The rosters will be announced at 2 p.m. ET today on TBS with the MLB All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Chevy. There was more collective suspense on the final day of the Monster 2008 All-Star Game Online Ballot than in any previous campaign -- the culmination of the largest fan balloting program in professional sports -- and soon it will be time to see how all of those races turned out.
Did Ryan Braun become the first Brewers outfielder to be elected by the fans? Did Joe Mauer become the first Twins catcher to be a fan-elected starter? Did Chase Utley become the first Phillies player to be overall top vote-getter?
Did 2007 All-Star hero Ichiro Suzuki hold off five close challengers -- including AL Player of the Month J.D. Drew, who was on a Braun-like voting tear -- to win the third and final AL outfield spot? Did Hanley Ramirez hold off Houston's Miguel Tejada at shortstop and thus become the first player to start a season with the Marlins and be elected to start that year's All-Star Game?
Who won that internal battle for top AL vote-getter between teammates Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez? Will Boston own the right half of the infield the way those Yankees own the left half? Did Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler have enough support this week to shove his way past Dustin Pedroia, and did Kevin Youkilis succeed in holding his ground against Minnesota's Justin Morneau at first?
One of the best things about today's show is that it just gets things rolling again for the voting public.
Now in its seventh year, the wildly popular Monster 2008 All-Star Game Final Vote gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the 32nd and final player on each All-Star team. Balloting begins immediately following that announcement show and continues until 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, July 10. Teams and individual fan bases that are involved will try to throw the most forceful grassroots campaigns behind their candidates. The two winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
Last year, All-Star managers Tony La Russa of the Cardinals and Jim Leyland of the Tigers threw a wrinkle into the Final Vote process. They gave you 10 pitchers, five per league, a way to make sure they each got an extra arm out of the deal. Fans went with Chris Young of the Padres in the NL and Hideki Okajima of the Red Sox in the AL.
It is anyone's guess what Terry Francona of the Red Sox and Clint Hurdle of the Rockies will hand over to you. The Player Ballot has been ongoing during the course of this week, with all active Major League players given a chance to do their own decision-making, just like fans have done the last two-plus months. Let's say Pedroia survived Kinsler's rush on the fan ballot and also was No. 1 on the Player Ballot, with Kinsler No. 2 on that one. Kinsler would automatically be a reserve, because if the same player finishes first at a position in each, the second-place finisher on the Player Ballot is in.
Francona and Hurdle, in conjunction with Major League Baseball, will be analyzing the fan and player votes and then will fill out the rosters based on need as well as league-wide representation. Inevitably, as always, there will be players chosen who will not be able to go because of this or that injury. But they will have to decide on those Final Vote players, knowing that perhaps a Final Vote also-ran still might make it to Yankee Stadium that night because someone bowed out.
There will be two ways for fans to participate in the 2008 All-Star Game Final Vote -- online now at MLB.com, or on-the-go from their cell phones. Fans also can text the word "VOTE" to 36197 to have the All-Star Final Vote candidates sent to your phone. To vote for a specific player, simply reply with your choice. In Canada, fans should text the word "VOTE" to 88555. Standard rate text messaging rates apply -- just check with your mobile carrier for details.
The fun won't end there, either. Fans, having already decided the starters and final player on each team, once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the Monster 2008 All-Star Game MVP Vote on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.
"First and foremost, I think the Internet is making a big difference in All-Star voting," MLB.com analyst Harold Reynolds said by phone from the College World Series in Omaha. "This is exploding because people have access. When I was a kid, you'd go to 7-11 and get a slurpee cup [and vote]. Now you can sit in your house and vote. Or you used to have to go to the stadium and vote, and now you can do both. So it made it exciting when this became a happening online."
Reynolds is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his last All-Star appearance -- he made the AL roster with Seattle in 1987-88 -- and he is as eager as anyone to see how all of that phenomenal fan balloting turned out. Familiar to everyone here through his online commentary and interviews -- as well as his previous longtime "ESPN Baseball Tonight" role, and before that a long MLB career -- Reynolds is part of the TBS on-air talent that will reveal the results to you.
Reynolds and six-time All-Star and 2004 Hall of Fame inductee Dennis Eckersley have been added to the studio team this year for the network's exclusive coverage. They join two-time Emmy award-winner Ernie Johnson and TBS MLB studio analyst Cal Ripken -- a 19-time All-Star, two-time All-Star Game MVP (1991, 2001) and 2007 Hall of Fame inductee. Ripken made his 2007 TBS debut on this very show and handled himself with aplomb, and this mix of TV talent and these suspenseful final tallies makes it impossible to miss.
"It's great to be on the national scene again, and to be working with Cal and Ernie and Eck -- guys that I know -- we'll bring some life to it, have some fun, be able to tell some stories while telling everyone the names," Reynolds said. "If you don't do it with enthusiasm, it can be boring. We'll tell some stories."
Citing a certain U.S. presidential election earlier this decade, Reynolds noted the races involving Ramirez and also Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla and quipped: "It may come down to Florida again."
"It's so close, you don't really know who the guy's going to be, so you really have to tune in and see. That makes it exciting," Reynolds said. "You always have the snubs and guys who fall short, so we'll have to see what happens. Hanley, Uggla ... they're wondering what's going on down there, too."
During the telecast, TBS will exclusively reveal the All-Star Game starters elected by fan voting, as well as the player selections and manager picks to round out this year's AL and NL squads. Throughout the hour-long telecast Reynolds, Eckersley and Ripken will provide in-depth review and analysis.
TBS is the exclusive home of all four MLB Division Series as well as the 2008 AL Championship Series. This season, the network launched Sunday MLB on TBS, featuring 26 consecutive Sunday afternoon matchups with Chip Caray providing play-by play, alongside analysts Ron Darling and Buck Martinez throughout the season. In fact, TBS will go right into an important Cubs-Cards telecast at the end of the Selection Show.
"We are excited to add analysts to our studio show with the on-air credentials and on-field experience of the caliber of Harold and Dennis," said Jeff Behnke, senior vice president and executive producer for Turner Sports. "We look forward to providing their insights and opinions as fans and players around the country learn who will be representing their teams in the 2008 MLB All-Star Game."
The 79th Major League Baseball 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 on that big Tuesday. 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.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.