In any recent season before this one, the MLB All-Star voting process would have ended with Adley Rutschman as the American League’s starting catcher in the All-Star Game. It is a self-evident truth to most readers of this website that this is outcome is justified by performance, and fans voting around the league agreed, giving Rutschman a cushion of several hundred thousand votes over any other catcher. That should have been that.
Unfortunately, this is the year that MLB has made the choice to debut a “Phase Two” to the voting process, in which all votes were wiped clean and the top two vote-getters at each position (six in the outfield) in each league went against one another in a head-to-head vote-off lasting just a few days. In this Phase Two, Rutschman was beaten out by Texas Rangers catcher - and one-time Orioles prospect - Jonah Heim.
There was simply no fighting the flood of Rangers fans who got three more players from their team into this top two. They were basically the only American League fanbase with strong motivation to be well aware of the new voting gimmick and to make full advantage of it. The judgment rendered by fans all across the league before was not relevant to the outcome any more. At second base (Marcus Semien), at shortstop (Corey Seager), and at third base (Josh Jung), the starters all come from the Texas team.
None of these are undeserving winners, nor even is Heim, once we take off the orange-colored shades. Those four guys all are above 2 in Baseball Reference WAR for the season. All are hitting pretty well and some are playing good defense too. This is a big part of why Texas has the AL’s best offense and a 49-31 record.
Rutschman was only narrowly beaten out by Heim in this second phase voting gimmick, a 52-48 margin. Unlike with the first phase of voting, they could not even be bothered to actually reveal how many votes there are, so who knows how many people actually voted. It is not much of a moral victory that Rutschman came the closest to being a starter of any of the head-to-head positional battles in either league.
We will have to wait until Sunday, when the reserves of the All-Star rosters are announced, to see whether Rutschman is going to earn a spot on the team in his first full MLB season. With the fan votes determining the nine starting players in each league, one reserve at every position is named based on balloting among MLB players.
The players can end up with weird ideas sometimes of who is actually deserving of this honor, so who knows, but in terms of the stuff that’s measured, there’s nobody other than Heim who’s even in Rutschman’s vicinity. Hopefully the player vote reflects that and we can celebrate a multi-Oriole All-Star team for the first time in several years in a few days time. In the meantime, let’s all shake our fists in the general direction of commissioner Rob Manfred for coming up with another bad idea.