Who got snubbed from All-Star Game?
First of all, no one should get too hot and bothered about White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko or any other worthy player failing to make either of the initial All-Star teams. As it turns out, Konerko made the American League squad on Thursday after winning the Final Man vote.
In the end, more than 10 percent of the 750 major leaguers are likely to be named All-Stars. By the time the players take the field in Phoenix on July 12 (FOX, 8 p.m. ET), just about everyone but Yuniesky Betancourt will cash an All-Star incentive.
That said, certain decisions are worse than others. Here are my four biggest snubs, along with my five least deserving All-Stars.
* Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: Blame the players. McCutchen’s .884 OPS is higher than two of the outfielders they selected, the Reds’ Jay Bruce and Astros’ Hunter Pence.
Blame manager Bruce Bochy. He chose the Mets’ Carlos Beltran, another outfielder with a lower OPS than McCutchen, when the fans already had elected Mets shortstop Jose Reyes as an NL starter.
Blame baseball, too. League officials worked in conjunction with Bochy to determine the five nominees in the Final Man vote. McCutchen got snubbed there, too, losing out to the Dodgers’ Andre Ethier, Rockies’ Todd Helton, Diamondbacks’ Ian Kennedy, Phillies’ Shane Victorino and — ahem — the Nationals’ Michael Morse.
McCutchen is the best and most exciting player on one of baseball’s most surprising teams.
Throw the Pirates a freakin’ bone.
* CC Sabathia, Yankees: To the victor belongs the spoils. Washington, after beating the Yankees in last year’s ALCS, chose his own lefty, C.J. Wilson, rather than Sabathia.
Sabathia is 15th in the AL with a 3.05 ERA, Wilson is 16th at 3.14. Sabathia, though, is second in fielding-independent pitching, a statistic that measures all things for which a pitcher is specifically responsible. Wilson is 14th.
Washington said on TBS that he could still pick Sabathia for the team later, but Sabathia is scheduled to pitch next Sunday, so even then his selection would only be cosmetic.
The AL players elected five starting pitchers ahead of both Sabathia and Wilson — the Red Sox’s Josh Beckett, Mariners’ Felix Hernandez, Tigers’ Justin Verlander, Rays’ James Shields and Angels’ Jered Weaver.
Washington chose two starters, Wilson and the Rays’ David Price.
* Tommy Hanson, Braves: Fourth in the NL with a 2.62 ERA and not an All-Star? Difficult to imagine, but Hanson missed time with right shoulder tendinitis and got overshadowed by two other Braves pitchers who were player selections, right-hander Jair Jurrjens and lefty reliever Jonny Venters.
The players voted five starting pitchers ahead of Hanson — Jurrjens, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and Phillies’ Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.
Some will quibble with Bochy for snubbing Hanson in favor of his own pitcher, right-hander Ryan Vogelsong. But Vogelsong’s comeback is one of the best stories of 2011, and as Bochy noted on TBS, he was only 7-1/3 innings short of ranking second in the league in ERA at the time of his selection.
Hanson will be added one way or another.
* Michael Pineda, Mariners; Danny Espinosa, Nationals: To me, the All-Star Game should showcase not only the biggest names but also the brightest young stars.
Pineda, sixth in the AL with a 2.65 ERA, certainly qualifies. So does Espinosa, whose 15 homers and .466 slugging percentage are the best of any NL second baseman, including All-Stars Rickie Weeks and Brandon Phillips.
Alas, Pineda would have been the third Mariners pitcher selected; right-hander Felix Hernandez and closer Brandon League were chosen by the players.
Bochy picked right-handed setup man Tyler Clippard as the Nationals’ representative in part because the NL needed a pitcher more than an infielder. Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez, Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro and Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki were the only selections for their respective teams.
FIVE LEAST DESERVING
* Derek Jeter, Yankees: His election as an AL starter amounts to a lifetime achievement award, not that there is anything wrong with that. The game is for the fans, and the idea of Jeter losing a spot to, say, the Tigers’ Jhonny Peralta, is preposterous.
Still, facts are facts: Jeter ranks eighth in OPS among AL players as a shortstop, and it’s not as if he leads the world in range. He deserves to be in Phoenix. He has to be in Phoenix. But his .659 OPS at short is more than 200 points lower than Peralta’s.
* Placido Polanco, Phillies: I love Polanco, but this isn’t close to his best season. His election as the NL starter was testament to the Phillies’ popularity and the lack of appealing choices among NL third basemen, particularly with the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval missing six weeks.
Polanco’s .689 OPS at third ranks only fifth in the NL behind the Padres’ Chase Headley, Cubs’ Aramis Ramirez, Diamondbacks’ Ryan Roberts and Braves’ Chipper Jones.
Headley is benefiting from a high batting average on balls in play, but he also plays his home games at pitcher-friendly Petco Park. Then again, the Padres merit only one selection, and closer Heath Bell is their most worthy choice.
* Jay Bruce, Reds: A selection that demonstrates the limited attention span of the players who vote.
Bruce had a monster May, no doubt persuading many of his peers. But he batted only .228 in April and .217 in June. Among NL outfielders, he ranks 15th — 15th! — in OPS.
* Russell Martin, Yankees: Yes, the players elected a catcher batting .223 — and .180 since May 5.
Martin deserves credit for getting more than most expected out of the Yankees’ starting pitchers, but he essentially had one good offensive month.
* Aaron Crow, Royals: Let’s see, Crow made the AL team and the Red Sox’s Jonathan Papelbon didn’t. Neither did the Yankees’ David Robertson. Nor the White Sox’s Sergio Santos. Nor the Rays’ Kyle Farnsworth.
Well, some Royal had to make it, and Crow actually is worthy. His 1.36 ERA ranks third among AL relievers. (Of course, Robertson is second at 1.08 with a significantly lower opponents’ OPS.)
Royals left fielder Alex Gordon was beaten in the players’ vote by the Red Sox’s Jacoby Ellsbury, White Sox’s Carlos Quentin and Rays’ Matt Joyce. Washington was set with outfielders. He needed a pitcher. End of story.