On Monday, MLB released the fourth voting update for the 2015 All-Star Game, causing fans in Detroit, Toronto, Cleveland, and other American League cities across the country to roll their eyes. One of the American League’s worst hitters, Omar Infante, had passed Jose Altuve for the starting spot at second base. Even more upsetting is that there were seven other starters from the Kansas City Royals on the list. That’s right. The face of baseball, Mike Trout, was the only non-Royal in the American League starting lineup. Mike Moustakas is the only Royal hitting above .300, none have an on-base percentage over .400, and one player, catcher Salvador Perez, has hit ten home runs.
Fans across baseball think that the all-star voting process is ‘fair’ because every fan can vote only 35 times. Unfortunately, with the dawn of the internet-only voting process, ballot stuffing has become the norm. Fans can essentially vote an unlimited amount of times as long as they keep creating new email accounts, and I’m sure a few of them have found a way to hack the system as Red Sox fan Chris Nandor did in 1999 when he used a computer program to vote for Nomar Garciaparra over 39,000 times.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with Royals fans voting for their players. They are simply exploiting a broken and archaic system. Something obviously needs to change, especially with home field advantage on the line. There will certainly be a fix for the system next year, but first-year commissioner Rob Manfred has plenty to think about between July 2 (when voting closes) and All-Star Weekend.
When asked of the voting a few weeks ago, Royals first baseman, Eric Hosmer, said, “Look, I could see if it was just Kansas City people filling out random ballots and voting for just us, but when you’re looking at (three) guys getting 4 million votes, that can’t be just coming from Kansas City.” While he is certainly right, you have to wonder how many of Omar Infante’s 4.5 million votes are coming outside of the Kansas City metro area. You may be able to count them on one hand. Infante is hitting .210 with zero home runs and 17 RBI.
“I want the voting in the hands of the fans, but not if they make a joke out of it.”
– Frank Lane, St Louis Cardinals (1957)
Interestingly enough, there is actually some precedence of ballot-stuffing in Major League Baseball. In 1957, Cincinnati Reds fans voted seven players to start the All-Star Game. An investigation ordered by then-Commissioner Ford Frick found that over half of the votes had come from Cincinnati and that the Cincinnati Enquirer had printed pre-marked ballots to make it easy to vote for all eight Reds’ players. Frick replaced two of the Reds’ players, Gus Bell and Wally Post (after determining that they should not even be in the race), with future Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. Frick also banned fan voting until 1970.
It is Manfred’s turn to do something about the fan vote in 2015. An obvious choice is to eliminate players that should clearly not be starting from the ballot, just as Frick did nearly 60 years ago. However, taking away the fan vote entirely would not be a wise choice for a commissioner who is trying to increase fan involvement and keep young fans interested in the game.
What is the simple solution that includes keeping the fan vote? Limit the number of players on the ballot to those that are having all-star worthy seasons through mid-June. That way, all-star voting can last for three to four weeks before closing in early July.
The ballot could be cut many ways, from WAR to traditional stats like average, home runs, and RBI. It could include the list of the top three to five players at each position and give fans to vote among the best of the best and not every player in the league.
There are plenty of other ways to fix the system, like having players and managers choose the majority of the roster. Players could even narrow down the list of players for fans to vote from. The fix could even be as simple as limiting the number of starting players from one team to two or three players, but that could cause all-star worthy players to be snubbed.
Whatever the fix is, it must keep the fans involved in some way. However, the league must find a balance between fan involvement and a competitive All-Star Game, especially with home field advantage on the line. Your move Rob Manfred.