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09/22/09 12:00 PM ET

Over 4 million votes cast for All-Time 9s

Fans speak out as heated debates drive interactive campaign

The baseball masses continue to make their voices heard in resounding fashion.

Less than two weeks after the opportunity was presented to vote for each team's best players (according to greatest single season) in the All-Time 9s campaign, 4.1 million votes had already been cast.

Heated races have defined the campaign, as the votes in numerous contests have been split down the middle.

For example, the question of which Giants second baseman had the best year remains a toss-up, as Rogers Hornsby's 1927 season and Jeff Kent's 2000 effort are separated by less than 200 votes.

A similar battle is taking shape when it comes to Indians shortstops, as Lou Boudreau's 1948 American League Most Valuable Player campaign and Omar Vizquel's career-best 1999 season are deadlocked in the polls.

These types of races set the scene for a discussion that will unfold on MLB.com in the weeks ahead.

For the rest of this season, the All-Time 9s will play out in an interactive debate for the ages, with fans and insiders evaluating, analyzing and debating to determine every franchise's most impressive single-season offensive performances by position.

And that's just the beginning.

The All-Time 9s will merely serve as a catalyst for MLB.com/Lineup Card, a gathering place for the posting, perspective and never-ending discussion of past, present and future lineups.

The new campaign will gave fans various options in terms of voting, debate and analysis:

• Voting on alternative lineup types (pitching, defense) and time period (by overall career stats, by decade).
• Compilation of a complete roster, including bullpen, bench slots and coaching staff.
• In-depth breakdowns of current lineups and their varying success rates.
• Voting on managers' nightly lineup cards and posting of fans' ideal lineups.
• Comparison of past and present lineups, weighted by competition level, park factors, etc.
• Panels asking current and former players/managers to weigh in on various lineup debates.
• Lineup tools with which fans can create personalized lineup by position, time period and stat type.

But first things first. Let's review what's under way in the franchise-by-franchise ballot boxes.

The All-Time 9s, born on 9/9/09, jump-starts with this initial category: Which player had the greatest season as a batter at his position?

That distinction is the crux of MLB.com's ongoing effort to place fans smack-dab in the middle of a storied baseball universe, where time stands still for pontification galore.

"Lots of greats to choose from," said one voter after perusing the options on MLB.com.

Indeed, the choices are plentiful. Baseball's rich history is no doubt a result of its deep-talent tradition, leaving fans with a multitude of difficult decisions as they seek to separate the greatest from the impressive-but-not-quite-as historic.

While the answer may seem obvious in certain instances, it's already becoming clear that deciphering the All-Time 9s is no easy task.

"The Red Sox outfield is impossible to decide," said a voter on MLB.com. "Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker, Manny [Ramirez], Jim Rice and Yaz [Carl Yastrzemski] are all deserving."

Perhaps not surprisingly, a trio of races behind the plate has sparked a similar dilemma.

Voting for Dodgers' catchers -- Roy Campanella (1953) vs. Mike Piazza (1997)-- Phillies' backstops -- Darren Dalton (1993) vs. Mike Lieberthal (1999) -- and Indians' catchers -- Sandy Alomar Jr. (1997) vs. Victor Martinez (2007) -- remain ultra competitive, sparking all kinds of arguments about numbers and contextual significance.

Without those arguments, there is no conversation; the voting itself is driven by the dialogue, the point-counterpoint that's bounced from bar rooms to dorm rooms to locker rooms since the game began nearly a century and a half ago.

For that reason, the All-Time 9s features a forum that allows fans to both justify their own choices and critique those of others, with yours truly playing traffic cop with updates, chats and participation in visitor comments.

"I can't argue with the numbers Chipper Jones put up in 1999," said one Braves fan while weighing his club's options at third base. "But I can tell you that Eddie Matthews' 1953 season was truly one of a kind -- so in the end, that's who gets my vote."

It is from snippets like this that the notion of "greatness" will be defined -- not merely from the final tallies, but from the bits and pieces of real-life banter that compose them.

Rest assured, when it's time to fill up rosters, the likelihood of Jones and Matthews being on the same team supplies some consolation to the runners-up. And the door shall be open for a look at players by career.

And so the floor, as they say, is yours. With an unlimited number of votes and a clear medium through which to defend them, you'll have ample time to make your opinion count.

Category by category, you'll see how it all evolves, and you'll either agree or disagree -- or both -- when installments of All-Time 9s are announced.

As those answers are determined, there will be a sense of uniformity, a consensus about who is truly the greatest according to these rules and to fans at this point in time.

That is, until the next wave of MLB.com/Lineup options is introduced.

What might they be? Separating by league. Examining franchise histories and city histories in different lights. Picking out the best lineups for current teams according to hard data.

The list goes on.

In the end, the game with no clock has father time to thank and a bright future for debate teams everywhere. Make sure your voice is heard.

Corey Gottlieb is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.