Today, Major League Baseball released the latest voting totals for the July 14 MLB All-Star Game. Of the nine positions involved in the American League fan balloting, the Kansas City Royals have the top vote-getter at seven positions. Right fielder Alex Rios, who is just returning from an injury that kept him out for almost two months is fourth among all outfielders. Second baseman Omar Infante (and his .221 batting average) are currently in second place, trailing the Astros’ Jose Altuve by 150,000 votes – despite this sentiment from Kansas City media:
Unless something crazy happens, the Royals will have at least five starters as 3B Mike Moustakas, SS Alcides Escobar, C Salvador Perez, CF Lorenzo Cain, and LF Alex Gordon all lead by over a million votes.
There are many national (read: East Coast) voices who cannot fathom this Royal domination. In between their alarmist angst, they blame fans excited with “newfound relevance“, click-happy fans voting dozens of time online, and a host of other conspiracy theories that threaten to ruin the sanctity of the All-Star Game.
So what is going on here?
- First and foremost, the Royals are good. For most casual baseball fans that is probably a surprising sentence to read*. Perez, Escobar, Cain, and Gordon are among the best at their positions – regardless of league. Moustakas is having a breakout season and is worthy of the four million plus votes he’s received so far. The other Royal vote leaders – 1B Eric Hosmer and DH Kendrys Morales – are having strong seasons too. Even with a recent slump, the Royals are still just a game back in the competitive AL Central and should be considered strong contenders to defend their American League pennant in the postseason.
*Hell, for a lifelong fan like me – who suffered through a 29 year playoff drought filled with bad players, horrible management, and inept front office leadership – the idea of the Royals being good is still surprising…but I’m getting used to it.
- For the first time, ASG voting is being done exclusively online. While that eliminates the time-honored tradition of poking chads from a paper ballot with your car keys, it also reduces the inherent advantage that clubs with atop the attendance standings (i.e. Red Sox, Yankees, Angels, Rangers, Tigers) tended to have in voting results*. The Yankees don’t automatically get four starters every year just because they draw 40,000 a game.
*Although, it is worth noting that the Royals current sit 10th in MLB (and fourth in AL) in attendance – easily their highest position in years. When the Royals hosted the All Star Game in 2012 (and ASG ticket priority was given to season ticket holders) the Royals were 25th in attendance. So even if they still used paper ballots, the Royals would probably be doing all right.
- With voting online, the Royals have wisely taken advantage by promoting voting in the stadium and on social media. The club regularly holds drawings and giveaways where the requirement of entry is proving that you voted the maximum 35 times. Are other clubs not doing this? Are Royals fans the only ones capable of getting online? Do we need to send some old AOL CDs to Detroit?
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Personally, I’m quite amused by the “anti-Royals fervor” going on as a result of these voting totals. If you want to fill out 35 ballots without a single Royal, that’s your choice, but consider this:
- As Manager of the AL squad, Kansas City’s Ned Yost can name any of his guys to the roster regardless of how the votes turn out. It would be very Ned to thumb his nose at the league and pick his own guys.
- Others have pointed this out, but it bears repeating: If you’re concerned about a game for home field advantage in the World Series coming down to the NL All-Stars versus the Royals, well, remember who represented the AL last year. They seemed to hold their own against the best team in the National League.
- Should KC get four (or more) starters, it will only start to make up for a decade of All Star Games where the token Royal representative was somebody like Ken Harvey, Mark Redman, Jose Rosado, Dean Palmer, or Aaron Crow. Seriously – as a diehard fan of both the Royals and Nebraska Cornhuskers, has any team had a worse All Star Game representative than Ken Harvey?