How Royals fans have turned MLB's All-Star voting into anarchy
1. A situation of confusion and wild behavior in which the people in a country, group, organization, etc., are not controlled by rules or laws
2. The 2015 American League All-Star voting
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In every corner of the Kansas City Royals' clubhouse, they revel in the chaos, each player's face contorted into something that resembles a Guy Fawkes mask. Somehow, the American League All-Star team's lineup as of today consists of eight Royals and the best player in the world, and this, to them, is the most glorious kind of anarchy, one everybody involved wants to believe is built on the back of pure passion.
It may well be that the 25th-sized market of Major League Baseball's 26 mobilized, rocked the vote and did so without the help of a sneaky Python script or an undetectable Perl script or any of the ways around the system that for the first time has gone online only and seen itself turned completely on its head. Because right now, the single worst offensive player in baseball is the AL starter at second base and the single best offensive player in the AL is not starting and the entire thing is like a coastal fever dream in which the Midwest rises up and fights back for all those years of flyover jokes.
This is the comeuppance for all those years of trying to make the All-Star Game mean something, the cruel twist lobbed back at baseball for it marshaling out home-field advantage in the World Series – a real, tangible, legitimate, important thing – to the winner of an exhibition that by comparison makes spring-training games look serious. That the revolution germinated in Kansas City, for most of three decades a baseball wasteland, makes it all the more delicious.
Do not dare call this a travesty. It is a triumph of the people. And whether it's real people who are voting for the 35 allowed times from one email address and then creating another for 35 more and doing so ad nauseam, or a person taking the time and computer know-how to try and hoodwink MLB.com – the largest tech company in all of New York, run by brilliant minds who say they've rallied their collective nerdery to detect such things – this is an effort that, in truth, is mutually beneficial.
MLB loves this. Really. In the middle of the NBA Finals and the end run of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the public was talking about a baseball exhibition game that doesn't happen until the middle of July. TV debate shows were arguing over it and sports-talk radio was blathering on about it and MLB, which struggles for publicity like this, found a goldmine in a market of 2 million people who had mustered an unbelievable – literal and figurative – number of votes for its players.
Take, for example, first base. The Royals' Eric Hosmer is the best young first baseman in the league. He deserves consideration and may well make the team were he not a Royal. Because he is, he entered the week with 5,777,363 votes, nearly half a million more than Miguel Cabrera, who is threatening to win another Triple Crown and leads the AL in on-base and slugging percentages.
"If I'm Miguel Cabrera, I'm looking at myself like, 'Are you kidding me?' " Hosmer said. "Miguel is a candidate and should be the starter."
Hosmer doesn't say this to discourage Royals fans from voting for him. He loves it, and he would love to start the game. Ballot-box stuffing has its consequences, though, and one of those is the sense that the Royals are simply a function of a rabid fan base and not worthy of being in the discussion. Salvador Perez makes as good a case as Russell Martin or Stephen Vogt. Alcides Escobar is a perfectly fine choice in a bereft AL shortstop landscape. Mike Moustakas isn't Josh Donaldson, but he's right there with Manny Machado. Lorenzo Cain warrants a spot. Alex Gordon is a back-to-back All-Star having another excellent season.
"It puts us in a hard spot," Hosmer said. "You won't go on my Twitter and see, 'Hey, vote for me and I'll sign a bat and send it to you.' We're not trying to go out and advertise ourselves. Obviously, the team does stuff for us. But that's what every team's gonna do.
"Everyone looks at it from a whole. Certain guys maybe shouldn't be there or shouldn't be starting, and everyone puts us in that category."
Never would Hosmer dare utter the name Omar Infante, but even Omar Infante himself doesn't think he's worthy of the position. He has been the worst hitter in the game this season by most measures, and to see him sneak ahead of Houston's Jose Altuve this week by more than a quarter-million votes sent some into rage overdrive and others into spray-painting an uppercase "A" with a circle around it in powder blue.
Infante embodies everything that's right and wrong about All-Star voting. Something with no business being democratic is decidedly, blissfully so anyway, and even though he plans on voting for Altuve when he gets his player ballot to help determine the backups, Infante refuses to do anything but love how Kansas City embraces him in spite of his struggles.
"I have to be happy," Infante said. "The fans vote for me. I'm happy about that. I can't control that. I'm happy because if I'm there, the opportunity to go to the All-Star Game is great."
Baseball knows this deep into the voting any sort of vote rigging would draw even more suspicion, and league sources said no plans exist to remove undeserving players from the game like commissioner Ford Frick did in 1957 when Cincinnati – home of this year's game – stuffed the ballot boxes. Behind the scenes, according to league sources, officials have discussed the possibility of changing how All-Star starters are decided in the future so as not to allow a city to hijack the voting like Kansas City has this season. For now, MLB is leveraging it for a positive.
"Vote. Vote. Vote," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "And not only Royals fans. Indians fans. Houston fans. Angels fans. Vote. That's what it's there for. Get out and vote."
More than 300 million votes have been accepted, according to the league, and the record of 390 million should fall sometime this week. Almost certainly a half-billion votes will be cast by the time balloting ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on July 2. And that doesn't include the massive amounts of votes Bob Bowman, the CEO of MLB Advanced Media, said the league disallowed because of concerns over fake or improper voting.
"I'm not saying we bat 1.000," Bowman said. "But it's between 60 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."
Thirty-five of those votes belonged to the email address of Yahoo Sports blogger Mike Osegueda, who received a verification email for ballots he didn't cast. Alerted to his tweet about it, the league said the votes were taken away. Presumably, MLBAM tries the same with similar such ballots – Bowman said the 20 percent rate of killing ballots is consistent with previous seasons – keenly aware that in addition to civic pride, Kansas City packs a nice wallop of humor. The mere idea of an insurrection on All-Star balloting is so hysterical, the league noticed it the initial week of voting and could hardly believe it.
"We scrubbed these first set of numbers incredibly thoroughly," Bowman said. "We said, 'Can this possibly be right? Look at all these votes for Kansas City.' It just didn't turn out that way."
Skepticism still exists in many corners across baseball, including other areas of the league office, which wonders what an All-Star Game lineup of eight Royals and Mike Trout might do to the TV ratings. Kill them? Juice them? Tough to say. All of this is such a novelty that the fallout is as fascinating as the buildup.
Over the next two weeks, plenty can change. Canada could band together and help Donaldson make up his 1.7 million-vote deficit to Moustakas. Detroit and Seattle could push Cabrera and Nelson Cruz in. All of America could give second base back to Altuve. And next year, baseball could keep fans involved by giving them 50 percent of the power to elect starters, with 25 percent coming from players' votes and the final 25 percent coming from an impartial look at first-half statistics.
In the meantime, Royals broadcasts will continue to act like a state-run TV station urging voters to hit the booths – the announcers are so zealous in promoting the balloting it's almost like they'll get tased if they don't – and Kansas City will see if it can beat The Man.
About 24 hours ago, a handful of Royals fans complained on Twitter that the Captcha code – the fuzzy-looking numbers used to weed out bots – wasn't appearing on all-Royals ballots, thus not allowing their submission. The Man was fighting back against their city, their Royals, their cause. It was a conspiracy, man.
The issue seemed to resolve soon thereafter, the complaints abating, the black helicopters moving on. The ridiculousness, however, stayed behind, click after click, email address after dummy email address, vote after vote. As the FBI targeted the cross-state Cardinals for alleged federal cybercrimes, the fans in Kansas City continued a campaign for more effective and legal. Anarchy is afoot, and nothing can stop it.
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