Major League Baseball has the most competitive and, in my opinion, by far has the best All-Star Game. Sure, there are things that could make it better. One aspect that some dislike about the current All-Star game set-up is that every team has to be represented in the Midsummer Classic.
However, most years even the worst of teams have a worthy enough player. This year, the Royals had two – wHIT Merrifield, who ended the first half with hits in 15 of his last 16 games, which included a 13-game hitting streak. In 91 games this season, he is hitting slashing .307/.378/.434. His 30 doubles rank third him in the AL, and best among all second baseman. He has 5 HR, well off his career-high pace of last year (19), 30 RBI, 42 runs and 17 stolen bases, which ranks fourth in the AL, this season. His 2.8 WAR easily leads the team. Mike Moustakas would have also been a better choice. He has been OK at the plate, slashing .249/.306/.466, thanks to an 0-14 to end the first half, but with 18 HR, 58 RBI, he is on pace a 30/100 season. Instead, it was Salvador Perez – his sixth straight All-Star appearance, which now ranks second in franchise history behind George Brett (13). Not only were wHIT and Moose more deserving, Perez wasn’t. Hitting just .221/.259/.394 and riding a modest 5-game hitting streak, Perez may be heating up, as he hit two HR last week, and has 13 HR, 41 RBI at the break. His 0.7 WAR is the lowest mark in his career. However, it does say something that he was voted in by his peers. Defensively, he is among the best catchers in the game still
Perez making the All-Star game makes us think of others, such as Mark Redman and Ken Harvey that were almost seemingly laughable selections.
Since we are celebrating the franchise’s 50th Anniversary this season, lets revisit some of the “worst” Royals All-Star selection’s.
1969: Ellie Rodriguez: The rookie catcher was the Royals first All-Star rep, and finished the year hitting .236/.333/.296 – yes a .296 SLUG. His defense wasn’t great either, where he displayed a barely better than average 0.7 dWAR. His season splits were quite drastic, as he hit .260/.342/.339 with both of his homeruns, 14 of his 20 RBI and all three of his stolen bases in the first half (61 games), slashing .189/.318/.211 in the second half.
He did not appear in the game, and was gone by 1971 (Brewers). He was an All-Star again in 1972 for the Twins, where he hit a much-more deserving .285/.382/.352 and was consistent in both halves of the season.
As for the catchers around the league, the position was trash outside of starter Bill Freehan (.250/.337/.409, 13 HR, 31 RBI at the break), his sixth straight appearance in a stretch of 10 consecutive (11 overall), and Duke Sims (.266/.423/.467, 9 HR, 22 RBI, 43 BB at the break) – who wasn’t even an All-Star. John Roseboro of the Twins was the other AL catcher, and he wasn’t doing much more at the break (.276/.355/.341, 2 HR, 20 RBI with more walks (27) than strikeouts (18) and 4 SB), so an argument could be made that he was “deserving” due to the nature of the position. That said, he wasn’t even one of the best 10 players on the Royals that year – and his poor second half certainly didn’t help. Lou Pinella, who ended up winning Rookie of the Year that year, would have been a much better selection, hitting 302/.336/.471 with 10 HR in the first half, but the position was loaded, so it was a harder group to crack. Wally Bunker, who was 5-6 with a 3.30 ERA, 1.151 WHIP and 2 saves in 20 games (16 stars) and another starter who had tough luck despite good stats was Roger Nelson (6-8, 3.00, 1.227 WHIP, 7 CG and 1 shutout). Both would have been good selections. Additionally, Polish-born Moe Drabowsky was 7-6 with a 2.43 ERA and sub-1 WHIP (0.903) with 9 saves at break.
1972 Freddie Patek: In his first All-Star appearance, Patek was slashing just .223/.280/.302, with 0 HR, 18 RBI, but 19 SB at the All-Star Break. Shortstop was an atrociously weak offensive position in the 1970’s outside of Bobby Grich – the 4-time All-Star that slashed .264/.369/.413 with 113 HR in 1,135 games (still nothing special) throughout the decade. As a result, defense clearly mattered at that position, as it should still today, as well as the other middle infield position, giving Frank White a free pass in 1978, 79 and 1981, who was as deserving as anyone despite his mediocre offensive outpot (Gold Glove winner in all three years as part of a 6-year stretch as a Gold Glover).
Patek was also selected in 1976, but, like in 1972, did not play in the game, and was voted in as a starter in 1978. In ‘72, despite his poor effort at the plate, a case could be made for him, still, as he ranked third on the team in WAR at season’s end on a roster that produced four other All-Star’s (Amos Otis, Pinella, Cookie Rojas, OF Richie Scheinblum). Whitey Hertzog said he was the best defensive shortstop on turf that he ever saw, and he also managed Ozzie Smith.
1988: Kurt Stillwell: Stillwell was a curious reserve shortstop selection in 1988. He had modest numbers (.261/.337/.428, 7 HR 37 RBI, 2 SB, 44), but even as a 7-year old I remember wondering what the hell he was doing in the All-Star Game. Comparing to the rest of the league, Stillwell did rank third among his position in OPS (.721) – the highest mark of his career. Additionally, he was not the Royals only rep, as George Brett made his 13th straight and final appearance and Mark Gubicza was also selected.
There has been speculation that Stillwell’s selection had something to do with the coaches picking reserves and they wanted him there because the game was in Cincy, and he was a former Red. Another conspiracy goes Ewing Kauffman himself was involved in it, as he could have had Barry Larkin instead of Stillwell when they traded for him.
1996: Jeff Montgomery: Monty was picked as the Royals only rep despite a 1-6 record with a 4.20 ERA as a closer with a 1.222 WHIP and 18 saves, and was about the 10th best player on the team, despite a roster, offensively, that was trash. Craig Paquette led the team in HR with 22, as a part-time player and was the only player on the team with more than 60 RBI (67). Mike McFarlane would have been an OK choice at catcher, where he was hitting .275/.324/.529 with 9 HR, 23 RBI at the break.
On the pitching side, Kevin Appier was 7-7 with a 3.63 ERA, 1.298 WHIP in 18 starts, including 2 complete games, and would have been a fine choice.
Jose Rosado pitched just four years in the big leagues, but was a 2-time All-Star, representing the Royals in 1997 and 1999, even earning the win in 1997 despite allowing a run in the 3-1 AL win.
The perception on Rosado is he made it because “someone had to,” but he did have decent first-half numbers in both years and was a “worthy” selection, statistically:
- 1997: 7-4, 3.39 ERA, 1.171 WHIP, 2 CG in 18 starts
- 1999: 5-6, 3.01 ERA, 1.267 WHIP, 2 CG in 18 starts
Like in other years, there were other more deserving, too. In 1997, Appier had a 5.5 WAR, much better than Rosado’s 1.1, and was 6-6 with a 2.68 ERA, 1.115 WHIP, with four complete games (1 shutout).
At the plate, Jay Bell produced a 5.4 WAR for the season and was slashing .279/.365/.463 at the break with 13 HR and 56 RBI. Jeff King had a 3.7 WAR with 15 HR and 57 RBI in the first half with a .258/.386/.491 slash
Chili Davis produced a 30 HR season and had a 2.4 WAR despite playing 0 innings in the field. He had a 140 OPS+ in the first half with 13 HR, 48 RBI while slashing .298/.411/.500
In 1999, Rosado finished fourth on the team in WAR (3.9), but the Royals offense was prolific and there were other (better) options, from the outfield trio of Johnny Damon (.298/.375/.466, 8 HR, 48 RBI, 61 R, 15 SB, 115 OPS+ in the first half; 5.4 WAR), Jermaine Dye (.302/.356/.534, 17 HR, 66 RBI, 57 R, 125 OPS+; 4.7 WAR) and Rookie of the Year Carlos Beltran (.302/.342/.469, 12 HR, 59 RBI, 64 R, 13 SB, 106 OPS+; 4.7 WAR) or 1B/DH Mike Sweeney (.319/.384/.505, 11 HR, 58 RBI, 54 R, 127 OPS+; 3.1 WAR) in his first year as regular as Jeff King suddenly retired in April.
In 2006, Mark Redman was by far the worst selection in franchise history. He was 7-4 in 15 pre-All-Star starts, but he also had a 5.83 ERA and a 1.764 WHIP.
The other oft-talked about “bad” selection, Ken Harvey, was the Royals rep in 2004. One year later he was out of baseball. His first half stats were solid: .305/.353/.452 with 10 HR, 34 RBI and an above league-average 111 OPS+. Carlos Beltran would have been the choice, hitting .278/.367/.534 with 15 HR, 51 RBI, 51 R, 14 SB and an amazing 133 OPS+ in just 69 games before being traded to Houston, where he ended up representing in the game as an injury replacement. Sweeney, who had represented the team in the previous three seasons, would have also been a fine choice, with a .279/.335/.490 slash with a 115 OPS+ with 16 HR, 57 RBI at the break.
Last night, Perez ended up starting the All-Star Game – his fifth start, as Wilson Ramos missed the game due to injury, and went 0-2 with two strikeouts. Not surprising with the year he is having. His selection for the All-Star Game will go down as one of the worst in 50 years of Royals history. However, he is not alone.
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