Deserving All-Star candidates left off rosters
Final Vote, injuries leave squads for Midsummer Classic in flux
Let's acknowledge, first of all, that there is no perfect process, in the All-Star Game roster selection system or in, well, pretty much anything in life.Let's admit that, yeah, as long as the fans are entrusted with selecting the starters, the pitfalls of popularity contests are bound to reveal themselves. So hello, American League starting shortstop Derek Jeter. Finally, let us remember that by the time the first pitch of the 82nd Midsummer Classic is thrown on July 12, the rosters might look quite a bit different than they do today. Some of the stars will get injured or get rested as a result of their weekend workload and some of the snubs will turn into subs, jumping on the first flight to Phoenix if they're not already two pina coladas into a Bahaman vacation. And now that all those rational perspectives are taken into account, let's proceed to the annual Selection Sunday whining.
No Paul Konerko (.317 average, .954 OPS entering Sunday)? Really? No Andrew McCutchen (.390 on-base percentage)? Seriously? No Jordan Zimmermann (2.63 ERA in 16 starts)? No Jhonny Peralta (.311 average, .898 OPS)? No Craig Kimbrel (24 saves, 67 strikeouts in 42 innings)? No Michael Pineda (2.65 ERA in 16 starts)? No Tommy Hanson (9-4, 2.62)? No Alex Gordon (.301, .859 OPS)? No Shane Victorino (.299, .886)? Shouldn't Ian Kennedy (8-2, 3.01 ERA) get a little All-Star love in his home park? And if the AL roster is going to include a few dozen (OK, that's an exaggeration... it's more like a couple dozen) Yankees and Red Sox, as usual, then shouldn't CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and Dustin Pedroia be part of the fray? Thankfully, the Final Vote process addresses some of the injustices. Konerko, Gordon, Adam Jones, Ben Zobrist and Victor Martinez all have a shot in the AL, and Kennedy, Victorino, Andre Ethier, Todd Helton and Michael Morse are on the ballot in the NL. Konerko is a particularly sizable snub, given that he's an early MVP candidate but is at the mercy of the Final Vote. But that's also the nature of the beast at his position. "There's always guys who have really big numbers at first," Konerko said. "I'm not surprised or shocked, let's put it that way. I know it's very possible that when you play the position I play there will be somebody left without a chair. But we will see what happens with the thing coming up this week." Even with roster sizes at a robust 34 per team, there is simply no way to make everybody happy, no way to account for every deserving candidate. So you had Sunday what you have every year at this time: Pats on the backs of those who got the call and complaints on behalf of the deserving ones who didn't. "I think it stinks," D-backs second baseman Kelly Johnson said of Kennedy's exclusion from the roster. "I'm not going to lie. ... I think it's unfortunate, and I know everyone else on the team feels it's unfortunate." A few unfortunate instances always exist in the starting lineups, and Jeter's popularity-over-performance placement is the most glaring example this year. The Indians' Asdrubal Cabrera, who made it as a reserve, and Peralta have far better offensive numbers. Give the fans credit, though, for giving the Tigers' Alex Avila the final push he deserved in the running for the AL's starting catcher spot. Russell Martin of the Yankees seemingly had him beat in the vote totals, despite Avila's superior statistics. But in the last week of voting, Avila erased the gap thanks, in part, to the Twitter support of staff ace Justin Verlander. The fans got that one right. The fans also acknowledged the mesmerizing numbers of Jose Bautista, who was a virtual unknown just two years ago, by voting for him a record 7.45 million times. They recognized the ridiculous rise of Jose Reyes, who surpassed Troy Tulowitzki's vote total over the final days of balloting. Also in those final days, they realized it was silly to have an idle Albert Pujols leading the way in the NL first-base tally, and they rightly picked Prince Fielder for that honor. Good on ya for getting it right in all those instances, fans. The Player Ballot (which actually includes managers and coaches, in addition to the players) was responsible for 16 pitcher and reserve selections in the NL and 17 in the AL. As usual, it helped pick up some of the loose pieces left behind by the fan vote, though it would be nice if it weren't required to supply three relievers per league. I'm also not sure Carlos Quentin and Jay Bruce were particularly accurate picks in the outfield. Where this thing gets particularly interesting -- and difficult -- is when the AL and NL managers make their picks for the final spots. For one, they have to ensure every team is represented. But they also have to support their own players without going overboard in the favoritism department. Bruce Bochy had nine places to fill on the NL roster, and he whiffed in giving an outfield nod to Carlos Beltran over McCutchen. Beltran is having a resurgent season, no doubt, but McCutchen has him beat in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and steals, and he's a big reason the Pirates are surprisingly relevant in the NL Central standings. When it comes to favoritism, Bochy went with three-fifths of his own starting rotation in taking Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong. It's hard to argue with any of those choices on their own, but in taking all three, Bochy had to pass on the likes of Zimmermann, Hanson, Kennedy, Shaun Marcum and Jhoulys Chacin, all of whom are worthy in their own way. Bochy should have spread the love a little more.
Then again..."You feel some guys get slighted," said Chipper Jones, a reserve selection in the NL, "but the manager of the All-Star team feels like he doesn't want to overwork somebody else's pitcher. So if he's going to overwork somebody and use an extra, he'd rather it be his own. That's the spin I put on it." Because the DH ate up two roster spots from the fan and player ballots, Ron Washington had just seven picks to fill out the AL roster, so he had less room for error. In filling the Royals' All-Star quota, he went with rookie reliever Aaron Crow, who is definitely having a dominant year. But Gordon, who has finally lived up to his long-touted potential, is probably the more deserving Royals representative. By and large, though, it's easy to point out the snubs and impossible to find a solution in which all the deserving candidates get their due. The math just doesn't work. So whine away, but then remember that these rosters are both imperfect and in flux.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.