Reds publicly question Tony La Russa over perceived All-Star snubs

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

As is always the case when the initial All-Star rosters are announced, a countless list of snubs immediately follow, and before the day is through that overall list grows to be nearly as long as the rosters themselves. That's certainly no different this year.

However, what is, well, a bit unique, is how public the Cincinnati Reds are going with their anger over two of their own perceived snubs — second baseman Brandon Phillips and starter Johnny Cueto — and they're leaving no doubt at who that anger and frustration is directed towards.

The man in their verbal crosshairs is National League manager Tony La Russa, who led his St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series championship last season, retired, and now returns to fulfill his duties in the Midsummer Classic. Along the road to that championship quite a rivalry developed between the Redbirds and Redlegs. The foundation of which was built on Aug. 10, 2010, when a massive brawl between the two teams broke out at the Great American Ballpark.

The two most active Reds in that brawl?

You guessed it. Brandon Phillips — who spoke publicly about his dislike for the Cardinals one night earlier, and then unsuccessfully attempted to smooth things over with catcher Yadier Molina by giving him a friendly tap with his bat during his first inning at-bat — and Johnny Cueto — who was suspended seven games for "violent and aggressive actions" that included kicking St. Louis' backup catcher Jason LaRue in the head.

[Related: Eight early thoughts on All-Star rosters]

The Reds believe it's possible La Russa is still holding a grudge against their two players stemming from that brawl, and in the process is wrongly taking an opportunity that they have rightfully earned.

From the Cincinnati Enquirer:

"I'm happy for the guys who made it big time, especially for Chapman," Dusty Baker said. "You figured that Joey would make it. We knew Jay had an outside chance. You also figured that Johnny Cueto and Brandon Phillips had a great chance. I don't understand that one.

"A snub like that looks bad. Johnny and Brandon were at the center of skirmish between us and the Cardinals. Some of Cardinals who aren't there anymore are making some of the selections."

As Baker's comments indicated, the Reds did end up with three All-Star selections this season. First baseman Joey Votto was voted in by the fans and will start. Hard-throwing left-hander Aroldis Chapman received the players vote to lock up his spot. Outfielder Jay Bruce rounds out their trio, and I think it's worth noting he was a coaches' selection.

Baker would later back off  a bit on his comments about the brawl, stating he didn't know if that played a role in the decision. But Cueto didn't hold back at all when asked for his opinion.

"I see that I have great numbers," Cueto said. "I thought the way I pitched this year, I'd have a chance to go to the All-Star Game. I don't know what happened. I don't if know the manager of All-Star Game is pissed at me because I went out with one of his girlfriends."

Well, see, when you read a quote like that you can understand why Cueto might not be popular around the league. Obviously there's still some maturing that needs to take place before he'll start earning the respect he believes he deserves.

As for Phillips, the usually outspoken infielder has declined comment on the matter so far, so it looks like he'll take the road. Which is wise, because nothing you say will change what has already been decided. And if a roster spot opens up for some reason, I'm sure Phillips would get serious consideration, whereas Cueto likely just talked himself out of the conversation.

But to me, if there's a good reason to get angry it should be about the entire selection process that's in place. I mean sure, it's possible La Russa is the driving force behind the snubs, but there's also the "every organization must be represented rule" that's in place that allowed for the selection of Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve ahead of Phillips.

That's where the problems begin with the All-Star selection process. Get rid of that silly rule, you'll get rid of many of the silly snubs and gripes that go along with All-Star selection Sunday.

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