Free Omar Infante

Posted by Lance Burson on July 4th, 2010

All Star Game selections were announced this weekend. The Atlanta Braves placed five men on the 2010 squad. Catcher Brian McCann, second baseman and National League hits leader as well as batting average leader, Martin Prado, injured rookie right fielder Jason Heyward, who despite a casted thumb, may play, right handed pitcher Tim Hudson and utility man Omar Infante. You read that correctly, Omar Infante. I was surprised as the rest of you by his selection made by Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. Infante has battled injury but is hitting .311 with one homerun and 22 rbi in just 164 at bats. That’s the rub with Infante. He has just 176 plate appearances, not enough to qualify for the batting title. He also does not have a position on the Atlanta Braves. He has played left field, shortstop, second base and third base. Backlash against Manuel’s selection has been swift, harsh, and abundant. Jeff Passan, yahoosports.com’s baseball blogger has called the pick of Omar, “the worst All-Star ever”. Ah, hyperbole is the battle cry of the internet isn’t it? Passan’s overreaction is expected. He’s a national writer who works out of the southwest. The vitriol provided by Braves bloggers and Atlanta media is what is puzzling. Omar Infante didn’t get elected by the fans. He didn’t select himself. Phillies’ skipper Charlie Manuel likes the cut of Omar’s gib, go get him. Personally I think arguing All-Star game selections is as pointless and inane as arguing Academy Award snubs but since the web critics are all over this subject, let’s jump into the deep end of the pool.

Omar Infante isn’t the worst all star ever. He isn’t even the worst Atlanta Brave all star. In 1978, Biff Pocoroba was named to the NL squad. Yeah, that Biff Pocoroba. The Braves’ part time catcher joined Jeff Burroughs and Phil Niekro in San Diego that year. So Biff wasn’t the obligatory have to name someone from each team pick. Pocoroba hit .262 with 4 homeruns 24 rbi in 229 at bats scoring just 16 runs in 61 games during the first half of 1978. Not exactly Mike Piazza or Brian McCann caliber, huh?

In 1981 and 1983, Braves’ catcher Bruce Benedict made the NL all star game. 1981 was a weird year with the game coming after the stupid strike, yet Bruuuuuuuce wasn’t tearing up baseball that season. His first half was a .287 average 3 long balls 22 rbi in just 167 at batsĀ in but 50 games. In 1983 Benedict made it hitting just .279 with only 1 homer 20 rbi in 70 games. Second baseman and current Braves’ first base coach, the diminutive Glenn Hubbard got picked that year too. He was stroking .300 with 5 homers and 37 rbi in 73 games.

The two players that we really need to look at are Walt Weiss, Braves shortstop in 1998 and Greg Olson, a rookie 30 year old journeyman catcher in 1990. Weiss in ’98 was 34 years old, at the end of a good career. He surprisingly hit .312 in the first half but had no homeruns only 18rbi in just 60 games. Olson was the real head scratcher. One year away from the Braves miraculous run to Minnesota, Olson was the only Braves all star in 1990. Recently picked up off the minor league scrap heap, Olson hit .289 in the first half with 6 homers 25 rbi 20 runs scored in just 166 at bats.

So in review, Omar ranks fifth all time statiscally of Braves selected who shouldn’t have been in the all star game. Biff Pocoroba, Greg Olson, Bruce Benedict and Walt Weiss all have cases that are stronger that they were worse Atlanta all stars than Omar.

Leave the utility man alone. On June 2nd, he beat the Phillies in front of Manuel. That made some impression. I wouldn’t be surprised in Omar pinch hit or played a utility role and factored into a National League win. Infante, worst All Star ever? Please. Someone sounds like a blogger.

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