Everyone loves Mike Trout. There was no mystery in his selection to the All-Star game on Sunday. Trout got more fan votes than any player in the major leagues except Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays. And, in the ultimate sign of respect among his peers, Trout got the most votes of anyone in either league on the players' ballot.
Not everyone loves Yasiel Puig. If his peers had their way, he would not start the All-Star game, as he finished fourth among National League outfielders in player balloting, behind Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins, Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Carlos Gomez of the Milwaukee Brewers.
However, the fans select the starters, and the fans picked Puig over Stanton. After Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly invited Puig into his office Sunday morning and broke the news, Puig retreated to his locker, sat down, leaned forward and buried his face in his hands. Then he stood up, revealing a wide smile.
He had been asked to keep the news quiet until the All-Star teams were announced Sunday afternoon.
"I couldn't say anything, so I had to hold it in," Puig said. "I was really happy. I want to thank everyone who voted for me."
Trout was thankful too, but not quite as happy. The Dodgers got four players into the All-Star game, with pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke and second baseman Dee Gordon joining Puig.
The Angels, with the second-best record in the major leagues, got only Trout. As of now, Trout is the lone Angels player in the All-Star game for the second consecutive season. Neither first baseman Albert Pujols, in his third season in Anaheim, nor Josh Hamilton, in his second, has appeared in the All-Star game as an Angel.
The Oakland Athletics, the only team with a better record than the Angels, got six players into the game — not counting pitcher Jeff Samardzija, whom they acquired from the Chicago Cubs on Saturday. Samardzija, who was elected to the NL team, will attend the game but will not be eligible to play, according to Major League Baseball.
"It sucks," Trout said. "I can't take it away from the A's, they're playing great baseball over there, but seeing [Garrett] Richards and [shortstop Erick] Aybar pitch and play every day . . . I don't know. It's tough."
Richards is 10-2 with a 2.71 earned-run average. He leads the American League in opponent batting average (.196), and he ranks in the top 10 in ERA and strikeouts. He is one of five AL players selected for a fan vote to determine the final player on the AL roster.
The AL players chose Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees, Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners, Mark Buehrle of the Toronto Blue Jays, Scott Kazmir of the A's and Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers ahead of Richards. AL Manager John Farrell of the Boston Red Sox picked David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays, Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers and Jon Lester of the Red Sox.
The NL players did not select Kershaw, the defending Cy Young winner who has thrown 36 consecutive scoreless innings, as the top pitcher in the league. They gave more votes to Johnny Cueto of the Cincinnati Reds and Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals than they did to Kershaw.
However, Kershaw still became the first Dodgers player to make at least four consecutive All-Star games since Mike Piazza (1993-97) and the first Dodgers pitcher to do so since Fernando Valenzuela (1981-86).
"I love it," Kershaw said of his selection. "It's not a goal, but to get to go and play with the game's best and to get to be a part of that and get to be associated with those guys, I hope I never take that for granted. That's pretty awesome."
Kershaw was not thrilled last season when NL Manager Bruce Bochy played to the hometown New York crowd in tabbing Mets rookie Matt Harvey as the NL starter. The NL manager this season is Mike Matheny of the Cardinals, who could opt for his own ace, Wainwright (11-4, 1.89), over Kershaw (10-2, 1.85).
"I'd love to do it," Kershaw said. "Obviously, there's a ton of great candidates. I'll be fine either way, but it would definitely be something that would be cool to do, that's for sure."
The Dodgers, as you might have heard a few million times, have not appeared in the World Series since 1988. The winning league in the All-Star game gets home-field advantage in the World Series, so the Dodgers have four players who could help them open the World Series at home if they get there.
"It's good, I guess," Kershaw said. "I don't like the rule at all. It's supposed to be an exhibition. You're supposed to go have fun and compete, but, at the same time, that shouldn't be the ultimate goal. It should be a really fun time for all of us. Hopefully, Dee steals a few bases and Puig hits a homer and we'll win the game."