Morneau can have homecoming with Final Vote
With fans' support on ballot, former Twins star could make fifth All-Star appearance
DENVER -- Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau woke up Sunday hoping he would receive an invitation to go to his Major League roots for the All-Star Game. Now he has to sweat out a fan vote.
The only way Morneau, who represented the Twins in four All-Star Games (2007-10), will go this year is if he wins the Final Vote.
Fans began 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 immediately following the announcement of each league's 34-man roster on Sunday night. Fans can cast their votes from a list of five players from each League until the winners will be announced after the voting concludes on Thursday at 2 p.m. MT.
Morneau must compete with the Marlins' Casey McGehee, the Nationals' Anthony Rendon, the Braves' Justin Upton and the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo. There was disappointment on the part of Morneau, whose 59 RBIs rank second in the NL behind Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins.
But there's also hope.
"I'm not much of a self-promoter," Morneau said with a smile. "At this point, I feel I've played well enough to be there. But there are other guys that are having great seasons, too. You hope we get Colorado and maybe Canada [his native land] to rally behind us. I'll get a few of my hockey buddies on the Twitter, see if we can get a little momentum going. That'd be great.
"It's a tough ride, but I feel like to this point, it would really be an honor to be on that third-base line and get introduced in that stadium in Minnesota and be a part of that team."
A debilitating concussion in 2010 not only kept him out of the All-Star Game -- he had been a fan-elected starter the previous three years -- but it began a long period of pain and multiple injuries that didn't end until last year, when he got through the season healthy with the Twins and Pirates (after an August trade).
No doubt he'd like a return home.
The Rockies are doing their part by banding with the Indians, who have an American League Final Vote candidate in pitcher Corey Kluber, by asking fans to vote a Rox-Tribe ticket. The Rockies and Morneau also hope the Twins fans who supported him so heartily will vote for him as well. There is no conflict of interest there, since the Twins don't have a Final Vote nominee.
"What a great story, going back to Minnesota," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "Justin fighting through the things he's had to fight through to get back on the field -- a serious career-threatening injury -- and to put together the half he has for us, he's as good as it gets.
"He's been as great as advertised and then some. He's been a dream for me as a manager. He deserves to be in that game."
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki will start the game after leading all NL players in the fan voting. Outfielder Charlie Blackmon, based on a strong April, will go as a reserve. But Blackmon said it would only be right for Morneau to join the two of them.
"When we had initially found out that Troy and I had made it, I felt like I'm really not going to be able to enjoy it until Morneau makes the team," Blackmon said. "You look at what he's done this year, and the production he has had, and the bounce-back year he has had, not to mention what he brings in leadership to the clubhouse, he's really a player who I believe deserves to be there for a lot of reasons."
• Here are five reasons why Morneau should win the NL Final Vote and a spot on the NL All-Star Game roster:
1. He has put all health questions to bed: Injuries are what knocked Morneau from the ranks of the game's top stars. But he proved his health last year by playing a combined 152 games with the Twins and Pirates. This year, health hasn't been a question, and his quality has been unquestioned.
2. He's not a Coors Field creation: Rockies players have been dogged by stat analysts for years by their home/road splits. Of course, Coors has been a boon to Morneau. He's batting .329 with eight home runs and 38 RBIs at home. But on the road, he's hitting .303 with five homers and 21 RBIs and has shown a solid stroke to all parts of the field -- whether that field is in Denver or elsewhere.
3. He's not just a hitter: Morneau's defense has been superb, according to the fielding metrics on Baseball-Reference.com. Going into Sunday, Morneau led first basemen in range factor and was second in range factor per nine innings. He has managed this despite a heavier-than-expected workload brought on by a left shoulder injury to Michael Cuddyer, who was supposed to play first base on occasion to give Morneau rest. And he has achieved all this despite a near-constant change in the infield brought on by third baseman Nolan Arenado's left middle finger injury that cost him 37 games. On some occasions, DJ LeMahieu played third, which changed the complexion of the infield.
4. He bit off a big job and chewed it well: How many players can say they successfully replaced a legend? Morneau took a job that Todd Helton held in Colorado for 17 seasons. The statistics show that Morneau has brought first base back to the level of production that Helton had before age and injuries reduced his effectiveness. He also is the first player to wear No. 33 since former Rockies star, and fellow Canadian, Larry Walker wore it with distinction, and Morneau has proven worthy.
5. How can you pass up a comeback and a homecoming? The numbers present a wonderful case, but how about a good homecoming? Not only will the introduction be a warm moment, but his inclusion will make it easier for him to participate in the Gillette Home Run Derby. NL team captain and All-Star Tulowitzki has said he would like to invite Morneau if he is included on the NL squad for the game.
In addition to the web, fans can use their mobile phones to cast votes via the mobile web at MLB.com/vote or via text message. To receive the All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote Sponsored by Experian mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 89269. To vote for a specific player, fans can text the choice to 89269. Example: Text "N2" to vote for Morneau. Standard message and data rates may apply. Text "STOP" to end and "HELP" for information. Mobile voting in Canada also is available and fans should text their choices to 101010.
For the third consecutive year, the All-Star Game MLB.com Final Vote will include social balloting participation, as Twitter support from the 10 candidates' fans over the last six hours of balloting will count toward their final vote totals. From 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. MT on Thursday, any tweet that includes a designated player hashtag (noted above) will be tabulated as part of the official vote total used to determine the winners. Fans will be able to follow @MLB for the latest standings updates over the course of the entire four-day voting period.
And the voting doesn't end with the Final Vote. 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 and via Twitter in the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote Sponsored by Pepsi, and their collective voice will represent 20 percent of the overall vote that determines the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
MLB.TV Premium subscribers, for the first time, will be able to live stream the All-Star Game via MLB.TV through FOX's participating video providers. Access will be available across more than 400 support MLB.TV platforms, including the award-winning MLB.com At Bat app. 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.