While this year's all-star controversy hit a little closer to home with Zack Greinke being an obvious snub, in reality it's just another decision made stupid by MLB's all-star selection rules (or at the very least their interpretation). Since MLB likes the buzz and even links to the Reds vs. LaRussa controversy on their all-star page we shouldn't be expecting changes to protocol anytime soon....but we can dream.
It's becoming clear that the decision of all-star reserves needs to be taken out of the hands of the manager of the team. There have been several instances before this year where managers have used less than ideal reasoning in making their all-star selections. In 2010 Charlie Manuel admitted to picking his own guys (and Omar Infante for some reason). Can't blame him...not against the rules. We'll never know for sure if spite had anything to do with LaRussa not selecting Johnny Cueto or Greinke but many outside the view of the Gateway Arch will probably believe he did. Some will argue that the fan voting is ridiculous, but I have no problem it. The player voting, re-instituted in 2003, was a step in the right direction. Now, who should make the final selections? How about a ballot cast by all league managers, with the stipulation that you can't vote for members of your own team?
After the players and fans selections are made two ballots could be complied by the commissioner's office. The first would list worthy players from teams not yet represented. After one player was selected from each of those teams a second ballot could be compiled containing the names of worthy players at positions that are still underrepresented. Once the final team is selected the MLB "Final Vote" could take place among the 5 players in each league with the highest vote totals from the managers that weren't selected. Any last minute replacement selections could be made by the manager. This could certainly be done in the current timeframe if managers were on board with the process.
Another issue is that managers (or at least one in particular) don't seem to get the spirit behind the rule prohibiting starting pitchers from participating in the all-star game if they pitched on the Sunday prior. I get it. The rule makes sense and is probably necessary. It's the interpretation. As soon as a manager uses that stipulation as a consideration to not select someone for the team, as LaRussa is implying he did, they're doing it wrong. The rules pretty clearly state that those pitchers selected will be considered all-stars but will not be eligible to participate in the game and will be replaced by eligible players. Many players have all-star bonuses in their contracts and to deny those bonuses because a pitcher happens to be pitching on the day before the all-star break is flat out wrong and I would think could be grieved by the MLBPA. Clearly the manager should be taking the best available players, then adjust accordingly for eligibility or injury reasons.
While the controversy will never be completely removed from the all-star selection process, taking the decision of selecting reserves out of the hands of the team manager and putting it in the hands of a larger group would at the very least allow fans to believe that the proper selections are being made with no personal issues taken into account.