Busted Royal Flush
One of my favorite things in sports (or least favorite things, depending on your appreciation of irony) is when we freak out about stuff that ends up not happening. I guess you could call it the Y2K Syndrome, when people thought a computer quirk would more or less end the world when we entered the 2000s. The world, you might remember, went on, except for Cleveland Browns fans.
The Great Panic of 2015 has revolved around the Kansas City Royals potentially sweeping the Major League Baseball All-Star Vote and, in the process, making a mockery of a game that more or less nobody cares about. At one point there were eight Kansas City Royals leading their position in voting with Amos Otis, Freddie Patek, George Toma and some leftover George Brett pine tar all waiting in the wings.
People theorized about elaborate Kansas City hacking schemes (like only people in Kansas City could figure out how to hack in) and Tom Pendergast-inspired ballot stuffing and FIFA-like bribes only with barbecue. Sports Illustrated wrote a story instructing people how to stop the Royals invasion before it started. Writer after writer concocted new ways to vote for the All-Star game so that we could prevent the Royals meteor from hitting earth in the future.
And it was fun and all. But if you look at the voting now, you realize something:
There are only going to be four Royals starting in the All-Star Game.
Four is a lot, admittedly. But it happens pretty often. The 2012 Giants had four starters (including pitcher Matt Cain). The 2011 Yankees and 2008 Red Sox had four players elected to be starters (though injuries and such gave them less). The 2005 Red Sox had four starters and so did the 2005 Cardinals. And so on. Four is not a great anomaly. You go back, there are teams with five starters too.
And, honestly, that's what I think is going to happen with these Royals. Four starters. Royals fans have flexed their muscles, displayed their great enthusiasm for this team, and it's been fun. But look, the voting closes on July 2, which is still more than a week away.
And here's where we stand:
First base: 1 Detroit's Miguel Cabrera, 9.3 million 2. Eric Hosmer, 8.0 million
-- Kansas City's Hosmer built up a nice early lead, but Cabrera (deservedly) will win this one going away. Heck, even Hosmer said Cabrera should start.
Second base: 1. Omar Infante, 6.5 million 2. Houston's Jose Altuve, 6.1 million
-- I'm not entirely sure about this one, but I think in the end justice prevails and Altuve gets the start. Royals fans are voting for Infante as sort of an inside joke and nose thumb at the complaining national media -- most of those fans don't even want Infante starting for Kansas City.
Shortstop: 1. Alcides Escobar, 8.7 million 2. Detroit's Jose Iglesias, 6.1 million
-- Here is Royals starter No. 1. Royals fans adore Escobar, probably to the point of overrating him. But that's OK. Hometown fans are supposed to overrate their favorites. He does offer a little bit with his bat, a lot with the glove, and while Iglesias is having a somewhat better first half, I don't think it's a hard argument that over the last few years Escobar is the more accomplished player. Heck Iglesias missed all of last season.
Third base: 1. Mike Moustakas: 9.04 million 2. Toronto's Josh Donaldson: 9.00 million
-- Though Moustakas is technically leading, this is a dead heat and all the momentum is going Donaldson's way. I suspect he wins the vote, and if so that's the right call. Donaldson is one of the best players in baseball. Moustakas* though, is having a fantastic season, a career-shifting season, and if he did win out it wouldn't be a tragedy or a travesty.
*Originally, my spell check changed Moustakas to "Mustaches." Which is awesome.
Outfield 1. Anaheim's Mike Trout, 9.1 million 2. Lorenzo Cain, 9.07 million 3. Alex Gordon, 7.8 million 4. Detroit's Yoenis Cespedes, 5.9 million
-- Here are Royals starters 2 and 3 -- Cain and Gordon. Cain has blossomed into one of the most fun and thrilling players in baseball. He's getting votes all of the country, not just in Kansas City. And Gordon is just about as solid as they come and the solid backbone of the Royals' improvement the last three years.
Catcher 1. Salvador Perez, 10.2 million 2. Toronto's Russell Martin, 4.7 million
-- The biggest landslide of them all, Royals' All-Star No. 4 will be Salvy, the brilliant defensive catcher who hits the occasional home run and never walks and is the fighting spirit of this team.
Designated hitter: 1. Kendrys Morales, 7.6 million 2. Seattle's Nelson Cruz, 7.3 million
-- Too close to call, but in the end I have to believe the votes will come in for Cruz, though he has cooled off offensively lately.
And there you go, four starters, all of them viable candidates, all of them representing the team that, at the moment, has the best record in the American League, none of them embarrassments to the All-Star Game.
So what happens now? The game will come and go, some baseball fans might tune in if they don't have prior plans, the winning team will absurdly get World Series home field advantage even though the managers will do nothing whatsoever to try and win the game, and we can go on to the next trumped-up controversy that may or may not happen. Yes, John Lennon got it right. We're all just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round. Or maybe we're just sitting on cornflakes waiting for the van to come. Either way, instant karma's going to get us.