Fans hold power in final All-Star push
Will Manny and Barry be starting in the Midsummer Classic?
Consider these possible starting lineups for the 78th All-Star Game on July 10 at AT&T Park in San Francisco:
First base: Justin Morneau, Twins
Second base: Robinson Cano, Yankees
Shortstop: Carlos Guillen, Tigers
Third base: Mike Lowell, Red Sox
Catcher: Jorge Posada, Yankees
Outfield: Manny Ramirez, Red Sox
Outfield: Torii Hunter, Twins
Outfield: Gary Sheffield, Tigers
First base: Albert Pujols, Cardinals
Second base: Jeff Kent, Dodgers
Shortstop: J.J. Hardy, Brewers
Third base: Miguel Cabrera, Marlins
Catcher: Paul Lo Duca, Mets
Outfield: Barry Bonds, Giants
Outfield: Andruw Jones, Braves
Outfield: Matt Holliday, Rockies
Not too bad, huh? Most anyone would love to see those players sharing the same field for a night. The problem for each of them, of course, is that they aren't the best that Major League Baseball has to offer in 2007. They're the Next-Best All-Stars at the moment, at least according to the majority of fans who have been voting for the Midsummer Classic since late April and who now hold the power to decide whether any of those guys should be bumped up in this final week.
That is some serious power. With one click from this very page on your computer, you can have the Monster All-Star Online Ballot right in front of you, offered exclusively at MLB.com. It is the most powerful time of the year to be a baseball fan: You can vote up to 25 times until the deadline at 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday.
You saw what a difference you made in this last week by bumping Magglio Ordonez of the Tigers right past Ramirez and Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners and into the No. 2 spot in the AL outfielder standings. That leaves Manny being No. 4 Manny at the moment, but he's only 23,240 behind Ichiro for the third spot. Considering the recent history of the final days of online-only All-Star voting, a 23,240-vote difference can change in about the time you go down to get a bottle of water at the office cafeteria. In fact, just consider the fact that Ichiro had to have fallen out of the top three at least briefly while Manny slid from 2 to 4. Judging by numbers alone, it would be hard to justify Manny bumping Ichiro. But again, you are the one who will decide what ultimately is an important part of a player's legacy.
Fittingly for the Monster.com 2007 All-Star Game Online Ballot, there is plenty of precedent for a monster jump in the final order. In 2003, Pujols jumped from fourth among NL outfielders, not only bumping Sammy Sosa from the lineup but also vaulting all the way to Top Online vote-getter. Fans in that last week all looked at the data and made a huge change. Now your java application that lets you vote online makes it amazingly easy to compare the choices at every position. Just click the orange "Compare stats" link at each grouping, and you can sort by statistical category.
After the AL and NL 31-man rosters are announced at roughly 4 p.m. ET Sunday on the All-Star Game Selection Show on TBS, there will be an even more intense voting attack. That is when the Monster.com 2007 All-Star Game Final Vote will be presented, with five candidates in each league as chosen by All-Star managers Tony La Russa of the Cardinals and Jim Leyland of the Tigers. You will decide the 32nd and final roster spot for each league, just as you did last year with Nomar Garciaparra of the Dodgers and A.J. Pierzynski of the White Sox. Talk about power -- in this case, you will decide whether a Major Leaguer is an All-Star at all.
Then you will feel the power once again during the actual All-Star Game, when you can vote for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player, presented by Chevrolet, through the Monster.com 2007 All-Star Game MVP vote at MLB.com.
But for now, it's still about the starters. There are two big days, and a history of record-smashing voting performances at MLB.com in that dizzying last 24 hours. And we are still wondering what you are going to do with all of those players above who are on the outside looking in, who at this point would rely on being selected as a reserve.
To the untrained eye, it would seem kind of interesting that the city of New York has locked up the left half of both infields. But look more closely, and you can see a big difference. In the AL, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are light years ahead of the rest of the pack. Their only real race right now is for Top Overall vote-getter, with A-Rod leading his teammate, 2,542,551 to 2,127,177). Although one can make a good argument that Guillen (.324, 12 homers, 55 RBIs, .968 OPS) is a better choice at shortstop, the fact is that A-Rod and Jeter each have spectacular leads and would require a historic All-Star voting collapse.
In the NL, however, you have the Mets leading the NL East (after finishing with the Majors' best record in 2006), and yet their left side of the infield is just holding on to their leads in the balloting, at least by comparison.
David Wright, who homered last year at PNC Park in his All-Star debut, leads with 1,424,927 votes at third base. Cabrera is next-closest at 1,142,304, and a lot of people are talking about how hard it is to justify that current order of selection. Cabrera is hitting .330 with 17 homers, 54 RBIs, a .998 OPS and 13 errors (.927 fielding percentage). Wright's team is in first, but his corresponding numbers are .285, 12, 40, .858, nine (.956).
Jose Reyes, chosen by fans last year but unable to play due to injury, leads at shortstop with 1,365,011 votes. That difference of 212,674 over Hardy is fairly commanding, but in comparison to A-Rod and Jeter's leads, it's a narrow edge. Give Brewers fans credit for an impressive voting turnout in 2007, and to fans all over MLB, for seeming to recognize what has been one of the biggest stories so far this season coming out of Miller Park. But unlike Cabrera, Hardy is going to have a harder time drawing the Injustice Vote. Yes, Reyes' power is down this year (19 homers and 81 RBIs last year, 3/33 this year), but he has swiped 38 bags and is hitting .319 (.300 last year).
Bonds will be a name to watch in these final two days. Right now, the top three NL outfielders are Carlos Beltran of the Mets, Ken Griffey Jr. of the Reds and Alfonso Soriano of the Cubs. Let's be honest: It's not the best year for NL outfielders. That's one thing you realize when you keep comparing these guys. Soriano is not exactly having a career year, Jones is struggling in his contract year with Atlanta, and Holliday still has a ton of ground to make up (and he's dropped about 10 points at the plate since we wrote about his candidacy late last week). So that leaves us with The Bonds Question.
Given the current climate around the game, some might even be a little surprised to see Bonds this close to another starting nod. He has 1,213,423 votes, 119,158 behind Soriano. Bonds is in the midst of the most high-profile and hallowed record chase in any sport. During a conference call with reporters on Tuesday to discuss their upcoming appearance on Sunday as TBS analysts for the Selection Show, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. each said that Bonds belongs on the NL roster.
"I personally think he deserves a roster spot," Gwynn said. "No question he's having the best year on that (Giants) team. They're playing it in his home park. I think he deserves to be there. Obviously there's a lot of controversy around Barry Bonds, but you look at his numbers, and you look at who deserves to be the best representative from that team, and I don't think there's any question that it's him."
Neither of those 2007 Hall of Fame inductees said that means Bonds should be there July 10 as a starter. Only you can decide that fate.
Right now, all of those "offline" ballots are being dumped into the mix and tabulated under tight security. Then, that number goes into the database while the clicks keep on coming here at MLB.com. It's not a shabby "second team" that you've picked so far in each league. The question now is whether you will move any of them into the starting lineup.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.