Wright among Mets' NL vote leaders
Soriano gaining momentum in battle for final outfield spot
David Wright of the New York Mets took over the lead at third base and Alfonso Soriano of the Nationals is threatening to crack the starting outfield in the latest National League vote totals for the 77th All-Star Game released on Monday by Major League Baseball.
Wright is one of three Mets atop the balloting, along with catcher Paul Lo Duca and center fielder Carlos Beltran, whose lead over Soriano for the third spot in the NL starting outfield is fewer than 1,000 votes.
First baseman Albert Pujols' stint on the disabled list hasn't hurt the Cardinals slugger at the polls, as he still leads Carlos Delgado of the Mets by approximately 1 million votes. Pujols has garnered 1,442,273 votes, the most in either league. His teammate David Eckstein held onto the lead at shortstop.
The three other leaders are Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley, Atlanta center fielder Andruw Jones and center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. of the Cincinnati Reds.
Jones leads the outfield balloting with a roughly 52,000-vote lead over Griffey, while the Reds star erased Beltran's 20,000-vote margin of last week and now leads Beltran by about 25,000 votes.
Griffey, bidding for a 13th All-Star appearance, has won more Midsummer Classic elections than any player except Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. (17) and Rod Carew (15).
Wright, whose .336 batting average ranks eighth-best in the Major Leagues, overtook Scott Rolen of St. Louis and now leads the Cardinals slugger by approximately 50,000 votes with 17 days remaining in the campaign.
Rolen, who is hitting .337 with seven homers and 39 RBIs, has won the NL third base fan balloting each of the last four seasons, but he did not start last year's game at Detroit due to injury.
No Mets third baseman has ever won the fan balloting, though Howard Johnson did start the 1989 Midsummer Classic when Mike Schmidt of Philadelphia could not play because of injury. Johnson was the last Mets third baseman to make the All-Star team (1991). Two third basemen (Rolen and Chipper Jones of Atlanta) have accounted for seven of the last eight winners at the NL's hot corner.
If Soriano catches Beltran for the final spot in the outfield and Jose Reyes of the Mets overtakes Eckstein -- he trails the St. Louis shortstop by approximately 50,000 votes -- the NL would have different starters at all eight positions this year. Pujols started the 76th All-Star Game at Comerica Park last season, but at designated hitter instead of first base, which was manned by Derrek Lee of the Chicago Cubs.
Soriano, whose 23 homers are second most in the Majors behind Pujols, is not the only outfielder on the rise. Pittsburgh's Jason Bay, who moved past nine other outfielders into ninth place last week, climbed all the way to sixth and is fewer than 19,000 votes behind Jim Edmonds of St. Louis, though Bay is some 180,000 votes behind Soriano.
Utley widened his lead over Craig Biggio of Houston to more than 150,000 votes. Biggio is trailed by Jose Castillo of the Pirates and Marcus Giles of the Braves, respectively.
Utley's teammate, Ryan Howard, moved into third place in the first base balloting behind Pujols and Delgado and ahead of Nomar Garciaparra of the Dodgers and Lance Berkman of the Astros.
Reyes moved past Edgar Renteria of the Braves into second place behind Eckstein at shortstop. Barely 6,000 votes separate Reyes and Renteria, with Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies very much in the picture in fourth place.
In addition to Wright moving past Rolen, the third base race also saw Florida's Miguel Cabrera, the NL's leading hitter (.339) continue his steady climb, as he passed Chipper Jones for fourth place behind Wright, Rolen and Houston's Morgan Ensberg.
Lo Duca leads former Mets catcher and current San Diego Padres backstop Mike Piazza by more than 100,000 votes. Piazza is followed by Yadier Molina of the Cardinals, Brad Ausmus of the Astros and Brian McCann of the Braves.
Fans can cast votes up to 25 times with the Monster.com 2006 All-Star Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites. Online balloting ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on June 29.
Rosters for the 77th All-Star Game, to be played on July 11 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, will be released at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 2. The announcement will reveal the 16 elected starters, as determined by fan balloting, and 45 pitchers and reserves, as determined by the player ballot, the two All-Star team managers -- Ozzie Guillen of the World Series champion Chicago White Sox and Phil Garner of the NL champion Houston Astros -- and Major League Baseball.
Fans will once again have the opportunity to select the final position player for each league's 32-man roster at MLB.com. The Final Vote will provide fans the opportunity to cast their votes from a list of five players from each league over a three-day period. Fans added Roy Oswalt (NL) and Scott Podsednik (AL) to the rosters with the Final Vote last summer.
For the fourth consecutive year, the league that wins the All-Star Game will receive home-field advantage during the World Series. The AL has won back-to-back-to-back Midsummer Classics since that provision was added prior to the 2003 World Series, and eight straight overall.
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.