Could it be a virtual stuffing of the ballot box?
Major League Baseball says it is invalidating more than 60 million online ballots for the upcoming All-Star Game, citing irregularities.
Baseball fans outside Kansas City have been watching with shock and some outrage as the voting has so far placed Royals players in eight of the nine American League starting positions for the July 14 game.
While some on the Royals are clearly the best or near the best at their positions and could be said to deserve the honor of starting, many are not. Yet even second baseman Omar Infante, who at this writing is batting .228 this season, leads all other players at that position in All-Star voting.
MLB rules allow fans to vote as many as 35 times per email address. And the Royals fan base has come alive for its team, which made it to the World Series last season and currently leads the AL Central Division.
But the disputed ballots don't appear to have anything to do with the Royals' All-Star sweep. According to Yahoo Sports, Major League Baseball noticed the team's strong showing during the first week of the online balloting. Bob Bowman, CEO of MLB Advanced Media, told Yahoo Sports:
" 'We scrubbed these first set of numbers incredibly thoroughly,' Bowman said. 'We said, "Can this possibly be right? Look at all these votes for Kansas City." It just didn't turn out that way.' "
MLB says it has killed roughly the same percentage of ballots in previous seasons and that some 300 million votes have been accepted.
" 'I'm not saying we bat [a thousand],' Bowman told Yahoo. 'But it's between 60 and 65 million votes that have been canceled. We don't really trumpet it because if someone thinks they're getting away with it, they'll try to again.' "
The site of the summer classic this year is Cincinnati, which ironically, has had its own ballot-stuffing issue. According to Sports Illustrated:
"The last time at least seven players were elected from one team to play in the All-Star Game was 1957, when the Cincinnati Reds littered the National League ballot for the game in St. Louis. Two Reds outfielders voted to start the game were replaced by MLB commissioner Ford Frick."
Voting for this year's game ends July 2. Oh, and the only AL player not a member of the Kansas City Royals likely to start at this moment: Angels center fielder Mike Trout.