In 1984, a culture of silicon technology was growing fast and a revolution was taking shape. Programmers named Bill Gates and Paul Allen were developing software that would make a computer easy to use. The Commodore 64 was still the big seller, but the Apple Macintosh had just come out that January and became the first commercially successful, mouse-driven, fully GUI-based home/personal computer.
Then one day the Senior Circuit, the Junior Circuit and the motherboard circuit all came together to form the most perfect life imaginable for a baseball fan. Now the All-Star Game is practically run by millions of people worldwide who vote for the starting position players, for the final roster spots and -- in part -- for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet.
Remember last summer? Fans cast more than 11 million ballots online with more than 141 million online votes -- and that included more than 1 million ballots in the last 24 hours online, resulting in two lead changes in the online portion of the overall balloting program.
It is the largest and most traditional of all All-Star voting campaigns in any sport, and it is the ultimate example of fan participation in sports. "Fans have attended Major League Baseball games in record numbers for three consecutive years, and during that time, both the appeal and the reach of the largest balloting program in professional sports have grown tremendously," said Tim Brosnan, executive vice president of business for Major League Baseball. "We are thrilled to continue this great baseball tradition and to give fans this remarkable outlet to connect to the Midsummer Classic."
The All-Star Game. There is nothing like this one, and being able to help decide who goes will be almost as much fun as watching players yank balls into McCovey Cove during the CENTURY 21 Home Run Derby or seeing which league wins World Series home-field advantage in the big game a night later. Now that the season is well under way, it's truly your time to perform.
How the voting works
Balloting symbolically began Wednesday with a special on-field ceremony prior to the Cardinals-Giants game at AT&T Park. And, oh, how much fun that place is going to be come early July. Twenty-one million ballots will be distributed at Major League ballparks and an additional 1.9 million ballots will be distributed to 95 Minor League clubs that are in season during the balloting period.
In-stadium balloting at Major League ballparks will start no later than May 3, while balloting at Minor League parks will begin from May 7-17. Each Major League club will have 25 home dates during which it will conduct balloting, while each Minor League club will have 15 home dates for balloting. The in-stadium program will conclude at Minor League ballparks by June 16 and at Major League parks no later than June 22.
Starting now, fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times with the Monster 2007 All-Star Online Ballot here at MLB.com and all 30 club sites. Online balloting will continue until 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday, June 28.
Pepsi, which has been the title sponsor of the retail balloting program since 1997, will again be joined by Frito-Lay and Quaker for 2007 MLB Retail All-Star Balloting, providing additional exposure for the entire balloting program. Pepsi, Frito-Lay and, for the first time, Quaker -- all divisions of PepsiCo Inc. -- will distribute 12 million ballots exclusively at more than 3,400 Wal-Mart stores, where balloting begins on May 13 and concludes on June 17 across the U.S.
Rogers Centre in Toronto will feature in-stadium balloting, sponsored by Rogers Personal TV, from April 27 through June 16. Balloting in Puerto Rico, sponsored by DirecTV, will run from May 3 to June 10.
The 2007 AL and NL teams will be unveiled on Sunday, July 1 on the 2007 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show Presented by Chevrolet, which will be televised on TBS at approximately 4 p.m. ET -- or immediately after that day's 1 p.m. ET game between the Braves and Marlins. Each All-Star squad will have a total of eight elected starters, as determined by the fan balloting program, and 23 pitchers and reserves, as determined by a "Player Ballot" and the two All-Star managers -- Jim Leyland of the AL and Tony La Russa of the NL -- in conjunction with MLB.
Immediately following the announcement of the rosters, fans will have the opportunity at MLB.com to select the final position player for each league's 32-man roster. The Monster 2007 All-Star Final Vote will provide fans the opportunity to cast their votes from a list of five players from each league over a four-day period. Nomar Garciaparra of the Dodgers was the fans' choice in the NL last season, and A.J. Pierzynski became the second consecutive White Sox player to win that vote for the AL. Leyland and La Russa will designate those five nominees from each of their leagues.
Also, for the third year, fans will be able to vote for their Final Vote selections on their mobile phone. Both winners of the Monster 2007 All-Star Final Vote will be announced after the voting has concluded on Thursday, July 5.
And fans once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams MVP, via the Monster 2007 All-Star Game MVP Vote on MLB.com.
"The great thing about baseball's All-Star balloting process is that it begins now with voting for your starters and ends in July with you voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player. So fans are involved at every stage of the game," said Brian Phillips, director of club initiatives for Major League Baseball Advanced Media. "The balloting gets bigger every year at MLB.com, and we're always on the edge of our seats going into those last couple of days of voting to see who will win key races.
"It's really engaging for the fans. They can watch the players at the ballpark and vote there, and they also can follow all the candidates by watching live with MLB.TV Mosaic and immediately casting one of their 25 online votes based on a performance they just saw on their computer. It's fun to see the local campaigns -- whether it's a grassroots campaign to back a Joe Mauer or a Nomar Garciaparra as we saw last year -- as fans rally around their star players. The All-Star balloting is designed for the fans, and they have responded en masse over the years."
One of the most fun parts of the whole campaign is the release of the weekly balloting updates along the way, and that will begin with the NL on Tuesday, May 29, and the AL a day later. Thereafter, it will always be NL on Monday and AL on Tuesday into the final week of voting for starters.
It leads to more and more intense debate each year, and especially in this age when that same technology has turned so many fans into baseball writers. Everyone will have an opinion, everyone will talk about popularity contests -- and then right at the wire, it is almost a given that once again there will be major changes in the voting order as the ballot becomes online-only and as final ballpark ballots are tallied.
Meet your 2007 candidates
The first reaction to the release of the All-Star ballot every year is the same: "It's time for that already?" The second is usually: "He has to be in the lineup." The third is: "Wait, there's no DH this year so I have to write in Big Papi?"
From there, you are truly a goner. You become the Professional All-Star Voter.
That is a privilege most people take very seriously. MLB.TV is made for it, a way to educate oneself by toggling back and forth from one game to another and seeing who's got the Midsummer mojo. You pore over the stats. You just get a feel for it by being out at the ballpark or listening to the games on the radio. You know.
Many strong candidates will emerge, and many will be right there because they are the players you think of when you say "All-Star." Some call that a popularity contest. It is almost a given that much of North America is going to be complaining about Yankees and Red Sox representation, because it seems to happen every year. Citizens choose. The criteria is your own, whether you pick a my-team ticket or whether you analyze every strength and weakness.
There are no runaway teams so far, but there are some players off to fabulous starts. Here is a first look at the races:
AL first base: After winning the AL MVP award, will this be a next show of respect for Minnesota's Justin Morneau? What's going on with first basemen in general so far, and not just by league? This has not exactly been the Month of the First Baseman in the Majors. Morneau had four homers so far. Tampa Bay's Ty Wigginton has gotten off to a nice start.
NL first base: Anyone who thinks Albert Pujols' rough start will cost him here hasn't followed the Pujols voting trend this decade. He's always there. But what about Ryan Howard in Philly? Better get to know San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez, who has three homers and huge upside. Derrek Lee and Todd Helton have also jumped out to quick starts.
AL second base: Ian Kinsler is wasting absolutely no time making sure the voting populace knows who he is. The Rangers infielder already has seven homers (out of 14 hits) in his first 39 at-bats. Robinson Cano will be there for the Yanks, and Placido Polanco was off to a hot start for the Tigers. But keep an early eye on Howie Kendrick of the Angels; he was hitting .340 with some pop and speed.
NL second base: Don't be surprised to see a lot of love for Craig Biggio, because he should be closing in on career hit No. 3,000 while the voting is intensifying. Orlando Hudson has been the Diamondbacks' leader so far, leading the Majors in batting most of April. Rickie Weeks had four homers and three triples for the Brewers, and he could be fun to watch in San Francisco. Chase Utley of the Phillies came in as perhaps the guy to beat and has been so-so, so far. Perhaps a surprise force so far has been Colorado's Kaz Matsui, who was hitting .361 with five steals before going down with an injury.
AL shortstop: There are no obvious early choices here. Julio Lugo of Boston had one error in 49 chances, and Derek Jeter had six errors in 58 chances. They're pretty even at the plate, at least for those comparing the rivals. So far you almost have to look at fielding heavily because no one's really raking it at this position. Orlando Cabrera of the Angels was errorless in 66 chances. Yes, fielding can matter in your All-Star vote.
NL shortstop: Gotta like that left side of the Marlins infield so far, including reigning Rookie of the Year Hanley Ramirez. Jose Reyes of the Mets was MLB.com's No. 2 overall fantasy pick before the season, and he's justified all the hype with a brilliant start. Reyes' rival in Philadelphia, Jimmy Rollins, jumped out to a solid start with six early long balls.
AL third base: If Alex Rodriguez keeps this up, it won't be close. Unless you really, really don't like A-Rod and the Yankees. Akinori Iwamura has been pretty impressive so far in his first Tampa Bay season, hiting for average, showing speed and being patient at the plate. Mike Lowell has sparkled, as usual, with the glove. But really: If you say anyone other than A-Rod so far, you just like doing that.
NL third base: Miguel Cabrera broke out almost as fast as A-Rod this season. Chipper Jones has been a catalyst for Atlanta's resurgent ways. David Wright was homerless in his first 47 at-bats for the Mets, but there are going to be people who liked watching him perform at least year's All-Star Game so much that he is going to get support.
AL catcher: Mauer of the Twins was hitting for average in defense of the first AL batting title for a catcher. But Jorge Posada of the Yankees had a similarly high average and more pop. In Detroit, Pudge has been Pudge: around .300 with good power numbers while handling a young staff. Kenji Johjima's .400 average for Seattle might get some punches and clicks.
NL catcher: If you are looking for Mike Piazza as usual, sorry. You'll have to write him in as an AL DH with Oakland. Brian McCann of the Braves was the only NL catcher with more than one homer (two) starting Wednesday. Russell Martin was hitting well for the Dodgers. But will Paul Lo Duca and the Mets dominate voting again?
AL outfield: No one made a quicker impression here than Grady Sizemore of the Indians, with three quick homers the first week. Hey, Sammy Sosa is a choice again on the ballot with Texas; he used to be a lock in the other league. Vlad Guerrero is doing what he's expected to do, hitting .364 with three homers and 12 RBIs before being plunked on the right wrist. Ichiro is usually a magnet for All-Star votes, and many are waiting to see if Manny Ramirez's slow start is just a slow start. Don't overlook Kansas City's David DeJesus, who is blossoming at the plate, or Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer, who has a hot stick and cannon in right.
NL outfield: Carlos Lee has had a quick impact in Houston, taking over the early lead in RBIs. His average was on par with Cincinnati's Adam Dunn, who has flashed speed along with his usual power. It will be interesting to see what kind of support Barry Bonds gets during his pursuit of the all-time homer record. Chris Duncan is on the ballot for St. Louis, and he was off to a great start both at the plate and in the outfield. Jose Cruz Jr. has been raking for San Diego.
Last year's top vote-getters were Pujols (3,418,555 votes) of the Cardinals and Ramirez (3,101,161) of the Red Sox.
Those are just some of the names that come to mind. The voters will decide again, and the time to start doing that is right now. Just remember that you get up to 25 votes online, and that's per MLB.com registration. It's all about deciding the best players to send to the Midsummer Classic in San Francisco, and then seeing whether anything will be different this time about the outcome of that big event.
The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised 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, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM Satellite Radio will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.