July 14, 2022 3 min read
We are coming up on one of my favorite sporting events of the year, Major League Baseball’s Midsummer Classic. I’ve been to 19 MLB All Star Games, so I think I speak from experience. As an LA native who grew up at Dodger Stadium, I’m excited to see this gem on full display. I also spent 25 years as a sports broadcaster doing exactly what the rest of the baseball-loving world has been doing this week: debating who is deserving of selection and who isn’t.
Let me start by a commending a move made by commissioner Rob Manfred. Manfred doesn’t get much right, but he nailed it with this one. Manfred named Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera to the NL and AL teams respectively. Is Albert Pujols an All-Star caliber first baseman this year? He’s not even close. Likewise, Cabrera is far from the player he once was, but that matters not. Manfred has been granted the ability to name one player of historical significance to each roster. The Pujols/Cabrera inclusion is good for the game and good for fans like me who appreciate the chance to applaud these great athletes before they ride off into the sunset.
Now we go from a no-brainer to no sense. Sports fans will fill a good week and a half (from the time of the selection show, through and including the game itself) talking about the snubs. That list can be lengthy and a few usually stand out above the rest. This year is no exception. Here are my notable omissions: in the American League, Ty France seems to be on everyone’s list. He nearly got voted in, but was edged out by Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. As noted by Sporting News, France leads all American League first basemen with an .851 OPS and .310 batting average. He is second in Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR), trailing only the White Sox's Jose Abreu. Overall, France owns a .310/.384/.467 slash line with 10 dingers, a 6.5% walk rate and a 14.2% strikeout rate. He feels like a clear miss.
Austin Riley is arguably at the top of the snub list in the National League. As noted by USA Today, the Braves’ third baseman “already has a Silver Slugger award, top-10 MVP finish and World Series ring to his credit. His .907 OPS is fourth in the NL, his 23 homers as much as any NL All-Star not named Kyle Schwarber.”
Nationals first baseman Josh Bell is deserving of a trip to LA next week, but he will not be there despite the fact that his .304 average is fifth in the NL, paired with a .386 OBP and 33 extra-base hits.
The host team was not immune from the snubbing. Dodgers catcher Will Smithhas been one of the best hitting catchers in baseball this season. https://dodgerblue.com/dave-roberts-managers-and-players-fear-will-smith-dodgers/2022/07/09/. His 128 wRC+ (weighted Runs Created Plus) is the second-best in the National League for a qualified catcher. His .799 OPS is second amongst catchers, and he has driven in more runs (42) than any catcher in baseball. Unfortunately, on a team that arguably has seven All-Star caliber players, four were named to the NL team (Kershaw, Turner, Betts and Gonsolin), while Smith, Freddie Freeman and Julio Urias were left off.
So, we debate our way into the midway point of the season and get set for a game that has a little something at stake (there used to be nothing at stake, but that’s a whole other topic of debate). I’ll wrap this up with a little trivia: There are two days, just two, every year in which none of the four major sports is playing a game – the day before and the day after the MLB All-Star game. Throw that one at your friends.
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