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The final countdown
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06/29/2004  3:20 AM ET
The final countdown
Wednesday is your last chance to cast your ASG vote
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Paul Konerko has put up All-Star caliber numbers this year. (Jeff Roberson/AP)
This is definitely one of those situations where you can leave the best for last.

It's down to the 25th ballot.

The ballot-building project being undertaken in this space for the 10 weeks since All-Star Game voting ballots first began is about to wrap up. Online voting on MLB.com is ticking down to its final hours, so you have until midnight Wednesday to finish up your own 25-ballot project.

One fan, 25 votes -- it's the American way, and then some.

In the case of this 25th and final ballot for this project, it's down to one vote for the player who deserves the spot, period. But, remember, this is a subjective thing, and this is just one voter's opinion. It's not all stats and it's not all about this year from this set of lights, and at this point there has to be some thought to giving the people what they want, based on the latest voting totals.

Along the way, there have been some inadvertent snubs -- Cincy's Barry Larkin, San Diego's Brian Giles and Boston's David Ortiz are among those who went without a cyberchad on these ballots, undeservedly so. But no set of ballots is perfect, or right or wrong for that matter.

OK, enough with the voter's regret and overanalysis. Let's click this last set of cyberchads, shall we?

(Note: v - voting leader)

NATIONAL LEAGUE

First base: Albert Pujols, Cardinals -- This ballot has been Albert-centric from the beginning, while trying to give proper respect to Cincy's Sean Casey and Philly's Jim Thome -- both of whom are putting up monster seasons. But all things considered, it's Pujols who gets the nod in one of the toughest calls on the docket.
Final overall total (25 ballots): v-A. Pujols, Cardinals 9; S. Casey, Reds 4; J. Thome, Phillies 4; J. Bagwell, Astros 2; T. Helton, Rockies 2; L. Overbay, Brewers 2; S. Green, Dodgers; P. Nevin, Padres.

Second base: Jeff Kent, Astros -- The voters are overwhelmingly behind Kent, and he's the right choice. But Mark Loretta has been putting up an All-Star first half and deserves to get a reserve spot.
Final overall total (25 ballots): v-J. Kent, Astros 11; M. Loretta, Padres 8; M. Giles, Braves 2; T. Walker, Cubs 2; D. Jiminez, Reds; T. Womack, Cardinals.

Shortstop: Edgar Renteria, Cardinals -- This is what you might call a split vote. Renteria gets the nod for the starting spot, mainly because he's locked in a tight voting tussle with Houston's Adam Everett. Given the choice between the two, it's Renteria. But neither one is the best candidate even in his own division -- and that's why the Pirates' Jack Wilson maintains the most cyberchads in the position on this set of ballots.
Final overall total (25 ballots): J. Wilson, Pirates 8; v-E. Renteria, Cardinals 6; K. Matsui, Mets 4; R. Clayton, Rockies 2; A. Everett, Astros; R. Furcal, Braves; K. Greene, Padres; C. Izturis, Dodgers; Jimmy Rollins, Phillies.

Third base: Scott Rolen, Cardinals -- Could have called Rolen before the season started, easy. But it would have been hard to imagine that the others who earned cyberchads on this set of ballots would be so close to his level of performance. This is the deepest position around, but Rolen's the one guy you really want on the field above the others.
Final overall total (25 ballots): v-S. Rolen, Cardinals 11; A. Beltre, Dodgers 3; V. Castilla, Rockies 3; M. Lowell, Marlins 3; A. Ramirez, Cubs 3; D. Bell, Phillies; S. Burroughs, Padres.

Catcher: Mike Piazza, Mets -- Considering he hasn't played catcher the last month or so, it's a curious pick. But just the thought of a possible battery of Roger Clemens and Piazza is too delicious to pass up. Plus, the guy's an offensive force and did actually don the tools for 32 games.
Final overall total (25 ballots): v-M. Piazza, Mets 9, P. Lo Duca, Dodgers 6; J. Estrada, Braves 3; C. Johnson, Rockies 3; M. Barrett, Cubs 2; B. Ausmus, Astros; M. Lieberthal, Phillies.

Outfield: Barry Bonds, Giants; Ken Griffey Jr., Reds; Sammy Sosa, Cubs -- It's too tough to pass up the first 500-Homer Club outfield in All-Star Game history, even though Sosa was hurt too long to deserve it solely on the merits of his first-half performance. That said, he's still a star among stars. A populist choice like this makes one wish for caveats, such as: Sosa's cool to start as long as his teammate Moises Alou and the entire Astros outfield -- Lance Berkman, Craig Biggio and newcomer Carlos Beltran -- make it as reserves. And even that makes it look like more than a few good men will be left out in the NL outfield.
Final overall total (25 ballots): v-B. Bonds, Giants 13; M. Alou, Cubs 8; v-K. Griffey Jr., Reds 8; M. Cabrera, Marlins 7; L. Berkman, Astros 5; v-S. Sosa, Cubs 6; C. Wilson, Pirates 4; C. Biggio, Astros 3; S. Finley, Diamondbacks 3; B. Abreu, Phillies 2; A. Dunn, Reds 2; J. Edmonds, Cardinals 2; L. Gonzalez, Diamondbacks 2; R. Hidalgo, Astros/Mets 2; A. Jones, Braves 2; D. Bautista, Diamondbacks; J. Burnitz, Rockies; P. Burrell, Phillies; M. Grissom, Giants; J. Pierre, Marlins; S. Podsednik, Brewers.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

First base: Paul Konerko, White Sox -- OK, time to go out on a limb. Granted, a write-in doesn't exactly fit in with the rest of this ballot. But Konerko is playing first base every day for a contending team. The Yankees' Jason Giambi, the voting leader and shoo-in to get the nod, is at designated hitter half the time, and Konerko's Chisox teammate Frank Thomas, currently second in the voting, has all of four appearances at first. Konerko's been an All-Star before, and he's been crushing the ball most of the year. Hey, it's not even close in the real voting and Giambi still gets the most cyberchads from here -- so why not?
Final overall total (25 ballots): v-J. Giambi, Yankees 6; P. Konerko, White Sox 5; C. Delgado, Blue Jays 3; M. Sweeney, Royals 3; K. Harvey, Royals 2; T. Martinez, Devil Rays 2; S. Hatteberg, Athletics; D. Mientkiewicz, Twins; R. Palmeiro, Orioles; Carlos Pena, Tigers.

Second base: Alfonso Soriano, Rangers -- Pegged this one a mile away. It was Soriano, wire to wire. It took some outrageous numbers by Juan Uribe in Chicago and Mark Bellhorn in Boston to even divert attention away from the Rangers' prized acquisition in the A-Rod deal.
Final overall total (25 ballots): v-A. Soriano, Rangers 11; M. Bellhorn, Red Sox 3; J. Uribe, White Sox 3; R. Belliard, Indians 2; B. Boone, Mariners 2; O. Hudson, Blue Jays; A. Kennedy, Angels; B. Roberts, Orioles; M. Scutaro, Athletics.

Shortstop: Miguel Tejada, Orioles -- It was a tough call, but in this case, being the most dynamic player of the moment isn't enough. Young has a 200-hit season behind him and another one brewing -- with plenty of pop as well -- but Tejada's been playing his way into elite status at this spot for years now and is performing as advertised this year. For every thought that Young has been too good and too influential in the Rangers' success not to get this last nod, there's another thought that it should be Miggy's turn to start this year. That said, neither of them will get the start because Derek Jeter is well on his way.
Final overall total (25 ballots): M. Tejada, Orioles 8; M. Young, Rangers 7; C. Guillen, Tigers 4; v-D. Jeter, Yankees 2; D. Eckstein, Angels; J. Lugo, Devil Rays; N. Garciaparra, Red Sox; O. Vizquel, Indians.

Third base: Hank Blalock, Rangers -- Listen, Alex Rodriguez is the best all-around player in the game right now, so consider that the starting point in this discussion. He's done remarkably well at his new position, too. But, doggone it, you've got to recognize that Blalock is doing everything you could ask for from a third baseman, and more importantly, a player that a team builds around. The point is moot, based on the crevasse between their respective voting totals, but as a karmic shout-out for the Rangers doing what they're doing and to honor the poster boy for the organization, the choice here is Blalock.
Final overall total (25 ballots): H. Blalock, Rangers 8; v-A. Rodriguez, Yankees 7; Melvin Mora, Orioles 5; T. Glaus, Angels 2; E. Chavez, Athletics; C. Blake, Indians; A. Huff, Devil Rays.

Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez, Tigers -- Another great position full of outstanding candidates, and yet another decision that didn't take too long to make. Pudge is at the center of a remarkable resurgence in Detroit and has been the class of the position in the AL -- except for last year's dash to the NL -- for more than a decade.
Final overall total (25 ballots): v-I. Rodriguez, Tigers 9; J. Posada, Yankees 5; J. Varitek, Red Sox 4; J. Lopez, Orioles 3; V. Martinez, Indians 3; D. Miller, Athletics.

Outfield: Vladimir Guerrero, Angels; Manny Ramirez, Red Sox; Gary Sheffield, Yankees -- Well, the Royals took care of the Carlos Beltran bandwagon in the American League, didn't they? Meanwhile, Guerrero and Ramirez have been nothing short of superb, as expected, and make for a fearsome twosome in the middle of the AL lineup. As for the third spot, if it's getting down to Sheffield or teammate Hideki Matsui, their numbers are so close that the tiebreaker's going to Sheffield based on his status as an All-Star fixture, and a worthy one at that. No offense to Matsui, who'll no doubt get a reserve bid.
Final overall total (25 ballots): v-M. Ramirez, Red Sox 14; v-V. Guerrero, Angels 13; C. Beltran, Royals 12; v-G. Sheffield, Yankees 5; J. Dye, Athletics 4; J. Damon, Red Sox 3; J. Guillen, Angels 3; I. Suzuki, Mariners 3; M. Lawton, Indians 3; L. Ford, Twins 2; H. Matsui, Yankees 2; M. Ordonez, White Sox 2; V. Wells, Blue Jays 2; G. Anderson, Angels; E. Byrnes, Athletics; C. Figgins, Angels; J. Gerut, Indians; R. Ibanez, Mariners; J. Jones, Twins; R. White, Tigers.

Whew. There. Twenty-five ballots. All finished.

How are yours turning out? Make sure you get in your full allotment of cyberchads before the deadline, and feel free to share your 25-ballot project by e-mailing using the link below.

And never forget the very core concept of All-Star Game voting:

Power to the people.

John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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