Loaded NL Final Vote ballot is one for the ages
DENVER -- Rockies bench coach Tommy Runnells glanced at the list of the five names on the National League 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote ballot and shook his head.
"If those guys are in the running for the final spot," asked Runnells, "you wonder who made the team."
Think about it.
Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw are both four-time All-Stars, and a year ago Tulowitzki, in making his third All-Star start, was the top vote-getter among players on the NL team.
Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto, the current leader, won 20 games last year, ranks eighth in the NL with a 2.61 ERA this year, and is the hometown favorite with the game being played in Cincinnati, while Carlos Martinez, at the age of 23 and in his first year as a full-time starter, has nine wins for the Cardinals, filling the rotation void created by the loss of Adam Wainwright.
And then there is Mets closer Jeurys Familia, who picked up his 24th save in 26 opportunities in getting the final two outs in Wednesday's 4-1 victory at San Francisco. That lowered his ERA to 1.12, second best among closers to the 0.70 of Cardinals right-hander Trevor Rosenthal.
It's been a fun summer to watch the selections for the All-Star Game presented by T-Mobile, and the NL Final Vote decision will only add to that.
Oh, there was some consternation when at one point the Royals had eight position players as leading vote-getters, but all that did was get fans of other teams to be more active. In the end, the defending AL champion Royals did land an AL-record-tying four starting spots -- catcher Salvador Perez, shortstop Alcides Escobar, and outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon.
When given the challenge, however, fans in other cities got involved, including in Toronto where Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson not only won the starting spot, but wound up with the most votes of any player.
Twenty-eight of the 68 players selected -- including replacements for injured Tiger first baseman Miguel Cabrera and Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton -- are making their All-Star debut. And 50 of the selections will be appearing on the All-Star roster for the first, second or third time.
Now comes the Final Vote, for which ballotting continues until 4 p.m. ET on Friday.
The AL has an interesting ballot with Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, Tigers outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner, and Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas.
And then there are the five NL choices for fans.
"You couldn't argue if all five of them were on the team," said Runnells. "What's not to like?"
Only one, however, will be elected by the fan vote, although others could be added if replacements are needed.
"Any year you look at, there are going to be deserving players left off the team because of limits," said Tulowitzki. "This year's not going to be any different."
Nah, except this isn't just a player or two that could be left off. There are four All-Star quality players who will come up short in the voting.
"Kershaw and Cueto are two of the best starting pitchers in the game," said Tulowitzki. "Martinez has been key for the Cardinals, and Familia, look at the numbers. They tell the story."
As for himself, Tulowitzki quickly says, "it's not a decision I am involved in."
He does have name recognition, as his leading vote total from a year ago underscored. He is putting on a strong kick that could garner attention. Tulowitzki entered Wednesday's game against the Angels hitting .320 and with a hitting streak of 19 games, and on-base streak of 34 games, both the longest active streaks in Major League Baseball and the longest of his career.
The Rockies are making their efforts on his behalf, including the announcement on Wednesday that they will work with the Yankees to campaign for both Tulowitzki and Gardner in the quest to win the NL and AL Final Votes.
"Whoever gets left off, it's going to be unfortunate," said Tulowitzki. "You are talking guys who all have multiple All-Star appearances, multiple post-season awards, and are having good seasons again."
And Tulowitzki admits while he might not feel comfortable campaigning for election, being an All-Star is nothing to be downplayed.
"You work all offseason, year after year, to be the best player you can be," he said. "The All-Star Game is a nice reward for the work."
Tulowitzki and the other Final Vote candidates will find out soon if they get that reward this year.