Whether it’s their first time being selected or their 10th trip to the Midsummer Classic, it’s always an honor for MLB players to be chosen for the All-Star Game. But let’s keep in mind that it’s the All-“Star” Game, not the “pretty good player” game.
While most players who make the All-Star team are deserving of their spot, there are always a few players who slip through the cracks thanks to fan voting or technicalities who probably aren’t as deserving as their peers who truly are having an outstanding season.
Not to disparage anyone who made the team, but here are a few questionable selections who were selected to the 2021 All-Star Game but weren’t necessarily deserving of the honor.
Obviously, Mike Trout is the best player in the game, which is why the fans voted him to be a starter. But that doesn’t mean he’s deserving of a spot this season.
For starters, he hasn’t played in over a month and isn’t likely to be activated before the All-Star Game anyway. Plus, the guy has played in just 36 games this season, which is less than half of his team’s games. Granted, he was hitting .333 with an OPS of 1.090 before he went to the IL. But fans have to know that he hasn’t actually been playing.
It's nice to know that Nolan Arenado is popular in his new home of St. Louis, but he’s not having an All-Star-caliber season.
Even if you expected a reasonable decline now that he’s not playing half of his games at Coors Field, Arenado’s numbers are down considerably based on his track record. His average is 30 points below his career average. Frankly, it’s criminal that anyone other than Kris Bryant is starting at third base for the National League.
There’s also a strong argument that Justin Turner, Manny Machado, and Austin Riley were more deserving of the spot.
Yes, Teoscar Hernandez has been huge for Toronto this year, but that doesn’t make him an All-Star.
He has just 11 home runs and a modest OPS of .809. Is that really at an All-Star level, much less a starter in an All-Star Game? Any of the reserve outfielders on the American League would have been more deserving of a spot in the starting lineup.
Seattle’s Mitch Haniger and Oakland’s Mark Canha could also make the argument that they’ve had a more worthy campaign than Hernandez.
While we know that the All-Star Game is a popularity contest, there’s no way that Freddie Freeman should be starting over Max Muncy. There have been only a few brief stretches this season in which Freeman has performed at his optimal level.
Granted, pickings are a little slim at first base in the NL this year. But C.J. Cron has had a nice year and San Francisco’s Brandon Belt would be more deserving than Freeman if he hadn’t missed time due to injury.
If nothing else, Muncy should be starting and Freeman should be the backup.
Is Mike Zunino really the top choice on the Rays? In fairness, it’s not been a good year for catchers in the AL outside of Salvador. To his credit, Zunino has smashed 18 home runs this season. But the guy is also hitting .200. How does that qualify him as an All-Star?
Even Gary Sanchez has a better average than that. Oakland’s Sean Murphy wouldn’t have been a bad choice either. Also, Eric Haase could have been Detroit’s token selection rather than settling for Zunino, who could easily be hitting below the Mendoza Line at the break.
Technically, J.T. Realmuto has the best skillset of any catcher in the game. But the numbers just haven’t been there for him this year.
Realmuto had a strong April, but it’s been all downhill since then. This is an unfortunate case of his reputation being better than his production. Buster Posey got the nod as the starter, which is well-deserved. But the Dodgers' Will Smith, Brewers' Omar Narvaez, and the Cubs' Willson Contreras should have been picked over Realmuto. The same is true of Arizona’s Carson Kelly before he got hurt in June.
While Yusei Kikuchi has had a nice season, it straddles the line between a really good player and an All-Star. He’s mostly on the team because the Mariners needed a representative. However, Mitch Haniger would have been the better pick for Seattle’s token All-Star.
Instead of Kikuchi, one could argue that Sean Manaea and Chris Bassitt or Toronto’s Robbie Ray are all more deserving of the spot.
This is another case of reputation being more valuable than production.
Compared to the average player, Mookie Betts is better, but there’s no way that he’s played like an All-Star this season. His batting average is literally 50 points below his career average. The only thing that Betts has going for him is that he’s played in 72 games this year whereas some more deserving players have posted much better numbers but missed too much time due to injury, most notably Ketel Marte of the Diamondbacks, Steven Duggar of the Giants, Bryce Harper of the Phillies, and even Starling Marte of the Marlins.
Is Gregory Soto really the best the Tigers could do? One could argue that former top overall draft pick Casey Mize would have been a better selection to represent Detroit based on the way he’s pitched lately. That’s not to disparage Soto, who has a good arm and is having a fine season. But he has just six saves and his strikeout rate isn’t that impressive.
If all things were equal, relievers like Lou Trivino, Emmanuel Clase, and Kendall Graveman would have been selected over Soto.
With Juan Soto, the situation is almost identical to Betts. Obviously, fans want to see these players in the Midsummer Classic, but they haven’t exactly earned a spot based on their performance this year.
Soto only came alive during the second half of June, and while his numbers are good, there are close to half a dozen outfielders in the National League who have had a more productive year but don’t have Soto’s reputation.
Outside of winning nine games, there isn’t anything that makes Nathan Eovaldi an obvious All-Star candidate. Just think about how many starting pitchers could have at least nine wins this year if they had Boston’s lineup scoring runs for them. That’s not to say that Eovaldi hasn’t had one of his best seasons. But what about pitchers like Manaea, Bassitt, and Ray, or even relievers like Trivino, Clase, and Graveman? They’ve all had better seasons to this point than Eovaldi.
Obviously, the Diamondbacks need at least one All-Star, but why not Marte? Even if he’s missed a lot of time due to injury, he’s played at a high level whenever he’s been healthy. Meanwhile, Escobar has hit 18 home runs, but that’s it.
It’s hard to imagine a guy hitting 18 home runs in half a season and still having an OPS of just .766. As we mentioned with Arenado, Justin Turner, Manny Machado, and Austin Riley would have all been better choices. Even Patrick Wisdom of the Cubs would have been a better choice for what he’s done in a short period of time.
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