- The Washington Times - Monday, May 28, 2007

Here we are on the verge of June, the baseball season reaching its one-third mark and a hot topic about to come to the forefront: Who makes the All-Star team?

For most observers, the biggest debates revolve around fan voting for the eight starting positions on both sides, whether Derek Jeter or Miguel Tejada should win the American League shortstop job and whether David Wright or Miguel Cabrera should start at third base for the National League.

In Washington, though, there’s a simpler question: Who in the world is going to make the team? Or more specifically, how are they going to find anyone worthy of making the team?

Major League Baseball’s longstanding rules require at least one player from all 30 clubs to be included on the All-Star roster. That’s not usually too much of a problem, because even bad teams typically boast one legitimate All-Star.

Every once in a while, though, there are some real stretches. (Anyone remember Ken Harvey representing the Royals in 2004 or Mike Williams representing the Pirates in 2003? Didn’t think so.) And a similar scenario is shaping up in Washington this summer.

Seriously, as of today, who on the Nationals’ roster has a legitimate case to make the All-Star team? No one.

The two logical candidates a few weeks ago were Shawn Hill and Jason Bergmann. Both had ERAs under 3.00. Both had some dynamite pitching performances that drew national attention.

Then both got hurt.

It’s still possible either could return within the next week or two and pick up where he left off, but it’s going to take an immediate string of strong starts to get back in the hunt.

Hill probably has the upper hand because he already has three wins to go with his 2.70 ERA. If he could get to, say, 7-4 by early July, he would have a case.

Bergmann faces a longer battle because he has only one win despite his dominance. He surely would need to win at least four more games once he comes off the DL, maybe five, to put himself into the mix.

If neither of the two starters emerge, closer Chad Cordero could work his way into the mix if he avoids any more hiccups over the next month. Cordero got off to a horrible start, blowing four of his first eight save opportunities, but he has rebounded since returning from the bereavement list and now has seven saves to go along with a 3.22 ERA. If he could get to 13-15 saves and keep the ERA in the low 3.00s, he might be the logical choice.

What about position players? Well, try to make a reasonable argument for any of them. It’s a nearly impossible challenge.

Ryan Zimmerman is the team’s best player, but he’s hitting .249 with six homers and 22 RBI, and he would have to beat out such other noted third basemen as Cabrera, Wright and Aramis Ramirez.

Ryan Church has been the club’s most consistent offensive player, but he has only five homers, 25 RBI and a .270 average.

Austin Kearns? His average was under .250 last week. Dmitri Young? Yeah, he’s now hitting .302, but can he keep that up?

What happens if none of the above options become viable? If there aren’t any starting pitchers, position players or closers worthy of a free trip to San Francisco this July?

Well, there appears to be a last-chance, fallback option. It’s a tad unconventional, but this guy arguably has been the best performer on the club all season and deserves to be recognized for it.

Jesus Colome: All-Star?

On this team, why not?

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