Liking Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman doesn’t make one a redneck. But if one is a redneck, Freddie Freeman is probably who they like — at least in regards to the voting for this year’s final National League All-Star spot.
MLB did something cool with the results of its voting for the final spots on the AL and NL All-Star teams by showing a county-by-county distribution of how people voted. And it’s a good thing they did. Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, considered by many to be the favorite for the final spot, lost the election due to Freeman’s overwhelming staying power in the states that have traditionally made up the Southeastern Conference/Bible Belt/Confederate States of America. (The exception is southeastern Florida, which of course is mostly made of former northerners and Cubans, the latter of which obviously came out for fellow ex-pat Puig).
Freeman completely dominated voting in the southeast, encountering no serious opposition from Puig until one crosses west over the Mississippi River into Louisiana and Arkansas or as far north as western Kentucky and northern Virginia.
In this particular case, jumping to the conclusion that the outcome says something about race would be largely circumstantial. While the white guy is pretty much a shoo-in in any statewide election in the southeastern corner of the country, in this case we are talking about the power of the Braves being the team for the entire region. That’s part of the reason you meet Braves everywhere you go other than the upper deck at Turner Field. Most of their fanbase probably makes one trip to Turner a year, if even that many.
However, the region’s conservatism probably did draw any neutral voters towards Freeman — not because he’s white, but because conservatives are more likely to make the argument that Puig hasn’t been in the bigs long enough to “earn” his spot in the All-Star Game. Just ask Jonathan “They’re Gonna Take My Guns Away” Papelbon, who came out and said there’s no place for Puig at the All-Star Game well before voting for the last roster spot began.
Me? I would have liked to have seen Puig, who is only one home run behind Freeman despite playing half as many games, and has given the Dodgers a Pulp Fiction-style jolt to the heart after they started the season OD’ing on injuries and overpaid stiffs. Even in a full cast of stars, people would pay just to see this intriguing new phenom himself.
Freeman’s a great player in his own right, but there’s nobody on the planet saying “Give the scalper whatever he wants! I need to see this Freddie Freeman cat play!”
However, baseball nerds might actually agree that fans made the right choice in sending Freeman to Queens for this year’s All-Star Game. In the sabermetric category of Wins Above Replacement, Freeman’s 2.7 WAR edges out Puig’s 2.6.