By Josh, Hamilton gaining in AL voting
Rangers outfielder close to teammate Cruz; Morneau keeps lead
A hot month of June has helped put Josh Hamilton's numbers among some of the best in the American League. But will it be enough to catapult him into his third consecutive All-Star Game start?
From last week to this week, the AL position leaders for the Midsummer Classic looked the same, and everybody at the top increased their respective leads.
All except the bunched-up outfielders, that is.
If the voting ended when the most recent update of fan votes for the July 13 All-Star Game at Angel Stadium in Anaheim came out on Monday, catcher Joe Mauer would be the leading vote-getter. And he'd be joined in the starting lineup by first baseman Justin Morneau -- still part of a very competitive race at his position -- second baseman Robinson Cano, shortstop Derek Jeter, third baseman Evan Longoria, designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero and outfielders Ichiro Suzuki, Carl Crawford and Nelson Cruz.
But Cruz's Rangers teammate Hamilton is starting to become his biggest obstacle for a second straight All-Star Game nod.
Cruz and Crawford flip-flopped between second and third in fan votes for the second time this season, with the Rays left fielder moving to second behind Ichiro. Now, after trailing the third-place outfielder -- then Crawford -- by roughly 109,000 votes last week, Hamilton has crept to about 87,000 behind Cruz thanks to a month in which he is batting .412 with six homers and 19 RBIs in 13 games.
Hamilton recently credited his better results to not trying to put on a show in batting practice -- like he did at the Home Run Derby in Yankee Stadium two years ago.
"It's not for a show," Hamilton said. "It's for working on things. Things you do in the cage carry over into batting practice. And then it's trying to work on the same things in batting practice. And then, when the game comes along, just go up there and hit it. Trust yourself."
In what is now the closest race in the AL, Ichiro and his .341 batting average pace the outfielders with 1,231,950 votes, as he seeks his 10th trip to the All-Star Game in as many years in the big leagues.
Coming in a close second is Crawford, a three-time All-Star who's batting .296 with 21 steals and has 1,123,132 votes. And right behind him is Cruz, who has 1,093,099 votes while batting .327 with 10 homers and 34 RBIs.
But Hamilton, batting .309 with 15 homers and 46 RBIs and almost 200,000 votes ahead of fifth-place Nick Swisher of the Yankees, is keeping things competitive.
So are the Yankees' Mark Teixeira and Tigers' Miguel Cabrera at first base.
After jumping Teixeira for the lead among first basemen last week, the Twins' Morneau increased his margin from about 42,000 to 180,000, as he now has 1,402,496 votes. But the distance between Morneau and a still-struggling Teixeira (1,221,457) is the second smallest in the league. And don't take your eyes off Cabrera, whose gaudy numbers have kept him within striking distance while in third place with 1,009,822 votes.
If you're a catcher or shortstop in the AL, however, you'll need a near-miracle to crack the starting lineup. Because it looks like nobody is catching Mauer or Jeter.
As he's done all season, Mauer continues to lead the league in fan votes, as the reigning AL Most Valuable Player now sports 2,617,822 votes to easily put him ahead of the Yankees' Jorge Posada (822,865 votes) and give him the biggest lead in the AL. Mauer is batting .319 with a .397 on-base percentage and is looking for his fourth trip to the All-Star Game and third start.
Meanwhile, Jeter -- batting .293 with eight homers and 39 RBIs -- is seeking his 11th All-Star nod and looks good in doing so, as his 2,108,659 votes put him easily ahead of the second-place Elvis Andrus, who has 999,455 votes.
Jeter's teammate to his right, however, continues to fall behind.
Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez has trailed Longoria in the voting for starting third baseman all year and has now dropped about 687,000 back, as Longoria -- batting .320 with 11 homers and 48 RBIs -- sports 1,958,855 votes, while A-Rod has 1,271,831.
Cano, another Yankee, is looking good.
The 27-year-old left-handed hitter has an AL-leading .371 batting average and a second base-leading 1,784,896 votes to give him a healthy lead over the Red Sox's Dustin Pedroia, who trailed by more than 500,000 last week and is now roughly 800,000 votes behind with a total of 983,716.
And after playing his previous six seasons with the Angels, Guerrero looks poised to make his return to Angel Stadium as the starting DH.
The 35-year-old, eight-time All-Star increased his lead over the second-place Hideki Matsui -- who replaced Guerrero as the Angels' DH -- from 600,000 to more than 900,000, as Guerrero now sports 1,743,946 votes thanks to a resurgent year at the plate.
But there's still 17 days remaining in fan voting.
Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times at MLB.com and all 30 club sites using the 2010 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot sponsored by Sprint until July 1 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Sprint subscribers can now vote on the go with select Sprint devices. They can learn more about how to vote on their smart phones at MLB.com/Sprint.
Starting rosters will be announced during the 2010 All-Star Game Selection Show on TBS on July 4. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the 2010 All-Star Game Final Vote sponsored by Sprint.
And the voting doesn't end there. Fans will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet at the Midsummer Classic via the 2010 All-Star Game MVP Vote sponsored by Sprint.
The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX and around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio play-by-play, while MLB.com will offer extensive online coverage.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.