There has been a lot of pearl-clutching the last few weeks over Royals fans assaulting the All-Star ballot box with an onslaught of online votes. The result has been eight Royals leading their respective position in All-Star balloting (sorry Alex Rios!). The reactions have ranged from enthusiasm from Royals fans to amusement from other fans who think the system is broken anyway to downright outrage by some fans and writers over the alleged disgrace.
Those up-in-arms at Royals fans for destroying the sanctity of the All-Star Game need to hit pause and calm down for a few reasons.
It's an exhibition game
The first All-Star game was held in 1933 as the brainchild of the mayor of Chicago and a sports editor to showcase Chicago to the world and be held as a promotional event to help baseball's slagging attendance during the Depression. Fans were allowed to vote and there were a few curious selections like Cardinals catcher Jimmie Wilson elected over future Hall of Famers like Gabby Hartnett and Ernie Lombardi or Phillies shortstop Dick Bartell over Pirates future Hall of Famer Arky Vaughan, but that's who the fans wanted to see.
Fan voting has been a staple of the Midsummer Classic ever since, with Reds fans notoriously stuffing the ballot in 1957, and Steve Garvey elected to the game through a successful write-in campaign by Dodgers fans. The fan voting has allowed future Hall of Fame players be honored towards the end of their career despite poor seasons, like Ozzie Smith in 1996, Cal Ripken in 2001, or Derek Jeter in 2014. Why? Because that's who the fans want to see.
Major League Baseball has been looking for ways to draw more interest in the game by making it a more serious game of high importance. I would argue they should be looking to go in the other direction, acknowledging the game is a silly exhibition match and having some fun with it. Feature the players the fans want to see, play with the rules (like the MTV Rock 'n Jock 25-point basket!), allow retired players to play, maybe even some celebrities can participate. What is one of the most memorable All-Star moments of the last 20 years? The time Larry Walker turned his helmet around and batted righty against Randy Johnson. HAVING FUN. The Negro Leagues for years understood that baseball was entertainment, and showmen like Satchel Paige thrived on playing up to the crowd and making the game fun.
The fan voting engages fans and gets them involved in the game. Having a bunch of Royals starters in because Kansas City fans voted them has energized this fan base, and rewards them for the enthusiasm. The novelty of having such a weird result will probably lead to increased television ratings for a game that has seen them slump over the last decade. To keep up viewership, Major League Baseball should look into ways to make the All-Star Game more fun, and less important.
World Series home-field advantage is not that big of a deal
Some have concern-trolled Royals fans by arguing "aren't you going to be upset when your stupid voting results cost you home-field advantage in the World Series because the American League was blown out in the All-Star Game?" Thanks for your concern, but I think we'll be alright.
First of all, the Royals are not going to give the American League zero shot at winning the All-Star Game. The Royals are actually a fantastic defensive team, so having them behind Sonny Gray or Felix Hernandez or whoever is on the mound will likely be a huge upgrade. Aside from Omar Infante, all of the other Royals leading the voting could at least make a case for being legitimate All-Stars. The difference between having Mike Moustakas hit instead of Josh Donaldson in the first inning is slight (and Donaldson will get his at-bats later). Even assuming the Royals were terrible offensively, having them ground out weakly for three innings before the other All-Stars get into the game is not likely to totally cost the Junior Circuit the game.
Second, while former Commissioner Bud Selig tried to sell the All-Star Game as "this time it counts" by attaching World Series home field advantage to the results, let's not act like home field advantage is of paramount importance. Baseball historically has considered home field advantage to be so important that for about a hundred years they decided it depending on whether the year ended in an odd or even number. The advantage in the post-season has been shown to be pretty minimal. Trust us, we know, we had home field advantage in the World Series last year and lost Game Seven.
Fans often vote for their team
Some have attacked Royals fans for not being "true fans" and only blindly voting for their own team. How dare you be bad fans and like your own players! The word "fan" is short for the word "fanatic", defined as "marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion." Yes, Royals fans can be blindly loyal to their players, what is less clear is why this is a bad thing.
The truth is, every team urges their fans to vote for their own players. The Royals fans are just following orders.The Phillies have been urging their fans to vote for Phillies players, despite the fact they have the worst record in baseball and only one starter with an OPS+ over 105, who isn't even on the ballot. WHY ARE THE PHILLIES MAKING A MOCKERY OF THE ALL-STAR GAME?!?!?!
The Royals fanbase has been a latent one, waiting for a good team. Now that they have one, the support has been massive, with attendance way up and the highest local TV ratings in all of baseball by a wide margin. There is just more intense interest in baseball in Kansas City than in any other city right now. This is what baseball wants. To be honest, Midwesterners also take things like this to heart, or as Joe Posnanski eloquently wrote, we want it more (and frankly, we have more time). Every time the national media howls in protest, another Royals fan votes 35 more times. We have a chip on our shoulder, and if you don't like it, then that's on you to vote more.