The fun of casting early ballots for the All-Star Game is that we get to recognize, in our own little way, those standout players whose names we barely knew before the season started.
To punch your ballot, for example, for Charlie Blackmon, as 549,394 fans have already done, is to recognize the Rockies' newly bearded wonder and his .321 batting average that's one of the most pleasant surprises in the sport.
As the first ballot updates released Monday and Tuesday prove, the name-recognition that has allowed Derek Jeter and Mike Trout to flourish in the American League hasn't necessarily applied elsewhere. And in the National League, it's especially notable that the previously unknown Blackmon not only leads all NL outfielders but is third in the overall NL voting only to teammate Troy Tulowitzki (745,823) and Cardinals catcher Yadi Molina (640,464), established All-Stars having typically great (and, in Tulo's case, potentially historic) campaigns.
This just adds yet another layer to the great story that is Blackmon's breakout year.
But fans still have more than a month to vote and to vote often. They can go to MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or on a mobile device -- to use the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday, July 3, at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Fans may submit up to 25 online ballots, but they can also earn a one-time bonus of 10 additional online ballots. To access these additional online ballots, you must be logged into your MLB.com account when you submit any online ballot. If you do not have an MLB.com account, register on the site in accordance with the enrollment instructions for a free MLB.com account.
Fans this year once again can participate in the Home Run Derby Fan Poll. Fans will have the opportunity to select three players in each league who they would most like to see participate in the Home Run Derby. The 2014 Home Run Derby will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN HD, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Radio in the United States beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Monday, July 14.
The 2014 American League and National League All-Star teams will be unveiled on the 2014 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show during the weekend of July 5-6, with further details to follow on MLB.com. Immediately following the announcement of the AL and NL All-Star rosters, fans can begin voting to select the final player for each league's 34-man roster via the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote Sponsored by Experian. Fans will cast their votes from a list of five players from each league over the balloting period.
And the voting doesn't end there. The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote Sponsored by Pepsi, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the overall vote that determines the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 85th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
There is a wide frame in which staying power and, assuredly, past performance will carry considerable weight.
Blackmon will be a perfect case study in the lag time between results on the field and results in the ballot box. He had a .374/.418/.616 slash line in April, and the voters undoubtedly took notice. It certainly doesn't hurt Blackmon's cause that most of his damage has come at home, where the Rockies currently rank eighth in average attendance.
The .261/.286/.420 slash line Blackmon has posted in May steals a little of his All-Star campaign thunder, but that is also too small a sample to draw too many conclusions from.
And that's really the rub of All-Star voting, in general: How much weight do you put on the present day vs. the career track? Bryan LaHair's absurdly awesome April in 2012 earned him a spot as an NL reserve, but the glass slipper broke as the season progressed and he hasn't been seen in the big leagues since. So it goes.
Blackmon, by virtue of what he's done both offensively and defensively, certainly belongs in a prominent spot in the NL outfield conversation, and past MVPs Andrew McCutchen, who has put up excellent numbers despite getting drastically fewer pitches to hit, and Ryan Braun, who has battled injuries, follow him in the current vote totals.
My suspicion, though, is that this will be the area open to the most fluctuation in the NL.
That aforementioned lag time is bound to reveal itself in future vote totals for Yasiel Puig, whose ridiculous .413/.518/.750 slash line this month is going to garner him thousands upon thousands of votes. Same goes for Giancarlo Stanton and his .375/.476/.693 May slash. These are two of the most feared sluggers in the sport, and it's a good bet that their current positions -- fourth for Stanton, fifth for Puig -- are temporary.
While Braun is faring well in the totals, to date, the stats would lead you to believe his Brewers teammate, Carlos Gomez (.974 OPS), ought to overtake him. Both Gomez and Justin Upton (.997) have ample argument to be higher than the sixth and seventh spots they currently occupy.
The only ballot-induced bummer is that the Padres' Seth Smith isn't eligible for anything other than write-in votes. At the time the ballots were constructed, it was difficult to know whether Smith would purely be in a platoon role or in an everyday spot, let alone that he'd have a .315/.413/.568 slash through 173 plate appearances.
Ah, well. One way or another, expanded All-Star rosters essentially ensure every worthy candidate gets his due.
For now, it's good to see the voters putting Chase Utley (509,390) back in his rightful place atop the second-base spot in what has been a comeback campaign (with the speedy Dee Gordon, another breakout star, getting a satisfying shout-out in second place).
Furthermore, it's nice to know the first-base balloting, in which the first-place Adrian Gonzalez and third-place Justin Morneau are separated by less than 50,000 votes, is as close as the statistics would indicate it should be. Personally, I'd like to see Paul Goldschmidt, who currently ranks fifth, get more love, but that's just me.
Yet another member of the Rox, Nolan Arenado, is definitely deserving of his top spot at the hot corner. But even if you let past history bleed into the balloting, it's really hard to justify Pablo Sandoval (.697) showing up in the top five while Todd Frazier (.816) is nowhere to be found.
Anyway, it's early enough for all that stuff to sort itself out, for the fans to get a feel for how much stock to put into the early statistics.
Blackmon serves as the perfect example of how a guy can come out of nowhere to capture the fans' imagination, and it's nice to see him get this rightful recognition. But Stanton and Puig, in particular, are going to test his All-Star starting staying power as those votes keep coming in.