All right, it's time to fix this.
Seven Royals are in line to start the All-Star Game? Holy Balboni. That's an amazing tribute to the fans of Kansas City, who are out there voting for their boys at a rate that computes to 31.6 ballots votes for every man, woman and child in the metroplex, including newborns, but --
They need to know something:
This isn't good. It isn't good for baseball. It isn't good for the All-Star Game. It isn't even all that good for Kansas City in the long run. It's actually a mess.
It's, a mess because the game, unfortunately, means something: home-field advantage in the World Series.
It's a mess because it is infuriating way too many residents of the portion of America known as "Not Kansas City."
It's a mess because the rest of civilization is not going to look at this development as a heartwarming revival of baseball spirit in a long-slumbering market. It's going to look at this development as a ballot-rigging campaign by people who don't care that millions of Americans now wish the Royals would revert back to going 58-104 for about the next 40 years.
So it's time to fix this.
It's too late to fix it for this year, barring an influx of approximately 8.7 billion last-minute votes for players other than, say, Omar Infante. I don't get a sense that the commissioner, Rob Manfred, has interest in overturning the results of this messed up election. But next year? I guarantee you he'll fix it.
What can he do? I have some ideas, and I collected some from players and executives around baseball. But first:
A little perspective
I thought you ought to know how crazy it would be if seven Royals really do start the All-Star Game. Everybody ready?
• In the history of the Royals franchise (all 46 years of it), how many Royals players have been elected to start in an All-Star Game -- any All-Star Game? Exactly seven (Jermaine Dye, Bo Jackson, George Brett 11 times, Frank White, Darrell Porter, Freddie Patek and Amos Otis). Now we're in line to have seven Royals start this year.
• Assuming seven Royals start this game, a couple of them might actually get a hit. That would be notable too. Since Bo Jackson's MVP show in the 1989 classic, how many hits have all the Royals All-Stars combined gotten? How about one: Salvador Perez in 2013. That's one hit in the past 25 All-Star Games.
• Did you know none of the past 121 elected starters for the American League All-Star team have been Royals? You have to go back to 2000 to find the most recently elected Royal (Dye), and since then, in almost a decade and a half, no Royal at any position has finished as the runner-up.
So what would it mean if seven Royals start this year's game? It's safe to say it would be both historically and mathematically incredible. Just wanted to make that point.
Now that I've gotten that out of the way, here are some ideas to fix the system.
Use the player vote as protection
If Perez starts this game behind the plate, he deserves it. If Alcides Escobar starts at short, we can easily make a case for it. If Lorenzo Cain and/or Alex Gordon start in the outfield, it would be far from a travesty of voting justice.
But if Omar "Currently Hitting .230" Infante gets elected? Sorry. There needs to be a vehicle to override a choice as unjustified as that. Here's a proposal I thought up all by myself:
Keep the fan vote next year exactly as is. Continue to have the players vote, as they've done in the past. But once the votes are in, compare the two before announcing the teams.
If the fans and players are at least close to being on the same page, nothing changes. But if the player picked by the fans to start doesn't finish in the top three of the players' balloting, that should automatically veto the fans' choice. In that case only, the players' selection should start.
The only objection I heard to this idea, when I ran it past people in MLB, was a modification that would allow the fans' choice to start if he's in the top five -- not the top three -- of player balloting. That works for me, even though I'd prefer top three. What do you think?
Pick the roster before the voting begins
When I asked players how they would change this system, they mostly said things such as, "The fact that the All-Star Game counts for anything is completely absurd." But given that there's no indication that part of the festivities will be changing any time soon, let's stick to the voting.
Not very shockingly, players would prefer to have starters chosen by -- guess who? -- players. But that's not likely to happen, either. What is possible is a new system that would combine the best of player and fan voting. One idea along those lines came from a player who didn't want his name used. Here was his interesting compromise proposal:
Fans wouldn't begin voting until July 1. Before they vote, the players and the All-Star coaching staff would choose an entire roster of deserving All-Stars. This could guarantee in advance that nobody who had no business being on the team in the first place would be elected to start the game.
From July 1 until the weekend before the game, fans would vote on which players -- just from that roster -- should start. Fans could vote as many times as they want, and they could even elect the starting pitcher -- and closer too, for that matter.
Excellent idea, I think. I like the idea of finding some way to limit the players who would appear on the fan ballot. We've seen over the past few weeks that if you give a bunch of passionate fans the ability to vote for hometown players with a .565 OPS or hometown players who have spent most of the year on the disabled list, they just might do that. Why give them that chance? This alternative -- or something similar -- makes a lot of sense.
Tweak the system
If you've visited the online voting site lately, you might have caught on to something: It's way too easy to cast all your votes for members of one team.
Players have noticed. And nobody would like to see this glitch changed more than they would.
"I don't want to say this is a fault in the system," the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter said. "But you can go [on that site] and just click on the Royals. And all their players get highlighted, and you can just click on them. ... Maybe if you had to individually go in and take each guy, [you'd get a more varied vote].
"I'm sure some guys are just clicking Royals, Royals, Royals. And they can all do that over and over again. ... It looks like that's how the website is built. You just click it, click it and boom."
He's exactly right. Back when voting took place in ballparks, every voter at least had to look at all the names on the ballot. Now the design of the online ballot actually fuzzes out all the other names once you've chosen your "favorite team." To vote for players from other teams, you have to go to the trouble of undoing your choice of team. Don't you wonder how many voters even bother?
So how can anyone at MLB complain about the results of this election? The system they designed is engineered to encourage mass votes for an entire roster. Not good.
Blow up the whole system
Now for something completely different. One NL executive proposed a system that would bear little resemblance to this one. It's outside the box. But the concept is so thought-provoking, it's worth a few paragraphs. Here's his proposal:
• Any player leading the league in these categories would automatically start (no vote necessary): Home runs, batting average, stolen bases, slugging percentage, RBIs, ERA. (We could be flexible on the categories, but he went with the most iconic.) If the ERA leader can't start because he pitched Sunday, the runner-up would automatically start.
• Fans would elect the rest of the starters.
• There would be a limit of three starters from any one club.
• The All-Star managers would choose the reserves but wouldn't be permitted to pick their own players. The other 28 managers would select reserves from the reigning World Series teams.
• The players would choose five players on each team, after those players are selected, to correct oversights by the fans and managers.
• Because all those safeguards would be in place, there would be unlimited fan voting. In fact, the 100 fans who cast the most authenticated votes would get tickets to the All-Star Game as guests of Major League Baseball.
What are the odds baseball would ever go to a system such as this? Slimmer than Freddie Patek. But hey, it gets your attention.
FYI, if this plan were in effect this year, it would automatically qualify Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Jose Altuve and Sonny Gray as starters in the AL, and Paul Goldschmidt, Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper, Billy Hamilton and Max Scherzer as starters for the NL.
I'd be fine with Hamilton's making the team in, say, a designated pinch runner roster spot. I wouldn't be so fine with his making it otherwise, given his .222/.267/.300 slash line. But all these ideas are open to negotiation, so let's negotiate!
Have a better idea? Tweet it at me (@jaysonst) or post on my Facebook page, and we'll get this whole thing solved faster than you can say "Amos Otis."