Once the fans had their say online and in ballparks around the country, the All-Star Game vote went down to the clubhouses.
Major League players, coaches and managers got to throw their two cents' worth into the All-Star Game roster-building process for the third year. The results filled at least half of each 32-man roster -- 17 players for the American League and 16 on the National League -- for the 76th annual All-Star Game, to be held July 12 in Detroit.
For those who receive the nod from their fellow players, the honor can be the highest form of flattery.
After all, your peers saying you're worthy of being an All-Star speaks loud and clear about where you stand in the game.
"It's a great recognition," said the Brewers' Carlos Lee, who will be making his first All-Star appearance based on ranking fourth on the player ballot among NL outfielders. "It shows a lot of respect that the guys have got for me. To be picked by them is something else."
Added Cardinals starting pitcher Chris Carpenter, also a first-timer thanks to the player ballot: "If it comes from those guys, those are the guys that play against you, those are the guys that know. And it's an honor when they recommend or select or think that I'm worthy of going up there and pitching."
Triple Crown threat Derrek Lee of the Cubs was the top vote-getter on either player ballot, receiving 694 votes as the National League's top first baseman, easily outdistancing the Cardinals' Albert Pujols at 385 -- and by a much wider percentage difference than found on the fan ballot. Phillies outfielder Bobby Abreu, who was voted in by the fans, ranked second in NL player votes with 626. Abreu and Lee made the All-Star team based on fan voting, while Pujols got in via the player ballot.
In the American League, David Ortiz tallied the most votes in a landslide at the DH spot, taking 612 votes to 114 for second-place Shea Hillenbrand of Toronto. Other top vote-getters on the AL player ballot included Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada (572) and Angels outfielder Vladimir Guerrero (552). Ortiz, Tejada and Guerrero made it in via fan balloting anyway, while Hillenbrand benefited from his runner-up placement on the player ballot at DH.
This year's player ballots for the respective leagues were vastly different in terms of matching up with the fan voting. The American League player ballot wound up with the exact same players at the top of the voting as the fans had; the National League player ballot agreed on only half of the eight positions.
The fans went with the Cardinals' David Eckstein at shortstop, the Cards' Scott Rolen at third along with the Cards' Jim Edmonds and the Mets' Carlos Beltran in the outfield. The players went with the Dodgers' Cesar Izturis at short, the Cubs' Aramis Ramirez at third and chose the Marlins' Miguel Cabrera and the Braves' Andruw Jones to join Abreu in the outfield.
"I think they did well," Royals outfielder Matt Stairs said of the players' selections. "A lot of times you see people filling out the All-Star ballots and they do it real quick, but it means something so they took some time."
That a player ballot even exists is a good thing in the eyes of one of the game's elder statesmen.
"It's good that it gets everybody involved in the process," said Giants manager Felipe Alou, in his 50th year in the game. "I like players having something to say about who goes to the game."
That was the case during much of Alou's career as a player. From 1958-69, the balloting process was completely in the hands of the players and managers, before voting for the starting position players was given back to the fans in 1970.
Since 2003, the players, coaches and managers have been able to make their choices count toward a trip to the Midsummer Classic. Unlike in Alou's day, players and coaches can vote for people on their own team.
"I guess they trust players now more than they trusted us," Alou said with a chuckle. "The players have the inside knowledge about other players. I think players are really fair when it comes to seeing that a guy is having a good year and deserves to be in the All-Star Game."
National League players selected as a result of the player ballot along with Pujols, Ramirez, Izturis, Jones, Cabrera and Lee were a pair of Marlins -- catcher Paul Lo Duca (by an 18-vote margin over the Padres' Ramon Hernandez) and second baseman Luis Castillo.
Starting pitchers who earned their way off the player ballot were Carpenter, the Astros' Roger Clemens, the Nationals' Livan Hernandez, the Mets' Pedro Martinez and the Marlins' Dontrelle Willis. The relievers voted in by their peers were the Nationals' Chad Cordero, the Cards' Jason Isringhausen and the Astros' Brad Lidge.
In the American League, Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez, White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, Rangers second baseman Alfonso Soriano, Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora, Rangers shortstop Michael Young and outfielders Garret Anderson of the Angels, Gary Sheffield of the Yankees and Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners gained entrance thanks to player voting, along with Hillenbrand at DH.
AL starters voted in by their peers were Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland of the White Sox, Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays, Johan Santana of the Twins and Kenny Rogers of the Rangers; relievers honored by the players are the Twins' Joe Nathan, the Yankees' Mariano Rivera and the Orioles' B.J. Ryan.
Naturally, the player ballots could not have been without some individual slants. Much like fans do on their computers and at ballparks, these guys know how to vote with their hearts.
"Sure, you're going to be biased a little bit," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "But at the same time you look at the numbers and you know whether they're deserving to make it on the All-Star team.
"You have to balance it. You can't just write down your whole team and your whole staff. But if we've got guys who I think deserve to be recognized, I'm not going to hold back on any of them."
Andruw Jones / CF
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Now that the process has extended into the clubhouse these last few years, the Braves' Jones has another idea he's chucking in from center field to give the players even more voting power.
"If they're making a big deal about the home field advantage, then I think they should let the coaches and players make the decision [of] who's going to start," said Jones, adding that fans should be allowed to choose the reserves.
For now, the players have their say in making sure their peers who deserve to be recongnized as All-Stars get that opportunity.
And there's little else that can be said to a player that sounds sweeter.
"I think it means a lot to a players when your peers pick you, absolutely," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. "It's fun for the fans, but to have the respect of your peers certainly means a lot to players. The players know -- they live it. They know who's doing well and who's contributing, and what they mean to their teams."
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. Reporters Mark Bowman, Ian Browne, Dick Kaegel, Matthew Leach and Adam McCalvy, and contributor J.R. Radcliffe added to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.