The Greatest Players Who Never Made an MLB All-Star Team
It seems like almost anyone these days can make an All-Star team. Heck, even Omar Infante made the cut in 2010 after posting an uncharacteristic .321 batting average (despite a park-adjusted 111 OPS+).
Yet, even with the expanded rosters and “every team must be represented” rules, there have still been some players in the past who have gotten snubbed by fans or managers.
Below are six of the greatest players who never made an All-Star team despite enjoying productive careers and particularly elite individual seasons. Mind you, the All-Star Game wasn't created until 1933—so the likes of Ty Cobb and Cy Young are not eligible.
All statistics sourced from Baseball Reference.
Kirk Gibson is perhaps most famous for his pinch-hit home run and subsequent fist-pumping trot in the 1988 World Series as a Los Angeles Dodger. But Gibson also had a pretty terrific, long career as a hitter, owning a park-adjusted 123 OPS+ with 255 home runs and 284 stolen bases.
The left-handed hitter boasted six seasons of 20 home runs or more as well as seven seasons with an OPS+ of more than 130. Gibson’s finest regular season came in 1988, when he posted a .290 batting average, 148 OPS+, 25 home runs and 31 stolen bases. His incredible production earned him the MVP honors.
Yet Gibson never officially made it to the All-Star Game (he declined invitations in 1985 and 1988).
From 1993 to 2000, Tim Salmon was widely considered as one of the game’s best outfielders. Salmon kicked off his career in 1993 by posting a park-adjusted 143 OPS+ with 31 home runs. The elite rookie easily won Rookie of the Years honors.
During that eight-year span, Salmon owned a dominant 138 OPS+, but his most elite season came in 1995, when he hit the tune of a .330 batting average, 165 OPS+, 34 home runs and 14.2 percent walk rate.
Even though the outfielder suffered through a plethora of injuries, his lacking All-Stars honors is arguably more surprising than anyone else on this list.
Eric Chavez is still active and enjoying late-career success as a part-time player with the Arizona Diamondbacks. However, before injuries hampered what was once an extremely promising start to his career, Chavez was a borderline elite third baseman for about five or six seasons.
From 2000 to 2006, Chavez owned a park-adjusted 121 OPS+—including a 134 OPS+ season in 2004—and hit as many as 34 home runs in a given season. Despite four nominations in the MVP voting, Chavez never made the All-Star cut.
By comparison, Miguel Tejada, who played shortstop alongside Chavez during that period, was voted into the All-Star Game four times.
Tony Phillips is perhaps one of the most underappreciated players in the past four or five decades. Phillips was active for 18 seasons, logged time for six different franchises and played every position except pitcher and catcher.
He debuted in 1982, but the utility man’s best six seasons were from 1991 to 1996. During that span, Phillips owned a combined park-adjusted 121 OPS+ and averaged a 16.4 percent walk rate.
Arguably his finest overall season was in 1995, when he posted a 123 OPS+, 27 home runs, 13 stolen bases and a 17.5 percent walk rate. Phillips also placed 16th in the 1993 MVP vote, but still failed to make an All-Star birth in 1993, 1995 or in any of his finest six seasons.
Tom Candiotti was never considered an ace starting pitcher, but the knuckle-balling right-hander did accumulate 42.5 bWAR over the course of his 16-year career. Candiotti also enjoyed a lot of excellent individual seasons. For instance, in 1991, Candiotti combined for a 2.65 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 159 ERA+) and 2.29 K/BB. He was worth a whopping 7.0 bWAR that season.
Despite the lofty accolades, Candiotti never made a midsummer trip to the All-Star Game.
For a period of three seasons, from 2004 to 2006, Travis Hafner was one of the most feared hitters in the American League. Pronk averaged a park-adjusted 170 OPS+, 34 home runs and 14.3 percent walk rate during that span.
The designated hitter’s most productive season was in 2006, when Hafner swatted a league-leading 181 OPS+ with 42 home runs, 117 RBI and 17.7 percent walk rate. Injuries got the best of the slugger after 2006, slumping to an average 117 OPS+ and rarely playing a full season.
Regardless, it’s a complete mystery as to how, in those three prime seasons, Hafner got squeezed out of an All-Star appearance.