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Konerko, Thomas need Final Vote
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07/04/2004  7:45 PM ET
Konerko, Thomas need Final Vote
Two South Siders battle it out for AL's final spot
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Frank Thomas has been to five All-Star Games, but not since 1998. (Ann Heisenfelt/AP)

CHICAGO -- White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen enjoyed his first foray into Interleague Play.

Guillen's only problem came when the White Sox traveled to National League stadiums, but it's the sort of trouble every manager dreams of having. With the pitchers hitting, Guillen simply had too many good hitters to fit into his starting nine.

First baseman Paul Konerko and designated hitter Frank Thomas have been two of the offensive cornerstones for the South Side team that has been contending for the top of the American League Central throughout the 2004 season. But one of them was always out of the lineup when playing in the National League.

Losing an All-Star caliber bat from the heart of the lineup made it tougher for the White Sox to operate. Any team would like to have a player such as Konerko, hitting .277 with 20 home runs and 55 RBIs, or Thomas, posting a .275 average with 18 home runs and 49 RBIs and leading the American League in on- base percentage.

   Paul Konerko  /   1B
Born: 03/05/76
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 215 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

To have both is a true bonus.

Even though Interleague action has come to an end, Konerko and Thomas once again will be competing for playing time of sorts. The two White Sox sluggers are part of the American League's final five in the Ameriquest 2004 All-Star Final Vote

Their numbers and contributions to the White Sox's success make a pretty strong case for an outright selection for the pair.

"You would think a first-place team, at least tied for first, would send more than one guy," said Konerko, referring to pitcher Esteban Loaiza standing as the only White Sox player officially selected to the American League team. "But I don't know all the details. It could just be that's the way it worked out.

2004 Final Vote

American League winner:
Hideki Matsui, Yankees

AL candidates:
(in order of finish):
• Frank Thomas, White Sox
• Paul Konerko, White Sox
• Lew Ford, Twins
• Travis Hafner, Indians

National League winner:
Bobby Abreu, Phillies

NL candidates
(in order of finish):

• Aramis Ramirez, Cubs
• Steve Finley, D-Backs
• Jason Kendall, Pirates
• Juan Pierre, Marlins

All-Star rosters

"It's nice to be considered. To be considered is a great thing, and I take it as a compliment."

Now in its third year, the Ameriquest 2004 All-Star Final Vote gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final position player on each All-Star team. Balloting began immediately following Sunday night's Major League All-Start Selection Show and continues until 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday. The winners will be announced at 9 p.m. ET exclusively on MLB.com and will then be added to the AL and NL All-Star Game rosters.

The fun doesn't end there, however. Fans, having already decided the starters and 32nd man, will have yet another opportunity to make themselves heard with the return of the Ameriquest All-Star Game MVP Vote. Beginning in the sixth inning of the All-Star Game on Tuesday, July 13, fans can cast their vote for the player they believe deserves to win the Ted Williams Award for being the game's Most Valuable Player. The fan vote counts for 20% of the decision on which player wins the award, with the media accounting for the other 80%.

Konerko and Thomas are joined on the ballot by Minnesota's Lew Ford, Cleveland's Travis Hafner, and the Yankees' Hideki Matsui. The presence of Matsui, not to mention two White Sox standouts, forced Konerko to show off of his knowledge of the process used to elect a President when talking about his chances for winning.

   Frank Thomas  /   DH
Born: 05/27/68
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 275 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

"I wish it was like some sort of electoral college system, where it wasn't all dependent on the popular vote," said Konerko with a wry smile. "I think it's going to be tough with two White Sox on there.

"That in itself is kind of a little unfair because if you get votes, they're probably going to be split," Konerko added.

Konerko, 28, made his only All-Star appearance in 2002 at Miller Park in Milwaukee and knocked out two doubles. After suffering through a miserable first half in 2003, in which he hit .197 in 76 games, Konerko bounced back to hit .275 during 61 second-half contests, despite a 3-for-49 drought to end the season.

Much of the credit for Konerko's turnaround goes to hitting coach Greg Walker, who worked extensively with the first baseman to correct some flaws in his swing last year. But it was Konerko who put what he practiced into play, and it's Konerko who has carried those changes into 2004 where he has carried the White Sox as a team at times.

But missing out on the All-Star Game won't lessen the effect of Konerko's first-half comeback.

"My numbers will still be there Thursday," said Konerko of returning to action in Oakland after the All-Star Game. "My goal coming into this year was not to make the All-Star team, and it won't be next year or the year after or the year after that. To have a good year and help my team get to the playoffs, that's it.

"It's a win-win situation. If you go, it's a great time. It's a great experience and an unbelievable thing. But when you don't go, you get three days off to do nothing and that's great, too. I love laying on the couch."

Thomas, 36, will be looking for his sixth trip to the All-Star Game but first since 1998. His presence in the third or fourth hole of the White Sox lineup truly stirs the attack, as has been evidenced by the team's temporary slowdown this season when he's on the bench.

Both have been key run producers for one of the best offensive teams in all of Major League Baseball. Only one can win the Ameriquest 2004 Final All-Star Vote.

It's an issue to which Guillen can relate.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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