Stars battling for votes, bragging rights
A-Rod, Jeter vie for top total; catcher, outfielder races tighten
Three days to go ... the clock is ticking ... the vote totals, and the pressures, are mounting.The composition of the American League starting lineup for the 79th All-Star Game -- on July 15 in Yankee Stadium -- is coming into focus. Not quite yet etched in stone, but at least a discernible silhouette, as traced by Sunday's final in-progress update of voting totals.
Terrific races remain. However, the best of these aren't for positions but for bragging rights -- which seems entirely fitting for a Midsummer Classic that historically has been less about substance than about image.Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and shortstop-slash-Captain Derek Jeter -- who apparently have had some popularity issues in the past -- are having the equivalent of a celebrity grudge match. The AL's top two vote-getters are, amazingly, a scant total of 10,533 votes apart for the honor of being the league's No. 1. A week with 578,000 votes pumped Rodriguez's total to 2,518,067, jumping him ahead of Jeter (2,507,534). Based on their volume of votes, that differential computes to a separation of 0.4 percent between the teammates. (Both, it must be noted, are chasing another infielder for the honor of being All-Star balloting's overall No. 1: Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley held that lead last week -- NL voting results will be announced Monday.) The next-closest race on the bill likewise isn't over a position: Boston's Manny Ramirez remained No. 1 among outfielders but, with the top three landing starting spots, his lead over runner-up Josh Hamilton of Texas shrunk to 82,000 votes. In the tightest race with a position actually at stake, Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer maintained a steady lead of 145,000 votes over Jason Varitek of the Red Sox. For the first time since weekly updates began on May 27, there was absolutely no change on the top-five leaderboards for six of the positions on the ballot, and only minimal change in the top 15 among outfielders. None of which precludes a topsy-turvy climax in the virtual online voting booth. Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times with the Monster 2008 All-Star Game Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites until Wednesday, July 2, at 11:59 p.m. ET. Starting rosters will be announced during the 2008 All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Chevrolet on TBS on Sunday, July 6. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the Monster 2008 All-Star Final Vote at MLB.com. And the voting still won't end there. Fans will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet at the All-Star Game via the Monster 2008 All-Star Game MVP vote at MLB.com. Three other members of the AL East-leading Red Sox retained edges they have held since balloting began: At first base, Kevin Youkilis remained more than 270,000 votes up on Justin Morneau of the Twins. At second base, Dustin Pedroia, whose grip appeared to be slipping a week ago, reversed course to gain 8,000 votes on Texas' Ian Kinsler, stretching his lead to 184,000 votes. At DH, David Ortiz -- even while his own prognosis put his swing weeks away from returning from a left wrist injury -- picked up a half-million votes to jet 915,000 ahead of the Yankees' Hideki Matsui (also, alas, on the disabled list). With a total of 2,482,981 votes, of course Big Papi is also in the heat of the free-for-all for the overall No. 1 in fans' hearts and on their ballots. The New York duo's upper-crust showdown for that honor implies correctly that they are lapping their positional competition. At short, Jeter has pulled more than one million votes ahead of runner-up Michael Young of the Rangers. At third, Rodriguez's edge over Boston's Mike Lowell is even wider (1,204,977). Although running a distant third to Ramirez and Hamilton, Ichiro Suzuki (1,397,460) stretched out to a 210,000-vote lead over Vladimir Guerrero of the Angels for the final spot in the starting outfield. A fascinating scramble brews among outfielders beneath the surface of the three leaders: From No. 4 (Guerrero, 1,187,273) through No. 8 (Texas' Milton Bradley, 1,058,985), five outfielders are bunched within 130,000 votes of each other. Boston outfielder J.D. Drew had the most upwardly mobile week of anyone in the league, his hot bat attracting 360,000 votes that jumped him from No. 8 to No. 6. The Midsummer Classic will be the fourth held at Yankee Stadium and the eighth in New York City. The Yankees previously hosted the All-Star Game in 1939, 1960 and 1977; the Polo Grounds held the game in 1934 and 1942; Ebbets Field was the site in 1949; and Shea Stadium hosted the 1964 tilt. The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game, being held at Yankee Stadium in its final season, will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD, and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.