Kinsler, Sandoval hold their Final Vote leads
Fans have until Thursday to round out the All-Star rosters
The 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote powered through the halfway point at MLB.com Tuesday afternoon with the balloting on record pace, the campaigning fresh and creative, and Pablo Sandoval and Ian Kinsler each regaining their very tight leads after falling into second place the night before.
The four-day online event continues until 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, exclusively at MLB.com and official club sites, as fans decide the 33rd and final roster spot for the American and National leagues leading up to the 80th All-Star Game on July 14 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Balloting is ahead of last year's record pace as 22.2 million votes have been cast.
Sandoval, the Giants' third baseman, had a slim lead in the NL race over center fielder Shane Victorino of the Phillies. D-backs third baseman Mark Reynolds -- whose candidacy drew the attention of Arizona Sen. John McCain -- and Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp each have garnered more than two million votes and were right behind them, followed by shortstop Cristian Guzman of the Nationals.
Sandoval and Victorino actually swapped leads during a dramatic Monday night of major campaigning on the field, with Victorino taking over after his four-hit performance in that 22-1 victory over the Reds -- and then falling behind after Sandoval's late grand slam.
Kinsler, the Rangers' second baseman, is followed closely in the AL race by third baseman Brandon Inge of the Tigers, third baseman Chone Figgins of the Angels, first baseman Carlos Pena of the Rays and designated hitter Adam Lind of the Blue Jays. Inge took over the lead Monday night, but Kinsler regained it this morning. Pena and Lind flip-flopped from the previous day's update.
Kinsler, Inge and Figgins each have more than two million votes, while Pena and Lind are still poised to make a run.
Over the first two days of fan voting, Kinsler faced off against his Final Vote competition on the field. He scored twice in the Rangers' 5-3 victory over Pena and the Rays on Sunday night. Then Texas traveled coast to coast for a Monday night game at Angel Stadium, where Kinsler clubbed his 20th homer, a two-run shot off Jared Weaver in a 9-4 loss to the Angels. Figgins walked three times and scored twice in that game.
Far more important, that game was between clubs that were tied for the AL West lead, and both of those Final Vote candidates are key reasons why.
The two Los Angeles teams created the first alliance of this year's campaigning, with the Dodgers publicly backing Figgins and the Angels doing the same for Kemp.
There also has been an alliance among many Giants and Rangers fans on Twitter to keep their guys in the lead. That was only part of the Twitter impact that -- not surprisingly -- has been felt in this year's Final Vote campaigning. The twitpic of Uncle Sam with a "Vote Sandoval" message has been re-tweeted over and over to the nth degree. There was Doug Mientkiewicz, tweeting during rehab as @Dougiebaseball on behalf of Kemp, his teammate.
The ballot is loaded with players on division leaders or current contenders, and that includes Inge, who homered on Sunday for the Tigers right after being announced as one of the nominees. He will have many more eyes on him on Wednesday as the Tigers face a big test at home against All-Star pitcher Zack Greinke of the Royals. Inge is 9-for-32 (.281) for his career off Greinke, including 4-for-12 over the past couple of years. The bigger question is how Inge will fare tonight against Bruce Chen, having gone 0-for-8 against him previously.
Victorino and Reynolds each have showed campaigning strengths on the field that rival what the Panda did on Monday.
McCain, the longtime Republican senator, "endorsed" Reynolds in an interview on FSN Arizona on Tuesday.
"He's a great athlete," said the 2008 Republican presidential nominee.
On Sunday, just hours after finding out he was a Final Vote candidate, Reynolds launched a three-run homer that broke up Jorge De La Rosa's no-hit bid and helped the D-backs beat the Rockies, 4-3. On Monday, Reynolds hit a walk-off single with two out in the bottom of the ninth that scored Justin Upton for the winning run as the D-backs beat the Padres, 6-5.
"Reynolds is helping us win, I'll tell you that much," D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. "What he's done the last couple of days is what he's done all year."
Reynolds has plenty of support from his hometown folks. The City of Virginia Beach, Va., declared Tuesday "Vote for Mark Reynolds Day" in honor of its son being one of five players eligible for the remaining NL roster spot. It is very similar to what the city of Ashland, Ky., did for fellow D-back Brandon Webb in Final Vote campaigning two years ago. (Webb's bid was unsuccessful, as San Diego pitcher Chris Young won.)
Virginia Beach Mayor William D. Sessoms Jr. is urging the 440,000 residents of Virginia Beach and the more than 1.7 million residents throughout the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News metropolitan area to vote Reynolds into the All-Star Game.
"I'm inviting everyone in Virginia Beach and all of Hampton Roads to join me in voting for Mark Reynolds," Sessoms said during the informal session of Tuesday's City Council meeting.
"This is a wonderful opportunity to rally behind one of our hometown All-Stars and help put him in the national spotlight," Sessoms continued, noting that he graduated from the same high school as Reynolds in 1972.
Victorino had four hits on Monday in leading the Phillies to that 22-1 slaughtering of the Reds. The Phillies were campaigning heavily behind Victorino after that game, and he went right along with it. Not only is there a re-tweeted twitpic of the "Flyin' Hawaiian" making the rounds -- showing him flying onto a celebration pile -- the Phillies held a "City Center All-Star Voting Spree" on Tuesday. Broadcaster Tom McCarthy, the Phillies Ballgirls and Citizens Ballpark Bankers handed out "Vote for Shane" cards as well as leis, encouraging fans to vote for Victorino. NBC Philadelphia made a video showing Victorino kissing babies on the Philly streets on Tuesday, with the city's mayor joining in.
The governors of Hawaii and Pennsylvania upped the ante by announcing that whichever state submits more votes for the Hawaiian native will win their friendly wager. If Pennsylvanians cast more votes than Hawaiians, Gov. Lingle will send eight cases of pineapples to Gov. Rendell; and if Hawaiians cast more votes than Pennsylvanians, Gov. Rendell will send eight cases of cheesesteaks to Gov. Lingle. They are using Victorino's jersey number as the quantity guideline.
Dana White, president of the United Fighting Championship, threw his hat into the ring behind Victorino, and that message has become viral as well. White did so on Twitter, meaning that 60,420 followers were encouraged to vote for Victorino.
That is the level of viral campaigning that is happening this year with the Final Vote. Fans also can follow @MLB and have campaign messages re-tweeted or simply see tweets of all the social network campaigning.
Guzman is having one of the best seasons of his career, hitting a team-high .318 with three home runs, 21 RBIs and 41 runs scored, and the Nationals have reminded fans to vote for him. So did Guzman's teammate, 2009 All-Star Ryan Zimmerman:
"I think he deserves to be in the All-Star Game. He has hit all year long, like he always does. He is a big part of this team. He will hit wherever -- [first, second] -- and now he is hitting sixth. He never complains. He plays hard every day. He has been here the whole time I have been here. He is a joy to play with."
To help Pena's cause, the Rays launched the "Vote 'Los" campaign. You can see his smiling face on the background wallpaper of raysbaseball.com. The campaign includes billboards promoting Pena throughout the Tampa Bay area, laptop computers set up around the concourses at Tropicana Field, and game-day staff wearing "Vote 'Los" T-shirts. Fans are encouraged to bring their own laptops and wireless devices to games this week, a "Vote 'Los" ad will run on YouTube and Facebook, "Vote 'Los" fliers will be distributed throughout the area, the Rays' Street Team will be making appearances throughout the area promoting fans to "Vote 'Los," and "Vote 'Los" T-shirts will be given away to select fans throughout the upcoming Toronto series.
"Hopefully, 'Los gets in," Rays starter James Shields said. "When you're leading the league in home runs and you're not on the team ... he deserves to be there. He's done a great job for our team this year."
But the Rangers are not going to let up in backing their early leader. Kinsler has apparently taken one of the most prominent All-Star snubbings and run with it. After leading virtually the entire way in starter balloting, he was overtaken by Boston's Dustin Pedroia at the wire and then left off the reserve list by manager Joe Maddon of the Rays.
"We're going to hit it hard on TV and radio," said John Blake, the Rangers' vice president for public relations. "I've talked to all of our rights-holders, and we're putting together some TV spots for him. We're looking at other things, but most of it right now is TV and radio."
Blake added that the Rangers will also push the Kinsler vote on several electronic billboards in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Fans are also voting by mobile device -- exclusive in the U.S. to Sprint, Nextel and Boost subscribers. To receive the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 1122. To vote for a specific player, simply text your choice to 1122. EXAMPLE: Text "A3" to vote for AL Player 3 or "N3" to vote for NL Player 3. Standard messaging fees also may apply; check with your carrier. Mobile voting in Canada is open to all carriers; fans should text their choices to 88555.
Recent history shows mixed results for those who have taken early leads in the Final Vote. Last year, Rays third baseman Evan Longoria and Brewers right fielder Corey Hart were the narrow leaders after the first day, and they went on to the Midsummer Classic at the old Yankee Stadium. In 2007, Young led after the first NL update, but early leader Jeremy Bonderman of the Tigers was ultimately overtaken by winner Hideki Okajima of the Red Sox.
In 2006, Nomar Garciaparra was the first announced leader for the NL, and he eventually won the selection. But Minnesota wunderkind pitcher Francisco Liriano was the AL's leader through much of the early voting, only to be passed by winner A.J. Pierzynski of the White Sox on the morning of the last day of voting.
The 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote program has seen nearly 140 million votes cast since its inception in 2002. The other previous winners are Scott Podsednik (AL, 2005), Roy Oswalt (NL, 2005), Hideki Matsui (AL, 2004), Bobby Abreu (NL, 2004), Jason Varitek (AL, 2003), Geoff Jenkins (NL, 2003), Johnny Damon (AL, 2002) and Andruw Jones (NL, 2002).
This is the second big step in the process for fans everywhere, following their record-shattering input to determine All-Star starters. 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 Chevy at the 80th All-Star Game through the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint MVP Vote on MLB.com.
The 80th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, 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, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.