Is it even possible for Jeremy Bonderman to make the All-Star team? I’m starting to think that it’s not. Bondo came up short in the “Final Vote” to Boston’s Hideki Okajima to all but ensure a third-straight All-Star game snub. It’s not that Okajima isn’t deserving of the selection. In fact, I challenge anyone to find a pitcher in the history of the game who has put up better numbers than what Okajima has done for Boston this season (.88 ERA, .78 WHIP, .156 BAA, 41 innings). The rule that requires every team to have a representative at the All-Star game has meant there have been way too many deserving players left off All-Star teams over the past few years. That rule is misguided and the fans that it is supposed to benefit don't even care. I never enjoyed seeing a Tiger player in the All-Star game when the team was on pace for 100-losses especially when I knew that said player was only their because of a "pity" rule. Okajima, Santana, and Bonderman should have made the team without the need for a "Final Vote."
Nonetheless, Bonderman certainly had the numbers to merit a selection yet again. He leads the AL with a .900 winning percentage. He has nine wins in only 15 starts. Most of the pitchers in the AL have 17 starts already. In most years, his numbers would be more than enough to garner a selection. This season has seen so many great pitching performances in the first half that Johan Santana wasn’t even among the five pitchers selected by player ballots despite being the best pitcher in baseball. I think that has a lot to do with stupidity but the fact that it happened at all shows the depth among AL starters.
Here are Bonderman’s stats in the first halves of 2005-07 respectively:
Conventional wisdom would state that the two easiest ways to make the All Star team when you have good enough numbers are when the game is in your city and when your manager is also the manager of the All-Star team. Neither of those situations has helped Bonderman. In ’05, the All-Star game was in Detroit. When a late spot opened up, AL Manager, Terry Francona added Matt Clement to the team making Bonderman one of the only players in MLB history to be left off of the All-Star team with 11 wins before the break.
In 2007, Jim Leyland decided against naming Bonderman to the team despite being his own manager. Bonderman could still be guaranteed a spot if any pitcher goes down since he was the 7th pitcher on the player balloting. Unlike virtually every other year, though, there isn’t a pitcher on the AL roster who is either injured or has decided not to participate. So it looks like that won’t even help Bondo’s cause.
I would guess that the majority of the time, a player in Bonderman’s position in ’05, ‘06 and ’07 makes the team. In ’05, Bondo was trumped by a manager going with his own guy. In ’06, Bondo was done in by the need for KC’s Mark Redman to make the team. In ’07 Bondo was trumped by his own manager going with another player and the unlikely event of no subs needed on the AL roster. Gil Meche making the team for KC was yet another reason why Bondo was left off the AL roster. Bonderman also had the misfortune of going 9-1 in a year when the league is on pace to break the record for most pitchers with 10 wins by the All-Star break in MLB history. In the AL alone there are currently eight pitchers with 10+ wins and there could be 11 by the All-Star break.
Bonderman did get a brief reprieve when Leyland put him on the “Final Vote” ballot. Unfortunately, Leyland also included the only player who may have beaten Bonderman in such a vote; a player dually from Japan and Red Sox nation. Okajima received a tremendous amount of support from Japan which made this vote a no-doubter.
Wins and losses will mean a whole lot more than All-Star appearances when the baseball world looks back on Bonderman’s career but it is frustrating as a fan to see him get passed over even in the most favorable situations. For three years straight, Bondo has put up All-Star worthy numbers and he has zero selections to show for it. That’s why it would have been nice to see Jim Leyland pick Bonderman as one of his two “obligation-free selections” and send Johan Santana to the “Final Vote.” Leyland could’ve stood up for Bonderman when nobody else has. I am guessing that Leyland felt he did the right thing by choosing Santana because Santana was next in line in the player vote. The rule states that the first five pitchers on the player ballots will make the team and beyond that it is up to the manager. It certainly would not have been a stretch for Leyland to choose the 7th player over the 6th player in lieu of the fact that it was his own deserving player and the fact that Leyland has no obligation to choose based on player balloting beyond the 5th spot. By choosing to take Santana strictly because he was next on the player balloting, Leyland took away his own rights as the All-Star game manager. I am sure he doesn’t see it that way but that’s the way it looks to me. I am also guessing that Leyland didn’t want to anger Santana hoping to avoid some sort of grudge that Santana would hold against the Tigers. In 18 career starts against the Tigers, Santana is 11-3 with a 2.64 ERA so avoiding the wrath of Santana seems to be a lost cause anyways. Bondo got screwed again and I’m pissed about it.