SAN FRANCISCO – Giants fans have long shown their passion at the turnstiles, and Sunday their frenzy was revealed at the All-Star game ballot box.
Thanks to a monumental late voting push by their rabid base, the Giants will have three National League All-Star starters in Kansas City on July 10. Catcher Buster Posey, outfielder Melky Cabrera and third baseman Pablo Sandoval were runaway winners at their respective positions after final totals were announced Sunday morning.
Matt Cain was also selected to the N.L. pitching staff, but the real story might have been the incredible outpouring of online voting support from fans for all of the Giants’ position players.
Posey received 7,621,370 votes, the most for any N.L. player in history at any position, and outdistanced runner-up Yadier Molina of St. Louis at catcher by more than 2.5 million votes.
Cabrera, who was fourth among outfielders in the penultimate vote totals last week, wound up getting the most votes of any N.L. outfielder, and a million more than second-place Carlos Beltran.
As for Sandoval, who missed more than four weeks with a broken bone in his left hand, he overtook the man generally regarded to be having the best season at third base in either league, the New York Mets’ David Wright. But Sandoval got 5.7 million votes to Wright’s 4.1 million.
“It’s amazing what (the fans) have done and how they’ve supported their players,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “I’m surprised, but at the same time I’m not that surprised.”
Some of most surprising vote totals were for players who didn’t make the team. Brandon Crawford finished second in the shortstop voting, a mere 300,000 behind starter Rafael Furcal. First baseman Brandon Belt received nearly 4 million votes to finish a distant second behind Cincinnati’s Joey Votto.
“Our fans are crazy,” Belt said.
Outfielder Angel Pagan finished fifth among outfielders but got more votes than Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez, Los Angeles’ Andre Ethier and Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen. Even Aubrey Huff, who has barely played in the first half, received 1.9 million votes in the outfield tally, nearly as much as Oakland’s Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes received combined in the American League totals.
Perhaps the most astounding vote count was for Freddy Sanchez, who finished fourth among N.L. second basemen with 2,289,147 votes. The injured Sanchez hasn’t played for the Giants this season.
“I was getting nervous,” Bochy said. “I didn’t have Freddy all year, and he was about to start the All-Star game.”
Posey, Sandoval and Cabrera will all be making their first All-Star appearances. Posey and Cabrera were not that surprising, but the huge push for Sandoval was a shocker even though he came into Sunday hitting .307 with six home runs.
“I just want to say thank you to the fans,” Sandoval said. “When you’re having fun, all your dreams come true. When you’re a little kid, you want to play in the World Series and the All-Star game. I’m surprised I made it, but I’m very excited and happy.”
Posey, 25, is hitting .303 with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs. His selection further illuminates his successful comeback from a devastating ankle injury suffered in late May 2011. He said that at this point last year, he never could have imagined being an All-Star in 2012, let alone the top vote-getter in league history.
“It’s overwhelming,” Posey said. “It’s kind of hard to wrap my head around right now, but it’s going to be a blast. It’s something you don’t really think about that much, but when it happens, it’s humbling.”
Posey said that when he was growing up in Georgia, he always watched the All-Star game.
“So it’s a little bit surreal to think I’m going to have the opportunity to play in one,” he said.
His only trepidation is that he might be called upon to catch knuckleball specialist R.A. Dickey of the Mets.
“I need to figure out something, because I’ve never caught (a knuckleballer) before,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”
Cabrera, 27, will be returning to Kansas City where he had a breakout season last year before coming to the Giants in a trade for pitcher Jonathan Sanchez. He is hitting .352 in 77 games with a league-leading 111 hits. He has 16 doubles, seven triples and seven home runs to lead the first-place Giants.
“I think it due to all the hard work I put into the game,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “I think it’s due to (Bochy) giving me an opportunity to play every day. And I want to thank the fans and the Melk Men for voting me.”
Cabrera said he is happy he’ll be returning to Kansas City and getting a chance to play against some of his former teammates with the New York Yankees, notably Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano. Cano sent him a text of congratulations.
The Giants will have three All-Star game starters for the first time since 2001, when Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent and Rich Aurilia represented the club. Bonds had been the last position player from the Giants voted into the starting lineup in 2007.
Cain, 27, has been named to two prior N.L. staffs in 2009 and 2011 but has yet to pitch in the game. In ’09, he was injured and last year wasn’t available to throw because he pitched the Giants’ final game before the All-Star break. This year, he will be available to pitch and possibly could be hooking up with Posey.
“That’d be perfect,” Cain said. “He knows what I want to do.”
Even though the Giants did so well in the voting, they were lamenting that a number of their pitchers – notably starters Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong and relievers Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo – were not named to the N.L. squad and have to hope they might get selected as replacements.
“I talked to them,” Bochy said. “There’s still hope, I think. I’ve been through it, and there’s usually changes, somebody can’t go. But when you look at Bumgarner, Vogelsong, Casilla and Romo, you’re hoping all of them can make it. You know it’s not going to happen, but that’s the tough part of this game. It happens to a lot of players throughout the league.”