Competition tight for third AL outfield spot
Crawford, Hunter, Hamilton and Ellsbury are in running
Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton thrust himself into the national spotlight last year when he launched majestic home runs all over old Yankee Stadium during the Home Run Derby.
His troubled past and subsequent recovery had been well-documented by then, but few outside of the American League had witnessed Hamilton's talent first-hand. Yes, he shined in Texas for the first few months of 2008, but he still entered the Home Run Derby that Monday, one night prior to the All-Star Game, as an enigma. He went on to hit 28 homers during the first round of the contest and eventually left New York a full-blown star, even without the derby title.
Will Hamilton get a chance to join his All-Star peers again? Hamilton, Angels center fielder Torii Hunter, Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and Rays left fielder Carl Crawford are all vying for the third and final spot among American League outfielders for this year's All-Star Game in St. Louis.
It's already been quite a contest.
Boston's Jason Bay holds a lead of more than 807,000 votes over Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki and appears destined to start the All-Star Game at Busch Stadium. Suzuki's lead of about 312,000 over the fourth-place Hunter has him in good position as well.
Hamilton, on the other hand, currently ranks third, about 145,000 votes ahead of Hunter, but has been on the disabled list since June 2. He underwent surgery on June 9 to repair a torn muscle in his abdomen and has recently started medical rehab assignment in the Minor Leagues.
It seems that Hamilton's past performances are serving him well in the present with voters.
For the season, the slugger is hitting .240 with six home runs and 24 RBIs. This time last season, he was hitting .312 with 19 home runs and 79 RBIs. The slugger said health issues will keep him out of the State Farm Home Run Derby this year, but he would love to take the field in St. Louis as a starter.
"I've talked to [general manager Jon Daniels] about it, and they said if I was voted into the All-Star Game, they would be more than happy for me to play," Hamilton said. "That was good. I didn't know how they would feel about it."
Hamilton's competition for the final starting spot in the outfield is fierce. Hunter is not only the heart and soul of the Angels clubhouse, he also developed into the team's offensive leader while Vladimir Guerrero was on the disabled list. As of the completion of Monday's games, Hunter is 14th in the AL with a .306 batting average, ranks sixth with 56 RBIs, 12th with 50 runs scored and is third in slugging percentage with a .579 mark. You can argue he is the reason the Angels have been able to stay at or near the top of the standings in the AL West all season.
Crawford and Ellsbury have been celebrated for their speed, but are quickly proving they are more than just one-dimensional players.
Crawford is hitting .319 in 77 games. Ellsbury sports a .298 batting average in 70 contests and has been the catalyst on offense for the first-place Red Sox. Crawford has hit 15 doubles while Ellsbury has 11. Moreover, Crawford leads the AL with 40 stolen bases -- just ahead of Ellsbury's 33 -- and is third in the league in hits with 99. He is tied for fifth in runs scored with 54. Both players have three triples.
In-stadium voting has ended, but fans can still vote online for starters up to 25 times with the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites until Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Starting rosters will be announced during the 2009 All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Pepsi on TBS on July 5. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote at MLB.com.
And the voting doesn't end there. Fans will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet at the Midsummer Classic via the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint MVP Vote at MLB.com.
The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX and around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio play-by-play, while MLB.com will offer extensive online coverage.
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.