Imagine the AL is clinging to a one-run lead during the middle innings of next week’s All-Star game in Pittsburgh. Ozzie Guillen scratches his goatee as he scans the roster, looking for someone to shut down the heart of the NL order, which includes Pujols, Soriano and Berkman. He picks up the dugout phone.Whose name does he murmur to the voice on the other line? Curt Schilling, a pitcher with credentials fit for Cooperstown and whose exploits in big games approach the legendary (ask a Yankees fan)? Or Josh Beckett, the 10-game winner with the moxie and the high-90s fastball to match? Instead, Mark Redman will likely be trotting across the outfield grass once the gate opens.Mark Redman? I’m not familiar with the name, either. I doubt I could even pick him out of a two-person lineup. But, thanks to a ridiculous Major League rule that awards every team at least one All-Star representative, I’ll be sweating it out along with Schill and Beckett while this unknown and unproven Royal helps decide home-field advantage in the World Series.I’m holding my breath. Guillen is, too. There’s a reason you probably don’t know Redman’s name. He pitches in Kansas City, the Siberia of Major League Baseball. K.C. may have good barbecue, but George Brett took off the light blue a long time ago. Need another reason? Redman is undeniably mediocre. He’s hardly the type of player whose name and number are stitched on the back of replica jerseys. Hardly the type of player kids go to sleep at night hoping they’ll emulate one day. Hardly an All-Star.Sadly, Redman was the best the Royals – 28-54 entering Thursday – could come up with (after all, the team’s best offensive player through 80 games is Mark Grudzielanek). Redman’s 5-4 record is tops on the staff. His earned run average is 5.59, and he’s walked as many batters – 30 – as he has struck out. In his last start, on July 1, Redman gave up five runs on seven hits in five innings. Supporters will say Redman won all five of his starts in June and lowered his ERA over that span by 1 1/2 points. I’d tell them they overlooked the fact that his ERA approached 7.00 on more than one occasion in May. And he’s allowing nine runs per nine innings in July. Teams looking for a left-handed starter at the trading deadline could likely land this guy by offering an underachieving minor leaguer and half a meatball sub. Does he deserve a spot on the AL roster? Does he deserve to take the place of Schilling or Beckett, each of whom has 10 wins and an ERA at least one full point below Redman’s? And both are among the top eight in the league in win percentage.Sure, I’m biased (I’d rather have Boston’s Alex Gonzalez play shortstop than Derek Jeter, even though Gonzalez gets one hit a week), but the current selection process is creating a major injustice. The numbers don’t lie. It makes little sense to reward Kansas City for a Royal mess of a season. It makes little sense to crown the most valuable player on a team that trails the Tigers in the Central by nearly four touchdowns. Win more than 34 percent of your games – then we can talk.Does Redman deserve a free pass just because he’s a standout on baseball’s equivalent of the New Orleans Aints? Does he deserve a spot over Twins phenom Francisco Liriano, whose .900 winning percentage is tops in either league? At least fans have the chance to right the league’s wrong by choosing Liriano during their vote for the final roster spot on both sides. Beckett and Schilling don’t have that luxury.I have no problem with Redman heading to Pittsburgh. I just think he should go as an honorary hot dog vendor. Home-field advantage is too important to hand a guy like this the ball. Give Redman his first All-Star jersey and a prime spot on the first-base line so he can videotape Monday’s Home Run Derby. Let him wave to the Pirates fans who suffered alongside him during a 5-15 season in 2005. Give his son, Jordan, a chance to run the bases and get autographs from Pedro Martinez and Alex Rodriguez.But give his roster spot to a real All-Star.Jon Maletz (aka “The Hammer”) can be reached at e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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