The first American League balloting update was released Wednesday by Major League Baseball, and it reflects more than a month of decision-making by fans through the Monster All-Star Online Ballot at MLB.com and at the ballparks.
A-Rod and Jeter have commanding early leads at third base and shortstop, respectively. Robinson Cano of the Yankees has a razor-thin lead over Placido Polanco of the Tigers at second; David Ortiz of the Red Sox comfortably leads Jason Giambi of the Yankees at first; the Tigers' Pudge Rodriguez has the edge at catcher in the best early All-Star voting race in either league; and the starting outfield presently consists of Vlad Guerrero of the Angels, Manny Ramirez of the Red Sox and Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners.
There was a time once when fans would vote only at the ballparks and then wait patiently to see who was named to start the All-Star Game. It's a whole lot different now. Recent history shows that the first of these weekly balloting updates triggers an intense wave of voting as fans see for the first time how their peers are voting, and many fans will immediately use up their allotted 25 online votes.
With Jorge Posada in the running at catcher and with Bobby Abreu and Johnny Damon knocking on the outfield door behind fourth-place Torii Hunter of the Twins, it is reasonable to assume that this might be the most intense post-update burst of All-Star voting to date.
A-Rod has been rewarded by fans so far for a spectacular start, during which he tied Albert Pujols' 2006 Major League record with 14 homers in April. Rodriguez has 843,550 votes, more than any player in either league. It remains to be seen whether the National League can win its first All-Star Game since 1996, but the American League is dominating so far at the top of overall voting. Four of the top five in the Majors are in the AL, with A-Rod followed by Jeter (657,383), Ortiz (601,770), Carlos Beltran of the Mets (586,815) and Guerrero (578,430).
The race at catcher has all the indications of becoming a voting classic. Pudge Rodriguez, who has been named to 13 All-Star teams, leads with 370,322 votes, but less than 75,000 votes separate four others. Right behind him are 2006 AL batting champ Joe Mauer of the Twins, Jason Varitek of the Red Sox, and Posada, whose .360 average led the Majors through Tuesday.
Victor Martinez is fifth in that race, and his supporters could make a pretty good case as well, citing his 41 RBIs and the Indians' fabulous start. But support so far has not paralleled the team's first-half fortunes. Cleveland is an incredible 17-4 at home, has the AL's second-best record behind Boston, and has been atop the tough AL Central for much of the way. But Travis Hafner is fourth among first basemen (it's at an NL park this year, so no designated hitters on the ballot).
One of the most interesting debates about the first AL voting update might be held completely within Red Sox Nation, where you might be giddy about seeing Big Papi's huge lead, yet wondering why you aren't voting instead for Kevin Youkilis. The latter is Boston's regular first baseman and one of the hottest hitters in the Majors with a 21-game hitting streak and nine consecutive multi-hit games. Again, it reflects the absence of a DH vote this year, and Ortiz, a megastar, was Boston's representative on the ballot at first.
During Tuesday night's NESN telecast of the Red Sox victory over Cleveland, announcers Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy were discussing this dilemma for Red Sox Nation. Asked Remy: "So you're telling me there's no way you can vote for Papi and write-in Youkilis?"
Exactly. Sox fans will have to choose one or the other, and let's be honest -- how many of them are going to break out a writing utensil at the ballpark or start typing in the online ballot just to vote against Big Papi? That's practically sacrilege in Boston. Youkilis almost assuredly will require a different route to San Francisco, whether that's being added as reserve through the coaches/players process or perhaps by the Monster.com 2007 All-Star Final Vote process that will decide the 32nd and final roster spots.
The starting picture often changes in the week after the first balloting update is released. Are you happy with Guerrero, Ramirez and Ichiro in the outfield? Manny is on pace for his fewest homers since 1997 (26), currently sitting on eight to go along with 31 RBIs and a .268 average. Several AL outfielders can boast substantially better stats. Magglio Ordonez of the Tigers leads the AL with 48 RBIs, is tied for second with a .358 average, and has 12 dingers. Hunter has been lights-out.
Jeter's closest competitor at shortstop is a familiar one in the balloting -- Miguel Tejada of the Orioles. The latter has 228,230 votes, a gap of nearly 430,000. The bigger possibility for change is on the other side of the bag. Right on Cano's heels in the voting is Polanco, who is batting .332. More than 115,000 votes behind Cano in third place is Ian Kinsler, who has cooled drastically for Texas after a phenomenal first month when he hit nine of his 10 homers.
Fans can vote at MLB.com and all 30 club sites until 11:59 p.m. ET on June 28, and then they will resume voting immediately following the 2007 MLB "All-Star Game Selection Show" presented by Chevrolet, which will be televised by Turner Sports on July 1. Baseball fans around the world will be able select the 32nd and final player on each All-Star team via the Monster.com 2007 All-Star Final Vote.
Selecting the rosters isn't the end of the fun in 2007, either. Concluding the All-Star balloting process, fans will have the opportunity to vote for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet at the All-Star Game via the Monster.com 2007 All-Star Game MVP vote at MLB.com.
The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will offer extensive online coverage and MLB Radio will have exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.