What makes an MLB All-Star in 2022? Here’s what MLB All-Stars had to say

Before becoming a seven-time All-Star himself, Paul Goldschmidt grew up in the Houston area as a kid, going to Astros games and voting for his favorite All-Stars: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Lance Berkman from that great generation of Astros -Players in the 1990s and early 2000s.

“The hard part was deciding how much of a homer you were going to be,” Goldschmidt recalled Monday. “I remember going to the games and getting the booklets and punching the holes in them and handing them in. We loved voting for it and talking to our friends about who deserved it and who didn’t.”

The St. Louis Cardinals first baseman is still nostalgic for those blue-and-white paper ballots with perforated holes next to each player—the National League players on one side, the American League players on the other. And it turns out he’s not the only one.

Seattle Mariners first baseman Ty France and New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole both grew up in Southern California and attended Angels games.

“I would grab a big stack and poke holes all game,” France said.

Cole said he did the same.

“I wish we still had the punches,” he said. “I would grab some ballots and use a pen and smack Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson and Darin Erstad and those guys.”

New York Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil has a similar recollection.

“Oh yeah, the little punch cards,” said McNeil, who also insists his affinity with the Los Angeles Dodgers never affected his voting. “I don’t think I did that just because I knew a lot about baseball growing up, so I think I made the right choice.”

Correctly. This is the debate that’s still raging nearly 90 years after the first All-Star Game: What makes an All-Star?

Players can now, of course, relive those childhood memories as they are part of the All-Star voting process, choosing the backups after fans have chosen the starters of the nine positions. There are stats to consider, advanced metrics to consume, and personal preferences to consider.

Some take their voting duties very seriously.

“It’s tough,” said Goldschmidt. “WAR is kind of broad, but I’m trying to look at a few different things. Offensively you can look at OPS and try to find things where they customize the ballpark like OPS+ or weighted runs made plus. …you can spend I’ve been working with this for days and days, so I’ve tried to account for baserunning and defense. It’s tough when you can only vote for two people in each position. That’s what makes it so special: They know how hard it is to come here.

And every player has a personal preference when it comes to qualifying stats. McNeil, who is one of only 21 qualified hitters with an All-Star Break average of .300 or better, is watching closely for this mark.

“I’m an average hitter, so I love guys who hit average,” he said. “Even if the power isn’t quite there, it’s extremely hard to hit average in the game these days. I talked to him [Miami Marlins first-time All-Star] Garrett Cooper and said to him, “You have my vote. I love to see what you are doing right now; You hit over .300, you put together some great bats. That’s huge for a team.”

Maybe McNeil is on to something; Of the 21 players who made .300, 15 made the All-Star roster, on the original list, or as substitutes. It’s not an all-encompassing stat like WAR, and it’s a bit dated, but .300 is still a number players respect — especially in a year when the overall major league average is just .242.

Still, it’s not that easy to say, “Pick the players with the best seasons.” Cardinals infielder Tommy Edman, despite finishing third in the majors among positional players in WAR, didn’t make the roster even after all the extra additions.

“He stinks because he’s a valuable player,” Goldschmidt said of his team-mate. “I think the offensive numbers just stand out a lot more. I had no idea his WAR was that high but I know he was a great player. There is no right answer.”

But there was one thing almost all players agreed on: selection should be made on the basis of best performance that year, not as a lifetime achievement award.

“It’s the 2022 All-Star Game,” McNeil said. “A player’s career is somehow related to that, but it should be the best year.”

But what it means to have the “best” year can be complicated when it sometimes feels like it Everyone finally comes in. Factor in all the injuries and pitcher substitutions, plus the requirement that every team get a representative, and some of the other quirks (like Atlanta Braves part-time catcher/DH William Contreras, who earned an All-Star start for the injured Bryce Harper, instead of, say, Freddie Freeman or Pete Alonso). This year we ended up with 81 All-Stars, including 37 freshmen.

That seems high – but turns out it’s not a record. Last year there were 42 first-time All-Stars. Nine of the top 10 All-Star rookies have come since 2010 (1988 and 2003 are also 10th), with the exception of the first contest in 1933.

This view of current-year value trumping career value or notoriety has evolved over the past two decades in both player opinion and the way fans have voted for starters. Previously, many of the same players were chosen as starters year after year – no matter what type of season they had. Rod Carew started 15 All-Star games—sure, many when he won batsman titles, but some late in his career when he was no longer a top-flight first baseman. Wade Boggs started 11 straight All-Star games at third base for the American League. Cal Ripken Jr. started 16 times in a row. Once you were an All-Star, you were an All-Star for the rest of your career.

There is actually an easy way to quantify this. Starting in 1970, the first year punches were distributed at baseball stadiums, I totaled the number of previous All-Star starts (not appearances) for each player on the lineup, not including the starting pitcher.

The most “experienced” lineup is a tie between the 1972 National League team and the 1999 American League roster, each with 46 total All-Star starts. Just look:

1972 National League

C – Johnny Bank (4)

1B – Lee May (1)

2B – Joe Morgan (1)

3B – Joe Torre (6)

SS — Don Kessinger (4)

Extended Version — Willie Stargell (3)

CF — Willie Mays (14)

RF – Henry Aaron (13)

1999 American League

C – Ivan Rodríguez (7)

1B – Jim Thome (2)

2B – Roberto Alomar (8)

3B – Cal Ripken Jr (16)

SS – Nomar Garciaparra (1)

LF – Kenny Lofton (4)

CF – Ken Griffey Jr (8)

RF–Manny Ramirez (1)

DH – Rafael Palmeiro (1)

Sure, in either lineup, a player or two with long runs skews things a bit, but they promote the point. In 1972, Mays hit .233 with four homers. The fans voted for him anyway. Contrast that with the philosophy of fans more recently, even future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols, who has only started once since leaving the Cardinals in 2011.

Gone are the bloated startup totals of the past. In 2021, the American League included just 16 career All-Star starts overall, with Salvador Perez finishing sixth. The National League total was 14, and seven of the nine position players were in the starting XI for the first time.

In 2022, the AL total is just 17 career All-Star starts; Aaron Judge leads the way with his fourth career start. The NL is 20, with Mookie Betts also leading by four starts.

It’s fair to assume that this sea change is due to the young talent in the game, but it also speaks to how difficult it is to stay on top in the sport in 2022. Perhaps Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Rafael Devers, both of whom rank second in career starts, will be chosen for the next decade. But even Dodgers first baseman Freeman, who started in the last three All-Star Games and came on as a backup just this year, said he didn’t do enough to warrant an automatic selection.

“I only have 12 seasons,” he laughed. “Maybe I’ve done enough for that after 20 seasons.”

MLB fixed that in a small way, adding office-selected “legends” spots where Pujols and Miguel Cabrera joined the roster this year — sort of a 2022 version of fans voting for an aging Willie Mays .

“I love that legacy thing,” Yanks hurler Cole said. “That is amazing. I played against Miggy for a long time. Sitting on the bus and chatting with him was pretty cool because we usually just casually talk on the field. Unless you are [Justin Verlander], at the end of your career you might not put on electric first halves to be chosen on merit, but there is so much knowledge these types of players can add to some of the younger first-time players in particular some of their heroes too meeting. This circle of information will only benefit the product across the board.”

And of course, there will always be a fandom element in all-star voting. Certainly in the high number of votes that pour in every summer from fan bases like Atlanta, New York or Boston – and, as it turns out, also in the ranks of the players.

Mets hitter Alonso described his philosophy simply enough: “I voted for myself and all my teammates.”

Freeman laughed at that. “To be honest, I voted for all the Dodgers,” he said. “I promise you, we all voted for our teammates.” What makes an MLB All-Star in 2022? Here’s what MLB All-Stars had to say

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