Meet MLB’s All-'Never-been an All-Star' Team

Meet MLB’s All-'Never-been an All-Star' Team

No soup for you! Tony Phillips never made an All-Star Game, but his Bash Brothers teammates made plenty.
No soup for you! Tony Phillips never made an All-Star Game, but his Bash Brothers teammates made plenty.
Image: AP

Nowadays, it seems like every baseball player under the sun has been an All-Star at some point in their careers. In 2019, there were four AL second basemen selected for the Midsummer Classic. FOUR! In total, there were 75 players awarded All-Star recognition in 2019. In 2018, 73 players were named All-Stars, including four catchers in the National League. I didn’t think there were that many All-Star catchers across all of Major League Baseball. In just the last five years, we’ve seen players like David Dahl, Tommy La Stella, Mitch Moreland, Joe Jimenez, Justin Smoak, Zack Cozart, and Jason Vargas each earn an All-Star nod. These are guys that casual fans may have never heard of. It might lead one to think that if a player never made an All-Star team in their career, they were probably never that good. Well, actually… that’s not the case. There have been dozens of players who put together incredible careers without ever being recognized as All-Stars.

With the 2021 All-Star Game voting polls now open, I’m building a lineup out of the best players ever who cannot jot “MLB All-Star” down on their career resumes, and I’m pretty sure this team could compete for a World Series.

Note: MLB’s first All-Star Game was held in 1933. Any player who played before then is immediately out of the running for this list. Likewise, any player who has played in the 2021 MLB season will be exempt as well due to the fact that their legacies have not been finished yet. So, yes, I know Shohei Ohtani is a modern Babe Ruth and he’s an incredible ball player, but you will not find his name here. That being said, let’s get into it.

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Catcher: Chris Hoiles

Catcher: Chris Hoiles

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Catchers aren’t expected to swing big bats anymore. They’re expected to call a good game, throw out base stealers, and frame pitches well. Any offensive firepower is a plus. But in the 90s, catchers could mash. Piazza, Pudge, and Todd Hundley were just a few of the several powerful receivers that decade. Baltimore backstop Chris Hoiles may never have been as threatening as the three guys I just mentioned, but there was a five-year stretch from 1992 to 1996 where Hoiles slashed .269/.381/.498 for an OPS+ of 118. He also smashed 112 homers and drove in 306 runs during that stretch. Hoiles even finished 16th in AL MVP voting in 1993 — second-best among catchers that year (New York Yankees’ catcher Mike Stanley finished 14th) — when he hit 29 homers and recorded an OPS of 1.001.

Hoiles was no slouch behind the plate either. From ’93 to ’95, he threw out 101 potential base stealers in 282 attempts. That’s a 35.8 percent clip — nearly three points higher than the league average during that stretch. Longevity was the main issue for Hoiles — he only played in 100 games in four of his eight full seasons in the majors. But when he was in the lineup, he was an absolute menace to opposing pitching staffs.

Honorable Mentions: Bengie Molina & Rick Dempsey

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First Base: Hal Trosky

First Base: Hal Trosky

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I was entirely expecting to put Eric Karros in at this position, but the all-time WAR leader for first basemen since 1933 with no All-Star appearances is none other than Hal Trosky of the Cleveland Indians. During his 10 full seasons in Major League Baseball, Trosky earned MVP votes four times. He also had six seasons with at least 25 homers.

In 1936, Trosky batted in 162 runs to lead the league. Trosky finished his career with an .892 OPS, and that was after his final two years with the Chicago White Sox where Trosky recorded an OPS of just .687 across 796 at-bats. The problem for Trosky: He played in a league where first base was occupied by Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx and Hank Greenberg, rough competition.

Honorable Mentions: Eric Karros & Earl Torgeson

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Second Base: Tony Phillips

Second Base: Tony Phillips

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Tony Phillips was a Moneyball player with the A’s and Tigers before Moneyball was even a concept. Phillips had 11 seasons with an on-base percentage 100 points higher than his batting average. Phillips was a champion of walks — leading the league in that department in both 1993 and 1996. Phillips was also a fantastic utility man, as he played at least 100 games as a second baseman, third baseman, shortstop, left fielder, right fielder, and as a designated hitter. He earns the spot at second base though because that’s where he spent most of his career.

Phillips had inconsistent power numbers. From 1989 to 1995, he’s had three seasons with eight or fewer home runs, but also had a season with 19 dingers in 1994 and followed that up with 27 home runs in ’95. His best chance to earn an All-Star nod was 1993 when Phillips finished 16th in MVP voting, slashing .313/.443/.398. However, Phillips hit only seven home runs that entire season and that’s what likely kept him out of the midsummer classic that year.

Honorable Mentions: Bill Doran & Mark Ellis

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Third Base: Eric Chavez

Third Base: Eric Chavez

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This wasn’t a close one. It was the most obvious selection on this list. Oakland legend and Moneyball player Eric Chavez had a six-year stretch between 2000 and 2005 where he earned five Gold Glove awards, smashed 177 home runs, and drove in 588 runs. Chavez finished top-25 in MVP voting in three of those seasons. However, he could never find his way onto an AL All-Star squad.

Chavez may have had an opportunity down the line in his career, but the 2002 Silver Slugger winner played in just 449 career games in eight seasons after 2006 — bouncing around between the A’s, Yankees, and Diamondbacks. In 2002, Chavez had his best opportunity to make the All-Star team when he hit .271 with 20 home runs and 58 RBI in the first half. Despite those strong stats, the third-base spots were given to Shea Hillenbrand, Robin Ventura, and Tony Batista — none of whom received any MVP votes that season, while Chavez finished 14th in voting that year.

Honorable Mentions: Richie Hebner & Chase Headley

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Shortstop: John Valentin

Shortstop: John Valentin

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Boston’s John Valentin fell victim to playing in the same league as both Cal Ripken Jr. and Derek Jeter. Despite a four-year stretch where Valentin averaged over 20 home runs, 75 RBI, and 10 stolen bases a season, he could never get a spot on the All-Star team because of those pesky all-timers gobbling up the spots.

Valentin’s best season came in 1995 when he drove in 102 runs on the back of 27 homers. Valentin finished that season ninth in MVP voting and took home the Silver Slugger award for the shortstop position. Valentin had an OPS of .913 in the first half of that season and had hit 14 home runs with 42 RBI. Why didn’t that earn him an All-Star bid? Zero idea. Oh wait... Probably because that Ripken guy was less than two months from breaking Lou Gehrig’s Iron Man streak — but it was still a huge snub for Valentin that season.

Honorable Mentions: Juan Uribe & Solly Hemus

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Outfield: Kirk Gibson, Kevin McReynolds & Tim Salmon

Outfield: Kirk Gibson, Kevin McReynolds & Tim Salmon

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Yes, I know none of these players were primarily centerfielders, but both Gibson and McReynolds played over 300 games in centerfield, so I’d feel comfortable playing either in that position on this team. Now that that’s out of the way, between these three players are a Rookie of the Year Award, an MVP, and four other top-10 MVP seasons — but zero All-Star appearances.

McReynolds was a pretty solid player for both the Padres and Mets. He recorded six seasons with at least 20 home runs (back when 25 meant you were in the Top 20 in all of baseball) and finished third in MVP voting in 1988 — when Kirk Gibson won the MVP. McReynolds also had four straight seasons from 1986 to 1989 where he batted in at least 85 runs every year. He was also a decent base stealer, accruing 93 stolen bases throughout his career while only being caught 32 times.

Gibson was another obvious choice. When you win an MVP award, but still never earn an All-Star bid, you’re pretty much a given for any list like this. More well known for his three years with the Dodgers — when he won his MVP award and hit one of the most iconic home runs in MLB history — Gibson’s best stretch of baseball came earlier in his career with the Detroit Tigers. In his final four seasons in the Motor City, Gibson never failed to record an OPS under .860, which was his exact OPS in 1988 when he won the MVP. Gibson should’ve made the All-Star team in 1985 when he .296 with 18 home runs and 61 RBI in the first half of the season, but he was glossed over in favor of Rickey Henderson, Dave Winfield, Jim Rice, Harold Baines, Phil Bradley, Tom Brunansky, and Gary Ward. By the way, Ward was hitting .282 with only five home runs and 40 RBI at the All-Star break. Gibson definitely deserved a spot over him.

Finally, Tim Salmon — the second-best fish to ever put on an Angels jersey. Salmon put together a four-season stretch in which he finished top-15 in MVP voting three of those years. He had an OPS of over .900 in those three seasons including an OPS of 1.024 in 1995. Salmon was also a pivotal part of the Angels’ World Series run in 2002, when he recorded an .883 OPS with 22 homers and 88 RBI. Salmon finished his career with a .282 average and an OPS+ of 128.

Honorable Mentions: Sixto Lezcano, Oscar Gamble, Dwayne Murphy, Garry Maddox, Bobby Higginson & Shannon Stewart

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Designated Hitter: Travis Hafner

Designated Hitter: Travis Hafner

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There was a three-year stretch in the mid-2000s where there was an actual debate about who was a better designated hitter: David Ortiz or Travis Hafner. The long-time Cleveland Indian recorded an OPS of greater than .990 for three straight years between 2004 and 2006. He even led the league in that category in ‘06. During that stretch, Hafner recorded 217 extra-base hits and 334 RBI.

After 2007, Hafner struggled mightily with injuries. He played in at least 100 games just for the remainder of his career. Hafner’s power numbers also dropped off significantly, as he never reached 20 dingers after that 2007 season.

Honorable Mention: Kendrys Morales

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Right-Handed Starter: John Denny

Right-Handed Starter: John Denny

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Denny had one season where he led the league in ERA and another where he led the league in wins while winning the Cy Young Award. Just those two seasons were enough to give Denny consideration for this list. But it was Denny’s consistency that earned him the spot. Denny recorded four seasons with an ERA under 3.00, and only three seasons with a losing record.

Denny’s greatest attribute was his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark. Only once did Denny have a home runs allowed per 9 innings rate of 1.0 or higher. During his Cy Young season, Denny allowed just nine home runs in 242.2 innings. That would be unheard of in today’s game.

Honorable Mentions: Danny Darwin & Alex Fernandez

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Left-Handed Starter: John Tudor

Left-Handed Starter: John Tudor

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Tudor finished second in Cy Young voting in 1985. He had a career ERA of 3.12 and a career win percentage of 61.9 percent. Those are some pretty good numbers, and if not for Dwight “Doc” Gooden having one of the greatest seasons of all-time, Tudor surely would’ve taken home the Cy Young in 1985. After all, Tudor finished that season with a 1.93 ERA and ten shutouts.

Tudor was also excellent in the postseason. Tudor appeared in three World Series in his career, winning one. In the October Classic, Tudor recorded a 3-2 record with a solid 3.86 ERA. The cherry on top is that hitters posted an abysmal .374 slugging percentage against Tudor over the course of his career. He was incredibly hard to hit, but was never the top pitcher in the game and that’s probably what kept him out of the All-Star game for all 12 years of his career.

Honorable Mentions: Fritz Ostermueller & Jarrod Washburn

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Right-Handed Reliever: Ellis Kinder

Right-Handed Reliever: Ellis Kinder

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Ellis Kinder started 122 games throughout his career, but he also had two seasons in which he led the league in saves (1951 and 1953), so he earns a reliever spot on this team. Even as a reliever for most of his career, Kinder finished top-11 in MVP voting three times.

As a starter in 1949, Kinder recorded 23 wins and a 3.36 ERA. He finished fifth in MVP voting that year. Kinder not only would have closer potential for this team, but he could fill in for a starter if this team got hit with the injury bug. Kinder was versatile, devastating, and consistent throughout his career — recording a 3.09 ERA in his final full season in MLB. He definitely deserves a spot on the “Never-been-an-All-Star” team.

Honorable Mentions: Mark Eichhorn & Moe Drabowsky

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Left-Handed Reliever: Ron Perranoski

Left-Handed Reliever: Ron Perranoski

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Unlike Kinder, Perranoski started just one game in his career. He was a shut-down reliever from day one. Despite not starting a single game in his career after his rookie season, Perranoski still recorded 79 wins in his career, including 16 in 1963 when Perranoski finished fourth in MVP voting. Perranoski would be one of the most dominant pitchers in the game through his first ten seasons as he never recorded an ERA higher than 3.18 throughout his first decade in the league. Perranoski also recorded the most saves in MLB in back-to-back seasons toward the end of his career (1969 and 1970). He finished top-13 in MVP voting both of those seasons.

The Cy Young Award did not get introduced to Major League Baseball until 1967. While Perranoski did earn Cy Young votes in 1970, it’s very likely that Perranoski would have taken home a Cy Young if it had been around in 1963. If we were fielding this team today, Perranoski would probably not be our closer. His strikeout rate was far too low to keep up with the strong hitters of today, but he could thrive as a lefty specialist — someone who gets out of jams with his ability to create weak contact and induce double plays.

Honorable Mentions: Jeff Fassero & Javier Lopez

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