07/05/09 6:41 PM ET
With All-Star selections come the snubs
As with every year, many talented names left off the roster
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Now, you may not think that a fanfare of 76 All-Stars would leave much room for omissions. But today's Major Leagues provide a cornucopia of worthy talent and production, more than can be accommodated on St. Louis' red carpet.For every congratulatory phone call, managers Charlie Manuel and Joe Maddon must also send their regrets. The AL's left-off list is led off by a pair of corner infielders who are two of the league's top three in the batting race; Toronto third baseman Scott Rolen (.331) and Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera (.324). As someone also lending his power (16 homers and 47 RBIs) to a division leader, Cabrera might have a better case. The former four-time NL All-Star (2004-07 with the Marlins) is second on the Tigers in both categories to Brandon Inge (19, 54), who at least was accorded a spot on the AL Final Vote ballot.
"I want to enjoy my time. I want to relax in Miami and be ready [for the second half]. It's OK, no big deal," said Cabrera, shrugging off his disappointment while deferring to the first basemen who did make the grade: Starter Mark Teixeira, and Justin Morneau and Kevin Youkilis. "They've got good numbers, excellent numbers. Morneau, I thought he was going to be in the starting numbers, because he deserves it. It's tough."All-Star recognition would also have been a fitting tribute for Rolen's high-level comeback from injuries, which had forced him to miss 223 games the past four seasons. The "comeback angle" was also lost on the electorate -- all of them: fans, peers and the two managers -- in the case of Russell Branyan, who after several aimless seasons has reinvented himself as Seattle's first baseman. Branyan had been with seven different teams the past five seasons, never playing more than 91 games in any of them. Now he is tied for second in the AL with 20 home runs while batting .295 -- 60 points above his career average. "It was hard to pay attention to every single player that was doing well," said Branyan, understandingly. "It would have been pretty cool to get a chance to go, but maybe some other year." At least, the Tigers (three All-Stars), Blue Jays and Mariners (two each) already have multiple representatives on the AL team. That qualifier does not apply to two of the AL's top run producers, teammates of Adam Jones, the only member of the Baltimore Orioles selected. Skipped over were Aubrey Huff, eighth in the AL with 55 RBIs, and Nick Markakis, who has driven in one fewer run but is hitting at a lustier pace (.294). The NL's most slighted position player, arguably, is Washington outfielder Adam Dunn, whose numbers (22 homers, 59 RBIs) are right there with those of Mark Reynolds, the Arizona infielder who is one of the NL's Final Vote candidates. But Dunn won't be in St. Louis with Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals' lone selection. Ryan Howard made it with 20 home runs and 60 RBIs. Another first baseman with 15 homers and 51 RBIs, the Cubs' Derrek Lee, did not. But, of course, Manuel has to live with Howard. "I didn't feel like I deserved it," Lee said. "There are some first basemen having great years. So I just didn't feel like I deserved it." Also missing from the NL squad are the league's top two base stealers, outfielders Michael Bourn (26) of the Astros and the Dodgers' Juan Pierre (22, and also hitting .321). Speed must no longer thrill as it once did. "I would have liked to [have] seen Juan Pierre on, for what he's done on the field and in the clubhouse, taking over the role of for Manny [Ramirez]," said All-Star Dodgers second baseman Orlando Hudson, alluding to Pierre's left-field performance during Ramirez's 50-game suspension for a violation of MLB's drug policy. The position player MIAs (Missing in Appreciation) are more conspicuous than their mound counterparts, because the overall pitching balance in both leagues has made it quite difficult to truly stand out. Each of the 10 Major League pitchers who have won nine-plus games is on the All-Star staffs, with the exception of Minnesota's Kevin Slowey, the 10-game winner who just went on the DL with a right wrist injury. Beyond that, a whole army of deserving hurlers got lost in the eight-win forest. In the NL, they include the Reds' Johnny Cueto (8-4, 2.69) and the Brewers' Yovani Gallardo (8-5, 2.75) -- who rank fourth and sixth in the league in ERA, respectively. "I would have loved to have seen him [make the team]," said Reds manager Dusty Baker of the 23-year-old Cueto. "But he has time. He's getting better, big time." "Of course, it was something I was thinking about," Gallardo confessed. "I felt like I threw the ball pretty well in the first half, but there's nothing you can do about that. Hopefully there's a lot more opportunities for me." Then there are also the Rockies' Aaron Cook (8-3) and the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright (8-5, 3.32). Their AL counterparts are topped by the Angels' Jered Weaver, who has won eight of 11 decisions and is in the top 10 with his ERA of 3.10, and also include the Rangers' Kevin Millwood (8-5, 2.80 -- fifth-best in the league) and 20-year-old Detroit rookie Rick Porcello (8-5, 3.90). "There are a lot of guys deserving around the league who don't make it," said Angels' All-Star reserve outfielder Torii Hunter. "In my eyes, Jered is an All-Star. He is going to carry us all the way to the playoffs and is very important to the team and to baseball." While it may be tough to make a case for Javier Vazquez, given his 5-7 record, the Braves righty has been one of the NL's most consistent pitchers, with a 3.05 ERA (eighth in the league) and 130 strikeouts, second to All-Star Tim Lincecum. Assessment of relievers' body of work has always been a subjective endeavor and therefore nitpicking, on behalf of those omitted, comes easy. For instance, why did players go for the Mets' Francisco Rodriguez (21 saves in 24 opportunities) and not for the Giants' Brian Wilson (21 of 25)? Or, why is Jonathan Papelbon (20 of 22) -- one of six Red Sox headed to St. Louis -- on the AL roster when it does not include the White Sox's Bobby Jenks (19 of 21)? "I was kind of surprised we got [only] one guy in," said lefty starter Mark Buehrle, the only Chicago player picked for the roster. "Obviously, every team needs to be represented. But we are second in the American League in pitching." Another overlooked AL closer is the Mariners' David Aardsma, who not only has converted 17 of 18 save opportunities but has done it with a 1.47 ERA. Huston Street, whose saves percentage (20 of 21) is the NL's second best to that of All-Star Heath Bell (23 of 24), was also snubbed. And it would not be difficult to make a case for Trevor Hoffman, who has a 1.93 ERA for the Brewers while extending his career saves record with 18 in 19 chances. "I couldn't be happier for Ryan [Braun] and Prince [Fielder]," said Hoffman, citing two teammates who were chosen. "It's always a tough decision to fill out a team of players from around the league. I would have been very blessed if I had the opportunity to go. It's not an easy process to choose a team. ... I obviously would have liked to have gone, but it isn't in the cards this year. It's an inexact science." It would appear that some people lacking an appreciation for historic significance missed an opportunity to unite the only two people with 500-plus saves. Busch Stadium's bullpens might have had to be shipped to Cooperstown after hosting both Hoffman and the Yankees' Mariano Rivera.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.