How’d He Get In When I Didn’t? Less Deserving All-Stars and Undeserved Snubs

Andrelton Simmons might be this year’s biggest remaining All-Star snub. (via Ian D’Andrea)

Every year around this time, there’s a lot of interest in the outcome of an All-Star selection process so Byzantine as to approach randomness: fans choose their favorite position players in a beauty contest, while players nominate pitchers and reserves, and the Commissioner’s Office backfills around a mixture of injuries and demurrals. For example, this year, the Giants declared that Buster Posey would skip the All-Star Game to receive treatment for an injury that he has been playing through. That didn’t help perhaps the biggest remaining snub of the 2018 All-Star selections, Andrelton Simmons — he’s in the American League, Posey in the NL.

Blake Snell might have laid claim to the biggest snub title, but Snell’s teammate Chris Archer led a social media campaign lobbying for him, and he was named a sub for Corey Kluber. Simmons, meanwhile, may have the best career stats of any active player who has never made it to the All-Star Game. Still, his is not a unique circumstance. Inevitably, every year, a passel of players will be named to their respective rosters despite having far inferior stats to other players who were left off. In the 85 years of Midsummer Classics, it has happened rather a lot, which makes for some interesting contrasts.

Angels and Dragons in the Outfield: Kosuke Fukudome (All-Star) and Tim Salmon (Not)

One of the more famous non-All-Stars is Tim Salmon. Salmon was one of the best players in Angels history, the sort of solid player who was good every year, but rarely broke through to stardom in a crowded field of mid-’90s outfield legends. For example, in 1995, his best year, the starting outfield for the American League team was Kenny Lofton, Kirby Puckett and Albert Belle; Ken Griffey Jr. was on the bench, along with Manny Ramirez, Paul O’Neill and Salmon’s teammate Jim Edmonds. (O’Neill is clearly the odd man out in that crew, but it was his third All-Star Game in five years; he was an established star.)

Somehow, crowding wasn’t an issue in 2008, when Kosuke Fukudome came over from Japan, where he had starred with the Chunichi Dragons. In his inaugural American campaign, he hit a solid but unspectacular .279/.383/.408 in the Friendly Confines, and was chosen as the starting center fielder by a group of Cubs fans who may have been driven out of their right minds by a century without a championship. (Fukudome’s competition was not as stiff as Salmon’s. The other starters were Matt Holliday and Ryan Braun, but the reserve outfielders included fellow unlikely All-Stars Corey Hart, Nate McLouth, and Ryan Ludwick, each of whom might deserve his own entry in this article.)

“Two-Thirds of the Earth’s Surface is Covered by Water, and the Other Third is Covered by Garry Maddox”: Brad Hawpe (All-Star) and Gary Maddox (Not)

Garry Maddox was that most unusual of creatures: a beloved Philadelphia athlete. Flashing a superlative glove and a decent enough bat, he was something like the Kevin Kiermaier of his day. (Kiermaier hasn’t made an All-Star team, either.) The eight-time Gold Glove winner finished fifth in the 1976 MVP vote, but it wasn’t enough to earn him a spot on the All-Star team in that or any other July.

Brad Hawpe had no such difficulty. A bat-first, bat-only outfielder whose offensive stats were heavily inflated by the thin air in Denver, Hawpe benefited further by playing on an equally thin 2009 Rockies team. He was the only player they sent that year. (It probably should have been Troy Tulowitzki. Starting the following year, it would be.) In their careers, Hawpe hit 124 home runs (23 in 2009), while Maddox hit 117. But Maddox’s career Ultimate Zone Rating was 87.3, while Hawpe’s was a shocking -123.6. That’s why Maddox was worth nearly 30 WAR more than Hawpe, 33.4 to 3.5. But for one glorious Midsummer moment, Hawpe nearly became immortal — if not for Carl Crawford jumping over the fence and bringing back a home run, Hawpe might have won the game for his league.

Shutting the Door: Heathcliff Slocumb (All-Star) and Gene Garber (Not)

Gene Garber was a closer in the old, pre-Dennis Eckersley mold: he came into the game with the lead and stayed in for a while. Over his 922 relief appearances, he averaged five outs per appearance. He had seven years of more than 100 innings pitched, and another four years above 80. In 1973, he twirled 150 innings; he was used as a pure swingman, making eight starts, with four complete games, in addition to 40 other appearances as a reliever. (His manager that year was none other than Jack McKeon, in his first managerial job. McKeon finally won a World Series 30 years later with the Marlins.)

Garber is 10th on the pre-1990 saves list, back from the old era of multi-inning closers. The top three men on the list, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter, are all in the Hall of Fame; all of the others made multiple All-Star teams, and eighth-place Hoyt Wilhelm is in the Hall, too. In fact, to find another non-All Star on the all-time saves list, you have to go all the way down to No. 18, Ron Perranoski.

Garber’s case is rather remarkable, considering that All-Star voters, managers, and coaches have never been shy about putting closers on their rosters. An example is the ticket they gave in 1995 to Phillies closer Heathcliff Slocumb. Philly fans remember that year for a midseason collapse: after spending most of the first three months in first place, the Phillies fell to second in July and remained behind the Braves for the rest of the year. Slocumb had had a decent enough year – 32 saves with a 2.89 ERA in 65.1 innings – as most of the core behind the pennant-winning 1993 team tried and failed to recapture the Phils’ former magic.

That offseason, the Phillies sold their newly minted All-Star closer to the Red Sox, receiving Glenn Murray, Ken Ryan and Lee Tinsley, neither of whom did much in his new uniform. The Red Sox got quite a lot more out of their investment in Slocumb, of course. Just 18 months later, they traded him to Seattle for Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek, who became team mainstays, and All-Stars.

Sluggers Who Crashed Before Turning 30: Allen Craig (All-Star) and Hal Trosky (Not) 

Cleveland’s history at first base has been a checkered one, to put it mildly. Jim Thome’s the GOAT, of course. Carlos Santana is probably third-best. And Hal Trosky is the second-greatest first baseman in Cleveland history. He was doubly unlucky: first, as his SABR bio indicates, “his career overlapped a triumvirate of Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg and Lou Gehrig, a triumvirate of future Hall of Fame first basemen who held a virtual lock on the position on the American League All Star teams of the mid-’30s.” Second, his career was virtually over by the time he turned 28. He suffered from migraines and only much later discovered the cause: ironically, as a dairy farmer, he had a severe allergy to milk.

Allen Craig never reached the same heights, but he was still one of the more successful eighth-round draft picks of his generation. (The back of the eighth round in the 2006 draft was pretty stacked: the 28th pick of the round, and 254th overall pick, was Dellin Betances. The 30th and last pick of the round was Craig.)

A pretty good shortstop at UC Berkeley, Craig struggled as a 25-year-old rookie but blossomed as a sophomore and was terrific for the next two years. From 2011-2013, he hit .312/.364/.500 while averaging 15 homers and 76 RBI in 109 games a year — that’s better than his totals over 141 games in college, when he hit 16 homers with 72 RBI and a .292/.368/.449. Playing mostly first, left and right, he didn’t add a lot of value in the field, but he hit for average and power and endeared himself to fans and coaches, so at the time he didn’t seem too out of place on the 2013 All-Star roster alongside Joey Votto, Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt, each of whom is again an All-Star this year. Sadly, Craig got injured in 2013, and was never the same.

Almost Ageless Wonders: Ryan Vogelsong (All-Star) and Tom Candiotti (Not) 

Tom Candiotti is a Hall of Famer — in bowling, but still. One of the last of the rubber-armed knucklers, Candiotti was worth about 25 total wins from 1988 to 1993, but he couldn’t get enough respect for the flutterball to get an All-Star nod. Candiotti definitely understood the ignominy the pitch brought with it; in Knuckleball, he’s quoted as saying: “It’s tough to label yourself a knuckleball pitcher, to tell yourself you’re not good enough to make it otherwise.”

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

Few players went further afield than Ryan Vogelsong in search of their first All-Star bid. A fifth-round draftee in 1998, Vogelsong had an utterly forgettable first decade in the majors: 315 innings pitched with a 5.86 ERA and a 4.91 FIP across parts of six seasons. Then he went to Japan, where he played for Hanshin and Orix and experienced some success, though not quite stardom. By 2010, as the Hanshin Tigers’ English news site recalls, “Though he desired to play on in Japan, no other team offered him a contract.”

He got a minor league deal with the Phillies, who released him midyear; he played out the rest of the string in the Angels organization. The next January, the Giants signed him, and called him up in April when Barry Zito got injured. And he was brilliant: a 6-1 record with a 2.17 ERA in 91.1 innings before becoming a 2011 NL All-Star, and finished the year with a 2.71 ERA and a 3.67 FIP.

The following year he was even better, sharpening his strikeout rate and cutting his walks. In the postseason, he was simply spectacular, allowing just three earned runs in 24.2 innings across four starts, capped by 5.2 scoreless in Game Three of the World Series as the Giants swept the Tigers. At that point, Vogelsong was in his late 30s; he twirled his last major league innings at the ripe old age of 39. The journeyman had made good.

Slightly Legendary: Blue Moon Odom (All-Star) and Jarrod Washburn (Not) 

Chuck Finley and Nolan Ryan are clearly the best pitchers to ever toe the rubber for the Angels, distantly followed by Jered Weaver and Frank Tanana. But after that it’s a little harder to choose. Jarrod Washburn is certainly somewhere in the top 10, and you could make a case to put him higher. Like Aaron Harang, Washburn never made an All-Star team despite a fourth-place finish in the Cy Young race in 2002. Then again, that isn’t terrible company to be in — Rick Porcello’s a Cy Young Award winner who’s never been an All-Star! In the end, Washburn was about as successful as any left-hander with a poor strikeout rate and high-80s fastball could have hoped to be during the height of the Steroid Era.

In most respects he had a far more successful career, if a less colorful one, than Blue Moon Odom. His SABR biographer notes that Odom, born in 1945 in Macon, went to the same high school as Little Richard and Otis Redding. Signed by the Athletics out of high school, he was assigned to play for the Birmingham Barons, in the city that still had Bull Connor as its sheriff.

He rode the shuttle between the majors and the minors for the next few years, but came up for good in the Year of the Pitcher, 1968, when he posted a 2.45 ERA, which even in that deadball context was still 15 percent better than league average. He made the All-Star team in both 1968 and 1969. But as a sinkerballer who relied on movement he could scarcely control, that was the high point of his career. “I don’t know where it’s going,” he once said. “It’s kind of hard for me to be a control pitcher because my ball moves so much.” He was eventually moved to the bullpen in 1974, and spent much of 1975 and 1976 in the minors. His last big league start was August 17, 1976, when he was just 31 years old. He went to the Mexican League for a couple of years after that, before finally hanging up his cleats.

Every year, there are more good players than could possibly fit on an All-Star roster, which is part of what makes it so remarkable that guys like Hawpe and Craig and Odom and Slocumb managed to make it. Sometimes it’s due to the rule requiring each team to have a representative, or an over-sentimental manager or fan base; sometimes it’s a fluke. But I think it adds to the game. Ryan Vogelsong cried tears of joy when his All-Star bid validated his decade and a half of toil in professional baseball. Getting to see those moments is a big part of what makes baseball so much fun.

Alex is a writer for The Hardball Times.
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Pepper Martin
5 years ago

Um, not sure how you can say that Nolan Ryan and Chuck Finley are “clearly the best pitchers to ever toe the rubber for the Angels” when Mark Langston and Jim Abbott exist.

Deacon Drakemember
5 years ago

Jarrod Washburn must have been magic…

The Deadhead
5 years ago

Dean Chance has to be in any discussion about greatest Angel pitchers. Now I can’t believe in anything this article says.

5 years ago
Reply to  The Deadhead

Dean Chance was a two-time All-Star who went 20-9 in 1964 with a 1.65 ERA and a 2.39 FIP. He needs to be in the discussion.

5 years ago

This is a stupid article. Why are you comparing players with similar career paths, most of whom aren’t even contemporaries of each other, when All-Star selections are meant to be based entirely on performance during the first half of an individual season?! As you mentioned, guys like Craig and Slocumb did indeed have All-Star stats for at least one season compared to their contemporaries, while guys like Salmon and Trosky simply did not. These aren’t real snubs!