King Kaufman's Sports Daily

The Internet smartens up us dumb baseball fans. Plus: Don't ask, Dontrelle.

By Salon Staff
Published July 9, 2003 7:00PM (EDT)

Much has been made of Internet voters saving Albert Pujols' bacon. The Cardinals slugger, who is having a triple-crown-type season, was trailing throughout the fan voting for the National League All-Star team, his rightful starting spot in the outfield apparently going to the undeserving Sammy Sosa.

But at the last moment: Internet geeks to the rescue!

Pujols not only made the starting lineup but also became the N.L.'s leading vote getter, with 68 percent of his 2,030,702 votes coming from online ballots, which seem to have been counted last. Actually, Pujols was in the top three outfielders in ballpark voting too, along with Sosa and Barry Bonds. It was Gary Sheffield of the Braves, with more than 1.2 million online votes, 82 percent of his total, who was pushed into the starting lineup by the stat-conscious, know-it-all computer geeks of the World Wide Web.

It's a nice idea, that Internet voters are slide-rule-wielding geniuses who use their superior intelligence to bring reason and order to the voting process and correct the errors of the rubes in the stands, who mindlessly punch out the chads of the big stars, regardless of what kind of miserable year those stars are having. Case in point this year: Sammy Sosa.

But I don't think Internet voters are any smarter or geekier than the voters at the ballparks. In fact, I suspect they're largely the same people. They're just better informed when they're sitting at their computers because, well, they're sitting at their computers.

Admit it, you smart, Internet-savvy baseball fan you, you've gone to the ballpark in May, been handed an All-Star ballot and thought, "Oh yeah, All-Stars. Let's see, haven't really thought about this yet. What N.L. outfielders are playing well this year?" It's easy at that point to vote for the familiar names. But when you're sitting at your computer, it's easy to look at the stats, or at the hundreds of columnists going, "How can you idiots keep voting for Sosa over Pujols!?"

The easy access to stats and the explosion of analysis that the Web has brought about seem to have improved the fan vote. There don't seem to be as many embarrassments as there used to be, not so many washed-up stars routinely getting the nod. On the other hand, if you're a Japanese position player and you can play even a little bit -- that is, if you're Hideki Matsui, as opposed to Tsuyoshi Shinjo -- don't make any plans for the All-Star break, because you're starting. That's a little irritating, but for Far East marketing purposes, I doubt baseball is interested in doing anything about it.

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Don't ask, Dontrelle [PERMALINK]

I'm a little surprised that the big outcry over a player snubbed from the All-Star rosters hasn't been over Roger Clemens or Sosa or even Frank Thomas. Instead it's been over Florida Marlins rookie pitcher Dontrelle Willis.

I left Willis off my All-Star team for the same reason I suspect he was left off the real team: He's a rookie who's only thrown 71 and two-thirds innings in 11 games. Yes, he's been electrifying, but if you're going to make the All-Star Game based on one half of one season, you at least have to play that whole half of the season, and Willis hasn't.

If I'd had room for one more pitcher, it would have been Kerry Wood. In fact, since Shawn Chacon is hurt, I'll do as N.L. manager Dusty Baker did and give Wood that spot. But don't be surprised if Willis makes the team anyway as, inevitably, pitchers begin excusing themselves over the next week with injuries real or imaginary.

I wrote earlier that the fans might yet vote Clemens onto the team, but I had forgotten that the vote for the 32nd player isn't free. You can't just chime in for your favorite player. Oh no! Major League Baseball, not daring to give you unruly fans that kind of freedom, limits your choice to one of five position players who are chosen by the manager.

The American League candidates are Eric Byrnes of Oakland, Jason Giambi of New York, Bengie Molina of Anaheim, Thomas of Chicago and Jason Varitek of Boston. The National League hopefuls are Orlando Cabrera of Montreal, Luis Castillo of Florida, Geoff Jenkins of Milwaukee, Kenny Lofton of Pittsburgh (a replacement for injured Cub Corey Patterson) and Benito Santiago of San Francisco.

Milton Bradley of Cleveland, who made my A.L. All-Star team, isn't even in that bunch. What a world!

This story has been corrected since it was originally posted.

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