The early returns are in for the Monster 2008 All-Star Game Final Vote, and so far you like the two players on the ballot with the least Major League service. Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria and Milwaukee outfielder Corey Hart had the lead in the first official voting update announced at 3 p.m. ET on Monday.
Longoria is followed in a tightly packed American League group by outfielder Jermaine Dye of the White Sox, first baseman Jason Giambi of the Yankees, second baseman Brian Roberts of the Orioles and outfielder Jose Guillen of the Royals.
In the National League, Hart has a narrow lead over third baseman David Wright of the Mets, who is closely followed by outfielders Pat Burrell of the Phillies, Aaron Rowand of the Giants and Carlos Lee of the Astros.
More than 11 million votes were cast exclusively at MLB.com in the opening 24 hours. This record-setting vote total for the first day of balloting represents an increase of 115 percent compared to the same period in 2007. Balloting will conclude at 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, and one winner from each league will get to suit up for the 79th All-Star Game on July 15 at Yankee Stadium.
As with the previous six years of this popular process to determine the final roster spots, only the exact order of vote standings is announced each day. At this point, the biggest news is not so much the identities of the leaders as the overwhelming voting turnout by fans worldwide on the Internet. So far all five in each league are bunched together, so don't be surprised if there is steady juxtaposition between the first update and the next one to come on Tuesday afternoon.
The seventh annual Monster All-Star Game Final Vote ballot commenced exclusively on MLB.com at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday.
In addition, fans will again be able to cast their votes via their mobile phones by texting the word "Vote" to 36197 to receive the Monster 2008 All-Star Game Final Vote candidates. In Canada, fans should text the word "Vote" to 88555.
The Monster All-Star Game Final Vote program has seen nearly 80 million votes cast since its inception in 2002, including a record 23 million last year, when fans chose pitchers Hideki Okajima of the Boston Red Sox and Chris Young of the San Diego Padres. Young also led after the first day of voting in that Final Vote, along with Detroit pitcher Jeremy Bonderman.
Previous winners of the Monster All-Star Game Final Vote include: A.J. Pierzynski (AL, 2006); Nomar Garciaparra (NL, 2006); Scott Podsednik (AL, 2005); Roy Oswalt (NL, 2005); Hideki Matsui (AL, 2004); Bobby Abreu (NL, 2004); Jason Varitek (AL, 2003); Geoff Jenkins (NL, 2003); Johnny Damon (AL, 2002); and Andruw Jones (NL, 2002).
Hart, 26, is trying to do what Jenkins did successfully in that second year of the process, when he basically invented the concept of Final Vote grassroots campaigning by appearing on national media and getting creative marketing from his club.
"It would be exciting if it happened," Hart said. "But right now, I'm just trying to not worry about it. It would be overwhelming if it happened."
Hart entered the week leading Brewers regulars with a .296 batting average to go with 14 home runs, 55 RBIs and 13 stolen bases.
Longoria, 22, is trying to become the Rays' first Final Vote winner, as only Carl Crawford has represented Tampa Bay on a past ballot. Suddenly, everyone is looking at the Rays. Tampa Bay called up Longoria from Triple-A Durham on April 12, and entering the week he had started 75 of 76 games since then, helping the club to brand-new status atop the AL East nearing the break.
The 22-year-old third baseman was batting .281 with 16 homers and 52 RBIs. In addition, he has fielded his position exceptionally well, especially with barehanded grabs of opposing bunts. He also has been able to fill in at short if needed. Longoria already ranks second in club history for longballs by a rookie (Jonny Gomes had 21 in 2005).
"It's just an honor to be on the list my first full year in the big leagues," Longoria said. "It doesn't matter how you get in as long as you're an All-Star."
It is the second big step in the process for fans everywhere, following their record-shattering input to determine All-Star starters. Once the Final Vote has been decided, there is still work to do. Fans will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet at the 79th All-Star Game through 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 that will also be available on XM Satellite Radio, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.