Red Sox All-Star ballot is up to Youk
First baseman joins Big Papi, Manny for first time in his career
BOSTON -- For Kevin Youkilis, one hurdle toward getting to the All-Star Game has finally been cleared. For the first time in his career, Youkilis -- Boston's gritty first baseman -- is actually on the All-Star ballot.
This, despite the fact that Youkilis is in the midst of his third season as an everyday player.
Why did it take so long? Two words. David Ortiz.
With the game taking place in a National League Park the past two years, there was no designated hitter listed on the ballot. Therefore, Ortiz was listed at first base, a position that he plays only in Interleague Play and the World Series.
The fact that this year's All-Star Game will be held at Yankee Stadium is a fortuitous thing for Youkilis, who is listed at first base on the American League ballot. Ortiz is at DH this time around.
Youkilis has turned into a cornerstone player for the Red Sox. Offensively, he wears opponents down with his careful eye. Once Youkilis gets his pitch, he typically drives it hard -- somewhere.
Even as he was coming up through the Minor Leagues, Youkilis was known for his bat. But he has turned into a defensive star, as evidenced by the Gold Glove he won last year.
Of course, the true beauty of Youkilis is his versatility. When Mike Lowell served a stint on the disabled list in April, Youkilis seamlessly moved to third base.
"He wins a Gold Glove at first, he goes to third and he plays a Major League-caliber third base," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who will be managing the AL squad in the Bronx. "You can hit him anywhere in the lineup. He works the count. He really has turned into a very good Major League player. It is appreciated. And you don't have to run and check with him every day. You just kind of throw his name in and he handles it. The one thing he really doesn't like doing is leading off. So he doesn't do that. Other than that, he just goes about his business."
So when it comes to the business of filling out All-Star ballots, Youkilis figures to get his share of votes.
Ballots will be available at Fenway Park on Wednesday night, and then for all home games until June 22.
The 79th All-Star Game will be played on July 15, and it'll be the fourth held at Yankee Stadium and the eighth in New York City. The Yankees previously hosted the All-Star Game in 1939, '60 and '77; the Polo Grounds held the game in '34 and '42; Ebbets Field was the site in '49; and Shea Stadium hosted the '64 Midsummer Classic.
Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times with the Monster 2008 All-Star Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites until July 2 at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Starting rosters will be announced during the 2008 All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Chevrolet on TBS on July 6. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the Monster 2008 All-Star Final Vote at MLB.com.
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 presented by Chevrolet at the All-Star Game via the Monster 2008 All-Star Game MVP vote at MLB.com.
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.
As for Ortiz, the All-Star Game is becoming an old hat. The affable slugger has been on the squad either as a starter or a reserve the past four years. It will be interesting to see if Ortiz's early-season slump has an impact on the voting.
At this time a year ago, few would have considered second baseman Dustin Pedroia a viable All-Star candidate. At the time, Pedroia was mired in a slump that had talk-show callers questioning why Francona was still putting him in the lineup. By the end of the year, Pedroia was the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year, not to mention a postseason star. He will be on the ballot for the second time.
No player means more to the Red Sox than Jason Varitek. The captain and catcher keeps the team together with his preparation and his leadership. Varitek was an All-Star in 2003 and '05.
Of all the members of the Red Sox, the one who has the most All-Star experience is left fielder Manny Ramirez. The lethal cleanup man is making a run at his 12th All-Star appearance, and he has been selected in each of his first seven years with the Red Sox.
Because the Red Sox have been using a center-field combination of Coco Crisp and Jacoby Ellsbury, only one player can be on the ballot. It will be the more experienced Crisp.
J.D. Drew, Boston's right fielder, has never been an All-Star, despite putting up some good numbers over the years. Drew, shortstop Julio Lugo and Lowell round out the Boston contingent on the ballot.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.