Votebook: Getting it 'write' on the ballot
As always, strong write-in candidates exist for All-Star Game
Fantasy baseball league aficionados challenged with projecting in March which players will be integral and productive in summer's heat have nothing on MLB officials entrusted with whipping up ballots for the All-Star Game.It's not fantasy, and pegging every team's regular at each position is every bit as challenging. Decisions have to be made during Spring Training in order for the ballots to be prepared for voting by fans, which this year started on April 22. Oversights, miscalculations and injury-prompted replacements are bound to happen.
In that case, what to do? Well, fans with felt-tip pens and sharpened pencils, and those willing to type a little bit, wield the power of the write-in. See the blanks at the bottoms of the official ballots, the printed and the online ones? Yep, those are the places to exact justice.The most glaring omissions on the 2009 ballot are by design. With the 80th renewal of the Midsummer Classic booked into a National League park (St. Louis' Busch Stadium, on July 14), there will be no use of designated hitters. There goes David Ortiz's name; the five-time All-Star was on the ballots at first base for the 2006-07 games in Pittsburgh and San Francisco, respectively, but now has relinquished that spot to Boston teammate Kevin Youkilis. And there go the numbers of Adam Lind, Hank Blalock and Jason Kubel, each of whom has been his team's early offensive spark plug. Lind tops the surprising Blue Jays with 29 RBIs, Blalock has seven homers and 19 RBIs for the Rangers, and Kubel (.315-4-16) ranks second among the Twins in most key offensive categories. Also missing is DH Hideki Matsui (.282-2-11) of the Yankees. Producing in the shadows of higher-profile teammates, also absent from the ballot are early club home run (seven) and RBI (19) leader Nick Swisher, and Melky Cabrera, whose hot bat (.344) has reclaimed his center field job from Brett Gardner. If fans are inclined to cast enough write-in votes for a DH to send him to Missouri, American League manager Joe Maddon would surely find a position for him. But there are plenty of worthy players with positions who have fallen into the ballot cracks. The prime example, and a frontrunner to garner the most write-in votes, is Kansas City second baseman Alberto Callaspo. The 26-year-old switch hitter from Venezuela was drafted into service in mid-April when Alex Gordon tore a hip cartilage and Mark Teahen had to move over to third. Teahen is the Royals player at second on the ballots, but Callaspo is on fire with a .379 average. "He's impressive because he doesn't try to do too much at all, he just continues to put the barrel on the ball," Teahen said of Callaspo. "It's amazing to see him do that with all types of pitchers. He seems to be able to put the barrel on anything. It's fun to watch." Barrel or not, a Callaspo swing rarely fails to connect. He struck out four times in his first 97 plate appearances -- not at all shocking from a guy who has 38 career whiffs in 534 PAs. Callaspo is not alone as a bona fide write-in candidate. David Freese, the Cardinals' listed third baseman, played his way to the bench with a getaway slump and has been replaced by Joe Thurston, an occasional big leaguer since 2002 (66 at-bats entering this season) who has hit .300-plus since moving into the lineup. Another infielder who has snuck into a prime-time role is Boston's Nick Green. Jed Lowrie and Julio Lugo were supposed to contest for the Red Sox shortstop job, but Lowrie, who is listed, went down with a left-wrist injury two weeks before Lugo had fully recovered from right-knee surgery. Into the breach stepped the low-profile veteran Green (30, a utility man for four different teams the prior four seasons) to bat .281 as a pesky bottom-of-the-order hitter. Then there is Kelly Shoppach, the guy with the pent-up power who shares Cleveland catching duties -- but not All-Star ballot billing -- with Victor Martinez, who now plays as much first base as catcher. Martinez is the Indians' designate behind the plate, and Ryan Garko is their first-base nominee. In between is Shoppach, who last season smoked 21 homers in only 352 at-bats and whose name keeps getting written into the lineup by manager Eric Wedge.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.