The selection process for MLB All-Star games is imperfect; we all know this. Fan voting heavily influences the roster; All-Star managers prefer choosing reserves from their own club. Then, there’s the requirement every team must have a representative. In the end, deserving players miss the cut every year.
Generally, players sustaining their success over multiple seasons eventually play in the Mid-Summer Classic. But there are exceptions. Just for fun, I compiled a starting lineup using former players who, according to Baseball Reference, never appeared on an All-Star roster.
Some names may surprise you; others may not. All played since MLB expanded in 1961.
First Base – Wes Parker
Parker won six consecutive Gold Gloves during his nine big-league seasons. The switch-hitter enjoyed his best year in 1970 when he led the majors in doubles and earned a fifth place finish behind winner Johnny Bench in NL MVP voting. Although he didn’t receive the big prize, the former USC Trojan was the Dodgers’ team MVP.
During his best days, Parker’s competition for All-Star selection was Hall of Famers Willie McCovey and Ernie Banks, plus Felipe Alou, Dick Allen, and Lee May. Although still performing well, “Mr. Steady” retired from MLB after his age-32 season in 1972.
Second Base – Bill Doran
Another switch-hitter, Doran finished fifth in NL 1983 Rookie of the Year behind Darryl Strawberry. Over the next four seasons, he averaged 23 doubles and 26 stolen bases with a 112 OPS+ and 22.4 bWAR. The only second basemen better than the Miami of Ohio product were Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg (23.9 bWAR and 113 OPS+) and Lou Whitaker (22.6 and 117).
Doran was an amazingly consistent hitter. In nine seasons with Houston, he slashed .267/.355/.374. The Ohioan then hit .265/.357/.375 with the hometown Reds for three campaigns. During his best years, All-Star second basemen were Sandberg, Tommy Herr, Steve Sax, and Juan Samuel.
Shortstop – John Valentin
Valentin broke in as a shortstop, but he transitioned to second base and finally third base. Between 1993 and 1996, his 21.0 bWAR paced MLB shortstops, including Hall of Famers Barry Larkin (20.9) and Cal Ripken Jr. (15.5) with only Larkin (132) topping his 119 OPS+. In 1995, the Mineola, New York native won the AL Silver Slugger Award for shortstop and received MVP consideration.
When Valentin split time between second base and shortstop the following year, his 124 OPS+ ranked third among middle-infielders behind Hall of Famer and fellow Seton Hall alum Craig Biggio (140) and Jeff Blauser (130). The right-handed hitter also led the AL in doubles.
Third Base – Eric Chávez
A Silver Slugger and six-time Gold Glover, Chávez never appeared in a Mid-Summer Classic. All-Star third basemen at the time included Troy Glaus, Álex Rodríguez, Shea Hillenbrand, Hank Blalock, and Melvin Mora.
During his best years (2000-2005), Chávez produced 28.3 bWAR; best among third basemen with the exception of National Leaguers Scott Rolen (32.0) and Chipper Jones (29.8). The Californian also clobbered 177 home runs placing him behind Glaus (189) and Jones (178).
Unfortunately, injuries curtailed Chávez’s availability beginning in 2007. Despite the setback, only Sal Bando (52.1) has a higher career bWAR than Chávez (35.0) among Oakland third basemen. Moreover, his 1,320 games in an A’s uniform trail only Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson (1,704), Bando (1,410), and Mark McGwire (1,329) since the franchise’s relocation to the Bay Area in 1968.
Left Field – Kirk Gibson
Gibson possessed a superb blend of speed and power. The former All-American football player reached or exceeded hit 25 home runs and stolen bases in a season four times. The only players accomplishing this feat more often – Barry Bonds (10), Bobby Bonds (9), Willie Mays (5), and Darryl Strawberry (5).
Between 1984 and 1988, Gibson produced 25.0 bWAR – tenth best in the majors. His 139 OPS+ ranked seventh best tying him with Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Eddie Murray, plus Boston’s Dwight Evans.
After winning the NL MVP in 1988, Gibson played 130-plus games in a season just once more during his final seven years. Still, the former Michigan State Spartan cemented his legacy with Tigers and Dodgers fans by earning 1984 ALCS MVP with Detroit and hitting a walk-off home run as a Dodger in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
Center Field – Garry Maddox
A second round pick of the Giants in 1968, Maddox established himself as the best defensive center fielder of his generation after San Francisco shipped him to Philadelphia. With the Phillies, the “Secretary of Defense” would win eight consecutive Gold Gloves.
“Two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water, the other one-third by Garry Maddox.” – Mets announcer Ralph Kiner
Although best known for his glove work, Maddox averaged 31 doubles and 27 stolen bases during his first six seasons in the City of Brotherly Love. During this span, Fred Lynn (26.6) was the only center fielder with a higher bWAR than Maddox (24.8), who also placed fifth in 1976 NL MVP voting.
Since 1947, Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn (58.2) is the only Phillies center fielder with a higher bWAR than Maddox (29.0).
Right Field – Tim Salmon
The 1993 AL Rookie of the Year remained a fixture in right field for the Angels for a decade. In fact, Salmon stayed so long with the team he played for the California, Anaheim, and Los Angeles versions of the Halos.
From his rookie campaign through the 2000 season, Salmon averaged 29 doubles and 28 home runs with a 138 OPS+ and 32.4 bWAR. During this eight-year span, the only right fielders with a higher bWAR were Sammy Sosa (38.2) and Hall of Famer Larry Walker (37.2) – both from the National League.
Salmon’s 40.6 career bWAR as an Angel trails Mike Trout (72.8) and Jim Fregosi (45.9) in franchise history. Similarly, Trout (176) and Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero (141) are the lone Angels with a better OPS+ than Salmon’s 128. The Grand Canyon University alum holds the team record for home runs (299), although the mark likely belongs to Trout (285) by the end of his next season.
Catcher – Chris Hoiles
Hoiles’ best season was 1993 when his OBP, SLG, OPS+, and bWAR ranked fifth best in the AL. Among MLB catchers, only Mike Piazza had a higher bWAR. However, the Eastern Michigan product bested Piazza in OBP, SLG, and OPS+. Hoiles didn’t deserve to win the AL MVP over Frank Thomas, although he deserved to finish closer to top-5 than to his actual placing – sixteenth.
You won’t find Hoiles’ name near all-time great Orioles Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Eddie Murray, and Cal Ripken Jr. in franchise rankings. But he’s the best offensive catcher in club history with the most home runs, plus the highest bWAR and OPS+ among Baltimore backstops.
Designated Hitter – Travis Hafner
During Hafner’s four best seasons (2004-07), he averaged 32 home runs and 35 doubles with a 156 OPS+. Only Albert Pujols (169) and David Ortiz (159) delivered a better OPS+. Right behind the North Dakotan was former teammate Álex Rodríguez (153).
Fun Fact: The only North Dakota native with more MLB games played than Hafner (1,183) is Darin Erstad (1,654).
Hafner finished fifth in 2005 AL MVP voting and eighth the following season. In 2006, he shared the MLB lead in OBP with Manny Ramirez and finished second only to Pujols in SLG and OPS+. The lefty hitter also recorded a .308 AVG and walked 100 times.
Sadly, a shoulder injury in 2008 would affect Hafner’s availability and productivity until his retirement after the 2013 season. During this span, he played in 100-plus games just once in 2010.
Utility-man – Tony Phillips
Initially a middle-infielder, Phillips would eventually morph into a full-fledged utility-man. During his 18-year career, he started over 600 games at both second base and the outfield in addition to another 200-plus at both shortstop and third base.
Fun fact: Phillips attended high school in Roswell, Georgia and then attended the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, New Mexico.
Phillips’ best years were his early-to-mid thirties (1990-95) when his 29.7 bWAR ranked eighth in the majors. The only players finishing ahead of him not in the Hall of Fame – Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro. During the same span, only Frank Thomas (661), Bonds (647), and Mickey Tettleton (642) walked more times than the Georgian (632). Accordingly, his .395 OBP was seventh best in MLB.
Phillips fell off the Hall of Fame ballot after one year of eligibility, although his career 50.9 bWAR is higher than 13 Hall of Famers since baseball integrated in 1947. Among them: Ted Simmons, Lou Brock, Harold Baines, and Orlando Cepeda.
Starter – John Tudor
Between 1982 and 1988, Tudor made 208 starts with a 3.06 ERA and 28.6 bWAR. Only Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser, and Roger Clemens had a lower ERA. Gooden and Clemens, plus Dave Stieb were the only pitchers with a higher bWAR.
Tudor’s best campaign was 1985 at age-31. The Schenectady, New York native led the majors with 10 shutouts and a 0.938 WHIP, plus he logged a 1.93 ERA. Since MLB lowered the mound after the 1968 season, only one other pitcher has 10 shutouts in a year – Hall of Famer Jim Palmer in 1975.
Unfortunately, for Tudor, his career year coincided with the emergence of Gooden, who won the 1985 NL Cy Young Award over the Georgia Southern product. Tudor correspondingly finished eighth in MVP voting, although his 8.2 bWAR trailed only Gooden (13.3) and tied teammate Willie McGee.
Since World War II, Tudor’s 2.52 ERA is tops by a Cardinals pitcher with 500-plus innings. His 146 ERA+ similarly leads all Redbird pitchers during this span. It’s worth noting the southpaw tossed 881.2 innings with St. Louis compared to all-time great Bob Gibson, who pitched over 3,800 innings and recorded a 2.91 ERA and 127 ERA+.
Closer – Billy Koch
Koch’s career was brief, just six years. However, the former Clemson Tiger did save 144 games during his first four major-league seasons with Toronto and Oakland. Only Robb Nen (166) and Hall of Famers Trevor Hoffman (164) and Mariano Rivera (159) were better. Mariano was the lone American Leaguer.
During his final standout season in 2002 as a member of the A’s, Koch led AL pitchers with 82 appearances; his 44 saves trailed only Eddie Guardado (45) in the junior circuit. The Long Islander would also finish eighteenth in AL MVP voting.
For anyone wondering, here’s a sample of current players yet to appear in an All-Star game. As with the retirees, several of the names may surprise you.
|Andrelton Simmons*++||Juan Soto*||Matthew Boyd|
|Andrew Benintendi*||Ken Giles*||Mike Clevinger|
|Carlos Carrasco*||Kevin Kiermaier*++||Neil Walker*#|
|Chris Taylor||Khris Davis*||Nicholas Castellanos*|
|Cody Allen*||Kole Calhoun++||Raisel Iglesias|
|Didi Gregorius*||Kolten Wong*++||Rougned Odor|
|Eduardo Rodríguez||Kyle Freeland*||Tommy Pham*|
|German Márquez*#||Kyle Hendricks*||Trea Turner*|
|Jack Flaherty*||Kyle Schwarber||Yuli Gurriel*|
|James Paxton||Marcus Semien*||Zack Wheeler|
|Joe Smith||Matt Olson*++|
|* Has received MVP, ROY, or Cy Young votes
++ Gold Glover
# Silver Slugger
Perhaps the biggest shocker is Andrelton Simmons, baseball’s best defensive shortstop. Despite averaging 32 doubles, hitting .285/.334/.419, and winning Gold Gloves in 2017-18, the Curacao native didn’t appear in the All-Star game either year.
If Marcus Semien repeats his breakout 2019, he’ll likely challenge Simmons for an All-Star bid. Semien’s teammate, first baseman Matt Olson, could potentially join him. Olson has averaged 30 home runs since 2017 and owns two Gold Gloves.
It’s a matter of time before youngsters Juan Soto and Jack Flaherty play in the first of likely many Mid-Summer Classics. Both players had breakout seasons with their respective clubs last year. Soto is just 21-years-old, while Flaherty is 24.
There are other active players deserving of being an All-Star, but you get the drift. It’s not always about worthiness. In the big scheme of things, selections to a mid-season exhibition game have little meaning. Still, it’s something fun to talk about while we remain hunkered down.
After all, talking about baseball is always fun.
Wouldn’t you agree?
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