Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Positional All-Star droughts: NL teams
By David Schoenfield
Quick: Name the last Mets All-Star left fielder? No, it wasn't Bernard Gilkey or Darryl Boston. Read on for the answer, as we go team-by-team through the National League to find the longest All-Star droughts at one position. (Here's the AL list.)
Longest All-Star drought: LF -- Ron Gant (1992)
The Braves have had four All-Star right fielders -- Jason Heyward, Gary Sheffield, Brian Jordan, David Justice -- since Gant's 1992 berth when he played left field. Gant hit 30-plus homers each season from 1990 to 1993 ... except '92, when he hit just 17. He even played primarily center field in '90 and '91. So of course '92 was his lone All-Star appearance with Atlanta.
Longest All-Star drought: CF -- never
This at least gives us the opportunity to mention the great Chuck Carr, the Marlins' center fielder their first three seasons and the NL's leader in stolen bases in the club's inaugural 1993 season (and also the NL leader in caught stealing). While later playing with the Brewers, manager Phil Garner ordered Carr to take a pitch with a 2-0 count. Carr reportedly responded by saying, "That ain't Chuckie's game. Chuckie hacks on 2-0." He was released a few days later.
New York Mets
Longest All-Star drought: LF -- Clean Jones (1969)
Curiously, the Mets have had few All-Star outfielders -- Richie Ashburn, Duke Snider, Jones, old Willie Mays, Lee Mazzilli, Joel Youngblood (one of the oddest All-Star selections ever), Darryl Strawberry, Bobby Bonilla, Lance Johnson and Carlos Beltran. And six of those 10 made it just once in a Mets uniform, Willie Mays made it because he was Willie Mays, and Ashburn and Snider represented the early, horrid Mets. So, really, the only perennial-type All-Star outfielders the Mets have had in 50 years are Strawberry and Beltran.
Anyway, Jones and center fielder Tommie Agee were the two best position players on the Miracle Mets of 1969. Born five days apart in August of 1942, the two were high school teammates at Mobile County Training School in Alabama. Agee signed with the Indians in 1961, never got a shot there, was traded to the White Sox and won Rookie of the Year honors in 1966, but was then traded to the Mets in 1968 for Tommy Davis. Jones was a football star at Alabama A&M and signed with the Mets in 1963. He had a career year in 1969, hitting .341 at the break to start the All-Star Game and finishing at .340 with a .422 on-base percentage. A major incident of that 1969 season was when manager Gil Hodges pulled Jones in the middle of an inning in a late July for apparently loafing after a fly ball. That was the belief at the time, although Jones later said Hodges would never embarrass him like that and he had a sore ankle.
Longest All-Star drought: C -- Mike Lieberthal (2000)
Here's something that seems weird: Jimmy Rollins hasn't made an All-Star team since 2005, meaning he didn't make it in 2007 when he won the NL MVP Award. NL All-Star shortstops since '05: Edgar Renteria, Jose Reyes, David Eckstein, J.J. Hardy, Hanley Ramirez, Cristian Guzman, Miguel Tejada, Rafael Furcal, Troy Tulowitzki and Starlin Castro.
Longest All-Star drought: C and CF -- Darrin Fletcher and Marquis Grissom (1994)
Ah, the poor 1994 Montreal Expos ... Ken Hill, Moises Alou and Wil Cordero were also All-Stars that year.
Longest All-Star drought: 2B -- Ryne Sandberg (1993)
Odds that Darwin Barney fixes this drought? Slim. Although maybe he'll become the first second baseman since Sandberg retired in 1997 to hold the job for more than two seasons.
Longest All-Star drought: C -- Bo Diaz (1987)
The Reds have actually had some decent production from catchers through the years -- Ramon Hernandez, Ryan Hanigan, David Ross, Eddie Taubensee and Joe Oliver all had their moments -- but none rose to All-Star level. Rookie Devin Mesoraco is expected to develop into an All-Star player.
Longest All-Star drought: C -- Craig Biggio (1991)
That was Biggio's last season as a catcher before he moved to second base. That meant the Astros needed a catcher, so they traded a prospect named Kenny Lofton to the Indians for Taubensee. Yes, that's two Eddie Taubensee mentions in consecutive paragraphs!
Longest All-Star drought: CF -- Dave May (1973)
I almost thought we were going to draw a blank here. What about Robin Yount, you ask? Yount only made three All-Star teams in his career, none as a center fielder (including 1989, when he won MVP honors). What about Gorman Thomas, you ask? Well, Thomas only made one All-Star team, and that was 1981, when the club tried Paul Molitor in center and moved Thomas to right. Molitor wasn't an All-Star that year, Thomas was, but Thomas ended up playing a few more games in right. So that leaves May as the only All-Star center fielder in Brewers history. He had a good season in '73, tied for the AL lead in total bases, eighth in the MVP vote; he wasn't really that good and was a regular only four seasons.
Longest All-Star drought: RF -- Bobby Bonilla (1991)
Would this be a bad time to mention that Mike Williams was the Pirates' All-Star rep in 2003 despite a 6.44 first-half ERA?
St. Louis Cardinals
Longest All-Star drought: 2B -- Tommie Herr (1985)
This was the year Herr drove in 110 runs despite hitting only eight home runs. Only two other players since 1950 have knocked in 100 runs with fewer than 10 homers: Paul Molitor in 1996 and George Kell in 1950. Batting behind Vince Coleman and Ozzie Smith, Herr hit .335 with runners in scoring position. The Cardinals have really had much production from second base since, with Fernando Vina's 2000-02 run being the best.
Longest All-Star drought: SS and 1B -- never
The D-backs have never had the same first baseman for more than two seasons in a row.
Longest All-Star drought: C -- never
Not even Coors Field could help Kirt Manwaring earn an All-Star nod.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Longest All-Star drought: 3B -- Pedro Guerrero (1983)
Guerrero was one of the best hitters in baseball in the early and mid-'80s and in one of his less enlightened moments Tommy Lasorda tried Guerrero at third base for a season and a half. Forty-six errors later, he moved Guerrero back to the outfield. Guerrero, by the way, was originally signed by Cleveland. After one season in rookie ball, Cleveland traded him for somebody named Bruce Ellingsen, a 24-year-old left-hander coming off a 6.71 ERA at Triple-A Albuquerque. This was in 1974. The Indians did stuff like that back then.
San Diego Padres
Longest All-Star drought: C and SS -- Benito Santiago, Tony Fernandez (1992)
Santiago was a four-time All-Star with the Padres even though his OBP was under .300 in three of those seasons. The fans voted him as the starter each of those years. There was an odd infatuation with Santiago back then that is difficult to explain.
San Francisco Giants
Longest All-Star drought: RF -- Chili Davis (1986)
For years, the Giants' inability to find decent running mates for Barry Bonds in the outfield plagued the franchise. In the 2002 World Series season, the regulars in center and right were Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Reggie Sanders. The year before the team won 90 games with Calvin Murray and Armando Rios. In 1993, the team that lost the division by one game, Darren Lewis and Willie McGee combined for six home runs in nearly 1,100 at-bats. And so on.