07/04/2004 7:45 PM ET
Matsui's All-Star fate left to fans
Left fielder one of five hopefuls in Final Vote
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
|Hideki Matsui was leading AL Final Vote balloting as of Tuesday. (Osamu Honda/AP)
NEW YORK -- Hideki Matsui was not named to the American League All-Star team on Sunday, but the left fielder still has an opportunity to represent the Yankees in Houston on July 13, as he is one of five candidates for the Ameriquest 2004 All-Star Final Vote.
Matsui, who started for the AL All-Star team in his rookie season of 2003, will battle Paul Konerko and Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox, Lew Ford of the Minnesota Twins and Travis Hafner of the Cleveland Indians for the final spot on the AL's 32-man roster.
"If I'm chosen, I'd be honored to be a part of the All-Star team," Matsui said. "I don't think everybody in Japan will vote for me, but a certain number of them probably will."
Matsui was among the leading vote-getters in the outfield, losing his starting spot to Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki in the final week.
The Japanese import has had a solid sophomore campaign, hitting 15 home runs in the Yankees' first 78 games -- just one shy of matching his entire season total from 2003. Matsui is on pace to hit 31 home runs and drive in 106, which would match his RBI total from last year. He is also on pace to score 112 runs, which would be a dramatic improvement from his total of 82 in 2003.
"I thought he'd hit 25. I hope I'm wrong on the low side," said manager Joe Torre. "It takes a little time to get to know pitchers, and I think you can commit a little more once you know them. He's still a force to me. We know he can handle the tough situations."
2004 Final Vote
American League winner:
Hideki Matsui, Yankees
(in order of finish):
Frank Thomas, White Sox
Paul Konerko, White Sox
Lew Ford, Twins
Travis Hafner, Indians
National League winner:
Bobby Abreu, Phillies
(in order of finish):
Aramis Ramirez, Cubs
Steve Finley, D-Backs
Jason Kendall, Pirates
Juan Pierre, Marlins
Matsui, who helped carry the Yankees in May while Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams struggled, batted .351 with six homers and 20 RBIs, helping New York to an 18-8 record. Torre believes that Matsui's knowledge of pitchers this season has been the biggest difference.
"He seems so much more comfortable," Torre said. "When he goes up to the plate, there isn't as much mystery on his part, thinking, 'Who is this guy and what is he doing to me?'"
Now in its third year, the Ameriquest 2004 All-Star Final Vote gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final position player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Sunday night's Major League All-Star Selection Show and continues until 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday. The winners will be announced at 9 p.m. ET exclusively on MLB.com and will then be added to the AL and NL All-Star Game rosters.
The fun doesn't end there, however. Fans, having already decided the starters and 32nd man, will have yet another opportunity to make themselves heard with the return of the Ameriquest All-Star Game MVP Vote. Beginning in the sixth inning of the All-Star Game on Tuesday, July 13, fans can cast their vote for the player they believe deserves to win the Ted Williams Award for being the game's Most Valuable Player. The fan vote counts for 20 percent of the decision on which player wins the award, with the media accounting for the other 80 percent.
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.