Not everybody is into exploration or combat. Some people enjoy helping others, and certainly there'll be lots of players needing help of one kind or another (repairs, supplies, etc.). So why not let the people who are good at that and find it satisfying have the chance to do it? That seems like a win-win to me.
The only caveat I'd offer is that commanding a starbase shouldn't be about power. Sure, it might come with some junior officers to command, but it should mostly be a support role, with all the headaches that entails. I'd actually require the commander of a starbase to document to Starfleet HQ all the resources they use every month, and the average time to repair incoming ships, and even the bar fights and thefts and security breaches, and I'd make a starbase commander's rewards contingent on their performance in these kinds of categories. Retaining this command should mean putting together a strong organization of friends who like helping people; it should be "work" (of a fun kind), but it should also allow for lots of socialization.
Basically the job should only go to someone who really likes helping other people and can prove on a regular basis that they're good at it.
No, to most people this won't sound like much fun at all. But to some people, to those who feel useful when they have responsibility for the well-being of others and who don't need a lot of recognition for being helpful, I'm betting this would sound like a wonderful opportunity.
There's a general rule of multiplayer game design I've come up with. Consider the following conditions:
- there's some activity or function that serves a useful purpose in the game
- it's something that enough people enjoy doing so much that they'll do it outside the game world
- it's something that's OK for players to do
- it can be implemented in a safe way
- it fits within the gameworld's lore and setting and backstory
I think player operation of a supply/repair starbase satisfies all those conditions. If it does, then I'd definitely be for it as a feature in Star Trek Online.