Every year around this time, the talk amongst the fans, media, and bloggers centers on All-Star Rosters. No matter who is selected or left off, there are always those who are not going to be happy. Although one thing is for sure, it always makes for a great discussion.
With all this talk about Joey Votto, Omar Infante, Jered Weaver, etc I started thinking, who are the All-Time biggest snubs according to Win Shares Above Bench, and why?
To begin, here are the top 10 players who were never selected to an All-Star Game:
For 3 different seasons, Tim Salmon topped all American League Right Fielders, in addition to finishing 3rd in 4 different seasons. He clearly deserved at least one selection. Salmon’s best season came in a strike-shortened 1995. He was tops amongst AL Rightfielders by a large margin. Unfortunately, Puckett, Manny Ramirez, and Paul O’Neill were selected instead. Salmon’s second half OPS+ was 31 points higher than the first, although his first half total was still 153. Salmon was ROTY two seasons prior and his 1994 numbers were down somewhat, although no sophomore slump by any means.
The recently named Diamondbacks manager is best known for his clutch World Series HR’s off of Hall of Fame relievers. Popularity and name recognition is certainly not the reason for Gibson’s All-Star absence. 1984 through 1988 were his peak seasons while he was top 3 at his position in 4 of those years. For his career, Gibson’s OPS+ was 23 points higher in the second half, and slow starts may have affected some possible selections. Some of the players selected over Gibson during those seasons: Winfield, Baines, George Bell, and Reggie Jackson. The biggest snub has to have been his 1988 MVP season, his first year in the Senior Circuit. That year, Vince Coleman was selected as the LF starter, who was below average for the season.
Trosky may have been the unluckiest player on this list. He peaked from ’34 to ’40, but if you were an AL First Baseman and your last name wasn’t Gehrig, Foxx, Greenberg or McQuinn(!), then you didn’t have much of a chance. As a 21-year-old in 1934, Trosky finished 9th amongst all players in the AL with 16.3 WSAB. Sure enough, 3 of the 8 players ahead of him were First Basemen. In addition to poor timing, Trosky suffered from debilitating migraine headaches as well as an assortment of other injuries and incidents. He sat out in ’42 and ’43 due to the headaches and also as he waited to be drafted into the service. When he returned in ’44 after being declared unsuitable for the draft, he was past his prime.
Top 20 highest single season Win Shares Above Bench for players not selected to an All-Star Game:
Jim Thome (2002)
Thome finished the 2002 season with more WSAB than any other player in the AL. His first half included 26 HR’s and 172 OPS+. Like most All-Star Snubs, Thome was a victim of the rule which requires that each team is represented. The 100-loss Royals sent fellow 1B Mike Sweeney. Carlos Beltran was a possibility, but the 106-loss Devil Rays sent CF Randy Winn. In addition to the required selections, a total of five Shortstops made the team. While you can’t really argue the selection of Jason Giambi or Paul Konerko (each had a huge first half), there is really no excuse for Thome’s absence.
Dick Allen (1964)
Just as Thome in 2002, Allen led all NL players in WSAB in ’64. He won the ROTY for a team that gave up a late 6.5 game lead to St. Louis. Allen may have been a rookie, but the players and coaches should have taken notice to his first half, which included 16 HR’s and 165 OPS+ (fans did not vote in 1964). Taking over for Don Hoak in ’64, Allen was playing 3B for the first time. His inexperience at the position led to 41 errors, which was 13 more than any other Third Baseman. Both Ron Santo and Ken Boyer were deserving of selections at the hot corner, but that’s not to say that they deserved it over Allen. One thing is for sure, Smoky Burgess had no business being on the All-Star team in ’64.
Albert Belle (1998)
Dick Allen may not have been a fan favorite during his playing days, but the fans weren’t voting in ’64. Although the fans were voting in ’98, and it is no surprise that Albert Belle, one of the least popular players in his era, was not at the top of their ballots. Belle was one of the elite sluggers in the 90’s, but he was coming off of a down year in 1997 (after signing a $55M contract with Chicago). Belle’s first half numbers were good (18 HR, 120 OPS+), but they were nowhere near his second half numbers (31 HR, 228 OPS+). It can be argued that Belle deserved a selection over some of his former Indian teammates (Lofton, Vizquel, and Sandy Alomar), as the defending AL champs were probably “over-represented.” I’ll say this, if All-Star teams were formed at the end of the season, Belle’s omission would have been much more outrageous.
Finally, the top 10 lowest career Win Shares Above Bench for players with at least one All-Star Selection:
As you can see, most of this list includes Shortstops during an era in which offensive contribution was not as highly regarded as defense at the position. With that said, some of these picks are inexcusable. Billy Hunter was a rookie in 1953, and was one of four Shortstops for the AL. He was also not the only representative for the St. Louis Browns, as Satchel Paige was also on the roster. Hunter hit just 1 HR and his OPS+ was a brave 37. He did lead all AL Shortstops in Fielding WSAB, but no amount of defense can make up for that offensive production.
I think we can all agree that the All-Star Selection process is not perfect and it always creates excellent debates. And as we all know, any reason to talk about baseball is a good reason.