MLB caught a major break when the San Francisco Brandons -- Crawford and Belt -- came up just short in N.L. voting, finishing second at their respective positions. Had one of them won and become the most undeserving All-Star ever, it would have been a black eye for baseball's system of All-Star selection. An additional gold star for the excited and excitable San Francisco Giants fan base, perhaps, but a black eye for the sport in general.
As it is, baseball can surely live with Pablo Sandoval at third base, Buster Posey at catcher and Melky Cabrera in the outfield, three Giants with a case (though in Sandoval's case, it's a pretty weak one). MVP candidate David Wright plus deserving Carlos Ruiz, Yadier Molina and Ryan Braun all made the N.L. team as reserves, so Giants fans didn't do real damage while showing amazing support for their guys.
That said, there were some injustices, as usual, and also seemingly more complaints about the selections this year than ever before. On one hand, that's a good thing because it shows that players and organizations have interest in the game (as opposed to last year when so many stars begged out in the year before "Mandatory Participation'' rules were installed this year). On the other hand, the gripes were a bit over the top in a couple cases.
Here, I'll try to sort out some of the controversies (i.e. provide my own take) on a few of the issues ...
1. N.L. manager Tony La Russa doesn't hold a grudge against the Reds. And even if he does, I can't say I entirely blame him.
Johnny Cueto was deserving of making the team based on his first half, but if Reds manager Dusty Baker is correct that La Russa didn't pick Cueto or second baseman Brandon Phillips because those two players played significant roles in a noted brawl between the Cardinals and Reds, well, so be it. Picking All-Stars is one of the benefits of winning the World Series.
If La Russa recalls that Cueto didn't just play a significant role in the brawl (as Baker characterized it), but actually kicked ex-Cardinals catcher Jason LaRue in the head, causing LaRue to have a concussion and to have to retire, well maybe Cueto should think twice before behaving that way. La Russa didn't suggest he was paying Cueto back for LaRue, nor would I expect him to. But it's a hard thing to forget.
To summarize, Cueto has won no World Series and caused one Cardinals concussion. What should he expect?
Apparently, he expects to be on the team. I see on the Internet where Cueto might challenge his non-selection, citing the fact La Russa had Cueto's pitching schedule wrong in explaining his omission. Here's my take: Suck it up, Johnny. Try to win a title this year, then wait 'for Dusty to take you next year.
Beyond all that, La Russa did pick Reds outfielder Jay Bruce over his own (or technically, his former) outfielder Matt Holliday. In addition, there are three Reds on the team, a fair number. Plus, La Russa isn't the one responsible for taking Lance Lynn over Cueto and Zack Greinke.
The players were the ones who voted for Lynn, though I suspect they checked his box before one or more of his recent messy starts. That comes under the heading: Stuff happens.
Some folks just accept stuff better than others. Others throw tantrums.
2. If anyone should be upset, it is Greinke.
Greinke managed to win nine games for the struggling Brewers, has a 1.59 ERA if you take out his two defeats against nine wins and has never done anything to La Russa.
In those two defeats, Greinke gave up nearly half his runs (15 of 32). Greinke has been nothing short of brilliant. And he never caused the concussion of a St. Louis Cardinals player.
3. Jed Lowrie and Michael Bourn also should have made the N.L. team.
Bourn will get a chance to win the 35th man vote, though it's an infinitesimal chance like the guy inDumb and Dumber (in the voting he's going up against all-time great Braves teammate Chipper Jones and well-publicized 19-year-old rookie Bryce Harper, who himself said he'd vote for Jones).
4. If La Russa made another mistake, it was in taking too many relievers.
We didn't need a third Phillie, not the way they're playing, so he should have taken Greinke (or Bourn or Lowrie, or for that matter Cueto) over Papelbon.
5. I don't blame A.L. manager Ron Washington for taking three Rangers and an ex-Ranger as his four selections.
Again, that's a perk of making it to the World Series.
But we also don't need any congratulations sent out to Wash for how magnanimous he was in picking Wilson, which I saw today on twitter. (Again, that's three Rangers and one ex-Ranger!)
Washington picked his guys Matt Harrison, Joe Nathan and Elvis Andrus, who all had solid cases, and his ex-guy C.J. Wilson, who also has a decent case. With Yu Darvish on the 35th-man ballot, the Rangers, an obviously very strong team, have an excellent chance to be over-represented with eight players.
I would have liked to have seen Jason Kipnis, Brett Lawrie, Josh Willingham, Jake Peavy and A.J. Pierzynski make the team. But Wash was within his rights to go for all Texas and ex-Texas. All the guys he picked are having All-Star worthy seasons, as are many he omitted.
But unlike Cueto, not one of them has suggested he might lodge a complaint. Good for them.