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KC fans stuff the ballot box

Jeremy Cummings from Raymore, Kan., cast his All-Star Game ballot the allowed 35 times and stuffed it with Royals players. Then he went to another email account and repeated the process, voting another Royals straight ticket.

Zach Owen from Springfield, Kan., voted on six different occasions, a total of 210 votes, all for Royals.

The latest American League All-Star Game voting reflects these ballots and what must be many, many others from Royals fans. If the game were held today, seven Royals would be voted into the starting lineup. Around the horn: catcher Salvador Perez, first baseman Eric Hosmer, shortstop Alcides Escobar and third baseman Mike Moustakas are the top vote-getters are their positions.

And Major League Baseball is OK with that. Fans of other teams? Well, you can imagine.

This marks the first year that balloting is 100 percent online, and a total of 35 votes can be sent from one email address. Bob Bowman, Major League Baseball’s president of business and media, said there’s been no evidence of foul play or irregularities in the balloting, just enthusiasm by Royals fans.

Tell that to anyone who doesn’t bleed Royal blue.

Earlier this week, Sports Illustrated ran a story on its website: “Fixing the American League’s All-Royals All-Star team.”

Tigers pitcher David Price took to social media on Wednesday to voice his displeasure: “… it’s kind of a joke,” he posted on his Twitter account, @DAVIDprice14.

Later, “An all star game IS NOT a popularity contest … it’s for home field advantage (for whatever reason) for the World Series!! Best players play”

Price is wrong and right. The All-Star Game winner does receive home-field advantage in the World Series, and the AL’s victory last July is why the Royals played games one, two, six and seven of the Fall Classic at Kauffman Stadium last October.

But not a popularity contest?

By having fans vote for the starting lineup, popularity plays a major role, as Royals fans are quick to remind.

“This game has always been a popularity contest,” Owen said. “I can easily remember when teams like the Yankees constantly had players who appeared undeserving based on their stats, starting the All-Star Game because they had a larger fan base and following voting them in.”

So, perhaps the Royals voting giddiness is also served with a chip. For years, Royals fans played the grim role of dispassionate spectator during the season and for the All-Star Game. The last Kansas City player voted into the starting lineup was outfielder Jermaine Dye in 2000.

But the World Series run that ended a 29-year playoff drought has energized a fan base that is on a record pace for home attendance and local broadcast ratings. The All-Star Game voting is now caught in the blue swirl, and baseball is cool with watching the totals climb.

“The Royals fan base, principally in Kansas City, but really all over the country, is energized and hungry and they’re doing this old-fashioned way with sweat and toil,” Bowman said.

The methods have changed, but since 1970, fans have voted for the starting lineup and complaints and controversies are a regular occurrence. Fans have been charged with ballot-box stuffing, managers who have a role in selecting reserves and pitchers have been accused of favoritism. Deserving players get snubbed.

This year, it’s personal in Kansas City, and Royals fans respond that when traditional statistics and advanced metrics are taken into account, the players who are leading at the positions aren’t undeserving.

Even Trout, the Angels’ outfielder, agrees.

“The majority of those guys are having great years, so you can’t take it away from them,” Trout told the Los Angeles Times. “The fans have the right to vote, and they’re out voting.”

That’s what baseball wants.

“It’s a hard thing to say your customers are wrong,” Bowman said. “And everybody is playing by the same rules.”

They’re just playing it with more vigor at the moment in Kansas City, the nation’s 26th-largest metropolitan area and 31st-largest television market, ahead of only Cincinnati and Milwaukee among baseball cities in those categories.

But Royals fan Jason Schock of Falls City, Neb., is concerned about potential backlash. He mined email addresses “from thousands of my contacts … and voted thousands of times.”

He wasn’t a straight-ticket voter, sprinkling in Trout, the Mariners’ Nelson Cruz at designated hitter and alternating the Indians’ Jason Kipnis and the Twins’ Brian Dozier at second base.

“I now wish I hadn’t stuffed the box because the backlash will be unfairly directed at Royals players and fans,” Schock said. “It would make me sick to hear fans in Cincinnati boo our guys during players’ introductions.”

The Royals’ run on votes has the full support of the team. Fans are implored to vote for Royals during broadcasts, and the team’s official Twitter account promotes the All-Star balloting.

In addition to Perez, Hosmer, Escobar and Moustakas, Kendrys Morales has the most votes among AL designated hitters, and Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon rank first and third in outfield voting, respectively.

Only Angels outfielder Mike Trout and Astros second baseman Jose Altuve prevent a Royals starting lineup voting sweep.

Detroit starting pitcher David Price, right, isn't happy with the voting process of the Royals' fans. AP PHOTO