Detroit — Miguel Cabrera is too busy hitting 450-foot home runs to worry much about it. But if he's not annoyed, Tigers fans should be, and baseball should be.
All-Star voting can be a farce, but it's usually a harmless one. This time, it's threatening to create an absolute joke on the field, with seven Royals leading at their positions. Updated totals come out Monday, and maybe the transcendent stars will rise. Or maybe those wacky Kansas City folks playing with their computers will have nine Royals in the lineup.
Normally, voting oddities aren't a huge deal. But I'm sorry, if Cabrera, the greatest hitter of a generation or more, doesn't start for the American League July 14 in Cincinnati, there's no sense pretending it's even an All-Star Game anymore. The Royals' Eric Hosmer is a fine first baseman, but even he has to be a little embarrassed by this.
Cabrera clubbed another monstrous home run Sunday, a 450-footer into the second row of shrubs in left-center field, and had three hits in the Tigers' 8-1, rain-soaked beating of the Indians. Two nights earlier, he launched a 452-shot into the camera well in straightaway center field, and his displays of raw power these days are staggering.
You ask Cabrera about the voting snub so far, and he shrugs. If he's offended, he doesn't show it.
"If they ask me, I go play," he said. "If they vote for me, or don't vote for me, I don't care. I mean, what am I gonna do?"
Cabrera doesn't often reveal deep emotions, and maybe that makes it easier for some fans to overlook him, which is unfortunate. His numbers — .341, 14 home runs, 45 RBIs — are on his standard pace of excellence, with consistency that's as impressive as his power.
While Cabrera deflects attention, as usual, his team is ratcheting it up. If there's such a thing as an All-Star travesty, this would be it. If it doesn't get corrected by the time voting ends July 2, I bet it gets corrected next season.
The Tigers recently stenciled messages onto the grass outside the batter's box that read "Vote Tigers, tigers.com/vote," and reminders are plastered all around Comerica Park. The message is delivered by teammates, too. They wore "Vote Miggy" T-shirts, and David Price went on a mini-Twitter rant last week, imploring MLB to adjust the process — "not that it's funny, but it's kind of a joke. #VOTEMIGGY." He later clarified he respects the Royals, and they have worthy All-Stars, too.
But come on, who wants to watch one Royal after another — Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Kendrys Morales, Salvador Perez — sheepishly trot out to their positions. Teammates say Cabrera never brings it up, but they're surprised and bothered by it.
"Hopefully this is the last year they allow fans to vote All-Stars, because they're determining home-field advantage for the World Series," Ian Kinsler said. "You can't blame Kansas City, they're taking advantage of the system. But at the same time, it's not right. It's good fans are involved somehow, but seven or eight Royals is kind of tough to take."
Baseball did this
The Tigers have two legitimate All-Star starters — Cabrera and shortstop Jose Iglesias. But Miggy and Iggy are being passed because of the Kansas City voting piggies. David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria also are candidates, but let's not weaken the main argument with our own gluttony.
For a guy still smack in his prime at 32, Cabrera doesn't always get the respect he deserves. Yes, he's a nine-time All-Star (including the past five) and a two-time MVP. But he has 600,000 fewer votes than Hosmer, and about 700,000 fewer than Mike Trout, although Trout doesn't escape the absurdity, either — he's fifth overall behind four Royals.
Bit by bit, byte by byte, baseball is edging toward another embarrassment. I'd blame the Royals fans, too, except they're just playing along with the ridiculousness, punching ballots multiple times. That's the new MLB rule, that all voting is done on-line, with a maximum of 35 votes per email address.
The Royals have pushed it beyond the limits of good sense, so they have Escobar leading Iglesias by an astonishing two million votes, and second baseman Omar Infante (hitting .204) narrowly behind the Astros' Jose Altuve. I don't know what new commissioner Rob Manfred can do about it now, short of confiscating computers in the Kansas City area, but there'd better be changes next season. Call it a royal flushing of the rules.
Game would be mockery
Baseball is stuck in this silly position — and I'm stuck griping about it — because it turned the All-Star Game into a farce more than a decade ago, when they ran out of players in a tie game. Bud Selig decided to pump up the stakes by awarding World Series home-field advantage to the winning league. That was dumb, but if you do it, you can't diminish the importance by letting 14-year-old Billy and his buddies vote hundreds of times.
The Royals reached the World Series last year and lost Game 7 at home to the Giants, but this is not some powerhouse riding a revival. The Royals are 34-25, three games ahead of the 33-30 Tigers.
There are bigger issues in baseball, obviously. Cabrera never, ever touts himself, and it's usually not necessary. But someone has to say it — if Cabrera isn't a starter, the All-Star Game and its fake stakes are a mockery.