It's time to vote for the brightest stars

It's time to vote for the brightest stars

Who are you voting for?

It may be the hottest question of 2008.

Voting is under way at MLB.com, and gradually at all the ballparks, to once again fulfill your annual civic duty of electing the most deserving Major League Baseball players to starting positions and final roster spots for the All-Star Game -- the most traditional and important of any such elite gathering in sports. It is the jewel event created just so fans could see Babe Ruth and his best contemporaries all on the same field at once, and now it is an institution where a great part of the excitement is the very process that gets today's greats all together.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how people vote myself, just after knowing the American League so well for the last five years," said Braves first baseman Mark Teixeira, a newcomer on the National League ballot and a lifelong All-Star voter himself. "It's really neat, because one of the most fun things, as a kid in Baltimore, was going to a game and voting for All-Stars. I'd fill out two or three ballots as a kid during the game. I had my favorite Orioles like Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray. They were automatic. But I voted for other teams' players based on whoever I thought was having a good season. I'd mix up my picks.

"Now, you look at the way the whole voting process has grown and it is just amazing. It's great because the All-Star Game is for the fans. It's an exhibition game, players have fun, and really it is a showcase of the entire game one night."

Who are you voting for?

Fans can vote for starters up to 25 times with the Monster 2008 All-Star Game Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club Web sites until 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday, July 2. There will be constant campaigning between now and then, and voters will be faced with tough decisions every day and night. The task is to put the best people on the field the night of July 15 at Yankee Stadium, which is in its farewell season. Major League Baseball formally opened the balloting with an on-field ceremony there before Tuesday's Tigers-Yanks game, and now it will be up to you to study the issues and get to know the candidates.

This is serious stuff, obviously a lot more challenging than picking one leader to run things. Here, you are asked to pick from candidates on both tickets, AL and NL, and it will be up to you to decide on nine AL starting position players (including a designated hitter), eight NL starting position players, and the 32nd man on both rosters with the ever-popular, seventh-annual Monster All-Star Final Vote.

No pressure there or anything, folks. If you stockpile the AL team with Manny Ramirez and those reigning world champs from up in Boston, then Yankee Universe is going to post unfriendly blogs about you. If you load it up with A-Rod and other Yankees, then welcome to the pinstripe people party. This is a decision that affects the future, because the NL has not won since 1996, and once again the league that wins the All-Star Game will have home-field advantage in the World Series this October.

Recent history shows that you are going to vote with intensity and intellect. In 2007, spurred by tight races at several positions in each league, a record 11.8 million ballots were cast online during the voting period, including three million ballots over the final 48 hours after the most recent voting updates were announced. There was a general sentiment that fans, by all accounts, "got it right" in electing "deserving" stars. Once again, you will be clicking non-stop around here, and once again you will be using car keys or pencils or any means necessary to furiously punch those little round holes next to first initial/last name on paper ballots as professional sports' largest All-Star balloting program begins again.

All-Star ballots will be available at the 30 Major League ballparks, each of which will have 24 home dates for balloting. In-stadium balloting began on April 18 at Baltimore's Camden Yards, and it begins Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, AT&T Park in San Francisco and Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Balloting will begin at the ballparks of the Red Sox, Marlins, Mets and Rangers on Wednesday. Every Major League club will begin balloting no later than May 9, and the in-stadium balloting period will end for each club by June 29. In-stadium balloting at Rogers Centre in Toronto, sponsored by Rogers Personal TV, is scheduled to run from May 2 through June 24. From May 5 to June 13, DirecTV will sponsor All-Star balloting in Puerto Rico, and Pacifico Clara will sponsor the program in Mexico. In addition, 109 Minor League clubs will participate in All-Star Game balloting from May 5 through June 18. It is always an election year in baseball.

"Major League Baseball has attracted record attendance in each of the last four seasons, and that tremendous enthusiasm has been evident via our All-Star Game balloting program," said MLB President & Chief Operating Officer Bob DuPuy. "All-Star balloting is one of the rich traditions of baseball, and we fully expect that this year's program will draw a magnificent response as we approach the celebration of the 2008 Midsummer Classic in the final year at Yankee Stadium."

Who are you voting for?

Could there be five different Cabreras in the starting AL lineup? It could happen. Miguel has moved from the NL to the AL, representing Detroit at third base on the ballot. Asdrubal Cabrera represents the Indians at second base, and he has some October exposure going for him. Orlando Cabrera is the shortstop of a White Sox team that was leading the AL Central through Monday, and Yankee fans would love to see their own Melky Cabrera in the outfield for a big home game. Orioles righty Daniel Cabrera beat the Yankees on April 18 for his first victory, and if he gets on a roll, then maybe AL manager Terry Francona tabs him for the staff.

Who takes Barry Bonds' place in the NL outfield now that the longest active streak of ballot appearances is over? Ken Griffey Jr. assumes the title of longest-running ballot fixture, dating back to that baby-faced 19-year-old we remember from the Upper Deck rookie card. Giants shortstop Omar Vizquel is back on the ballot and has been seemingly forever. Craig Biggio is a notable missing name from the ballot, now retired and counting down the mandatory five-year wait for Cooperstown. But honestly, would it even have mattered the way Chase Utley is dominating the sport right now? He could be the Phillies' third straight NL MVP.

Can Tampa Bay, Baltimore or Florida get some All-Star love to equal their first month so far? Will Cristian Guzman or Ryan Church have a prayer? You are going to have to think about a (Torii) Hunter and a (John) Buck in the AL. Arizona has the best record in baseball at this early juncture, but does the voting public really know these guys yet? Frank Thomas is listed on the ballot as a DH for Toronto, but will the Big Hurt get many write-in votes now that he actually plays for the A's?


"It's really neat, because one of the most fun things, as a kid in Baltimore, was going to a game and voting for All-Stars. I'd fill out two or three ballots as a kid during the game."
-- Mark Teixeira

And what will become of Teixeira, who helped the AL to this ridiculous All-Star streak and now appears for the first time on the NL ballot? His competition is going to include the likes of perennial favorite Albert Pujols of St. Louis, Prince Fielder of Milwaukee, Derrek Lee of the Cubs, Ryan Howard of the Phillies and red-hot Lance Berkman of the Astros. That could be the most competitive position on either side of the ballot. Maybe not. Once those much-anticipated regular weekly updates begin at MLB.com during the months to come, all of your thinking will become the data that drives more and more voting to "get it right." The first weekly AL update will be on May 27, and the first NL update will be the next day.

Teixeira, interviewed by MLB.com at Shea Stadium over the weekend, certainly would love to be invited back to New York for July 15. The All-Star Game holds a special memory for him -- not just because of the voting process, but because of experience.

"I remember that I got to start my very first All-Star Game," he said, thinking back to Houston and 2005. "I was fortunate to hit a two-run homer that put us up, 7-0. We won, 7-5."

How can he explain the AL dominance for more than a decade? Throw out that 2002 tie in Milwaukee and it is 10 consecutive AL victories.

"It's crazy, because there are so many great players in each league," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "In a game like baseball, so much is up in the air. The games have been close."

Maybe this will be the NL's year.

Who are you voting for?

The 2008 AL and NL All-Star teams will be unveiled on Sunday, July 6 on the 2008 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show Presented by Chevrolet televised nationally on TBS immediately following the Sunday MLB on TBS Game of the Week. The pitchers and reserves for both squads -- 23 for the NL, 22 for the AL -- will be determined through a combination of "Player Ballot" choices and selections made by the two All-Star managers, Francona and NL manager Clint Hurdle of the Rockies. That will be done in conjunction with Major League Baseball.

Immediately following the announcement of the rosters, it gets absolutely nutty. Fans will have the annual thrill ride of selecting the final position player for each league's 32-man roster at MLB.com. The Monster 2008 All-Star Final Vote again will provide fans the opportunity to cast their votes from a list of five players from each league over a four-day period, and that's when the creative grassroots campaigning kicks in. Last year, all 10 Final Vote nominees were pitchers thanks to managers Tony La Russa and Jim Leyland, and fans chose Chris Young of San Diego and Hideki Okajima of Boston. Fans will be able to cast their Final Vote selections for the fourth year using their mobile phones as well, and both winners this time will be announced after the voting has concluded on Thursday, July 10.

Even then, the fan participation is not over. You can be part of the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet during the big Tuesday night event via the Monster 2008 All-Star Game MVP Vote on MLB.com.

The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, 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 will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game. DuPuy said during the ballot launch announcement on Tuesday that the Futures Game will be expanded from seven to nine innings this time, and that the U.S. lineup will be largely comprised of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team roster.

There is a lot of time between now and then, a lot of research to do on these candidates. There are two Drews, a Hardy boy and a Bard. There is a Hill and Stairs. Surely there must be potential leaders among Kennedy, Wilson, Jackson, Johnson and Chavez. There are two "A. Jones" -- one a Dodger and one an Oriole. There is a Durham and a Pierre to see. There is a Bay and an Overbay. There is Lamb and there is Pie, Crisp and Dunn. There is a Prince and fortunately a Butler. For those who love water, there is a Hudson and we found Wells. This will go on for Weeks.

It's what everyone is talking about.

There is only one question, really.

Who are you voting for?

Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.