Don't blame the fans for any MLB All-Star Game roster disappointments.
Democracy finally worked when selecting this year's starters. The public came to the rescue during the final days to ensure Justin Smoak, Jose Ramirez and Corey Dickerson starting spots over bigger household names. Marcell Ozuna beat out Miami Marlins teammate Giancarlo Stanton and others to justifiably represent the exhibition's hosting city.
At worst, onlookers can split hairs about a reserve warranting starting billing more than the winner, but it's an insignificant quibble when both guys received deserved All-Star bids anyway.
When a player is retired, and in some grand cases up for Hall of Fame consideration, researchers will cite his All-Star visits. History, however, doesn't remember who starts, especially since the reserves often work in higher-leverage moments.
This isn't to say the American League and National League rosters are perfect. That's a nearly impossible task, and there are never enough spots to include every credible candidate. At least the game doesn't count anymore.
Some players were "snubbed." Others were simply blocked by other studs. Let's take a look at the Midsummer Classic rosters, courtesy of Fox Sports: MLB, and highlight some first-half stars left out of Sunday's reveal.
AL Snubs: C Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers; 1B Logan Morrison, Tampa Bay Rays; 2B Jed Lowrie, Oakland Athletics; OF Steven Souza Jr., Tampa Bay Rays; RP Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays; RP Chris Devenski, Houston Astros; Tommy Kahnle, Chicago White Sox; RP Blake Parker, Los Angeles Angels
NL Snubs: C Yasmani Grandal, Los Angeles Dodgers; 1B Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves; 1B Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs; 3B Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals; 3B Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers; 3B Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs; SP Alex Wood, Los Angeles Dodgers; RP Felipe Rivero, Pittsburgh Pirates
Logan Morrison, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays
A trio of late-blooming American League first basemen, Justin Smoak, Yonder Alonso and Logan Morrsion, warranted inclusion. Smoak beating out Eric Hosmer and Miguel Cabrera for the starting spot should have created room for all three, but Morrison somehow missed the cut.
Smoak crushing 10 home runs in June padded a resume the voters could not overlook. Alonso had the added security blanket of being the Oakland Athletics' lone representative. Despite leading all AL first basemen in homers (24) and WAR (2.8), Morrison will not celebrate his breakout year with his fellow post-hype success stories.
His .256 batting average lags behind his peers, but the Tampa Bay Rays lefty has notched a sterling .945 OPS with a 43.8 hard-hit percentage. He entered Sunday with the same 146 weighted runs created plus (wRC+) as rookie sensation Cody Bellinger.
Morrison at least has another opportunity to sneak onto the roster by winning the AL's final vote.
Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals
The National League's bench was expected to be littered with third basemen. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rendon and Justin Turner all pined for reserve spots behind Nolan Arenado. Jake Lamb, meanwhile, seemed destined for a second straight tough-luck exclusion.
In a stunning turn, the Arizona Diamondbacks star is the NL's only insurance at the hot corner.
This isn't to discredit his first half. He entered Sunday hitting .282/.377/.544 with 18 homers and 2.2 WAR. He just happens to be the fifth-best player at a loaded position. Three guys above him instead must joust for the final spot when the fans get to save one head-scratching exclusion.
Any of the three could occupy this real estate. Bryant is a reigning MVP still flourishing. Turner entered Sunday with a .388 batting average and the highest WAR of the trio despite playing just 58 games.
Rendon, however, began Sunday night's game batting .298/.399/.555 with more walks (44) than strikeouts (43). With 16 home runs for the first-place Washington Nationals, he's five away from matching his career high.
Following a middling start, he batted .308/.422/.615 in May and .300/.414/.638 in June. Three of his teammates made the NL's starting lineup, but Rendon is currently Washington's top position player and a real NL MVP candidate.
American League Relief Pitchers
Starting pitchers shockingly compose nine of 12 American League pitching spots in a game where everyone works in shorter spurts.
If Tommy Kahnle and Blake Parker pitched in the ninth inning, at least one may be going to Miami. As of Sunday, they respectively ranked third and fourth in fielding independent pitching (FIP) among all qualified relievers behind All-Star closers Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen. Ervin Santana is going to Miami with a 4.71 FIP.
They're not closers, but they're indispensable relief aces. Parker discussed the mystique of closing to FanGraphs' David Laurila.
"They say the last three outs are the hardest to get," Parker said. "But while they may be the toughest mentally, sometimes you get the back end of the order in the ninth. I'm not saying those guys can't hit, but there is something to getting those crucial outs in the seventh and eighth."
Maybe the process was merely biased against all relievers. Roberto Osuna seemed like a shoo-in with a 2.25 ERA, 44 strikeouts and three walks as the Toronto Blue Jays' closer. Perhaps he will replace Dallas Keuchel, who made the squad despite currently residing on the disabled list.
No missing name is more jarring than Chris Devenski, a superb long reliever ranked fourth in WAR among relievers after Kimbrel, Jansen and Andrew Miller. The swingman has notched a 2.15 ERA over 50.1 innings, more than anyone has pitched outside the rotation.
MLB.com's Richard Justice made the easy case for Devenski hours before ESPN's selection show:
Per MLB.com's Brian McTaggart, Keuchel lamented Houston Astros teammates Devenski, Will Harris and Marwin Gonzalez not joining him on the All-Star staff:
Amid a scroll of snubbed relievers, Dellin Betances got the call despite issuing 21 walks over 26 innings. Perhaps the decision was made before he yielded four runs on Saturday night, which just goes to show how the All-Star Game is merely a snapshot of who had the hottest start to a long season.
Note: All advanced stats, current as of Sunday, courtesy of FanGraphs.