During the telecast of this week's All-Star baseball game, won by the National League for the ninth straight year, Davey Lopes leveled with millions of viewers. Philadelphia's Manny Trillo, he said, would have been his choice to start ahead of himself at second base.
The only reason Lopes started was because the fans voted him the honor, indeed voted for him as an all-star selection more than any other player from either league. Baseball's paying public has been accorded the privilege of choosing the All-Star starters since 1970, when computerized ballots were first distributed to them at parks around the majors. So that fans don't simply turn the selections into a popularity contest, the respective managers get to choose the pitchers and reserves.
What we saw in Los Angeles the other night, however, pointed up the power of the public under the current, controversial voting method. Four Dodgers graced the NL's starting lineup, yet only outfielder Reggie Smith would have been on the field if the players had had their druthers. That's what a New York Times poll of major leaguers unearthed before the game. The players would have started Keith Hernandez of St. Louis and not Steve Garvey at first base, Pittsburgh's Phil Garner and not Lopes at second, and the Cardinals' Garry Templeton and not Bill Russell at shortstop.
Altogether the players disagreed with the fans on 9 of their 16 starting selections, the highest total since the Times began the poll three years ago.
The discrepancy pointed up the divergent selection strategies. The fans generally lean toward the big names, the players toward the hottest performers. Thus it was that California's Rod Carew, New York's Bucky Dent, and Boston's Jim Rice (injured) made the fans' starting AL team, while a trio of Milwaukee Brewers -- Cecil Cooper, Robin Yount, and Ben Oglivie -- appeared in their spots in the players' poll.