Welcome to the All-Star Game of the Internet Age.
Openly campaigning for the last spot on the American League roster, New York Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher took advantage of his burgeoning Twitter account fan base to rack up 9.8 million online votes during a four-day span to earn a trip to Anaheim for Tuesday’s 81st All-Star Game.
In an act of shameless self-promotion that undoubtedly made LeBron James proud, Swisher used “baseball’s most-followed Twitter account to his advantage,” according to mlb.com, as he “sought out and got endorsements from New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, actress Jessica Alba and “The Apprentice” co-star Ivanka Trump to help him nail down the 34th and final spot on Joe Girardi’s AL roster.
Hey, if you have 1,223,210 followers on your Twitter account (the count as of Saturday morning at twitter.com/nickswisher), why not flaunt it?
Sure, Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis (18 HR, 57 RBI) and White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko (20 HRs, 62 RBIs) — Swisher’s closest pursuers among the AL’s five designated “All-Star Final Vote” candidates — were more deserving All-Stars than Swisher (14 HRs, 48 RBIs), but why should he have to apologize?
All Swisher did was capitalize on the system and the opportunity, promoting himself to the extent that even the Wall Street Journal featured him in a story this week. I wouldn’t be surprised if he voted for himself a few times.
Appropriately, Swisher sent out this two-word “tweet” after winning the All-Star berth: “THANK YOU!!!” (Yes, there were three exclamation marks.) And the next day he followed up with this tweet: “Yesterday was one of the best days of my life. I owe it to all the fans. Thank you for this opportunity.”
Heartwarming story, isn’t it?
There was also a successful “Final Vote” campaign last week in Cincinnati, where Reds first baseman Joey Votto, NL home run leader and legitimate league MVP candidate, won the five-player race for the NL’s final spot after being inexplicably snubbed by fans and NL manager Charlie Manuel of the Philadelphia Phillies. (Was Manuel napping when he chose part-time Atlanta utility player Omar Infante over Votto?)
During the four days of online voting, a number of Reds players did TV spots urging fans to “Vote Votto,” to go along with digital billboards in the area lit up with the same message. With the team on the road, the Reds even invited fans to Great American Ball Park to vote on laptops while eating free pizza.
Pizza always works. Votto received a staggering total of 13.7 million votes to blow away his four competitors.
Think about this. The last player on each roster received more votes in four days than the leading vote-getter among starting position players during months of voting. Nice system.
Does any of this make sense? Does All-Star voting ever make sense?
And is anybody going to apologize to Angels right-hander Jered Weaver (8-4, 2.97 ERA, 130 Ks)? Does Girardi, the AL manager, know Weaver would be 12-4 if the bullpen hadn’t blown four of his leads?
There are always controversies when deserving players are left off the All-Star teams, but Commissioner Bud Selig thinks that’s good for the game.
“These kind of controversies have existed as long as I can remember,” Selig said earlier this week on a national conference call. “That’s a healthy sign of how much people care. ...
“We have a very thorough voting procedure. We have the fans, the players and the managers all with input. We really have tried to make it as fair as possible.”
Nice try. Because Swisher proved this year that All-Star voting can be celebrity-driven, look for TMZ to be allowed to pick the 35th player in each league next season.