My followers and I had some fun on Twitter the other night, trying to compare actors to baseball players. Josh Hamilton to Robert Downey, Jr was a solid comparison. Robert DeNiro drew plenty of Cal Ripken, Jr, or Ken Griffey, Jr responses. Clint Eastwood was a toughy, as someone who was great in one area for an extended period of time, switched positions, and was equally great, if not better, in that area.
Robin Yount fit that description, as he began his Hall of Fame career as a shortstop, before switching to center field.
Yount won two MVP awards in his career, recorded 3,142 hits, and finished with a .344 wOBA and 66.1 wins above replacement. He made just three all star teams in his 20-year career from 1974-1993. From 1980-83, Yount’s 25.9 WAR ranked behind only Rickey Henderson, Mike Schmidt, and Andre Dawson. He was the second best infielder in the game, and was named an all star in 1980, 1982, and 1983, only missing out in 1981, in part due to the labor strike.
He didn’t even make the all star team in 1989 when he won his second MVP award at 33 years old. The idea of a player winning a coveted end of season award while not being considered good enough in the first half to make a roster supposedly comprising the best players in each league piqued my interest.
It would seem to mean one of two things:
1) The managers/coaches/players messed up in not choosing him
2) He was mediocre in the first half and had an absolutely torrid second half
Looking at Yount’s splits from the 1989 season, it seems to be a bit of both. His .299/.369/.468, in center field no less, should have been enough to earn him a spot on the roster. But he garnered much of his MVP support with an incredible .339/.403/.562 showing in the second half of the season. He probably wasn’t an MVP frontrunner at the halfway point, so his exclusion from the all star team seems strange mostly in hindsight.
Yount isn’t the only player to win an award while not making the all star team. In fact, from 2000-10, there are five other players who won either the MVP or Cy Young Award while not making the all star team at the midway point of the same season. Before getting into the specific players, it should be known that there is an expected disconnect between the ASG and the MVP and CYA, in that writers do not select all-stars, while managers and coaches do not vote on those two end of season awards. People think differently, and while a strong correlation should exist in this regard, it isn’t an automatic that a selection in one area results in recognition in the other.
Joey Votto is an asterisked member of this quintet since he was not originally selected to participate in the 2010 All Star Game. He made the team after the selection process, when fans voted him in for the final spot. At the time, Votto was hitting .314/.422/.589. His numbers were better than everyone in the first half, including Albert Pujols, and yet Pujols, Ryan Howard, and Adrian Gonzalez were selected as the 1B/DHs. Votto went onto win the MVP award last season, with a second half that exceeded his first half numbers: .336/.428/.613.
Despite a low wins total, Felix Hernandez won the AL Cy Young Award last season because he proved dominant in basically every pitching category that matters. His first half numbers were great last year — 2.88 ERA, 3.1 K/BB, 8.6 K/9, 1.16 WHIP — but his omission wasn’t exactly considered egregious. Jered Weaver had equally great numbers, and he was initially left off the roster. Hernandez put together a fantastic second half, with a 1.53 ERA, sub-1.00 WHIP, and 3.6 K/BB to cement his status as the best in the league. Was he more deserving than several other pitchers that made the roster? Yes, but his not being selected isn’t in the same category as Votto’s.
Jimmy Rollins won the 2007 NL MVP Award, even if many adamantly believe Matt Holliday should have taken the crown. Regardless, Rollins put together a great campaign, and it’s hard to see how he didn’t make the team. Through 88 games — the full amount the Phillies had played before the break — Rollins had played premium defense at the toughest position while hitting .286/.329/.518. On top of that, he had already achieved the quadruple double, with 16 homers, 10 triples, 22 doubles, and 15 stolen bases. A .308/.362/.546 second half that saw him hit 14 more homers, rack up 10 more triples, bop 16 more doubles, and swipe 26 more bags pushed him to the forefront of the awards scene. The NL only carried two shortstops that year — starter Jose Reyes and backup J.J. Hardy. To incorporate the infamous meme: ‘should of’ been three!
The list is finished with two Twins: Justin Morneau in 2006, and Johan Santana in 2004. Morneau’s candidacy was similar to Rollins’ in that many believed someone else actually deserved the award. But most would agree that Morneau was at least in the discussion, and that would lend itself to all-star consideration. Nope. Morneau hit .300/.352/.587 in the first half, and traded power for some contact in the second half for a mightily impressive .342/.399/.531. He hit extremely well in both halves but lost out on a roster spot to Paul Konerko, Jim Thome, and David Ortiz.
Santana’s omission from the game in 2004 wasn’t even really all that problematic. He pitched well in the first half, but was plagued by that damn BABIP fairy: a 4.4 K/BB and 9.9 K/9 would seem to relate to a strong ERA, but Santana checked in at 3.78 when the rosters were being selected. In the second half, he would make 15 starts and put up the following videogame numbers: 13-0 W-L, 104 1/3 IP, 55 H, 23 BB, 129 K. That computes to a 1.21 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 11.1 K/9, and 5.6 K/BB.
So might there be anyone this year to win an award while missing out on the All Star game? Chime in with your selections below, but Cliff Lee instantly springs to mind. First, it will be tough to see Bruce Bochy taking all of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Lee, and given the notoriety associated with the first two in that trio from April-June, and Lee’s “slow” start in April and May, I can definitely see him being left off of the roster. But many of his rates are still bananas, and he has allowed one earned run in 33 June innings so far, lowering his ERA an entire run in the process.
Though Halladay is the likely CYA frontrunner right now, with Hamels right behind him, it is feasible that Lee could overtake the two, without being selected for the All-Star team.