows them to cheat.
So they are cheating.
How? Well, the enterprising PR departments have made a deal: if the National League West Giants tell their fans to vote for all Red Sox players on the American League side of their ballots, the American League East Red Sox will have their fans vote for Giant players on the National League side of their ballots. It’s perfect, see? The Red Sox players aren’t in competition with the Giants players, because they are being elected to different teams. And most fans don’t pay much attention to the other league anyway, so a Sox fan voting for Giants and a Giants fan voting for Red Sox do not make any real sacrifices.
Make no mistake: this is cheating, and cheating by two teams that have enough advantages in the voting already. It is essentially vote bartering—letting something of value, in this case, a promise to vote for your team’s players, determine some of your votes—which in political elections is illegal, and in phony baloney elections like the All-Star balloting is just unethical.
There is a long history of cheating in the All-Star elections; the vote was taken away from the fans for more than two decades after Cincinnati fans stuffed the ballot boxes and elected almost every Reds player to the National League team…and the Reds were none too good that year, either. Is the Giant/Red Sox conspiracy earth-shattering? Is it a democratic outrage, and will there be rioting in the streets? No. It’s just gratuitously greedy, slimy and unfair, undertaken on the cynical assumption, assuredly true, that the current system is so flawed that 1) nobody will care and 2) they can get away with it.
Neither of those are good reasons to cheat, however. For two baseball teams and sports business entities to so shamelessly corrupt a vote, no matter how corrupt it is already, because they can shows just how dysfunctional their ethics alarms are. I think the term “sportsmanship” may have to be retired.