Each year, different factors at play in the MLB All-Star selection process keep players in the game who don't deserve to be there.
From young guys having breakout years that aren't recognized by the fan vote to the managers in charge of each league's team making subjective decisions, there's going to be guys on each roster that likely shouldn't be.
The 2013 MLB All-Star game will be played at Citi Field in New York, and Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland will manage the American League side opposite San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy and the National League.
The fan vote picks the starters, and the two 2012 World Series managers pick the rest.
Let the debate begin—here's three guys looking at a roster spot without the merit to back it up.
SP Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
There aren't many MLB pitching lists where Justin Verlander isn't at, or near, the top of the ranking. This year's All-Star game roster is one of those times—other deserving candidates have out-shined his performance so far this season.
Teammates Anibal Sanchez (6-5, 2.76 ERA, 1.151 WHIP) and Max Scherzer (13-0, 3.09 ERA, 0.92 WHIP) are far more deserving of a spot on the AL pitching staff than the 2011 AL Cy Young winner (9-5, 3.54 ERA, 1.357 WHIP).
Doug Fister (6-5, 3.80 ERA, 1.211 WHIP) has also been solid for the Tigers.
If you include the other candidates to make the roster from a crowded field that includes Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Chris Sale, Bartolo Colon, Justin Masterson, Hiroki Kuroda and three-to-four relievers, there should be no room for one of the best pitchers in baseball.
That won't stop Verlander's manager from making him an All-Star, though.
It's not as if Verlander has been awful. His wins and ERA are both solid; strong performances from other pitchers, mainly teammates, and a strong roster of representatives from the Tigers push him down the totem pole of deserving Detroit players.
But Leyland is the manager, and I doubt he'll forgo giving his ace the nod in any sort of toss-up at the bottom of the staff list. Even if Verlander wasn't to pitch in the game, it would be a shock to see him left off completely.
C Jason Castro, Houston Astros
Joe Mauer is getting the starting nod at catcher for the American League, pending the results of the MLB All-Star Selection Show on Saturday night.
With two other roster spots likely up for grabs here, one could venture to say that Salvador Perez is a virtual lock because the Kansas City Royals need representation and because the third-year man from Venezuela is hitting over .300 for the third-straight year.
Behind him, Cleveland's Carlos Santana, Boston's Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Houston's Jason Castro all have a claim to the final spot, but it's Castro who is Leyland's third-string catcher in this scenario.
Simply put, the Astros need representation in the game.
Castro has been one of the three best players on the Astros roster this year, but he's a far cry away from being a lock as an All-Star at his position. Teammates Jose Altuve (second base) and Bud Norris (starting pitcher) are the others in contention, but each are faced with a much tougher task in making the roster.
How could Leyland justify putting Altuve ahead of Robinson Cano/Jason Kipnis/Dustin Pedroia? By the same token, placing Norris and his 6-7 record ahead of a long list of AL starting pitchers would be equally head-scratching.
Castro has the numbers (.262 batting average, 11 home runs, 22 doubles) to merit the bid because it is the weakest of the three positions in question. Castro and Santana have similar batting average numbers, Castro is higher in slugging percentage (.473) while Santana has an OPS (.832) nearly 40 points higher.
Houston needs a representative, and catcher is the likely landing spot for that player. Castro is replaceable, but he makes the most sense to grab recognition for the Astros.
OF Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
Is Bryce Harper deserving of a spot on the NL All-Star team?
That's a clown question, bro—but maybe not in the way that you would first think.
Sure, Harper is one of MLB's rising stars. The 20-year-old outfielder made the game last year and did so despite still being in his teens, but that doesn't mean he's a lock to travel to New York because H-A-R-P-E-R is stitched on the back of his jersey.
Injuries have limited Harper to just 48 games entering Friday. That being said, he's well over the .900 mark in OPS, and has been hitting the cover off the ball when he's healthy and in the Washington lineup.
But when you look at the National League outfield setup, there's plenty of deserving candidates. Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Gomez and Andrew McCutchen are virtual locks, while Carlos Beltran, Michael Cuddyer and Domonic Brown are all having strong seasons.
Throw in Yasiel Puig, Jay Bruce, Gerardo Parra and Justin Upton, and there's enough talent to choose from before you even get to Harper's name.
There's no doubt Harper is a dynamic force, and that he's going to help keep appeal in the game at a high level. Factor in his young age and a marketing push, and you'll find Bochy making the call to put him on the NL roster for July 16.
Whether he deserves it or not, that's another (clown) question entirely.
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