- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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The Cincinnati Reds are angry. Dusty Baker is very angry, accusing Tony La Russa of deliberately bypassing Johnny Cueto and Brandon Phillips in making his All-Star selections because of the infamous Reds-Cardinals brawl in 2010.
"A snub like that looks bad," Baker told reporters. "Johnny and Brandon were at the center of a skirmish between us and the Cardinals. Some of the Cardinals who aren't there anymore are making some of the selections."
Look, Cueto deserved to make the team. La Russa countered Baker by saying, "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."
Still when you go through the process step by step it's clear why Phillips and Cueto didn't make the team.
At second base, the fans voted in Dan Uggla as the starter and Jose Altuve was the players' choice. Once reserves from the players' vote were added -- guys like David Wright and Ryan Braun -- La Russa had four positions to fill. He went with Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz, a clearly deserving All-Star; Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, the club's lone representative; Reds outfielder Jay Bruce; and Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond.
Let's debate Desmond versus Phillips. Desmond is hitting .276/.308/.484; Phillips is hitting .285/.329/.442. Similar numbers. Even if you give Phillips an edge for his glove (which is debatable), I don't see where you can argue that Phillips got the short straw here. Especially when Aaron Hill is probably more deserving than Phillips.
The Bruce choice is actually a bit perplexing, especially when you consider that La Russa chose him over Matt Holliday or Michael Bourn, both of whom are having better seasons than Bruce. Holliday is hitting .307/.391/.502 compared to Bruce's .257/.326/.522. In fact, it's much easier to argue for Bruce's exclusion than it is for Phillips' inclusion.
OK, Johnny Cueto. He's 9-4 with a 2.26 ERA, a terrific ERA considering his home park. Once you get through the players' choices -- which included Lance Lynn -- La Russa had five spots for the pitching staff. His choices were Clayton Kershaw, Cole Hamels, Wade Miley, Huston Street and Jonathan Papelbon.
Miley was the Diamondbacks' lone rep. Street is the Padres' lone rep. You cannot fault for La Russa for choosing Kershaw and Hamels, obviously two of the best pitchers in the game and both having good seasons. The debatable selection is Papelbon, who isn't even having a particularly good season, and the Phillies already had Ruiz and Hamels on the roster. You can probably guess La Russa's thinking here: He'd prefer having a reliever pitching late in the game than a starter who isn't used to coming out of the bullpen. I'm not saying I agree with that, but I see the thought process, especially with Cueto scheduled to pitch Sunday.
La Russa did have a couple other options: He could have chosen Chase Headley as the Padres' representative -- but that would have meant over Desmond or Bruce. That would have allowed Cueto, Zack Greinke or James McDonald to be put on the roster instead of Street. He could have chosen Aaron Hill over Desmond, with one of the three starters going in place of Miley.
In the end, it comes down to difficult choices. Personally, I would prefer to see two of the deserving starting pitchers make it over the two relievers. La Russa better just hope that Papelbon doesn't lose the game.