Fans speak at the polls in Final Vote
Record number of ballots submitted in first two days
Joshua Witzel works from home on his computer in Hammond, Ind., and guess what he has been doing this week?
"I might have voted about a thousand times already, to be honest," Witzel said in an e-mail to MLB.com in the wee hours this morning. "I figure I might as well vote for J.D. while I am working."
Yeah, we can all relate.
Along with his wife and fellow White Sox fan Jencelyn, Witzel is now in a four-day stretch of life that most people in this audience are happily sharing. It is today's baseball fan. They are immersed in the Monster 2008 All-Star Game Final Vote -- a world of cool candidates, captcha codes and convivial clicking that started at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday and does not end until 5 p.m. ET on Thursday.
While you are doing everything humanly possible to get two more Major League Baseball players onto the rosters for the 79th All-Star Game on July 15 at Yankee Stadium, it is worth pausing a moment to pat yourselves on the back, because you have been like Babe Ruth among a bunch of slap-hitters this week. Last year's record vote total of 23.2 million votes over four days already was surpassed barely halfway through this campaign on Tuesday evening.
It also is time to celebrate the fact that one of you has just cast the 100 millionth vote in the history of this balloting, which began in 2002 as a way to end the annual grumbling about which players were "snubbed" in the main All-Star selection process.
MLB.com randomly pulled a batch of e-mail addresses in various geographies just to quickly take the pulse of the voting populace. Who are these people out there destroying online balloting records? Who are you voting for and why, how are you voting (more than a million votes have been cast by mobile), where are you, what keeps you going, has your wrist fallen off yet from clicking the mouse so often, and why do we love the Final Vote so much?
"We love the Final Vote because it lets the fans pick that last worthy player on the roster for both leagues," Witzel said. "What made my wife and I vote was our surprise that Jermaine Dye didn't make the team, and how mad I was at that. He is playing his heart out for us, especially in the outfield with his glove. I lost track how many 'Web Gems' he has this year so far.
"We voted for Aaron Rowand because he was an intricate part of our championship team in '05. We really do miss him in Chicago and wish him the best whereever he plays. I guess he will always have a special place in our hearts."
And then he added: "I think J.D. and David Wright will win."
Wright has said he wants to do his campaigning on the field, but after being in the last two Midsummer Classics, the Mets' third baseman added: "Hopefully, New York fans will understand how much it means to me and come out in full force."
That full force includes people like Rob Komorowski, 23, of Kearny, N.J., who declared: "David Wright's going to the All-Star Game because David Wright is an All-Star. He plays the game the right way. He never takes a game off, he never takes a play off, gives it everything he has on the field, extremely smart at the plate, and is the face of the best New York franchise. He is young, talented, smart and very fan-friendly. ... World-class baseball player."
John Pavelko of Springfield, Ill., began his e-mail with a plea to voters.
"I voted for Jason Giambi and Pat Burrell," he said. "Why? Jason is an inspiration to me and deserves to be an All-Star. Pat is a 'ballplayer' -- solid in all aspects of the game.
"I love baseball, and if I was able to play, I'd pattern myself after these two gentlemen who make the game the greatest sport ever played! I voted for these two about 20 times and hope the rest of the fans elect them.
"I had three strokes at 21, and the game I love was not to be, but I love the game still and I know that these two players are All-Stars. The fans need to vote, and vote often."
Brenton Collier of Jourdanton, Tex., said he has been voting for Astros outfielder Carlos Lee, and that he hit submit "at least 25 times" on behalf of Houston fans.
|"We love the Final Vote because it lets the fans pick that last worthy player on the roster for both leagues."|
|-- Joshua Witzel, Hammond, Ind.|
Sarah Sullivan of Chicago said she voted for Dye "probably 200 times via the online ballot and my cell phone, maybe more." She said she "wouldn't be upset if Evan Longoria held the lead with the storybook season the Rays are having," but she is going to keep doing her part for Dye out of principle.
"I like the Final Vote because the All-Star selection process can be very flawed at times, and you know there will always be four deserving players from both leagues who have the chance to get that last spot on the team," Sullivan said.
"In the 2005 and 2006 seasons, the White Sox won the vote (Scott Podsednik and A.J. Pierzynski, respectively) and I think a big part of it was them campaigning at the park -- whether it be wearing shirts, teammates making speeches before the game or even the vendors wearing buttons to encourage voting. During telecasts, our commentators would read e-mails about people voting a certain amount of times and it really gave the motivation to join in and support their player on getting to the game."
Sullivan made an interesting observation about the evolution of community that plays a role in this process.
"The Internet itself plays a huge part in people coming together to vote," she said. "There are many baseball message boards around that encourage everyone who drops by to vote as many times they can for their player. People also make pacts to vote one AL player in, if they'll vote their NL player in.
"I think the vote motivates fan bases to pull together and get the guy who's been huge to their team's success into the All-Star Game -- 2005 was a clear indicator of that with Podsednik ... He was a huge part of the White Sox success that season, and the fans really banded together to show their appreciation. I, myself, stayed up until 4 a.m. voting before getting up at 10 a.m. and continuing to vote until the deadline the next day. It paid off, as he ending up beating arguably one of the most popular players in the game: Derek Jeter!"
Jeffrey Immer, a Specialist in the U.S. Army from Nolanville, Tex., is doing what the Witzels are doing. He is behind that White Sox-Giants "alliance" formed this week. While it was natural for the White Sox to endorse Rowand -- who plays in a different league now -- the Giants benefit by having the White Sox campaigning for their nominee and getting the support of a guy like Immer.
"I'm stationed in Fort Hood, Texas. However, I'm still a huge White Sox fan and have been for several years," Immer said. "I voted for Dye because I think he's very deserving. Although Longoria of Tampa Bay is deserving, I'm a White Sox guy.
"I voted for Rowand because I needed to vote for someone in the NL who was deserving. The Cubs have no one available (on the ballot), and Rowand was a homegrown White Sox player for several years."
The amazing volume of votes made it impossible to discount anyone whose name was not listed first in the latest voting updates announced at the halfway point on Tuesday. The next voting update is scheduled for roughly 3 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly after the ballot closes Thursday.
In the AL, the three leaders -- Longoria, Dye and Giambi -- all had more than two million votes each and were separated by just more than 10 percent. They were followed by Brian Roberts of the Orioles and Jose Guillen of the Royals.
On the NL side, the top three candidates also each had registered more than two million votes and were apart by approximately 10 percent. Corey Hart of the Brewers was being followed closely by Wright, Burrell, Rowand and Lee.
Previous winners of the Monster All-Star Game Final Vote include Pierzynski (AL) and Nomar Garciaparra (NL) in 2006; Podsednik (AL) and Roy Oswalt (NL) in 2005; Hideki Matsui (AL) and Bobby Abreu (NL) in 2004; Jason Varitek (AL) and Geoff Jenkins (NL) in 2003; and Johnny Damon (AL) and Andruw Jones (NL) in 2002.
"I think the Final Vote is awesome," Immer said. "I voted for Podsednik in '05 and A.J. in '06 -- both players who were deserving. I felt also that national baseball coverage seems devoted to the Red Sox, and Yankees, and it's evidence of the teams' overwhelming popularity since the starting lineup for the AL is basically the Bosox and Yanks vs. the best of the National League.
"Not to say that a team like the White Sox is not spending a great deal on salary -- it just seems that they do not get a fair shake at the national spotlight even though they have been in first most of the season. The same goes for Tampa Bay. ... Even the Cubs, Phillies, Diamondbacks and Angels -- all in first the majority of the season -- play second-fiddle to the Yankees and Red Sox."
And the vote goes on.
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. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.