Through Sunday the Cardinals' Albert Pujols led National League third basemen in average (.352), homers (20) and RBIs (62). Pujols, however, has virtually no chance of being elected to start in the Jury 10 All-Star Game. Why? His name isn't among the 16 third basemen on the league's ballot.
The production and distribution schedule for the 72 million ballots printed by Major League Baseball requires clubs to submit the names of their projected starters by mid-April. That means breakout players like Pujols and Mets outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo (five homers, 32 RBIs, .320 with runners in scoring position) get snubbed. It also means the ballot can end up embarrassingly unbalanced: Listed as the Cardinals' third base nominee is Craig Paquette (.259), while the Mets have .183-hitting outfielder Darryl Hamilton's name next to a chad. ( Shinjo's omission assumes even greater significance considering that five million ballots were distributed in Japan.)
"We get a guy like Pujols every year," says MLB spokesman Patrick Courtney. "That's why managers name players to the team as well." Sure enough, Pujols seems a lock to be selected as a reserve. Still, given that ballots are typically outdated by June, why doesn't baseball print a second round or post modified ballots online? "In theory that sounds good," says Courtney, "but every time someone got injured, teams would want to change the ballot."
Courtney also points out the prohibitive cost of distributing an additional run of ballots to 30 parks and assorted retail locations, not to mention in the Dominican Republic, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. What's more, voting rules require that each team have exactly 25 home dates on which ballots are accepted, meaning that scheduling a second round would be nearly impossible. Online ballots aren't updated, says Courtney, because they're only meant to replicate paper ballots.
The flaw, in other words, is built into the system. At some point, the speed and flexibility of the Internet should provide a solution. Until then, baseball fans will have to live with being denied, at least in part, their best referendum on the game's best players.