Suspense mounts as online ballots take over

Suspense mounts as online ballots take over

Will it be a choice between teammates Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz for the final American League starting outfielder -- or might this torrid 10-game winning streak by the Rangers boost both of them into the lineup on July 13 in Anaheim?

Will Mets third baseman David Wright continue gaining more votes than Phillies rival Placido Polanco just as he has done every single National League balloting update since the leaders were first announced last month? Will Wright be this year's traditional big-comeback finisher? Will Cincinnati's Scott Rolen sneak up on everyone and return to an All-Star starting role?

Will Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera's high trending continue and leapfrog him past both leader Justin Morneau of the Twins and second-place Mark Teixeira of the Yankees for the starting AL first-base assignment? Will Teixeira overtake a leader at the wire the same way he blew past Tino Martinez toward the end of 2005 balloting?

That and more is yet to be determined by you, and now comes the sprint to the finish as balloting for Major League Baseball's 81st All-Star Game on July 13 in Anaheim goes online-only from here until 11:59 p.m. ET on July 1. The final in-stadium ballots were gathered up on Wednesday night. The suspense is mounting. Vote up to 25 times at MLB.com with the Sprint All-Star Online Ballot and make a difference.

The 2010 All-Star Teams will be unveiled on the Fourth of July on the 2010 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show, televised nationally on TBS. The pitchers and reserves for both squads -- totaling 25 for the NL and 24 for the AL -- will be determined through a combination of Player Ballot choices and selections made by the two All-Star managers -- Joe Girardi of the Yankees (AL) and Charlie Manuel of the Phillies (NL) -- in conjunction with MLB.

MLB.com also introduced a new element to the exciting conclusion of All-Star balloting for the elected starters, the 2010 All-Star Game Campaign Headquarters, giving fans the chance to join a campaign for any player and earn points to elevate their individual status all the way up to Campaign Manager.

After completing the 2010 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Sprint, fans are presented with the option to support the campaign of any of the 17 players they just voted for. When a player is chosen, MLB.com tracks every vote that fan helps generate for that specific player, whether it comes from Facebook, Twitter or MLB.com links forwarded, and the fans generating the most votes are ranked on that player's campaign page.

"The campaign staff concept gives visitors an effective way to actively participate in the process," said Dinn Mann, executive vice president, content, MLB.com. "Even at this late stage, practically every race is too close to call. So any fan going viral to help spread the word could make all the difference."

"That's what it's all about," Wright said when told that his Campaign Manager as of last week was a 40-something accountant on Long Island. "There's no greater feeling of a kid wearing your jersey, seeing a fan wearing your jersey, to know that you have fans out there and people who genuinely care about trying to get you to the All-Star Game and do good things for you. That's great. I'm beyond appreciative. You want to try to go out there and put on a good show for the fans and to know that they have your back, and know that you have people out there who are trying to do nice things for you. It's just above and beyond what you would expect."

Players want to be All-Stars, and you have the power to make it a reality.

If we have learned anything from the past decade of doing this, it is that fans should not be discouraged by what might seem to be large leads. In four of the past five years, at least one player has overcome a deficit of at least 200,000 votes to take the lead late and then start. That is the result of fans watching the games and having all the latest data at their disposal and making any balloting corrections necessary in the latter stages.

Last year, Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox trailed Ian Kinsler of the Rangers by 200,238 votes on June 16 and then passed him at the finish to start at St. Louis.

In 2008, it was Ryan Braun. He was in his second season with Milwaukee and his first as an outfielder, and he went from 10th place in the NL balloting that June 1 to a gradual climb that carried him all the way to the No. 2 overall vote-getter in the league.

"Everybody was contributing," Braun said, citing campaign help from the Brewers. "I really appreciate the support. Obviously, it wouldn't be possible, literally, without everybody's help."

Braun was leading all outfielders in the latest update, followed by Braves rookie Jason Heyward and Andre Ethier of the Dodgers. While the three starters seem to be fairly safe barring a monster jump, the race for No. 1 is very close. Heyward only trails Braun by 29,266 votes and Eithier only trails by 93,586 votes. Heyward has jumped from sixth in the first update to second now and its trending at the highest average rate of the three (34.9 percent), so he seems to have a legitimate shot of overcoming Braun at No. 1.

NL catcher could provide the comeback story in 2010. Yadier Molina of the Cardinals has led in each update, but Brian McCann of the Braves and Ivan Rodriguez of the Nationals are within striking distance. There is no such drama at this position in the other league, where Joe Mauer of the Twins leads all Major Leaguers in total votes.

Trend-watchers also should watch the AL first-base race closely. Cabrera is in third as of the last update but has the most votes for the second straight update. He is up 29.33 percent from the previous week and trails leader Morneau by 325,303 votes. Cabrera has been collecting significantly more votes than second-place Teixera for two straight updates.

MLB.com has registered 157 million votes so far this year. In last year's voting for starting position players, fans submitted 223.5 million votes and 17.8 million ballots online -- both the largest figures recorded in the nine years of online balloting at MLB.com, surpassing the previous records set in 2008. Then you broke Final Vote records by casting 68.6 million votes at MLB.com, sending Shane Victorino of the Phillies and Brandon Inge of the Tigers -- "BranTorino" -- to St. Louis as the final players on their rosters.

That will be your next big assignment after the voting for starters is done. Immediately following the announcement of the All-Star rosters, fans will begin voting to select the final player for each league's 34-man roster via the 2010 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint. Fans will cast votes from a list of five players from each league over a four-day period and the winners will be announced after the voting concludes on July 10.

Now in its sixth year, fans again will be able to make their Final Vote selections on their mobile phones, exclusive to Sprint subscribers.

The final phase of All-Star Game voting will have fans again participate in the official voting for the All-Star Game Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2010 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint. Crawford won it in 2009.

More than 20 million Firestone All-Star ballots have been distributed at the 30 Major League ballparks, each of which had 23 home dates for balloting. Ballots also were distributed in about 100 Minor League ballparks. In addition, Scotts was the official sponsor of the 2010 Retail All-Star Balloting Program, which began on May 10 exclusively at approximately 1,700 Lowe's stores across the country. All of those ballots are now thrown into the big heap as fans go strictly with the digital vote from here to the finish.

The 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau de Sport, 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.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Follow @MLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.