Five players who deserve a trip to Denver

With 64 players now automatically honored from the get-go, the concept of a major league player getting snubbed from the All-Star Game can spark discussions nearly as odious as those regarding the last teams into a 68-squad NCAA Tournament.

Alas, it’s just too much fun to ignore.

In this, the year of sticky stuff, of incessant injuries, of perilous pitching depth, the total number of players honored — even if not physically present at Denver’s Coors Field — may number close to 100 by the time roster replacements are made for the infirm and those pitching on the final weekend of the first half.

So, many of the forthcoming players may yet line up on a baseline and doff their poorly-conceived collector’s hat to the crowd on the evening of July 13. Until they’re there, though, here’s a look at five players who deserved but didn’t receive a roster spot when full All-Star Game rosters were announced Sunday evening:

Manny Machado has 15 HRs and 57 RBIs so far this season.

Seems a little odd to say a four-time All-Star and proud owner of a $300 million contract is consistently overlooked. Yet here’s Machado, whose signing signaled the Padres’ go-for-broke era, not among the four Friars headed to Denver despite an .825 OPS and sitting eighth among NL position players in WAR.

Machado remains an elite talent defensively, adding to his highlight reel with absurd glovework in right field when the Padres shift him that way. But the glory these days almost always goes to Fernando Tatis Jr., often rightfully so given his NL-best 26 home runs; he’s even paid better than Machado now, with a $341 million pact.

The Padres have more All-Stars than any club, deservedly so. It would only be fair that their glue guy gets to join in, too.

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There’s no easy answer to how in the world the New York Mets are atop the NL East and six games over .500 with a bevy of stars on the shelf and a struggling Francisco Lindor. The long answer could involve fortuitous sequencing and the aggregate contributions of more than a half dozen role players.

The short answer? Walker.

It’s easy to get overlooked in the shadow of Jacob deGrom, but the Mets would be nowhere without Walker’s 85 consistent and often dominant innings, during which he’s posted a 2.44 ERA and a .194 opponents’ batting average. His numbers are nearly identical but a tick better than rotation mate Marcus Stroman, and the Mets’ three top starters have taken crucial pressure off an often flailing offense and a bullpen overworked by the far less reliable fourth and fifth spots in the rotation.

His two-year, $20 million deal is turning into one of the best free-agent signings of the winter. He’s certainly earned the $50,000 bonus that’d come should he be named to the All-Star team.

J.P. Crawford, Mariners

The Mariners are a putrid offensive team, their .219 average worst in the majors, their 812 strikeouts ranking fifth and their .678 OPS worst in the AL. Little wonder they’re one of three teams to get no-hit not once, but twice. Meanwhile, two of their starting pitchers have ERAs of 5.82 and 5.88.

How, then, are they 44-40 rather than not flirting with 110 losses?

Look to Crawford. He ranks ninth in AL position player WAR (3.0) and second among AL shortstops with 10 Defensive Runs Saved. At the plate, he’s batting .289 with a .348 OBP and perhaps the most refreshing statistic of all — just 56 strikeouts in 308 at-bats.

OK, maybe a guy who keeps the line moving on offense and catches the ball on defense while keeping a doomed team’s head above water doesn’t scream All-Star. In 2021, though, it sure does.

Freddy Peralta, Brewers

It is now officially a Big Three in Milwaukee — Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Peralta have strong-armed the Brewers to a seven-game lead in the NL Central.

Woodruff and Burnes are All-Stars, but Peralta has been just as dominant as either of them.

He’s struck out 129 batters in 93 innings and ranks seventh or better in the NL in WHIP (0.90), strikeouts and ERA (2.23). In 10 of his 16 starts, he’s pitched at least six innings and given up two or fewer runs, wondrous consistency mixed with occasional dominance. With Milwaukee holding an 87% shot to make the playoffs, fans will know his name come October.

Max Scherzer, Nationals

A little-known streak, for now, will be broken: Scherzer’s seven-year run of consecutive All-Star games.

It should be eight: Scherzer’s 2.10 ERA ranks fifth in the NL and comes with a dash of dominance — 12.1 batters punched out per nine innings, trailing only deGrom and Peralta. He outpoints All-Star and potential game starter Yu Darvish in almost every statistical category, including ERA and WHIP (0.85 to 0.95).

Just because Scherzer isn’t lapping the field this year shouldn’t prevent him from getting his due. In this case, that means eight All-Star appearances, at least, on his Hall of Fame plaque.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Manny Machado, Max Scherzer among biggest MLB All-Star Game snubs

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