Firstman: Some historical All-Star selection oddities

From SABR member Diane Firstman at on July 13, 2014:

Year after year, articles are written decrying the selection of various players for the All-Star Game, and with good reason. Players who were hot in late April, when voting generally begins, may have cooled off by the time voting ends (see Charlie Blackmon’s 2014 month-by-month, for example). The need to have every team represented often requires managers to choose a “star on his own team but probably not an All-Star.” Fans vote in a veteran favorite player, even if his performance in that particular season is lacking … or the player has in fact retired prior to the game.

On a related note, some All-Stars collapse in the second half of the year, rendering their overall stat line quite ordinary. If the All-Star Game was held after the season (like the NFL Pro Bowl), those players might not get the call. Here are some examples of players who got voted in despite full or partial-season stat lines that would have left them home if not for some of the aforementioned reasons.

Mike Schmidt, 1989 (.203/.297/.372 in 42 games): Schmidt appeared in 12 All-Star games between 1974 and 1987. A cold start in 1988 (.232/.315/.349 before the break) left him off the National League squad, though he had a .950 OPS in the second half. In 1989, the 39-year-old 500-home run hitter and perennial Gold Glover was in the midst of a 5-for-57 slump and playing subpar defense when he abruptly retired in a tearful press conference on May 29. Nonetheless, he was the fan’s top vote-getter at third. He decided not to play, but he did participate in the game’s opening ceremony.

Cal Ripken, 2001 (.240/.270/.324 prior to the break, .239/.276/.361 for season): Like Schmidt, Ripken was a nearly perennial All-Star. Fans and managers loved him, regardless of his numbers. In the latter portion of his career, he made the All-Star team in six different seasons in which he compiled a sub-100 OPS+. In June 2001 the 40-year-old Ripken announced he would retire at the end of the year. The fans voted him in as the starting third baseman on the AL squad, despite his .594 OPS. In the first inning of the game, Alex Rodriguez elected to switch to third base so Ripken could play his original shortstop position. The move allowed Ripken to set the record for most All-Star appearances at shortstop. Ripken even homered in the third inning off Chan Ho Park, winning MVP honors in the AL’s 4-1 victory.

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Originally published: July 15, 2014. Last Updated: July 15, 2014.