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the New York Yankees the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 1, 2015 in Anaheim, California. The Yankees won 3-1. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The Youth Perspective: ASG Voting

The biggest off-field storyline in the MLB this season has garnered the attention of every player, pundit, and fan within reach of a Twitter account. Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with the last names Rodriguez or Hamilton. Of course, it is the wildly absurd and tilted All-Star game voting that has put as many as 7 Kansas City Royals in position to start the Midsummer Classic. While that number is now only 5, according to the latest released results, it still shows a the flaws in the current voting system.

There are at least a few Yankees that are deserving of this honor. Alex Rodriguez is currently 5th in DH voting, meaning he doesn’t even have an outside shot of getting in. However, he’s 4th in the AL among designated hitters in average at .280, and is leading in the stat that matters most to a DH, homers. Not to mention the fact that he has the most walks for a DH, and leads his position in WAR.

Brett Gardner isn’t even in the top 15 among AL outfielders in ASG voting, but that’s due to his sluggish May. He hit .351 in June to raise his average to .304, which is just percentage points behind Nelson Cruz for the highest average for an outfielder. He has the 3rd-most doubles and 4th-most hits as an outfielder in the American League as well.

There are also some bright spots in the bullpen, such as Dellin Betances, who sports a 1.13 ERA and is second among relievers in WAR at 1.9. Andrew Miller, before he went down with an injury, had 17 saves, which is still good for 7th in the AL. While we don’t know exactly who the pitchers will be yet, the best bet for the Yankees is Betances.

The real problem for the MLB, besides snubbing some quite deserving players, is that the current ASG voting system is flawed. It’s been all over the news because of how Royals fans came out in force, and even commissioner Robert Manfred said that he is willing to change the system. However, there is an underlying problem that no one is addressing in this case; baseball isn’t hitting the right notes with the right demographic to provide a fair fan-voting system.

Consider this: According to a 2013 study, 50% of baseball’s fan base is over 55, and 83% of it’s fans are white. This means that if you’re a baseball fan, chances are you’re coming home from work, cracking open a beer, and watching your hometown team play at 7. The ongoing debate for several years has been how to combat this because it’s a revenue killer, it diminishes the ability for future growth, etc. Now these stats are taking hold over a game that could decide where game 7 of the World Series is played.

Ideally, Major League Baseball should be attracting people my age. Kids that are in high school that take things they like and become obsessed with it. As hard as the MLB has tried, with pace-of-play changes and more interactive social media experiences, they just can’t strike a chord with young people. I asked dozens of people my age if they watched baseball games that don’t involve their favorite teams, and only one said yes. Only two said that they submitted an ASG ballot this year, and one of those two said he did it without bias towards his favorite team. Kids are falling out of love with America’s pastime, and it’s hurting.

Credit: The Atlantic/ D. Thompson

So what? Kids don’t care, but there are still millions of older fans that gladly vote every year. The large majority of these fans, however, are nothing more than casual fans who only watch one or two teams of interest. Then, when they sit down at their computers to cast a ballot, they only know what they’ve watched. Since we are given the choice from a player on every team at each position, the scores of casual fans can all vote for the same players on their favorite team (like in Kansas City). Even those younger fans who do vote are more likely to vote for players on their favorite team. This is how the swing in fans votes is created.

But why Kansas City? It just so happens that KC is the 12th whitest city in America, and its median household income (according to the U.S. Census Bureau) is about $47,000, which is right in line with the majority of MLB fans (see graphic above). Kansas City is the exact city in which casual fans and “homers” thrive; they go to work, come home, watch the Royals excel, and think that every player deserves to start the ASG (even Omar Infante, who’s hitting .230).

That’s not to say that this is the sole cause of the slanted ASG voting. There are plenty of people smarter than me trying to figure that out. What is prevalent, based on these facts, is that the All-Star Game is being deprived of some exciting and electrifying players due to the MLB’s lack of success in reaching out to the youth. In the future, for the sake of the game, it is likely that the voting system will be changed.