A Fan's Notes: Stars In Our Eyes

Jul 9, 2015

  At Tuesday night’s All-Star Game in Cincinnati, the Kansas City Royals will field four starters and as many as seven players altogether—all-time Royals records. Sure, it’s just an exhibition, but as “A Fan’s Notes” commentator Victor Wishna sees it, there’s a lot more on display.

  

Let’s be clear: Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, the “Midsummer Classic,” doesn’t count. Yeah, MLB likes to pretend it does—the winning league gets home-field advantage in the World Series, after all. But if it counted, the coaches would coach, and the players would play, like they really needed to win. But they won’t. Tonight’s game at Kauffman Stadium? That counts. The All Star Game doesn’t.

Oh—but it means something.

Even as they got within 90 feet of a World Series title last year, there was still the nagging notion that our Royals were a fluke, an October surprise. When they lost, that was almost a comforting thought: “Well, at least it never quite seemed real in the first place.”

Not now. This year, it’s been real, right from the seven-and-oh start. The Royals jumped out on top and by mid-April, they were also Public Enemy Number One. Opponents picked fights. The league doled out suspensions. Yet, wherever they played, from Detroit down to Houston, and New York to L.A., the stands were stocked with fans in K.C. blue. Thousands swarmed the bleachers at Wrigley Field. And in Milwaukee, the P.A. operator even tried to drown out the chants of “Let’s go, Royals” with a blast of Vanilla Ice.

But if there was a problem—yo, I’ll solve it!—it was when early All-Star tallies revealed Royal domination. A new online-only voting system meant that any fan with moxie and multiple email addresses could vote dozens or even hundreds of times. By mid-June, K.C. players led at all but one position, and the backlash boiled over.

Suddenly, baseball’s second-smallest media market had become a bunch of ballot-stuffing bullies—as if people in, say, Chicago don’t know how to vote early and often. Baseball media, and even some players, were clamoring for anyone else to get in the race. Pitcher David Price, of the not-first-place Detroit Tigers, indignantly tweeted, “An all star game IS NOT a popularity contest...!”

Oh. But it is. And how long we have languished. Sure, the playoffs are what matters—what counts—but K.C.’s All-Star drought was pretty lame, too. Technically, the Royals made an appearance each year, but only because every team must get at least one All Star, which sounds like a rule a kindergarten teacher would make.

But the Kansas City Royals are now the cool kids. The final lineup includes “only” four Royals starters—Salvador Perez, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, and Alex Gordon—the most ever, and more than they’ve managed in the last twenty-five All-Star Games combined.

American League skipper Ned Yost—yep—added Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis to the bullpen, and Mike Moustakas has a chance to become KC’s seventh All Star, thanks to one last round of social-media campaigning through this week.

If sports “fantasy” means getting to pick your players, Royals fans are living out a midsummer night’s dream. It’s a celebration for what is, quantifiably, the game’s most loyal fan base, with the largest attendance increases and highest TV ratings in all of baseball.

So keep texting and tweeting—#VoteMoose—then lean back and enjoy an exhibition that will feature more players from Kansas City than anywhere else.

Might as well win it, too. Home-field advantage in the World Series could come in handy. Because this year, it’s obvious: We’ve got the team. We’ve got the talent. And, oh yeah, we’ve got the swagger.