Royals don’t apologize for All-Star 8: ‘If you don’t like it, vote more’




The country fell in love with these adorable Kansas City Royals last year, stealing our hearts with their improbable run to the World Series, ending that ugly 29-year playoff drought.

Now, eight months later, destiny’s darlings have a country outraged, wondering how they could callously infiltrate our democracy.

Where are these votes being counted, in Florida? Have we gone back in time to 1957?

Fans once again are stuffing the All-Star ballot box, only in the technological age of balloting, using computers and smart phones, with no paper ballots.

And this time, it’s in Kansas City and not Cincinnati that has Major League Baseball officials scrambling to make sure no computer geniuses have hacked the system. This isn’t 1957, when the good folks of Cincinnati elected seven Reds to the All-Star Game, thanks to pre-marked ballots that were distributed in the Sunday editions of theCincinnati Enquirer.

Commissioner Ford Frick stepped in and declared that a couple of guys named Willie Mays and Hank Aaron would replace the Reds’ Gus Bell and Wally Post. He was so incensed that he stripped fans of the vote until 1970.

Well, if the voting ended today, the starting American League lineup for the All-Star Game on July 14 in Cincinnati would consist of eight Royals players, the most by any team in history.

In Monday’s release, second baseman Omar Infante over took Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros as the leading vote-getter, making him the eighth Royal.

Only outfielder Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels is preventing it from being the Royals’ everyday lineup.

“If we get seven guys voted in,” reserve outfielder Jarrod Dyson said over the weekend, “I’m sure they’ll change the rule next year. But hey, I think it’s great. People used to get voted in whether they had a good time or not.

“It’s time for a change. This is good for the game.”

Yeah, if you don’t happen to live on the Kansas-Missouri border.

Or you don’t mind the top four hitters, nine of the top 10 home-run hitters, and nine of the top 10 leading RBI hitters sitting on the bench at the All-Star Game, or worse, left at home.

“There’s nothing wrong,” Royals manager Ned Yost told USA TODAY Sports. “Vote! The votes are the votes. If you don’t like it, go out there and vote. Our fans have gotten out and voted.

“Does seven starters surprise you? Yeah. But once you sit back and think about it, it’s really not that surprising.”

Major League Baseball, which has verified that there has been no computer hacking or digital hanky-panky in Kansas City, is scheduled Monday to announce the latest American League balloting, so maybe things will change.

Then again, considering the way the All-Star balloting has been trending, the Royals could actually have all nine players leading the balloting.

Alex Rios is fourth among outfielders, receiving 3.9 million votes, despite playing just 18 games this year.

“I don’t know what people want us to do,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said, “Are we supposed to tell people to stop voting for us?”

If you count the three or four deserving Royals relievers who also could be going, the Royals may have to charter a Boeing Dreamliner to haul their players and 11 coaches and staff members to the game.

“Look, I could see if it was just Kansas City people filling out random ballots and voting for just us,” Hosmer said, “but when you’re looking at (three)guys getting 4 million votes, that can’t be just coming from Kansas City.”

Still, the last we checked, the Royals aren’t exactly littered with future Hall of Famers. They’ve had only seven starters in the last 31 years, and none since 2000.

“To be honest with you, I’ve never agreed with the All-Star voting,” All-Star left fielder Alex Gordon told USA TODAY Sports. “I always thought that guys most deserving, and having the best years, should go, especially now that the All-Star Game decide who wins home field advantage. But it’s a popularity thing now, and after getting to the World Series, we got popular.

“But we get seven guys starting at the All-Star game, they’ll change the rule. They’ll have to. It will be like a home game. Nobody wants to see one team playing against the other All-Star team.

“It kind of ruins the point of an All-Star Game.”

No wonder why Detroit Tigers ace David Price, who shuddered at the idea of being swarmed by a sea of blue in that All-Star clubhouse, vented on Twitter last week, calling it “a joke.”

Still, if you’re looking for apologies or sympathy from the Royals, you’re wasting your time.

They won the AL pennant last year, fair and square, and have the league’s finest record this season. They’ve become household names outside the 816 area code for the first time since their glory days of George Brett, Frank White, Willie Wilson and Hal McRae.

“I can’t even go out anywhere anymore,” said catcher Salvador Perez, who has received more votes, 4.4 million, than player in the American League. “None of us can. It’s too crazy out there.

“Everybody knows us. But that’s a good thing.”

It was being on baseball’s center stage a year ago, and fans falling in love with their style of play, Yost said, that has inspired the influx of All-Star voting more than overzealous Royals fans.

Then again, it was a little difficult to hear Yost speak on the visiting bench at Busch Stadium considering the swarm of Royals fans that invaded St. Louis during the weekend.

The normal sea of red at Busch Stadium was suddenly littered with a whole lot of blue jerseys, with fans standing behind the visiting dugout, screaming and cheering every time a Royal wandered onto the field.

“That’s the biggest difference we’ve seen this year,” Hosmer said. “You didn’t realize how many Royals fans there are throughout the country. They really didn’t have any reason to put their Royals shirt on and go watch us before. Now, it’s almost like a sense of pride.”

It was no different at Wrigley Field in Chicago two weeks ago when the Royals walked onto the field to the bullpen and batting cage, heard a thunderous applause, and realized it was for them.

“It almost felt like a home game,” said third baseman Mike Moustakas, who has drawn 1.7 million more votes than MVP candidate Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays. “It was incredible.”

The Royals, whose passionate fan base reminds relieve Ryan Madson of the Philadelphia Phillies’ glory days last decade, have taken the country by storm. Their local TV ratings of 12.3 are the highest in the country, Fox Sports Midwest spokesman Geoffrey Goldman said. It’s the highest by any team through May since the 2007 Boston Red Sox. Kansas City, despite being only the 38th biggest market, has 113,000 households watching every night, fifth-most in the country.

“Kansas City has fallen in love with the Royals again,” said former Royals closer Jeff Montgomery, now a Fox Sports analyst. “And I think the way they played in the postseason, with so many people looking at them as the underdogs, they’ve adopted them as their team.”

“If teams could vote for their fans to the All-Star Game,” Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie said, “our fans would probably get the most votes. I think it’s really cool what our fans are doing. They’re not only at our games (averaging 32,255, an increase of 8,100 a game from last year) but turning on in their homes, and going online to vote for us.

“I don’t think this voting thing is a bad thing at all. Like the old adage, if you don’t like it, player better. And if you don’t like it, vote more.”

The truth is the Royals don’t really care what you think. They’re just playing their game in their style, performing, and winning.

“We hear so much about this,” Moustakas said, “but honestly, all we’re concerned about is trying to win ball games. All of the other stuff, is completely out of our control.

“We’re not focused on trying to make an All-Star team. Were focused on trying to win baseball games.

“So don’t blame us.”

Maybe we can revel with them instead.



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