Votebook: Quentin leads list of write-ins
Many deserving players not found on this year's All-Star ballot
The point is often made that a baseball season is improvisation at its best, that it cannot be scripted.Apparently, the same goes for baseball All-Star ballots. This spring, as always, the folks responsible for ensuring the proper representation of every starting player on millions of paper and cyber ballots for the July 15 spectacular in Yankee Stadium carefully canvassed each Major League team, and, as always, the inconsiderate guys in uniform go and muddle those well-laid plans. We're not referring to minor scrambles, like Detroit manager Jim Leyland flip-flopping his corner infielders two weeks into the season. Miguel Cabrera's and Carlos Guillen's names at least appear on the ballot, whichever bases they're playing. But how about Carlos Quentin, cast as a bench player for the White Sox, who has the nerve to lead the American League in home runs and rank second in RBIs?
The former Arizona No. 1 Draft choice, boosted by a strong Spring Training, has been Chicago's starting left fielder from day one. But the White Sox outfielder still keeping ballot company with Jermaine Dye and Nick Swisher is Jerry Owens -- who has been in Triple-A Charlotte all season.Or, Evan Longoria, the young hotshot at the hot corner for the hot Tampa Bay Rays -- whose listed third baseman is Willy Aybar? Or Jacoby Ellsbury? Deemed baseball's next "Natural," the multitalented outfielder naturally is preempted on the ballot by Coco Crisp -- a case of the traditional ballot choice of experience before potential. Or Skip Schumaker, who has become the Cardinals' valuable leadoff hitter while starting all over the outfield -- in spots reserved on the All-Star ballot for Rick Ankiel, Ryan Ludwick and Chris Duncan? Or Matt Kemp, arguably the Dodgers' top young talent and factually their top offensive producer? Two center fielders -- Juan Pierre and the injured Andruw Jones -- shoehorned onto the ballot along with Andre Ethier, leaving no room for the guy with the best across-the-board numbers (.312-3-28 through Wednesday) on the team. Heard enough? There's more: David Murphy is the Rangers' runner-up in RBIs after emerging as their starting right fielder -- which was supposed to be Milton Bradley, who instead has been the everyday DH, but retains his ballot outfield niche along with Josh Hamilton and Marlon Byrd, who missed half of the young season with a left-knee injury. Ryan Doumit went down with a broken left thumb a couple of weeks ago, but that doesn't lessen his claim to the Pirates' listing at catcher, which instead belongs to Ronny Paulino, who even now is batting 146 points lower in the same number of at-bats. Clearly, good-intentioned baseball fans have a lot of homework to do, and either a lot of pencils to sharpen or computer keys to click. Oh, yes. The ballot blank for write-in votes. It is not a cure-all. Fans are vexed by the limitation of one write-in vote per league per online ballot, forcing them to ration the total of 25 ballots they are allowed. The one-ballot, one-vote rule also applies to listed players, of course. But the restriction is different for write-ins, if fans choose to divide their votes among so many worthy candidates. Yet the Chicago write-in campaign for Quentin is already at full steam, more brushfire than grassroots. And write-ins have had an impact on past Midsummer Classics. Only two players have ever been elected as write-in starters, none in 34 years since Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey in 1974; Atlanta outfielder Rico Carty had also been a write-in choice in 1970. However, even much more recently, unlisted players have garnered significant, deserved support. In 2006, on his way to the NL batting title, erstwhile Pittsburgh utilityman Freddy Sanchez drew 856,685 write-in votes at third base. Interestingly, the notoriety of being omitted from that year's ballot ironically became Sanchez's biggest ally -- the ensuing year, when he was listed, he attracted fewer votes, even as he was authoring another impressive season (.304, with as many RBIs and twice as many homers). Last year, an outfielder in each league received notable write-in support: Detroit's Curtis Granderson led all players with 376,033 and Hamilton, then Cincinnati's feel-good story of the season, led NL players with 141,245 write-ins. No one is as deserving this time around as Quentin, obviously. If you want to go head-to-head with the traditional vote-leading left fielder, his numbers (.296, 14 homers, 47 RBIs) are better across the board than those of Boston's Manny Ramirez (.292, 9, 34). Quentin, who fell out of favor with the Diamondbacks following his sparkling 2006 debut (four homers in his first seven games), seems more concerned with continuing his career revival than its possible All-Star spoils. "I'm worried more about quality at-bats and doing what I can to help the team win," he said recently. "Simple thoughts that allow me to have success in this game." Yet, Quentin's recent streak of heroism -- seven RBIs in the AL Central-leading White Sox's last three wins through Wednesday -- only amplified manager Ozzie Guillen's desire to see justice. "He should be in the All-Star Game. You don't know how they're going to pick," said Guillen, alluding to AL manager Terry Francona's ultimate choices to round out the roster. "But Carlos is the best player we have right now." Quentin's first-things-first attitude is typical of the breakthrough players whose ballot omission is becoming glaring. Asked about resenting his absence, Schumaker grew wide-eyed and said, "Me? No. No, man, I'm just trying to put some good at-bats together ... That's the last thing I look forward to." As a rookie, a late-arriving one at that, Longoria defers being heard to being seen. But the blue-chipper has certainly been giving people plenty to look at, with seven homers and 28 RBIs since replacing Aybar, who got into only seven games before being ousted by a sore left hamstring. Willy to Wally? As in Wally Pipp, who couldn't play because of a headache on June 2, 1925 and was replaced in the Yankees lineup by Lou Gehrig. They didn't have All-Star ballots then, of course. But if they did, Pipp would have been on it. So, in all those years, nothing has changed: All-Star propriety can still be a headache.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.