Final Vote winners see mixed success
Fans can send next potential impact players to Yankee Stadium
In a perfect world, the final two roster spots determined by fans would be a pitcher in one league and a position player in the other. They would meet with two out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning at the All-Star Game.
There would be a walk-off homer into an exploding bank of lights and a mob scene at home plate, or the most clutch save of all time. Fireworks would fill the sky, the stock market would soar, gas prices would fall, there would be world peace and end to hunger, spam and global warming, and everyone would live happily ever after.
Welcome back to reality. The Monster 2008 All-Star Game Final Vote is under way, and for one thing, there are no pitchers among the 10 choices, so there won't be that kind of matchup on July 15 at Yankee Stadium. For another thing, history says that the honor is mostly ceremonial and these final roster additions have had little to no impact in the All-Star Game.
Johnny Damon started a key rally in the first year a Final Vote representative played in the Midsummer Classic, but it only helped toward a tie score. That was pretty much it. Roy Oswalt got lit up; Andruw Jones, Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui got sat down; Chris Young gave up the only inside-the-park homer in All-Star history and many players have sat and watched -- they were just glad to be there.
But one of these days, when you least expect, it just might happen. Look closely at those choices in front of you now, and keep voting until the 5 p.m. ET deadline on Thursday. Maybe, just maybe, someone will play a dramatic role. You know it will happen.
American League nominees are outfielder Jermaine Dye of the White Sox, first baseman Jason Giambi of the Yankees, outfielder Jose Guillen of the Royals, third baseman Evan Longoria of the Rays and second baseman Brian Roberts of the Orioles.
National League nominees are outfielder Pat Burrell of the Phillies, outfielder Corey Hart of the Brewers, outfielder Carlos Lee of the Astros, outfielder Aaron Rowand of the Giants and third baseman David Wright of the Mets.
You can easily see any of them being heroes. After all, they do it in their regular jobs. Here is a closer look at how your choices have fared since it all began:
This was the year of the 7-7 tie in Milwaukee and impetus for a 2003 rule change that gave World Series home-field advantage to the winning league. It also was the first year that the final roster spots were determined by fans.
Jones of the Braves and Damon of the Red Sox were the players chosen to fill what were then the 30th roster spots, and they had mixed results.
Jones was 0-for-3 coming off the bench. He pinch-hit for Vladimir Guerrero in the bottom of the sixth, and was struck out by Eddie Guardado. Jones grounded out to third leading off the eighth against Ugueth Urbina, and with a chance to be the game's hero, Jones was whiffed by Freddy Garcia in the bottom of the 10th.
At least give Damon credit for helping the AL avoid defeat. In the seventh, the AL broke through as Damon created a run and kick-started a four-run rally. He glanced a line drive off pitcher Mike Remlinger, stole second base and moved to third on a flyout to right. Garret Anderson scored Damon with an RBI groundout to second base.
In the eighth, Robb Nen struck out Damon with no outs and Robert Fick on base. In the top of the 10th, Vicente Padilla retired the AL in order, and that included a 1-3 comebacker by Damon to end the inning.
In the Final Vote's second season, your choices were Geoff Jenkins of the Brewers and Jason Varitek of the Red Sox.
Let's just say they did a good job getting into the team pictures before the game at Comiskey Park in Chicago.
After what happened in 2002, there was really no way either manager was going to risk getting down to nothing left on the bench through nine.
Abreu of the Phillies and Matsui of the Yankees won the Final Vote to go to Houston, and each of them struck out in a single pinch-hit appearance.
In the bottom of the seventh, Abreu replaced Tom Glavine, batting third in the order and leading off against Joe Nathan. The NL was already down five runs in trying to recover from Roger Clemens' horrible first inning in front of the home fans, and it was a quick out.
"It was just great to be here," Abreu said after the game, obviously delighted by the fan honor. "This has been fantastic, really fantastic."
Matsui had started his first All-Star Game the previous year, back when he was fresh on the scene from Japan as "Godzilla." In this game, he was summoned in the top of the ninth to bat for Carl Crawford with one on and one out. Eric Gagne sent him and Matt Lawton down back-to-back.
Here's the amazing thing about the 2005 Final Vote results: Somehow you chose two guys who faced each other in that year's World Series -- Oswalt of the Astros and Scott Podsednik of the White Sox. They didn't face each other in that All-Star Game in Detroit, but they both were in the box score.
It marked the first time that a pitcher was brought along as a Final Vote pick. Oswalt received that honor, and facing the AL top of the order in the third inning in relief of John Smoltz, Oswalt got into trouble right away and gave up a pair of runs. David Ortiz hit an RBI single to score Damon, and Alex Rodriguez later scored on Miguel Tejada's 6-3 groundout.
It was the earliest a Final Vote winner had appeared in an All-Star Game.
Oswalt, not one to typically fraternize with opposing players, put aside those convictions and seemed to enjoy himself during the All-Star festivities.
"We'll go back to business when we go back to the game," Oswalt said.
Podsednik had overtaken Derek Jeter in the final 24 hours of the Final Vote deadline, and called it "humbling" to get the nod.
"Being named to the All-Star team is a dream every 10-year-old enjoys when growing up playing baseball," Podsednik said. "Thanks to your votes, I will have the opportunity to fulfill those dreams."
So how did those dreams turn out? He waited until the ninth and replaced Gary Sheffield in center for that inning. Mariano Rivera had to quell an NL threat to close a 7-5 victory, so there was no bottom of the ninth and no at-bat opportunity. But he got to be around fellow All-Stars and be part of the Midsummer Classic, thanks to you.
Post-mortem on this one: Podsednik got the better of Oswalt in October. The White Sox had the home-field advantage thanks to the All-Star victory, and Pods' walk-off homer in the rain in Game 2 carried Chicago toward a sweep at Houston.
For the second time in Final Vote history, your choices saw no action in the actual game. The NL choice was Dodgers first baseman Nomar Garciaparra and catcher A.J. Pierzynski was the AL's second consecutive Final Vote winner from the White Sox.
For the former, it was a much different situation than before. Garciaparra had played in five All-Star Games as a Red Sox shortstop. Here, he at least got to ride on the back of a truck in that first (and now traditional) All-Star Game Red Carpet Parade that took players across the Roberto Clemente Bridge and right to PNC Park.
For Pierzynski, all that seemed to matter at the time was that his league won again -- just in case the White Sox might get back to the postseason (they didn't).
"It's nice to know we did it and have a chance to get the home-field advantage," Pierzynski said. "At the same time, it's a long, long way away."
It was the year of the pitcher on the Final Vote ballot. Faced with 10 pitchers from which to choose, fans went with Young of the Padres and Hideki Okajima of the Red Sox.
Young was one of three San Diego pitchers in the game in San Francisco, and all three -- including starter Jake Peavy and Trevor Hoffman -- got to pitch. Young, who started the fifth inning with the NL nursing a 1-0 lead, allowed a walk to Roberts to start the frame. After getting Jorge Posada on a routine fly to center for the first out, Ichiro Suzuki lined a first-pitch fastball high into the gap in right-center for the historic inside-the-park home run that continued the NL's All-Star frustration.
"He's a good hitter. He's had my number," Young said of Ichiro. "He put a good swing on it and the ball kind of took an unlucky bounce. And with his speed ... that's the way it goes. Sometimes it bounces your way, sometimes it doesn't."
At least Young got to pitch. Okajima waited, the only one of the six Red Sox All-Stars who sat idle. He made up for it in the postseason. It's just the way it goes sometimes when you win the Final Vote.
Maybe this time a Final Vote winner will be a hero, rewarding you for all that clicking.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.