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Times Have Changed, But MLB All-Star Game Ballot Stuffing Is Still Wrong

June 15, 2015

Many times when I sit down to write my monthly print column for PressBox, I have to wait for divine intervention to come up with a topic. That was not the case this month, with the mockery Kansas City baseball supporters are making out of the American League All-Star Game balloting.

Being part of an older generation does come with terrible burdens. Well, maybe not terrible burdens, but with experience and wisdom, one can tell that a fish stinks and must be tossed in the garbage. In the first All-Star Game voting tallies MLB released May 26, five Kansas City players appeared in the starting lineup. 

The "Fab Five," as Kansas City saw it as of May 26 (MLB updates the votes tallies every Monday), were shortstop Alcides Escobar, third baseman Mike Moustakas, catcher Salvador Perez, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and left fielder Alex Gordon. Two Royals players were in second place at their respective positions as of May 26 -- first baseman Eric Hosmer trailed Miguel Cabrera, and designated hitter Kendrys Morales trailed Nelson Cruz.

To further demonstrate just how crazy this vote was going, the outfield leader was Cain, who was in front of reigning AL MVP Mike Trout. Gordon (.251 batting average as of June 9) was in third, ahead of Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, followed by Royals right fielder Alex Rios, who returned to the lineup May 30 after a six-week stint on the disabled list. 

I was blown away by the May 26 release of the AL votes, but felt there was ample time for the vast majority of baseball fans to right these obvious wrongs. However, the trend is going the opposite way now, with Hosmer having moved in front of Cabrera and Morales moving in front of Cruz. Meanwhile, Rios, who had one home run and eight RBIs as of June 9, jumped in front of Jones for fourth place.

This kind of chicanery is exactly what cost baseball fans the right to vote on the All-Star Game from 1958-1968. That was because, in 1957, Cincinnati Reds fans received a little help from the Reds' front office and The Cincinnati Enquirer, which was already running filled-in ballots in its Sunday edition. Ultimately, eight of the team's starters were voted into the game -- second baseman Johnny Temple, shortstop Roy McMillan, third baseman Don Hoak, catcher Ed Bailey, and outfielders Frank Robinson, Gus Bell and Wally Post. The only position player not voted in thanks to the Reds' ballot-box stuffing was first baseman George Crowe, who was beaten out by the St. Louis Cardinals' Stan Musial.

This case of ballot-box stuffing was so blatant that former commissioner Ford Frick ended up taking Bell and Post off the starting team and replaced them with fellow outfielders Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Bell did remain on the team as a reserve, but Post was removed altogether.

During an age when teams campaign for their players to be voted into the game, one may feel it's a bit disingenuous for a media member to complain about this now. After all, where was I when the Orioles urged to vote "orange and often" during the last four seasons? Until now, there has been nothing rising to this level of cringe worthiness or such a lack of propriety.

Now that this flagrant ballot-box stuffing has descended again to a shameful level, and considering that home-field advantage is determined by the outcome of the All-Star Game, it's time for baseball commissioner Rob Manfred to step in, because in today's game, the actions of overzealous fans can have serious consequences. Certainly, much more is at stake in 2015 than when Frick flexed his muscles in 1957.

What makes this latest episode so galling is that many Royals players have not accomplished enough to warrant this kind of praise. It would be different if this were the Cardinals or Tigers, both of whom have multiple veterans with proven track records. Moustakas, for example, was trying to regroup and return to the majors last season during a stint with the Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City's Triple-A affiliate). And now, as of June 8, he is about two million votes better than Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson?

This sorry saga creates an opening for Manfred. He knows the way home-field advantage is currently being determined for the World Series is bad. However, he owes his predecessor, Bud Selig, too much to dump Selig's initiative to spark interest in the All-Star Game.

But this Kansas City mockery allows Manfred to ditch the idea Selig hatched and cite the credibility crisis the issue caused by this new-fangled form of ballot stuffing. 

It also allows Manfred the opportunity to study and introduce some form of weighted balloting that would bring players, managers and coaches into the mix during the long term. 

Kansas City and AL All-Star Game manager Ned Yost can't be allowed to name right-hander Jeremy Guthrie as his starting pitcher, right? 

Issue 210: June 2015