By Nathan Petrashek
So the All-Star game has started sans Zack Greinke, who was passed over by the NL manager (and dude who seemingly never goes away) Tony LaRussa. His pitcher picks were Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Clayton Kershaw, Wade Miley, and Huston Street.
No Greinke and no Johnny Cueto. And let’s be clear: those two were absolutely snubbed. Cueto is fourth in the NL in ERA and tied with R.A. Dickey (who is not just an All-Star, but candidate for the start) in pitcher WAR. Greinke is seventh in the NL in strikeouts, and every single pitcher above him on that list got in. Greinke once again has an exceptional K rate and isn’t walking many batters; his ERA stands at a solid 3.32 (it was an even better 2.82 when All-Stars were selected). Both Cueto and Greinke are giving up among the fewest home runs per nine innings in the league.
So what’s the deal, Tony? LaRussa gave some meandering explanation about pitching schedules, but that’s total crap. LaRussa doesn’t like Cueto because he kicked one of his players in the head during a brawl. He doesn’t like Greinke because he called Chris Carpenter a phony during the NLCS. The latter was just the latest incident in a long history of conflict between the Brewers and Cardinals: LaRussa has accused the Brewers of fiddling with the lighting at Miller Park, complained about untucked jerseys, and ordered Ryan Braun plunked by his hardest thrower and then offered a rambling, incoherent denial. But that’s LaRussa’s MO: Take revenge, but never admit that’s what you’re doing.
And you know what? I understand that. But what LaRussa doesn’t realize is that his personal vendettas put the NL at a disadvantage this year.
The MLB All-Star game is not meaningless. Unlike the Pro-Bowl and whatever they call it in the NBA, the All-Star game puts home-field advantage on the line. That’s a good thing. It gives the players something to play for and avoids the kind of apathy that makes the Pro-Bowl unwatchable.
It also requires the managers to take the game seriously.
If Tony LaRussa really thinks he’s better off trotting out Papelbon over Cueto or Greinke, he needs to have his Hall of Fame credentials reexamined. But more than likely he doesn’t believe that. It’s just more of the same petty stuff that has come to characterize LaRussa’s tenure.
But he’s good at it, and wins games, so he keeps getting a pass. That probably isn’t going to change with the NL up 8-0 in the fifth inning.