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Baseball's Driving Forces...


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Who are baseball's" Driving Forces?

Six speedy players among choices in first round of voting

By Mark Newman / MLB.com

 

 

Rickey Henderson was Speed. Willie Mays was All-Around. Nolan Ryan was Velocity. Cal Ripken Jr. was Durability. Mickey Mantle was Future Star the moment he took the helm in center field at Yankee Stadium. Hank Aaron was Power.

Those six categories have always held special importance to baseball fans, and from now through the end of the season, fans can determine which of today's players best fit those descriptions.

 

Voting is under way for MLB.com Driving Forces, presented by Chevrolet, and this is your chance to determine which Major League player, from a list of 36 original nominees, is the choice among all of those categories. This is the first of two phases in a balloting process that also will give fans the opportunity to enter a sweepstakes leading to a grand prize that will be announced in September.

 

Baseball and Chevrolet go way, way, way back together, and this joint effort matches some of today's best players with characteristics embodied in that automotive giant's line of vehicles. Over each of the next six weeks, a different category will be introduced for fan voting, with each category representing a different baseball and Chevrolet characteristic. These MLB.com Driving Forces will include:

 

Speed (Corvette), All-Around (Tahoe), Velocity (Cobalt), Durability (Silverado), Future Star (HHR) and Power (SSR).

 

A winner will emerge each week, and those six winners, along with the two highest vote-getters from the remaining players, will advance to a field of eight and be put into two four-player brackets. In that second phase of voting, Round 1 will be from Sept. 14-21, Round 2 will be from Sept. 21-28, and Round 3 will be from Sept. 28-Oct. 5. That final round will be your chance to choose between two finalists, and the winner will be announced on Oct. 5, just as baseball is moving into its postseason.

 

Fans who register to vote in the second round will be automatically entered into the sweepstakes. But first, let's start narrowing down the field. Every team will be represented among the 36 overall nominees. The purpose was not to create an All-Star team here, but to represent six players each week who exemplify that particular category. Here is a look at your Speed candidates as the voting commences:

 

Eric Byrnes, Baltimore Orioles

Byrnes can play all three outfield positions, tearing up the turf and tracking down fly balls with breakneck speed and reckless abandon. His all-out style of play extends to the basepaths, where his wheels allow him to take extra bases and challenge even the strongest arms. He was just dealt to the Orioles, and it remains to be seen whether Baltimore, a middle-of-the-pack club in terms of stealing bases, will use his wheels on the bases more than Oakland did.

 

Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Crawford is a blossoming superstar and speed is the foundation of his game. In 2004, the 23-year-old became the youngest player in Major League history to win back-to-back stolen base titles, posting stolen base totals of 55 in 2003 and 59 in 2004. Crawford ranked fourth in the Majors through Monday with 34 swipes.

 

Orlando Hudson, Toronto Blue Jays

Hudson is the master of short-track running, able to reach full speed by his second step. Toronto's second baseman uses that ability to take away hits, and no one goes back better to run down foul pops. Hudson has led all AL second basemen in assists for two straight seasons, finishing fifth in fielding percentage (.984) last season.

 

Juan Pierre, Florida Marlins

This center fielder has stolen at least 40 bases in his four full Major League seasons running, and we do mean running. He had 35 bags through Aug. 2 and again has the role of jump-starting the Marlins' offense as the club tries to regain the world championship it won in 2003. Pierre is regarded as one of the best leadoff hitters in the game and has scored 100 or more runs in three of the past four seasons, and likely will reach that plateau again.

 

Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies

Rollins does everything fast, whether he's motoring around the bases for his latest triple, stealing a bag, or ranging deep in the hole at shortstop to knock down a grounder. He has the wheels and isn't afraid to use them. Rollins averaged 34 steals in his first four full seasons, and he is on pace to reach that number again this year.

 

Omar Vizquel, San Francisco Giants

Vizquel is 38, but he still revs his legs to the red line. He will be around the 350-steal career mark by the time his first Giants season is over, and on a sweltering July 25 day at Wrigley Field he swiped three bases. Viqzuel's quick takeoff puts him in the forefront of baseball's sacrifice bunters and gives him a vital edge in chasing grounders with his legendary Gold Glove. He can still fly.

 

Look for a new category of choices every Wednesday during the first phase of balloting. It was just one month ago that you were still voting to decide what the All-Star rosters would look like, and the voting never stops at MLB.com. This one's about Speed -- see how quickly you can motor over to the ballot.

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