A few weeks ago, I was perusing Robin Yount’s Wikipedia page and saw the note that Yount and Fergie Jenkins were tied for the fewest All Star game appearances among Hall of Famers who played their entire careers during the era of All Star Games.  I realized that when Bert Blyleven is inducted this summer, he’ll lower the bar to two appearances.  How low can this game of All Star Game limbo go?  One appearance?  Zero?

I threw this idea over the wall to my baseball think tank.  The specific question was which player had the best career, but with zero All Star Game appearances.

Barry from the 314 gave me some good food for thought.  He pointed out that new White Sox slugger Adam Dunn has just 1 All Star Game appearance on his resume.  Dunn probably is hurt by the fact that he has a reputation as a “homer or strikeout” type of player and is a poor defender.  While it’s true that he’s a Three True Outcomes sort of player (see Moneyball for some background), he’s good enough at the third outcome (walks) to boost his on base percentage to a respectable level – .381 for his career.  If Dunn ends up with 600+ homers (quite likely) and a .380+ on base pecentage, will the voters keep him out of Cooperstown?

The most interesting player with zero All Star Game appearances is Dunn Lite – Mark Reynolds of the Orioles.  Granted, Reynolds is coming off a dreadful year in which he mustered just a .198 batting average.  However, his career batting average (.242) is just 8 points less than Dunn’s (.242 and he has been increasing his walk rate – nabbing 83 free passes last season.  Then, of course, there is the power – 104 homers in the past three seasons, including 44 in 2009.  However, Reynolds has been criticized so heavily for his record breaking tendency to strike out that he might never be selected to an All Star Game, even if he gets his numbers in line with those of Dunn.  (We know how I feel about strikeouts).

Is it actually possible for someone to be elected to the Hall of Fame without ever being recognized as an All Star?  On the face, this seems unlikely, considering the increasingly bloated size of the rosters (I actually made the National League All Star team last year).  However, it may actually be possible.

It would probably be easiest for a starting pitcher.  Some managers are very protective of their pitchers, preferring that they don’t pitch in the All Star Game.  When this happens, the manager of the All Star team typically avoids picking the player rather than wasting a roster spot on someone who won’t help them win the game.  Take a guy who is a consistent 16-17 game winner with four 20 wins seasons mixed in, and I could see a possibility of him only being considered maybe five times.  Once or twice, he may have pitched the last game before the break and be unavailable.  The other times, an overprotective manager keeps him off the team.  You’d need the stars to align in order for this to happen, but it might.

Can it happen to a position player?  Sure.  I think the most likely scenario would be a situation where there was a great class of players at one position (catcher seems to be a good candidate).  Several Hall of Famers in the group, with one guy lagging a bit behind the othes in terms of quality (a guy elected in the final years of his eligibility).  Make him a guy who starts slow and heats in up in the second half, and he may get overlooked because of lackluster first half stats – especially if there’s one random guy each year who has a torrid start and nabs a spot.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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