Votebook: Thome needs fans' help
Left off ballot, slugger relying on write-ins for All-Star Game
CHICAGO -- Take a look at the American League statistical leaders, offensively, and Jim Thome's name is at the top or near the top of seemingly every category.
Home runs? Thome leads the AL with 15. RBIs? There's that Thome guy at No. 1 with 38. How about slugging percentage or average with runners in scoring position? It's Thome (.711) and Thome once again (.583).
Now, take a look at the American League All-Star ballot, in an effort to give the White Sox slugger his rightful support for a return to the Midsummer Classic in Pittsburgh, and there's a noticeable void. Thome's name is not featured on the ballot, meaning it's up to the White Sox fans and baseball fans, in general, to write in his name and get him elected to the starting lineup.
The unassuming and humble Thome certainly isn't campaigning for the honor.
"I never even noticed," said Thome of his All-Star ballot slight. "For me, as I said, it's nice to be recognized, but this is all about winning a championship."
There seem to be a few controversies every year in regard to overlooked players who are left off the ballot. But in this instance, two starters in the American League had to be squeezed into one position.
A designated hitter will not be used, with the game being played in a National League park, so either a respective AL team's first baseman or DH was listed on the ballot. For instance, the Red Sox have designated hitter David Ortiz at first base, despite the powerful slugger rarely venturing into the field. The same holds true for Cleveland's Travis Hafner.
Thome was passed over at first base for Paul Konerko, a two-time All-Star, who has every bit as much star potential as Thome and is off to an outstanding start of his own. But with Hafner on the ballot, a quality player such as first baseman Ben Broussard (.411, five home runs, 22 RBIs) is left to the fans' write-in campaign for starting support.
Usual suspects such as Oakland's Frank Thomas and Seattle's Carl Everett are not on the ballot, but neither of them deserves an All-Star bid based on early numbers. The same does not hold true for Toronto's Alex Rios (.374 average, seven home runs, 24 RBIs) or Shea Hillenbrand (.336, four home runs, 18 RBIs), neither of whom is on the ballot.
Write-in votes are not only reserved for the American League. Brandon Phillips, traded from the Indians to the Reds during the 2006 season, has a .306 average with three home runs and 25 RBIs. Milwaukee's Bill Hall and Pittsburgh's Craig Wilson top the NL players not on the ballot in home runs with seven apiece.
Getting a write-in candidate into the starting lineup is not an unprecedented move. Rico Carty earned the nod in 1970 with more than a half-million votes, while Steve Garvey started at first base in 1974 after not starting on the ballot.
Some of these ballot slights will ultimately be selected by managers or players to make the team as reserves. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who will also be running the AL squad, has already said that he plans to take as many of his own players as possible.
"If they made me pick my team, it would be the American League White Sox vs. the National League," Guillen said. "[Pablo] Ozuna would be on my team. Unfortunately, I can't pick my team."
Fans do have quite a say, though, so vote early and vote often at MLB.com. And don't overlook the write-in portion at the bottom of the ballot.
"In Chicago, what's unique is there are a lot of fans and they really care," Thome said. "Who knows what could happen?"
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.