07/04/11 1:46 PM ET
Victorino, Konerko take early lead in Final Vote
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
Five Major Leaguers have received more than one million online votes, leaving each race up for grabs, with 10 candidates hopeful of getting one of the two final roster spots for next week's 82nd Midsummer Classic at Chase Field in Phoenix.
Victorino was closely followed in the National League standings as of mid-day Monday by Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier, Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, Nationals left fielder Michael Morse and D-backs pitcher Ian Kennedy. Two years ago, Victorino trailed Pablo Sandoval after the first day but won his first All-Star berth.
Konerko, whose campaign is dubbed "PaulStar," is hoping the third time is a charm as a Final Vote candidate. He was immediately followed in the American League race by a pair of Central Division rivals. Behind him were Tigers DH/catcher Victor Martinez, Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones and Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist.
Balloting commenced at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, following the announcement of 66 All-Star starters and reserves, and it continues until 4 p.m. ET on Thursday exclusively at MLB.com, where winners will be announced shortly thereafter. There is no limit on the number of times you can vote, and updated standings will be announced daily.
Mobile voting is especially made for the Fourth of July. Submit your ballots whether you are at the beach, park or pool. U.S. residents can send "VOTE" to 89269 to receive the 2011 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote ballot. In Canada, text "VOTE" to 65246.
The White Sox and Phillies took the first step toward possibly joining the Red Sox as the only clubs with three Final Vote winners. Scott Podsednik (2005) and A.J. Pierzynski (2006) previously won for Chicago, and Bobby Abreu was the Phillies' first winner in 2004. Boston's three winners were Johnny Damon in 2002, Jason Varitek in 2003 and Hideki Okajima in 2007.
The 2009 "Bran Torino" alliance worked so well for Brandon Inge and Victorino, the Tigers and Phillies are renewing their commitment with "Victor Victorino." The Dodgers and White Sox are Spring Training neighbors in Glendale, Ariz., so they are co-promoting Ethier and Konerko.
The Nationals and Orioles joined forces on the "Beltway Ballot," rallying together for Morse and Jones, while the 1998 expansion brethren D-backs and Rays are jointly behind their respective players, Kennedy and Zobrist.
Fans are doing their own grassroots work at MLB.com with the All-Star Campaign Manager program. It allows fans to tally points by getting friends, family and co-workers to vote through social networking, and competing to be recognized as an "official" Final Vote Campaign Manager for any player they helped support.
Here is a candidate update:
Alex Gordon, LF, Royals: Kansas City's No. 2 overall pick of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft reached The Show early and was pegged as a future All-Star, and it will be up to fans to say whether this is the year. Emerging as a leader of a young club, Gordon broke out fast with a .356 average in April and already has played in more games than last season. He is tracking at season projections of about 200 hits, 100 runs and 100 RBIs, which could put him in some elite past Royals company.
Twitter hashtag: #VoteAlex
"I think it's pretty cool," Gordon said. "Just to be up for it means a lot. Last year, I went down to Triple-A and the year before. So I'm proud to be here and happy to be up for it."
Adam Jones, CF, Orioles: Jones drove in the AL's last winning run at an All-Star Game, hitting a sacrifice fly off Heath Bell in the eighth inning to plate Curtis Granderson in 2009 in St. Louis. Jones was added as a reserve for that game, and it's up to you now. He has been a steady run producer for the Orioles, tracking toward his first 100-RBI season, and he comes off a big June in which he belted seven homers.
"It's nice to be in the mix, but it's out of my hands," Jones said. "I can't do anything about it. It's out of my hands. I guess that's up to the team to campaign or not."
Orioles pitcher Jeremy Guthrie is stumping for his teammate on Twitter, big time. Jones has the largest Twitter following among any 2011 Final Vote candidates, and you can jump on his bandwagon at @SimplyAJ10.
Twitter hashtag: #VoteAdam
Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: He joins Billy Wagner as the only three-time Final Vote candidates, having come up short in 2004 (splitting the vote with teammate Frank Thomas) and 2010. The Sox veteran is contending for the first Triple Crown since 1967, entering the week fourth in the AL in home runs (21) and RBIs (62), and fifth in average (.317).
"I'm not a guy to promote myself," Konerko said. "I won't sit there and say, 'Vote for me.' If people want to vote and look at it and say I should go, then vote for me."
White Sox teammates like Pierzynski and Mark Buehrle have been sporting the new "PaulStar" T-shirts around the field. That's the hashtag, too.
Twitter hashtag: #PaulStar
Victor Martinez, DH/C, Tigers: In his first year with Detroit, Martinez has helped the Tigers battle Cleveland for the AL Central lead with a .333 average -- trailing only Adrian Gonzalez of the Red Sox for best AL average. Martinez has started 44 games as designated hitter, 22 as catcher and a pair at first base.
"It's something that's out of my hands," Martinez said. "If it happens, it'll be nice in Arizona. If it doesn't, I'll be happy with my family back home."
Like Jones, V-Mart already has made his mark on the All-Star Game. His two-run homer off Wagner in the eighth inning of the 2007 Midsummer Classic in San Francisco proved decisive in the AL's 5-4 victory that night. Martinez is a four-time selection, including the past two years, and now he tries to make it with a third club after Cleveland and Boston.
Twitter hashtag: #VoteVictor
Ben Zobrist, 2B, Rays: A middle infielder never has won the Final Vote. Will Zobrist be the first? He's tied for the Major League lead with 27 doubles, helping manager Joe Maddon's club hang with the Yankees and Red Sox in the tough AL East. Zobrist is bidding for his second All-Star Game, having been added as a reserve in 2009 by his own manager.
Twitter hashtag: #helpZogo
"I think it's pretty neat just to be considered for the team again," Zobrist said. "We'll see what happens."
Andre Ethier, RF, Dodgers: NL starting outfielder Matt Kemp is tweeting his support for Ethier, who says: "Hopefully Dodger fans can put some stuff aside, and even if they're sitting at home watching instead of coming to the game, at least they can have the Internet in front of them and sit there and pound away all day and rally behind the players and me and show how great fans are in L.A."
Ethier put together a 30-game hitting streak from April-May and was the talk of baseball. Fans voted him into the starting lineup last year in Anaheim, and he ranked among the outfield leaders early in the starter balloting this year. Although his slugging numbers are down in 2011, there are signs that Ethier is heating up again. He has multiple hits in seven of his past 10 games and ranks fourth in the NL with a .321 average.
Now that Konerko has the early lead, will the Dodgers-White Sox alliance help Ethier? The last time the Dodgers had a big-name former All-Star on the Final Vote ballot, they won big: Nomar Garciaparra in 2006. The Dodgers will be home all week against the Mets and Padres so expect a heavy campaign theme in Chavez Ravine until the ballot closes.
Twitter hashtag: #VoteAndre
Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies: From 2000-04, when he always had an OPS above 1.000, Helton was an All-Star fixture. He hasn't been back since. Now at the age of 37, the oldest of the 10 Final Vote candidates, Helton looms as a possible sentimental favorite to send him to what could be a last All-Star party. A .324 career hitter who recently played his 2,000th career game, Helton is batting .320 with nine homers and 38 RBIs.
Twitter hashtag: #VoteHelton
"It's special, no doubt about it. I'm not going to get too excited until [the voting results are known]," Helton said. "The other players on the list are good players, worthy to be there. We'll see what happens."
Ian Kennedy, RHP, D-backs: No Final Vote winner ever has come from a team hosting an All-Star Game. Kennedy could be the first. The right-hander has been a workhorse for the D-backs, fashioning an 8-2 record with a 3.01 ERA over 116 2/3 innings. Most impressively, he is on pace for a 200-strikeout season, ranking in the NL's top 10.
Twitter hashtag: #VoteIanIn
"It's exciting to be part of the All-Star Game Final Vote campaign and still have an opportunity to make the National League All-Star team," Kennedy said. "I appreciate the support D-backs fans have given me all season, and hopefully it will carry over into this campaign. I would be honored to make the team, especially to have the chance to pitch in front of our fans at Chase Field."
Michael Morse, LF, Nationals: While Jayson Werth was acquired by Washington as one of the top free agents of the offseason, it was that other 6-foot-5 outfielder who produced the big first half. Given everyday playing time, Morse, once at a career crossroads, has taken advantage by batting .299 with 15 homers and 46 RBIs in 75 games.
Twitter hashtag: #VoteMorse
"It felt good to get that opportunity again, to come out and play every day and knowing you are going to be in the lineup," said Morse, who will try to do what teammate Ryan Zimmerman was unable to do in last year's Final Vote. "I just keep telling myself, 'I'm going to out there, and I'm going to get three hits. I'm going to drive in runs."
Shane Victorino, CF, Phillies: Been there, done that. Could be there again. Victorino's batting average has hovered around .300, posting his usual numbers although knocked out for the last two weeks of May due to injury. His clutch hits are frequent, and he is a big and often underrated reason the Phillies have the best record in baseball.
Twitter hashtag: #VoteForShane
"I'm excited to be recognized again," Victorino said. "If you had asked me a month ago when I was on the DL [with a strained right hamstring] if I'd be in this position, I'd say no, missing three weeks. Obviously being back now, I'm excited. I'm excited, and I'm sure Philly fans will do what they did last time. It's happened once. Why can't it happen again?"
There is an extra treat for fans in the Final Vote. If you are not a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you are eligible to receive a 10-day free trial of MLB.TV from July 9-19. If you are a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you will receive a 15-percent discount to the MLB.com Shop. MLB.com will send an email on July 8 to all Final Vote voters with instructions on how to redeem the applicable offer.
Also, MLB.com and its partner JibJab, the leader in personalized entertainment, have introduced a specially created Starring You® campaign featuring each League's five Final Vote candidates in a humorous, animated video of the traditional seventh-inning stretch song, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."
Fans can watch the candidates' Starring You videos and then cast their online votes for the 2011 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint here. They then can create their own free Starring You® video where they can choose their favorite teams and insert photos of themselves, family and friends. The videos, including those featuring the 10 All-Star Game Final Vote candidates, are embeddable and can be shared via e-mail, through social network platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. For complete details, visit MLB.com/jibjab.
For the final phase of All-Star Game voting, fans will be asked to help decide the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2011 All-Star Game MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint. That voting will take place on MLB.com during the Midsummer Classic.
The 82nd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.