Did MLB Rig Its Own Stupid Contest?

It is very unlikely that you weren't at least peripherally aware of MLB Network's irritating, interminable, "Face of MLB" contest, a bracket-style competition where fans voted on Twitter for a meaningless award. David Wright was announced as the winner this morning, but not after some curious voting irregularities.

The monthlong tournament was hijacked by fans of the Athletics' glasses-wearing, light-hitting infielder Eric Sogard. The cult-favorite "nerd" knocked out much bigger names on the backs of the mobilized A's fans, but by the time Sogard reached the semifinals against obnoxious vote-whore Jose Bautista, it had metastasized into a baseball-wide revolt. No longer was it just Oakland fans; now it was the internet rebelling against the whole stupid contest.

Sogard triumphed over Bautista, and entered a 23-hour finals matchup against David Wright, the presumed favorite (and MLB darling). And the Sogardians kept at it, giving their man a push that kept him and Wright neck-and-neck throughout the day. As the East Coast went to bed, Sogard began to build a lead. But as dawn broke out east, things started moving.

6:00 a.m. EST—Sogard's lead was significant:

6:36 a.m.—Wright's fans started to budge the totals:

7:14 a.m.—Significant action was underway, and Sogard's lead had slipped by half in just 38 minutes:

7:27 a.m.—Wright continued to close the gap:

7:47 a.m.—Deadlocked. New Yorkers were wide awake, while Oaklanders still slumbered:

7:55 a.m.—Wright took the lead, with just five minutes left to go:

And that's how things ended. David Wright was announced as the winner and the new Face of MLB.

Actual vote totals were not officially released, but they were available buried in the source code of the MLB.com website. Eric Simon of Amazin' Avenue was regularly reporting totals, and said that as of 7:30 this morning, Sogard led 245,724 to 233,845. When polls closed, Simon reported that Wright had taken the lead, 267,585 to 255,569. It took a 24,000-vote swing in the last 30 minutes of voting to put Wright on top.

It is at least plausible. The fact that vote counts were semi-transparent means that MLB was probably on the up-and-up, though you can't discount the possibility of discarded votes (Sogard was trending on Twitter all morning, despite rapidly losing his lead.)

It's not hard to see how it might have happened: Mets Twitter was abuzz, cramming the ballot box; A's Twitter slept. The culprit for this comeback is the fact that polls closed at an eastern-centric time, the frantic final hours and minutes belonging almost exclusively to New York. The Face of MLB very definitely has an East Coast bias.

Despite the outcome, this was a huge win for supporters of Eric Sogard and supporters of anarchy. The entire contest was hijacked by bespectacled nihilism. Much of baseball turned against Jose Bautista and against David Wright, and rooted for a dumb promotion to suffer the absurdist payoff it deserved. It didn't quite happen, but now there's almost no chance MLB runs this contest again next year. And that is a triumph for democracy.