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Wright vs. Sandoval: A city of 8 million was outvoted by a city of 800,000

Pablo Sandoval's All-Star ballot victory

San Francisco Giants’ Pablo Sandoval

 

Pablo Sandoval‘s All-Star ballot victory over David Wright fails to scandalize on a grand scale.

It did, however, jolt Mets general manager Sandy Alderson into his first Twitter post since he sent out a picture of his dog in April.

“Wright vs. Sandoval: A city of 8 million was outvoted by a city of 800,000,” he tweeted.

Wright has played better than Sandoval, and in the poll of players and coaches, he won in a landslide. He won’t start at third base in Kansas City next Tuesday because the fan vote suddenly and spectacularly went Sandoval’s way in the last lap.

That quick swing of almost 2 million votes became the obligatory annual travesty of the All-Star vote. The anguish over such trivia is a tired ritual.

Or it was. This year, the Giants‘ partisans enlivened it.

The club’s marketing department did work that the Romney and Obama campaigns should study. The old political machines got votes merely out of dead people. The Giants’ staff got votes, 2.29 million, for the idled Freddy Sanchez, who finished fourth among National League second basemen.

Then there’s the Brandon Constituency. Belt and Crawford might deserve to go to an All-Star game someday, but only irrational exuberance could have placed them second in their positions on the 2012 ballot.

The votes came from a fan base that pleaded in every imaginable forum for these two to be given a real chance to grow, for the team to look at the long-term value of cultivating them. The push for them to be All-Stars reflected short-term thinking.

The All-Star Game decides home-field advantage for the World Series. Any team that hopes to reach the Series also should hope for the best players to start for their league next Tuesday. Belt and Crawford do not meet that standard, not yet. The fans, instead of doting on them with All-Star votes, should have envisioned an exhilarating autumn and schemed to set them up for an edge then.

Instead, they went with their hearts, and their thumbs on smart-phone screens. The predictable suspicions about ballot-stuffing, digitally or otherwise, does not bother them. This city loves picturing itself as a sports heavyweight, measuring its passion against that of New Yorkers and New Englanders.

Commissioner Bud Selig said the surge of votes for the Giants didn’t trouble him.

“They are sold out there every day and every night,” he said in a conference call, supporting the belief that a homestand with a Dodgers series in the final week of balloting had helped the Giants’ organization get out the vote. “They reacted the way they did. … I think for the most part, the lineups are very, very good.

“We have built in enough safeguards, which we didn’t have in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s and even the ’90s, so I’m comfortable where we are.”

The commissioner recalled the 1957 All-Star vote, which resulted in seven Reds in the NL starting lineup. Then-Commissioner Ford Frick uncovered evidence of ballot-stuffing, pulled two of the Reds, Gus Bell and Wally Post, and inserted Willie Mays and Hank Aaron in their places. After that, Frick stripped the fans of the vote, a ban that remained until 1970.

The sport will not revoke the ballots again. MLB has become too attached to the idea of including fans in the game.

This year’s All-Star vote did not yield anything egregious. Crawford and Belt didn’t win starting spots. Buster Posey might not be a better choice as the starting catcher than Yadier Molina or Carlos Ruiz, and Sandoval does not deserve to be ahead of Wright. Posey and Sandoval still are legitimate All-Stars, and Wright and Molina will play – probably as much as the starters, if not more.

Conspiracy theories about the Giants’ vote totals might survive into next year’s balloting. Did some budding tech genius find a way around the limit of 25 online votes per person? On KNBR on Monday, Gary Radnich told his audience that his bosses had developed an application that turned a vote for Posey or Melky Cabrera into a party-line vote.

“That was just a joke, Gary being Gary,” station program director Lee Hammer said. “It’s absolutely not true.”

Bob Bowman, chief executive for MLB Advanced Media, said that votes for each position have to be cast separately. Online ballots, he said, are tracked by e-mail addresses, which voters must enter, and IP addresses to prevent stuffing.

“We had to make sure we didn’t receive 10,000 votes in a minute from the same IP address,” he said.

“I’d never say it’s impossible because I don’t want to challenge a high school student in San Francisco to write a code, but we’re confident that no one can manipulate the vote.”

Not digitally, at least. If fans do it with irrational exuberance, MLB can live with that.

Gwen Knapp is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. E-mail: gknapp@sfchronicle.com

 

 

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