V-Mart needs fans' help for fifth All-Star nod
Tigers DH/catcher one of five AL Final Vote candidates
DETROIT -- Tigers catcher Victor Martinez was getting ready in the home clubhouse at Comerica Park on Sunday morning when his 6-year-old son, Victor Jose, walked up with a question.
"Are you going to the All-Star Game?" the younger Martinez asked his dad.
He can't answer that just yet. Tigers fans, with a little help from Justin Verlander, are going to have a say in that over the next few days.
"We'll find out," Verlander said coyly Sunday afternoon. "To be announced."
Verlander and fans helped get Alex Avila voted into the All-Star Game, to be held July 12 in Phoenix. Now, they'll be taking up Martinez's cause with the All-Star Game Final Vote. While four Tigers were named to the American League All-Star team Sunday afternoon, this gives them a chance at a fifth, which would match their total from 2007 -- the year after they went to the World Series.
Now in its 10th year, the 2011 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Sunday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell and continues until 4 p.m. ET on Thursday. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
For Tigers fans, it's a chance to recognize the man who has provided an All-Star bat behind Miguel Cabrera in Detroit's lineup and a huge presence for team chemistry when he joined the club last fall. For Verlander and fellow Tigers pitcher Brad Penny, it's a chance to campaign for another deserving All-Star.
"From a manager's standpoint, we're all selfish," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I think Victor certainly deserves to be on it. ... I hope Victor gets in."
Martinez was his usual stoic self about it.
"It's something that's out of my hands," he said. "If it happens, it'll be nice in Arizona. If it doesn't, I'll be happy with my family back home."
His Tigers teammates, who know how much he has meant to the club since joining it last fall, are taking up his cause.
"I told all my friends in Venezuela to try to get Victor in the All-Star Game," said his Tigers teammate and fellow Venezuelan Cabrera.
Martinez has been selected to three of the last four All-Star Games as a catcher on winning teams in Cleveland and Boston. When he became a Tiger, however, he knew he was taking on a different role, and one that might take a bit away from the star honors. It wasn't so much hitting behind Cabrera, which has given him a good number of RBI chances, but the split role between part-time catcher and most-time designated hitter.
On the field, the numbers stand on their own. Only Boston's Adrian Gonzalez, an All-Star starter at first base, entered Sunday with a higher batting average among American Leaguers than Martinez and his .335 clip. He has 21 doubles, six home runs and 46 RBIs to go with it. He has converted RBI chances repeatedly after opponents have pitched around MVP candidate Cabrera.
"He's been one of the most consistent hitters all year," Avila said. "He's second in the league in batting average."
If Martinez was catching regularly, he might have had a strong case in his favor in fan balloting, but he was overshadowed by David Ortiz on the DH part of the ballot. But as he said when he signed, he wasn't coming to Detroit for personal honors; he signed for a chance to win.
That approach has helped him in his off-field impact, the kind that doesn't get read on box scores. His impact in the Tigers clubhouse has been massive, from his quiet leadership to his steady presence. Avila, this year's AL All-Star starter at catcher, has credited Martinez for helping him handle the learning curve behind the plate. Pitchers ranging from Penny to Rick Porcello have praised his attitude and work ethic with them.
Even Leyland, who doesn't talk much about team chemistry, raves about what Martinez contributes to it.
"I can't say enough about him. He's one of the best teammates I've ever been around on any team I've managed," Leyland said Friday. "He's unbelievable -- positive every day, pumping everybody up. Forget the hits and everything, this guy is one of the best teammates I've ever been around."
All-Star selections, of course, aren't made on chemistry. His votes will have to be earned on performance and visibility. In that way, he said, being selected for the Final Vote ballot was an honor.
"It's nice when you look around and see the hard work you put in," Martinez said, "and it's been at least recognized. It's nice."
The Tigers have had success with Final Vote campaigns. Brandon Inge used the process to earn his All-Star selection in 2009 with help from the Tigers and Phillies, who teamed up to encourage fans to vote for Inge and National League candidate Shane Victorino on the same ballot.
There was no immediate word whether the Tigers would try to do the same with Victor and Victorino, who is back on the Final Vote ballot on the NL side. But already, some fans online were pushing the idea of the vote swap.
If Detroit is going to get a vote push going, it'll probably have to include the late-night crowd. The Tigers are on the road at Anaheim for the next few days against the Angels, so Martinez's highlights will be coming in late, unlike with Inge when the Tigers were at home two years ago.
Mobile voting in the U.S. and Canada is open to everyone. In the U.S., to receive the 2011 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 89269. To vote for a specific player, simply text message your choice to 89269 (Example: Text "A4" to vote for Martinez). In Canada, fans should text their choices to 65246. Standard message and data rates may apply.
The fun doesn't end there, however. Fans, having already decided the starters and final player on each team, once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevy via the 2011 All-Star Game MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.
The 82nd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
There will be an extra treat for fans who participate in the Final Vote. If you are not a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you are eligible to receive a 10-day free trial of MLB.TV from July 9-19. If you are a current MLB.TV subscriber (MLB.TV or MLB.TV Premium), you will receive a 15-percent discount to the MLB.com Shop. MLB.com will send an email on July 11 to all Final Vote voters with instructions on how to redeem the applicable offer.