Records being set with 2008 Final Vote
Hart, Longoria lead the way midway through furious balloting
At the halfway point of the Monster 2008 All-Star Game Final Vote, Milwaukee outfielder Corey Hart and Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria were holding slim leads while baseball fans were on the brink of destroying last year's four-day record of 23.2 million votes in exclusive balloting on MLB.com.
In the American League, the three leaders, Longoria, Jermaine Dye of the White Sox and Jason Giambi of the Yankees, all have more than two million votes each and are separated by just over 10 percent. They are followed by Brian Roberts of the Orioles and Jose Guillen of the Royals.
On the National League side, the top three candidates also each have registered more than two million votes and are apart by approximately 10 percent. Hart is followed closely by David Wright of the Mets, Pat Burrell of the Phillies, Aaron Rowand of the Giants and Carlos Lee of the Astros.
One player from each league will be added as the 32nd and final roster member for the 79th All-Star Game, being held on July 15 at Yankee Stadium. Voting concludes at 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, and the creative grassroots campaigning is well under way.
The exciting news in this entire process continues to be the fans themselves, with the record vote expected to be cast on Tuesday. Fans already are toppling last year's total -- 23,153,777 votes -- which were cast from a record 13,815,790 ballots. The final tally, to be announced along with the winners on Thursday, is going to be mind-boggling.
It is an extension of what has been happening for the last month in the overall All-Star online balloting process. It is always common for year-over-year records to fall as technology keeps growing along with baseball's popularity -- but this has been unbelievable.
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.
What does it mean to the Final Vote? It means that anything can happen in the next 48 hours. When you are talking about that kind of volume, placement can change fast and frequently. Just consider the starter balloting. First of all, it was the wildest finish in fan balloting to determine starters, with roughly half of all positions too close to call heading into the final days.
Ryan Braun, Hart's fellow Brewers outfielder, was catapulted by fans from fifth place late in the game right into the No. 1 NL outfield spot -- a historic surge in online balloting. Fans bumped Joe Mauer of Minnesota past Boston's Jason Varitek and into the starting catcher assignment for the AL. Florida's Hanley Ramirez was given a late boost past Houston's Miguel Tejada to start for the NL at shortstop.
This voting normally coincides with the Fourth of July holiday break, and that could be one factor in the massive spike of 2008. Another factor is the pure ownership of fans in this process, which continues unabated. It has become a way of life.
In addition, the mobile vote has made soaring gains over last year's totals, as fans easily can keep hitting "redial" with the number that corresponds to each candidate.
Fans again are casting their votes through their mobile phones by texting "Vote" to 36197 to receive the list of Final Vote candidates. (In Canada, text "Vote" to 88555.)
The overall volume of balloting explains why little emphasis is placed on the announced order of Final Vote leaders at the halfway point in this process. Nevertheless, it's still Hart and Longoria after each of the first two days, and the campaigning will only intensify.
Entering this year, the Monster All-Star Game Final Vote program saw 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.
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.
The 100 millionth vote in Final Vote history was expected to be cast during the third day of the 2008 proceedings.
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.