Justin Upton, Derrick Hall

“Final Vote” balloting now open for 2011 All-Star Game


Major League Baseball named 66 All-Stars during Sunday’s selection show on TBS, but a total of 68 players will be on hand when the Midsummer Classic kicks off July 12 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Through a week-long online “final vote,” one additional All-Star will be named to each roster. Ballots can be cast now on MLB.com.

American League

Alex Gordon, OF, Royals
A former second overall pick, Gordon has finally figured it all out in his fifth big league season and entered Sunday’s action with a .301/.368/.491 batting line. If the Kansas City fanbase can rally, Gordon would join Royals reliever Aaron Crow as the only two Royals heading to Arizona.

Adam Jones, OF, Orioles
From the highlight catches in center field to his speed around the bases, “don’t call me Pacman” Jones is one of the most exciting players in baseball. He’s on pace to finish with over 20 home runs and he’s swiped six bases in six chances this season for Baltimore.

Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox
Different year, familiar results. Konerko is following up his stellar 2010 campaign with more of the same, batting .317/.387/.567 with 21 home runs in 81 games played. There’s a logjam at first base on both All-Star rosters, but Paulie would make a fine late-innings pinch-hitter.

Victor Martinez, DH, Tigers
The Tigers have nearly tracked down the first-place Indians in the American League Central, and much of the credit goes to V-Mart. Detroit’s big offseason addition has tallied 46 RBI against a .335/.383/.490 batting line and could act as the American League’s emergency catcher.

Ben Zobrist, UTIL, Rays
Zobrist plays elite-level defense at all spots around the diamond and is again contributing offensively after a down 2010 season. The versatile 30-year-old enters Sunday’s series finale against the Cardinals with nine home runs, 40 RBI and seven stolen bases.

National League

Shane Victorino, OF, Phillies
The “Flyin’ Hawaiian” is sporting a career-high .886 OPS through 298 plate appearances this season and could climb near 20 home runs before the year is through. He also has 13 steals in 14 attempts and could function as a dangerous pinch-runner for the National League.

Mike Morse, OF, Nationals
Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa may have deserved a spot in the “Final Vote” over Morse, but let’s not take anything away from the red-hot 29-year-old. Morse is batting .299/.349/.538 with 15 home runs and has helped the Nats cope with loss of first baseman Adam LaRoche.

Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers
Fellow outfielder Matt Kemp is drawing most of the “ooos” and “aahs” this season at Dodger Stadium, but Ethier has remained a steady presence in the heart of the Los Angeles lineup and enters Sunday’s full slate of games with a .322/.391/.464 slash line and 41 RBI.

Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies
What year is it? The 37-year-old finally has good health on his side and is hitting like the Helton of old, sporting a .323 batting average and .889 OPS through 285 plate appearances. He’d make a fine addition to the National League roster as a veteran pinch-hitter.

Ian Kennedy, SP, Diamondbacks
Yankees GM Brian Cashman probably tries to avoid reading the National League box scores on days that Kennedy pitches. The 26-year-old has been dominating hitters all season and is quickly becoming an ace on the Diamondbacks’ staff. He may get a little hometown love in the voting.

Billy Williams, Bill Murray and . . . Fall Out Boy!

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 08:  Former players Ferguson Jenkins (L) and Billy Williams of the Chicago Cubs throw out ceremonial first pitches before the Opening Day game against the Milwaukee Brewers during the Opening Day game at Wrigley Field on April 8, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Major League Baseball has announced the on-field ceremonial stuff for tonight’s Game 3 of the World Series. There are a couple of good things here! And one bit of evidence that, at some point when he was still commissioner, Bud Selig sold his mortal soul to a pop punk band and now the league can’t do a thing about it.

The ceremonial first pitch choice is fantastic: it’s Billy Williams, the Hall of Famer and six-time All-Star who starred for the Cubs from 1959 through 1974. Glad to see Williams here. I know he’s beloved in Chicago, but he has always seemed to be one of the more overlooked Hall of Famers of the 1960s-70s. I’m guessing not being in the World Series all that time has a lot to do with that, so it’s all the more appropriate that he’s getting the spotlight tonight. Here’s hoping Fox makes a big deal out of it and replays it after the game starts.

“Take me out to the ballgame” will be sung by the guy who, I assume, holds the title of Cubs First Fan, Bill Murray. It’ll be wacky, I’m sure.

The National Anthem will be sung by Chicago native Patrick Stump. Who, many of you may know, is the lead singer for Fall Out Boy. This continues Major League Baseball’s strangely strong association with Fall Out Boy over the years. They, or some subset of them, seem to perform at every MLB jewel event. They have featured in MLB’s Opening Day musical montages. They played at the All-Star Game this summer. Twice. And, of course, they are the creative minds behind “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark,” (a/k/a “light ’em MUPMUPMUPMUP“) which Major League Baseball and Fox used as incessant playoff bumper music several years ago. I don’t ask for much in life, but one thing I do want is someone to love me as much as Major League Baseball loves Fall Out Boy. We all do, really.

Wayne Messmer, the former public address announcer for the Cubs and a regular performer of the National Anthem at Wrigley Field will sing “God Bless America.”

Between that and Bill Murray, I think we’ve found out the Cubs strategy for dealing with Andrew Miller: icing him if he tries to straddle the 6th and 7th innings.

Imagining a daytime World Series game at Wrigley Field

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 27:  A overall shot of the scoreboard showing the postponement of the game in Baltimore because of riots before the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 27, 2015 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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Night baseball first came to the World Series in 1971, when the Pirates played the Orioles in Game 4. The last World Series game played under natural light came in 1984, when the Tigers played the Padres in Detroit in Game 5 of that year’s Fall Classic. The last World Series game played during daytime hours was Game 6 of the 1987 World Series, but that came in Minneapolis, in the Metrodome, so it was still played under artificial light. All games since then have been played in the evening hours.

Ever since, there have been periodic calls for the World Series to include day games. These appeals are often grounded in tradition and nostalgia for bright sunshine making way for long shadows. For memories of sneaking transistor radios into classrooms. For the symbolism of the sun setting on both the day at hand and the baseball season as a whole.

It’s an appealing idea. Baseball in the daytime is a wonderful, wonderful thing. And while day baseball may be occasionally miserable for fans and players in the heat of August, October afternoons are often the loveliest weather there is. There is nothing better than fall sunshine. A baseball game in that fall sunshine seems like the closest one can get to heaven on Earth.

Unfortunately, it’s a wholly unrealistic idea in this day and age. Far fewer people would actually get to watch the World Series if it were played during the day. We complain about late games lasting into the wee hours, preventing kids from watching, but how many kids are going to be able to watch a World Series game when they’re in school? Or at after school extracurricular activities? And how many people can ditch work to watch a baseball game? Some say to put one of the day games on the weekend, but that clashes with other activities and, of course, with football, which is going to win the battle for the remote in more households than baseball would.

Yes, the networks and Major League Baseball are in it for the money and the TV ratings, but the fact is that the money and the ratings are a function of more people watching baseball games in the evening, kids and grownups alike. It’s pretty straightforward, actually. More people watching baseball is better for the people and for baseball, full stop, aesthetics and commercial motivations notwithstanding. For this reason the World Series will almost certainly be played at night for the foreseeable future. And it should be.

Still . . . it’s Wrigley Field, the last bastion of day-only baseball for decades. A place where, even if they now play most games at night, still features more day baseball than anyplace else. And it’s a sunny Friday afternoon on which the temperatures will creep into the 60s. I know it would never happen and certainly won’t happen today, but the idea of an afternoon World Series game in Wrigley Field makes even a hard-headed, bottom-line-appreciating anti-nostalgist like me sorta wish today was a day game. If I close my eyes I can imagine it. I can feel the warm breeze and smell the fall afternoon air. I’m sure many of you can too.

And even if you can’t, can we agree that maybe today should be a day game simply for public health purposes? I mean, get a load of this:

These people will have been drinking for at least 11 hours come game time. Many of them for much longer. You’re probably looking at some dead men walking, here. For the sake of their livers and personal safety, this game should start at 1pm, dang it. If even that is early enough to save them.