I think we can safely say that the days of the Pirates getting one pity All-Star are well behind us. Major League Baseball released the All-Star rosters this evening and there will be at least four Pirates representing the National League at CitiField this year. Andrew McCutchen was named to his third All-Star team, while Jason Grilli, Jeff Locke, and Pedro Alvarez were all named to their first.
McCutchen and Grilli were both no-doubters; McCutchen's quietly been one of the National League's better players this year and his breakout season last year made him on the faces of baseball. I have a feeling that he's going to be on quite a few more All-Star teams before his time in a Pirate uniform is done. Grilli's been baseball's the National League's best closer this year, despite a few recent hiccups, and guys with 28 saves and a 2.15 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings are pretty much no-brainers.
Locke and Alvarez are a little more surprising. Locke's certainly been one of the NL's better pitchers this year, but as a 25-year old without much big league experience or fanfare that's come pretty much out of nowhere this year, I sort of thought he'd be snubbed in the same way that James McDonald was last year. Alvarez took advantage of a weak third base crop in the NL this year, I think; you can certainly argue that his 22 homers and .500+ slugging percentage qualify him for the team (and likely a spot in the home run derby), but his OPS was below .700 less than a month ago.
I feel like I care a little bit less about the politics and pointless hype that surrounds the All-Star Game every year, but I can't pretend like it's not gratifying to see some of these guys (and the Pirates as a whole, since the club hasn't had four All-Stars in the same season since 1981) get their due recognition. Everyone knows Grilli's story, the way that his career went before Pittsburgh, and the way that he's absolutely blossomed as a Pirate. This All-Star nod is a bit of nice validation for him, I think, and it's obvious that this is something that he wanted pretty badly. I'm really happy for Alvarez, too; he's taken his lumps in Pittsburgh and the fans have been tough on him, but I've always suspected that no one took his struggles even a tenth as hard as he takes them himself. He's got a ways to go, but he's come a long way.
There's an awfully good chance the Pirates will end up with at least one more All-Star, I think. Yadier Molina got the most votes of any player in the NL, but he missed this afternoon's game getting his knee checked out by Cardinal doctors. Buster Posey is the only other catcher on the NL roster and I'm willing to bet that if Molina can't go to New York, Russell Martin will replace him on the roster. You can make pretty strong cases for Starling Marte and Mark Melancon, too, though Marte is hurt by the bias against young players that I thought would hurt Locke and All-Star teams seem to be moving away from naming middle relievers. There will be some roster shuffling as some guys back out and pitchers get scratched for starting too close to Tuesday's game, but I'd be surprised to see Marte or Melancon end up on the roster.
Still! Four Pirates on the All- Star team! This year is something.