COMMENTARY | All-Star snubs have been around as long as the All-Star game itself, but rarely has there been a more egregious example than the exclusion of Tampa Bay Rays 3B Evan Longoria from this year's American League squad.
In other words, it really stinks that Evan's not on the 2013 AL All-Star team.
Yes, the American League is stacked at third. No way in the world anybody could argue with Detroit's Miggy Cabrera (.368/.457/.679, 28 HR, 90 RBIs -- 90!) as the starter. Orioles 3B Manny Machado is the backup (.312/.341/.471, 6 HR, 42 RBIs and a record-shattering 39 doubles). Again, hard to debate.
Unless you consider the fact that Oakland's Josh Donaldson is actually having a better year statistically than Manny (.319/.388/.536, 15 HR, 57 RBIs).
Here's why that's important. Every team in MLB has to have one representative in the All-Star game. The Rays don't have a lot of All-Star candidates. This franchise is built to perform as a whole, not to be a star-making machine, and for the most part it functions splendidly. But, traditionally, the All-Star team manager -- in this case, Jim Leyland of the Detroit Tigers -- will, when reviewing well-balanced teams like the Rays for purposes of roster selection, simply, logically, correctly select the best player on such a team.
Logistical Reasons Likely Cost Longoria Spot on the AL Squad
Yes, there are logistical reasons (more on that later) for picking super-utility man Ben Zobrist over Longo as Tampa Bay's lone All-Star. I'm glad Ben made the team. On work ethic and, well, good-person-ness alone, he's representative of what an MLB All-Star should be.
But Zobrist is not having an All-Star season. He's picked things up of late, but on the year he's hitting a meager .264 with 6 HR and 45 RBIs. (I do look for a second-half surge that will justify Ben's roster spot on two of my four fantasy baseball teams; the only reason he's not on the other two is somebody else beat me to him -- my wife, in one instance, and that is still a source of minor friction in our household).
Longoria, on the other hand, has turned out to play. Surrounded by a lineup of banjo-hitters (until promising slugger Wil Myers was called up a couple of weeks ago), Longoria has shouldered the load and put up a .289 BA with 17 dingers and 49 RBIs. He's also played a simply remarkable third base. I mean, somebody call the Hoover company about copyright infringement. Now reasonably healthy for the first time in two years, Longoria has been frankly thrilling to watch in the field.
So why did Leyland pick Zobrist over Longoria? Simple: The game matters now. With the decision a few years ago to make home-field advantage in the World Series incumbent on the outcome of the All-Star game, there's now more emphasis placed on winning. That's a good thing. It makes the game more interesting. It's not just an exhibition.
Leyland Playing for Home-Field Advantage in World Series
And that means Leyland picked Ben Zobrist because he's trying to field the team most likely to help his league -- and quite possibly himself -- come World Series time. Able to play virtually anywhere on the field, Zobrist gives Leyland a multifaceted mid-to-late innings replacement who can adequately fill any gap.
Longoria, on the other hand, can just play third.
But, dang, he does it well. And he should be in the 2013 All-Star game.
There are other Rays who could make a (minor) case for inclusion on the squad. James Loney is having a superb year -- but so are a half-dozen other AL first basemen. RP Alex Torres has been splendid, but a role like his is invisible when it comes to All-Star consideration. As last year's Cy Young winner, if David Price had come back from the DL two weeks earlier and thrown the way he has since his return (16 innings pitched, 2-0, 15 Ks, 1 run allowed), he'd likely have earned a place on the squad.
But that's it. No doubt Tampa Bay fields one of baseball's most-formidable franchises, and nobody gets more bang out of a buck than Joe Maddon. But the only Ray who legitimately deserved a place on the 2013 AL All-Star team and didn't get one was Longoria.
Agree? Disagree? Think there are other Rays worthy of All-Star inclusion? Make your case below -- but remember, a player does not belong on the All-Star team just because you really, really, really, really like him.
Chip Carter -- not to be confused with the Tampa Bay sportscaster of the same name -- is a 20-year veteran of the national media who has written for hundreds of publications and websites around the world, sometimes covering the Atlanta Braves and Tampa Bay Rays from his home base in Tampa.
- Sports & Recreation
- Arts & Entertainment
- Evan Longoria
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Jim Leyland