Detroit Tigers: All-Star Voting Can’t Dim Miggy’s Star Power
By Tom Pollin
There should be no argument that the Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera deserves to be the starting first baseman for the American League in the 2015 All-Star Game. That there’s even doubt about the matter shows what a travesty this year’s vote has become.
None of this is saying that Eric Hosmer is a bad player or wasn’t an important part of the Kansas City Royals’ success last season. He has also put up good, if not overwhelming, numbers on offense this season. He’s tied among American League first basemen in doubles with 14 and is third in on-base percentage.
What is being said is that, as of the last vote release, he has no business being just over 476,000 votes ahead of one of the premier players in Major League Baseball as the starter at first base for the American League. Based on first half performances not only should Hosmer be well behind Cabrera, he shouldn’t even be ahead of Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols or Mark Teixeira in first base voting.
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Any debate about Cabrera’s worthiness to be the starter ends when you remember that Victor Martinez, the man who protects him in the Tigers’ lineup, has been on the disabled list for the past month and was largely ineffective at the plate before that.
Still, Miggy leads the league in batting average plus on-base and slugging percentage so far in 2015. He’s seventh in home runs but leads in RBI’s. He’s tied for third in the American League in BABIP (Batting Average Balls In Play) and is fourth in Runs Above and Wins Above Replacement.
The Fix Is In!
As of last Monday the Royals have eight players poised to start July 14 in Cincinnati. The only non-Kansas City starter was Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout.
There’s been plenty of speculation in the mainstream media and blogosphere about the reasons for the team-heavy results so far, mostly centered around Kansas City’s success last season after a decades long stretch as league doormats.
The Royals did gain nationwide attention in 2014 for their run to a World Series appearance, their first since 1985 and everyone loves the underdog, don’t they? Well, that dog just don’t hunt.
It’s not as if the Royals are the first team to break from a decades-long slumber and reappear on the national stage. In 2013 the Pittsburgh Pirates broke a 20 year streak of losing to appear in the playoffs but that didn’t make starters of Neil Walker or Pedro Alvarez all-star starters in 2014.
The Royals do have some worthy players leading their positional votes. Salvador Perez is one of the league’s best catchers and a recognized team leader. Lorenzo Cain‘s name may not be prominent among statistical leaders but his 3.3 WAR is fifth in the American League.
Still, there can’t be one, baseball-knowledgeable Royals fan who believes Omar Infante should be starting at second base ahead of Jose Altuve, Jason Kipnis, Ian Kinsler, or any of the other second basemen in the American league, and yet he’s taken over the lead after the latest vote release. Infante shouldn’t even be allowed in the state of Ohio while the all-star festivities are taking place.
The Royals play in one of the smallest markets in Major League Baseball. Even with their uptick in popularity after last season is that still enough to bump Kendrys Morales to a 600,000 vote lead over Seattle’s Nelson Cruz, currently tied for second in the A.L. with 20 home runs? Maybe we could consider that Morales wasn’t even in Kansas City last season. He spent the year playing for the Mariners and Minnesota Twins.
This is the first year that All-Star Game voting has gone completely online and it’s obvious that a determined group of manipulative Kansas City fans have figured out how to game the system. Don’t be surprised if that determination is made later in the season or sometime next winter.
Should the Fans Be Voting at All?
Most years, despite a few aberrations over time, the fans do get it right, which is another reason why this season’s vote totals stand out.
There are fans in every MLB city who think the players on their teams should start in the game over everyone else but they’ve never affected the numbers like this and are in the minority anyway. I’ll contend that a majority of baseball fans take voting seriously and want to see players who merit selection play in the game.
If similar numbers keep rolling in for the next two weeks of voting and the results hold could all fans lose the right to vote for their favorite players to make the All-Star Game? It’s happened before.
In 1957, fans of the Cincinnati Reds waged a ballot box stuffing campaign for their hometown favorites.
Local newspapers included pre-printed ballots with X’s by the Reds’ starters, all ready to be dropped in the boxes at Crosley Field. It’s also rumored that bartenders all over the city refused to serve customers until they filled out an All-Star ballot.
In the end, seven of eight Reds starters won their positional vote. George Crowe, playing first base for the injured Ted Kluszewski, finished second to Stan Musial.
After an investigation it was found that half of all ballots cast for that game came from Cincinnati. Commissioner Ford Frick stepped in and moved outfielder Gus Bell to the bench, removed Wally Post, only hitting .231, from the team, and named Willie Mays and Hank Aaron to start in their places.
Starting in 1958 until 1970 only players, managers and coaches selected the two teams. The vote was returned to the fans in 1970 but each team only got 400,000 ballots to distribute at their ballparks.
What Can Be Done At This Point?
Unfortunately not much. Major League Baseball has announced that they’ve cancelled over 60 million improper votes but their announcement makes it sound as if filtering those has been an ongoing process, not a one-time adjustment. Don’t expect next week’s announced numbers to be dramatically changed.
Commissioner Rob Manfred has stated that he’s open to changing the voting procedures but sounds reluctant to so a “Ford Frick” and step in if the current results hold over the next two weeks.
Royals manager Ned Yost has challenged fan bases for the other 14 American League teams saying, “If you don’t like it, go out there and vote.”
Tigers fans need to take that quote to heart, hit the internet and, borrowing a Chicago election philosophy, vote early and vote often. Also, don’t be shy about digging up relatives if their 35 votes a day are needed too.
What if Cabrera still falls short of winning the start at first base when voting ends July 2? There won’t be any shame about it for Tigers fans. Manipulative Kansas City Royals fans and Major League Baseball will be the ones wiping the egg from their faces if that happens.