Inge takes over Final Vote lead in AL
Tigers form vote partnership with Victorino, Phillies
DETROIT -- Brandon Inge has moved into the lead in the American League All-Star Final Vote. And the Tigers and Phillies have teamed up to help try to ensure he stays there.
In the final hours of online balloting at MLB.com and tigers.com on Thursday, Detroit's standout third baseman has held onto a slim advantage over Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler, who led for the most of the first two days of balloting. Angels third baseman Chone Figgins is in third.
The Final Vote already has surpassed all-time records for total ballots cast and total votes with 33.1 million and 53.4 million. And, particularly in Detroit, the attention has been nonstop.
"These past few days have been kind of a whirlwind, because of everything," Inge said. "I had no idea it was like this. I just figured they would tell me at the end what happened."
If Detroit's latest effort to boost Inge's balloting works, it could be a very happy ending. The Tigers and Phillies announced a joint effort Wednesday afternoon to encourage their fans to vote for Inge and Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino together as a ticket on the Final Vote ballot, since fans have to vote one player from each league.
They're calling the tandem Bran-Torino. It's similar to pairings that teams in other areas of the country have done.
The two clubs are also encouraging businesses in Michigan and Pennsylvania to allow their workers some time Wednesday and Thursday to vote for Inge and Victorino.
Victorino had mentioned a potential pairing to reporters Tuesday.
"The Giants and Texas did it," Victorino said. "We [were] both in second place. Why don't we join forces and join together?"
Inge said he has talked with Victorino a couple times during his career, but never been got to know him.
"I've spoken to him a couple of times," Inge said. "That's funny, though. What did they call it, Bran-torino? That's funny."
Like Inge, Victorino is in a close battle in the National League to win the Final Vote. Philadelphia's multi-tooled talent overtook Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval for the NL lead. The two are locked in a back-and-forth battle, and the Phillies are hoping Tigers fans can put Victorino over the top.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland thinks all the attention in Detroit has had an upside for the city.
"One thing I like about it," Leyland said, "I think that it's given the city something happy going on, something a little bit different for a few days. I think it's good for the city. I think it's good for the area. I think they're into it, and I think they're laughing. They're forgetting about their problems, maybe, for a little bit. I think that's the best part about it, myself.
"They love him. So do I. But I think it's good for the city. It's something different, gets people pumped up."
Leyland has been vocal in his support of Inge since well before the All-Star rosters were named.
"The best part about it is, if it ends well and he makes it, no matter how it got there, he deserves it," Leyland said. "That's the main thing. It's like an umpire getting it right."
The Tigers are also offering their fans another enticement to cast their vote for Inge -- fans who vote at least 100 times for Inge at tigers.com will be eligible in a drawing to win a fantasy package for their Aug. 4 game vs. the Orioles that includes delivering the game ball to the mound, two infield box seats, parking, a Tigers batting practice jersey and dinner for two in the Champions Club.
Every fan who votes for Inge at tigers.com is also automatically entered into a drawing for an Inge autographed bat.
The eighth annual All-Star Final Vote allows fans to decide the 33rd and final roster spot for the American and National Leagues leading up to the 80th All-Star Game on Tuesday at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Voting runs through 4 p.m. ET Thursday at MLB.com and tigers.com.
Fans also can vote again by mobile device -- exclusive in the U.S. to Sprint, Nextel and Boost subscribers. To receive the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote mobile ballot text the word "VOTE" to 1122. To vote for a specific player, simply text message your choice to 1122. EXAMPLE: Text "A3" to vote for AL Player 3 or "N3" to vote for NL Player 3. Standard rate messaging fees also may apply; check with your carrier. Mobile voting in Canada is open to all carriers; fans should text their choices to 88555.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.