Clubs go all-out in Final Vote campaigns
T-shirts, placards are printed; alliances have been formed
With the Final Vote process heating up, the politics of baseball are on full display.
During the All-Star Game Selection Show on Sunday came the revealing of 10 names -- five from each league -- selected for MLB.com's Final Vote.
At that point, the campaigning began.
Fans have until 4 p.m. ET Thursday to give their favorite players a final push to Angel Stadium.
Team marketing departments -- with the assistance of players, coaches and, at times, Final Vote candidates themselves -- have decorated their websites, created T-shirts, started creative ad campaigns, planned giveaways, put together videos and even made alliances.
All this effort goes toward giving their respective players a ticket to Anaheim as the 34th man for each league's roster at the July 13 Midsummer Classic.
"I can text my friends, go out there and pitch the best I can, and vote as many times as I can," Heath Bell of the Padres said.
After the first 48 hours of the process, about 22 million votes were cast, with Reds first baseman Joey Votto leading the National League -- ahead of closers Bell and Billy Wagner (Braves), outfielder Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies) and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals). Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis paces the American League -- ahead of first baseman Paul Konerko (White Sox), third baseman Michael Young (Rangers) and outfielders Nick Swisher (Yankees) and Delmon Young (Twins). It's still considered a tight race on both fronts.
In the NL, there was arguably no bigger snub from the All-Star Game than Votto, who ranks first in the league in homers and OPS and in the top five in batting average and RBIs.
The Reds are trying to make sure he gets his due.
Immediately after the announcement that Votto was a Final Vote contestant, Reds media relations director Rob Butcher lined up most of the club's players to tape TV shots to run during games to urge fans to "Vote Votto." As part of their campaign, the Reds also formed an alliance with the Red Sox. Boston is urging its fans to vote for Votto, and Cincinnati is pushing for Youkilis, who grew up in the city.
So far, it seems to have worked. Votto has led the Senior Circuit since the first balloting update, and Youkilis jumped ahead of Swisher as the AL Final Vote leader in the last 24 hours.
"I'm not a self-promoter," Youkilis said. "I'm not going to tell anyone to vote for me."
Yet many others within each team are taking that step for the 10 Final Vote candidates.
The Reds' equipment manager has written "Vote Votto" and "Vote Red" on batting-practice balls that may be caught by fans to serve as a special reminder, and the Reds have joined the Padres, Rockies, White Sox and Twins in making T-shirts for their guys.
"We'll be campaigning for him for sure," Twins first baseman Justin Morneau said of Delmon Young, for whom shirts are planned that read "D.Y. -- because he deserves it." "He's had some huge hits for us so far in the first half. I believe he deserves to go, so hopefully he'll get in; it'll be a lot of fun to have him there."
The Yankees have decorated the background of their website with the words "Send Swish." Same for the Red Sox with "Vote Youkilis," the Rockies with "Vote Gonzalez," the Padres with "Vote Bell," the Rangers with "I Like Mike," the Twins with "Drive in Delmon" and the White Sox with "Pauliewood."
Previous White Sox marketing ploys like "Punch A.J." for A.J. Pierzynski and "Vote for Scott" for Scott Podsednik have turned out well. They're thinking this one will, too, even though Konerko is a bit more low-key.
"Part of what we like is it's so not Paul that it kind of works," White Sox vice president of communications Scott Reifert said. "Brooks [Boyer, vice president and chief marketing officer] talked to him and said he was all for it. We weren't sure with Paul. Like I said, it's not his personality."
On Monday, the Padres rang a bell every hour to remind those in their office to vote online for Bell.
And on Tuesday, the Rangers and Nationals partnered with "the third-base ticket" to push fans to vote for the two third basemen, Michael Young and Zimmerman.
All 10 clubs, meanwhile, are sending e-mail reminders, using social networking outlets like Facebook and Twitter, giving away items like game tickets and autographed baseballs, and enlisting the help of their broadcast partners to get the word out about their respective players.
And many of them -- namely, the Twins, Reds, Braves, Yankees, Padres and Red Sox -- have had to do the campaigning with their teams on the road.
"It's a little bit of a challenge, but we're up for it," said Reds assistant director of media relations Jamie Ramsey, who has promoted Votto in his blog and his Twitter account. "The early results show that we're up for it. People recognize that Joey deserves to be on the team. They're echoing that feeling with their support."
The Yankees have done a couple of things differently, mainly because it fits in with their Final Vote contestant's personality.
A video on Yankees.com shows Swisher -- outfitted in sunglasses, a Tommy Bahama shirt and surfboard -- saying he's got his "bags packed" for Anaheim and, "The only thing I don't have now is my ticket to the All-Star Game."
Several interns took to New York's streets outside NBC's "Today" show on Monday, waving large placards with Swisher's face and the words "Send Swish!"
Swisher himself has been doing his part by making the media rounds, saying: "I feel like I'm on Miss America or something." But if ever there was a guy who could push for votes, it's the affable Swisher.
"I think Swish is probably the perfect guy for campaigning for himself," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Swish is a personality that loves to have fun and is not afraid to do anything on the video board, no matter what they ask him to do. Swish is good at it."
But is he good enough to win the ultracompetitive Final Vote competition?
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.