Notable snubs include Cueto, Greinke, Pierzynski
Talented crop of players means several deserving players get left out
It's odd math, but it seems to be true: The more players who are All-Stars, the more deserving candidates it seems are left out. Sixty-six Major Leaguers learned on Sunday that they will be heading to the All-Star Game in Kansas City next week, while dozens more feel they had legitimate cases for inclusion.
The American League 'snub' list includes the man fifth in the league in home runs and RBIs (Edwin Encarnacion) and the No. 4 hitter in batting average (Austin Jackson). From the NL, it includes the Nos. 4 and 5 pitchers in ERA (Ryan Vogelsong and Johnny Cueto) and the second-place saves man (Santiago Casilla).
Of course, for every player left out, another fine player is in. Fans vote for starters, players vote for reserves, and then the manager and the league office must make sure that every team is represented by at least one player. After all of that, only then does the manager have some discretion as to how to fill out the last remaining spots.
It's a complicated numbers game that ultimately always leads to hurt feelings, but it's also worth remembering that things can change in the course of the next eight days. Some of these snubs will be headed to Kansas City after all. Injuries will knock some players out, almost certainly starting with the Dodgers' Matt Kemp, opening doors for replacements to make their way to the festivities.
One area of particular contention this year was the construction of the National League pitching staff.
Among the starters not currently slated to head to Kansas City are the Reds' Cueto, the Brewers' Zack Greinke, the Giants' Vogelsong and the Pirates' James McDonald and A.J. Burnett. All of them have the sort of numbers that in many years would have sent them to the Midsummer Classic, but this year there just weren't enough spots.
Cueto and Greinke stand out because of the NL manager, Tony La Russa, whose Cardinals team had some issues with each of them in the past couple of years. Many around the Reds felt that Cueto's exclusion was personal after the right-hander was a key figure in a Cincinnati-St. Louis brawl in 2010.
"I think right now, there's a lot of starters that are really turning it loose," La Russa said. "If it's one year you've got more depth in the bullpen, you may take that extra reliever or two. I thought this year with what's happening with the starters, [we took more starters]."
Other NL candidates with fair gripes include Braves outfielder Martin Prado and St. Louis outfielder Matt Holliday. La Russa specifically identified Holliday as one of his toughest exclusions. Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie is having an excellent season, but the one Houston spot went to his double-play partner, second-year sensation Jose Altuve.
On the American League side, the closest exclusions came on the offensive side. Encarnacion is enjoying a career year, entering Sunday's game with 22 homers and 55 RBIs, but lost out in a tough competition for limited spots at designated hitter.
"I think Edwin is very much deserving," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "He has had an outstanding year for us. Really, when you look at the first six weeks of the season, he was our guy. Then Jose [Bautista] got on a run, and the combination of both ... I think they might be the top duo in all of baseball."
Jackson is also having a brilliant year, though he was likely hurt by a stint on the disabled list. Detroit manager Jim Leyland lobbied AL manager Ron Washington for the inclusion of reliever Joaquin Benoit, to no avail.
"I don't think about it," Benoit said. "It's always a long shot for setup guys and even for some closers. It depends on how good their starters are."
Benoit was one of several relievers in both leagues who fell just short. Colorado players lobbied for middle man Matt Belisle, while Angels lefty Scott Downs has been charged with one earned run all year. Neither roster contains a reliever who is not currently a closer.
But Washington said his toughest cut was White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who leads the league's backstops in RBIs and is second in home runs to Boston's Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who also didn't make the team.
Pierzynski and Saltalamacchia were also victims of a deep group that includes starter Mike Napoli and stars Joe Mauer and Matt Wieters.
"I feel bad for Pierzynski," Washington said. "The guy is having an outstanding year. He has been working with a very good pitching staff for many years. I consider him a winning player. He can beat you any way he can. I feel really bad for Pierzynski."
Ohio's two second basemen each had a case, but neither is an All-Star. Cleveland's Jason Kipnis and Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips both could have made it, based on their fine seasons, but each roster contains only two second basemen. Kipnis, in particular, is clearly the No. 3 second baseman in a league that took two to the All-Star Game -- the Yankees' Robinson Cano and Ian Kinsler of the Rangers.
"I'm a little sad that Jason is not going to have an opportunity to make it," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We made sure we told him that in our heart he's an All-Star. He has played as an All-Star. His numbers are there, but historically in this game so many guys have had the numbers, but you only have so many spots. In his case, having so many great second basemen in the American League really hurt him."
The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. (EDT)/6:30 p.m. (CDT). ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com.
Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.