All-Star material?

Photographer: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Ballot-Stuffing Royals Fans Beat MLB

Kavitha A. Davidson is a former Bloomberg View columnist.
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It's not even 2016 yet, and already we're dealing with a ballot-stuffing controversy. 

Kansas City Royals fans are doing their all to ensure that the roster for the All-Star Game is as royal blue as possible. The most recent tally has the American League starting lineup featuring eight Kansas City players and Mike Trout of the Angels. Yes, that means that we could see Omar Infante -- currently the worst hitter in the league -- starting at second base in Cincinnati.

This is, as Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan puts it, anarchy. And it's exactly what Major League Baseball deserves.

Some people are mad at Royals fans for making a mockery out of the All-Star Game -- which is fine, except you can't make a mockery of something that's already a joke. The game is a popularity contest that shouldn't carry any real weight. But MLB's misguided decision to make it meaningful, by having it determine home-field advantage for the World Series, leads to the same arguments every year -- over player campaigns, managerial selection of pitchers and the rule that every team gets at least one player on a roster.

I'm hardly the first to point out that if you're going to have the All-Star Game carry the importance it currently does, then you can't have the lineups determined by fan vote. If the game is really about the fans, it shouldn't mean anything in the postseason. Royals fans are showing MLB it can't have it both ways.

The league has to know how flawed All-Star voting is -- it's the first year without the paper ballot, allowing 35 votes per e-mail address, leaving open the possibility for really intrepid fans with a lot of time on their hands to abuse the system. The ballot-stuffing we're seeing is likely the result of a bit more technological sophistication; an SBNation writer found a flaw with MLB's voting security: there is none. The site doesn't require any verification of the e-mail address used to vote. A Royals blogger claims to have used a Gmail quirk to trick the system into thinking he's voting from multiple e-mail addresses. (Considering that the Houston Astros apparently haven't learned to change their corporate passwords, I'm not surprised at how easily MLB's voting system can be exploited.)

The league wants you to know that it takes the sanctity of All-Star voting VERY SERIOUSLY -- Bob Bowman, the chief executive of of MLB Advanced Media, told Passan that the league has canceled between 60 and 65 million votes suspected of being fraudulent. That's nice, but it leaves a whopping 300 million votes that have been "sanitized" and still put eight Royals in the starting lineup. 

Given the demographic issues MLB's is facing in its mostly elderly fanbase, perhaps it's a good sign that so many of its fans are tech-savvy enough to disrupt All-Star voting to this level. Perhaps it will finally get the message that the All-Star Game is and should be a meaningless exhibition by and for the fans. I'd like to think that one day we'll have Omar Infante to thank for inspiring that change.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Kavitha A. Davidson at kdavidson19@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Tobin Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.net