OK, it's just baseball, which doesn't compare to the race to the run the country. But the Monster 2008 All-Star Game Final Vote really is serious business for a lot of people who are trying to get their candidates into the last two roster spots for the 79th All-Star Game on July 15 at Yankee Stadium. For many, it's their job.
Just ask Phillies outfielder Geoff Jenkins, who can be rightfully described as the father of Final Vote grassroots campaigning. Flash back to 2003, when he was a little-known outfielder for the Brewers on his way to a roughly .300-30-100 season. Lacking publicity, he agreed to go on The Dan Patrick Show on ESPN Radio and oblige various requests surrounding daily life of playing regular-season games. Creative campaigning immediately became a fact of Final Vote life to come.
"It was a lot of interviews and stuff, trying to rally," recalls Jenkins, who can advise fellow Phillies outfielder Pat Burrell, who is one of five National League players on the Final Vote ballot. "You do it because you want to get there. It was fun. I can't remember everything I did, but it was a lot, and that stuff probably helped."
Here is a look at what is unfolding for each of the nominees on the '08 campaign trail:
Pat Burrell, OF, Phillies
Phillies fans are being encouraged to "Go to Bat for Pat," and CBS sports radio station WIP is teaming up with the Phillies to engage passionate Burrell fans in a marathon voting session. Beginning at noon ET on Tuesday, four pre-selected fans will convene at Harry the K's at Citizens Bank Park to out-vote one another. The fan who stays awake the longest and votes the strongest will receive an autographed jersey personally from Burrell and will enjoy a future Phillies game along with 15 friends in the Final Vote nominee's suite.
"Phillies fans came through four years ago and elected Bobby Abreu to the NL squad in the Final Vote by casting over two million votes," Phillies president David Montgomery said. "That's a lot of votes to cast in just a few short days, but Pat deserves the same support."
Additional activities to encourage fans to vote include illuminating the Cira Centre with Burrell's No. 5 on Tuesday and Wednesday. Phillies Ballgirls will hand out Burrell photo cards to Center City workers on their lunch breaks this week. Traditional methods such as advertising, billboards and e-mail are also being used to get the word out.
Burrell joked that he's at a disadvantage because he doesn't own a computer, but his teammates are helping. Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins tried to vote during Sunday's rain delay and were determined clickers. Chase Utley and Jenkins indicated that they will cast ballots, as well.
Utley had some fun with a campaign speech that was filmed by MLB.TV. "Pat deserves to be an All-Star," Utley said. "He's had an unbelievable year and is a big part of this lineup. His numbers speak for themselves ... and he's my buddy."
Corey Hart, OF, Brewers
Hart is helping his own cause by participating in an online chat on Wednesday at brewers.com.
Ryan Braun and the Racing Sausages are making surprise visits to TGI Fridays and the Milwaukee Airport terminal on Wednesday to greet people with "Hart-shaped" candies and "Vote Hart" cards. You may have noticed the Hart-shaped logo with brewers.com text painted on the home plate dirt Tuesday night; it will be there through Thursday.
And it's pretty much impossible to top this club's slogan for the week: "I Hart New York." It's almost like NL manager Clint Hurdle from the Rockies added the second-year outfielder to the ballot just so that slogan could be used for the occasion.
That logo is being placed on T-shirts and banners around Miller Park this week. The Brewers mobilized behind Ryan Braun to help create a monumental late voting surge that took him right to the No. 1 spot among starting NL outfielders, and they are attempting to harness the same support for Hart. The team is brainstorming with its wireless provider ways to encourage text votes.
"We're dealing with a short time frame here," Brewers executive vice president of business operations Rick Schlesinger said, noting the Final Vote deadline of 5 p.m. ET on Thursday. "And it's going to be tough, because David Wright has the big media market and some of the other guys are having big years. Corey might be overshadowed a little bit, but look at his numbers, and they're incredible. We're going to be pushing on that."
There will be I-94 board signage, and Milwaukeeans might even see "Heart-shaped lights on downtown buildings" during the week.
Carlos Lee, OF, Astros
Fans who vote on Astros.com will be entered to win a baseball bat autographed by Lee to boost his balloting totals. But while the team was away Monday and the strategy was materializing, perhaps the most unique campaigning of the first day was something the slugging outfielder introduced himself.
Referring to radio station 97.5 WAO in Panama City, capital of his native Panama, Lee said: "They're doing a big promotion -- if you vote 25 times and you can prove it, they give you a hat. It's a beer company that I work with. We make a hat that has a picture of a horse on it with the name of the beer. They said, if you vote 25 times, you get a hat."
Um, someone there had better be making a lot of hats, because anyone with a computer or mobile phone and camera can prove it. Considering the sheer volume of the Final Vote -- a record 11 million overall votes in just the first day -- that has to be way into the thousands of beer hats at this point. If it's not, then no one's bothering to use easy technology to "prove" they are voting that many times.
Last year, Chris Young won the Final Vote in the NL with more than 4.4 million votes. Let's say for the sake of discussion that fans averaged six votes each at a single balloting session online -- a conservative number. Divide that into 4,400,000 and you would have 733,333 voters. Now let's say only 10 percent of those people vote 25 times (no limit). That would be 73,333 candidates for hats, and those among that group who can "prove" they voted that many times supposedly will get the headgear. Let's say only 10 percent of the people think it's worth their time to "prove" it. That's 7,333, and if you multiply it times $10 arbitrarily to cover the wholesale production cost of a beer hat, you're approaching six figures to put your money where your mouth is for a Final Vote incentive.
And on top of that, there would be shipping costs from Panama to the U.S.
The Astros were delayed in Atlanta Sunday night for several hours because the game lasted so long that the flight crew's shift was over and they had to wait for another one. They landed in Pittsburgh around 3 a.m., and by then Lee had a ton of texts and messages from Panama telling him about the promotion.
Several club execs passed the time waiting for the flight by voting for Lee 25 times from their cell phones.
Aaron Rowand, OF, Giants
As noted above, the Giants and White Sox now have an alliance, so that the Giants are publicly endorsing Dye while the White Sox are endorsing their former outfielder from the 2005 title days. Will it work? Anything that puts Rowand in one's consciousness this week is a good thing for his candidacy.
Other Giants efforts will include: "Shock and awe" campaign with employees, sponsors, season-ticket holders and other fans; heavy promotion in-broadcast; player appearances on the radio to promote the vote; and posting of promotional video on sfgiants.com.
Giants broadcaster and former pitcher Mike Krukow taped a message that will be sent to the phone numbers of 2,000 season-ticket holders -- like political ads -- urging them to Vote Rowand. It goes like this:
"Hey fans, it's Mike Krukow from the Giants calling you from New York. I'm calling to ask for your help in getting Aaron Rowand in the All-Star Game next week. I'm personally asking all of you Giants fans to either go to sfgiants.com to vote or text "N4" to 36197 to help Aaron join Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson at Yankee Stadium next week.
"Again, please go to sfgiants.com or text "N4" to 36197 ... You have until 2 p.m. Thursday to get your vote in.
"Let's show the baseball world what the Giants are all about. Please vote for Aaron Rowand.
David Wright, 3B, Mets
After going to last year's All-Star Games, Wright is relying on fans to get him to a home-city game at Yankee Stadium. Having the biggest market is not a lock, as Derek Jeter learned when Podsednik passed him in 2005, or as Mets closer Billy Wagner learned last year in his second appearance on the Final Vote ballot. It just requires hardcore clicking.
"I don't know if you can vote more than once, but if you can, David's a lock," Wagner said. Referring to his five children, he added: "They love David. And I know Glav's boy [the young sons of Tom Glavine] will be votes for David, too."
Here are some of the other ways the Mets will get behind their biggest franchise player: "Vote Wright Now" slogan; constant drop-ins on radio; press in local papers; regional broadcaster SNY to promote on air; appearances on TV and radio shows (including Mike Tirico's ESPN show on Tuesday); banner to vote on metsblog; and in-game production staff/Party Patrol wearing No. 5 Wright shirts.
Jermaine Dye, OF, White Sox
The White Sox -- who are among those having to rally behind a candidate on the road -- have turned up the campaign for Dye, as the latest phase will include an airborne component above Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Prior to Wednesday night's game against Kansas City, the club was planning to unleash the aerial phase of the campaign. Fans in the ballpark's vicinity were expected to be able to observe a message from the White Sox between 5-7 p.m. ET.
On Thursday morning, White Sox mascot Southpaw and the White Sox Chevy Pride Crew will canvass the Chicago Loop, visiting the Farmers' Market at Daley Plaza and local morning shows, lobbying fans for last-minute votes.
The White Sox know how to do this stuff. They are hoping to make it three Final Vote winners within a four-year span, after mounting successful campaigns for Scott Podsednik in 2005 and A.J. Pierzynski ("Punch A.J.") in 2006. They tend to relate campaigns to current events, and on Monday they were involved in the first "alliance" of 2008. The White Sox will support one of their 2005 world championship members, Rowand of the Giants, and the Giants will do the same for Dye.
Because Dye is one of the least self-promoting guys around the game, expect a complimentary type of campaign this week. The White Sox have laid out these promotions so far:
A 15-second commercial, which will be given to club broadcasters to run during games on Tuesday and Wednesday. It also will go out as an e-mail blast.
In-game posters and flyers. The White Sox plan to offer these online as printable downloads to fans online and include a video montage of fans in-park with the signs.
Signage on the backdrop during manager Ozzie Guillen's postgame news conferences.
"Vote for Dye" stickers for players and fans to wear. In fact, the White Sox emailed a photo from their U.S. Cellular Field lobby, which now looks like a political election office. Included is a sign featuring the word "DYE" next to an enormous red check mark in a box.
T-shirts for players to wear, and video of the players wearing the shirts and possibly including a message from players.
Possibly a sweepstakes for voters/registrants.
The White Sox also have a secret weapon that seems to have served them well in the past: the three-year-old White Sox Insider MLBlog maintained by Scott Reifert, the team's vice president of communications. It reaches directly to fans and now carries the Final Vote Widget that can be spread like wildfire around blogs and all social media.
Jason Giambi, 1B, Yankees
The Yankees decided on "Support the 'Stache" as their rallying cry, and they are going to give away 20,000 fake mustaches at Wednesday's game. Team broadcasters will be wearing them tonight and don't be surprised to see some players wearing them as well. As far as in-game promotion at Yankee Stadium, the club will ask any of its fans who are selected for featured entertainment promotions to wear them -- the person who pulls the lever for the countdown, the "Guess the Number" candidate, etc.
The big news Monday was that Giambi has received an endorsement from the American Mustache Institute as part of his campaign.
"It doesn't take a mathematician to figure out that Jason Giambi's hitting prowess plus a fashionable mustache, equals a bona fide All-Star," said Aaron Perlut, executive director of the American Mustache Institute. "Giambi's significant first-half production as well as his powerful lip fur -- indicating great intellect and good looks -- make two very compelling reasons for his place on the American League All-Star roster."
Giambi has autographed five Major League Baseballs, to be distributed among fans who place Final Votes for him on MLB.com. He also has a built-in advantage as far as grassroots campaigning -- the grass of Yankee Stadium itself. It's easy to tug at the heartstrings, for the possible sake of seeing a left-handed slugger in the State Farm Home Run Derby in the last major summertime event in the history of The House That Ruth Built.
Jose Guillen, OF, Royals
Last year, the Tigers took out a big James Bond-themed ad in a Detroit newspaper for Final Vote nominee Jeremy Bonderman, and his first-day lead may have been partly due to that. You never really know for sure, but the Royals are doing something similar by planning a 3/4-page ad for Guillen in Wednesday's Kansas City Star.
Mark Tilson, the Royals' vice president of sales and marketing, said that it will "hopefully, to bring some visibility to the program and to Guillen, giving people one last reminder that they'll have a chance to vote in their own player."
The Royals are going through Entercom Radio, home of flagship station 610 Sports, plus its cluster of FM stations to get the word out about Guillen.
"We have the good fortune of starting a homestand Tuesday night, so we'll have a captive audience for the next two nights in Kansas City, so we'll promote the voting in-stadium," Tilson said. "And we'll do the same on our broadcasts, both radio and TV."
Tilson said the club "created a banner ad that Entercom stations will have on their sites that links directly to the voting page online. We're also getting word out through prominent bloggers at baseball sites throughout town to make sure they're aware of this promotion as well."
Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays
Longoria is trying to join teammates Scott Kazmir and Dioner Navarro in the Midsummer Classic. He has teased that his mother, Ellie, is executing her own private campaign to help.
"She's out there, she's getting it done," Longoria mused. "But it's awesome to know that the fans care and notice not only what I'm doing over here [but what the team is doing as well]. It takes a lot to get voted in. The team has to be successful, too. It's exciting."
Fans attending Monday afternoon's Rays-Royals game at Tropicana Field offered a loud cheer when the announcement came that Longoria currently leads the voting. The Rays are encouraging fans to vote with in-game promos on the scoreboard and on games broadcasts, they are posting flyers via "street team" at high-traffic locations throughout the Tampa Bay area, and they plan to have a crawl at the bottom of the screen on upcoming Rays telecasts beginning Tuesday night.
The Rays are also hosting a "Get Out and Vote Party" for Longoria on Tuesday at Champps in International Plaza. Fans are encouraged to bring their laptops and cell phones to vote during the game. Prizes will be awarded. The Rays' pregame and postgame shows will be aired from Champps.
Other Rays efforts will include: creation of a "Vote for Longoria" banner to be displayed at high-traffic locations including Howard Frankland, various overpasses and intersections; using digital billboards to promote; holding a vote-a-thon text campaign; showing a video featuring Dick Vitale promoting the campaign; setting up Rays mannequins around the area wearing Longoria T-shirts while holding "Vote for Evan" signs; promotional ads; holding an employee vote-a-thon; having each Rays employee vote for an hour and encouraging employees to e-mail their friends and family with a link to the voting site.
Brian Roberts, 2B, Orioles
George Sherrill, Baltimore's All-Star representative, said he would swing his support to Roberts.
"I'll probably hop on the computer," Sherrill said, "and vote however many times they let me."
"You really just cross your fingers and hope that he makes the team," added Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar. "I'm going to vote him 25 times, if I can -- or whatever it is."
There is a lot of that going on around the Orioles organization. In addition, the club is: planning on-air drop-ins for pregame, in-game and postgame during its broadcasts; working with local media to plug Roberts on-air and conducting a Final Vote sweepstakes.
The second update in the balloting was announced at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, and Longoria and Hart each continued to hold narrow leads at that time. Most notable was the fact that more than 21 million votes already had been cast by that point since the launch of the ballot on Sunday, and fans as of Tuesday night were expected to have already smashed the four-day Final Vote record of more than 23 million set last year.
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.