Snubs are a part of every MLB All-Star Game experience in sports. Players know it. Coaches know it. Fans know it.
The process of talking about these oversights is often among the most inane conversations we have in sports. In the NFL, the event usually gets so watered down that you're arguing the difference between the 13th- and 14th-best quarterbacks in the league by the time rosters are finalized. In the NBA, you're talking about the separation of players who would be third bananas on a contender.
In Major League Baseball, though, it's a little trickier. Every team is required to have one representative, which sometimes comes at the expense of a far more deserving player. That process is frustrating by itself, but generally speaking, those who are selected are near no-brainers. Outside of a few strange choices, the guys who deserve to be chosen, are and those who don't aren't.
People spend so much time arguing about these things mainly to hear themselves talk.
But, as is the case every year, at least a couple of the snubs have a real case for being in the Midsummer Classic. Their absences aren't going to completely ruin the fun at Citi Field or anything, but they are enough to garner an eye-roll or two directed at NL manager Bruce Bochy and AL manager Jim Leyland.
Remember, even if it's flawed, the phrase "X All-Star appearances" appears in a player's second or third sentence after he retires. As much as we hate to admit it, this stuff matters legacy-wise—even if the legacy subject being broached makes me want to react like Toby is coming back to the office.
So with caveat that this thing totally matters, even though it totally shouldn't, let's take a look at a few snubs and surprising absences from this year's All-Star rosters.
Infield: Evan Longoria (3B, Tampa Bay Rays)
Many have (rightfully) been up in arms about Oakland Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson being snubbed. The 27-year-old former Auburn star is batting .313 with 15 home runs and 58 RBI—a breakout season that's played a large part in Oakland ranking eighth in runs scored.
He's only acceptable defensively—he has a UZR of 4.1 and sometimes bobbles routine plays—but he's been unbelievable at the plate. It's a shame that neither the voters nor Jim Leyland thought fit to honor his great start.
That said, it's a near-travesty that Evan Longoria was left on the outside looking in.
Longoria is a known commodity and a superstar. He's made three All-Star teams, and while injuries and struggles at the plate have hampered his past two seasons, he is back to performing at the height of his powers. The Rays' franchise face is sixth among batters in WAR, just 0.1 behind Chris Davis, about whom you may have heard a thing or two.
Most will be able to justify Longoria sitting at home because his counting stats are less impressive than Donaldson's. He's having a very fine season—hitting .284 with 18 home runs and 51 RBI—but stacked next to Donaldson, his numbers don't look as good.
That, of course, doesn't account for the all-around Longoria effect.
More deserving All-Star?
What's always made Longoria stand out is his excellence at the hot corner, and that's no different this season. His UZR of 10.3 ranks behind only Nolan Arenado of the Rockies and the immortal Manny Machado among third basemen.
Frankly, it's strange that he wasn't chosen. The Hammer of Thor himself, Miguel Cabrera,was a shoo-in, and it's hard to complain about Machado too much. But did we really need three second basemen, Mr. Leyland? How is Dustin Pedroia making the trip and not Longoria or Donaldson? And I suppose we're just supposed to overlook three Tigers being selected for the bench as well?
Alright, I'll stop using rhetorical questions as a crutch now. Just know that Longoria is perhaps in the midst of his finest major league season, and he's one of the 10 best position players in his league. These things are never worth getting worked up about, but if you're in a foul mood and really want to complain, the conversation starts with Longoria.
Outfield: Yasiel Puig (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Puig not being selected, by either Bruce Bochy or the fans, again calls into question the MLB All-Star Game's purpose.
Bud Selig's decision to tie the All-Star Game to home-field advantage in the World Series remains one of the strangest things in sports. A major advantage is given to a team on the sport's biggest stage, and it's given by a group of players, the majority of whom will have no ties to the World Series team. It's like promising your kids you'll get ice cream if the other kids behave at the park.
But that's the world we live in. It's one, however, that makes the whole judging process of these moves a little more difficult in cases like Puig's.
If, like it is in the three other major professional sports, MLB wants its Midsummer Classic to merely be about rewarding the players who have been the most consistently spectacular over the season's first half, then Puig is out. One month of excellence—even historic excellence—doesn't defeat three-plus months of even very good play. Sample sizes matter.
If, like Selig seemingly wants, the managers are playing to win the game, leaving Puig out is a decision that will make National League managers a little upset with Bochy, whose Giants are a borderline mess right now. There is no hotter hitter in baseball, and few players have a better arm in right field than Puig. He's is also a pretty decent baserunner, for whatever that's worth in the All-Star Game.
There's not much I need to say about Puig's entertainment value. He's a goldmine of intentional and unintentional comedy in the body of a linebacker. He's the MLB Terry Crews.
One could say that if the fans really wanted Puig in the game, they would have voted for him instead of Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who won the Final Vote.
Let's just say I'm Prokhorov-level suspicious about how Freeman won the vote. It's not that Freeman is undeserving or anything, but this is a vote. On the Internet. Human beings are involved. Things have tended to get sticky whenever people, the Internet and a vote are all mixed together.
Either way, Puig is the latest example of MLB's strange criterion creating controversy. There needs to be more defined rules that go into the selection process, and Puig might become Patient Zero for that change.
Pitching: Derek Holland (SP, Texas Rangers)
Matt Moore replacing Yu Darvish on the American League team makes sense, mainly because the Rays starter deserved to be an All-Star prior to this whole fiasco. Judging an arm by his win-loss total is flawed—that we can all agree on. But Moore is 13-3, is striking out better than one batter per inning and has lowered opponent's batting average to .213 this season. He still needs to work a bit his control to harness his full talents, yet it's hard to question Moore's All-Star placement.
The problem is that Moore's presence continues pushing Holland out, which was a pretty large oversight from Leyland.
Holland has been on the fringes of mediocrity throughout his career, having never posted a final ERA below 3.95. This year, though, the 26-year-old lefty seems to be putting it all together. He's 7-4 with a 3.19 ERA and 1.27 WHIP through his first 18 starts, with a strikeout rate of just under one per inning. That all equates to a WAR of 3.7, fourth-best among major league pitchers.
Holland has been very good and very consistent this season, and he's on pace to shatter just about every career record.
The strange thing is that Holland has actually gotten unlucky so far this year. He has a sky-high BABIP of .326, which is .027 higher than his career average.
While history would tell us that he would regress backward over the second half of the season, he could actually get better if his BABIP goes back to the mean. His 2.86 FIP also projects well for the Rangers, who have somehow kept themselves afloat despite being mid-pack in just about every category.
What makes Holland's oversight worse is a couple players chosen ahead of him. I like middle relievers as much as the next guy, but taking two out of the Blue Jays' 'pen is pretty inane. Brett Cecil was an understandable choice; we didn't need Steve Delabar to drive home the point. Just pick one and give the spot to a guy who's been great over a longer sample.
I also would have been A-OK with Justin Masterson being left at home. That would have left only Jason Kipnis among Indians All-Stars, but this isn't the touchy-feely awards. Holland was more deserving.
All advanced metrics used are courtesy of Fangraphs.
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