It won’t be Ichiro. It might not be King Felix. Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times believes that Tom Wilhelmsen should be the Mariners’ lone All-Star this year.
It’d sure be a nice story if it comes to fruition. Wilhelmsen, originally a seventh-round pick of the Brewers in 2002, was suspended in 2004 after twice testing positive for marijuana and decided to quit baseball prior to the start of the 2005 season. He spent the next five years as a bartender before attempting a comeback with the Mariners in 2010. He made his major league debut a year ago, and he took over as Seattle’s closer this season with Brandon League struggling.
Wilhelmsen currently has a 2.84 ERA and five saves, numbers that hardly scream All-Star. However, he’s working on a string of 14 2/3 scoreless innings, and he has 47 strikeouts in 38 innings on the season.
Felix Hernandez has to be the odds-on favorite to be the Mariners’ All-Star. He hasn’t been at his best this season, but he is the superstar and he has his ERA down to 3.36 now. There’s also another bullpen option besides Wilhelmsen: left-hander Charlie Furbush has a 2.01 ERA and an incredible 0.57 WHIP in his 31 1/3 innings of relief work. He’s struck out 39 and walked just five this season.
On offense, the only possibilities are Kyle Seager (.258/.315/.457, 10 HR, 45 RBI) and Michael Saunders (.267/.330/.442, 8 HR, 12 SB), neither of whom would be close to making the team on merit.
So, why not Wilhelmsen? He’d be the nicest story of the group, and with the way he’s throwing now, he’d be a fine choice to try to get a tough righty out late in the game.
Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant was one of the most prominent examples of service time manipulation in recent memory. He was ranked as the No. 1 prospect in baseball going into the 2015 season by Baseball America. He then had an incredible spring, batting .425 with a spring-high nine home runs and 15 RBI. The Cubs, however, didn’t add him to the Opening Day roster, instead keeping him in Triple-A for the first two weeks of the season, ensuring the club would get another year of control over Bryant because he wouldn’t accrue enough service time. He made his debut on April 17 and the rest was history. Bryant won the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year Award.
While the MLB Players Association filed a grievance on his behalf, Bryant didn’t say anything. But it was a learning moment for him. The same is true of the past offseason, which Bryant says “opened my eyes,” as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. He now considers labor issues a priority, saying, “I need to study up, have my voice heard, continue to learn, because this is going to affect us for years to come. And I’d be foolish not to kind of offer myself out there.”
As Wittenmyer notes, Bryant hopes to replace Jake Arrieta as the Cubs’ player reprensentative. The players make that decision later this month. Bryant also vowed to fight for the next collective bargaining agreement. He said, “Maybe the focus was on other things rather than some of the more important things. But I think with this next one things are definitely going to change, and there’ll definitely be more fight on our side just because we’re going to get the chance to experience the effects of some of the things we agreed to. The only way to get what you want here is to fight for it. And I think you’re going to see a lot of that.”
It’s good to see Bryant motivated by recent economic developments in baseball. Hopefully more players take his lead and become more informed, arming themselves with all of the tools they need to create a better situation for themselves when the current CBA expires.