07/05/08 8:25 PM ET
It's the final countdown for Final Vote '08
Fans can pick from AL, NL nominees for seventh straight ASG
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
Sixty nominees representing 28 clubs, including six players who each have appeared twice: Bobby Abreu, Travis Hafner, Roy Oswalt, Frank Thomas, Young, Billy Wagner and Brandon Webb.
Grassroots campaigning including in-stadium scoreboard displays, vote buttons, player blogging, city proclamations to honor a candidate, celebrity endorsements, full-page advertising in local newspapers, social media widgets.
Nearly 100 million votes, a milestone that is about to be reached. A record 23 million votes over last year's four-day period.
It's the Monster 2008 All-Star Game Final Vote.
One of the most popular summertime traditions in baseball will be back for a seventh year starting on Sunday at MLB.com. The Major League Baseball All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Chevrolet will air at 2 p.m. ET on TBS to reveal 62 of the 64 players selected for the 79th All-Star Game on July 15 at Yankee Stadium. The show also will announce the five nominees per league for the Monster 2008 All-Star Game Final Vote, your opportunity to determine the 32nd and final roster spots.
All-Star managers Clint Hurdle from the Rockies and Terry Francona from the Red Sox will provide those respective nominees. Voting will begin on MLB.com right after the Selection Show and will continue until 5 p.m. ET on Thursday. Results will be announced on MLB.com shortly after the balloting closes, and the first six years of this popular activity show that creative campaigning is about to begin as well.
Expect the mobile vote to keep growing in importance as part of this. It is the fourth year that capability has existed for the Final Vote, and the ever-increasing popularity of MLB.com Mobile text and video alerts demonstrate how immersed so many fans are in use of mobile technology to interact with Major League Baseball. Fans in the U.S. can simply text the word "VOTE" to 36197 and be instantly registered to receive Final Vote ballots, and fans in Canada can do the same with a text to 88555 -- but wait to text VOTE to 36197 or 88555 until the vote begins on Sunday.
"Growing up, it used to always bother me that there was no way to solve the annual debate of who the biggest All-Star snubs were," said Gregg Klayman, vice president of content development for MLB Advanced Media and creator of the Final Vote concept. "Since the All-Star Game is about who the fans want to see the most, it made sense to come up with a way for fans to be the ones to select the final player.
"Years ago, there was no good way to do this, since last-second paper balloting would have been next to impossible to pull off. Luckily, the Internet showed up one day to make things like this possible for fans to participate in."
With Roy Halladay last year becoming the first Toronto player nominated, there were only four clubs entering this year's Final Vote who never had been represented: Mariners, Rangers, Reds and Royals. The Nationals never have been represented as a Washington team, but Orlando Cabrera was a candidate in 2003 when they were known as the Montreal Expos.
All-time Final Vote Nominees
|Here is an alphabetical listing of all candidates since the 2002 inception of the Monster All-Star Game Final Vote (winners are denoted in bolded text):|
|Bobby Abreu (2004, 2006)|
|Jeremy Bonderman (2007)|
|Eric Byrnes (2003)|
|Orlando Cabrera (2003)|
|Chris Capuano (2006)|
|Luis Castillo (2003)|
|Eric Chavez (2002)|
|Carl Crawford (2005)|
|Johnny Damon (2002)|
|Darin Erstad (2002)|
|Kelvim Escobar (2007)|
|Steve Finley (2004)|
|Lew Ford (2004)|
|Nomar Garciaparra (2006)|
|Jason Giambi (2003)|
|Brian Giles (2002)|
|Tom Gorzelanny (2007)|
|Travis Hafner (2004, 2006)|
|Roy Halladay (2007)|
|Ramon Hernandez (2006)|
|Trevor Hoffman (2005)|
|Torii Hunter (2005)|
|Geoff Jenkins (2003)|
|Derek Jeter (2005)|
|Andruw Jones (2002)|
|Jason Kendall (2004)|
|Ryan Klesko (2002)|
|Paul Konerko (2004)|
|Francisco Liriano (2006)|
|Kenny Lofton (2003)|
|Hideki Matsui (2004)|
|Bengie Molina (2003)|
|Brett Myers (2005)|
|Pat Neshek (2007)|
|Hideki Okajima (2007)|
|Magglio Ordonez (2002)|
|Roy Oswalt (2005, 2007)|
|Juan Pierre (2004)|
|A.J. Pierzynski (2006)|
|Scott Podsednik (2005)|
|Albert Pujols (2002)|
|Aramis Ramirez (2004)|
|Benito Santiago (2003)|
|Frank Thomas (2003, 2004)|
|Jim Thome (2002)|
|Jason Varitek (2003)|
|Justin Verlander (2006)|
|Larry Walker (2002) |
|Billy Wagner (2005, 2006)|
|Brandon Webb (2005, 2007)|
|Chris Young (2006, 2007)|
|Carlos Zambrano (2007)|
History also shows that although this technically is for the final roster spot, there unquestionably will be further additions to each roster because there always are injury replacements between the Final Vote winner announcements and the Midsummer Classic. But this is your duty and your privilege. It's serious business, because the fate of a Major League Baseball player is totally in your hands.
Who will go from each league in 2008? As you await the nominees, here is a look back at the history of the Final Vote and how it has grown:
2002: Johnny Damon (Red Sox) and Andruw Jones (Braves)
Damon had left Oakland to sign with the Red Sox, and his numbers were going up across the board. But even entering the third and last day of Final Vote balloting, Damon's first All-Star appointment was in question.
The center fielder had 248,576 votes, and Jim Thome of Cleveland was right there with 243,025. It was a difference of only 5,551 votes, and their neck-and-neck battle was far in front of fellow American League candidates Eric Chavez of the A's, Magglio Ordonez of the White Sox and Darin Erstad of the Angels.
After the votes were counted, it was announced during a Red Sox victory over Toronto to a giddy sellout crowd at Fenway. Damon was on first base and saluted the crowd by waving his hand. He had finished with 692,989 votes, compared to 666,825 for Thome. It was a final difference of just 26,164 votes, and to this day remains one of the best races in this unique player-election process.
"I knew how awesome [Red Sox] fans were from that moment," Damon said later. "It's cool that they added that Final Vote ballot. It opens up a great opportunity, like it did for me that year."
The first National League player selected also was an outfielder. Jones, representing the Braves, was in command throughout the balloting. He led Brian Giles of the Pirates by nearly 70,000 votes entering the last day, and won with a vote total of 559,752. Giles finished second with 488,725, their margin of difference nearly the same during the last day. Larry Walker of the Rockies, Albert Pujols of the Cardinals and Ryan Klesko of the Padres rounded out the order of finish.
2003: Jason Varitek (Red Sox) and Geoff Jenkins (Brewers)
This was the year that a now-customary part of the Final Vote process first emerged: grassroots campaigning.
Jenkins was a sixth-year Brewers outfielder who was on his way to a borderline .300/30/100 season, and he was named on the NL ballot by manager Dusty Baker along with Benito Santiago of the Giants, Kenny Lofton of the Pirates, Cabrera of the Expos and Luis Castillo of the Marlins. Santiago and Lofton were old hands at the Midsummer Classic. Cabrera was a young shortstop on the rise, and Castillo was remembered by many for the 35-game hitting streak he had compiled a year earlier.
Santiago led after the first day of voting, but for Jenkins, the word was starting to spread throughout baseball. He was on the air with Dan Patrick of ESPN Radio. The Brewers were aggressive in touting Jenkins, and Brewers fans were using e-mail in a brand new way to make their candidate's chances viral. Santiago was announced as the early leader, Jenkins took over the lead amid nearly a dead heat with Santiago with 30 hours remaining and then Jenkins nabbed the final roster spot with 2,872,200 votes.
"It was like e-mail after e-mail saying how they were telling people to vote," Jenkins said. "It was really neat. There's nothing I can say, just how thankful I am for them to do that, to think of me for as long as I've been here. It really meant a lot, and it's something I'll never forget."
For the second time in as many years of AL Final Vote balloting, a Red Sox player won the hearts of voters. Varitek had to beat out Jason Giambi of the Yankees and Thomas of the White Sox, along with Web Gem icon Eric Byrnes of the A's and Bengie Molina, catcher for the reigning World Series champion Angels.
Varitek was leading with 30 hours of voting left, but Big Hurt was gaining quickly. Varitek withstood the charge and finished first with 3,210,509 votes -- more than four times as many as Damon had received, reflecting the year-over-year vote increases of this online process.
2004: Hideki Matsui (Yankees) and Abreu (Phillies)
Matsui was up against Lew Ford of the Twins, Hafner of the Indians, Paul Konerko of the White Sox and -- back for a second straight year to try again -- Thomas. With 26 hours remaining, the official announcement said that Thomas was in second place once again, this time to Matsui. Thomas and his teammate, Konerko, were in a virtual dead heat for second, and by now evidence was starting to mount that a "split vote" hurt a Final Vote candidate's chances. Matsui won.
In the NL, Abreu of the Phillies won the honor in a race that included Steve Finley of the D-backs, Jason Kendall of the Pirates, Juan Pierre of the Marlins and Aramis Ramirez of the Cubs. After the first two days of voting, it was a virtual dead heat at the top between Ramirez and Abreu. The polls closed, and then everyone saw what was perhaps a coming-of-age declaration by Abreu's public. He had been putting up huge numbers year after year and was becoming an annual "fantasy stud," winning the final roster spot by leading all 2003 Final Vote candidates with two million votes.
"[Winning the Final Vote] is the best thing to happen to me so far," Abreu said after finding out he won in 2004. "I've been playing for six years, and I've never been selected. Now I get to go."
2005: Scott Podsednik (White Sox) and Oswalt (Astros)
This not only marked the first time that a winner would go on to a World Series appearance, but both winners would face each other in the final set of the season.
Podsednik's competition included the Yanks' Derek Jeter and Matsui, Carl Crawford of the Rays and Torii Hunter of the Twins. Jeter had a slight lead over Podsednik halfway through the balloting, while Jeter and Matsui were publicly lobbying for each other's chances, telling fans to vote for the other guy. Podsednik was a huge beneficiary of White Sox campaigning, including Scott Reifert's Inside the White Sox MLBlog and a 90-minute autograph-signing session at a home game. Pods outdistanced Jeter to win with 3,965,473 votes, the most for a Final Vote winner until Garciaparra in 2006.
The NL race was especially interesting because, for the first time in any Final Vote balloting, the choices were all pitchers. Oswalt had the lead halfway through voting over Wagner and Brett Myers of the Phillies, Trevor Hoffman of the Padres and Webb of the D-backs. Oswalt won with 2,652,549 votes, with Hoffman finishing second.
2006: A.J. Pierzynski (White Sox) and Nomar Garciaparra (Dodgers)
Garciaparra, the Dodgers first baseman, drew roughly four million votes, a Final Vote record. He finished ahead of Chris Capuano of the Brewers, Abreu of the Phillies, Wagner of the Mets and Young of the Padres. The Dodgers mounted a major grassroots campaign for him, with posters throughout Chavez Ravine urging fans to vote, radio stations spreading the word and an ad in the Los Angeles Times mentioning the vote on the last morning before the ballot closed. The Dodgers cited their Inside the Dodgers MLBlog as a key ingredient in the campaigning.
It was the first time that the West Division has had a Final Vote winner.
Pierzynski, the White Sox catcher, was his club's second consecutive successful Final Vote winner, finishing with 3.6 million votes. Moreover, the White Sox have had a nominee every year of the Final Vote. Pierzynski finished first in a close race against Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano, and following in order were Hafner, Justin Verlander of the Tigers and Ramon Hernandez of the Orioles.
Remember that "Punch A.J" campaign? White Sox employees wore "Punch A.J." shirts around U.S. Cellular Field during the homestand that coincided with the Final Vote (playing at home during the Final Voting is a decided advantage for a nominee), and those same shirts were sold to the public at the ballpark. Given Pierzynski's less-than-favorable image in cities other than Chicago on the Major League circuit, that campaign was an even greater success for the team. "Without a doubt, they've done a great job of putting together a quick marketing campaign," Pierzynski said.
2007: Okajima (Red Sox) and Young (Padres)
It was the year of the pitcher in the Final Vote. All 10 choices were hurlers. It also was the year that the White Sox finally were omitted.
Sometimes an All-Star snub is so obvious that a Final Vote is an easy choice, and that seemed to be the case in the 2007 NL voting with Young. He was right at the top in wins and ERA, but evidently two Padres starting pitchers (also Jake Peavy) seemed a bit much in the main process for reserve selection. Young led throughout the Final Vote, outdistancing Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs, Oswalt, Tom Gorzelanny of the Pirates and Webb. Young broke Garciaparra's Final Vote record with more than 4.5 million votes.
In the AL, there was some international intrigue as Detroit's Jeremy Bonderman starred in a "Bondo '07" ad, led through the first day, and then was passed in the last Final Vote update by Okajima. Boston's reliever, who had burst upon the scene in his first year since coming over from Japan, no doubt benefited from the big Red Sox Nation vote as well as the masses of high-tech fans in his native country. He had more than 4.4 million votes. Others in the race included Pat Neshek of the Twins (the first true campaign-blogger candidate, posting YouTube videos of fans singing for him), Kelvim Escobar of the Angels and Halladay of the Blue Jays.
Now it's time to have some fun again. The fun doesn't end with the Final Vote, either. Once again, fans will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet at the 79th All-Star Game via the Monster 2008 All-Star Game MVP Vote on MLB.com.
The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET on July 15. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.