A couple weeks ago, I was watching a Reds game and Amir Garrett was brought in to pitch. Reds announcer Thom Brennaman voiced his displeasure that Garrett wasn’t voted to the All-Star Game, which is understandable. Garrett’s having a fine year. But Brennaman evoked the rule that each team needs to have at least one representative in the All-Star Game and said something along the lines of “You look at Will Smith of the Giants and Smith is having a good season, but Smith’s numbers are not Garrett’s numbers.”
Smith v. Garrett
Smith’s numbers are not Garrett’s numbers because they’re much better.
But Brennaman’s comments rankled me for reasons beyond the ignorance of peripherals. The implication of Brennaman’s comment is that not every team should have a representative because that might take a spot away from someone is more deserving, that this is a symptom of participation trophy culture. But it’s a mostly silly argument and I don’t know if anyone aside from Brennaman and his ilk favor it.
I think it’s important to celebrate the sole representatives from each team like Will Smith. They give fans from these teams who otherwise have nothing else to cheer about a reason to get excited and tune into the game. It also gives the players recognition they might not otherwise get since they’re surrounded by replacement level players.
There are four other sole representatives, and each is deserving in their own right.
Daniel Vogelbach – Seattle Mariners
The internet has a lot of large adult sons, and Vogelbach is doing his best to make everyone proud. Vogelbach spent parts of three seasons in the big leagues before finally getting a solid shot to be an everyday starter. He’s already hit 21 home runs this year and he was a major driver in the Mariners being good for the first month of the season. Everyone else has fallen apart around him, but Vogelbach has kept on mashing.
John Means – Baltimore Orioles
After last season, John Means was so prepared to hang up his cleats that he made a LinkedIn page.
John Means so strongly considered quitting baseball last year that he made a LinkedIn profile. All he made this season was the American League All-Star team.— Nathan Ruiz (@NathanSRuiz) July 8, 2019
“It's almost like he didn't want to say it because he didn't even believe it was real.” #Orioles https://t.co/pehCPvFLiF pic.twitter.com/wxzjtalNgL
Instead of going back to substitute teaching, Mr. Means made the All-Star team. He carries a 2.50 ERA after 14 starts and 4 relief appearances in his first full season. Between working on his resumé and practicing his interview skills, Means worked on improving his changeup and strengthened his fastball velocity. His peripherals aren’t as strong, but things are working out for him so far.
Whit Merrifield – Kansas City Royals
Merrifield joins Smith as another sole representative who will probably be traded by the end of the month. A late bloomer, Merrifield made his major league debut in 2016, and he’s is on his way to having a second-straight five-win season at 30-years-old and he’s appearing in his first All-Star Game. Not bad for a guy who spent five years between Double-A and Triple-A.
Sandy Alcántarra – Miami Marlins
Okay, maybe Brennaman has a point. Alcántara’s not having a bad year, but I wouldn’t say that he’s been especially good either. His season hasn’t been as good as Caleb Smith or Pablo López who each could have been Miami’s lone All-Star. López is injured, but Smith is still active. Still, Alcántara’s fastball hits 99 mph, and even if fastballs like that are more and more common, they’re still fun to watch.
Kirby Yates – Padres
Somehow, no other Padre made it to the All-Star team. Neither Fernando Tatís Jr. nor Chris Paddack nor Manny Machado made it, but Yates did. Yates is one of the few relievers having a better year than Smith. Yates has struck out 40.5 percent of batters and his ERA of 1.15 isn’t entirely fluky as his FIP is just 1.38. With Smith and Yates in the back of the bullpen, should the National League carry a lead into the eighth inning (lol) the game might as well be over.