There are still a number of questions like those to be answered, and now comes the real thrill ride to get some answers as we enter the final week of voting. More than 250 million votes already have been cast online via the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot, and now that the final paper ballots have been collected at each of the 30 Major League Baseball stadiums, the voting is on-line-only until the ballot officially closes at 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday.
This marks the second consecutive year in which the 250-million milestone has been eclipsed heading into the final seven days of voting, when ballots are cast exclusively online at MLB.com and the 30 club Web sites. With millions of votes yet to come, many of the races for the 17 starting position players in the 83rd All-Star Game may not be decided until Thursday night.
Both rosters will be unveiled Sunday, July 1, on the 2012 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Taco Bell, televised nationally on TBS. The AL All-Star Team will have nine elected starters via the fan balloting program, while the NL All-Star Team will have eight fan-elected starters. The pitchers and reserves for both squads -- totaling 25 for the NL and 24 for the AL -- will be determined through a combination of "Player Ballot" choices and selections made by the two All-Star managers -- AL skipper Ron Washington of the Rangers and NL manager Tony La Russa -- in conjunction with MLB. La Russa will be coming out of retirement solely to manage in this game.
The 10 candidates for the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote presented by Firestone also will be revealed at the end of the Selection Show. It will be your annual chance to add one final player to each roster.
And the voting doesn't end there. The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2012 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.MLB.com also has launched an All-Star Game 2012 "Tweet the Vote" portal where fans can track and rally social support for each player with streams of designated Twitter hashtags, including the closest races as of the last balloting updates. Up-to-the-moment voting updates will be delivered via @MLB throughout the final days of online voting, detailing which players gain the most support from their fans' campaigning and how that may impact the races.
In the last AL balloting update, Bautista, the Blue Jays' slugger, had 1,996,940 votes and jumped past Cruz for the third outfield spot behind the Rangers' Josh Hamilton (5,414,880) and Curtis Granderson (2,818,535). Meanwhile at AL second base, Kinsler of the Rangers was leading the Yankees' Cano by just 15,260 votes,
In the NL, the Giants' Cabrera leap-frogged Braun of the Brewers to take over the third starting outfield spot behind the Dodgers' Matt Kemp and the Cardinals' Carlos Beltran. Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal overtook the top spot at his position, ahead of the injured Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies.
Last year, Tigers catcher Alex Avila overcame Russell Martin in the final week of online-only balloting to win the starting AL spot, and Jose Reyes, then with the Mets, got a final-week surge to leapfrog Tulowitzki. It is a similar story every year, as the last week tends to bring a "correction" to the overall balloting process, which started in late April.
In 2010, Josh Hamilton's torrid June powered him all the way to the top AL outfield spot in the end. In 2009, Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox trailed Ian Kinsler of the Rangers by 200,238 votes on June 16 and then passed him at the finish to start at St. Louis. A year earlier, Braun went from 10th place in the NL balloting that June 1 to a gradual climb that carried him all the way to No. 2 overall vote-getter in the league.
The 2012 All-Star Game will be played at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City on Tuesday, July 10. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.The 83rd All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and Sirius XM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com or royals.com/asg.