The American and National Leagues have added a couple of booming bats to their bench Tuesday in Anaheim with the selection of Nick Swisher and Joey Votto, now that fans have spoken loudly in the four-day All-Star Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint.
Swisher, the Yankees' right-fielder and social-media titan, held off Kevin Youkilis of the rival Red Sox in the closest race in the nine-year history of the Final Vote to claim the 34th and final spot on the All-Star roster with a final tally of 9.8 million votes. Swisher and Youkilis were followed by Paul Konerko of the White Sox, Michael Young of the Rangers and Delmon Young of the Twins.
"Things like that that make you feel so good," Swisher said. "People were telling me, everywhere I went. I'm just excited and couldn't be happier for all the support."
Votto was a machine throughout the Final Vote. The Reds' first baseman won wire-to-wire, powered by a fury of snub response and leading all vote-getters with 13.7 million en route to becoming the first Cincinnati player to win the All-Star Final Vote. He was followed by Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals, Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies and Billy Wagner of the Braves. Padres pitcher Heath Bell was running in fifth the first three days then was removed from the NL ballot after he got the good news that he was replacing Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo on the NL roster.
"I did my part to earn an All-Star berth. It means a lot to me," Votto said. "I've always wanted to be an All-Star one day. Today I was finally selected."
Baseball fans and clubs alike feverishly supported the 10 candidates named by All-Star managers Joe Girardi (AL) and Charlie Manuel (NL) during the four days of balloting, particularly through their use of MLB.com's All-Star Campaign Manager program, in which nearly 150,000 fans participated and tallied points for their favorite players, and by forming joint alliances, such as Reds-Red Sox (1975 World Series), Nationals and Rangers (Third Base Ticket) and Rox and (White) Sox, ultimately leading to more than 52 million votes being cast.
Swisher had the all-time campaigning day in Final Vote history on Wednesday, bar none. Using baseball's most-followed Twitter account (1,220,890 followers) to his advantage, he sought out and got endorsements from New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, actress Jessica Alba and "The Apprentice" co-star Ivanka Trump (among others). Then that night he was a triple shy of the cycle in leading the Yankees to a 6-2 victory over the Athletics.
On Thursday morning, it was announced that he held a narrow lead in a "virtual tie" with Youkilis. It didn't take Swisher long to tweet another kick in the rear to voters. He typed: "We're in the final stretch. Can't thank yall enough for your support. Let's finish strong!" And naturally he used the #SENDSWISH hashtag so that as many fans as possible could find his tweet, along with a link to the ballot.
After hearing that he won, Swisher immediately tweeted: "THANK YOU!!!"
Swisher's approach has been as opposite as could be from that of many other athletes, including most of the Final Ballot candidates. The Wall Street Journal even ran a story Wednesday morning on his enthusiasm of promoting himself publicly. There is no question that it worked.
Swisher entered the night's series opener at Seattle with a .298 average to go along with 14 homers, 48 RBIs and 52 runs.
"If you look at all five guys, everybody is so extremely deserving," Swisher had said during the competition. "Everybody has had a wonderful year. Just to be mentioned in the Final Vote with the other four guys is an honor for me."
By outlasting Youkilis, it meant that Red Sox Nation fell short for the first time in the Final Vote. Boston had produced the winner all three times it had tried, with Johnny Damon and Jason Varitek in 2002-03 as the first two AL winners, and then Hideki Okajima in 2007.
Roughly 45 minutes before the end of the voting period, Youkilis did an interview on the Red Sox's flagship radio station -- WEEI-850 AM -- to thank fans for all their support.
"I just wanted to thank all of Red Sox Nation out there that voted," Youkilis said on WEEI's "Big Show." "Even if I fall short, it was still fun."
Votto had a massive groundswell of public support to launch his Final Vote candidacy. Even though it is an especially deep year for NL first baseman, there was disappointment that a leading NL MVP candidate was left off the ballot. Votto expressed that same sentiment himself after learning he had to win the Final Vote to go.
"I was disappointed," he said on Sunday. "I would've liked to have gotten in on the first vote, but I still consider this an honor to give myself a chance to go to the All-Star Game with a pretty good group of guys."
He got in on the second vote.
Votto is batting .313 with an NL-best 21 homers and 59 RBIs. He was a one-man wrecking crew for the Reds in their series opener against the Mets on Monday at Citi Field, putting his abilities squarely in the spotlight for all to see. He had two homers that day, went 3-for-4, took the Major League home run lead, and at that point seemed unstoppable.
"I would say I'm relieved," Votto said. "I'm really glad this whole thing is over with. It was kind of taxing on me. I'm excited and I really, really appreciate the fans and their support."
It was the Reds' first attempt at the Final Vote, and they mounted a campaign extravaganza. Almost every Reds player taped television spots urging fans to "Vote Votto." Back in Cincinnati, the club enticed almost 200 fans to Great American Ball Park with free pizzas and had them voting on laptops Wednesday afternoon. Mayor Mark Mallory and U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown stopped by to vote. Digital billboards along local highways told drivers to "Vote Votto" -- and then there were those "Vote Votto" T-shirts worn by Reds players at Citi Field while stretching.
"I'm glad the people voted Joey in, big time. He was very deserving," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "I don't know if it was an oversight as much as Charlie had an idea that his guy and Joey might make it when he chose the five. I think people should realize that Charlie is more astute and knows what's going on than a lot of people give him credit for."
Zimmerman, who was hitting .296 with 16 home runs and 47 RBIs entering Thursday's action, acknowledged that he wanted to go to the All-Star Game, but was happy to see Votto go to Anaheim. "He deserves it," Zimmerman said of Votto. "He shouldn't have been on the Final Vote. I think he is one of the best players in the first half. It would have been fun to go. Just to be considered is an honor."
Konerko was supported with a "Pauliewood" campaign theme, and he thanked his fans with a letter on whitesox.com. In it, he wrote:
"When you start a baseball season in April, your focus is never on your own stats or on personal accomplishments like making the All-Star team. Your focus is on winning. I'm already looking forward to the second half of this season and helping the White Sox reach the postseason once again."
Konerko's supporters were also backing Gonzalez, as the two clubs unveiled a "Rox and Sox" official voting alliance halfway through the proceedings. More people definitely got to know about Gonzalez -- or CarGo to his Rockies fans. The Venezuelan left fielder played big during the voting, leading his team to within three games of the Padres.
"I'm just going to keep working," he said. "Right now, my mentality is to just try to win, to try to get back to the playoffs and try to be the best player I can be. And, maybe in the future, I'll have the opportunity to go."
Unless he is added as an injury replacement, it means Michael Young will not be on hand to try to keep the AL streak alive again. He was a hero in the 2006 and 2008 games, but the even-numbered-year trend apparently will end. How does he feel about the time off?
"I'd rather go to the game," Young said. "But I haven't had the time off in a long time so I'm going to make the most of it. I don't think there is a guy in the big leagues -- whether he has been to zero All-Star Games or 10 -- who would rather be home than at the All-Star Game."Seattle is the only club that never has had a Final Vote candidate.
Previous winners of the All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint are: Shane Victorino (NL, 2009); Brandon Inge (AL, 2009); Evan Longoria (AL, 2008); Corey Hart (NL, 2008); Hideki Okajima (AL, 2007); Chris Young (NL, 2007); A.J. Pierzynski (AL, 2006); Nomar Garciaparra (NL, 2006); Scott Podsednik (AL, 2005); Roy Oswalt (NL, 2005); HidekiMatsui (AL, 2004); Bobby Abreu (NL, 2004); Jason Varitek (AL, 2003); Geoff Jenkins (NL, 2003); Johnny Damon (AL, 2002); and Andruw Jones (NL, 2002).
The fun doesn't end with the Final Vote, either. The final phase of All-Star Game voting will have fans once again participate in the official voting for the All-Star Game Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2010 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint. Carl Crawford of the Rays won the award in 2009.
The 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet, Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau de Sport, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.