All-Star races heating up in AL
Many positions remain tight as voting hits home stretch
Heading into the campaign stretch leading to July 10 and AT&T Park, the American League's All-Star starting lineup is anything but decided. Written in clay, maybe, but definitely not yet stone.Although the field is littered with some insurmountable leads, as reflected in the latest vote results announced Tuesday afternoon, the stage is also set for some ballot rallies. Yes, third baseman Alex Rodriguez (1,914,162), carrying his heat in the batter's box over to the ballot box, and shortstop teammate Derek Jeter (1,591,453) hold average leads of more than a million votes over Boston's Mike Lowell and Detroit's Carlos Guillen, respectively. And Red Sox DH David Ortiz (1,423,064) is safely ahead of his Minnesota walk-off counterpart, Justin Morneau, among first basemen. But the spread between leader and pursuer is slimmer than 160,000 votes at half of the eight positions. And with online voting continuing for nine more days, a cyber surge can yet alter the look of Jim Leyland's starting crew. The Detroit manager is hardly an innocent bystander to these budding ballot brawls. It may not be a pure case of ballot life imitating pennant race art, but voting for the 78th All-Star Game is testing his Tigers' ability to hold off a band of eager Yankees. Although the streaking Bombers have made a serious dent into Boston's AL East lead, their potential Wild Card row with the Tigers remains on the front burner. They start play Tuesday four games behind Detroit -- half of their deficit to the Red Sox. And in two of the tightest All-Star races, Yankees are trying to run down Tigers. Second baseman Robinson Cano, the early leader, trails Placido Polanco by 138,258. And behind the plate, Ivan Rodriguez remains 155,652 ahead of Jorge Posada. Nor should the Yankees veteran feel comfortable in his own rank as top contender. He's got a couple of notables on his own heels, in Jason Varitek (756,957) of the Red Sox and Minnesota's Joe Mauer (731,805). The second base standings, incidentally, underwent the greatest change. Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton moved up to fourth, while the revolving door ushered the Twins' Luis Castillo on and Texas' Ian Kinsler off the leader board.
Behind comfortable leader Vladimir Guerrero (1,541,241), the outfield picture is quite congested -- even though there is no change among the top six contenders.Manny Ramirez (1,098,497) of the Red Sox and the Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki (1,048,781) remain in starting positions, but both are feeling the heat of Magglio Ordonez (970,300) on the backs of their necks. Minnesota's Torii Hunter (800,858) is also within striking distance, but everyone else faces a steep climb. Even Gary Sheffield (630,255), despite roaring from 10th place into seventh, may be looking at an overwhelming deficit. At first base, Sean Casey had enough power to pass Jason Giambi into third place. Although Casey's power has mysteriously disappeared -- he's yet to homer in 211 at-bats this season, making him unique among the game's corner infielders -- a strong week at the ballots (157,000 votes) moved him ahead of the disabled Yankees slugger. The other change among the AL leaders also appeared lower on the board. Among third basemen, Adrian Beltre rode his Mariners' surprisingly strong showing to surge past division rival Eric Chavez into fourth place. However, the two AL West hot cornermen remain less than two thousand votes apart. While online voting will continue to bear a heavy influence until the cyber polls close at the end of the day on June 28, the in-stadium booths are quickly being shuttered. Each Major League club had 25 home dates to conduct balloting, and the few remaining open will all be closed by the end of Friday's games. Fans can vote at MLB.com and all 30 club sites until 11:59 p.m. ET on June 28, and then they will resume voting immediately after the 2007 MLB "All-Star Game Selection Show" presented by Chevrolet, which will be televised by TBS on July 1. Baseball fans around the world will be able to select the 32nd and final player on each All-Star team via the Monster.com 2007 All-Star Final Vote. Selecting the rosters isn't the end of the fun in 2007, either. Concluding the All-Star balloting process, fans will have the opportunity to vote for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet at the All-Star Game via the Monster.com 2007 All-Star Game MVP vote at MLB.com. The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will offer extensive online coverage and MLB Radio will have exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.