If selections were made around Memorial Day instead of the Fourth of July, Kansas City's Alex Gordon would probably have been a shoo-in to make the All-Star team for the first time.
The two-time Gold Glove winner as the American League's best defensive left fielder, Gordon was hitting .352 on May 22 and was still at .338 on Memorial Day. He ticked up to .340 by May 29.
But a difficult June — Gordon hit .188 for the month — could mean the former Nebraska All-American from Lincoln Southeast will be heading home for the All-Star break instead of to Citi Field in New York. Fan voting for starting positions ended Thursday, and the All-Star teams will be announced Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
Another vote, for the final player on each team, runs from Saturday through July 11.
Despite terrific back-to-back seasons and his hot start this year, Gordon didn't generate much buzz nationally in fan voting. With three outfield spots to be voted upon, Gordon ranked 11th in the most recently released voting totals.
So that means American League manager Jim Leyland would have to choose Gordon as an All-Star reserve.
That's also where things get tricky. Filling out an All-Star roster is a juggling act. Plenty of worthy players don't make it. A few who probably shouldn't, do.
Three significant factors come into play.
One, all 15 teams in each league get at least one representative on the initial 33-player roster. Two, for the past decade, the winning team in the All-Star Game earns home-field advantage for its league representative in the World Series.
And three, the second fan vote among five finalists determines the 34th and final spot on the roster.
Despite his June swoon, Gordon's numbers are strong enough to be Kansas City's representative if, as usual, the Royals land only one All-Star spot.
But Gordon is one of six Royals in contention for recognition.
Through Wednesday, Gordon was hitting .292, shared the team lead with eight homers and 46 RBIs, and led Kansas City in hits (93), runs (45) and slugging percentage (.426).
But Billy Butler, the Royals' 2012 All-Star, is putting together another fine season at .279, with six homers, 46 RBIs, and team bests of 17 doubles and a .384 on-base percentage.
Salvador Perez, at 23, is establishing himself as one of the game's best defensive catchers while continuing his surprising offensive success: a .307 average, 35 RBIs and 15 doubles.
Closer Greg Holland has done the unthinkable — Royals fans barely miss Joakim Soria, the long-time closer who went down with an injury two years ago and is no longer in the organization. Holland has compiled a 1.97 ERA this season while converting 18 of 20 save opportunities and striking out 15.1 batters per nine innings.
And two starting pitchers acquired in Kansas City's blockbuster offseason — Ervin Santana and James Shields — have been victimized by spotty run support from the Kansas City offense. Despite their lack of wins (Santana is 5-5, Shields 3-6), they have posted ERAs of 2.84 and 3.32, respectively, well above the league average.
At this stage, it becomes a matter of filling out a roster with the most competitive team possible with an eye on home-field advantage in the World Series.
So Leyland, the Tigers' manager, has a chance to help Detroit if it can make a return trip to the World Series by winning the All-Star Game.
Because of that, middle relievers, particularly left-handed specialists, have much more realistic access to the All-Star Game than previously, as managers visualize potential late-game matchups.
Cases in point: Oakland's Ryan Cook, though a closer at the time, was an All-Star last year. Washington's Tyler Clippard and Kansas City's Aaron Crow were selected in 2011. Pittsburgh's Evan Meek — who since has spent more time in the minors than the majors — made it in 2010.
Crow's selection, while somewhat understandable, also kept Gordon from what was to this point his best chance at an All-Star selection.
After Gordon's well-chronicled four-year struggle to establish himself as a major leaguer — from national player of the year, first-round draft pick, minor league player of the year and expected franchise savior to a couple of average seasons, an injury-plagued 1½ seasons, a demotion to Class AAA Omaha and a position switch from third base — Gordon broke through in 2011.
He was hitting .296 with 10 homers, 46 RBIs, 24 doubles and 13 outfield assists when the teams were announced. But Crow, a rookie setup man, got the nod.
Gordon gained a second chance as one of five finalists in fan voting for the 34th and final spot, but he placed third behind Paul Konerko of the Chicago White Sox and Victor Martinez of Detroit.
Gordon started slow last year and didn't really make a push for all-star consideration. He was hitting .237 at the end of May and was in the .270s when the team was announced.
So Gordon is still seeking his first All-Star selection.
One thing in his favor, though, is another recent trend. Managers, if all things are equal when looking for a tiebreaker among worthy candidates, have leaned toward taking a player who would be a first-time All-Star.
Gordon qualifies there.