Cards duo looks to lead NL into St. Louis
Pujols, Molina in line to start as voting reaches final week
It's almost time to uncross your fingers, St. Louis.
The dream of having Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols and catcher Yadier Molina start for the National League in this year's All-Star Game at Busch Stadium next month is no longer just a fantasy.
It's becoming a reality.
Thanks to the votes of the fans, Pujols and Molina are on the verge of suiting up in St. Louis' biggest baseball bash since the Cardinals won the 2006 World Series. The baseball stars are aligning, and while balloting for the July 14 All-Star Game concludes this week, it's not too late to let your click be heard online.
In-stadium voting has ended, but fans can still vote online for starters up to 25 times with the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites until Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Pujols has been leading at his position since voting began. Last week, the slugger led his closest competitor, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, by a whopping 1.5 million votes. This week, Pujols leads Howard by nearly two million votes.
The Cardinals star leads all National League players in votes with a little more than 3.6 million votes, about 98,000 votes ahead of popular Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. Utley won the National League votes title last year, finishing second to Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez in overall votes.
But Pujols' votes might not even be his most impressive statistic. As of June 29, the two-time NL Most Valuable Player led the Major Leagues with 28 home runs, 74 RBIs, 59 runs scored and in slugging percentage with a .722 mark in 259 at-bats.
For Molina's part, the 2008 Gold Glove winner has provided fans with plenty of reasons to vote for him. Known for his defense, the Puerto Rican star has developed into a fine all-around hitter and has gained a reputation as one of the toughest batters to strike out in all of baseball. Molina (1,846,629) currently leads Atlanta's Brian McCann (1,458,909) and Houston's Ivan Rodriguez (1,236,476) for the top spot.
Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez continues on his quest to become the first Marlins player to start in back-to-back All-Star Games. For the second consecutive week, he leads Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins by a little more than 254,000 votes for the top spot at the position.
If balloting ended today, the Cardinals' faithful would be ecstatic. The same goes for Mets and Phillies fans. New York third baseman David Wright and outfielder Carlos Beltran would have enough votes to qualify for the All-Star Game. Utley leads at his position and Phillies outfielder Raul Ibanez leads all NL outfielders with 2,970,139 million votes. Milwaukee's Ryan Braun trails Ibanez with 2,654,061 votes.
Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers' suspended slugger who is eligible to return on July 3, dropped from sixth to seventh in voting, behind Chicago's Alfonso Soriano, Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino and Milwaukee's Mike Cameron.
Here's a position-by-position look at how things are shaping up in the NL:
Pujols continues to dominate the votes at first base with a commanding lead over Howard. Behind Howard, Milwaukee's Prince Fielder, San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez and Houston's Lance Berkman round out the top five.
Utley leads Dodgers second baseman Orlando Hudson by more than 2.2 million votes. The standings remain unchanged: the Brewers' Rickie Weeks is third, followed by the Cardinals' Skip Schumaker and the Marlins' Dan Uggla.
Wright leads at third base, but Atlanta veteran Chipper Jones has moved past Washington's Ryan Zimmerman for the second spot. Philadelphia's Pedro Feliz and Milwaukee's Bill Hall remain in the fourth and fifth spots, respectively.
The battle for shortstop between Ramirez and Rollins could come down to the wire. Rollins didn't help his case with his recent offensive woes and subsequent benching. Milwaukee's J.J. Hardy, Houston's Miguel Tejada and New York's Jose Reyes complete the top five.
Milwaukee's Jason Kendall and Philadelphia's Carlos Ruiz continue to rank behind Molina, McCann and Rodriguez among catchers.
In the outfield, Cardinals star Rick Ankiel and Philadelphia's Jayson Werth are eighth and ninth. Cardinals outfielder Ryan Ludwick is 11th.
Starting rosters will be announced during the 2009 All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Pepsi 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.
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.