The next round of updates are in for the American League All-Star voting, and the results are good for the Oakland Athletics. There are three races in which an A's player is a relevant factor:
1. Josh Donaldson -- 2,943,332
2. Adrian Beltre -- 1,730,748
3. irrelevant, race over
Donaldson had this spot locked up weeks ago, and the rest is a formality. He's leading Beltre by 1.2 million votes, which means he's not that far from doubling up on the runner-up. Donaldson is starting.
Matt Wieters -- 2,103,385 (irrelevant, injured)
Derek Norris -- 1,924,049
Brian McCann -- 1,624,214
At last count, Norris was leading by around 142,000 votes. Now he's up by 300,000. He's clearly gaining on McCann, who has no business even watching the All-Star Game this year based on how he's played. One token Yankee based on career achievement (Jeter) is enough for one year. Here's the thing, though; Norris is actually within striking distance of Wieters now, and you have to figure that the Orioles backstop has probably lost much of his voting momentum now that he's out for the year. Making up 180,000 in three days will be tough, but it will be much easier when the guy ahead of you isn't aggressively adding to his total. For some perspective, in the week since the last update, Wieters added 250,000 votes and Norris gained 438,000.
Of course, if Norris finishes in second place then he'll be subject to the mercy of AL manager John Farrell, who will ultimately decide who starts behind the dish. Hopefully he will notice the statement the fans are making, that if they can't have Wieters then they want Norris. The only other catcher who should even be in this conversation is Salvador Perez, who is actually better than Norris due to his Gold Glove defense and solid bat, but Perez is a non-factor in the voting and I'd like to see that continue to mean something since it's always been a limiting factor for A's players. Don't change the precedents the moment they start favoring the A's, please!
Norris is almost certainly starting.
1. Jose Bautista -- 4,460,245
2. Mike Trout -- 4,085,647
3. Yoenis Cespedes -- 1,941,553
4. Melky Cabrera -- 1,929,506
5. Adam Jones -- 1,853,268
Man, that's close. Cespedes was short by 160,000 votes in the last update, and now he's up by 12,047. That is an absurdly small margin. That's the kind of margin where if it finishes like that, MLB can probably fudge it around to pick they guy they want -- like, say, the exciting Cuban sensation and AL version of Puig rather than the guy who embarrassed the league two years ago with a high-profile PED suspension and lame cover-up attempt. I'm just saying, they have a recent history of rigging elections to avoid embarrassment so it wouldn't be a stretch to suggest that there's a big brother looking over us and helping things fall our way. Note that I'm not suggesting that these vote totals are illegitimate in any way, but rather that their closeness allows MLB to sort of flip a coin at the end of the day if they want. And it will be a double-sided coin in which both sides lead to whatever conclusion they want. For once, it could favor the A's.
Anyway, I don't mean to completely hijack this section with PED conspiracy theories. No, that would rob Cespedes of the credit he's due for earning this much national recognition. He's having a fantastic season, easily his best overall in the Majors -- he's already nearly matched his bWAR total from 2012 (3.9, 3.1), and has already doubled his mark from last year's sophomore slump (1.6). (And if you prefer fWAR, his totals in chronological order are 2.9, 2.3, 2.3, so he is only 0.6 short of matching his career-high and we're only halfway through the season.) He's putting up the numbers, he's helping his team earn the wins, and he's making the kinds of crazy highlight plays that get you national attention. He deserves to at least be on the short list to start this year's All-Star Game, and he's absolutely a worthy starter -- and a more worthy selection than the two guys chasing him.
Cespedes is in the driver's seat. Look out for Adam Jones back there, though, biding his time and staying close. He is extremely popular and plays for a team who's done well in the voting in recent years, and he also started in 2013.
We're close to having three starters in the All-Star Game, folks. Voting ends at 9:00 p.m. PT on Thu., July 3. Here is the link to the ballot. When the starters have been announced, we'll move on to speculating about reserves and pitchers.