Second half could bring new crop of 'All-Stars'
Many notable performances come after not being selected to Midsummer Classic
There's no getting around what an All-Star selection means to a ballplayer's legacy.
Anyone who earns four All-Star selections in his career is forever defined as a "four-time All-Star." A player with six All-Star berths will consistently see "six-time All-Star" before his name. You get the picture.
But isn't that a strange way to define a player? It's essentially saying a player was one of the 34 or so best players in his league during the first 90-95 games of the season. That, of course, doesn't have the same ring to it.
And while making the All-Star Game is, indeed, a remarkable accomplishment, throughout the years, there have been plenty of players who didn't make the cut for the Midsummer Classic but went on to complete an All-Star-caliber season.
Neither Chase Headley nor Adam LaRoche found their way onto the National League All-Star roster in 2012, yet they finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the NL MVP Award race. Headley ended up leading the league with 115 RBIs, while LaRoche pieced together a 33-homer, 100-RBI campaign that -- like Headley -- ended with a Silver Slugger Award and a Gold Glove Award.
Yoenis Cespedes, this season's Chevrolet Home Run Derby champ, got similar treatment in the American League in '12. He didn't make the All-Star team, but hit 23 homers and knocked in 82 runs in a season during which he finished 10th in the AL MVP Award voting and second in the AL Rookie of the Year Award voting.
In 2011, Albert Pujols got off to a dreadful start to the season, hovering around .250 for much of the first two months. As a result, he was left off the All-Star team. No matter -- he responded to finish with splits of .299/37/99, and he ended up fifth in the NL MVP Award voting.
Jimmy Rollins was the most recent player to win a league MVP Award yet not reach the All-Star Game. At the break in 2007, he had posted a middling .286 batting average with an .847 OPS. By season's end, Rollins had led the Phillies to their first division title in 14 seasons while leading the league in runs and triples.
A year earlier, Justin Morneau missed out on the All-Star Game but took home the AL MVP Award, finishing with a .320 average, 34 homers and 130 RBIs.
Remember that incredible season Felix Hernandez pieced together in 2010, posting a 2.27 ERA, while leading the league in starts and innings pitched? He wasn't an All-Star, either -- the only season of the past five in which he wasn't named to the AL squad.
Even Mariano Rivera, this year's All-Star hero, experienced that in his first full big league season. Rivera was brilliant during the 1996 campaign and finished the year third in the AL Cy Young Award voting before helping lead the Yankees to a World Series title. He wasn't selected as an All-Star at the midway point.
There are plenty of candidates this season who hope to add themselves to the ever-growing list of second-half "All-Stars" after not being selected for the Midsummer Classic. In the AL, the trio of third basemen in Evan Longoria, Josh Donaldson and Adrian Beltre could be poised for a bit of revenge.
Because of the logjam at third base in the AL, they were all left out of the All-Star Game. But each has posted All-Star-caliber numbers, and all three hit in the middle of the order on contending clubs, so it's all but certain that we haven't heard the last of them.
In the NL, Stephen Strasburg is one of baseball's biggest stars -- but he's still awaiting his second trip to an All-Star Game. Some thought his 2.99 ERA this season would be enough to get the call to Citi Field.
There's also the bevy of snubbed talent atop the NL Central, which boasts three of the league's four best teams at the moment in the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds.
"They had a lot of candidates," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's always difficult to leave off guys."
And, of course, there's Yasiel Puig. The Dodgers' phenom had the numbers to merit not only an All-Star berth, but an All-Star start -- only many judged that he hadn't played in enough games to earn a spot. Surely, however, he has a chance to write his name in the history books -- All-Star or not -- if he can continue at his current torrid pace.