The Oakland Athletics are sending six representatives to the 2014 MLB All-Star Game. Their luck ran short in the fan voting portion of the proceedings, as neither of the down-to-the-wire races went their way, so third baseman Josh Donaldson is the only starter from the team. However, there will be five reserves from Oakland: outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, catcher Derek Norris, first baseman Brandon Moss, starting pitcher Scott Kazmir, and relief pitcher Sean Doolittle.
Newly acquired hurler Jeff Samardzija, picked up from the National League's Chicago Cubs on Friday, was selected as a reserve for the NL team. He will still be a part of the NL squad, but he will not play in the game. Kazmir is not starting on the Sunday before the exhibition contest (he goes on Thursday in San Francisco), so he will be eligible to pitch.
Norris and Cespedes both made serious pushes to start the game at their respective positions, but they couldn't quite collect enough votes. Norris wasn't able to pass the injured Matt Wieters for the starting nod behind the plate, and although he likely finished in second place he was not selected to replace Wieters in the lineup. Instead, Kansas City's Salvador Perez was picked, apparently by the players themselves. Biases aside, I can't argue with that selection. While Norris blows him away as a hitter, Perez blows Norris away even more as a defender. Consider that he won a well-deserved Gold Glove as a catcher at age 23, at a position where veteran experience tends to be a big part of the job. He is serious business on defense, and his .785 OPS (114 OPS+) isn't too shabby for a glove-first player. Joining Norris on the bench will be former Athletic Kurt Suzuki, who will represent the hometown Minnesota Twins. This is the first All-Star selection for both Norris and Suzuki.
Meanwhile, Cespedes was in a tight race with Melky Cabrera for the third starting spot in the outfield, behind Jose Bautista and Mike Trout. However, Baltimore's Adam Jones swooped in and grabbed the honor, cementing Orioles fans as the biggest ballot-stuffers of the season when also considering that they got in a guy (Wieters) who has played 26 games this year and is out for the season. I don't really get why Jones gets so many awards and accolades; this is his fourth All-Star bid and second straight starting nod, and he also has three Gold Glove awards and a Silver Slugger. Don't get me wrong, Jones is good. In fact, he had a higher OPS+ than Cespedes entering Sunday (130 to 121) and the edge in bWAR (3.1 to 2.8). But his offense is largely driven by batting average since he has no plate discipline (negative-six walks on the season) and he has deserved zero of those three Gold Gloves. Last year's Silver Slugger award was fair enough, but that's just the thing. Jones is a good hitter who puts up pretty baseball card stats -- .280-.300 average, 30+ homers -- but Cespedes (and Alex Gordon, to name another) is a complete baseball player who is good at nearly every facet of the game.
This is the first All-Star selection for Donaldson, Cespedes, Moss, Norris, Doolittle, and Samardzija. Kazmir was chosen twice as a Tampa Bay Ray, in 2006 and 2008; this is his third selection. Cespedes was picked as part of the player vote, meaning that he was one of the top three guys chosen by the players who didn't already get voted in by the fans.
Oakland's six representatives are the most that the team has sent in a single year since 1975. They sent eight players that year: pitchers Vida Blue and Rollie Fingers, catcher Gene Tenace, shortstop Bert Campaneris, third baseman Sal Bando, and outfielders Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi, and Claudell Washington. They also sent six players each year from 1972-74, and five players each year from 1988-91. The last time they sent at least three players was 2003, when pitchers Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, and Keith Foulke, and catcher Ramon Hernandez, represented the team. They haven't sent a position player since Hernandez in '03, and Donaldson is the first position player to start since Jason Giambi in 2000 and the first player to start overall since Dan Haren toed the rubber for the first two innings in 2007.
Besides Suzuki, there are two other former Athletics in the game. Starting pitcher Tyson Ross will represent the San Diego Padres as their lone player, and reliever Pat Neshek will go for the St. Louis Cardinals. This is the first selection for both players. The A's lead all teams with their six All-Stars, and it's even more impressive if you re-word it to state that there are seven All-Stars on the Oakland A's. The Giants only had two players picked: pitcher Madison Bumgarner and outfielder/alien Hunter Pence.
The stats for Oakland's seven All-Stars, through Sunday's game:
Donaldson: .241/.319/.459, 19 homers, 4.6 bWAR
Cespedes: .262/.316/.473, 14 homers, 2.8 bWAR
Norris: .306/.410/.503, 8 homers, 2.4 bWAR
Moss: .272/.359/.530, 19 homers, 2.9 bWAR
Kazmir: 10-3, 2.53 ERA, 3.81 K/BB, 2.5 bWAR
Doolittle: 13 saves, 2.98 ERA, 30.50 K/BB, 0.7 bWAR (but 1.9 fWAR!)
Samardzija: 3-7, 2.74 ERA, 3.38 K/BB, 1.9 bWAR (bWAR not counting Sun.)
Your 2014 Oakland Athletics All-Stars:
And if you move a bit further back, you get a seventh All-Star in the frame
Oh, and it looks like Cespedes will be defending his Home Run Derby title from last year:
If there was any doubt of Cespedes doing Derby, he says through Ariel Prieto, "I also feel so happy to again be part of the Home Run Derby."— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) July 7, 2014
So, for the first time in recent memory, there is a reason for A's fans to watch the MLB All-Star Game. And if you won't be home in time to catch the beginning, that's ok; the last five innings are going to be aaaall A's.