Royals Dominance or Doing Away with World Series Home-Field: Let’s Change Something About the MLB All-Star Game

On July 14, Major League Baseball will host the 86th playing of the MLB All-Star Game in Cincinnati, when the National League will face off against the Kansas City Royals American League.  The game will count for home-field advantage in the World Series, which is a joke, but we’ll get to that later.  This year’s game and it’s voting, in particular, are causing lots of controversy.  Take a look at the latest AL voting update and see if you notice anything that stands out:

Seven Royals.  The number of Royals in the lead at their positions has actually decreased from eight, as Eric Hosmer was passed in the balloting by Miguel Cabrera at first base.  The most ridiculous vote-getter from the Royals, however, resides at second base: Omar Infante.  He is hitting .236 this year, has just 22 RBI, and has just three walks as opposed to 36 strikeouts.  His fielding percentage ranks 15th in baseball at his position, so you can probably get my drift by now: he isn’t all-star game worthy.

Another issue with the All-Star game voting turning up blue is how important this game is.  It counts for home-field advantage in the World Series, and this is an issue that Commissioner Rob Manfred needs to fix, and soon.  If the league wants to have a fun event for fans to vote (35) times on and jam the ballots on their computers, that would not be the end of the world.  There is no denying that Royals fans have gotten the vote out for their players, but for a game that is so important, why are we leaving the vote to the fans?

ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark recently put out a proposal to try to fix baseball’s All-Star Game problem:

Keep the fan vote next year exactly as is. Continue to have the players vote, as they’ve done in the past. But once the votes are in, compare the two before announcing the teams.

If the fans and players are at least close to being on the same page, nothing changes. But if the player picked by the fans to start doesn’t finish in the top three of the players’ balloting, that should automatically veto the fans’ choice. In that case only, the players’ selection should start.

The only objection I heard to this idea, when I ran it past people in MLB, was a modification that would allow the fans’ choice to start if he’s in the top five — not the top three — of player balloting. That works for me, even though I’d prefer top three. What do you think?

I think that’s a great idea.  The people that actually know the game (the players) can have a veto card for the people that know the game less (the fans).  In reality, even though I complain about the fans voting for their players to play in and/or start the game, it would be very difficult to remove them from the process entirely.  They pay money to go to the ballpark, and their loyalty to the game should be rewarded in some way.

How about another thing fans are missing when doing their All-Star voting?  Oh yeah, voting for the best players.  If the All-Star Game is supposed to be about deciding home-field advantage in the World Series, then why are teams doing this?:

That’s excessive.  Not only are these teams avidly campaigning for their own players, they are even changing their Twitter names to #VoteRox or #Vote BlueJays, and etc.  All of these teams have done enough All-Star campaigning recently to do both Democrats and Republicans proud.

Another thing to notice with the Twitter stumping is that teams want their fans to vote for their players, who are not necessarily the best players in the league.  Fans and teams have lost sight of what the All-Star Game is about, or what it should be about: an exhibition of the game’s best players.  Even MLB has lost sight of this, as this tweet from earlier this month shows:

They aren’t exactly trying to sweep it under the rug: there will be many Royals at the All-Star Game.  If you click the link on the tweet, you get to a link that takes you to a story on that ballot update.  However, in the story, the voting rules are outlined:

Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites — on their computers, tablets and smartphones — using the 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot until Thursday, July 2, at 11:59 p.m. ET. For the first time, voting is exclusively online, where fans may submit up to 35 ballots.
Fans may also receive the ballot by texting VOTE to 89269 (USA) or 101010 (Canada). Or text VOTA for a ballot in Spanish. Message and data rates may apply. Up to five messages. No purchase required. Reply STOP to cancel. Reply HELP for info.

35 times.  Why is baseball allowing its fans to vote 35 times when they know how easily the voting rules can be manipulated, as in the case of the Royals?  Take this execerpt from a USA Today piece reporting that MLB has been forced to cancel 60 to 65 million votes for the game because of the threat of fraudulent ballots being cast:

The concerns about fraud are especially high this year because Kansas City fans have voted nearly the entire Royals starting lineup in the All-Star Game. Royals fans say they just organized and mobilized well, and there is no chicanery involved.

I’m sure the league is fine with Eric Hosmer, one of the best young first basemen in the game, starting. The fact that Omar Infante, who is batting .227, could start at second base is more a cause for concern. Seeing eight Royals start the All-Star Game would be a fun gimmick, but in the end, wouldn’t you just be watching a Royals game?

I don’t want to insinuate that the Royals fan base did anything illegal or nefarious, but doesn’t it seem odd that that many ballots were discarded?

My opinion on all this is that baseball should not allow its fans to vote even close to 35 times.  They should be allowed to vote once, and that’s it.  If our elections in this country don’t allow people to vote more than once, why is baseball letting us do this? This game counts for something, and we’re letting it become the National League vs. the Royals?  This is bad for baseball, no matter what Commissioner Manfred or the league’s Public Relations staff may say.

Having this happen to a game that was once considered the “Midsummer Classic” is disgraceful. A game that once had great moments like Cal Ripken’s home run in his final All-Star Game in 2001, Bo Jackson “saying hello” in 1989, or Ted
Williams’ first pitch and the All-Century Team in 1999 does not deserve this ridiculousness.

I don’t blame Royals fans at all here.  They did a great job of “getting their puppies organized”, as Bill Raftery would say, and voting for their guys.  But a game that counts for home-field advantage in the World Series should not be subjected to this. As this article is being written, the Royals are leading their division and have the best winning percentage in the American League.  If they get to the World Series and lose a Game 7 on the road, that would be sad and ironic at the same time.

But it’s what they, and the game of baseball, deserve.

 

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