Votebook: Designated leader

Votebook: Designated leader

The big man they call "Big Papi" went to his first All-Star Game last year, saw a few pitches, then conquered.

David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox hit a monstrous home run in Minute Maid Park, blasting a Carl Pavano offering 423 feet into the upper deck in right field. It was a midsummer exclamation point and a harbinger for great things to come in October.

Without Ortiz, the Sox wouldn't have beaten the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series and wouldn't have swept the St. Louis Cardinals for their first World Series title since 1918.

That's a major reason Ortiz is not surprisingly way out in front in the voting for designated hitter for the 76th All-Star Game, which will be played Tuesday, July 12, at Comerica Park in Detroit.

Ortiz isn't exactly slowing down, either.

His 1,749,956 votes, which have him more than 1.3 million ahead of second-place Rafael Palmeiro as of this week's voting, have a lot to do with the fact that he's crushing the ball this year, too.

Ortiz entered Wednesday's game against Cleveland with a .303 batting average, 18 homers and 62 RBIs.

The Orioles' Palmeiro is a sentimental choice. He's batting .267 with nine homers and 33 RBIs, which isn't spectacular, but his 560 career long balls appear to have resonated with voters.

Jason Giambi, who's in third place, is getting votes on past performances, too. Giambi's struggles for the New York Yankees have been well-documented.

He hit a recent game-winning homer for the Bronx Bombers but still has a long way to go to get back to his usual slugging self. He entered Wednesday with a .245 batting average, five homers and 20 RBIs.

Dmitri Young of the Detroit Tigers (.260, 12 homers, 34 RBIs) ranks fourth in the voting, and he's followed by Chicago's Frank Thomas, who just recently started playing after injuries kept him out the first two months of the season.

Aside from these vote-getters, there are a few designated hitters worthy of consideration.

• Raul Ibanez of the Seattle Mariners is hitting .303 with nine homers and 36 RBIs.

• Shea Hillenbrand of the Toronto Blue Jays is batting .310 with eight homers and 32 RBIs.

• Travis Hafner of the resurgent Cleveland Indians has 10 homers, 34 RBIs and a .284 batting average.

• Texas Rangers DH David Dellucci has 12 homers, 27 RBIs and an on-base percentage well over .400.

• Lew Ford of the Minnesota Twins is hanging in there with a .279 average and 31 RBIs.

• Baltimore's Jay Gibbons is still in the mix with a .276 average, 10 homers and 35 RBIs.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.