Braves 1B Freddie Freeman broke the previous record for MLB.com's Final Vote contestants with 19.6 million to earn the last NL roster spot for the All-Star Game.
ATLANTA — First baseman Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves topped Los Angeles Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig in fan voting for the final spot on the National League roster and reliever Steve Delabar of the Tornto Blue Jays received the nod in the American League for Tuesday night’s All-Star Game in New York’s Citi Field.
A record 79.2 million votes were cast during the past week at MLB.com, teams’ official websites and Twitter for the last roster spot on each team, surpassing the previous best of 68.6 million in 2009. The voted ended at 4 p.m. on Thursday and results were announced shortly after.
Freeman secured his first All-Star berth with 19.7 million votes, winning a close battle with Puig, the Dodgers’ rookie who has taken the NL by storm in a little more than a month in the big leagues. Both Freeman and Puig received record support, surpassing the 15.6 million votes that Shane Victorino totaled in 2009.
“It’s unbelievable,” Freeman said before the Braves-Reds game on Thursday night. “I’m kind of speechless. I wouldn’t be here without the fans and I just saw that it’s 19.7 million votes. It’s incredible and it’s just a dream come true.”
Freeman is having the best season of his four-year career, batting .307 with nine home runs and ranking ninth in the NL in RBI with 56 in 78 games. Puig, meanwhile, is batting .394 with eight home runs and 19 RBI in 35 games but will be shut of the All-Star Game unless he is named as an injury replacement.
As a result of his inclusion, Freeman will join the Braves’ only other selection to this year’s All-Star game, closer Craig Kimbrel.
“It’s just an amazing thing,” Freeman said. “I didn’t even know fans knew about me. I just try to stay low and play baseball. To get this much love and support from everybody is just unimaginable.”
When Freeman learned he was a candidate on Saturday night, he was among the many who assumed the contest would simply affirm how popular Puig has become since making his Major League debut for the Dodgers on June 3.
“It’s the Puig campaign,” Braves pitcher Kris Medlen said on Sunday. “Honestly (Freeman) has no shot. Whether he hits six home runs and has 20 RBI in Miami (this week), he’s not going to make the All-Star team.”
But over the past five days, Medlen and many others have come to realize the power of social media and the passion shown by the Braves’ loyal fan base. Freeman was leading the competition when the results were released on a daily basis going back to Sunday.
“It kind of hit me this morning when it said I was still leading,” Freeman said. “I was like, ‘I actually might win this thing.’ ”
Of course, it didn’t hurt that Freeman and the Braves enlisted the help of the Blue Jays and vice versa. The MLB franchises entered a campaign encouraging their fans to vote for their player and the other team’s each time they logged on.
And it worked as both Freeman and Delabar made it running away.
Consequently, Freeman has now received the honor many of his teammates felt he had earned while being the most valuable player thus far for a Braves team that has been in first place longer than any other MLB club this season.
“I just want to say thanks,” Freeman said. “It’s unbelievable what (the fans) have done. I want to say thanks to my teammates as well. They put their head out there for me to the media. I wouldn’t have been there without them.”
Freeman entered Thursday’s series opener against the Cincinnati Reds hitting .307 with nine home runs and a .858 OPS. He stands as just one of eight NL players who have hit at least .300 with an on-base percentage above .380 and a slugging percentage above .450.
But he had stood as the only member of this group who had not gained an All-Star selection. This was influenced by the fact that he plays the same position as Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt and Allen Craig, who all gained deserved selections Saturday.
“He should have been on the All-Star team to start with,” Braves pitcher Tim Hudson said earlier this week. “But (the Final Vote) is bringing some recognition to the kind of player he is. I think he’s been very underrated around baseball. I think people are starting to see he’s really, really good.”
Freeman joins Andruw Jones as the only Braves players to ever win the Final Vote ballot. Jones was the NL winner during the competition’s inaugural season in 2002.
Delabar, meanwhile, became the first Toronto player to be voted in for the last spot. He received 9.6 million votes to top fellow relievers David Robertson of the New York Yankees, Joaquin Benoit of the Detroit Tigers, Koji Uehara of the Boston Red Sox and Tanner Scheppers of the Texas Rangers.