Braun crept to within 33,000 votes of Fukudome for the third and final automatic National League All-Star Game outfield berth in the fan voting update released Monday, two days before the polls close. Injured Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano remained on top, and Reds right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. passed Fukudome for second place. Fukudome-Braun is the closest race in the NL balloting.
Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times with the Monster 2008 All-Star Game Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites until Wednesday, July 2 at 10:59 p.m. CT. Starting rosters will be announced during the 2008 All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Chevrolet on TBS on Sunday, July 6. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the Monster 2008 All-Star Final Vote at MLB.com.
And the voting doesn't end there. Fans will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet at the All-Star Game via the Monster 2008 All-Star Game MVP vote at MLB.com.
It's tough to compare Fukudome, a contact hitter, and Braun, a slugger. Fukudome sports higher averages (.297 batting average, .405 on-base percentage). Braun tops Fukudome with 14 more home runs and 25 more RBIs. For what it's worth, the Cubs' pitchers haven't figured out Braun, who is a career .400 (26-for-65) hitter against them.
Soriano and Fukudome had led all NL outfielders in the first five ballot updates until Griffey broke the streak this week. Soriano may miss the Midsummer Classic on July 15 with a broken bone in his left hand. About 370,000 votes separate first from fourth in the NL outfield, which is nearly the same amount between first and third at shortstop. The Cubs' Ryan Theriot trails Florida's Hanley Ramirez and Miguel Tejada in the league's second-tightest positional race.
Catcher is not as close. Cubs rookie Geovany Soto kept a comfortable 650,000-vote cushion over Atlanta's Brian McCann. Soto is looking to become the first NL rookie catcher to start in an All-Star Game. In addition to his 13 home runs and 47 RBIs, Soto handles a staff with a 3.90 ERA, third-best in the league.
"Soto's done a real nice job," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "I've been pleased with his offensive production. I've been pleased with his catching. He's fit in here very nicely. We count on him to help us out in both areas, and he's done a great job."
Aramis Ramirez (No. 2 at third base), Mark DeRosa (No. 2 at second base) and Derrek Lee (No. 3 at first base) must summon big comebacks to challenge Chipper Jones, Chase Utley and Lance Berkman.
The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game, being held at Yankee Stadium in its final season, will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD, and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 7 p.m. CT. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
The Midsummer Classic will be the fourth held at Yankee Stadium and the eighth in New York City. The Yankees previously hosted the All-Star Game in 1939, 1960 and 1977; the Polo Grounds held the game in 1934 and 1942; Ebbets Field was the site in 1949; and Shea Stadium hosted the 1964 tilt.
Nick Zaccardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.