MLB All-Star Game 2012: Tony La Russa Was Wrong to Snub Johnny Cueto

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2012

CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 15: Johnny Cueto #47 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on July 15, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

When the MLB All-Star rosters were unveiled over the weekend, manager Tony La Russa was wrong for leaving Cincinnati Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto off the team.

Every year, some deserving players are left off the team because there is not enough room on the roster. With every team needing to be represented, it leaves players like Brandon Phillips on the outside looking in. 

But what happens when the coaching staff leaves off a player because of a past incident?

Like Phillips, Cueto was the center of the 2010 brawl between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Reds. Cardinals fans will bring up how Cueto ended Jason LaRue's career by kicking him in the head while he was pinned against the net behind home plate. 

Am I defending Cueto's actions that day? No.

A player should not be punished by a manager in an exhibition game for something he did two years ago in an intense rivalry game.

When's John Fay reported Cueto's recent comments, it probably cost him any chance of being added to the team.

“I see that I have great numbers. I thought the way I pitched this year, I’d have a chance to go to the All-Star Game. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if the manager of All-Star Game is (ticked) at me because I went out with one of his girlfriends." 

Cueto had every right to be upset, but he should not have made those comments. Even though it was unlikely, he would have had a chance to be named to the team due to an injury.

La Russa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Rick Hummel the brawl had nothing to do with the snub:

"The All-Star experience is too important to let anything stand in the way of a decision like that. No way am I going to penalize anybody for any kind of past history. The fact is that Cueto is going to be pitching on Sunday. Some other day, he's probably on the team."

La Russa said the right things, but I doubt anyone believed him. In fact, his explanation does not make sense. Players who pitched on Sunday in previous years made the team, and they were replaced before the game was played.

Instead of sparking this controversy, La Russa could have named Cueto to the team. If he stayed on schedule and pitched Sunday, La Russa could have replaced him with another pitcher. So to say it was based on his pitching schedule, the manager made his decision look even worse.

At home, Cueto is 5-1 with a 2.28 ERA. With only two home runs allowed in Cincinnati, he has been sensational since has Great American Ball Park listed as the stadium that allows the most home runs. 

When the rosters were announced, he was 9-4 with a 2.26 ERA. In 114.2 innings, he has walked only 25 batters and allowed five home runs. His numbers are phenomenal, so La Russa's grudge kept Cueto from making the team.

While La Russa was a great manager, he should have done the right thing. This whole situation was blown up because of the incident two seasons ago. 

Some may argue there was no room on the team for Cueto, but a few pitchers could be replaced from the team.

Philadelphia's Jonathan Papelbon stands out as a player who could have been left off the team. After 30 games, he has an ERA of 3.03. For a high-profile closer, that is not All-Star worthy.

Also, the NL team does not need anymore closers. Cincinnati's Aroldis Chapman, Pittsburgh's Joel Hanrahan, Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel and San Diego's Huston Street are all on the roster. The Phillies already had Cole Hamels on the team, so Papelbon did not need to make the team.

Lance Lynn, a St. Louis pitcher, could have been left off the team (at least to start with). He has come out of nowhere this season, but his numbers do not compare to Cueto.

In his first six starts, he allowed an average of one earned run per start. He was arguably the best pitcher in the majors for the first two months. 

After a 10-2 start to the season, he has been shelled in his last three starts. In 15.1 innings, he has allowed 17 runs while seeing his ERA rise from 2.42 to 3.62.

Instead of putting one of his players on the roster, La Russa could have named Cueto to the NL All-Star team. When Cueto pitches on Sunday, it would have allowed La Russa to replace Cueto with Lynn or Milwaukee's Zack Greinke.

St. Louis fans will also bring up the manager's selection of Cincinnati outfielder Jay Bruce. Despite inconsistent hitting, Bruce is worthy of an All-Star spot.

To leave Phillips off the Final Vote, it took a manager with a serious grudge. Instead of letting the fans decide between Phillips and Washington rookie Bryce Harper (not to mention David Freese, who won La Russa a World Series title), La Russa put Arizona second baseman Aaron Hill ahead of Phillips. Nothing against Hill, but Phillips is the better player.

With Lynn, Yadier Molina, Rafael Furcal and Carlos Beltran on the team, the third-place Cardinals have more representatives than the first-place Reds. As reported by's Mike Still, Freese leads the fan vote for the final spot. 

As five Cardinals prepare to play in the All-Star game, it is crucial to realize there is a flaw in the system.

When I was able to predict the snubbing of Cueto and Phillips, it showed La Russa has not gotten over the brawl. Yes, fans and players could have voted for Phillips. However, La Russa should have picked him to give the NL the best chance to win.

With his questionable decision making, why not start Aroldis Chapman? If La Russa wants to continue to stick it to Cincinnati, he should pitch Chapman for multiple innings and risk hurting his arm. Hey, St. Louis visits Cincinnati right after the All-Star break so expect to see Chapman pitch on Tuesday.

Picking the All-Star team is no easy task, but La Russa did not handle the situation properly by snubbing Cueto because of a past incident.


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