Monday, July 2, 2012

What experts are saying about the snubs of Johnny Cueto and Brandon Phillips

Tony La Russa, manager of the NL All-Star squad,
made no attempt at hiding his personal grudges
through the selection process this year

A lot of folks in a lot of places were up in arms after seeing the All-Star Game rosters on Sunday. And rightfully so. Some of the more deserving players received the cold shoulder while others seemingly made the squad on their reputation (and not merit) alone.

The Reds certainly appeared to get the short end of the stick as two guys who were widely considered locks for the Midsummer Classic were left off the NL roster altogether: Johnny Cueto and Brandon Phillips. Adding further salt to the wound is the fact that former Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa was the man in charge of making many of the selections. And given the bad blood between the two division rivals in recent years, it has many around the baseball world crying foul.
Here's what some of the more notable baseball writers had to say about the matter:

Trent Rosecrans of

Brandon Phillips, Reds: This one was tight between Phillips and the third Diamondback on this list, Aaron Hill. Phillips' Gold Gloves (three with a spot on the shelf for No. 4 in November) gives him the edge. He's hitting .288/.330/.446, roughly his career marks in those category to go along with 10 HR and 46 RBI. Hill has higher marks in all the slash lines and one more homer, but Phillips is the best fielder at his position in the big leagues, and that counts for something.

Johnny Cueto, Reds: Cueto is 9-4 with a 2.26 ERA and his 2.29 ERA over the last two seasons is the best of any starter in the National League. Not only that, just two starters have given up fewer home runs per nine, but neither of those guys pitch half the time in the launching pad that is Great American Ball Park.

ESPN Insider Keith Law:

Over on the pitching staff, Johnny Cueto's a pretty serious oversight, a funny one because advanced metrics indicate that he hasn't been as good as his 2.26 ERA indicates but that he's still more than good enough to be on the roster.

The Huffington Post:

Although the first-place Reds are sending three players to the All-Star game, second baseman Brandon Phillips and pitcher Johnny Cueto were omitted from the Senior Circuit's roster. Baker seems to believe that Tony La Russa is the cause for the snubs. Despite retiring after the 2011 season, La Russa will helm the N.L. All-Stars after leading the Cards to the pennant last season.

"A snub like that looks bad. Johnny and Brandon were at the center of skirmish between us and the Cardinals. Some of Cardinals who aren’t there anymore are making some of the selections," Baker said referring to the bench-clearing brawl between the Reds and Cardinals from two years ago, via

Ken Rosenthal of

Cueto, the ace of the first-place Reds, fifth in the NL in ERA, is by far the most egregious snub. And you can’t accuse La Russa, who retired as Cardinals manager after last season, of pro-Cardinals or anti-Reds bias. He didn’t use any of his nine at-large picks on a Cardinals player. And one of his selections was Reds outfielder Jay Bruce. (You weren’t expecting La Russa to name his old friend Phillips, were you?)

Still, this isn’t that complicated. La Russa should have taken Cueto over Bruce.

John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer:

LaRussa should not have passed over Johnny Cueto because he’s pitching Sunday. Name him, then replace him if need be. La Russa saying if Dusty Baker wanted Cueto in the All-Star Game, he shouldn’t have scheduled him for Sunday is horse hockey. The priority is on the regular season.

Do I think the brawl had something to do with La Russa’s choice to leave Cueto and Brandon Phillips off? Absolutely.

Phillips not getting elected by the fans or the players clearly shows he has what political pollsters call “high negatives.” His style rubs a lot of people the wrong way. Reds fans love it; other fans hate it to the point where they’ll vote for Dan Uggla over him.

Phillips’ slow start hurt him. He leads NL second baseman in RBI but no other major offensive category. Still, given his defense, he deserved a spot.

One reason for optimism:

Despite of La Russa's best efforts to keep Cueto and Phillips off of the team, both could still wind up in Kansas City on July 10th if a current player on the roster should succumb to injury or otherwise be unable to participate.

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