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Baseball's clumsy method of selecting starting players for the All-Star Game is proving as inequitable as ever. Because the names that appear on the Gillette-sponsored punch-card ballots were decided upon before the season began (SCORECARD, May 31), the ballots fail to reflect on-field performance in 1982. Players not of All-Star caliber this season are on the ballot, while bright rookies and suddenly revived veterans are not. You can write in a player's name on the ballot if he isn't already listed, but he's got about as much chance as a write-in candidate in a presidential election. The names put on the ballot before the season have a lock.
The official tabulation of votes for each league in mid-June (balloting ends July 4) listed the eight leading vote-getters at catcher and the infield positions, the top 16 among outfielders. Of the 112 names thus presented as the best players in the two leagues, every one is on the official ballot. Not one write-in candidate was able to squeeze in, not even at the bottom of the long lists.
This means that such 1982 stars as Ruppert Jones, at that point leading the National League in batting; Barry Bonnell, among the leaders in the American League; Jason Thompson, third in the NL in homers and batting .323; Hal McRae and Andre Thornton, one-two in the AL in RBIs; second basemen Johnny Ray and Damaso Garcia and first basemen Kent Hrbek and Willie Upshaw, four young players having outstanding seasons; Larry Herndon, leading the resurgent Tigers in batting; and veterans Bob Boone and Tim Foli, playing remarkably well for the contending Angels, weren't even mentioned in the mid-June tabulation. None of these admirable performers has a chance to be voted onto an All-Star team.
On the other hand, the No. 1 player in the balloting for best American League shortstop was Bucky Dent, a part-time player this year, batting .156. Right behind Dent in the voting was U.L. Washington, another part-time player, batting .182. All-Stars?
There are other inequities, and there will be more again next season unless the commissioner's office gets rid of the facile punch-card system and installs in its place a valid method of honoring baseball's best players.
LOSER AND STILL CHALLENGER
It seems impossible, but the World Boxing Association is still nagging Marvelous Marvin Hagler, the middleweight champion, about Fulgencio Obelmejias, telling him that he must fight the Venezuelan, who is "the leading available contender." Last winter the WBA warned Hagler that he had 15 days to come to terms with Obelmejias, which moved Hagler to vigorous protest (SCORECARD, Feb. 8). He had knocked the Venezuelan three ways to Tuesday in a fight a year earlier, he pointed out, and, as his lawyer said, "Why would anybody pay to see Marvin knock out Fully Obel again?" Besides, Marvin was trying to line up a fight with Thomas Hearns in the spring. Hearns vs. Hagler shaped up as a big-money match, so the WBA backed down for the time being. But then Hagler-Hearns was canceled, and there was the WBA on Marvin's back again. Now the Obelmejias fight is slated for July 15, perhaps in Italy.
Why Obelmejias? Well, the WBA lists him as the No. 1 contender, although the rival WBC has him no better than third and the International Boxing Writers Association ranks him sixth. Hank Kaplan of Miami, who published Boxing Digest and is one of the most knowledgeable observers of the sport, doubts that Obelmejias belongs among the Top 10. "And," says Kaplan, "losing to Hagler so badly in their first fight is hardly the way to earn a second one."
Then why Obelmejias? The WBA points out that the Venezuelan has had several fights since he met Hagler and won them all, including one with Chong-Pal Park of South Korea, at the time the No. 1 contender himself. But Obelmejias' victories, including the one over Park, all came on the friendly home turf of his native Caracas when the rest of the boxing world was paying little attention. And Park achieved his dubious status as top contender by beating a bunch of relative unknowns in Asia.