By Jim Caple and Eric Neel
Page 2

It all started innocently enough. Two colleagues at a Mets game checking out the All-Star ballot and talking about who they would vote for.

How do you fill out your ballot?
Do you vote for the best players of 2005? Just for your favorites? Garland or Schilling? Vote at SportsNation.

But then, like most things having to do with the Mets, it got ugly.

Seems that Jim Caple and Eric Neel don't have the same approach to the MLB voting booth – even though the same rules apply to everyone.

How different can two people see the same thing? Well, take a look ...

JIM CAPLE'S RULES:
1. In each league, select one player for each position, plus three outfielders. Punch out the circle next to each player. But consider the entire career before doing so. Jose Guillen may be off to a good start but would you really rather see him than Barry Bonds? Or Ken Griffey Jr.? We didn't think so.

CLICK HERE FOR ERIC'S TAKE ON JIM'S BALLOT

2. Mass-punched ballots will be voided. As should those cast by fans who think they're being "hip" and "in the know" by voting for the latest young "star." These fans are the same ones who ask for a different ballot in the ninth inning so they can change their vote to someone who just went 3-for-4. Fans like that should go watch NBA games instead.

3. Tabulation is conducted by TMC Group. But why should they waste their time counting votes cast for someone just because he had a good April or May? Voting for a player because he's hitting .320 in May is like voting for a candidate in November just because he won the California primary in April.

4. Write-in votes may be printed in the area provided. Go ahead. Don't be afraid to write-in retired players. They may not play anymore, but why hold that against them? Marvin Gaye is dead – does that mean you're not supposed to listen to "Let's Get It On" anymore?

5. Ballots must be received by June 27. Meaning that if a "hot" prospect tails off after that – and he will – we would be stuck watching him. That's why you should only vote for established stars. Which is why ...

6. The Office of the Commissioner has final decision on all balloting matters. So he can correct bonehead mistakes, like voting for David Dellucci over Rafael Palmeiro. Does this approach handicap young players who haven't proven themselves? Who cares? If they're really All-Stars, they'll have other good seasons when fans can vote for them. And if they don't, they didn't deserve to be All-Stars anyway.


ERIC NEEL'S RULES:
1. In each league, select one player for each position, plus three outfielders. Punch out the circle next to each player. Paying particular attention to guys having breakout seasons. Justin Morneau is on the rise, and you can either be a part of that, or you can vote for Tino Martinez, just like your old, dead great-grandpa would.

CLICK HERE FOR JIM'S TAKE ON ERIC'S BALLOT

2. Mass-punched ballots will be voided. As will those that feature votes based primarily on name recognition ("Oooh, Craig Biggio, I've always liked him!"). These voters are no different from the lemmings who insist on going to Sly Stallone movies 20 years after "Rocky III."

3. Tabulation is conducted by TMC Group. An organization that understands that the All-Star Game is not just a junket weekend for the already pampered and praised, but a genuine reward for those players who are playing at the highest level when the votes are cast and counted, an organization that understands that the joy and enthusiasm of a Brandon Inge appearance is far more appealing than the yawn-and-grin cool of yet another Alex Rodriguez appearance.

4. Write-in votes may be printed in the area provided. Though you should be advised that Cal Ripken Jr. has, in fact, finally, mercifully retired.

5. Ballots must be received by June 27. Unless, of course, you're planning only to vote for so-called "established" stars who have gotten off to horrendous starts, in which case you are encouraged to keep your dang ballot to yourself.

6. The Office of the Commissioner has final decision on all balloting matters. And you should know that the Office of the Commissioner believes the out-of-the-clear-blue-sky Clint Barmes stories are what make the game so fun to watch every year.

Jim Caple is a senior writer at ESPN.com. His first book, "The Devil Wears Pinstripes," is on sale now at bookstores nationwide. It can also be ordered through his Web site, Jimcaple.com.

Eric Neel is a columnist for Page 2.



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BALLOT ETIQUETTE