It has been a young baseball season of shockers. The tops of the standings are clogged by teams recently more familiar with the other end. Individual statistical races are led by some very unusual suspects. But even upheaval has its limits. And, apparently, there is less room for thinking outside the ballot box.
Early voting for the 2008 All-Star Game is being dominated by Red Sox and Yankees. The epic East Coast rivalry has transitioned from the field to the stump. Stop us if you've heard this one before. However, the first of regular weekly updates of voting trends for the July 15 Midsummer Classic in the Bronx does reveal a noteworthy fresh face among the leaders. Kevin Youkilis, who in the past could not even get on the ballot (one first baseman per team, sorry, and Boston's spot always went to David Ortiz), now tops his position in the early voting. Fear not, Big Papi fans: The return of the All-Star Game to American League territory accommodates designated hitters on the ballot, and Ortiz leads there. The right side of the Red Sox infield accounts for the only variations from the old guard in the early results. Joining Youkilis among the leaders is second-year second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Leader Manny Ramirez of the Red Sox leads off a familiar front-running outfield triumvirate also including Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki and Vladimir Guerrero of the Angels. Among them, those three have 17 All-Star Game starts and 26 overall selections. Other leaders are the icons on the left side of the Yankees infield -- shortstop Derek Jeter and third baseman Alex Rodriguez -- and Boston catcher Jason Varitek. Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times with the Monster 2008 All-Star Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites until Wednesday, July 2 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Starting rosters will be announced during the 2008 All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Chevrolet on TBS on Sunday, July 6. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the Monster 2008 All-Star Final Vote at MLB.com. And the voting doesn't end there. Fans will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet at the All-Star Game via the Monster 2008 All-Star Game MVP vote at MLB.com Interestingly, although Yankees and Red Sox monopolize the leader board, at this early stage they are in match races at only three positions. Robinson Cano is runner-up to Pedroia at second, Mike Lowell chases A-Rod at third and Hideki Matsui -- a two-time All-Star as an outfielder -- crowds Ortiz at DH. The Detroit Tigers, perhaps feeding off extreme preseason expectations that have not yet materialized, are runners-up at two positions: catcher, where perennial All-Star Ivan Rodriguez looms over Varitek, and shortstop, where three-time National League starter Edgar Renteria follows Jeter. Others in threatening spots are Minnesota first baseman Justin Morneau and Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton; the latter, who leads the Majors in RBIs, put up a strong opening showing, ranking fourth among outfielders to lead a second tier also including Detroit's Magglio Ordonez and a pair of Yankees, Bobby Abreu and Melky Cabrera. Oh ... the team with the league's best record nearly drew a blank in this first draft. Tampa Bay first baseman Carlos Pena is fifth, and outfielders Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton are 12th and 15th, respectively. The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX and around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio play-by-play, while MLB.com will offer extensive online coverage. The 79th Midsummer Classic will be the first in New York City and Yankee Stadium in 31 years, but overall the fourth in the Bronx and No. 8 in the Big Apple. The Yankees previously hosted the All-Star Game in 1939, 1960 and 1977; the Polo Grounds held the game in 1934 and 1942; Ebbets Field was the site in 1949; and Shea Stadium hosted the 1964 Midsummer Classic.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.