The case for Tom Wilhelmsen as the Mariners’ All-Star

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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.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.