Final Vote balloting ends today
Hart, Longoria hold leads with just hours remaining
With more than 33 million votes cast, and everything from fake mustaches to candy hearts to club alliances and fan pacts becoming all the rage, the Monster 2008 All-Star Game Final Vote approached its final hours, and there was no change in the latest nominee standings. However, wild three-way races are emerging in both leagues.
Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria continues to hold off the charges of his closest two competitors in the American League, Jermaine Dye of the White Sox and Jason Giambi of the Yankees, as each has totaled more than 3.75 million votes. Brian Roberts of the Orioles and Jose Guillen of the Royals round out the current standings in fourth and fifth place, respectively.
On the National League side, Brewers outfielder Corey Hart remains atop the standings despite significant challenges from David Wright of the Mets and Pat Burrell of the Phillies. The top three candidates, who have each accumulated nearly 4 million votes, are followed by Aaron Rowand of the Giants and Carlos Lee of the Astros.
The 100 millionth vote in the history of the Monster All-Star Game Final Vote was cast Tuesday night, and fans needed only half as long as last year to demolish the 2007 Final Vote record of 23.2 million votes. This balloting period ends at 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, and the final 24 hours easily could wipe out any one-day voting record at MLB.com and approach whatever one-day Internet voting record that exists.
While many fans have been voting over and over on their computers, mobile voting continues to be a happening this week -- and an increasingly larger share of the overall numbers. More than a million votes had come in from cell phones going into Wednesday's balloting. You can cast your mobile vote by texting "Vote" to 36197 to receive the list of Final Vote candidates. (In Canada, text "Vote" to 88555.)
Two of the leaders were actually facing off while the third-day update was being announced at MLB.com, and they were both making news in different ways. During the Rays-Yankees game in New York, Major League Baseball announced that Longoria had just won the AL Rookie of the Month Award for June, while Yankee Stadium was filled with fake mustaches as part of the "Support the 'Stache" campaign for Giambi.
"It's going to be exciting to see how it turns out," Longoria said. "If I make it, I'll be here [at Yankee Stadium]. If not, I've got plans for the break anyway. ... I haven't thought about it one bit other than when I'm here at the field."
Eleven-year-old Ryan Karr of Hornell, N.Y., wore the mustache at Wednesday's game. His favorite player is Alex Rodriguez, but he said he thinks Giambi should get the All-Star nod "because he hits lots of home runs." And then there was Tim Chretien, who is not a Yankees fan but was looking forward to the mustache movement even before he got to Yankee Stadium. He said he tried to buy a mustache from vendors but none sold them. Chretian, who came from Oshawa, ON, said getting one for free at the game "was a bonus."
Originally a Montreal Expos fan, Chretian is now a supporter of baseball in general. "If they would have given out pink dresses today," he said, "I would have worn pink dresses."
There was a movement afoot for Wright-Longoria "pacts" among fans around the Internet. The whole concept of "player pacts" has taken shape, on message boards and within social networks. Blocs of fans get together with other blocs of fans to each support their guy.
"A pact that we bloggers over at MetsGeek.com and DRaysBay.com have created is for Mets fans to include Longoria and Rays fans to include Wright," said Pat Andriola, who e-mailed MLB.com with that pact. "We're voting all day and trying to spread the Wright-Longoria word as far as possible. Vote for the young third basemen from the Yankees' least-favorite teams so we can take over The Stadium!"
Each club has mounted aggressive political-like campaigns; take the Giants as just one example. Their front-office people have been voting non-stop for Rowand online. Employees have been encouraged to vote as often as possible and have their families vote on their behalf. There are contests among employees to see who votes the most. Winners of those contests receive "cash prizes" and "memorabilia." Staci Slaughter, the club's senior vice president of communications, said the first time they counted how many times the employees had voted, some had already registered 10,000 votes.
The Giants and White Sox formed an alliance on Monday and have been campaigning that way ever since, with the White Sox endorsing their former outfielder, Rowand, while the Giants are helping the White Sox get out the Dye vote. They are in opposite leagues, and this one just made sense.
"It's truly a political campaign, creating alliances with people," Slaughter said. "That's the only way to win something like this."
During the online balloting process to decide starters, 214.7 million votes from 16.5 million ballots were cast at MLB.com and the 30 individual club sites, even though there were seven fewer days in the voting cycle than in 2007. These record figures each represent increases of nearly 40 percent over the previous marks for total votes and ballots cast.
With the majority of the individual races going down to the wire, fans cast their final votes online at unprecedented rates -- more than 41 million votes in the final 24 hours of online balloting were cast last Wednesday. That mark was 57 percent higher than the previous single-day record, 26 million, set on the final day of online balloting in 2005.
The Final Vote certainly picked up where the starter balloting left off. And a big milestone was reached on Tuesday night, too. There now have been more than 100 million votes cast in the Monster All-Star Game Final Vote program dating back to its inception in 2002, including a record 23 million last year, when fans chose pitchers Hideki Okajima of the Red Sox and Chris Young of the Padres.
Previous winners of the Monster All-Star Game Final Vote include A.J. Pierzynski (AL) and Nomar Garciaparra (NL) in 2006; Scott Podsednik (AL) and Roy Oswalt (NL) in 2005; Hideki Matsui (AL) and Bobby Abreu (NL) in 2004; Varitek (AL) and Geoff Jenkins (NL) in 2003; and Johnny Damon (AL) and Andruw Jones (NL) in 2002.
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 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, and MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. Willie Bans, associate reporter for MLB.com, contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.