Cards' Martinez, Reds' Cueto in neck-and-neck race in NL; voting ends at 4 p.m. ET
By Mark Newman
CINCINNATI -- Finally, it's here. You've been involved since late April in deciding roster spots for the 86th All-Star Game presented by T-Mobile. Now comes the last day and the blockbuster finish for the Esurance All-Star Game Final Vote.
The deadline to vote as many times as you'd like is 4 p.m. ET today, and Twitter voting started at 10 a.m. ET with the designated player hashtags -- featuring player emojis this time -- counting as votes once again. Then those 34th and final roster spots will be revealed on MLB.com as we turn our attention to Cincinnati and the start of All-Star Week.
The drama is building in the National League race with a new final-day leader -- Carlos Martinez (10.7 million votes). The Cardinals starter made a big statement last night, outlasting a rain delay to win his 10th game and continuing his amazing two-day run from third to first in balloting held exclusively on MLB.com and the club sites. The division rival he passed, Johnny Cueto of the Reds, got the balloting period started by throwing an epic two-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts against Washington on Tuesday.
And then there's defending NL Most Valuable Player Clayton Kershaw, who has passed Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki for third place and was closing in on the leaders. Kershaw fired a shutout in his start on Wednesday. Tulowitzki extended his MLB season-best hitting streak to 21 games on Thursday, and the NL voting is rounded out by Mets closer Jeurys Familia, who has saved both of his opportunities this week.
In the American League, Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas now has 15.7 million votes and continues to hold off strong challenges from Twins second baseman Brian Dozier and Tigers outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts is fourth in the AL ranking. The fifth AL Final Vote candidate, Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner, was named to the team on Thursday as a replacement for injured Royals outfielder Alex Gordon and was subsequently removed from the ballot.
Overall, fans have tallied more than 92 million votes, eclipsing the all-time record of 79.2 million set in 2013.
The latest balloting update was through 8 a.m. ET. Will Martinez and Moustakas hold on to make it an I-70 finish in the Final Vote? Their teams each have the best record in their respective leagues, on this 30th-anniversary season of the Royals' last World Series victory, which was against the Cardinals. Fans in Missouri are using #VoteMo as an alliance. But there are a lot of hashtags that will make a difference on this last day.
It's the ninth inning and all the evidence from Final Vote candidates is in, so now it's just up to you. These races are too close to call. You're voting in astounding numbers and anything can happen on this huge final day.
This is the 14th year of the Final Vote, and it may be the most prolific example yet of players doing their campaigning between the white lines. Just think of some of the things that have happened this week.
Dozier actually looked human when he made the last out Thursday in the Twins' 4-2 loss against Detroit, only because he had come up so big since his walk-off shot on the first night of the Final Vote. In that same game Thursday, Cespedes was still talking with his bat, delivering two more hits, and is now just two away from 100 for the season. Dozier and Cespedes both have 26 doubles, trailing only Indians All-Star Jason Kipnis in the AL, and you wonder how either can possibly be off on Tuesday night.
An All-Star of a different kind has been lobbying in Dozier's corner this week. Former NFL star Brett Favre, who played the final two years of his NFL career in Minnesota, campaigned for the Twins' second baseman in a video tweeted out by the club on Wednesday. Both Dozier and Favre played collegiately at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Bogaerts had a decisive three-run single on Tuesday, and you have to love it when he says, "I'm just going out there and having fun." That's what all of the candidates are doing, and that's what all of us are doing on this last day to help decide rosters.
This weekend, Bogaerts and the Red Sox will host their old rivals from New York. Gardner will be there, and he will have the satisfaction of knowing he is already Cincinnati-bound.
Speaking of the ninth inning in this race, Familia has done during this voting period just what he has done all season -- answering the call, whether it was to take the place of Jenrry Mejia earlier this year as the Mets' closer or to convert whatever opportunities came along. Familia was 2-for-2 this week and dropped his ERA to the same number Bob Gibson made famous: 1.12.
The Final Vote doesn't seem fair sometimes, because you look at the nine names and can't imagine any of them not being in the big game. When Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. was asked at the start of this week which two players he was voting for, he almost laughed at the notion that Kershaw even needs this vote. Ripken's contention is that the elites go to Midsummer Classics not only on what they do in a first half, but by the body of their career work as well. Indeed, that has been a tradition in baseball.
The All-Star Game was invented in 1933 as a way to see what it would look like to have Babe Ruth on the same field as the other greats of the game. Now here we are, on the final day of voting. Can you leave off a Kershaw, when it seems like just yesterday he was being whispered in comparisons to Sandy Koufax and the greatest pitchers ever? He sure looked like that again on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.
Royals fans, will you have six All-Stars in Cincinnati? Gordon has fallen by the wayside, but "Moose" is still going strong by all accounts, despite not playing for the past four days after going on the bereavement list. Kansas City fans have shown their voting strength in legendary numbers, and we're about to find out whether other fan bases can compete at the end when it counts most.
It is going to be an unbelievable balloting record, and amazing finish, and two more Major Leaguers are about to receive their tickets to the Midsummer Classic thanks to the voice of the people.
To receive the 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote mobile ballot, text the word VOTE to 89269 (USA) or 101010 (Canada). Message and data rates may apply. Up to five messages may be received following your vote. Text STOP to opt-out at any time. For help, text HELP. To cast a mobile ballot, text A3 to vote for AL Player 3 or N3 to vote for NL Player 3.
The 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote will include a social balloting element as Twitter support from candidates' fans over the last six hours of balloting will count toward such candidates' final vote totals. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET on Friday, any public tweet that includes a hashtag designated for a candidate will be tabulated as part of that candidates' overall Final Vote total used to determine the AL and NL winners.
During the All-Star Game presented by T-Mobile in Cincinnati on Tuesday, fans can once again visit MLB.com to submit their choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. Voting exclusively at MLB.com, online and via their mobile devices in the 2015 All-Star Game MVP Vote presented by Chevrolet, the fans' collective voice will represent 20 percent of the overall vote that determines the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
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. 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 Midsummer Classic will be televised nationally by FOX Sports (coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET), 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.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.