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It's election time: 'Vote 'Los'

The year was 2005. The player was Carl Crawford. The idea was to get the Tampa Bay Rays left fielder voted to the All-Star game.

Aside from printing T-shirts that read “Vote Carl,” the campaign never grew legs.

And Crawford didn’t make the All-Star game that summer.

Not that C.C. had a chance.

The year was 2005. Who outside of Tampa Bay voted for Rays players in 2005?

OK, Jose Canseco was voted to the 1999 team as designated hitter. But Canseco was a national name, and he was leading the majors in home runs at the break.

Now the Rays have another masher who is a leading home run hitter: first baseman Carlos Peña, whose 23 home runs are tops in the American League.

Despite the fact that, since 1994, every player leading the American League in home runs at the All-Star break has been named to the All-Star team, the man they call ’Los is on the bubble. It will take another vote to get Peña to St. Louis next Tuesday — the “Final Vote,” an online campaign by MLB.com of which Peña is one of five finalists.

And the Rays are ready to — what the heck — go to bat for Peña.

Beginning today, the Rays will launch the “Vote ’Los” campaign, and they will — why not? — swing for the fences.

There will be billboards across the Tampa Bay area and fliers and T-shirts given to “selected” fans.

They will run “Vote ’Los” ads on YouTube and Facebook.

The team will also set up computers around Tropicana Field so fans can vote during the three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays that starts tonight. Voting ends at 4 p.m. on Thursday.

The Rays will also allow fans to bring their own wireless lap tops, so you can bring food and your e-mail to the Trop.

Apparently, the Rays are serious about this.

“Vote ’Los”

“Vote ’Los”

“Vote ’Los”

Vote early. Vote often.

Led by Evan Longoria, who was selected by the fans as the starting third baseman, four Rays were named Sunday to the AL squad.

Carl Crawford and Jason Bartlett were selected by the players. Ben Zobrist was named to the team by manager Joe Maddon.

Now the Rays want Peña. His selection would make the Rays the first team since the 2002 New York Yankees to send their entire infield to the All-Star game.

It will be interesting to see where Peña falls in the “Final Vote.”

Longoria won the “Final Vote” last year with a record 9 million votes. But Longoria was a rookie who didn’t appear on the All-Star ballot, and he had 16 home runs and 53 RBIs during the first half of the season. He was the fresh face on the fresh team that crashed an AL East party held exclusively by the Red Sox and the Yankees.

Peña does lead the AL in home runs. He’s also batting .231 and has 104 strikeouts, which are the third most in the majors and second most in the AL.

You wonder how many voters will take that into consideration.

Peña helped lead the Rays to the World Series last season, and he did win a Gold Glove. But those gems didn’t carry him through regular voting.

And the Rays already have four All-Stars.

Will the voting public see this campaign as being greedy? Is four enough for a third-place team that didn’t exactly distinguish itself Sunday night on national TV?

Will they be swayed by the talking heads on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight who seem to favor anyone not named Carlos Peña?

Can Rays fans generate enough votes to offset the votes generated by campaigns in other major league cities to get Chone Figgins, Brandon Inge, Ian Kinsler and Adam Lind voted to the All-Star game?

Give the Rays this: They managed to make a mid-week series against the Jays interesting.

And those “Vote ’Los” T-shirts are kind of cool.

Roger Mooney, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2112.

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