Don't Blame La Russa For Reds Being "Snubbed"

I don't know, maybe it's sort of a shame that on the day when 68 players are named as All-Stars, we fixate on the dozen or so who were snubbed. Or might have been snubbed, if you look at the numbers hard enough (or don't look at them at all).

But hey, it's not just us. Dusty Baker and at least one of his players are complaining, too. Here's Rick Hummel, in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

In San Francisco, Baker, upset that Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips and starter Johnny Cueto, weren’t named to the club, told the Cincinnati Enquirer, "A snub like that looks bad. Johnny and Brandon were at the center of the (2010) skirmish between us and the Cardinals. Some of the Cardinals who aren’t there anymore are making some of the selections."

--snip--

"I don’t know if they base their selection on the brawl," Cueto told Cincinnati reporters. "That’s not the way it should be. . . They should pick and choose players by their numbers."

Well, no. They should actually pick and choose players by how good they actually are. So yes, numbers. But not just the numbers in the first half of the season. That's how you wind up with Jack Armstrong starting an All-Star Game.

Does Cueto have a case as one of the best starters in the National League this season? Sure. So do a dozen other guys (not including Cliff Lee, who bizarrely hasn't won a single game all season). Is there a good reason to keep Johnny Cueto off the All-Star team?

Performance-wise, no. He doesn't walk guys, and he doesn't give up homers despite pitching half his games in homer-happy Great American Ballpark. His 2.29 ERA over these last two seasons is something of a fluke, but he's really good.

There's another problem.

An angry La Russa said the non-selection of Cueto was due to the fact that Cueto, who is 9-4, is slated to pitch next Sunday for the Reds and would be unavailable to pitch in an All-Star game two days later.

La Russa said, "If Dusty had been more interested in Cueto being on the team, then he wouldn’t be pitching him on Sunday. Cueto probably would be on the team if he wasn’t pitching Sunday.

"The comments Dusty made clearly disappoint me and are attacking my integrity. The All-Star experience is too important to let anything stand in the way of a decision like that .

"No way am I going to penalize anybody for any kind of past history. The fact is that Cueto is going to be pitching on Sunday. Some other day, he’s probably on the team."

Is this at all unreasonable? La Russa makes a good point: If teams want their starting pitchers on All-Star teams, they can rejigger their rotations -- which, considering days off, is not terribly difficult -- a few weeks before the All-Star Game.

Phillips is a different sort of situation. He doesn't have a great case at all. Dan Uggla's been real good, and got the fans' nod. Jose Altuve's been good, and got La Russa's (or perhaps the players') nod. There's no need to take two second basemen, and while Phillips has been roughly as good as those other guys, so has Aaron Hill.

But all of this is just begging the question. Yes, Baker and Cueto are whining without much reason. No, La Russa's not showing any obvious bias against the Reds; in fact, he selected Jay Bruce for the squad and didn't choose any Cardinals at all.

The real question, though, is about Zack Greinke.

So far, he's had two chances to make it.

The players could have made Greinke an All-Star. They didn't, in part because they did most of their voting before Lance Lynn's recent struggles, and in part (I'm guessing) because he's an odd duck and baseball players don't much care for odd ducks.

Tony La Russa could have made Greinke an All-Star. Unlike Cueto, Greinke is not slated to start next Sunday; he's starting on Saturday, which would give him two days to rest before perhaps pitching one inning Tuesday night in the All-Star Game.

La Russa chose Cole Hamels instead of Greinke. La Russa chose Clayton Kershaw instead of Greinke. La Russa chose Wade Miley instead of Greinke. Wade Miley.

Zack Greinke has pitched better than all three of those guys this season. He's got a better record and a lower ERA than Hamels. He's got a better record and a lower ERA than Miley. He's got a better record than Kershaw, and roughly the same ERA.

Oh, but wait! Here's a quote from La Russa, explaining why he spurned Cueto and Greinke:

La Russa attributed the absence of Greinke and Reds starter Johnny Cueto to the abundance of quality arms in the NL.

"That’s exactly right, those are the two guys [who were close], and there are others that you could point out," LaRussa said. "There was something to consider: both Greinke and Cueto are pitching Sunday. When you’re splitting some pretty fine hairs, that worked against them."

(source)

Except according to the scheduled starters listed here, Greinke is not pitching Sunday. La Russa doesn't make these decisions in a vacuum; the managers supposedly get a lot of "help" from Major League Baseball. Does it really seem likely they'd get that flat wrong?

However it happened, there is simply no logical rationale, or anyway none that I can find, for leaving Zack Greinke off the All-Star team. None.

Of course, the way these things work, there's a pretty good chance he won't be left off. There's a pretty good chance that one of the other starting pitchers will pull out, and Greinke will be the obvious choice to fill in, assuming of course that he's interested.

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