POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jul 6, 2011
Shane Victorino has a banged-up thumb right now. So the Phillies center fielder from Maui might have a hard time voting for himself a few thousand times to help ensure making the National League All-Star team as the last man in.
Assuming the thumb doesn't put him on the DL, he needs your help again. If this seems at least vaguely familiar, it's because Victorino was voted into the Midsummer Classic this way two years ago. For 10 years now, one last player gets on each league's team via the All-Star Game Final Vote.
As of late Tuesday, Victorino was ahead in the balloting that ends Thursday. No big surprise, since he's hugely popular not only in Philadelphia and Hawaii but also other places where hard-nosed hustle and all-around quality play are appreciated. Plus, his stats and name recognition are very good, since he's a high-profile member of a high-profile, winning team.
He might not be well-liked by every National League fan, considering the damage he does against their favorite teams. But you get the feeling he's widely respected.
Victorino's uniform is always dirty. His style reminds me of Rickey Henderson's, another guy who played baseball at the intensity level of football — except Victorino does it and Henderson did it every day, not once a week.
Two years ago I endorsed Victorino wholeheartedly. While Pablo (Kung Fu Panda) Sandoval had the funnier and slightly more original nickname (for some reason almost everyone from Hawaii is labeled either The Flyin' Hawaiian or The Hawaiian Punch), Victorino had the best credentials of the final five for the NL.
This time, I was ready to go rogue and write that unless you want to blindly support the local guy (your prerogative), consider the guy who might deserve it more, Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates (please note I said might). There's just a minor problem with this: No one can vote for McCutchen because he's not on the Final Vote ballot.
Lucky for Victorino. McCutchen is a big part of a great story in Pittsburgh, and without him the Pirates wouldn't be contending in the NL Central. He might have gotten a lot of votes.
McCutchen's got a little more pop than Victorino, 12 homers to 9, as well as a 22-14 edge in doubles and 15 stolen bases to 13. But McCutchen's numbers have been compiled in 84 games, Victorino's in 68.
I'm going to briefly go all sabermetrics on you for a second and site on-base-plus-slugging. Victorino has a slight edge in OPS, .900 to .884.
McCutchen makes some great plays in center, but Victorino does so routinely.
It's close, but it's a moot point. You can't write-in on the Final Vote.
The player who actually is in the voting with the best creds and popularity to rival Victorino's? How about Andre Ethier of the Dodgers? He's been one of the few bright spots for the beleaguered franchise, fashioning a 30-game hitting streak earlier in the season. He was batting .317 going into Tuesday's games.
He's also got actress/season-ticket holder Alyssa Milano and her 1,707,913 Twitter followers on the case.
Some casual fans might find that a more attractive alliance than the Phillies and Tigers joining forces again; two years ago they jointly promoted Victorino and Brandon Inge (Bran Torino). This time it's Victor Martinez for the Tigers (Victor Victorino). Cheesy and random, but effective. Both Inge and Victorino got the votes to win in 2009.
The PR departments of the teams with players involved go into overdrive for their Final Vote candidates, with giveaway opportunities for fans who vote early and often. It's proof that baseball can be innovative in its marketing, and the whole thing is kind of fun, so why not?
Player procurement for the All-Star game has always been less than scientific or logical. That's why Derek Jeter is starting at shortstop for the American League ... he's just the latest in a long line of players past their prime taking up a spot someone like an Andrew McCutchen should have if you went strictly by the numbers.
What many of us in Hawaii care about, though, is if Victorino can hold his lead for one more day and that thumb heals up. If so — and if Brandon League's wife doesn't give birth sooner than expected — Victorino and League will make Hawaii sports history; two island products in the Major League All-Star Game, first time ever.