Help Wagner end career as All-Star
Planning to retire at season's end, closer a Final Vote candidate
ATLANTA -- If this truly is the last season of Billy Wagner's stellar career, his final opportunity to gain an All-Star selection now rests in the hands of the fans.
Wagner has been selected as one of the five National Leaguers who have a chance to gain an All-Star selection through the Final Vote online balloting process. After the first 24 hours of voting, Wagner trails leader Joey Votto of the Reds and Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He was ahead of the other two candidates -- Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and Padres closer Heathe Bell.
"I think I'd be thrilled," Wagner said of making the Midsummer Classic. "To be put in the All-Star Game is always a special moment in any player's life. Knowing that it would be my last All-Star opportunity, it would be very special. I hope for a good outcome, but there are a lot of quality players out there, and whoever gets in, it will be special for them."
The winner will have an opportunity to compete in this year's All-Star Game, which will be held July 13 at Angel Stadium.
"You never know how many times you get to go to that," Wagner said. "So when you get to go, you try to take advantage of it if there's any way possible. You just never know. If you get that call and they say, 'Hey, we'd like you to come,' it's an honor to do that."
Now in its ninth year, the 2010 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 and continues until 4 p.m. ET on Thursday. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
Mobile voting in the U.S. is exclusive to Sprint, Nextel and Boost subscribers. To receive the 2010 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint mobile ballot, text the word "VOTE" to 1122. To vote for a specific player, simply text message your choice to 1122. EXAMPLE: Text "A3" to vote for AL Player 3 or "N3" to vote for NL Player 3. Message and data rates may apply. Mobile voting in Canada is open to all carriers; fans should text their choices to 88555. Standard 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 2010 All-Star Game MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.
The 81st 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. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Wagner has said he has no desire to alter his plan to retire at the end of this season. But the 38-year-old left-hander has spent the past few months proving that he is still one of the game's top closers.
While converting 16 of his 19 save opportunities, Wagner has posted a 1.39 ERA, the top mark for any NL reliever with more than two saves. Cubs right-hander Carlos Marmol is the only NL reliever with at least 15 saves who has bettered the .165 opponents batting average that the Braves closer has posted in his first 34 appearances this year.
Wagner's save total was affected by the fact that he had just seven opportunities through May 27. In the 16 appearances he has had dating back to May 29, he has converted 12 of 13 save opportunities and allowed just one earned run. During this span of 15 1/3 innings, he has notched 23 strikeouts, surrendered seven hits and issued five walks.
While recording three strikeouts in a 10-pitch, perfect ninth inning against the Tigers on June 25, Wagner became the fifth Major Leaguer to record 400 career saves.
Wagner is the first Braves player to be named a Final Vote candidate since Andruw Jones became the first NL player to gain an All-Star selection through this process in 2002.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.