With the 2013 MLB All-Star Game rosters announced this past Saturday, there were more than a few deserving players snubbed from this year's festivities.
A handful of players will be added to the rosters between now and when the game is played on July 16 at Citi Field, whether it be as a result of injury, pitchers becoming ineligible by pitching Sunday or through the Final Vote.
When the dust settles, though, there will likely still be at least a few guys sitting at home this All-Star weekend who should be playing. No matter how much rosters are expanded, that just comes with naming an All-Star team.
Everyone has their own opinion on who the most glaring omission was, and I got a chance to contact some of the on-air talent at MLB Network to get their take on who was the most deserving player left off the ballot.
Thanks to Sean Casey, Kevin Millar, Dan Plesac, Harold Reynolds and Bill Ripken for taking the time to give their responses here, and a special thanks to Lou Barricelli of their media relations department for reaching out to set this up.
You can catch all five of the aforementioned analysts as part of MLB Network’s live coverage of batting practice at Citi Field on July 15 at 4 p.m. ET.
Until then, here is a look at who they thought were the biggest snubs from the 2013 MLB All-Star Game rosters.
Josh Donaldson, 3B, Oakland Athletics
Josh Donaldson was a relative unknown with just 14 big league games under his belt heading into last season. After struggling early and being demoted to the minors, he bounced back to hit .290/.356/.489 from Aug. 14 until the end of the year, playing a big part in the A's postseason push.
Despite that, there were still questions as to whether the 27-year-old would be able to hold down the hot corner on an everyday basis entering this season, but he has answered them with a resounding yes.
Hitting .319/.386/.534 with 15 home runs and 58 RBI entering play on Tuesday, Donaldson has been the best hitter for a good Oakland team. However, he lost out to Miguel Cabrera and Manny Machado for a spot at third base on the AL roster. While both of those guys were certainly deserving, a strong case can be made for Donaldson joining them.
A three-time All-Star himself from his days with the Cincinnati Reds, Sean Casey thought Donaldson deserved to be there for his role in helping the A's avoid a letdown following last year's surprise postseason run.
"Some didn’t think Oakland would be this good again this year, but they have been, and Josh Donaldson has been a huge reason why. There may not be many stars on this A’s offense, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been solid all year long, and Donaldson has been in the middle of it all with 15 dingers and 58 RBI. He’s a hard-nosed ballplayer who should be an All-Star this year."
Bill Ripken, a 12-year big league veteran, agreed with Casey, pointing to everything Donaldson has managed to overcome to get here as a big reason why he was deserving.
"We’re never going to get the perfect All-Star roster, but Josh Donaldson has converted from catcher to third base and is having the season of his life at 27 years old. I know that Oakland doesn’t get the attention that they deserve, but this guy has played as well as anybody in baseball. This is a guy that was in the minor leagues for some time last year, and he’s worked himself all the way back. Who knows if he’ll have this type of year again, but we knew a snub was going to come somewhere, especially with all the great third basemen we have in baseball, and unfortunately it’s happened to Donaldson."
Grant Balfour, RP, Oakland Athletics
Joining Donaldson as a notable snub is teammate Grant Balfour, who has been absolutely dominant in the closer's role dating back to the second half of last season.
The 35-year-old converted just 7-of-9 save chances with a 4.41 ERA to open the year in 2012 before losing closer duties in mid-May. He returned to that role on Aug. 11, though, and proceeded to go a perfect 17-of-17 on save chances with a 2.08 ERA the rest of the way.
He's had no trouble hanging onto the job this season, as he's currently 23-of-23 on save opportunities with a 1.77 ERA and 1.065 WHIP.
All told, he has converted 41 consecutive save chances dating back to last year, breaking a franchise record held by Dennis Eckersley (40) and tying him for the sixth-longest streak of all time. Despite all of that, he finds himself off the All-Star roster and still looking for his first career All-Star nod.
A three-time All-Star from his time as a reliever for the Milwaukee Brewers, Dan Plesac can appreciate what Balfour has accomplished this season as much as anyone, and he thinks he deserves a spot.
"As a former reliever, there’s no question that Grant Balfour is very deserving to be an All-Star. He’s 23 for 23 in save opportunities this year, and he’s done it on a division-contending team. He’s been very good for a few years now, and this was his year to make it to the Midsummer Classic."
Though not a pitcher in his playing days, Harold Reynolds did make a pair of All-Star teams as a second baseman for the Mariners, and he too thinks Balfour has earned a spot.
"He’s been perfect this year, and he’s converted 41 straight save opportunities dating back to last year. He’s been great, and he’s been on one of the best teams in baseball in 2013. There should be more than one All-Star coming out of Oakland this year. I don’t think Bartolo Colon is enough for this team."
Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
Perhaps the most puzzling selection on either side was the choice of Ben Zobrist to be the Tampa Bay Rays' lone representative.
Nothing against Zobrist, who is one of the most versatile players in the game and a valuable piece of the Rays roster, but he posted an OPS of just .739 this year with six home runs and 47 RBI.
What really makes the pick a confusing one is the fact that teammate Evan Longoria is having a fantastic season, hitting .288/.365/.521 with 17 home runs and 50 RBI, as he has finally managed to stay healthy this year.
He showed what he meant to the Rays' success last season when the team went 47-27 with him in the lineup and just 43-45 without him, and he's been an anchor in the middle of their order once again.
Kevin Millar, a 12-year big league veteran, found it hard to believe that Longoria was snubbed, given his production this year and status as one of the game's best.
"Evan Longoria has been one of the best third basemen in all of baseball the last few years, and he’s once again posting strong numbers across the board this season. He’s on pace for over 30 home runs, over 90 runs scored, over 35 doubles, and he has a great OPS for all our sabermetricians out there. How is he not an All-Star?"
Other Notable Snubs
Those three certainly stand out as glaring omissions, but they were not the only deserving players to be left off their respective league's rosters.
For the Indians, catcher Carlos Santana (.827 OPS, 11 HR, 40 RBI) has been a big reason for his team's success at the plate this year, but he lost out on a backup role to Jason Castro (HOU) and Salvador Perez (KC).
While Longoria stands out as the big one in Tampa Bay, first baseman James Loney (.319 BA, .848 OPS, 43 RBI) and starter Matt Moore (12-3, 3.42 ERA) both have a strong case for inclusion.
Second base in the American League was a crowded position, with Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Kipnis and Zobrist all making the roster. That said, it's hard to say the Angels' Howie Kendrick (.825 OPS, 11 HR, 40 RBI) was not also deserving of a spot.
Setup relievers are often overlooked, but the Pirates' Mark Melancon (43 G, 0.85 ERA, 9.4 K/9) has been a huge part of the best bullpen in baseball, while Rex Brothers (40 G, 0.98 ERA, 9.3 K/9) has managed to tame Coors Field, setting up Rockies veteran Rafael Betancourt.
On the starter side of things, Hiroki Kuroda (7-6, 2.77 ERA) and Ervin Santana (5-5, 2.90 ERA) are leading their respective staffs in the American League, while rookies Shelby Miller (9-6, 2.80 ERA) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (7-3, 2.82 ERA) have taken the NL by storm.
The list goes on and on of worthy players who were snubbed, but with only 34 roster spot in each league, it comes down to a numbers game. For the most part, the rosters are full of deserving candidates this year.
All-Star Game festivities kick off on Sunday, July 14, with the Futures Game. Be sure to catch Casey, Plesac, Ripken, Millar and Reynolds as part of MLB Network’s live coverage of batting practice at Citi Field before the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game, starting Monday, July 15, at 4 p.m. ET.