The Major League Baseball All-Star Game, also called, The Midsummer Classic showcases the very best in the game on a yearly basis. Players are selected to represent both leagues by a combination of fan and current player votes. The structure of the vote, along with the imperative to have at least one representative from each team leads to significant snubs each year.
While the snubs are inevitable, some of them are wrongs that can never be righted and can grow more extreme in the minds of supporters each year. Here are the biggest snubs of the last 60 years.
You won’t believe which controversial pitcher was kept out of the 1987 game!
Dick Ellsworth 1963 – 6.6 WAR
Dick Ellsworth began his career with the Cubs. He pitched for Chicago for 8 years before bouncing around the league at the end of his career. The talented southpaw experienced quite a bit of bad luck during his career. Despite a career ERA of 3.72, Ellsworth finished his career 22 games under .500 at 115-137.
The left-hander never pitched better than he did in 1963. Ellsworth finished that season with a record of 22-10 and a 2.11 Earned Run Average. He was also able to strike out 185 batters over 290 innings pitched. The league did somewhat right the wrong by naming Ellsworth to his first All-Star team in 1964.
Dick Allen 1964 8.2 – WAR
Dick Allen spent the majority of the 1960’s and 1970’s as one of the most feared hitters in the major leagues. The 5-11 Corner Infielder blended an elite combination of strong hands, a patient approach and a powerful stroke. Over the course of his career, he made 7 All-Star teams and was the 1972 American League MVP.
If we are going strictly off of Wins Above Replacement, though, Allen was never better than his 1964 season. The 1B/3B was honored at the end of the year with the National League Rookie of the Year award, but he was not selected for the All-Star game.
A classic Cub is coming up!
Ron Santo 1967 – 8.7 WAR
The Chicago Cubs are a franchise rich on history and beloved players. Few players in Cubs history, though, were more beloved than Third Basemen Ron Santo. Santo was a member of 9 All-Star teams. In 2012, a significant wrong was righted when Santo was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, though he had passed away two years before.
While he did make the 9 All-Star games, he may have deserved a nod the most during the 1967 season. Santo hit .313 with 30 homers and 114 RBI’s while playing his typical Gold Glove defense at the hot corner.
Ferguson Jenkins 1970 – 9.5 WAR
Canadian born Ferguson Jenkins began his major league career in 1965 at the age of 23 and proceeded to pitch in the bigs for the next 19 years. Jenkins was a near-immediate success for the Chicago Cubs winning 20 games in 1967. He followed that feat by winning at least 20 games for the following five season.
Jenkins had an amazing season in 1970. He started 39 games and won 22 of them, carrying an ERA of 3.39 and striking out 274 batters. That stat line was not enough to get him into the mid-summer classic. Despite Jenkins’ Hall of Fame career, he would only pitch in a total of three All-Star games.
Phil Niekro 1974 – 6.8 WAR
Niekro has one of the longest careers of anyone who’s ever put on a Major League uniform. He utilized an incredible weapon, his knuckleball, to confuse and dominate hitters over that time frame. Phil and his brother Chuck combined for an amazing 539 wins and Phil was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.
His 1974 season, though, somehow fell under the radar. Niekro started an astonishing 39 games that year. He won 22 of those starts with a 2.38 ERA to go along with 195 strikeouts.
A pitcher with a complicated career is up next!
Roger Clemens 1987 – 8.4 WAR
Roger Clemens has what can easily be called an unforgettable career. By the time the big right-hander had finished his career, he was near the top of the MLB record books. Just the season before 1987, he had pitched the Boston Red Sox to the World Series where they fell to the New York Mets in 7 games.
Somehow, though, Clemens fell under the radar during his 1987 season. It’s hard to figure out why. The flamethrower won 20 of his 36 starts to go along with a stellar ERA of 2.97. Typical to form, Clemens struck out 256 batters over 281 innings.
Kirk Gibson 1987 – 6.2 WAR
1988 was a pretty big year for Outfielder Kirk Gibson. Not only did he capture the National Leagues Most Valuable Player Award, but he also won a World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers. And during that World Series, he hit maybe the most dramatic home run of all-time off closer Dennis Eckersley.
It’s not easy to tell why Gibson’s incredible season didn’t earn him an All-Star nod at mid-season. The left-handed hitter had a batting average of .290 to go along with 25 homers, 106 runs scored, and 76 RBI’s.
Rickey Henderson 1989 – 8.4 WAR
Few players in MLB history had as remarkable a career as Left Fielder Rickey Henderson. The Oakland native began his career with the A’s in 1979 and didn’t wrap things up until 2003 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He ended his career as the all-time leader in both stolen bases (1,406) and runs scored (2,295).
Despite his excellence, Henderson wasn’t rewarded with a spot on the All-Star team during the 1989 season. The consummate leadoff man had a .411 OBP that year with 12 home runs. He also scored 114 runs, knocked in 57 and stole a total of 77 bases.
Just ahead, an all-time great Brave who didn’t get the votes in 1989!
Lonnie Smith 1989 – 8.1 WAR
Lonnie Smith was one of the better players in the Major Leagues throughout the 1980’s. He was a threat on the base paths, hit a number of home runs and played excellent outfield defense. Coming back from a substance abuse issue, Smith played a major role on a number of teams that went deep into the playoffs.
After playing sparingly in 1987 and 1988, Smith had an incredible season in 1989 as he joined up with the surging Atlanta Braves. The outfielder had a 20-20 season with 21 homers and 25 stolen bases. He also batted .315 to go along with 89 runs scored and 79 runs batted in.
Bret Saberhagen 1989 – 7.5 WAR
During the 1980s, Royals right-hander Bret Saberhagen needed no advance introduction. The talented pitcher burst on the scene by helping Kansas City to win the World Series in 1985. He also took home the Cy Young award as the American Leagues’ top pitcher in 1985 and 1989.
But somehow, the first half of his 1989 season went unnoticed by those voting for the All-Star game. It’s hard to understand exactly how that happened. Saberhagen was marvelous, winning 23 games with a 2.16 ERA. He also struck out a total of 193 batters in 216 innings and had a 0.96 WHIP.
Frank Thomas 1991 – 7.2 WAR
Frank Thomas, also known as the Big Hurt, spent his 19 year Major League career clobbering whatever pitcher opposing teams put up against him. In 1991, he was just in the second year of an incredible career that would culminate in the first baseman being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
It’s easy to see why he might have gone unnoticed for the 1991 All-Star game as he had only played in 60 games beforehand. That season, however, was a blueprint for the many years to follow as Thomas hit .318 with 32 homers, 104 runs and 109 RBI’s.
Lenny Dykstra 1993 – 6.8 WAR
Lenny Dykstra was a player who was a bit ahead of his time. The Center-Fielder had skills that are respected and valued in today’s MLB in a way that they weren’t back in the early 1990s. “Nails” brought a hard-nosed attitude to the table to go along with patience at the plate, occasional power, and good defense.
The 1993 season, which culminated in a World Series run was one of Dykstra’s finest seasons. He batted .305 and showed off a brilliant batting eye with a .420 OBP. He also popped 19 balls over the wall, stole 37 bases, knocked home 57 RBI’s, and had an unreal 143 runs scored.
Keep going to get to one of the greatest switch hitters of all0time!
Albert Belle 1998 – 7.1 WAR
Albert Belle spent a significant portion of the 1990s changing his name (literally), arguing with the media, and being accused of corking his bat. There was no doubt, though, that Belle was a marvelously talented player capable of tremendous offensive feats. The slugger played his formative years with Cleveland but moved to the Chicago White Sox before the 1997 season.
The ’97 season was a dud for Albert which may be the reason why his 1998 season didn’t earn him an All-Star nod. Belle was unconscious in ’98 batting an insane .328. He added 49 homers, 6 steals, 113 runs scored and a jaw-dropping 152 RBI’s.
Chipper Jones 1999 – 7.3 WAR
When Chipper Jones was drafted out of Jacksonville, Florida High School in 1990, it was clear that he was headed for stardom. Taken number one overall, Jones rocketed through the Atlanta Braves farm system and became a Major League regular by the end of the 1995 season.
While he had some good years previously, his true breakout year came in 1999. The Third Baseman hit .319 and had an incredible .441 OBP. He chipped in 45 home runs, 116 runs scored and 110 runs batted in. This was just the start of an elite career that would end with a 2018 Hall of Fame nomination.
Albert Pujols 2002 – 5.4 WAR
It’s hard to remember a time when Albert Pujols wasn’t thought of as an absolute legend and one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all time. The 2002 season, though, was kind of one of those times. While Pujol’s 2001 season came out of nowhere and was a total revelation, All-Star voters were looking for something more during the 2002 seasons.
When the dust cleared, it was evident that the First Basemen had delivered. Albert had a somewhat lesser season than his 2001 campaign but he still hit .314 with a .394 OBP. In addition, he knocked 34 balls over the wall, drove in 127 runs and scored an additional 118 runs.
JD Drew 2004 – 8.6 WAR
The way JD Drew began his Major League career rubbed a number of fans the wrong way. Coming out of the legendary Florida State University baseball program, Drew was seen as a generational prospect who would change the fortunes of whatever team that drafted him. The Outfielder played hardball with the Phillies, returned to the draft and was eventually selected by the St.Louis Cardinals.
With expectations so high, Drew began his career behind the eight-ball. Drew moved from the Cardinals to the Braves in 2004 and put up an incredible year easily representative of his draft status. Drew hit .305 for Atlanta, throwing in 31 homers, 118 runs, 93 RBI’s and 12 stolen bases for fun.
Adrian Beltre 2004 – 9.7 WAR
Today, Adrian Beltre is recognized as one of the better all-around baseball players of the last 50 years. Back in 2004, though, his status was still up in the air. Beltre debuted for the Dodgers in 1998 as a 19 year old who may or may not have known exactly what he was doing.
By 2004 he was a Major League regular with significant untapped potential. He spent that year, though, tapping into the fullest extent of his abilities. The Third Baseman hit .334 with a .388 OPB. He also showed out power-wise with 48 homers, 121 RBI’s and 104 runs scored.
Travis Hafner 2006 – 6.0 WAR
Travis Hafner was never meant to be an MLB superstar. He was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 31st round of the 1996 MLB draft and was destined to be filler for their minor league system. “Pronk,” however, had other ideas and after being traded to the Cleveland Indians.
Despite his limitations as a fielder, Hafner was such a dominant hitter that he rose to the top. His 2006 season, ignored by the voters, featured a .308 batting average to go along with a .439 OBP. Hafner also slammed 42 homers, 31 doubles and 117 RBI’s.
Heath Bell 2007 – 2.5 WAR
It took Heath Bell quite a bit of time to become the dominant relief pitcher he eventually became. In fact, when he had one of his most dominant years in 2007, he wasn’t even the closer for the San Diego Padres. In spite of that fact, he blew away hitters at a rate better than almost any other relief pitcher in the Major Leagues.
For the year of 2007, Bell compiled an earned run average of 2.02 and a whip of .096. He also struck out 102 batters over 93 innings. While Bell would eventually become a dominant closer for the Padres, he would never be better than he was in 2007.
Edwin Encarnacion 2012 – 4.6 WAR
Throughout the early part of his career, Edwin Encarnacion flashed elite talent with the bat. The issue was his poor play on the defensive side of the ball which earned him the nickname “E-5.” Once Encarnacion made his way to the Blue Jays, the team let him focused solely on hitting and reaped fantastic rewards.
Encarnacion broke out with the Jays in a huge way. Over the course of the 2012 season, he hit .280 with a .384 OBP and a .557 slugging percentage. He knocked 42 balls over the wall scored 92 runs and drove in 110. Encarnacion is still slugging away today for the New York Yankees.