You don't have to be an ESPN analyst to figure out that Detroit Tigers rookie outfielder Brennan Boesch and pitcher Justin Verlander are All-Star worthy.
Verlander has been mowing his way through American League lineups since he arrived in Detroit back in 2006. He's continued that trend this year, racking up a 10-4 record and a 3.85 ERA. He's consistently among the league leaders in strikeouts and is currently seventh in the AL, just 21 off the lead.
Jason Heyward was the rookie everyone was talking about before the season started, but he's been drowned out by the surprising play of Boesch. Boesch was called up in May and immediately started destroying opposing pitchers, hitting .345 and driving in 15 runs in his first month in the big leagues. In June he drilled eight home runs and 23 RBIs, and is currently hitting .583 (7-for-12) in July. Not bad for someone who was rated as only the 25th best prospect in the Tigers system.
Any expert will tell you they should be booking tickets to California. Yet, neither were named to the American League squad this year.
Boesch and Verlander are the latest victims in a long line of All-Star snubs produced by a flawed voting system. The MLB lets the fans determine the entire starting lineup, including the "Final Vote" where one last player is selected to each team. Fans are allowed to vote up to 25 times per email address, further diluting the ballot.
Even if you've got All-Star numbers, you're still not a lock to be picked as a reserve. The managers and players vote for reserves, which can heavily favor players from their own teams.
The All-Star vote has become a joke, a big popularity contest where teams from the biggest markets get to decide who goes and who stays.
This was never more evident than with Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira this season. Teixeira is a good first baseman by all accounts, but he is having an absolutely dreadful season. Teixeira is hitting just .243 with a .353 on-base percentage and a .536 slugging percentage in 2010.
He wasn't in the running at all right? Wrong. Teixeira was second in the vote at first base for a long time, beating Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers, who's batting .339 with an MLB-leading 71 RBIs. Teixeira's presence in the top three was purely powered by the fact he plays in New York, the country's biggest city and largest media market.
In the end justice won out. Cabrera eventually passed Teixeira and was rightly awarded a spot on the squad as a reserve.
While Boesch and Verlander were well-deserving of All-Star recognition, they both also had elements working against them. As a May call-up, Boesch has only had two full months in the big leagues and his numbers may decline as he gets more plate appearances. Also working against him is the American League has a plethora of talented outfielders that are All-Star worthy candidates themselves.
But looking at Boesch's first two months, it doesn't look like there will by any slowing down happening soon.
As for Verlander, he is a member of a ridiculously loaded AL starting pitcher club, which includes Josh Beckett, C.C. Sabathia, Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee just to name a few. To say that Verlander is much more deserving than any of those guys is stretch at best. Verlander is good, but distinguishing him as significantly better than any of the aforementioned players comes down to personal preference.
Still, it doesn't justify the fact that neither Boesch nor Verlander were ever close to being selected to the game.
Every year we see deserving players get left out of the All-Star Game and wonder why the fans are allowed to determine who's the best. We get the old argument that it's "what the fans want to see" and we shouldn't question the voting system. But that argument is invalid, because it's obvious that fans in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles are the only ones getting what they want.
It's why the MLB needs to do away with the fan vote and adopt a system like the NFL employs for the Pro Bowl. In that system the fans, coaches, and players all vote, but each only counts for one-third of the vote. The MLB could also implement baseball sportswriters as a fourth element, who also cast votes for the Hall of Fame. That way the fans can still get involved, but the results will be less biased toward big market teams.
Is it a perfect system? No. The perfect system would include chucking the fan element all together.