OAKLAND Scrawled on a whiteboard in the A's clubhouse Friday afternoon, below the daily pregame schedule for their series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals, was a brief message to players: "All Star Ballots Due Sunday," followed by the reminder, "Yes, you can vote for own team."
While fan voting determines the starters for the All-Star Game on July 16 at New York's Citi Field, voting by players, coaches and managers helps select the reserves. That's likely the best chance the A's have this year of ending a run of nine consecutive seasons since they sent a position player to the game.
The A's position player with arguably the strongest case for inclusion this season, Josh Donaldson, also happens to play one of the deepest positions in the American League, headed by reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera. That helps explain why Donaldson, who began Friday third among A.L. third basemen in batting average and OPS and second in RBIs, ranked fifth in the latest fan voting, which closes Thursday.
So dominant has Cabrera been in the first half that Donaldson said he hasn't bothered to check fan voting at his position. Still, Baltimore's Manny Machado, Texas' Adrian Beltre and Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria all had higher totals at last count than Donaldson, who has been the most consistent middle-of-the-order hitter and a solid defender for an A's team that entered Friday with the third-best record in the A.L.
"There are a lot of good third basemen in the American League," said A's shortstop Jed Lowrie, "(but) I think he's in that (All-Star) conversation. He's kind of forced himself into that conversation."
Asked if he plans to vote for Donaldson, Lowrie said: "I haven't thought about it. He's deserving, though. And I probably will. Like I said, I've watched him play every day, and I know he's deserving of it. I don't have a compelling reason not to vote for him."
Donaldson was in Triple A at this time last year, having hit a combined .153 in two early-season stints with the A's, and still acclimating to third base after switching from catcher in spring training. The A's brought him back up in mid-August, and he hit .290 down the stretch with 26 RBIs in 47 games. This season, he was hitting .308 with 12 home runs and a team-high 51 RBIs entering Friday while starting all but two of the A's games.
Donaldson said a potential All-Star nod would be "something even I probably wouldn't have dreamt. Even just being in the talks and that kind of stuff, it's definitely humbling."
But he said he doesn't plan to campaign for votes in the A's clubhouse.
"I haven't said anything," Donaldson said. "I wouldn't try to (influence) anybody. The only way I would hopefully get their vote is if I've earned their respect."
Donaldson, though, said he "definitely (thinks) there should be a position player from Oakland make it." The last was catcher Ramon Hernandez in 2003.
The A's had one All-Star last year in reliever Ryan Cook and have a few strong candidates again including Friday's starter, Bartolo Colon, and closer Grant Balfour at pitcher, which is not voted on by fans.
Lowrie, who began Friday second among A.L. shortstops in hits and OPS, was fourth in the latest fan voting the highest standing of any A's player.
Outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Coco Crisp ranked 10th and 11th, respectively.
"If I were a fan," Donaldson said, "I'd be trying to vote Jed in, honestly. I feel like he has a really good shot to be voted in if the fans would kind of get together and vote for him and quit wasting their votes on me, because (being voted the starter is) not going to happen. It's nice, but it's out of the realm."
Told of the suggestion, Lowrie smiled and said: "Hey, if that's what he thinks, then I'll take it."
As for the more tangible issue of the ballots in the clubhouse, Lowrie said the A's "should absolutely" feel inclined to vote for teammates with a compelling case.
"I think it'd be a mistake not to," Lowrie said. "When you have a team that has played as well as we have, the most consistent performers throughout the first half deserve to go."
Lowrie said his opinion is influenced partly by his experience last year, when he felt he made a case for selection with 14 first-half home runs but saw the last-place Houston Astros get just one representative, second baseman Jose Altuve.
"That's kind of always the way it's been, is when you have a winning team, more guys are represented," Lowrie said. "And so given that, I think there are a lot of guys in this clubhouse who are deserving."
ON PAGE C5
A'S 6, CARDINALS 1
Bartolo Colon wins his eighth straight start to power Oakland over St. Louis.
Today at St. Louis, 1:05 p.m., CSNCA