Young aces get jump on Final Vote
Bonderman, Young on top in first full day of balloting
Jeremy Bonderman of the Tigers and Chris Young of the Padres were holding the narrow early lead in the Monster All-Star Final Vote as of 5 p.m. ET on Monday, as fans were back in balloting force at MLB.com to help complete the American and National League rosters for the 78th All-Star Game on July 10 at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Bonderman was leading a very close race among the five AL candidates, followed by Hideki Okajima of the Red Sox, Pat Neshek of the Twins, Kelvim Escobar of the Angels and Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays.
Young was immediately followed in the first-day NL standings by Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs, Roy Oswalt of the Astros, Tom Gorzelanny of the Pirates and Brandon Webb of the Diamondbacks.
The sixth annual Monster All-Star Final Vote ballot began exclusively on MLB.com at approximately 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, and more than 4.6 million votes already had been cast in just under 24 hours of fan voting. The Final Vote continues until 6 p.m. ET on Thursday, and results will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
In addition, fans again can cast their votes via their mobile phones by texting the word "Vote" to 36197 to receive the Final Vote candidates. In Canada, fans should text the word "Vote" to 88555.
Given how close both races are, the most noteworthy part of the first-day update is not so much the identities of the leaders as it is the overall vote total itself. That reflects just how important this has become as fusion of baseball and technology into a summertime tradition. Fans are well on the way to shattering the Final Vote balloting record, submitting as many ballots as they wish until the finish.
Meanwhile, the grassroots campaigning already has shown signs of imagination and annual intrigue. Just consider Neshek, who already has his own blog at PatNeshek.com and just started his own MLBlog today to lobby for himself. The Twins' front office will put on a large-scale campaign just as they did for pitcher Francisco Liriano, who finished second to White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski in last year's Final Vote. But it says a lot about the changing times that a candidate can reach out to millions all by himself.
It was a non-stop day of marketing activity in the Neshek camp. At Yankee Stadium on Monday, a shipment of gray T-shirts arrived in the Twins' clubhouse before the game, each bearing the slogan in big blue letters: "Pitch in for Pat: Vote Neshek!" Even the Yankees' YES network broadcasters were talking about it -- thus spending a big chunk of an inning marketing a candidate -- and noting enthusiastically that the Twins broadcasters (including Bert Blyleven) were wearing the T-shirts during the game.
Neshek, not exactly the go-to guy for national media under normal conditions, also is doing a whirlwind tour of interviews. He did three national radio interviews on Monday, including Sirius Satellite radio, ESPN radio and MLB Radio. His day also included talking to a writer from the Boston Globe and doing a few interviews for other media back in the Twin Cities.
Zambrano is a little more on the understated side, even offering his view that Young is the person on the outside who most deserves to be an All-Star. Of course, one can understand Zambrano's understated approach, given that he has just a bit more of a public profile than a guy like Neshek. Zambrano said he won't be voting for himself, but plenty of people will be voting on his behalf. Not just Cub Nation, but also seven brothers and lots of online friends back home in Venezuela. "My brother called last night and said, 'Hey, call everybody and tell them to vote for you,'" Zambrano said Monday. "It's good to be in this position. I'm happy so far. I'm happy for the selection."
When asked if he would vote online for his pitcher, Cubs manager Lou Piniella, 63, said with a laugh: "If I have to vote on the computer, I think Zambrano's in trouble. I've never voted on a computer in my life. Can I call it in?" Well, technically, yes. Anyone can call someone else and say: "Vote for this candidate." Nothing wrong with that, Lou.
In this Year of the Pitcher on the Final Vote, Oswalt knows what it takes to get in. He was the winner the only previous time a ballot was all-pitching, when NL manager Tony La Russa went with all hurlers in 2005. Now that La Russa has done the same thing, Oswalt said of his chances: "It would be great. I've only made two (All-Star Games) so far, and any time you get voted in by the fans, it's great. Hopefully I'll get to go to another one."
Oswalt said he is "hoping I can get some support from Houston. I've got some buddies on the team now, and hopefully I'll get to see those guys." His manager started the club campaigning for him, saying, "I think anybody would say that if you're saying who do you want in the National League to win a game for a game for you, I think most everyone would say Roy is right there as one of those guys."
The Astros reported Monday night that the Clear Channel DJ distribution list is receiving vote copy and has embraced the program, so Oswalt will have a lot of regional radio love. The club will be running in-stadium video spots during games through Wednesday, highlighting the ability to vote in-stadium in addition to here. There will be a "Vote Roy" message in a Wednesday Houston Chronicle ad, and there will be a massive email effort to the entire Astros fan base. That includes alerting club contacts with downtown businesses to urge employees to vote, as well as imploring ticket-buying groups to vote.
Bonderman is trying to do what teammate Justin Verlander could not last year, and that is get to the All-Star Game via the Final Vote. Verlander finished fourth in 2006. "I'm not giving him advice," Verlander joked, "because it didn't go very well for me." So far, so good, for Bonderman. He has made a pretty convincing case by going unbeaten in those first 13 starts this season, and then by holding the Twins scoreless over eight innings on national TV Sunday night. That is the best possible campaigning, but just to be sure, the Tigers' marketing department has a "Bondo: '07" ad blitz on the way in the best James Bond fashion.
The Pirates are pushing the "Vote Gorzelanny" campaign in various ways:
Both colleges that their pitcher attended -- the University of Kansas and Triton Junior College (Ill.) -- are sending e-mail blasts to alumni and students to push for votes.
Gorzelanny will appear on ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" on Monday night and also was scheduled to go on ESPN Radio, the "Pittsburgh Sports Beat" show and numerous Chicago radio stations (his hometown is Evergreen Park, Ill.).
Pirates reliever Masumi Kuwata also was filmed on Monday making a push for Gorzelanny. The tape is expected to be broadcast on numerous Japanese TV stations, and the team is trying to get local Japanese media in Pittsburgh to make a push for Gorzelanny among their Japanese readers/viewers.
In San Diego, the Padres were preparing a video of 2007 All-Stars Trevor Hoffman and Jake Peavy promoting fans to vote for Young so he can join them in San Francisco. That will reach a full database of Padres fans at MLB.com. Don't be surprised to see the pair writing a letter to fans with the same message for e-mail distribution.
Young is scheduled to start on the Wednesday holiday, so broadcasters will be heavily prepared to talk it up that game (and during other Padres games as well). The Padres also have confirmed that other media will assist in promotion. The Padres are home this week, so they are routing entrances with blockades to force people to walk by a booth equipped with computers set up with the Final Vote ballot. Fans at PETCO Park can expect to hear prompts to vote with their mobile phones while at the game.
"We were just on the computer last night and we have wireless Internet and we were sitting there and watching "Deal or No Deal" and we cast a few votes, yes we did," Peavy said. "It will let you keep voting. People out there who want to vote and don't have nothing to do just vote and keep voting. I just love to see our guy and the Padres have great representation at the game, especially a guy like C.Y. who is deserving."
The Diamondbacks are in St. Louis, but broadcasters and local media have been giving the information to promote whenever possible. Webb and manager Bob Melvin were going on various talk shows on Monday -- before Webb's scheduled start that night against the Cardinals -- to promote it.
The Angels' public relations department reported that they would make mention of Escobar on the team's local TV and radio broadcasts. The Angels also sent out a newsletter to the fan e-mail base, asking for help to get their 9-3 right-hander into the Midsummer Classic. Although they are limited in their promotion because the Angels are on the road all week, the Big A scoreboard in front of the stadium has a "Vote Kelvim Escobar to the All-Star Game" sign that can be seen from the freeway.
In Boston, where the home team faced the Rangers on Monday, the Red Sox will run frequent reminders on the scoreboard all week to vote for Okajima. The left-hander also got some support from his mate in the bullpen, All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon.
"Get my man to San Fran -- it's closer to Japan," Papelbon said.
That home presence certainly seemed to benefit the White Sox winners the past two years while at home -- Pierzynski last year and Scott Podsednik the year before. Boston's radio and TV broadcasts will have similar reminders about the vote during games.
The Monster All-Star Final Vote program has seen nearly 60 million votes cast since its inception in 2002, including a record 18.6 million last year when fans chose Pierzynski and Nomar Garciaparra of the Dodgers. Previous winners of the Monster All-Star Final Vote include: Podsednik (AL, 2005); 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).
The 78th Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which will determine home-field advantage in the 2007 World Series, will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8:00 p.m. (EDT). ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage of all festivities surrounding the 78th All-Star Game. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game as well as the State Farm Home Run Derby and Midsummer Classic.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.