Votto leads Final Vote after one day of voting

Votto leads Final Vote after one day of voting

NEW YORK -- If this were the 65-team NCAA Tournament, Reds first baseman Joey Votto would be Arkansas-Pine Bluff or Winthrop, left vying for a spot in the field via the play-in game -- only in this case, it's called the 2010 All-Star Final Vote sponsored by Sprint on MLB.com.

Only it should never have come to this. Votto -- who leads the entire National League in OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), including Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard and Adrian Gonzalez, the three first basemen chosen ahead of him -- is no Arkansas-Pine Bluff. He's no Winthrop; he's North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky or Kansas.

Votto, widely considered the biggest snub when the All-Stars were announced on Sunday, has the numbers to merit inclusion on the NL squad. And, thankfully, fans have the Final Vote, where they can vote on MLB.com or Reds.com for Votto or one of the other four Final Vote candidates -- Padres reliever Heath Bell, Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, Braves reliever Billy Wagner or Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.

The All-Star Game Final Vote, sponsored by Sprint, continues until 4 p.m. ET on Thursday. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.

"I urge everybody to go on the Internet and vote for Joey," Reds manager Dusty Baker said on Sunday.

As of Monday afternoon, it seems as if fans have heeded Baker's call, as Votto leads the NL -- with Nick Swisher of the Yankees pacing the American League -- after more than 10 million votes were registered in the first 24 hours of the Final Vote, sponsored by Sprint.

Votto came into Monday's games fifth in the league with a .312 average, tied for second with 19 home runs and tied for fifth with 57 RBIs. Since 1952, there hasn't been an NL player to rank in the top five in the Triple Crown categories and not make the All-Star team.

"He's a good young player and a kid who can swing the bat," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said recently. "He's a kid who's right in the middle part of that Cincinnati lineup, and he's got the ability to hit for average and hit for power both. And he does a nice job at first base. Baseball needs more Joey Vottos."

The NL All-Star team could use him, too. His potent left-handed bat would be of value to a team whose starting lineup will be heavily right-handed. A look at the AL roster reveals a pitching staff composed primarily of right-handers, so Votto would give NL manager Charlie Manuel a valuable mid- or late-inning option against the likes of the Rangers' Neftali Feliz, the Royals' Joakim Soria, the Tigers' Jose Valverde or even Yankees closer extraordinaire Mariano Rivera.

If AL manager Joe Girardi were to counter with a left-hander, such as Tampa Bay's David Price, Boston's Jon Lester or Chicago's Matt Thornton, well, Votto likely could hold his own. He has a respectable .253 average and .349 on-base percentage against lefties, with three home runs, in 95 at-bats.

"He is eventually going to get his side of the pie, there's no doubt in my mind," Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera said. "He just does his thing. He works hard and he does have high expectations for himself."

Votto, notoriously reserved and unwilling to talk about himself, needs someone to speak for him -- and Reds fans can do just that via the Final Vote.

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