It was announced on Sunday night that four St. Louis Cardinals players will represent the team in the 2014 MLB All-Star Game: catcher Yadier Molina, who got the starting nod from the fans despite being third in batting average and tied for eighth in home runs among starting NL catchers; starting pitcher Adam Wainwright, who leads the league in ERA; righthanded relief pitcher Pat Neshek, who has the lowest ERA and WHIP of any NL reliever who has made at least 40 appearances; and third baseman Matt Carpenter, who is arguably the most reliable leadoff hitter in the league.
It was an especially heartwarming moment for the 33-year-old Neshek, who has endured plenty of ups and downs, both on and off the field, en route to his first All-Star appearance. After being extremely effective in his early career with the Minnesota Twins and being an unsuccessful candidate for the All-Star final vote in 2007, Neshek went on to spent a good chunk of the 2010 to 2012 seasons in the minors. He made it back to the bigs late in 2012 and regained his effectiveness, but he dealt with the tragic death of his infant child in October of that year. After having a mediocre 2013 in Oakland, he struggled to find offers (major-league or minor-league) this past offseason and ultimately decided to join the Cardinals as a non-roster invitee. After leaving the team during the spring to address another infant health scare, he ultimately made the squad and has gone on to have a 0.77 ERA and 0.57 WHIP over 35 innings.
Carpenter’s numbers don’t exactly fly off the wall as definite All-Star-worthy statistics, but his .375 on-base percentage as a leadoff man made him valuable. An equally strong factor in his presence was the fact that Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is managing the NL team and appointed Carpenter, citing his versatility as a strong plus. In all fairness to Matheny and Carpenter, though, that claim is questionable; though Carpenter spent his first All-Star campaign in 2013 playing second base, he’s played all but 1.2 innings at third.
The Cardinals really only had one player who could make an argument as a snub, first baseman Matt Adams. Adams could make a really good argument, though, as he is third in the league with a .328 average and fifth with a .522 slugging percentage. He missed just over two weeks with an injury in late May and early June, but it’s still very puzzling that he wasn’t even included as an option for the final fan vote.