July 7th, 2015
By Tyler King
Josh Donaldson has shown us, in one gigantic pile of 14,090,188 votes, all that is right (and wrong) with the current All-Star game selection system.
On Sunday night Donaldson was officially named the starting third baseman for the American League team after receiving the most amount of fan votes, breaking the previous record set by Josh Hamilton.
The whole selection process - where fans vote for the players they want to see on the starting roster - came under fire when it appeared the entire field would be comprised of Kansas City Royals.
(Seriously, does anybody in Kansas City work? Or do they just sit around all-day voting and making up fake email addresses?)
But Blue Jays fans came through and the best third baseman in the AL will be starting.
Donaldson is first among AL third basemen in RBI (57), hits (101), runs (63), home runs (20), doubles (20), SLG (.537) and OPS (.894). He is second in AVG (.300) and OBP (.357).
Ya ... I’d say he’s pretty deserving.
Donaldson also leads the league in “most ridiculous bare-handed plays made”. He may even have the catch of the season when he DOVE 20 ROWS (basically) into the stands at Tropicana Field to snag a foul ball from the seats and help preserve a Marco Estrada no-hit bid.
For the record, Brett Lawrie - the third baseman who we traded to Oakland along with prospects in exchange for Donaldson - only leads the AL in one category: strikeouts.
So if the fans did their job and voted for the best player, what’s all the fuss over the current system?
Well ... even though Donaldson should have been a unanimous lock, it took a Braveheart-ian speech from Canadian broadcasting icon Don Cherry and support from Toronto-born actor Stephen Amell for him to get the vote recognition he deserved.
Perhaps the proudest Canadian to ever walk the earth, Cherry was upset with Jays fans over their All-Star game inaction. He took to his national platform, “Coaches Corner”, to encourage Canadians to vote for Donaldson.
“Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, we have an injustice being done in baseball,” Cherry said on air, referring to Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas leading the All-Star voting. “Josh Donaldson, without a doubt, is the best third basemen in the world.
“We cannot look bad in Canada because if [Donaldson’s not an all-star] everybody’s going to say ‘he’s the best but he plays in Canada and they don’t vote’.
“Don’t let us [Canadians] down,” Cherry concluded.
In a perfect world Donaldson’s elite play would be the main factor that led to his selection. But Cherry’s influence is difficult to overlook.
Whether you love Don Cherry or hate him (but actually you should just love him because he’s a huge beauty), it seems that the nation listened.
Prior to Cherry’s rant, Donaldson trailed Moustakas by nearly 2,000,000 votes. The following week Donaldson trailed by only 30,000. The week after that he led by 1,000,000 and never looked back.
It’s not like his stats improved significantly over that stretch (at that time he was still the leader in many offensive categories for his position). More likely, this was a result of the influx of media support.
Even I am forced to admit that I put off casting my ballot until I saw Cherry hold up that “Vote Donaldson” sign during the Stanley Cup finals.
(I then proceed to vote the maximum 35 times right there on the spot.)
To be fair, you shouldn’t take my ignorance as representative. I’m the biggest Don Cherry supporter in the world and if he told me to jump off a bridge I’d happily swan dive off that sucker.
In the end, Cherry’s campaign worked and the best player is in.
However, the very fact that such a lobbying had to take place does make you wonder... is there a better way for this whole selection business?
Donaldson is having a phenomenal year, but there’s also no way you can argue he’s having the best year of all time - despite receiving the most votes ever.
And maybe that doesn’t matter.
Do we even care if the best players start? Perhaps it’s enough that the most popular players - the ones the fans (allegedly) want to see most - are the ones who make it...
Although I highly doubt the average fan is stoked to see half of the Kansas City team in the AL starting lineup.
And what if Cherry had campaigned for someone not quite as worthy as Donaldson? If you look at the list of starters there are obviously a lot of deserving guys who didn’t make the cut.
I guess that’s why they have those reserve spots.
If Donaldson was denied his rightful place as a starter he would undoubtedly have been selected to come off the bench by the players (which is how Jose Bautista made the team) or he would have been hand-picked by AL manager Ned Yost (which is how Jays catcher Russell Martin was selected).
Personally, I don’t really see the appeal of the All-Star game to begin with. The commercials are endless, it’s overly gimmicky and, frankly, a bit boring (even with home-field advantage in the World Series on the line).
But if you don’t think that starting or even playing in the game matters, just ask Donaldson, Bautista, or Martin how they feel about it.
“It’s a big honour to represent this team,” Donaldson told reporters in Detroit. “...I’m kind of mind blown a little bit from it.”
“It’s important and a great recognition... it’s one you enjoy,” Bautista said. “...I’m very proud.”
So here’s hoping that the system keeps improving, and that deserving players like Donaldson continue to make the cut.
For now you can give yourself a pat on the back and be thankful that we got this one right.
Follow Tyler and #section108 on twitter: @tylerjoseph108