The Tampa Bay Rays have been one of the best stories of baseball’s first half, entering Thursday with a 41-26 record that’s among the best in the majors.
It’s the type of performance that typically warrants multiple All-Star Game selections.
But when the initial All-Star voting results were released Monday, only one Rays player — outfielder Austin Meadows — was among the top three at his respective position.
“We won’t get credit, man,” Rays outfielder Tommy Pham told The Athletic in a story published Wednesday. “It’s always unfair. Big market vs. small market. It’s never going to be fair.”
Pham pointed to his own case, as well as teammate Avisail Garcia. Both are hitting around .300 this season, but they were behind the New York Yankees’ Brett Gardner (.230) and Boston Red Sox’s Jackie Bradley (.199) when the initial voting totals were announced Monday.
“That tells you it right there,” Pham told The Athletic.
Specifically, Pham said, it’s about the amount of exposure the big-market teams like New York and Boston get compared to the small-market ones like Tampa Bay.
“It’s never going to be fair,” Pham told The Athletic. “It has to change because when you go into arbitration, that’s a big thing that’s talked about with accomplishments. Baseball has to be better to fix it. We’re not getting any help either from ESPN. We haven’t had an ESPN game all year. That’s a way for fans to see us by putting us on one of those big-time games. But we continually never get put on, so all they see is the same players. The Cubs, Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox — the same teams are always on there.
“When you look at it, all right, we’re in a small market, we’re never on ESPN. We don’t have a ton of national TV games. We’re at a disadvantage.”
Major League Baseball has changed the voting format ahead of this year’s game, to be held July 9 at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
A new format to elect starters was put into place starting with the “primary” vote that includes a representative from each team at every position, including designated hitter in the American League. The players with the three highest vote totals at each position will be announced June 21 on MLB Network.
The secondary phase, called “The Starters Election,” will begin at noon ET five days later and last for 28 hours. The results, which will be reset from the primary, will choose catchers, four infield positions and three outfielders for each league and be announced on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET on June 27.
The remainder of the 23 players for American League and 24 for the National League, including all pitchers, will be selected by player vote as well as by AL manager Alex Cora of the Red Sox and NL manager Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The full rosters will be announced June 30 at 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.