As every card-carrying member of the Dodgers Nation knows, our MVP and Cy Young winning, curveball throwing, no-hitter pitching ace, Clayton Kershaw missed the cut for this year’s National League All-Star squad. The initial reaction to this shocking development among writers and Twitter-heads is that Los Angeles fans are too stupid to see the immense talent of Kershaw standing before them, and they didn’t vote him in because they only paid attention to his Win-Loss record without understanding the nuances of IP, FIP and whatever else is the meaningful stat of the moment.
I disagree. I know LA fans would recognize the talent standing before them, but first they must be exposed to said talent. In other words, after a season and a half with no mass Dodgers exposure on television, the TWC fiasco birds have come home to roost. The Dodgers have been bleeding fans for two years and are becoming a team that only the die-hard fans support.
That might sound great on face value, as one might presume every sports team wants all of its fans to be die-hards. Well, one should be careful what one wishes for, because the Dodgers are becoming that team.
When you are participating daily in the super-heated sports blogosphere and Dodger fan Twitter-worlds, it might seem as though everyone is as impassioned as you are, because you are surrounded by like-minded people who’s life every summer revolves around the Dodgers. I’m a member of this Dodgers/baseball- centric clique myself, but Kershaw falling short in votes reminded me that not everybody else is as fanatical about the Dodgers, or about baseball as the rest of us are.
I present Exhibit A – the initial fan votes for the All-Star team. The first place club in the second-largest media market in the country was shut out of the fan vote. SHUT OUT. Sure, four Dodgers (Yasmani Grandal, Adrian Gonzalez, Joc Pederson and Zack Greinke) are on the team, but they were hand-selected after the fan vote was completed.
Does anyone seriously think not a single Dodger was voted onto the team because the LA fans don’t understand enough about RAR, WAR and Rtot? Of course not. No Dodger was voted in because a sports team needs wide-spread coverage in the community in order to reach beyond the die-hard fans – and to entice casual and new fans to follow and care about the team.
Not enough casual fans voting for your team? Your players are going to lose to players in markets with mass coverage and thus, teams with more die-hard, more casual, and more new fans.
I’m going to completely bypass Clayton Kershaw not making the team because of bias by National League All-Stars manager Bruce Bochy, who also manages the San Francisco Giants, because – of course. Besides, you shouldn’t have to rely on the manager of your rival’s team to select your player.
Which brings me to Exhibit B – the Final All-Star Ballot. This was the last chance for fans to vote their favorite player onto the All-Star team. My phone was smoking from all of the heat generated by the Twitter Kershaw campaign. In the end, even that wasn’t enough, and Kershaw again came up short – but it was not because LA fans overthunk his ERA or FIP.
Let’s look at who Kershaw lost to – St. Louis Cardinal Carlos Martinez. Do you think the fans in St. Louis are fanatical enough to feverishly pound the All-Star polls and vote their player in? You bet they are. I’m also not discounting the possibility they cheated on this as well.
But Kershaw didn’t finish second in the final vote. He came in third, behind Johnny Cueto of All-Star host Cincinnati. Does anyone else see a pattern here? Cincinnati is probably wall-to-wall All-Star game hype right about now, so it’s not a surprise the home team kid carried the vote.
St. Louis and Cincinnati are big towns, but there really isn’t that much going on in comparison to Los Angeles, so those midwestern folks had lots of free time – and TV saturation – to get the Martinez and Cueto campaigns rolling.
Los Angeles is a city with a lot of other choices, and if Angelenos can’t get access to one of the sports teams, casual fans will just bounce off to something else. Heck, a full third of LA probably didn’t even know or care the first All-Star vote had taken place.
Kershaw couldn’t get on the squad because only the die-hards were voting for him, and it wasn’t enough. Take heed Dodgers ownership. You may have popped the champagne corks in your owner’s suites the night the Dodgers became the first major league team to surpass two million in attendance, but we all know they only count seats sold – and empty corporate season seats don’t vote for All-Stars.