When producing any roster of Major League Baseball's best, some deserving player is inevitably left out. So it has been since the All-Star Game was first played in 1933, and so it will be as long as the game is played. This trio of players who missed out on Sunday's All-Star announcements can at least take solace in the fact that they are not the first to be unjustly left out of the festivities.
2014 Snub: Kyle Seager
Historical Comparison: Pete Ward, 1964
Kyle Seager is enjoying a breakout year for the second season in a row. After proving he could be a reliable starter at third base with a .260/.338/.426 line in 2013, Seager has fully broken out in 2014. He owns a .278/.351/.489 slash line, with all three representing career highs. He has also taken full advantage of new teammate Robinson Cano's .320 batting average, as Seager has knocked in Cano 16 times en route to 59 total RBI. It's hard to argue he belongs over Adrian Beltre or Josh Donaldson, but Seager deserved a spot over one of the three American League first basemen selected.
Seager is a 26-year-old who has steadily improved throughout his career, and the typical assumption with players like him is that their time will come with patience. It's a nice sentiment, but consider his fellow third baseman Pete Ward, one of the best players to ever come out of Canada. As a 26-year-old in 1964, Ward hit .282/.348/.473 with 23 home runs for the White Sox to follow up a 22-homer rookie year the previous season. But Ward was left off the All-Star team for 34-year-old Red Sox third baseman Frank Malzone, who had just a .740 OPS at the break but had the clout of five previous All-Star appearances on his side.
The next year, Ward suffered neck and back injuries in a car accident and was never quite the same player. His best post-injury season came in 1967, when he hit .233/.334/.392 (120 OPS+), but after two top-10 MVP finishes in his first two full seasons, Ward never received an MVP vote again. Seager is primed for a long career with plenty of opportunity for recognition. But things can change for a major leaguer in an instant, and Ward serves as proof the future can't be assumed.
2014 Snub: Chris Sale
Historical Comparison: Greg Maddux, 1993
Maddux rode a brilliant second half (1.79 ERA, 84 strikeouts to 20 walks in 16 starts) to the Cy Young award in 1993. His first half (2.83 ERA, 113 strikeouts to 32 walks in 20 starts) was All-Star quality, but with teammates Steve Avery, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz all on the roster and a number of NL teams sending only a single starting pitcher, Maddux found himself the odd man out. Like Sale, Maddux already had two All-Star games under his belt. Maddux went on to make five straight All-Star appearances after the 1993 snub.
Sale is part of the American League Final Vote with a number of other deserving candidates, chief among them Corey Kluber (2.99 ERA, 2.65 FIP in 117 1/3 innings). Sale has been even better (2.16 ERA, 2.49 FIP) in a tougher park to pitch in, but has thrown 30 fewer innings. Both have compelling cases in the Final Vote, but given Sale's track record and his performance in a few highly visible stats -- he leads the majors in winning percentage (8-1, .889) and the American League in WHIP (0.87) -- he is the most shocking of the starting pitcher snubs.
2014 Snub: Buster Posey
Historical Comparison: Ted Simmons, 1975
Ted Simmons reached eight All-Star teams over 21 seasons between the Cardinals and Brewers, yet somehow remains one of the most underrated catchers in MLB history. Simmons was a regular catcher every year from 1971 through 1983 and posted a below-average OPS once in those 13 seasons. The 1975 season was one of his best, as he slugged 18 home runs, knocked in 100, finished with a .332/.396/.491 line, and was actually better in the season's first half (.324/.399/.510).
But 1975 was a big year for National League catchers. Johnny Bench was at his peak and slugged 28 home runs with an .878 OPS, and in the year of the Big Red Machine, Bench was the obvious choice to start. Manny Sanguillen hit .328/.391/.451 for the Pirates and Gary Carter hit .270/.360/.416 for the Expos and were selected over Simmons.
Nearly forty years later, the National League is in a similar golden age for catchers. Yadier Molina is having a down year with the bat but remains the defensive standard behind the plate. Jonathan Lucroy is an MVP candidate and the league's best-hitting catcher behind a .329/.397/.516 season. Devin Mesoraco has played in just 52 games, but his .634 slugging percentage and 15 home runs are otherworldly power numbers for a catcher.
Posey's .286/.342/.435 line is disappointing by his standards, but in San Francisco those are typically All-Star numbers for a catcher. But with National League catchers hitting as well as ever, Posey was understandably left out for a pair of deserving first-timers in Lucroy and Mesoraco, just as Simmons was left out for a first-timer in Carter 39 years ago.
Bonus Procedural 2014 Snub: Jeff Samardzija
Historical Comparison: Rich Harden, 2008
Samardzija would have made the National League squad if not for last week's trade sending him and Jason Hammel (who had his own All-Star case with a 2.98 ERA and 3.17 FIP) to the Athletics in exchange for top prospect Addison Russell and two others. It's assuring to see Samardzija's 2-7 record didn't taint what was obviously great pitching by the Shark in his final days in Chicago. Samardzija's 136 ERA+ and 3.38 K/BB would have certainly produced more wins if not for a paltry 2.3 runs scored per start behind him; only San Diego's Andrew Cashner (2.2 runs per start) had seen less support.
In 2008, it was the Cubs trading prospects to the Athletics for pitching help. Now, the trade is more significant for bringing the AL's All-Star starter third baseman Josh Donaldson to Oakland, but then, it was the trade that sent Rich Harden to the Cubs. In 13 starts with Oakland in the first half, Harden was 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA and would have been an All-Star lock had he been eligible for the American League.
Harden was excellent for the Cubs to close out 2008 but injuries continued to bite. By 2011, Harden was out of the league, and he never pitched a major league game in his 30s. As such, it was nice to hear the league will honor Samardzija before this year's All-Star game even if he is ineligible to pitch. The right-hander has a clean injury history and will have a great chance at an AL All-Star spot with the Athletics next season.