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Podsednik, Oswalt lead Final Vote

Podsednik, Oswalt lead Final Vote

Days have become hours and we're closer to the wire, and as usual, the Ameriquest All-Star Final Vote is too close to call.

The balloting continues until 8 p.m. ET today, so you still have time to select one final nominee from each league to go to Detroit for the 76th All-Star Game on July 12 and represent that league's 32nd and final roster spot.

With just hours remaining in the balloting, the drama is building. Chicago White Sox outfielder Scott Podsednik has squeaked past New York Yankees perennial All-Star Derek Jeter to take a narrow lead in the American League voting.

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If Podsednik holds on for the victory, his teammates' grass-roots campaign for his candidacy might prove to be the reason.

The White Sox have been doing everything in their power to get their man -- who leads the Majors in stolen bases -- into the Midsummer Classic, which will be played at Comerica Park.

The "Podsednik Plan" was put in motion Monday night as Podsednik signed autographs during a two-hour rain delay. First, one of manager Ozzie Guillen's kids held up a "Vote for Scott" sign in the background. Then All-Star pitcher Mark Buehrle spoke to the crowd before the postgame fireworks, encouraging them to get online and send Podsednik to Detroit.

"We need everyone to vote for Scott because he needs to be on this All-Star Team," Buehrle said.

Even Podsednik got into the act.

"I have voted for myself a couple of times," the outfielder said with a smile. "I've thrown a couple in there."

The biggest surprise with Jeter, meanwhile, is that he wasn't on the starting team to begin with.

AL Final Vote Candidates
Statistics through July 5, 2005
PlayerTeamRHRRBISBAVGOBP
C. CrawfordTB5094625.285.317
D. JeterNYY66103510.308.395
T. HunterMIN51145219.272.343
H. MatsuiNYY5413652.317.385
S. PosednikCWS4601741.286.359

"Everyone wants the chance to go to the All-Star Game," Jeter said. "Anyone that tells you otherwise is lying."

Jeter has a good case to go and the voters have noticed. He's hitting .308 with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs, and his 66 runs scored lead the AL. He also ranks among the league leaders in multi-hit games (31), on-base percentage (.395), hits (100) and walks (40).

The AL's other nominees, in order of current position in the voting, are Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter, Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui and outfielder Carl Crawford of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

In the NL, Houston Astros right-handed starter Roy Oswalt, no doubt helped by his strong performance in a 4-1 win over San Diego on Monday, continues to lead and is followed closely by closer Trevor Hoffman of the San Diego Padres and sinkerballer Brandon Webb of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

NL Final Vote Candidates
Statistics through July 5, 2005
PitcherTeamWSVKIPERA
T. HoffmanSD0222829.13.68
B. MyersPHI60110110.13.18
R. OswaltHOU11088129.12.44
B. WagnerPHI1203737.12.41
B. WebbARI8088118.03.36

Closer Billy Wagner and starter Brett Myers, both of the Philadelphia Phillies, are fourth and fifth in the voting in the NL.

Oswalt said he knew his performance might have swayed voters either way and admitted he would love to be voted in for his first All-Star appearance. On Tuesday, he wasn't ashamed to say he was happy to have the lead in the voting.

"I think it's great," Oswalt said. "Hopefully, we can keep it up. I've never been there. I'd love to go."

And the Padres would love for Hoffman to earn his fifth All-Star nod. Hoffman also was on the NL roster in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002.

"Hoffy's the leader of this team, case closed," utility man Robert Fick said. "He commands complete respect in here. He's as respected as anybody I've played with, for who he is and what he's done."

As in every Final Vote, the real winner continues to be the baseball fan.

More than nine million votes have been cast in the program on MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball, its 30 official club sites, and ESPN.com.

All-Star Game 2005

This continues a tradition of growth that hit its high point in 2004, when the 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, which concluded June 30 with more than 155 million total votes cast in the online program, also a record.

In that vote, Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee beat out Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals to win his first starting nod for the NL in the Midsummer Classic, and scrappy Cardinals shortstop David Eckstein came from behind in the final days to overtake Cesar Izturis of the Los Angeles Dodgers and gain his first All-Star appearance and start.

In the AL, Texas Rangers slugger Mark Teixeira and Boston Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon won their inaugural All-Star starts by making stirring last-minute comebacks in the voting.

More comebacks could be on the way in the Final Vote, so stay tuned. The votes will be flooding in right up until the 8 p.m. deadline, and the 32nd men will be announced on MLB.com one hour later.

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 more grassroots campaigning right until the deadline, 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 get the mobile ballot now.

Already, players were getting this new technology type of support.

Prior to Monday night's game in Chicago, the White Sox held a 'Pause for Pods," during which the announcers encouraged fans to use their cell phone to vote for Podsednik. The club also made several announcements and message board messages during the game encouraging fans to vote online and via cell phone.

And on Tuesday, Oswalt said his friends from back home in Weir, Miss., promised to dial their votes in via cell phone.

"And they also told me they're going to send me the phone bill," he said.

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

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