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Tim Wakefield

Tim Wakefield

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Inside Baseball: All-Star game no sure thing for WakefieldText Size: A | A | APrint this Article Email this Article Loading...

By Jon CoutureInside BaseballJune 21, 2009 6:00 AMMost Viewed StoriesNew Bedford man convicted of second-degree murder for infant's deathNew Bedford man charged in July 2005 murderTrial scheduled for Rochester man charged with rape of young girlMan whose wheelchair was stolen gets replacement from New Bedford womanBeautifully restored antique colonial in WarehamFairhaven Chief Souza hands over the reigns SundayMother of 2 city murder suspects charged with witness intimidationFour years ago, there was significant bloom still on the Matt Clement rose.

In his first season with the Red Sox after a snakebitten campaign with the Cubs, the righty opened 9-1, and was 9-2 when the teams were announced for the 2005 MLB All-Star Game.Being among the AL's top six in wins made him appear a lock for his first Midsummer trip, never mind the squad that year was being managed by Terry Francona, so honored as the reigning pennant winner.

There was even conjecture Boston's first-half ace would get the start.It didn't work out that way.

Clement didn't even make the team."I'm not very happy about it," Francona said when the roster was announced, revealing that in accounting for all parties around the league, his discretion alone accounted for all of one pick on a 32-player team.

"You're seeing a lot of good players aren't going."(In the end, Clement got to Detroit as an injury replacement for Roy Halladay, tossing a scoreless inning and earning himself a $250,000 raise for 2006 — the year he made the last 12 starts of his Boston career.)Fast forward to Tim Wakefield, shooting for his 10th win in today's series finale with Atlanta.

A winner of three in a row and arguably Boston's ace thus far, the murmur of his possible first All-Star trip grows louder by the outing.Whether it's stories like Clement's or a general knowledge of the process, there seems to be an understanding the 42-year-old Wakefield is no sure thing.

Exactly how long are the odds, though? We can't know for sure, but we can certainly better understand the scenario.As bargained in the current Basic Agreement, which took hold in 2007, each league will field a 32-man roster with 12 pitchers.

Fan balloting chooses the eight positional starters — plus the DH when the game's in an AL park.

Balloting from the league's players, other managers and coaches chooses 16 reserves — eight position players, five starting pitchers and three relievers.

The pennant defending skipper (Tampa's Joe Maddon this year) fills seven of the remaining eight spots — four must be pitchers — with the final place determined via the "Final Vote" on MLB.comSome additional notes on all of this.— The player/manager/coach balloting was reinstituted in 2003 after complaints that some (let's say Joe Torre, for example) stuffed their rosters with their own guys while ignoring more qualified candidates.— It's all but assured Maddon won't have the freedom to pick seven guys at his whim, since it's the manager's selections that must ensure every team is represented with at least one player.

Francona lost four of his five spots to that rule in 2005.— The league chooses the five players to go on the "Final Vote" ballot, with no rule in place deciding whether a pitcher or position player gets the spot.What's this all mean to Wakefield? To me, the more choices Maddon has, the better Wakefield's chances.

Not only is Maddon the kind of guy who'd be very willing to give the veteran his first career All-Star trip, he's seen some of Wakefield's best stuff in his four years on the Tampa bench.With two weeks to go in the fan balloting, the current leaders holding would account for six teams — Kevin Youkilis and Jason Bay would be Red Sox starters, though the former is locked in a battle with New York's Mark Teixeira.

Player balloting figures to take care of another handful: Toronto (Roy Halladay), Kansas City (Zack Grienke), Los Anaheim (Jered Weaver) and Cleveland (Cliff Lee or Victor Martinez) at least.That would still leave four teams — Baltimore, Detroit, Oakland and the White Sox — needing picks, and Maddon down to three at-large guys.

I think we can agree Wakefield won't be among the top five starters voted for by the players when Grienke, Weaver, Halladay, Kevin Millwood of Texas and Seattle's Felix Hernandez all have sub-3.00 ERAs and at least seven wins.Would you put him in the top three of guys otherwise left out (including position players) when his 4.39 ERA is actually a touch higher than just the league average and his batting average against (.256) is just the 24th best among regular AL starters?There's little consistency in how All-Star pitching staffs break down starters versus relievers — the NL had four relievers last year to the AL's six, and both teams had five in 2007 — but each year, there's usually a number of high-win guys left home.

Only 10 guys had 11 wins by last year's All-Star break, but two (Mike Mussina and Kyle Lohse) didn't make the All-Star teams.

Baseball had 15 10-game winners in the first half of 2007, but six — including Daisuke Matsuzaka — were left out.Wakefield's one of just six nine-games winners in the majors entering the weekend, but his ERA is more than a run and a half worse than three of the others.

He's certainly pitched well, but getting 5.7 runs of support per nine innings — tied for eighth-best among pitchers with at least eight starts — covers a lot of blemishes.In a perfect world, Wakefield will get three more starts before the teams are announced on July 5.

Whatever his ERA, could a 12-game winner really be left off the All-Star team? At worst, I'd have to figure that gets him on the five-man "Final Vote" fan ballot, a place where the Red Sox have won the roster spot all three times they've had a player in the race.That's a plausible scenario for Wakefield, albeit no short order.

At least publicly, though, he's taking the diplomatic stance about the whole thing."I've been (a candidate) a couple of times in my career, and hopefully I'm mentioned again this year and hopefully I make one," he said after winning No.

9 on Tuesday night.

"Hopefully I'm at least considered for a spot, and if I make it, great."If not, I'll finish up the second half."CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUEIt certainly wasn't the greatest week in the history of the sport, but rather than recount the dark spots myself, kudos to USA Today's Bob Nightengale for rounding up the gloom neatly earlier this week.Where do we start in what evolved into the worst week of the baseball season? Let's see, Sammy Sosa, baseballs sixth-greatest home run hitter, is reported to have tested positive for illegal performance-enhancing drugs in 2003.

Mel Hall, the former New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians outfielder, was sentenced to 45 years in prison for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl.Jose Canseco, who outed his peers as steroid junkies, plans to file a class-action lawsuit against MLB and the players association for lost wages and defamation of character.The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, the two most powerful franchises in the game, decide the gate is more important than the outcome, with the Yankees losing to the woeful Washington Nationals after a 5 1/2-hour rain delay and the Red Sox lose to the Florida Marlins in a game called after five innings.Left-hander Tom Glavine, who has 305 career victories, bashes the Atlanta Braves for the way they released him, but then decides to sit out the rest of the season while contemplating his future.Detroit Tigers starter Dontrelle Willis goes on the DL with a social anxiety disorder, but yet says he doesn't know if anything is really wrong with him besides poor pitching mechanics.Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Raul Ibanez, perhaps the game's most surprising player this year, goes on the DL with a groin injury after ripping a blogger who speculated that he may be on steroids.The Texas Rangers, despite sitting in first place in the AL West and having an 11 percent increase in attendance, laid off nearly 10 percent of their front office as owner Tom Hicks tries to dump the team.Roy Halladay, the leading candidate to start the All-Star game for the American League, went on the DL because of an ailing groin.So how was your week?THIS WEEK'S STAT THAT TIME FORGOTMuch as I'd like to just note that it was one year ago today a certain baseball scribe from New Bedford got married, I don't think honeymooning in Cooperstown makes it fit in the weekly baseball column.So let's go back to Wakefield and the All-Star Game.

If the knuckleballer fails to make the team in his 17th season as a big leaguer, he can take solace that his 187 wins are the most in the All-Star era — the first game was played in 1933 — by a player who's never made an All-Star team.Wakefield just claimed the record earlier this month.

Mike Torrez was the previous holder, with 185 wins in an 18-season career that included his 1978-82 stint with the Red Sox.

Third on the all-time list also has Boston ties: Danny Darwin won 171 games in 21 All-Starless seasons, including 34 on some bad Sox teams from 1991-94.(Bad but beloved, at least to this author.

Of all the mysteries of the mind, among my biggest is why every time I see Jason Bay's home jersey, I think of Darwin.

Apparently, leading the AL in WHIP in 1993 forever made him the No.

44 in my heart.And no, I didn't know WHIP was "walks plus innings pitched" when I was 13.

I was a much different kind of nerd in those days.)Jon Couture covers the Red Sox for The Standard-Times.

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