Arguably, the vote has surpassed the duel and the deathmatch as the most popular way of settling things. Election year means that (about 55% of) people act in their patriotic duty to make a choice and have a voice in the excellent (at evoking discontent) political staple, democracy. Though the presidential vote is in November, Twitter rocked the important vote on July 5th, exercising their right to hashtag guaranteed in the 1st Amendment and electing the final two participants in the 2012 MLB All-Star Game.
The tag #FreesePlease was an Ovaltine-esque campaign that carried St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese onto the National League squad. Freese rose to prominence during the 2011 World Series, hitting .545 with a playoff-record 21 RBIs and a Game 6 walkoff homer. Freese’s hot bat reduced Albert Pujols to discardable flotsam, casting the former MVP off to Los Angeles.
Freese has a checkered past preceding his sudden stardom. He quit baseball at one point in college, endearing to the slacker generation more likely to participate in a daytime Twitter vote than a government one. Freese’s blew a .232 in 2009 while driving in a St. Louis suburb, higher than the batting average of both of the team’s second base starters. Freese is hitting .285 on the season, eclipsing the Mendoza line on both the field and the road.
For a man whose name is is synonymous with chill, Freese is hot under the collar. His 2009 arrest violated a 2007 probation for “Public Intoxication plus Obstructing and Resisting an Officer.” And as a 19 year old, Freese earned his first DUI. That’s three strikes, but the catcher must have dropped the third one; the Cardinals enrolled Freese in a substance abuse program and he has been incident-free since 2009.
The creative hashtag may have added to Freese’s electability. His opponents (Aaron Hill #FinHillVote, Bryce Harper #Brycein12, and Michael Bourn #VoteBourn) went with less alliterative slogans. Freese is literally the William Henry Harrison of the All-Star vote.
Now that I closed with my strongest joke, an ode to 19th century politics, we can move on to the American League representative, who…actually isn’t an American at all. It’s Nipponese hurler Faridyu “Yu” Darvish, the Far-Eastern import who inked a 4.47 billion yen contract to practice his craft in Texas. Yu is also inking American headlines. He wore this shirt on his inaugural flight to Texas, a marijuana leaf with the words “I will survive” printed on it. Bee Gees fan? Flower Child? Medical Marijuana Bear Gryllis? The shirt caused quite a stir among the press, but raised more questions than answers.
And Yu was involved in another T-Shirt controversy, this time a shirt that he wasn’t even wearing. Teammate Mike Napoli attended a press conference wearing a “Yu is My Homeboy” shirt manufactured by a fan. As Deadspin reports, since Yu wasn’t profiting on the shirts, his lawyers sued the guy selling them. Chinese basketball guard Jeremy Lin experienced a similar thing, with many shirts of questionable origin popped up online using “Linsanity” and “Linning” taglines. It seems the Far East just can’t appreciate a good cross-cultural pun.
The website AngryAsianMan.com is an eponymously curated site that found another media storm brewing around Yu. A Rangers analyst classified weak hits during a Darvish start as “a couple of chinkers” , provoking the incensed Asian-American running this site to highlight the questionable diction. This again parallels Lin’s ascension, when an ESPN staffer was fired for running the headline “Chink in the Armor” describing his turnover-laden play.
In Yu’s group of selectable AL pitchers, Jake Peavy (#TakeJake) had the catchy campaign, while the other eligible pitchers, Jonathan Broxton, Jason Hammel, and Ernesto Frieri, joined Darvish in running the conventional #Vote(Name) candidacy. The monumental outpouring of overseas support that got the Yankees’ Hideki Matsui and Red Sox pitcher Hideki Okajima voted into the game (in 2004 and 2007, respectively) with pedestrian stats likely boosted Darvish’s totals. The Chinese contingent voting for the NBA’s All-Star game picked Yao Ming in 2011, his 8th appearance. That year, Ming played in a grand total of 5 games and averaged 10 points per game, yet was nominated as the starting center for the West.
Not to suggest that Darvish’s stats weren’t worthy; he posted a decent 3.59 ERA with a strong 10 wins in the first half of the season. But his overseas support dwarfs the other choices, elevating him to a Godzilla-esque vote total.
By taking the vote to the tweeters, MLB acted like the hip league for once. America’s nostalgic pastime is typically conservative and traditional in the sporting world, but their official Twitter isn’t as stuffy, promoting giveaways and fan interaction. By being early adopters of this new medium, MLB is approaching the YOLO generation at home plate, turning in the lineup card, and hollering a resounding “#PlayBall” @theworld.