By Ashley Dunkak
@AshleyDunkak

CBS DETROIT – The latest All-Star Game ballot update, released Monday afternoon, revealed eight Kansas City Royals listed in the starting lineup. If the voting ended now, the only non-Royal of the bunch would be Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the American League MVP last season.

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A few weeks of voting remain, but the recent updates have had baseball abuzz. Some believe 2015 should be the final year of the current voting system, in which the starting lineups for the All-Star Game are decided entirely by fan voting.

“I think MLB’s going to have some answering to do,” Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander said Monday. “I think if it holds the way it is, Major League Baseball, their hand’s going to be forced to make adjustments.”

Verlander does not claim that creating a new system will be simple. Nevertheless, he said, it will need to be done.

“We have the best All-Star Game going as far as interaction with the fans,” Verlander said. “I think it’s by far better than the other sports, but something needs to change, especially if what is happening happens.”

Last week, the Royals had seven players in the starting lineup. The latest addition to that group is second baseman Omar Infante, a former Tiger. Infante has a .210 batting average.

The Kansas City fan base has been a force this season, in both attendance and All-Star Game voting, in the wake of the team’s exhilarating World Series run in 2014.

The Royals had not been to the playoffs in 29 years, so the success last season reinvigorated the team’s following. As far as All-Star Game voting, however, Kansas City’s passion has created chaos.

Infante, with his .210 batting average, leads Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros and Jason Kipnis of the Cleveland Indians. Altuve has a batting average of .290, and Kipnis has a batting average of .335.

Both Infante and Altuve have more than four million votes, while Kipnis has fewer than two million.

Eric Hosmer is currently the starter over Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, a two-time MVP and Triple Crown winner who currently has a .344 batting average. Hosmer’s batting average is .296.

Alcides Escobar, with a .259 batting average, is leading all shortstops. Meanwhile, Jose Iglesias is a defensive wonder who has a batting average of .341.

Though batting average is hardly the only factor to consider when evaluating which player is best at a position, it is a solid statistic with which to start, and it demonstrates how little the current starting lineup meshes with what most players would consider to be fair.

Verlander said he does not know whether Major League Baseball will take any action to address the polarizing selections.

“There is precedent for them doing something about it, but it’s also kind of tough for those guys because … this is their first year that they’ve done this all-online vote, and if they come in and say, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, this isn’t right,’ they’re kind of stepping on their own feet there,” Verlander said. “That’s tough to do, too.”

Tigers starting pitcher David Price said Major League Baseball will at least face significant pressure next year to make changes if the final starting lineup does indeed consist almost entirely of Royals.

“You don’t want to see people get snubbed because they don’t have social media, they don’t have Twitter, Instagram or their team just doesn’t promote them the way Kansas City’s kind of promoting their guys,” Price said Monday. “People that are deserving to be All-Stars need to be All-Stars.”

Tigers infielder Andrew Romine, while cautioning that the results are far from final, said he had just been discussing with another player whether the voting system for the All-Star Game needs to be revamped.

“The big question would be do they believe that those are the people who 100 percent deserve those spots,” Romine said Monday. “If MLB can come out and say they believe that, then who are we to question it? Then it ended up the way it should end up.

“But if there’s any questions as to, ‘This guy got it and he shouldn’t have,’” Romine added, “then I think that they might need to look into it and make some changes.”

More than an exhibition

Were the All-Star Game only a display of talent, the Kansas City takeover of the starting lineup would not be quite so galling. With home field advantage in the World Series on the line, however, it becomes a much more serious matter.

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“The best players need to start,” Verlander said, “and not saying that anybody isn’t deserving – most of those Royals players are really deserving, but there’s a couple arguments there, you can’t tell me some of those guys are the best players at their [respective] position in the league … Something in the process is flawed if that’s not the case.

“There’s a lot of positions to argue about, and that’s half of the fun in this, but it needs to be done right,” Verlander continued. “This is too important not to be handled the right way, and I know this is still a ways to go, and I hope our fans step up … Whoever’s deserving needs to go and be starting. That’s the bottom line, however that happens.”

That the All-Star Game has the significance it does, of course, does not sit well with many players.

“I think it’s cheap,” Tigers reliever Ian Krol said Friday. “I don’t like it at all. I think they should take the best record of each team in the regular season and base it off that. I think an All-Star Game, playing out who gets home field advantage in the World Series, is stupid, especially because most of those players aren’t even in the World Series. They definitely need to do something about that.”

The All-Star Game’s influence on the World Series makes it significant, but so does its impact on individual players, even ones who never sniff the World Series.

“That’s part of guys’ careers,” Romine said. “That’s on your resume. Those are important things, and I believe that the person who deserves it, numbers-wise, should get that spot on the All-Star team. When it comes into who is liked more or what city has more fans, I think [the voting system] can be enhanced a little bit when it comes down to it because those accolades are big. They’re big things in people’s lives.

“Think about the difference between a guy who, no All-Star teams, and, ‘Hey, he made the All-Star team that one year,’” Romine continued. “He’s an All-Star. He’ll be able to say that forever, that he’s an All-Star, but if you don’t get it because of this or that, then you’ll never get to actually say that and you won’t have that in your office one day on the wall. And like I said, along the lines of business, that’s a big deal. That’s a huge star on your resume.”

Price – a four-time All-Star who most recently went to the game last season – agreed with his teammate.

“It’s something that you want that to be on your page in the accolades section,” Price said. “It’s big. It’s something that’s definitely going to get brought up in arbitration cases and stuff like that. It has a big impact on way more than just the guys that are there.”

However, unlike many around the country who have criticized Royals fans for voting so doggedly, Price praises Kansas City’s fans for their support of their team.

“What the Royals fan base is doing is phenomenal,” Price said. “Good for you. They’re taking advantage of the rules. You can’t be mad at the Royals fan base, and I’m not. I don’t care.

“The way that they supported their team the last year and a half has been unreal, and it’s good for baseball,” Price added, “but something needs to happen.”

No easy solution

Tigers reliever Alex Wilson proposed that fans be removed from the voting process altogether.

“You just make it like the minor leagues do – it’s by the numbers,” Wilson said Friday. “Put the people who deserve to be there where they deserve to be. The game has meaning, and I think as the voting goes by the fans, we appreciate it … but it comes down to, when it means something, it needs to be handled appropriately, and I think if you go by the numbers and look at who’s the best player at that position, I think that’s one way to do it, and I think that’s how it should be done.”

Wilson understood, however, the marketing appeal of including fans in the process, and so did the other six players interviewed for this story.

“It’s the fans’ game,” Tigers outfielder Rajai Davis said Friday. “Majority rules most of the time. I don’t know if I would do anything to fix it. I’m fine with it. I don’t have any issues with it. Of course, I’ve never been on the verge or the bubble, so I guess I’m a little biased because I’ve never actually been that guy out, slighted.

“If your guy does have the numbers, though, you would think that he should be an All-Star, if he has the numbers, but then again, I don’t know if [Derek] Jeter makes the All-Star Game last year based on numbers,” Davis added, “but it’s all about what the fans want to see.”

If the fans want to see all Royals, however, especially at the expense of Cabrera making the starting lineup, the Tigers will be disappointed.

“I’m not saying Hosmer’s not deserving,” Verlander said. “He is. He’s a great player, and he’s having a great year. It just so happens Miguel Cabrera’s the best hitter on the planet and is also having a good year.

“I’ll be disappointed,” Verlander added, “especially with what’s at stake.”

With the way the voting has unfolded to this point, Wilson would not be surprised to see it stay that way, but like Verlander he would be bummed at such an outcome.

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“Miggy’s the best player, one of the best players in the whole game, and definitely the best first baseman in the game,” Wilson said. “To have him not start with the numbers he has – no disrespect to Hosmer, he’s a great player, it’s just one of those things where it wouldn’t serve any justice to baseball.”