Don’t believe hijack theory of All-Star voting

The headline Thursday night, it fairly blared …

MLB Says It Has Canceled as Many as 65 Million All-Star Ballots!

Well, it didn’t blare that much; I added the exclamation!

Still, 65 million sounds like a lot, no? And maybe some evidence that the process has been badly broken, but now everything’s kosher and all those Royals won’t start the game after all?

Except it turns out all those millions of ballots weren’t just canceled. They’ve been canceled piecemeal, and weren’t included in the recently released tabulations …

Bob Bowman, CEO of MLB Advanced Media, told Yahoo! Sports it scrubbed the votes because of the possibility of fraud.

"I’m not saying we bat 1.000," Bowman said. "But it’s between 60 (million) and 65 million votes that have been canceled. We don’t really trumpet it because if someone thinks they’re getting away with it, they’ll try to again."

More than 300 million votes have been accepted, MLB says, and the record of 390 million should be surpassed this week …

Uh, you’re not trumpeting because “if someone thinks they’re getting away with it, they’ll try to again”? This seems like a misquote or something. But what might have Bowman been trying to say? Wouldn’t someone be less likely to try again if they knew they weren’t getting away with it?

A trifling quibble.

It remains hard to believe that this process has been legitimate.

Over at ESPN.com, Jeffrey Chadiha tried to answer the question that’s been vexing me: How is this happening?

First, according to the Royals, organizationally they’re “not doing anything that anybody else isn’t doing.”

Which leaves … what? Major League Baseball claims great efforts toward sniffing out perfidy. So could the Royals legitimately be getting all these votes?

Said Bowman: "Most players get 60 to 80 percent of their votes from their teams, but the Royals are on the high end of that. You are dealing with a great outpouring of support for this team, and you see it at the park [with attendance], with [Internet] traffic, and they’re now in the top 10 in merchandise sales." Through Tuesday, the Royals’ overall attendance (home and road) is up from 23rd in 2014 (25,513 average, 63.2% of capacity) to seventh in 2015 (30,608, 75.1%). Measured by page views, traffic to the Royals’ team page on ESPN.com ranks eighth this season, compared to 11th during the 2014 regular season. The team ranks 10th among MLB teams in merchandising sales.

These figures are all quite impressive, and a testament to the organization and its success. But haven’t there been other teams that were suddenly successful, maybe reached the World Series and got off to nice starts the next spring?

What we’re seeing now is utterly unprecedented, at least since the introduction of Internet voting. All these years, and all the teams with more famous stars than the Royals, and we’ve never seen anything like it. Nor will we ever again, because MLB will, if the latest numbers hold, change the system.

But I’ve talked myself into thinking that nobody has hijacked the balloting this year. If only because if it were that easy, a) somebody would have done it before, and b) somebody would be doing it this year, for some other team.

What I think is most likely is that Royals fans simply had more enthusiasm when this process began, and then became even more enthusiastic when a few Royals led after the first round. And so and so forth until, Hey, there’s Omar Infante and his .234 on-base percentage! Alcides Escobar instead of Xander Bogaerts! Kendrys Morales instead of David Ortiz! Eric Hosmer instead of Miguel Cabrera! In the old days with the paper ballots, these things simply did not happen.

But these are the new days, and maybe the Internet really has changed everything.

That’s one theory, anyway. Maybe even the best one. For now. Occam’s Razor usually works pretty well. And if it’s not working, here? We’ll might have one hell of a story. Better than eight Kansas City Royals starting an All-Star Game, even.