The rosters for Major League Baseball's 76th All-Star Game are just about set, but it's up to you to take care of the "just about" part.
Since most of the suspense has been eliminated and the starters and reserves for both leagues have been revealed, it's time for the voting public to rev it up one more time with the 2005 Ameriquest All-Star Final Vote, available exclusively at MLB.com and all 30 club sites.
Now in its fourth year, the All-Star Final Vote gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Sunday's Major League All-Star Selection Show and continues until 8 p.m. ET Wednesday. The winners will be announced at MLB.com and on ESPN shortly thereafter.
There are 10 nominees, five from each league, and the grand prize is one of two trips -- one for the American League, one for the National League -- to the July 12 All-Star Game in Detroit as the final man on a roster.
The five AL nominees are outfielders Carl Crawford of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Torii Hunter of the Minnesota Twins, shortstop Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees and his teammate and last year's AL Final Vote winner, outfielder Hideki Matsui, plus outfielder Scott Podsednik of the Chicago White Sox.
Pitchers have been nominated for the first time in the four-year history of the Final Vote, and make up all five of the NL nominees. San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman, Philadelphia Phillies starter Brett Myers and closer Billy Wagner, Houston Astros right-hander Roy Oswalt and Arizona Diamondbacks sinkerballer Brandon Webb round out the contenders.
All 10 nominees can make strong cases for why they belong at Comerica Park on July 12. Here is a quick look at the 2005 candidates:
Crawford: Last year's AL stolen bases champ is maturing into quite a player for Tampa Bay. Crawford, who is viewed as one of the fastest players in baseball, made his first All-Star appearance last year in his hometown of Houston, and has the stats to qualify for his second straight bid. He entered Monday's games with a .280 average, seven homers, 44 RBIs, eight triples and 24 stolen bases.
Hunter: Hunter made the defensive play of recent All-Star Game history when he robbed Barry Bonds of a home run with a leaping catch at the wall in the 2002 Midsummer Classic in Milwaukee. This year, he's continued to play that Gold Glove "D" in center field and has added a .266 batting average, 14 homers, 51 RBIs and 51 runs scored for the second-place Twins.
Jeter: As shocking as it might be for some to see that Jeter wasn't one of the starters or reserves announced on the selection show Sunday night, Jeter remains the Yankees captain and one of the most popular players in the game. He went 3-for-3 with one run and two RBIs and was named Most Valuable Player of the 71st All-Star Game in Atlanta in 2000, and he's having a typically solid year for the up-and-down Yankees. Jeter is batting .302 with 10 homers, 35 RBIs and 61 runs scored. He'll be looking for the seventh All-Star Game appearance in his 10-year career.
AL Final Vote Candidates
Statistics through July 2, 2005
Podsednik: The White Sox committed themselves to more of a "little ball" approach this year, and Podsednik has fit into that concept very nicely. Obtained in an offseason trade with the Milwaukee Brewers, Podsednik has taken Chicago's leadoff spot and run with it -- literally. Podsednik, who led the Majors in stolen bases last year with 70, is on pace to top that total this year, entering Sunday's game with 39 steals. He's also batting .280 with 44 runs scored, and the White Sox have the best record in baseball.
Hoffman: The venerable Padres closer made history earlier in the season by becoming the third player in Major League history to reach the 400-save mark. He hasn't let up, either, getting 22 saves in 24 opportunities this year with 26 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings. Hoffman has 415 career saves and will be looking for his fifth All-Star berth. He also was selected for the Midsummer Classic in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002.
Myers: Myers went 11-11 with a 5.52 ERA last year, but insisted that he pitched well. This year, his numbers are backing up his claims. Despite low run support, he's 6-4 with a 3.18 ERA and has 110 strikeouts in 110 1/3 innings. He's seeking his first All-Star Game appearance.
NL Final Vote Candidates
Statistics through July 2, 2005
Wagner: The flame-throwing left-handed closer is no stranger to All-Star Games. He represented the NL when he was a Houston Astro in the 1999, 2001 and 2003, and he's hoping his every-other-year pattern continues in Detroit. Entering Sunday, Wagner had a 2.23 ERA, was 20 for 22 in save opportunities, had struck out 35 batters in 36 1/3 innings, and reached 250 career saves earlier in the year.
Webb: If the NL is looking for a double-play ball, they might want to turn to Webb, who possesses one of the nastiest sinkers in the game. Webb is delivering on the promise of his sensational rookie year of 2003, with an 8-4 record, a 3.24 ERA, and 82 strikeouts in 111 innings for the much-improved Diamondbacks.
The Ameriquest All-Star Final Vote was conceived in 2002 as a way to let fans have the final say in a process that traditionally led to water-cooler debate about players who were not selected and had strong cases. After last year's expansion of rosters to 32 players, and with this decision for the final roster spots in the hands of the populace, there can be no debate now.
If the past three years are any indication, there will be plenty of grassroots campaigning, not only by clubs representing the nominees but also by fans. MLB.com will provide voting updates during the proceedings.
And this year, there are two ways for fans to vote for the 2005 All-Star Final Vote -- online at MLB.com or on-the-go from their cell phones. Fans can simply text the word 'VOTE' to 69652 (MYMLB) and be instantly registered to receive the Final Vote ballots. Then, for just 99 cents per ballot, they'll have the freedom to vote from wherever they are. Fans can vote now.
The fun doesn't end with the Final Vote, however. Fans, having already decided the starters and final player on each team, once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game MVP presented by Chevrolet at the 76th All-Star Game via the Ameriquest 2005 All-Star Game MVP Vote on MLB.com.
Last year's Final Vote program saw more than 10 million votes cast, and the winners were Matsui and Bobby Abreu of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Last week, MLB.com announced that it had established a new record with 11.5 million online ballots cast in the "Ameriquest 2005 All-Star Game Online Ballot" that concluded on June 30, with more than 155 million total votes cast in the online program, also a record.
The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive, national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage and MLB Radio will provide exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.