Baseball heads toward Royal embarrassment

Kansas City Royals’ Omar Infante (14), Alex Rios (15) and Alex Gordon (4) celebrate after a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday, June 3, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. The Royals won 4-2. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Unless something changes in the next few weeks, baseball will have an embarrassment on its hands.

If the voting ended today, eight Kansas City Royals will be in the starting lineup. Even Omar Infante, possibly the worst-hitting secondbaseman in all of baseball, will start at the All Star Game in Cincinnati.

Major League Baseball has no one to blame but itself.

Teams actively campaign and market their own players for the fan voting, casting the very notion of the best players being selected aside. So Royals fans took the league up on its offer and are storming the ballot box.

The Washington Post says one problem is that baseball has gotten rid of ballots handed out at ballparks and is relying exclusively on online voting this year.

“Other teams were very good with engaging fans to get out the vote on paper ballots,” said Toby Cook, a Royals vice president and spokesman. “We weren’t particularly good at it. And frankly, we weren’t used to having more than one player either in contention or in the game. We could just work and work and work to promote the paper ballot, and it wouldn’t move the needle.

“The online comes along, and the crazy, wonderful fan base in Kansas City jumped on it. People kind of said, ‘I remember the Royals. That was a fun thing last year.’ It just really took off for us. We focused on saying, ‘This is really easy. You don’t have to come out to the ballpark. Go online and vote – and then vote again and vote again and vote again.”

At Fox Sports, writer Ken Rosenthal says potentially the scandal could be bigger than the FIFA scandal. He’s kidding, of course.

No less an authority than Tigers left-hander David Price tweeted on Wednesday: “MLB please do something about the Allstate voting (Yes, auto-correct nailed even Price). Not that it’s funny but it’s kind of a joke. #VOTEMIGGY.”

Price added in another tweet, “An All-Star Game IS NOT a popularity contest . . . It’s for home-field advantage for whatever reason) for the World Series!! Best players play.”

No, not true, David. The ASG is a classic hodgepodge of mixed messages. The fan vote is, in essence, a popularity contest. And if the game truly was for the best players, baseball would change the rule requiring that every team be represented.

CBS’s Jon Heyman gives Royals fans a pass and blames the fans of other teams instead.

The best remedy at the moment may be to encourage Astros fans to get out and vote for Altuve, who still have a chance to beat out Infante, Mariners fans to get out and vote for DH Nelson Cruz and Tigers fans to get out and vote for Cabrera, so Trout isn’t the only non-Royal in the starting lineup. The other positions look fairly hopeless for non-Royals at this point.

If the Royals wind up with eight All-Star starters, while this isn’t exactly a disaster (at least it’s not a last-place team), it isn’t necessarily good for baseball, either.

But perhaps the problem in other cities is that fans there are more interested in seeing the best players in baseball at the All Star Game, rather than their own players.