You always hear about "inner-circle" Hall-of-Famers, as if there’s some imaginary hierarchy between the legends and the merely great. It’s usually totally arbitrary and always a little annoying, but maybe there’s a way to do something similar for All-Star selections. Two circles -- an inner and an outer -- wouldn’t be enough. You’d need a few. Start with the greatest of the great, move on to the less-heralded future Hall of Famers, then the guys who just missed, followed by the guys who made it a few times, move to the single-year flukes ... and end with Mark Redman.
It always ends with Mark Redman.
As a starting pitcher with a 5.27 ERA -- but a robust six quality starts out of 14 tries! -- Redman is the symbol of the All-Star Game's each-team-gets-a-representative policy. Fans who follow teams with a plethora of good players hate the rule. Fans of bad teams cling to their lone reps; when I was seven, I would have defended Scott Garrelts and his selection in 1985 to the death.
But, man, Mark Redman.
He might not even be the worst All-Star pick, either. Mike Williams was a reliever with a 6.44 ERA -- one-third of the time, you could count on him every time -- and he made it in 2003. That’s almost excusable because it was the All-Star Game after the embarrassing tie in 2002, and managers loaded up on relievers in case the game got close to extra innings again.
So, Mark Redman ...
There are bad teams out there, but I don’t think there will be one that will need a Redman-like boost to get a player in the All-Star Game. There probably isn’t going to be a jaw-droppingly awful pick. But every year, I like to play "Predict-a-Redman", looking at the rosters and trying to figure out who the most unlikely pick will be.
And if there’s one team that’s in danger of sharing a Mark Redman with the world, it’s the Minnesota Twins.
Oh, Scott Baker is having a fine year. He could certainly be the rep. Nick Blackburn has been just as good, albeit without the K/9 numbers of Baker, but he’d be defensible. It’s hard to go wrong with a legacy guy, and Jim Thome is doing well enough to merit consideration. Dernard Span was the brightest light in a dim lineup for a while, and Jason Kubel is hitting .310 with doubles power. Ron Washington has plenty from which to choose.
That’s the problem, though. None of them are obvious. Houston? Hunter Pence. Obvious. The Nationals have a handful of deserving guys like Wilson Ramos, Mike Morse, and Jordan Zimmermann. One of those guys should make it. The A’s have Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill, the Padres have that bullpen, and the Cubs have Carlos Marmol. It’s not like Marmol is doing that well, but he’s a proven closer, and those guys are always snatched up for strategic reasons.
So my guess at the All-Star whose selection will confuse the absolute heck out of people in 2021: Alexi Casilla. Beware the manager’s desire for versatility in an All-Star Game. They have to shuffle a ton of people in, and they’ll need to move middle infielders around at times. Casilla has nine stolen bases, he’s hit .263 so far, and he’s scored 26 runs, or roughly half of his team’s total output this year. He has a shot.
This is only for entertainment purposes. I’m not saying Ron Washington has a bad eye for talent, just noting that the logistics of All-Star selection can make for some really strange All-Stars.
So now it’s your turn: Who, if anyone, will be the Mark Redman commemorative pick? There are some funny possibilities out there. Jeff Francoeur? Kevin Gregg? Darwin Barney? Don’t think like a fan, think like a manager who is trying to win an All-Star Game with a real team, one that has a bunch of relievers and utility players on it. I just hope those managers realize that this time it counts!