Gaston's system is for birds, er, Jays

July 12, 1993|By Cathy Harasta | Cathy Harasta,Dallas Morning News

Don't be surprised if a cousin or in-law of Cito Gaston gets an inning or two of work in the All-Star Game tomorrow night. His banker might turn up in center field. His dentist might get a crack at bat.

And if Gaston, say, never got around to returning that power drill he borrowed from a proverbial good neighbor, here is a chance to settle the old score: Cito's neighbor to the mound in relief.

Actually, Gaston stopped short of naming any of his relatives, family pets or favorite umpires to the American League All-Star squad he will manage in the midsummer classic. But let's just say the Toronto manager definitely took advantage of a screwball selection system that let him load up on Blue Jays. They will be in abundance tomorrow at Oriole Park.

On the positive side, Gaston's homerism underscores the selection process' flaws. Some tinkering is in order. Be warned, of course, that no system likely could guarantee universal harmony, because an All-Star is in the eye of the beholder, to some degree.

Statistics carry obvious weight, but emotions and loyalties also play a part. Meritorious service over many years sways fans to elect a Cal Ripken, even when he is having a down season. Some deserving players are bound to be shut out.

Popular teams and big names can outshine those who toil in the smaller markets.

It might help if baseball would re-introduce the players' involvement in the All-Star starters' selection system. If the All-Star Game is to reflect the best baseball has to offer, its players should have a voice in the vote. It is worth a try.

The NFL will begin using a weighted system allowing the fans, players and coaches equal say in choosing the Pro Bowl squads. Fans previously had no Pro Bowl input. Fans have plenty to say about the midsummer classic, because they are responsible for electing all starters except for the pitchers.

Baseball has tried many formulas since the All-Star Game's conception in 1933. No division of influence among fans, players and managers was perfect. Ballot-stuffing scandals marred the process in the 1950s. Since 1970, the fans have elected the starters, except for the pitchers. The All-Star managers choose the reserves for each 28-man squad.

One-fourth of the AL Stars will be Jays, after Gaston picked four from Toronto, the 1992 World Series champion, as reserves.

Controversy is part of the All-Star selection tradition. This classic's notable non-Stars include Detroit's Mickey Tettleton, Oakland's Rickey Henderson and Cincinnati's Kevin Mitchell.

Gaston's rationale was that six of the seven Jays are world champions. The other Blue Jays All-Star -- Paul Molitor -- Gaston called a "Hall of Famer, in my opinion."

When they tune in tomorrow, many fans might discover they are of the opinion that too much Toronto will defeat the purpose of the All-Star concept.

It might turn out that Gaston showed the selection system the error of its ways.

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