It's the time of year when division races become clearer, the Trade Deadline looms and the baseball world prepares to descend upon one lucky city that has been selected to play host to one of Major League Baseball's jewel events -- the All-Star Game.
With the All-Star Game, comes All-Star confusion -- not about the game itself, but the rosters, and how exactly they're configured.
In the old days, it was pretty clear cut. The fans selected the starting lineups, and the managers picked the pitchers and reserves. Simple enough.
But the times have changed. Rosters are bigger, a player vote decides a large chunk of who is selected and the managers fill out the rest, including the starting pitcher slot. And then there's the Final Vote.
Tonight at 7 ET, the All-Star reserves, pitchers and Final Vote candidates will be announced on the Esurance All-Star Selection Show on ESPN. Immediately following the show, fans can return to MLB.com to begin voting to select the final player for each League's 34-man roster via the 2015 Esurance All-Star Game Final Vote. Fans can cast their votes from a list of five players from each league until 4 p.m. ET on Friday, July 10.
And the voting doesn't end there. During the Midsummer Classic in Cincinnati on Tuesday, July 14, fans can once again visit MLB.com to submit their choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award. Voting exclusively at MLB.com, online and via their mobile devices in the 2015 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, the fans' collective voice will represent 20 percent of the overall vote that determines the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
So, how exactly are the All-Star rosters decided upon? Here's a handy guide:
Q: How many players are on each roster?
A: 34. That number has been in effect since 2010, when MLB announced rosters would expand by one extra position player. (In 2009, there were 33 players, and before that, there were 32.)
Q:How many All-Stars are selected through the fan vote?
A: 17 -- eight NL players and nine AL players. Fans pick the starting lineups, including the DH, but not including the pitcher for the AL team. Since both teams use the DH regardless of what ballpark they're playing in, the NL manager selects a DH for the lineup from someone on his roster.
Q: What happens if a player voted in as a starter by the fans is unable to play due to injury, as is the case with Miguel Cabrera and Giancarlo Stanton this year?
A: There are two steps here: finding a new starter and filling the vacated roster spot.
To determine the new ASG starter, the All-Star reserve who received the most votes on the Player Ballot at the injured player's position moves into the starting lineup.
The roster replacement is chosen by the manager.
Q: How many All-Stars are selected through the player vote?
A: The players elect nine AL backup position players and eight NL backup position players, and eight pitchers for both sides -- five starters, three relievers. Upon completion of this step, the AL has 26 players and the NL, 24.
Q: How many players does the All-Star manager select?
A: The managers make their selections to fill out the rest of the rosters, while making sure every team is represented. The AL manager has seven selections to get to a 13-man staff: five pitchers and two position players. The NL manager picks nine players: five pitchers and four position players. The NL manager has two more picks of position players because the AL has two designated hitters -- one selected by fans and one selected by the players.
Reserves and pitchers will be announced tonight at 7 ET on ESPN.
Q: So that totals 33 for each team. How do they get to 34?
A: That is decided by the Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote, a staple of fan voting for more than a decade, brought to you by your friends at MLB.com. After the 33-man rosters are announced, MLB then announces five finalists in each league for the Final Vote, which takes place solely online. The list of finalists is compiled by the manager of each All-Star team, in conjunction with the Commissioner's Office.
Q: What happens if after the rosters are announced a player selected to the All-Star team gets injured, or opts out of the game for other reasons?
A: The All-Star manager and the Commissioner's Office decide together who will replace the players who won't be playing.
MLB.TV Premium subscribers will be able to live stream the All-Star Game via MLB.TV through FOX's participating video providers. Access will be available across more than 400 supported MLB.TV platforms, including the award-winning MLB.com At Bat app. MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities, including the 2015 Gillette Home Run Derby presented by Head & Shoulders, part of Gatorade All-Star Workout Day on Monday, July 13. The Derby will feature a new format with brackets and timed rounds and will be broadcast live by ESPN and MLB.com beginning at 8 p.m. ET.
The 86th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports (7 p.m. ET air time, 8:15 first pitch), in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.