Stuffing the Ballot Box: The MLB’s Royal Problem

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.

7 Responses

  1. NotWise

    Your simple solution has serious flaws. Lets say a fringe candidate does not make the cut in mid-June and is left off the ballot but then goes on a serious tear from that vaults him above everyone else at that position. Maybe multiple players do the same and all the players (at that position) initially placed on the ballot are no longer the best in baseball. Under those circumstances your system would still fail to reach the goal of having true All-Stars playing.

    I think fans shouldn’t vote because most have an uninformed bias towards players from their home/favorite team. Players and coaches would probably be better suited to determine who is playing he best baseball at that moment. I’m sure most of them would be more honest with their votes when asked, “who deserves this?”

    • Sam Bellestri

      I appreciate the feedback and I do agree that there is potential for some players to be left off the initial cut. I imagine this would be more prone to happen at more ‘open’ positions like SS or C.

    • Sam Bellestri

      That is a good point and I agree with that concern. I think that the best solution is to just let the players/managers decide, but I was trying to think of a way to keep fan involvement.

      • Christopher Eldredge

        While I think the current system is fine and people have their panties in a twist over nothing, a blip on the radar, here’s a solution: Have a cut-off date to set the field, example for this year, 6-21-2015 11:59pm. How to set the field: Top 3 vote getters at each position make the cut (obviously would be 9 total outfielders, that’s fine.) Once the field is set, everyone retains their votes to that point. Fans now have until July 2 to complete the voting with the remaining players. Whoever isn’t voted in would still be eligible to be voted in by the players or picked by manager, if they wouldn’t be the 1 team/1 player minimum pick. So, the only change would be setting a deadline for the fans to narrow down the field from the top vote getters.

        Some other thoughts: 1. All World Series players automatically go to all-star game the following year, regardless if on same teams. Whichever league they are playing in is the team they play for.

        2. Winner of World Series determines home-field advantage for the next year. There, now the ASG is meaningless again.

        3. Those griping about this year being stacked: umm, this is very beneficial to all 14 other teams. It’s quite possible even that even people who don’t root for the royals are voting for Omar just to keep the infield intact to have the best defense behind the best pitchers in the league to win the game so their team has home field? I really don’t think this is all royals fans voting for our players. But again, see the meaningful thoughts above on how to fix the system.

  2. Christopher Crowder

    So why is a catcher who has better hitting numbers more valuable than a catcher who is almost impossible to steal on? The All-Star game isn’t just glorified batting practice. Defense matters. The Royals have one of the best defenses in all of baseball.
    Additionally, even Royals fans weren’t originally voting for Oman Infante. The thing is, the national media all of the sudden spoke up and made this an “Us vs. Them” thing all over again. We Royals fans were already smarting after the national media essentially called our boys thugs for sticking up for themselves early in the season when it wasn’t clear if they were playing baseball or a live action version of “Duck Hunt” in which the boys in blue were the ducks.
    Finally, while home field advantage may be on the line (a horrible change, IMO), the All-Star game is *still* an exhibition game. The fan vote is not a mid-year review at your job, it’s a popularity contest. LOTS of people all over the country fell in love with the Royals last year.
    in the end, I’m left with the question: Why can’t the nation media just let The Kansas City Royals finally have their day in the sun?

    • Sam Bellestri

      I appreciate the comment. I don’t disagree that defense matters, but I think that there are rare circumstances (Andrelton Simmons) where I would vote a player in almost solely for defense. Perez would be my choice to start at catcher because he is a great defender and has a good bat.

      I think that the All-Star Game has actually become less of a popularity contest than ever. Especially considering Lorenzo Cain has far more votes than Mike Trout.

    • charlie hustle

      ITS NO LONGER AN EXHIBITION GAME YOU DOLT. God I can’t wait for the Royals and their fans to go back to being completely irrelevant. Shouldn’t be long


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