Vote early, vote often

So Florida Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez is upset that Hanley Ramirez is the only one of his players among the top votegetters for the 2010 Major League All-Star Game? He probably should be, with Dan Uggla among the National League leaders in home runs and Jorge Cantu near the top in RBIs in the league.

But should the Marlins be taking the extreme step of offering incentives to fans for stuffing the ballot box with Florida players? And should they be allowed to?

Fill out 200 ballots by the sixth inning of a game with all eight Marlins listed, and get two free tickets to a game. Smaller prizes are available for fewer ballots, and there’s even the opportunity to take ballots home and send them in full of Floridians and receive bigger prizes. The person to fill out the most Marlin-friendly ballots gets access to a suite.

Florida is near the bottom of the National League in attendance, and that fact that dimmed the hopes of players like Uggla or Cantu to be voted in as a starter. Philadelphia leads the league in that category, and have players either first or second at every position in the latest voting tallies. But fans are allowed to vote up to 25 times each online at mlb.com.

I don’t mind the Marlins trying to get their fans to vote for deserving players, but let’s take a look at what voting Marlins across the board means.

FIRST BASE: Gaby Sanchez is hitting .266 with 13 doubles, four homers and 21 RBIs in his first full season with the Marlins. How nice. Does he deserve a nod over, say, Albert Pujols (.316, 13 2B, 12 HR, 39 RBIs) or Joey Votto (.312, 10 HR, 31 RBIs)? Of course not.

CATCHER: John Baker (.218, 0 HR, 6 RBIs) doesn’t even have the most at-bats among Marlins catchers, having not played in nearly three weeks due to an elbow injury. And while I know Yadier Molina (.258, 2 HR, 28 RBIs) is a fine backstop, the most deserving candidates — the Mets’ Rod Barajas (.270, 10 HR, 28 RBIs) and Miguel Olivo (.308, 8 HR, 25 RBIs) — aren’t in the top five in voting either, just like Baker.

OUTFIELD: So to score some free tickets to a Marlins game (plenty of good seats still available!), they have to take Cameron Maybin (.230, 5 HR, 18 RBIs) and sophomore slumper Chris Coghlan (.227, 2 HR, 14 RBIs)? Ugh. But hey, tickets are tickets, right? Better that than help players like Ryan Braun (.318, 8 HR, 33 RBI, 11 steals), Andre Ethier (.392, 11 HR, 38 RBI) or rookie sensation Jason Heyward (.292, 10 HR, 38 RBIs), just to name three. You could also pick Jayson Werth (.295, 22 2B, 9 HR, 33 RBIs), Matt Kemp (.276, 10 HR, 29 RBIs) or even Josh Willingham (.282, 10 HR, 35 RBIs) with a clear conscience. Luckily most people have.

The good thing is that it’s unlikely this push will have a huge effect on the final totals. Ramirez won the starting job last year with a similar campaign, but neither Uggla nor Cantu are currently in the top five and the players ahead of them will still continue to receive votes in the real world. And Ramirez is certainly more deserving a candidate at short than the current leader in votes, oft-injured Phillie Jimmy Rollins.

Maybe the more disturbing part of this is that the Marlins’ VP of marketing was named in multiple stories as saying that Major League Baseball gave the promotion a thumbs up.

Uh, what?

So MLB approved what can easily be termed voter fraud? But it’s just an exhibition game, I hear someone say. Yes, an exhibition game that determines the home team for the World Series. You know, that thing that was supposed to make the All-Star Game more relevant again?

But once again Major League Baseball decides it wants to have things every way it can think of, no matter how much the contradictions stick out like white baseball caps on Memorial Day. The powers that be seem intent upon finding ways to make what was once the crown jewel of pro sports all-star games into a more irrelevant, more annoying exercise.

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