KC Royals: The MLB All-Star Game voters got it right
Feel free to forgive yourselves if you find MLB All-Star Game voting just a bit confusing. This seasons’ balloting is a multi-phase affair with more than one deadline and, as always, doesn’t result in the selection of a complete roster. And although voting remains incomplete for several more days, one thing is certain for the KC Royals and their fans.
No Royal will be in the lineup when a yet to be determined National League starting pitcher delivers the first pitch of the 2022 Midsummer Classic at Dodger Stadium later this month.
That fairly predictable result was confirmed Thursday when MLB announced the outcome of “Phase 1” voting, the nearly one-month long process via which fans choose, in a fashion akin to primary elections, finalists for each league’s position player starters. Because none of them finished in the top two spots for their positions (top four for outfielders), none of the nine Kansas City players on the Phase 1 ballot made the cut.
(A Royal chosen as a reserve—more on that momentarily—could conceivably take an injured starter’s place in the lineup, but because the only KC player likely to make the club is a pitcher—more on that in a moment, too—the odds of a Royals’ position player starting are extremely remote).
Phase 2 voting, which begins July 5 and ends July 8, determines what position players start; American League manager Dusty Baker and National League skipper Brian Snitker then choose the starting pitchers (no, no KC hurler merits that honor), with the rosters rounded out by player vote and Commissioner’s Office input. It’s the latter process that will put a Royal on the AL roster, an outcome assured because the rules guarantee each team a representative. Expect Kansas City reliever Scott Barlow to make the club that way by virtue of his 2-1, 2.14 ERA, 10-save record.
The reasons no KC Royals advanced to MLB All-Star Game Phase 2 voting.
Why didn’t any Kansas City players survive Phase 1? The simple answer is that none garnered enough votes; the more substantive is that other than Barlow, whose status as a pitcher made him ineligible, no Royals—even left fielder Andrew Benintendi—is performing in true high All-Star gear.
Seven-time selection Salvador Perez might have made it to Phase 2 on popularity alone had he not undergone surgery for a torn thumb ligament last week. Absent that, however, his .211/.254/.426 line probably would have kept him out of the final vote.
Despite his high visibility, Bobby Witt Jr.’s rookie numbers (.243 average, .291 OBP), while improving, made him an unlikely top choice outside the Kansas City market.
And the club’s best hitters—Benintendi (.305 average, .370 OBP) and Michael A. Taylor (.276 average, .354 OBP)—just weren’t going to beat out other AL outfielders like New York’s Aaron Judge, the Angels’ Mike Trout and Toronto’s George Springer and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
Nicky Lopez, Kyle Isbel, MJ Melendez, Whit Merrifield, and Hunter Dozier never really had a chance.
What, though, about voter apathy? Did the Royals’ dismal season dilute interest?
Perhaps—after all, many players from many teams have been past All-Star starters not on their merits, but because voters wanted to see them play and voted in droves to make that happen. Kansas City fans proved how well mass turnout works in 2016, when seven KC players were trending high in voting at one point, and in 2015 when they put four of their favorite players in the starting lineup.
This year felt different. Voting seemed to generate far less excitement, and social media campaigning for Royal candidates wasn’t as intense as usual, but such are the natural by-products of teams playing badly and players not performing like All-Stars.
At least the Royals will send someone, most likely Barlow, to Los Angeles this month for the July 19 contest. He, though, will probably be alone—at the end of the day, none of his teammates warranted election.
The fans got it right this time.
No Royals will start in this year’s MLB All-Star Game.