The All-Star game is about to begin a Blue Period.
As of Monday’s update of fan voting, which ends July 2, the American League starting lineup for the July 14 game in Cincinnati would consist of Angels center fielder Mike Trout and eight Kansas City Royals, one of whom has the lowest OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage) in the major leagues.
What in the name of Omar Infante is going on here?
“Their fans are out there voting; you can’t take that away from them,” Trout, the three-time All-Star who has a firm hold on the second spot among AL outfielders, said of Royals fans. “They have a right to vote.”
True, but with home-field advantage for the World Series at stake, wouldn’t the AL be better served with Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols starting at first base, Jose Altuve at second, Josh Donaldson at third, Nelson Cruz at designated hitter and Josh Reddick in the outfield?
“I think the league is going to have to take a look at it,” Angels closer and probable All-Star Huston Street said. “From a fans’ point of view, I think it’s pretty cool what the Royals fans have been able to do. I think the Royals as a team have earned it.
“They’re winning games and bringing a lot of excitement to Kansas City. That’s reflective of why they’re getting the votes they’re getting. But it doesn’t change the fact that, in some cases, there are guys more deserving to be the starter.”
The Royals have gotten a huge boost from their 2014 run to the World Series, where they lost in Game 7 to the San Francisco Giants, but Street believes their support extends beyond the Kansas City area.
“There is no way they have that kind of lead just from people in Kansas City,” Street said. “They have to be getting votes from somewhere else around the country. They’ve made a pretty serious impression, which is worth considering.
“What they’re doing proves winning as a team, with the type of energy they played with in the postseason, matters. They play with a lot of passion and heart. You respect their ability to take an organization and a group of guys and change the dynamic, change the way the whole country sees them.”
That might explain why Royals catcher Salvador Perez, shortstop Alcides Escobar, outfielder Lorenzo Cain and first baseman Eric Hosmer, all worthy All-Star candidates who shined last October, are leading vote-getters at their positions.
But Infante, who leads at second base despite a .204 average, no home runs, 17 runs batted in and a major league-low .496 OPS, is a real head-scratcher.
Outfielder Alex Gordon (.259, eight home runs, 29 RBIs), designated hitter Kendrys Morales (.281, seven home runs, 41 RBIs) and third baseman Mike Moustakas (.318, five home runs, 20 RBIs) are having solid seasons, but not good enough to be All-Star starters.
More worthy candidates include Cabrera (.341, 14 home runs, 45 RBIs), Fielder (.342, 10 home runs, 44 RBIs) and Pujols (.276, 18 home runs, 34 RBIs) at first, Minnesota’s Brian Dozier (.265, 13 home runs, 31 RBIs) and Altuve (.290, five home runs, 27 RBIs) at second, Donaldson (.315, 17 home runs, 45 RBIs) at third and Cruz (.323, 18 home runs, 40 RBIs) at DH.
“I don’t think fans should be exclusively in charge of the starting position players,” Street said. “But I don’t think the players should be in charge exclusively.”
Fans vote for position starters. Players, managers and coaches vote for eight pitchers and a backup at each position. AL Manager Ned Yost of the Royals will fill out the roster while making sure each AL team is represented, which will be challenging with so many Kansas City players.
The winner of the All-Star game earns World Series home-field advantage for its league.
“The equation to pick the team that’s going to go out and win a game with that kind of meaning should be balanced,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. “If MLB looks at that, great. But it is what it is, and it will be an exciting game with a lot of talent on the field anyway.”
Even if his star center fielder is surrounded by as many as eight Royals in the starting lineup?
“As long as Trout doesn’t have to wear a blue hat,” Scioscia said, “I’m OK with it.”