Pujols, Utley vie for NL top vote-getter
All-Star balloting will go down to the wire for worthy pair
This much we know: the top vote-getter for the National League for next month's Midsummer Classic in St. Louis wears a shade of red.
We know he plays on the right side of the infield, he's a World Series champion and has a legion of fans across the country. He is regarded as one of the best players to ever suit up in his franchise's history and is arguably one of the best players to ever play at his position.
He will either be Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols or Phillies second baseman Chase Utley.
Fans, now is your chance to pick the winner of winners. Which player will get the most votes in the NL for the 2009 All-Star Game? How do you choose between two of the most talented players in the game?
It's a tough call.
Pujols currently leads Utley by 11,998 votes. Propelled by the legion of hometown voters that want to see him headline the game at Busch Stadium on July 14, he is ahead of Utley's teammate Ryan Howard at first base by a whopping 1,541,248 votes. For his part, Utley leads Dodgers infielder Orlando Hudson, his nearest competitor at second base, by 1,840,548 votes.
Pujols' votes show how popular he is. His statistics show why he is regarded as one of the best players in the game. Entering Monday, the two-time NL Most Valuable Player leads the Major Leagues with 28 home runs, 74 RBIs, 59 runs scored and in slugging percentage with a .722 mark in 259 at-bats.
He's also fun to watch.
The 2006 World Series champion called his shot earlier this month in a game against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium and proceeded to follow through with a 423-foot blast off the Royals Hall of Fame above the left-field bullpen. He's a seven-time All-Star and an NL batting champion.
Like Pujols, popularity has never been a problem for Utley so it's no surprise the second baseman is on his way to his fourth consecutive start in an All-Star Game. Last season, Utley led the NL in All-Star votes with an impressive tally of 3,889,602, which was second only to Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
But make no mistake, he's popular because he can play. Entering Monday, Utley is hitting .302 with 16 home runs and 51 RBIs, and hasn't slowed down since leading the Phillies to a 2009 World Series championship.
Utley ranks third in the National League in runs with 52, sixth in walks with 47 and 11th in slugging percentage at .547.
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 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.