A lot of strange things have happened since Clark and I fired up the old blog machine some 10 years ago. Managers have showered in full uniform. Players were assaulted by a tarp. Annual double-digit losing streaks. Trey Hillman managed major league players. The Trade. And finally a World Series.
And since it apparently can’t get any more bizarre, how about a weekly All-Star update?
When it comes to the All-Star Game, I stand with Clark: I don’t really give a damn about the game. I went back in 2012 when it was at Kauffman, but I couldn’t tell you the last time I watched one on television. It’s difficult enough to digest FOX and their postseason coverage. A single night of pre-planned storylines is a little much for me.
When the schedule comes out and I see the game, along with the sandwiched days off, I simply think, “There’s four days without baseball.” That’s where I was when the 2015 season opened. I would be lying if I said I gave the game more than a cursory thought. I didn’t even think about the possibility of putting one or two Royals in the starting lineup. Then the first round of results were posted and five Royals were leading their respective positions. The next week, those five solidified their leads. And then last week, two other Royals joined the All-Star parade, putting seven of the nine starters in Royal uniforms. Amazing.
And here we are. The latest All-Star voting results were released on Monday. This week, 10 players gained at least two million votes. Here are the biggest gains in Week 4.
Sal Perez – 2,782,672
Josh Donaldson – 2,550,573
Mike Moustakas – 2,458,522
Alcides Escobar – 2,403,996
Lorenzo Cain – 2,400,309
Miguel Cabrera – 2,368,108
Mike Trout – 2,275,491
Eric Hosmer – 2,226,358
Alex Gordon – 2,187,962
Kendrys Morales – 2,152,616
For the Royals, it’s about consolidating their leads. Both Moustakas and Hosmer lost a few votes off their leads, but in both cases it was about 100,000 votes. Hosmer is in a much more precarious position since Cabrera held the lead at first in the first two voting updates.
Speaking of Hosmer and first base, here is how the voting has gone through the first four updates.
It’s obviously a two-man race at this point. This one also has the second-thinnest margin for the Royals. Hosmer’s growth has been steady, but Cabrera picked up more votes this week. Detroit was much more active all over the ballot this time. Alex Avila and Nick Castellanos both make their debuts in the top five at their respective positions. The Motor City is getting serious about this. If any Royal is at risk, it’s Hosmer.
How about second base where it’s all about the worst everyday player in baseball: Omar Infante.
This is kind of the inverse as to what’s happening at first. Altuve has had steady support. Infante, as soon as Royals fans realized the power they had, created a spike the last two weeks. Enough to push Infante to the lead. Again, there’s a massive gap between the top two spots and the rest of the field. I would assume Kipnis is the biggest threat to make a late charge, but his jump in votes was behind even Kinsler this week. Again, Detroit made some noise this week.
The race that interests me the most is at the hot corner:
Josh Donaldson is a legit MVP candidate over the first two-plus months of the season. His 3.8 fWAR is tops in the league and is a complete number. He’s the top offensive third baseman by far and his defense is at or near the top as well. Moustakas is having some kind of season. The kind of season no one ever thought they’d see. That, combined with his play in October has kept him out in front in the third base voting. We can’t discount the postseason when trying to figure out how this started. Without their deep run all the way to Game Seven, none of this happens. Moustakas made his big gain in week 3 of the voting and gave a little bit back in week 4. Still, he’s leading by 1.625 million votes. At this point it will take a major movement to push Donaldson past Moustakas.
The last graph I’ll post today is for the outfield.
Cain actually expanded his lead over Trout by about 125,000 votes. It makes sense as this is the residue of the bump for Rios. Again, the top three here have been unchanged since the first round of results and the trio continues to extend their lead over the second three. Again, the big gain here was a Tiger: Cespedes didn’t get enough to move past Jones, but he’s knocking on the door. But we’re just talking about first runner up.
I continue to be amused by the reactions. And if I’m being honest, I’m kind of confused as to the motivations of Royals fans. That’s not criticism. Not at all. Except I’ve seen some try to position this as being a statement about how ridiculous the voting process is when selecting All-Star starters. I don’t disagree the process is less than ideal. But the Royals fan stuffing the ballot box wasn’t about that, at least as I perceived it from the beginning. This isn’t some sort of statement. For me, the simple explanation suffices: Several Royals jumped out to leads due to their solid October and hot start to 2015, fans took notice and decided to run with it. It’s a fun takeover. And as the backlash began, it only made us vote with increasing frequency. If you have an issue with it, I suppose that’s your problem. If major league baseball decides to step in and supersede what’s happening, they can deal with the fallout. It won’t be pretty.
I assume the likely result will be some sort of change of the process in 2016. Maybe the players will get a ballot. Maybe the voting will return to the stadium. It’s pretty obvious why MLB moved the voting to online only was because they could get more total votes that way. It’s no different from a slide show on a worthless website. Instead of clicks, MLB is collecting votes in bulk. That way, they can point to the millions of ballots cast and prop up their legitimacy. It’s a baseball banana republic. Except they didn’t realize the potential consequences of removing the ballots from the parks. Oh, well. Lesson learned, I guess.
I’ve been going through my old baseball cards lately. Something that I got interested in all over again because of… yep, October. Anyway, I started collecting in 1977. (Save it. I’m old. But not as old as Clark.) That first year for me, the Reds had five All-Stars from ’76 celebrated on their cards: Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Dave Concepcion, Pete Rose and George Foster. I remember thinking how cool that was for one team to have so many All-Stars and I remember catching bits and pieces of the World Series the previous year that featured all those All-Stars. Aside from the hometown Royals, the Reds were the first team to enter my baseball psyche. They were The Big Red Machine. That’s why I’m christening the 2015 version of the Royals The Big Blue Machine. They’re going to top the Reds ’76 All-Star total and next year, some six year old kid collecting their first set of baseball cards will find the All-Star notation on nearly every Royal of relevance. He or she may become a fan of the team because of this. Maybe Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon and Sal Perez will resonate with them the same way Bench, Rose and Morgan resonate with fans of my generation. That’s pretty damn cool.
I’ll continue to write this about the All-Star balloting: What you’re witnessing is the reawakening of a fanbase that has had so little to cheer or care about for the last 29 years. September and October changed the calculus.
This is a great thing for Kansas City. And no matter what anyone else may say or write, this is a great thing for baseball.