SAN FRANCISCO -- From this day forward, the Giants' representation and even their non-representation on the 2012 National League All-Star team will exemplify the power of the fan vote.
Catcher Buster Posey, left fielder Melky Cabrera and third baseman Pablo Sandoval were elected by fans to start for the squad that will face its American League counterparts on July 10 at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium. Right-hander Matt Cain also made the All-Star team as part of a vote conducted by players.
The announcements were made Sunday on the MLB All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell.
The Giants' four-man contingent matches the St. Louis Cardinals' quartet of All-Stars for the largest among NL teams. But the truly remarkable numbers were generated by fans, who cast a record 40.2 million ballots. That included a flood of pro-Giants votes during the final week of balloting, which produced stunning results:
San Francisco placed three elected starters on the All-Star team for the first time since 2001, when Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent and Rich Aurilia shared the distinction.
"It's all because of our fans. There's no getting around it," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "They were relentless with their voting."
Posey's 7,621,370 votes was the highest one-year total ever received by a NL player.
"Thanks to all the fans who voted," said Posey, the first Giants catcher elected to start by fans (Benito Santiago started in 2002 but was a distant second in the voting). "They're the ones who really make it special for us."
The Giants' get-out-the-vote drive pushed Cabrera from fourth place among outfielders in last week's final voting update to first. The switch-hitter surged to a total of 7,521,784 votes.
"I want to thank the fans and the Melkmen for their support," said Cabrera, paying homage to his tiny yet prominent band of followers clad in dairy-employee garb.
Sandoval moved past David Wright of the New York Mets despite missing 35 games from May 3-June 8 with a fractured left hamate bone and the subsequent surgery. Moreover, Wright entered Sunday outhitting Sandoval, .355 to .307.
"He's had a great year. I'm surprised that I made it," said Sandoval, who obviously benefited from the influx of votes from fans who voted a straight Giants ticket in support of Cabrera.
By contrast, Wright won the players' vote, as did St. Louis' Yadier Molina at catcher. Players did elect Cabrera to start and chose Cain second, behind Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
Also, Sandoval's election inadvertently might have prevented the inclusion on the team of a more deserving Giant, such as Madison Bumgarner (10-4), Ryan Vogelsong (7-3 before Sunday's start), Santiago Casilla (21 saves) or Sergio Romo (0.83 ERA, lowest among NL relievers). But the annual roster shuffling due to injuries or other factors making players unavailable could prompt the addition of a fifth Giant.
The vote totals garnered by Giants who weren't elected as All-Stars proved telling. Brandon Crawford, who entered Sunday hitting .232, raked in 3,666,897 votes to finish second among NL shortstops, approximately just 306,000 votes behind St. Louis' Rafael Furcal. First baseman Brandon Belt, hitting .257 with four home runs and 29 RBIs, also finished second at his position with slightly more than 3.9 million votes.
"We now officially have the best fans in baseball," Belt said. "If they can put me up in second place, that's unbelievable."
The most extreme instance of fan loyalty was reflected in Freddy Sanchez's fourth-place finish among NL second basemen with 2,289,147 votes. Sanchez has been sidelined all season with shoulder and back ailments.
"That's one of the more amazing things I've seen," said Bochy, who jokingly added, "I was nervous because we hadn't had Freddy all year and he had a shot to start the All-Star Game."
The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 4:30 p.m. PT. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com.
Posey, Cabrera and Sandoval joined the group of six first-time starters on the NL team. Moreover, Posey and Cabrera are first-time All-Stars. Sandoval was a reserve last year.
"It's going to be a blast," Posey said. "I think it's something that you don't really think about that much, but when it happens, it's humbling. It's something you dream of."
Cabrera became the first Giants outfielder besides Barry Bonds elected to be an All-Star starter since 1990, when reigning NL MVP Kevin Mitchell earned a spot. Cabrera raised his profile in May, when his 51 hits tied Randy Winn's San Francisco-era franchise record for the most in a single month.
Cabrera will make a return visit to Kansas City, where he revived his career last year by banging out 201 hits and batting .305 before the Giants acquired him last November for left-handers Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo. The switch-hitter sounded anything but nostalgic.
"This is a business," Cabrera said. "They traded me, and now I'm representing the San Francisco Giants."
Though Dickey probably will start for the NL, Cain, a three-time All-Star, has a chance to make his first Midsummer Classic appearance. He didn't pitch in his two previous All-Star trips, having sustained a bruise in his last outing before the All-Star break in 2009 and starting in San Francisco's final game before the break last year. But he'll have four days' rest before this year's game. Cain said that he'll still approach the experience as "fun," though he believed that "the competitive juices will come out" on game day.