NEW YORK -- Now that you've seen the weekly American League and National League updates on your All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian, it's time to ask the candidates themselves what they think of the voting.
Start with the A's Brandon Moss, who, despite playing 79 games between first base and the outfield, continues to rank fifth in the AL among designated hitters, because he was listed that way when the ballot launched in April. It's certainly not an easy path at DH, with the likes of Nelson Cruz of the Orioles (2,457,349), David Ortiz of the Red Sox (1,652,470), Victor Martinez of the Tigers (1,418,509) and Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays (1,276,851) above him in the balloting. Moss has 796,159 votes.
"It means a lot that they're out there supporting me," Moss said on Tuesday afternoon after taping a segment as in-studio guest for the weekly "Off the Bat" episode that airs at 11 p.m. ET/PT on MTV2. "We don't have quite as large a fan base as some other teams have, but there also are some DHs on there who are having monster years. I mean guys on that ballot, Victor Martinez, Edwin Encarnacion ... Nelson Cruz ... their years have been incredible. They've been better than mine. To be where I'm at on the ballot means a lot to me, it means that people recognize that I've been a good player for a few years now and they're putting me on that ballot as a token of that, and I appreciate that."
Moss and the A's come into a series at Citi Field with the best record (47-29, .618) in Major League Baseball. It has translated into some success on the ballot, too. Moss is one of six Oakland players who are among the leaders, along with third baseman Josh Donaldson (leader), catcher Derek Norris (second), shortstop Jed Lowrie (fifth), and outfielders Yoenis Cespedes (fourth) and Coco Crisp (11th). Moss ranks among league leaders with 17 homers and 55 RBIs entering the series against the Yanks, playing 42 games at first, 37 in the outfield and six as DH.
"It speaks to how good of a team we have," Moss said. "We have a lot of guys who are having good years. Obviously, in the years past, we haven't had a lot of recognition as far as position players go, because it was one of those things where you're on the West Coast, you're in a small market, you don't get a lot of media coverage. But we've had guys in the past couple of years who have put up some numbers that deserve to be noticed, and they have. I think it's a testament to us as a team and a testament to the fans that they go out and support us like that."
Moss grew up in Georgia rooting for guys like Ron Gant and Chipper Jones, and he says he "didn't even know until [he] started playing that you voted for All-Star starters." Now he knows. And Moss says it would mean the world to him to be selected for the 85th Midsummer Classic on July 15 at Target Field, whether that comes courtesy of fans, manager, players or perhaps even the 2014 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Experian, which will be revealed after the AL and NL rosters are announced.
"It wouldn't matter [how]," Moss said. "I mean, honestly, it would be probably the ultimate personal accomplishment of my career. Obviously I'm not going to be in the Hall of Fame. But if you can make an All-Star team as a player with a journey like mine, personally, I don't think there is much in this game that could mean more.
"Obviously as a team you have goals that are way more fun and cool and more difficult to accomplish, such as World Series titles, but those are all team-based. You can get to a World Series and not have played an inning. But on a personal level, when you are recognized as an individual player as being one of the top players in the game, I don't think there's very much that can be better than that."
In the NL, the Brewers have made a big team-wide push in the latest updates. Since the previous week's tally, Aramis Ramirez (1,279,902) has narrowly taken the top spot at third base from New York's David Wright (1,260,895) on the strength of an astronomical leap from fourth place, and outfielder Carlos Gomez (2,409,860) has moved into one of the three starting outfield spots; he was fourth last week and has since supplanted Miami's Giancarlo Stanton.
"I'm not even looking at my phone yet," Gomez said. "I'm not really paying attention to this. I'm enjoying the way we're playing. It's so good. I just continue to do my job, and if I'm going to start or make it to the All-Star [Game], my job is going to take me there. It's not like I've been thinking or expect it. Just keep doing my job, and if I do the right job, I'm going to be there."
Ramirez is a 17-year veteran who has been there before, an All-Star with the Cubs in 2005 and '08. Asked about his presence on the ballot, he deferred to team goals.
"At this point, my main focus is just trying to win games and help the ballclub as much as I can," Ramirez said.
Speaking of the Cubs, there are none listed among the vote leaders, but they're well aware of the honor that is an All-Star Game nod. Just ask Starlin Castro. A 2011-12 All-Star, he ranks second among all NL shortstops in batting average (.286), behind only NL batting leader Troy Tulowitzki, who leads in voting ahead of the Brewers' Jean Segura, the Giants' Brandon Crawford, the Cardinals' Jhonny Peralta and the Dodgers' Hanley Ramirez.
"It's one of the biggest goals I have this year," Castro said Monday about making the NL team. "The year I had last year, it would be great for me in my career to make the All-Star team. That's one of my biggest goals is to make it a good year and to go the All-Star Game. ... I'll keep playing hard, and if it happens, it happens."
For Nationals manager Matt Williams, it is difficult to pick an All-Star on his team.
"We want as many guys to represent us as possible," Williams said. "I don't know anybody in particular that I would say. None of our guys lead in voting in that regard. There will be choices on merit in the way they have handled themselves during the first half of the season. As many as possible, we would love that."
Jose Bautista, who discussed his All-Star candidacy at length with MLB.com during an "Off the Bat" studio visit last week, reiterated his appreciation as the latest update has him still in position to be top overall vote-getter.
"It's always a great feeling, it's always an honor," Bautista said. "I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch. I'm obviously leading, but it's not official. I just hope to continue to get votes and keep playing well and see what happens. But if I do get voted in again it's going to be a thrill just like the last time."
Watch the "Off the Bat" episode, and you'll see Bautista hitting giveaways into fans on the street as he tours Manhattan aboard the top of a double-decker bus. Ortiz, the series' executive producer, offers another installment of "Letters from Big Papi," this time sending a personal message to noted Red Sox fan Ben Affleck. Series host and rapper Fat Joe gets advice from Marlins pitcher A.J. Ramos before throwing a ceremonial first pitch at Marlins Park. And Moss stars in this episode, letting fans learn a little more about him.
"I was part of a generation that grew up on MTV, so any opportunity to come out and be a part of the set or be a part of anything like that is a great opportunity," Moss said. "With baseball as big of a sport as it is now, it's a good opportunity to spread it even more, let people know a little bit about who the Oakland Athletics are and who we have out there."