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Under Review All-Star changes--Matsui's late surge

By tying home field advantage in the World Series to the outcome
of the All-Star Game, baseball is hoping to lend an air of
gravitas to its midsummer classic. That's going to affect Fox's
coverage; the network is treating the July 15 event as more of a
game and less of a spectacle. Fox will continue to mike the bases
and outfield walls, but there will be no in-game interviews--a
staple of All-Star Games past.

Of course, whether Fox can goose the All-Star Game's declining
ratings will hinge on who plays and who doesn't. The unveiling of
the lineups always yields reminders that the nomination process
is basically a popularity contest. Consider: Hideki Matsui was
voted in even though he's in his league's top 10 in just one
major offensive category (RBIs, with 64). The Yankees' outfielder
was boosted largely by Internet voting, which amounts to slightly
less than half the votes cast. In the final week of voting, which
is limited to the Internet, Matsui nabbed about 730,000
votes--roughly three times as many as Garret Anderson and Vernon
Wells combined--moving him from from seventh place to second
among AL outfielders. Matsui received strong Internet support
from Japan, where he is a national hero. Another Japanese star,
the Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki, was the AL's top vote-getter, though
deservedly so. "We want our reach to be as far as possible," says
baseball spokesman, Matt Gould, of Internet voting, which began
in 1995. Stuffing the All-Star ballot box is nothing new. In '57
the Reds got seven starters elected by preprinting players' names
on ballots that were then inserted in newspapers; in the late
'80s A's fans used nails to mass-punch ballots to help get their
players on the team. --M.B.