‘No shenanigans,’ but Royals fans are overlooking a few good All-Stars
It’s 1957 all over again, and the glorious stench of foul play is in the air.
Everything is up to date in Kansas City, all right. Maybe a little too up to date, based on the fact that the Royals lead the American League All-Star balloting at seven of nine positions.
This is not about stuffing the ballot box, the way Cincinnati fans did in ’57 to “elect” – heh-heh – seven Reds to the NL team.
No, this is about a potential hacking of the electronic ballot box in the first year of exclusive online voting. And frankly, the threat to America here is bigger than the Kardashians, bigger than even the FIFA scandal.
(Attention, Royals fans: By now, most of you probably can tell that I am writing this tongue-in-cheek. For those of you spoiling for a fight, and I don’t mean Yordano Ventura, imagine if it were seven Yankees or seven Red Sox leading the balloting. You’d be screaming for a government investigation of both MLB and my humble employers at FOX, not to mention the confiscation of every laptop in the eastern time zone.
(Oh, and another thing: Worthy All-Stars in both leagues could get shafted if the entire state of Missouri continues its clicking crusade; Cardinals lead the NL voting at four positions due to the efforts of St. Louis’ self-proclaimed Best Fans in Baseball. I’ll get to the potential snubs in a moment. But for now, back to saving the ASG from Omar Infante.)
Good citizen and fair-minded journalist that I am, I demanded an investigation Wednesday in a conversation with a top MLB official, knowing that three updates remain before the actual winners are announced.
Yes, the Royals are the defending AL champions, the first-place team in the AL Central, etc., etc. But I suspect that the spawn of one of those manic number-crunching Royals fans – I’m looking at you, Rany Jazayerli! – is responsible for the craziness on the AL ballot.
Alas, that MLB official – Bob Bowman, president for business and media – assured me there were no irregularities, no improprieties, no impish teenagers in the KC metropolitan area creating phony e-mail addresses and voting up to 35 times for every Royal but Amos Otis.
“No,” Bowman said sternly. “We check on it. We look for programs. We look at IP addresses. We do all that. I would say over the last 12 to 15 years we’ve seen isolated instances (of tampering), more in the Final Man vote than in the All-Star vote. But if we see efforts like that, we always disallow it.”
So, no matter how these elections turn out, commissioner Rob Manfred is not about to turn into Ford Frick, appoint non-Royals as starters and take away the fan vote.
Frick, according to Wikipedia, discovered that half the ballots in ’57 came from Cincinnati and that the Cincinnati Enquirer had printed pre-marked ballots and distributed them inside their Sunday editions.
Oh, for the days when newspapers had such power!
Frick appointed Willie Mays and Hank Aaron to replace the Reds’ Gus Bell and Wally Post; Stan Musial had been the only non-Reds starter. The fans, meanwhile, did not regain the vote until 1970.
The issues are just slightly different now, in the first year of all-digital balloting.
“The vote totals are twice as high as last year,” Bowman said. “We have 50 percent more people voting 50 percent more often, so it’s almost 100 percent in terms of vote totals. That, more than Kansas City or even St. Louis, is what has caught our eye. We’ve been scrubbing it every day and haven’t seen anything irregular.”
Bowman was referring to the voting procedures, not the actual votes themselves.
No less an authority than Tigers left-hander David Price tweeted on Wednesday: “MLB please do something about the Allstate voting (Yes, auto-correct nailed even Price). Not that it’s funny but it’s kind of a joke. #VOTEMIGGY.”
Price added in another tweet, “An All-Star Game IS NOT a popularity contest . . . It’s for home-field advantage for whatever reason) for the World Series!! Best players play.”
No, not true, David. The ASG is a classic hodgepodge of mixed messages. The fan vote is, in essence, a popularity contest. And if the game truly was for the best players, baseball would change the rule requiring that every team be represented.
* AL catcher. Can’t quibble too much; Salvador Perez arguably is the Royals’ most important player. Still, the Athletics’ Stephen Vogt has superior offensive numbers to Perez yet only half the votes.
* AL outfield. The Royals’ Lorenzo Cain is the top vote-getter, more than 500,000 ahead of the Angels’ Mike Trout. No big deal – Trout still would be a starter – but can someone please explain how KC’s Alex Rios is fourth, more than 300,000 votes ahead of the Orioles’ Adam Jones, when he has appeared in only 15 games all season?
* NL second base. The Marlins’ Dee Gordon leads the majors with 88 hits, ranks second with 20 stolen bases and fifth with 10 defensive runs saved. Yet, Gordon is only 113,058 votes ahead of the Cardinals’ Kolten Wong.
* NL outfield. The Nationals’ Bryce Harper, Cardinals’ Matt Holliday and Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton are the three leading vote-getters, which is at it should be. But I don’t want to live in a world in which the Giants’ Nori Aoki – a former Royal, of course – is only 46,902 votes behind Stanton.
“I would say this about Kansas City,” Bowman said. “If you watch a game or go out there, they have been pushing it hard from Day 1. During their TV broadcasts, during their radio broadcasts, they’ve got everyone in their infrastructure pushing Kansas City players.”
The Royals’ local TV ratings on FOX Sports Kansas City are the highest in baseball, though the size of the market means the actual number of viewers ranks lower.
“It’s early,” Bowman said. “Nobody’s assuming this is the way it’s going to end. But it’s kind of exciting. You can make an argument for a lot of those players, maybe you can make an argument for somebody else who deserves to be there. But a lot of those players obviously deserve to be where they are.
“That’s what it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be about fans getting involved, getting behind it. There are no shenanigans going on, just the involvement and energy of the Kansas City fans. Not just in Kansas City, but nationwide. They kind of charmed the nation last year. They didn’t win, but they kind of got the A-plus in the charm and modeling category.”
Bowman’s analogy is appropriate, seeing as how the All-Star balloting is one big beauty pageant.
Keep it up, KC. You look absolutely lovely. Just never complain about big-market influence again!