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Voters voice choices, faster than ever

Milestone ASG vote has been cast

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The 100 millionth vote has just been cast in the Monster 2008 All-Star Game Online Ballot, marking the earliest point that milestone has been reached in a Major League Baseball All-Star campaign, MLB.com announced on Wednesday.

Reaching 100 million took only 50 days. Last year, online voting passed that milestone on day 67 of the balloting process. Yes, this definitely is the year of the pumped-up voter.

There are only two weeks left to help decide the starters for the 79th All-Star Game on July 15 at Yankee Stadium. The ballpark paper ballot process is in a gradual shutdown process, and it won't be long before all those votes are lumped in with digital votes and those all-important decisions will be announced.

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.

The empowerment then continues when fans have the annual 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.

The fourth All-Star Game in storied Yankee Stadium -- and the eighth in New York City -- 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. What can happen in these final two weeks of voting? Judging by the furious finishes every year since 2001 in All-Star balloting and by the overwhelming involvement of fans right now, there will unquestionably be some kind of late transformation in the voting updates.

"These final two weeks of balloting figure to prove pivotal," said Dinn Mann, Executive Vice President, Content, MLB.com. "Leaders in numerous categories frequently change as a result of 6-8 million votes being cast online every day."

It happens every year, without fail. Fans see the facts laid out right in front of them, live on the fields at 30 ballparks or live over their computers with MLB.TV. They see them in the daily stats and in their own fantasy results. They know an All-Star when they see one by the time summer officially arrives, and they correct any wrongs. The masses speak, using up their allotment of 25 online votes per email registration, and they don't stop until the vote for starters ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on July 2. The final day of MLB's online voting is arguably the largest collective one-day participation by fans in any global professional or college sport -- representing a huge chunk of the overall balloting.

History at this point shows that 68,112 votes is practically a rounding error, so it will be interesting to see whether Houston's Miguel Tejada can hold off Florida's Hanley Ramirez at National League shortstop. That is what separates them, and don't be shocked at all to see a Cubs voting machine catapult their own Ryan Theriot past both of them. Especially if you are a student of history and remember what David Eckstein told MLB.com after fans gave him the final bump to surge past Cezar Izturis of the Dodgers and into the starting shortstop job for the 2005 NL All-Star team.

"It definitely helps out being on a winning team," Eckstein said at the time, perhaps positive words today for a Cubs fan base that savors baseball's best record. "No matter what your numbers are, if you're on a winning team you look a lot better."

Theriot is only 59,393 behind Ramirez, and it's worth noting that Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies and Jose Reyes are both within 285,000 of the leader.

In the final two weeks, the online vote has made up differences like those. There are so many baseball fans in the world today. Just think: One hundred million times a click has happened next to a Major Leaguer's name at MLB.com this season.

It is possible, in fact, that one already is in the process of happening. You just saw Ryan Braun of the Brewers leap past Carlos Beltran and Carlos Lee to fourth in the NL outfielder standings, now on the heels of new 600 Home Run Club inductee Ken Griffey Jr. This is nothing new for Junior, the all-time leading All-Star vote-getter. Look at the year-by-year results, and frequently he has been involved in a battle royale. Alfonso Soriano (1,444,153) and 31-year-old rookie Kosuke Fukudome (1,188,459) of the Cubs are 1-2 in the NL outfield, Griffey has 1,081,665, and Braun is now up to 885,932.

What's happening in the AL voting has been almost comical. Here you have Yankee Stadium, the bastion of pinstripes and the place where Red Sox are hardly welcome at all, and yet as of right now five of the nine slots in the AL batting order are occupied by those guys from up in Boston. If not for the left side of the infield with Alex Rodriguez at third and Derek Jeter at short, it could be really ugly for Yankees fans. Do you think they have any interest whatsoever in reducing that present domination by their rivals so that it doesn't look like a Red Sox home game on their turf?

The answer according to every Yankees fan informally interviewed is a resounding yes. Enter the Minnesota Twins. They have two candidates who are knocking on the door behind Red Sox leaders. Joe Mauer has been through this all before, having made up remarkable late voting ground before, and now he is only 51,079 votes behind Jason Varitek at AL catcher. It is the closest race on your ballot. Justin Morneau, meanwhile, is 248,721 behind Kevin Youkilis at AL first base, again a not-insurmountable total considering the voting volume to come. As an example of voting incentive, the Twins just announced that fans who choose the Twins as their favorite" or "other favorite" team will automatically be entered for a chance to win four Owner's Seats (just above the dugout) for the Monday, July 28 home game against the White Sox as well as a baseball signed by Mauer and Morneau. The Brewers announced a similar promotion to continue their sudden momentum, offering their fans a chance to win a suite for a home game, including a visit to the suite by Braun and shortstop J.J. Hardy.

At AL second base, Ian Kinsler of the Rangers and Robinson Cano of the Yankees are practically deadlocked in a tie for second behind Boston's Dustin Pedroia. Each needs to make up about 300,000 votes to bump Pedroia. As you can see below, Cano has been through one of these before as well. It's par for the course as summer arrives.

Furious Finishes: A year-by-year history of the online vote

2001: Online voting for All-Star starters was in its infancy, but it made a big difference in the case of one much-beloved veteran. Cal Ripken Jr. trailed David Bell in AL third-base voting going into the final week of online balloting -- and finished nearly 45,000 votes ahead of him to start in his 19th and final All-Star Game. Ripken homered in that All-Star swan song at Seattle and was named Most Valuable Player on that night.

2002: Shea Hillenbrand, then with the Red Sox, received fewer stadium votes than runners-up Robin Ventura and Corey Koskie -- but started the game at Milwaukee thanks to a heavy online vote. Only three other American Leaguers on that ballot -- Torii Hunter, Christian Guzman and Johnny Damon -- received more online votes than offline votes. And none of those three had a bigger upswing on the online side than Hillenbrand.

It was Ivan Rodriguez's final season with Texas, and he drew a whopping 1,142,276 votes -- yet lost his starting All-Star job to Jorge Posada of the Yankees by only 18,519. Pudge had 119,284 more offline votes than Posada, but the Bombers' catcher won due to the online vote.

2003: In this year, total online balloting increased a quantum leap of 50 percent over the previous year. It is when the digital vote became a true powerhouse. Hideki Matsui made a late run as a "rookie" in the AL after years of dominating in Japan, and indeed he may have benefited not only from Yankees Universe in the voting, but also from high Internet activity in the Far East. In the other league, Albert Pujols made perhaps the most memorable late surge in the history of multi-platform All-Star voting. He headed into the final week ranked fourth among NL outfielders, and Sosa, ranked ahead of him at the time, said, "Pujols has played unbelievable. He's doing everything. There are guys up there with good numbers. Whatever happens, it would be better if they pick someone with better numbers." They did and Pujols was the NL's top vote-getter by being named on 2,030,702 ballots. That included 1,386,818 online votes, earning him the All-Star Online Balloting Top Vote-Getter Award that year.

"It's special," Pujols said right after bumping out Sosa in the NL outfield and being selected for his second Midsummer Classic, his previous one coming in 2001 as a rookie reserve. "I had a great time in 2001 when I made it, but definitely, it's going to be different this year, because I got voted in. The St. Louis fans and all the fans around the world who voted me in; it's pretty special. It's great."

2004: Fans around the world cast a record 10.6 million ballots and 141 million votes online. The 10.6 million online ballots compared to 4.7 million ballots cast the previous year, and the 141 million votes compared to 60 million votes from 2003.

Despite that volume, fans witnessed the tightest position battle since they were first given the vote in 1947. In fact, it was an unthinkably close race. With two days remaining before the polls closed, St. Louis shortstop Edgar Renteria led Houston's Adam Everett by only six votes. At that point, Renteria had 986,688 votes compared to 986,682 for Everett, who was hoping to start in his home park. Renteria held on and finished with 2,028,840, and the Cardinals (Renteria, Pujols and Scott Rolen took every infield spot except second base).

In the AL outfield, it was a battle of former Japanese stars. Matsui surged past Ichiro Suzuki for the third and final starting spot. With two days left, MLB announced that Matsui held a 57,019-vote lead. Alas, fans bumped Suzuki into the starting role, and Matsui had to rely on the Final Vote just to make the AL roster at all. He did just that, as fans chose him over a group that also included Paul Konerko, Frank Thomas, Lew Ford and Travis Hafner.

2005: MLB.com announced that fans cast a record 2.3 million ballots in the final 24 hours, bringing the total ballots cast online to 11.5 million with more than 155 million online votes, both records. This resulted in some of the most hotly contested races in both leagues since fan voting began.

Tino Martinez of the Yankees was in command at AL first base for most of the voting period, but Mark Teixeira -- then a Ranger -- surged to the top in the final week's voting update. Ichiro was clinging to a 13,850-vote lead over Damon for the third AL outfield starting spot in the final update. Fans decided in the final analysis that Teixeira and Damon should start instead. Teixeira whalloped a big homer in his All-Star debut, and despite the late snub by fans, Ichiro entered the game in the fourth inning and immediately made his presence felt with a big hit.

In the NL, Izturis was pushed by his Dodgers club for that starting spot since the voting began and he maintained a lead over Eckstein much of the way. But Izturis' lead was gradually dwindling in the final weeks, shrinking to about 44,000 in the final update. Ultimately there were six Cards chosen, their most since 1959 (Rolen later had to pull out), and Eckstein was among the ones who started.

2006: AL catcher was an amazing scene in the late voting. Pudge Rodriguez, who had been a virtual AL All-Star institution back in his Texas days, trailed Varitek by about 40,000 votes entering the final week. The Tigers were tearing up baseball, and Pudge jumped past the Red Sox captain at the wire for the starting nod. Mauer, who won the batting title that year, made a dramatic late surge in the voting but fell short. At AL second base that year, Mark Loretta got the late-change vote to bump Cano.

Fans cast more than 1.5 million online ballots in the final 24 hours, bringing the total ballots cast online to more than 11 million, with more than 141 million online votes.

2007: There were huge moves in the final week. In the AL outfielder picture, fans bumped Magglio Ordonez of the Tigers all the way past Manny and Ichiro and into the No. 2 spot. Maggs was having a monster season and it was unavoidable. That left Manny being No. 4 Manny at very end, just behind the game's eventual hero, Ichiro.

But the really big news came from the home team fans. It was still Bonds' park, at least for one final season. Going into the final week, he was not among the top three NL outfielders. The order then was Carlos Beltran, Ken Griffey and Alfonso Soriano. "I personally think he deserves a roster spot," Tony Gwynn said in that final week, and maybe the words of that subsequent Hall of Fame inductee also carried some weight. Bonds, then in the midst of his move past Hank Aaron on the all-time home run list, bumped Soriano; the final order was Griffey, Bonds and Beltran.

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

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