Phillies beginning to pile up ASG votes
Ibanez joins Utley in starting slot; Manny drops one spot
When Charlie Manuel fills out his National League lineup card for the All-Star Game next month, he might have more than one familiar name to write down.And possibly a familiar name to cross out from the NL roster.
While his NL East-leading Phillies are starting to pile up some votes, ballot lightning rod Manny Ramirez continues to crackle.The suspended Dodgers outfielder is attracting even more votes than critics of his possible election, which have been growing, to be sure. While the latest results released Monday indicate Ramirez (635,530) is running fifth, he trails Alfonso Soriano (775,319) by fewer than 140,000 votes for the final starting berth. Ramirez was in fourth place last week. Even his Dodgers manager does not think the All-Star inclusion of Ramirez, suspended for 50 games on May 7 for violating baseball's drug policy, would be appropriate. "No, I don't," Joe Torre said last week, adding, "and if you ask Manny, he'd give you the same answer. "I understand a lot of it is a popularity contest and you want to give the manager the best players, but to me, the significance of the All-Star Game is to reward players who had a good first half." Weighing in, Commissioner Bud Selig said he is keeping a close eye on Ramirez's candidacy. "I'm going to think about that," Selig said. "He doesn't come back till July 3. Normally, I'm sensitive to the wishes of the fans. If the fans choose someone, I'd like to honor that. But we've been testing players for a long time, and it bothers me that someone would [cheat] at this stage in the game. I've got some time to think about this one." While second baseman Chase Utley (1,111,963) has opened up a 625,000-vote lead over the Dodgers' Orlando Hudson, newcomer Raul Ibanez has made a move into a potential starting slot in the outfield and mainstay Jimmy Rollins is gaining, moving up to second place at shortstop behind Florida's Hanley Ramirez. And if Albert Pujols weren't running away with the overall vote the way he is, Ryan Howard might be in consideration at first base -- but he's only a distant third at this point. Pujols remains the individual in sharp focus for the 80th Midsummer Classic, which will be played on his turf at Busch Stadium on July 14. He leads all vote-getters with 1,240,395, lapping both Prince Fielder of the Brewers (527,165) and Howard (524,879). After the first week, the Brewers were holding several of the No. 2 spots in voting, with outfielder Ryan Braun -- still leading his position with 908,745 votes -- the only one in position to start. The second week, after some home games to catch up, the Phillies made the noise. No one more so than Ibanez, who leaped from sixth up to a strong second (817,849) in the outfield race. Long a star offensive performer in the American League but never an All-Star, he might get his chance this year in the NL for the Phillies, who signed him as a free agent this offseason. He's certainly held up his end of the bargain, batting .332 with 17 homers and 46 RBIs and a 1.079 on-base plus slugging percentage -- third in the Majors. Getting all the way to St. Louis will take more of the same -- and more votes, of course -- but that's true for anyone. A position-by-position snapshot of the NL:
At first base, Pujols continues to dominate, followed by Fielder and Howard. At second base, Utley held on to the top spot but has a new pursuer in the Dodgers' Orlando Hudson, in second. He's followed by Milwaukee's Rickie Weeks, who was second a week earlier despite being out for the remainder of the season with an injury. At short, a tight race continues, with Ramirez (586,300) barely taking over the top spot from J.J. Hardy (500,570), who dropped to third behind Rollins (569,639). This is shaping up to be the race of the league this year, with fewer than 86,000 votes separating the trio. At third, David Wright (685,972) of the Mets continues on pace for his fourth All-Star appearance, with Ryan Zimmerman (482,059) of the Nationals passing the Brewers' Bill Hall, second last week, and Atlanta's Chipper Jones, who was fourth. Behind the plate, Yadier Molina continues to give the Cardinals a shot at a second All-Star in the field. He is followed by Milwaukee's Jason Kendall (471,557), with another veteran, 14-time All-Star Pudge Rodriguez (423,369), running third. In the outfield, Braun (908,745) continues to lead the way, but Ibanez got his bump to land in second, followed by the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano in third. The second tier of vote-getters: the Mets' Carlos Beltran, Ramirez, and another member of the Brewers -- Mike Cameron. Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times with the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites until July 2 at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Starting rosters will be announced during the 2009 All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Chevrolet on TBS on July 5. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote at MLB.com.
And the voting doesn't end there. Fans will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet at the Midsummer Classic via the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint MVP Vote at MLB.com.
The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX and around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio play-by-play, while MLB.com will offer extensive online coverage.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, The Grind. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.