Bonderman second in Final Vote
Tigers pitcher finishes behind Red Sox reliever Okajima
DETROIT -- If this is the toughest loss Jeremy Bonderman takes all season, he'll be happy.
The Tigers right-hander took a 9-1 record and the adoration of Detroit's recently rejuvenated fan base into the American League 2007 Monster All-Star Final Vote contest, but he couldn't overcome the combination of Red Sox Nation and the nation of Japan. Bonderman finished second in the online balloting to Hideki Okajima, leaving the Tigers with five All-Stars and pushing the Red Sox to six.
Bonderman led the vote after the opening hours of balloting Sunday evening and into Monday, but Okajima overtook him soon after. Though Tigers fans and Bonderman's friends and family had enough mouse clicks to help keep the vote close into the final hours of balloting Thursday, he never took back the lead.
Even Tigers family members got into the act. Teammate Justin Verlander estimated he voted over 400 times by text message, while his girlfriend voted over the computer. Manager Jim Leyland said that his teenage kids were voting for Bonderman, both online and through the phone.
"I'm guilty. I'm telling my kids to vote for Bondo," Leyland said Thursday morning. "It's probably costing me a fortune [in text messages]."
Nevertheless, Bonderman can keep his plans to spend the All-Star break with his family at home in Washington state before the Tigers begin the season's second half in Seattle next Thursday. Though he hoped to get onto the team, he said it wouldn't be a crushing defeat if he lost. He said Thursday he expected Okajima would come out on top given his fan base.
Bonderman stayed away from promoting himself during the voting process, but his teammates helped fill the gap. Verlander mentioned him during various interviews over the course of the week, and reliever Jason Grilli spelled out "Vote Bondo" in tape on the back of his batting practice jersey Tuesday.
"He's not one of those guys," Verlander said of Bonderman. "That's why we're trying to get attention for him. I've been voting him. I've been vocal, saying in interviews to vote for Bondo, because he's not going to do it for himself."
Said Curtis Granderson: "His performance [Sunday] night ended up helping him pretty well, so that got him some attention. I think he likes staying under the radar. I think a lot guys on the team like that. If he doesn't go, it's not the end of the world. He's got a lot more accomplishments that he can still get towards the end of the season and each season after it. He's definitely not going to kick himself over it."
Technically, Bonderman could still get onto the team if there's an injury to one of the starting pitchers on the squad. Injury replacements are dictated by results of player balloting, according to Leyland, and Bonderman received the most votes of any pitcher who didn't make it, just behind All-Star selection Johan Santana.
It marks at least the second near-miss in three years for Bonderman as an All-Star. He had 11 wins at the break two years ago but was left off by player balloting and by then-manager Terry Francona, even though the game was at Comerica Park. Detroit had just one pitcher, starter Kenny Rogers, on the squad last year despite boasting statistically the best staff in baseball.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.