The All-Star Game is supposed to be baseball's midsummer showcase. But the voting for the American League team is turning into a Royal pain.
Fans of the Kansas City Royals, the team in MLB's second-smallest market, have been flooding Internet-only voting with clicks for their players. In the latest tally released earlier this week, the Royals are leading in seven of the nine eligible spots to start in the July 14 game in Cincinnati.
This is the first year MLB is using online-only balloting, having discarded the paper ballots fans used to fill out in ballparks. So it's natural to wonder if something funny is going on with all of those Royals players getting so many votes.
"We check on it," Bob Bowman, MLB's president for business and media, told Foxsports.com. "We look for programs. We look at IP addresses. We do all that . . . We've been scrubbing it every day and haven't seen anything irregular. 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."
Last season, the Royals ended a 29-year postseason drought and made it to Game 7 of the World Series before losing to the Giants. This year, they were 34-24 and in first place in the AL Central before action Saturday. The winning league in the All-Star Game earns home-field advantage for the World Series.
Three players in the AL have received more than 4 million votes. Not Mike Trout or Miguel Cabrera. The three are Royals catcher Salvador Perez, outfielder Lorenzo Cain and third baseman Mike Moustakas.
Also in line for the starting nod: Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, shortstop Alcides Escobar, outfielder Alex Gordon and designated hitter Kendrys Morales.
Kansas City second baseman Omar Infante, who was batting .209 heading into Saturday, is a close second in the voting to Houston's Jose Altuve, the defending batting champ. Kansas City outfielder Alex Rios, who through Friday had appeared in 17 games and was batting .210, is fourth among outfielders -- one spot away from getting voted in. Trout is second and Gordon third among outfielders.
"It's just a testament to our fans, how special our fans are, that they've really taken the time to get out and vote for these guys," said Royals manager Ned Yost, who will manage the AL squad. "Seven guys even shocked me a little bit. We still have a ways to go, but so far it's been very encouraging for our boys."
The Royals are on pace to have the most elected starters since the 1976 Reds (Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Dave Concepcion and George Foster).
Fans did once before elect seven players from one team. In 1957, seven Reds were voted in by fans for the eight spots on the NL team. But commissioner Ford Frick disallowed two of the results because a Cincinnati newspaper had distributed ballots that were already filled in for Reds players.
Frick removed Reds outfielders Gus Bell and Wally Post and added Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Also, the fan vote, which had begun in 1947, was discontinued until 1970.
While the folks in Kansas City are thrilled, others aren't.
Tigers pitcher David Price tweeted earlier this week: "#mlb please do something about the Allstate voting . . . not that's it's funny but it's kind of a joke . . . #VOTEMIGGY"
Price, along with getting caught by autocorrect (Allstate instead of All-Star) and making a grammatical error, faced a predictable Twitter backlash from Royals fans.
Price later tried to clarify his remarks with another tweet: "Let's get this straight . . . from an opponent stand point I LOVE the royals team! Good squad, they compete, and they have fun!! So stop the hate."
In the end, the fans will have the last word. Fans can vote up to 35 times, each from one email address. But as the Kansas City Star noted in a recent story, one fan voted 210 times from six different accounts. Another claimed to have voted "thousands of times."
The last Royals player voted into the starting lineup was outfielder Jermaine Dye in 2000. Voting ends July 2 and results will be announced during the July 4 weekend.