Rodney Dangerfield's All-Stars
Since more than a few journeymen and subpar players have managed to parlay a good half season or being the least awful member of a terrible team into a spot on the All-Star roster (even the 1962 Mets and 2003 Tigers were represented), it can be hard to believe that some of baseball's better and more consistent performers never enjoyed that recognition.
There are a number of reasons why an above-average player might not be picked. Those who are stuck on losing or small-market teams may get overlooked, while some deserving candidates might get left out because of the need to choose at least one representative per team. In some cases, a glut of talent at certain positions means normally deserving players end up being neglected. Anyone who tends to start slowly and finish with a strong second half will do poorly in All-Star balloting.
Give me this roster of All-Star rejects, and I would be quite happy to have any or all of them on my team. Everyone listed has had at least five chances to make an All-Star roster.
Catcher: The nature of the position means a fair number of receivers make the cut with fewer games played and modest offensive numbers as compared to other All-Stars. Hank Foiles (1957), Don Leppert (1962), Jerry Moses (1970), Steve Swisher (1976) and Dave Engle (1984) are among the more forgettable All-Star picks.
When his defense, intensity and long record as a winner is considered, why wasn't Rick Dempsey ever chosen? A .233 lifetime average doesn't reveal Dempsey's full value to the Orioles in the 1970s and 1980s.
First base: With five seasons of 31 to 34 home runs combined with 104 to 112 RBI, how did Eric Karros completely avoid the All-Star roster? Playing a position that is normally loaded with talent is one reason, but Karros put up his numbers in Dodger Stadium, where pitchers tend to have the advantage.
Indians star Hal Trosky was even more deserving than Karros, but he was in the same league with Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx and Hank Greenberg. Monster seasons in 1934 (206 hits, 45 2B, 9 3B, 35 HR, 142 RBI, .330) and 1936 (216 hits, 45 2B and 9 3B again, 42 HR and a major league-best 162 RBI plus a .343 average) along with highly productive campaigns from 1937 to 1939 somehow weren't enough for Trosky to crack the All-Star roster.
Second base: Jim Gantner had to compete with Willie Randolph, Lou Whitaker and Bobby Grich during his career. The Wisconsin native's long career (1976-91) with the small-market Brewers also meant Gantner was little noticed outside of Milwaukee.
"Gumby" was a true blue-collar player - solid defensively at second and third, a tough strikeout who had 1696 career hits (.274 lifetime) and reasonably quick on the bases. His fellow Cheeseheads (a popular nickname for Wisconsin natives) still revere the left-handed hitting Gantner.
Honorable mention: Rennie Stennett hit .336 in 1977 and had All-Star caliber numbers in 1974 and 1975.
Shortstop: Like catchers, weak hitters sometimes sneak onto the All-Star roster. While he's no A-Rod, Greg Gagne was solid defensively and had enough gap power to hit a fair number of doubles and reach double digits in home runs.
Third base: Clete Boyer's .242 lifetime average may look mediocre today, but right-handed hitters are at a disadvantage in Yankee Stadium. Boyer also played in the pitching-dominated 1960s, and his superb defense was overshadowed by Brooks Robinson.
Doug Rader was also snubbed despite his five Gold Gloves and run production in the offensive death trap known as the Astrodome. Any team looking for a dependable third baseman could do far worse than either Boyer or Rader. Honorable mention: Three-time National League stolen base leader (1934, 1935, 1937) Billy Werber, still alive at age 99 and Joe Randa.
Outfield: Some fans complain that sluggers get more publicity and All-Star consideration than players with less power but better all-around skills. Tell that to Tim Salmon. The Angels right fielder had the whole package as a hitter. Any of these five seasons were surely All-Star caliber performances, but Salmon never got the call.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
1993 515 93 146 35 1 31 95 82 135 .283 .387 .536 .923
1995 537 111 177 34 3 34 105 91 111 .330 .432 .594 1.026
1996 581 90 166 27 4 30 98 93 125 .286 .388 .501 .889
1997 582 95 172 28 1 33 129 95 142 .296 .401 .517 .918
2000 568 108 165 36 2 34 97 104 139 .290 .406 .540 .946
There is always plenty of competition for the corner outfield slots, but how Salmon's all-around skills and stats were repeatedly ignored is a mystery. Conspiracy theories, anyone?
Even baseball addicts often assume that Kirk Gibson
was an All-Star, but it never happened.
While the run production in his 1988 MVP season with Dodgers (25 HR, 76 RBI, .293) may have been mediocre by All-Star standards, Gibson's 31 steals in 35 attempts (.886) and a .381 on-base percentage were solid. There were two other seasons where Gibson merited serious consideration.
The Detroit-area native hit .282 with 27 HR, 91 RBI and 29 steals for his hometown Tigers in 1984 and followed that up with a 29/97/.287 campaign in 1985 which included 30 steals in 34 attempts (.882).
On a team that automatically sent Pete Rose
, Johnny Bench
, Tony Perez
and (beginning in 1972) Joe Morgan
to the All-Star Game, it's easy to see why Bobby Tolan
In 1969, Tolan came through 194 hits, 104 runs scored, a .305 average, 21 homers, 93 RBI and 26 steals in his first season in Cincinnati. He followed that up by hitting a career-best .316 with 34 doubles, 16 HR, 80 RBI and a league-leading 57 SB. After missing all of 1971 with an injury, Tolan came through with 82 RBI and 42 steals in 1972.
: With seasons of 20-11, 16-6 and 19-13, what does a guy have to do to get some respect? Paul Splittorff
might be asking that question, as those performances never got the Royals lefty (1970-84) an All-Star invitation. The control specialist finished with a 166-143 career record.
Left-handed, good control, not many strikeouts, small market - it sounds like Splittorff, but that description also applies to Mike Caldwell
. Seasons of 14-5 (1974), 22-9 (1978), 16-6 (1979) and 17-13 (1982) didn't cost Caldwell any time off during the All-Star break.
didn't blow hitters away, but the Cardinals righty was snubbed in 1975 (15-10, 2.86), 1977 (20-7) and 1982 (15-9). The former minor league third baseman hit .213 lifetime. With more than a third of his 190 career hits going for extra bases (45 doubles, eight triples, 12 home runs), Forsch didn't try to slap singles.
Seasons of 16, 17 and 18 wins from 1993 to 1997 weren't enough to push Alex Fernandez
onto an All-Star roster. Honorable mention: John Denny
, Storm Davis
Deserved another chance
: Tigers outfielder Gee Walker
hit .335 with career-best 213 hits and 113 RBI in 1937, but he missed his only All-Star opportunity due to an injury. Walker's numbers in 1936 and from 1938 to 1940 were worthy of All-Star consideration, but he wasn't chosen.
While the annual All-Star Game is often described as a contest between baseball's best players, there are exceptions to that statement. Would you rather have former All-Stars Max West
, Frank Zak
or Mike Hegan
on your team instead of Salmon, Gibson or Trosky?