Erika Navarro has been a fan of Andre Ethier since 2006, his first year in the major leagues. Each year, she watched as the Dodgers right fielder put up big numbers at the plate — and each year, she watched as players with bigger names started in the All-Star game.
Finally, the Paramount resident was able to do something about it.
"I have Ethier fan sites on both MySpace and Twitter. I spread the word on there," Navarro, 18, said. "Also, I sent out e-mails, posted the link on my personal Twitter and Facebook. Wherever I thought people would see the link, that's where I would post it."
Fan voting has been a staple of the All-Star game. But the embrace of social media this year — with an online ballot that allows fans to vote up to 25 times — has changed the dynamics, to such an extent that a few hundred thousand paper ballots pale in comparison. Ethier — supported by fans like Navarro — saw his vote total soar from 316,383 to 1,723,266 and a comfortable third-place starting spot among National League outfielders as of last Monday.
Balloting ends Thursday and a final push is expected by fans and teams — for better or worse.
Navarro, for instance, has already brought in enough new votes to be named Ethier's campaign manager on MLB.com, and she sounds like one. "Some people probably just think, 'Hey, if I don't vote it's not a big deal,' " she said. "But if everybody thinks that way, then who is voting? Nobody!"
Teams, meanwhile, have given fans new reasons to vote. Some examples:
—The Dodgers have Ethier's image at the top of their website with a simple message, "Vote Clutch" — and a 40% discount ticket offer.
—The Angels offer a sweepstakes prize of an autographed, game-used All-Star chair. To be eligible to win, fans must vote at least 20 times with the Angels marked as their favorite team.
—The Texas Rangers are offering two free game tickets to fans voting at least 20 times with Texas as a favorite.
—The New York Mets, playing off Lady Gaga's much-talked-about visit to Citi Field, staged a "Go Gaga for Wright" campaign Wednesday to encourage fans to vote for third baseman David Wright, who is 130,538 votes behind the Philadelphia Phillies' Placido Polanco.
"It's just like when you see a cool commercial and you go buy it," said Angels center fielder Torii Hunter, a three-time All-Star who is in seventh place among American League outfielders with 943,814 votes. "It's the same thing with us."
Of course, All-Star promotions are as much for the team as for the players.
"Any time you're talking about players potentially being All-Stars for the Dodgers, it ratchets up interest in the team," said Josh Rawitch, the club's vice president of communications.
The online balloting also brings new subscribers to the team's e-newsletter, which drives even more interest and, the club hopes, revenue.
Timothy Monaghan, 31, of San Jacinto, one of the leaders of Hunter's online campaign, said the marketing push could help even out fan voting that he sees as unfairly weighted toward players who are popular as opposed to those playing well.
"It seems lately people vote for favorite players with less stats," Monaghan said, "because they're on a certain team like the Yankees or Boston . . . even though stat-wise they're not comparable to guys who are having a good season."
When the first voting numbers were released May 24, the Yankees' Mark Teixeira led AL first basemen by more than 100,000 votes even though he was batting .209 at the time and is barely over .230 now. It took three weeks before Minnesota's Justin Morneau (currently hitting .346) overtook him. Detroit's Miguel Cabrera, who leads the major leagues with 63 runs batted in and is tied for the lead in home runs with 20, is still about 80,000 votes behind Teixeira.
Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez is leading his NL race, but the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins was only 295,224 votes behind as of Monday, even though he's played in only 16 games this season because of two stints on the disabled list.
Controversy is not new to fan voting. In 1957, Cincinnati fans stuffed the ballot box, voting in seven Reds as starters. This so angered then-commissioner Ford Frick that he replaced two of the Reds and changed the process. For the next 12 years, players, managers and coaches voted for the All-Star starters before the power was handed back to the fans in 1970.
Online voting adds a new wrinkle to the debate. In 2001, its first year, 2.2 million fans cast ballots online; last year that figure was 17.7 million, according to Major League Baseball.