Get ready for Election Day, baseball style. Democracy is coming to the diamond, as are several other alterations associated with the Midsummer Classic.
As part of a series of rule changes jointly announced by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association on Thursday, the All-Star Game fan voting process will be overhauled, beginning this year. The traditional process of fans choosing from a ballot of club-nominated players at each position will now be a Primary Round. The top three vote-getters at each position from that round (top nine for outfielders) will then advance to a special election that will determine the All-Star Game starters.
That day will take place in late June or early July for a prescribed time period. Further details of the new fan voting format will be announced in April, but the new format will be in effect for voting for the 2019 All-Star Game, scheduled to take place July 9 in Cleveland.
The game itself will also feature a notable change: Both clubs will start the 10th inning -- and all subsequent extra innings -- with a runner on second base. Players who have already left the game will be allowed to re-enter as runners. This change is aimed at expediting the ending of a game that, since 2017, no longer has a bearing on home-field advantage in the World Series and is back to being an exhibition.
The Election Day concept is viewed as an opportunity to improve fan engagement and boost social-media activity surrounding baseball’s signature summer showcase. It could also conceivably correct instances in which a player’s April or May performance takes on outsized importance in his vote totals. By having what amounts to a “runoff” round closer to the game, fans will be making more statistically informed choices from the list of players who advance out of the initial tallies.
It’s not just acclaim on the line for players in the running for All-Star squads. An additional stipulation of the new agreement is that All-Star bonus payments will be given to the top vote-getters who advance beyond the Primary Round. And the prize money given to players on the winning All-Star team will be increased, beginning this year.
There will also be cash incentives aimed at encouraging more players to want to participate in the annual Home Run Derby. Total player prize money for the Derby will be increased to $2.5 million, and the winner of the Derby will receive $1 million.