When I was 22, I once spent an entire game drunkenly filling out All-Star Ballots with the worst possible players on the American League side, and Giants on the National League side. There was no message, no point. Just a dude in the hot sun, thinking he's funnier than he actually was, drinking $8 beer, filling out dumb All-Star ballots and frying his alabaster skin.
Through the magic of the Internet, it's possible to recreate that ballot. Let's see, it went something like ...
1B - Brian Daubach
2B - Miguel Cairo
SS - Gary DiSarcina
3B - Tom Evans
C - Brian Johnson
OF - Rich Becker
OF - Butch Huskey
OF - Ricky Ledee
1B - J.T. Snow
2B - Jeff Kent
SS - Rich Aurilia
3B - Bill Mueller
C - Bobby Estalella
LF - Barry Bonds
CF - Marvin Benard
RF - Ellis Burks
Over and over again, like an elderly fan doing needlepoint during the game, just to have something to do with the hands. It was a bored mixture of trolling on a micro scale and being a huge homer.
Which is all to say: I am immensely qualified to weigh in on the Royal Scandal. This is a mixture of trolling and being a huge homer on a macro scale. It's glorious and repugnant. It must be stopped, but only after we've had our fun. Like, in 2018 or so.
As my fifth-grade teacher used to say, "It's all fun and games until you have to watch Omar Infante start the All-Star Game." If the Royals really get six or seven or eight starters, it'll be funny until the game actually starts and you realize that you're watching Omar Infante on purpose. Until then, here are some truths, facts, and assumptions about the hilariously dumb 2015 All-Star Ballot:
This is probably the work of a very small group of people
At least, it was in the beginning. Occam's Razor suggests that the initial surge wasn't a natural grassroots, love-our-Royals phenomenon. There might be an element of that organic support now that the story is national, but a healthy portion of the voting is almost certainly related to computer-related chicanery.
Major League Baseball claims this isn't the case, but someone at Bless You Boys might have found one explanation, using a simple script that can cast 30 ballots using other people's email addresses. A normal, fan-driven ballot-stuffing operation usually has a little decency. You get questionable names near the top, huge leads for the best players on the team, and hilariously limited support for the horrible players.
Take the Giants' efforts this year, the ones pushing Angel Pagan near the top of the NL ballot. It's a fine effort, but do you think it's trickling down to Casey McGehee? Ha ha, not even close. The most partisan ballot-stuffers out there usually have their limits, and that's how it's almost always been. The Infante push is the strongest evidence of all that something's a little off. The thousands and thousands of people who are supposedly taking the time to do this have watched this guy actively harm their team all year. The yay-team mentality has almost always extended only so far.
Major League Baseball thinks this is a hoot
Look at everyone talking about the All-Star ballot. Here's another article on a big website about the All-Star Game. It will get the eyeballs of people who will hopefully share this on social media, which will bring the story to phones, tablets, and computers all around the world. There's no such thing as bad publicity, right?
Here's what they hope fans are saying:
Wow, check out this crazy All-Star Game story!
With the words "All-Star Game" buzzing around the Internet and careening off the walls and down to the water coolers. But here's what people are currently saying:
Man, the All-Star voting is stupid.
Baseball looks really dumb right now.
I think my dad designed the code for the All-Star ballot, and he doesn't know how to attach a picture to his emails.
And here's a bonus fictional quote that will never, ever be uttered in real life:
That was hilarious how a bad player got voted into the All-Star Game, and now I have to watch this All-Star Game.
There is such a thing as bad publicity. Making people giggle at the results (or making them furious) of an exhibition game makes them take the game less seriously. But that's only if the results are overwhelming and a legitimately bad player actually gets voted in. If the results are just a little Royals-skewed, well, baseball will have the best from both worlds.
Man, that was crazy what the All-Star voting looked like for a while, but it sort of evened out at the end.
And that kind of publicity makes sense. But we'll get to that.
Any other method would be even dumber
We all know the real solution is to let me vote with complete, unquestioned authority, but that's not likely. The hashtag campaign of #LetGrantdecide hasn't been nearly as successful as hoped.
The other realistic methods are even worse, though. Coaches and managers voting? If you think the current voters are using the wrong stats, like average, homers, and RBI, just wait until you get a load of these guys, who won't look at a single damned number. They'll use their memories and anecdotes. Never forget a DH winning the Gold Glove. Coaches and managers don't have time for this crap, and they'll spend exactly the-time-to-find-a-pen seconds on it.
Writers? Basically the same thing, but with more self-righteousness. They've tried it before, and it led to a mish-mash of bad stats, bad opinions, imaginary punishments for jerk players, rewards for the players who give good quotes, and general silliness. Look at the awards every year. Look at the names at the bottom of the ballot. At least with the fan voting, in theory, you get some semblance of the wisdom of crowds.
One fan, one vote? This isn't a presidential election. Don't get so serious. This doesn't actually mean anything. And that method would be murder on the hype that MLB (justifiably) wants to generate to sell their product. It makes sense for this business to have all 30 arms relentlessly pummeling their fan base with VOTE VOTE VOTE messages. There's no way that's going away, and it probably shouldn't.
Assume for a second that the Royals voting really is a grassroots demonstration of just how excited the fan base is about the team. That's ... a good thing, right? Possibly the best thing. That kind of dream is behind the current system, so tweeks would be needed if this isn't on the level somehow, but it won't need a complete overhaul.
There's no way that Omar Infante is going to start
This is the bold prediction part of the program, where more assumptions are made without evidence. We're all talking about this Infante fella, but he's just 300,000 votes ahead right now. Kendrys Morales is about a half-million ahead, as is Eric Hosmer. The ESPN article linked above contains the following passage:
MLB makes a concerted effort to investigate votes that: 1. come from accounts created using email addresses that appear to have been tweaked in some way that too closely resemble another address; 2. multiple voting accounts that come from the same IP address; and 3. troubling patterns in voting that emerge during the reviews by a third-party company employed to chart All-Star Game balloting trends.
Bowman said that process alone leads to about 20 percent of the votes that are cast online being eliminated every year. With that in mind, all the votes MLB has reported so far have been sanitized.
The word that gets me:
If this is really a Royals fan effort, that's mighty impressive work by everyone involved. But fan efforts have been overturned before, with Willie Mays and Hank Aaron getting inserted into the 1957 National League starting lineup over Gus Bell and Wally Post by commissioner decree.
I doubt that Commissioner Manfred would go that far. But I could see the results getting sanitized. Hey, there were troubling patterns in voting.
The final results will be something like this: A bunch of Royals in a lineup with Miguel Cabrera, Jose Altuve, Mike Trout, and Nelson Cruz. That's just a guess. And the fans of the Tigers, Astros, and Mariners will be told to pat themselves on the back for that final push. Maybe they'll have earned it. It will sure be a suspicious compromise, though. The Royals will still be the story and the results won't be completely embarrassing to baseball. Everyone (sorta) wins.
Until then, embrace the trolling, admire the passion, laugh at the system and expect a sanitized ballot. The Royals will still probably dominate the All-Star ballot, though, and look at how everyone will talk about it. That's almost certainly the point.
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