The roster announcement for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game serves two purposes. It gives us our first chance to look at what we can expect in the Midsummer Classic—and it leaves plenty of room for debate and uproar.
No All-Star roster is going to be perfect for everyone, because we all have different tastes. We want to see the best players on our favorite team get rewarded for a strong first half, though I maintain that is a horrible way to pick an All-Star.
The game is supposed to be about marketing baseball to an audience that might not otherwise watch the sport at this time of year, so you want to put your best and biggest stars on the same field. Who cares if a reliever for the Miami Marlins having a good season goes to New York this year?
With so much room for interpretation as to what actually constitutes an All-Star, here are the biggest shocks, snubs and surprises from this year's roster, which was announced on Saturday night.
I understand the way the All-Star Game works. No matter how much I beg and plead for the world to realize that it is a marketing event where the biggest stars, not the players who had a good 80-game start to the season, get to shine in a prime-time game, it is not going to happen.
That said, there is absolutely no valid excuse whatsoever for Evan Longoria not to be on the AL All-Star roster.
Miguel Cabrera was always going to get the starting nod, and Manny Machado is more than deserving of being the backup. But Longoria is a proven star having a fantastic, MVP-caliber season. His defense at the hot corner isn't far behind Machado, who has been the best defender in the AL all year, and his offense (.295/.371/.537, 17 home runs) is as good as anyone in the league not named Cabrera.
Longoria has battled foot issues lately, and perhaps the Rays didn't want him on the team, but to not even get acknowledged as making the team and being replaced by, say, teammate Ben Zobrist is ridiculous.
To make matters worse, we had to be handed a Final Vote in the AL that has five relief pitchers. I weep for the people facing that choice.
After venting a bit in my first paragraph about Longoria, I am going to leave it be from now on and just focus on other things.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have had a fantastic start to the season that no one saw coming. Who knows if they will be able to keep it going? But they were rewarded for their efforts with four All-Stars (Andrew McCutchen, Jason Grilli, Jeff Locke and Pedro Alvarez).
Locke has a good ERA, but he is the most suspect player among this group because he doesn't strike out a lot of people and his walk total is very high (69 strikeouts, 44 walks in 102 innings).
Alvarez is a bit ridiculous as an All-Star because his slash line (.243/.307/.507) is hardly the stuff you would expect from one of the top players in the NL. But there is something to be said for a player who can hit a ball 450 feet at a moment's notice.
Even though the use of so many relievers in this kind of game drives me nuts, at least Grilli has established a bit of a track record the past three years to warrant a selection here. He also has a phenomenal 60-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 37.2 innings.
McCutchen is the easiest choice in the group because he is a bona fide superstar having another terrific season, even if he isn't showing off the kind of power he did last year.
Based on the theory that every team in baseball has to have an All-Star representative, I can think of at least two different Oakland players I would rather see on the AL roster than Bartolo Colon.
Josh Donaldson would be right at the top of that list. However, third base is an incredibly deep position—obviously, since we already talked about Longoria not making it—in the AL, and eventually you have to cut the cord somewhere.
The Oakland third baseman is young enough at 27 to have more upside and growing to do so that he won't look like an abomination when we look back on the roster, and the fact that he is hitting .313/.381/.522 while playing in the cave known as O.co Coliseum is very impressive.
Also, is there any reason for the AL to carry three catchers—neither of the backups, Salvador Perez and Jason Castro, being the right ones—instead of taking one more position player?
In keeping with my theory that the All-Star Game should be about showcasing the biggest stars, Justin Verlander would absolutely have made my roster for AL pitchers.
But considering that the 2011 AL Cy Young winner is having a down year, with his highest walk rate (3.29 per nine innings) and highest ERA (3.54) since 2008, it seemed like there was little chance he would make the squad this year.
Credit this one to the coaches and players actually getting one right. Verlander is still missing bats and actually striking out more per nine innings (9.56) than he has the past two years—which is what you want in a showcase game like this.
The number of times that Shin-Soo Choo has been overlooked for an All-Star team throughout his career might surprise you. He isn't a superstar, but his production warrants more attention than a few players who made the NL team (Marco Scutaro and Michael Cuddyer).
Yes, Choo has been a disaster in center field. But everyone expected that after seeing how much he had regressed the past two years in Cleveland.
If we are talking about offensive performance, though, not a lot of players have been as valuable as Choo this year. His .417 on-base percentage is second in the National League, behind teammate Joey Votto, and his weighted on-base average (wOBA) is better than Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran, Domonic Brown and Jean Segura.
Jean Segura started out on fire, hitting .367/.418/.567 in April, but his slash line has dropped every month since. He hit a paltry .277/.296/.429 in June, but his overall season totals are still strong at .322/.357/.493.
The Brewers have had a dreadful year, and there weren't a lot of other options to really choose from, even though Ryan Braun has been more consistent this year and is a bigger star. That said, It is good to get a player like Segura, who is young and has upside, in a game like this to expose him to a bigger audience.
Ditto for Everth Cabrera, who has always had electric speed and is still using it. The Padres shortstop has fine-tuned his approach at the plate, walking more and striking out less, and his .300/.376/.411 start could be a sign of bigger things to come.
The Indians did send two players to the All-Star Game (Justin Masterson and Jason Kipnis). While Kipnis is a wholly justifiable decision, Masterson is puzzling because he has never been consistent, and nothing about his season so far suggests anything has gotten better.
Carlos Santana also battles consistency issues, but he is a catcher who has always had great potential and is hitting .270/.379/.453 this season. His defense is not very good behind the plate, but he would give the coaching staff options as a pinch hitter.
Instead, while Joe Mauer is the only lock as a catcher in the AL, we got Kansas City's Salvador Perez—a much better defender than Santana who swings at everything thrown in the vicinity of home plate—and Houston's Jason Castro getting the obligatory spot for the franchise.
Santana should have been the second Cleveland representative after Kipnis and was more deserving of a spot than Perez and Castro.
After making the All-Star Game last year as an injury replacement, Bryce Harper's star continues to rise, as he was voted in by fans to start the game this year.
It was a little surprising, as Harper missed 31 games with an injury and only recently made his return. That makes it a little unusual to see him in this spot, but this is one instance where the fans' love for a player is justified.
Harper is going to be one of the biggest stars in baseball, if he isn't already, and will be a fixture in this game for years. This is the kind of game he should be a part of, whether the stats completely justify it or not. This is not one of those cases, as he's hitting .260/.362/.544 with 13 home runs in 169 at-bats.
As an added bonus, there is always the chance that someone will talk Harper into doing the Home Run Derby. That would make the event a must-see.
The National League did a fantastic job of recognizing the brilliant young starting pitching that has taken over baseball by putting Matt Harvey, Patrick Corbin and Jose Fernandez on the All-Star roster.
But there is one glaring omission in St. Louis' Shelby Miller. Arguably the top candidate for NL Rookie of the Year, Miller has been better than every pitcher mentioned in the previous paragraph not named Harvey.
Miller has a fantastic 107-24 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 99.2 innings, a 2.80 ERA and has given up just 83 hits. In a one-inning stint, the 22-year-old could put his name right up there alongside Harvey among casual fans.
To make matters worse, he isn't even on the Final Vote ballot. Of course, with Yasiel Puig on there, Miller probably wouldn't have much of a chance anyway.
Nelson Cruz hits a lot of home runs and not much else. Like the aforementioned Pedro Alvarez, if that's your one criteria for making an All-Star team, then the Texas outfielder certainly belongs in New York.
But there is no way that Cruz has warranted a selection to the All-Star team. If you want home runs and excitement, Yoenis Cespedes would have been a better choice. Yet no one even thought of the Oakland outfielder because injuries and a .221/.282/.436 line pushed him down ballots.
Not that this is the be-all and end-all stat, but among qualified AL outfielders, Cruz is 21st in FanGraphs' Wins Above Replacement. He is behind Nate McLouth, Kelly Johnson and Drew Stubbs in that category.
Those are just a few of the gripes with the All-Star rosters. Tell me who/what you liked and didn't like with comments on Twitter.