MILWAUKEE — He might not file a grievance any time soon — we’ll leave that to Cincinnati Reds’ pitcher Johnny Cueto — but Brewers pitcher Zack Greinke did make a fitting comparison when talking about his snub from next week’s All-Star game in Kansas City.
“It’s kind of like the BCS,” said Greinke, when asked about the controversy of All-Star voting, “no matter what you do, it’s going to be bad.”
Well, if baseball’s All-Star voting is like the BCS, then that makes Greinke Boise State, TCU, or any other team that’s been, at one time or another, royally screwed by the system.
As one of the unquestionable best pitchers in baseball this season, Greinke was, by all accounts, a shoe-in to return to the ballpark where his career began and become the Brewers second representative at this season’s Mid-Summer Classic. So when the All-Star voting was released on Sunday and didn’t include one of baseball’s best pitchers, the age-old argument of who deserves what and why centered, at least in part, on Greinke.
“I was (surprised),” Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun said on Monday. “I really was. I felt like he’s certainly pitched well enough to be an All-Star to this point. He’s been great for us.”
At its roots, All-Star voting is about as flawed as it gets. But that’s what happens when fan vote determines starters — it’s a discrepancy we’ve learned to accept over the years, no matter how ridiculous the results prove to be year after year (I’m looking at you, San Francisco).
But that’s not even the argument begging to be waged here. The true grievance with Greinke’s absense lies in the hands of the players and his side’s manager. In Greinke’s case, that means former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.
When asked about why he left Greinke and Cueto off of his All-Star selection list, La Russa simply explained that both were pitching on Sunday.
That, as we know, is factually incorrect, as the Brewers specifically made sure Greinke wasn’t pitching then, in order to improve his chances at being selected. And since then, La Russa has yet to correct his error or provided other, more logical reasoning. Instead, he’s only responded with hostility toward Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker’s questions of conspiracy and revenge for past divisional spats.
Both Greinke and manager Ron Roenicke took the high road when asked about the situation.
“I’m not miffed about it,” Roenicke said. “The only concern that I would have is that I heard a comment that he was pitching on Sunday. He’s not pitching Sunday. That was just a phone call. That’s the only thing with me. As far as picking a team, there is no way any manager has ever picked a team where he hasn’t had people mad at him. Every year, somebody is going to feel like he should’ve been in.”
Added Greinke: “I thought, depending on how many relievers made it, I might (make it). There are so many good starters this year. There’s half a dozen that have done just as good as the guys that made it. I can’t really complain. The starters this year, it’s got to be the best in the last 20 years, maybe 30 years. It’s pretty amazing. You can’t please everyone.”
And they should be applauded for their handling of the situation, especially considering the $50,000 on the table that would have gone to Greinke in a bonus, if he would have made the roster. That takes a great deal of character to let that slide.
Instead, by my count, at least four pitchers made the NL roster that shouldn’t have above Greinke (and for that matter, Cueto as well). One of them, Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn was voted in by the players, despite having allowed at least five earned runs in his last three starts and an ERA that is inching quickly toward 4.00. He’s also lost three of his last five decisions.
The other three were La Russa picks. Diamondbacks pitcher Wade Miley has had an impressive season as a rookie, and while he was Arizona’s only selection, an easy argument could be made for two of his teammates — first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and second baseman Aaron Hill — ahead of him. To this point, Miley’s ERA (2.87) and WHIP (1.064) are solid, but his strikeout numbers are just pedestrian and he hasn’t blown many people away with his stuff.
Then, there’s the two relievers that La Russa selected — San Diego’s Huston Street and Philadelphia’s Jonathan Papelbon. Street, as the Padres’ only selection, can be justified with a micro-sized WHIP (0.667) and ERA (1.29). But Papelbon has had one of the worst first halves of his career with an ERA above 3.00 as a closer. Sure, the reputation as a dynamite reliever is there, but an All-Star selection isn’t supposed to be a lifetime achievement award. Plus, even if All-Star voting was meant purely to get people to watch, why take so many relievers when starters clearly get the higher billing, especially in a season with such success from NL starting pitchers?
Meanwhile, Zack Greinke has proven to be one of baseball’s most valuable starters. His wins above replacement numbers, according to FanGraphs.com and BaseballReference.com mark him as so. He’s got the second lowest ERA (3.08) and WHIP (1.176) of his career, second only to his Cy Young-winning season. And his strikeout numbers and micro home runs per nine innings total make him one of the most exciting pitchers with the most dominant stuff in the game.
“When we found out he wasn’t going there were a lot of guys who were surprised that he wasn’t going,” Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo said. “We know what kind of stuff he has, he should have been there.”
Sure, there’s an argument made for plenty of other players to be there. There always is. Most notably and publicly, Cueto is one of those guys.
But considering Greinke is too humble to question his own exclusion, consider this his grievance. Because there’s little doubt that Zack Greinke, one of the best aces in baseball, should have been an All-Star.