By Richard Cuicchi | July 10, 2016 at 09:14 PM EDT | No Comments
The infield of first baseman Anthony Rizzo, second baseman Ben Zobrist, shortstop Addison Russell, and third baseman Kris Bryant makes for a formidable force within the Chicago Cubs’ lineup, leading the team to a solid first-place standing in the National League Central Division at mid-season. In a rare occurrence in baseball history, all four of them were rewarded with selections to the starting lineup of the National League all-star team that will compete in Major League Baseball’s annual midsummer classic on Tuesday.
In fact though, it’s not the first time a team’s entire infield had been selected to a major-league all-star team. The St. Louis Cardinals’ infield quartet, comprised of first baseman Bill White, second baseman Julian Javier, shortstop Dick Groat, and third baseman Ken Boyer, made such an appearance in 1963. When Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski withdrew from playing in the game with a pulled leg muscle, Javier replaced him to make up the entire infield of the National League’s starting lineup, the only time that had ever happened.
The election of four all-star infielders from the same team had nearly happened in 1957, when Cincinnati Reds fans began stuffing ballot boxes with pre-printed voting ballots that contained the names of the Reds’ entire starting lineup, including their four infielders. At one point in the voting process, eight Reds players were leading the tallies.
However, baseball commissioner Ford Frick interjected himself into the process, and Reds first baseman George Crowe was subsequently surpassed by Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals. Two of the elected Reds outfielders were replaced by Frick after the final votes were counted. However, the Reds’ other infielders, including second baseman Johnny Temple, shortstop Roy McMillan, and third baseman Don Hoak, remained on the final all-star team. Consequently, the misguided voting situation led to baseball fans being removed from the all-star selection process until 1970.
Fan-stuffing of the all-star ballot boxes occurred again last year for the Kansas City Royals’ entire starting lineup, except it was done via internet-based voting versus the paper ballots of 1957. Last year’s early voting results revealed that all of the Royals players were leading the balloting in their respective positions, largely due to an aggressive campaign by Royals fans to sway the outcome. Believing the situation was not in the best interests of the game, Major League Baseball intervened and voided over sixty million internet votes. Among the four Royals selected for the final team, shortstop Alcides Escobar and third baseman Mike Moustakas wound up being the only infielders.
Los Angeles Dodgers teams of the mid-1970s and early 1980s featured a core of players that comprised their starting infield for eight seasons. Their solid infield, made up of first baseman Steve Garvey, second baseman Dave Lopes, shortstop Bill Russell, and third baseman Ron Cey, was among the best of their era. While the foursome was never elected to an all-star team in the same season, they came close on two occasions. In 1976, Garvey, Russell, and Cey were selected for the National League, while Garvey, Russell, and Lopes made the team in 1980.
Although currently in a losing streak, this year’s hugely successful Cubs team has created a spirited buzz among baseball fans around the country. Not unexpected, their popularity has contributed to their sweep of infield positions on the fan’s National League starting team. Three other Cubs players, including pitchers Jake Arieta and John Lester and outfielder Dexter Fowler, were also named to the National League’s roster.
The Cubs’ four infielders account for over half of their team’s home runs and RBI so far. This season marks Rizzo’s third consecutive all-star appearance. For Zobrist, acquired by the Cubs as a free agent in the offseason, this is also his third all-star selection. Kris Bryant, who currently leads the National League in home runs, will make his second all-star appearance, while this is the first outing for Russell.
However, as is the situation practically every year, the fan voting for the starting players was not without its share of debate. Cases could legitimately be made for Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, and Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado to have been voted as the starters over their Cub counterparts.
But Rizzo, Russell, and Bryant are all in their mid-twenties. Whether it’s with 35-year-old Zobrist or some younger second baseman down the road, this group is good enough to have more all-star selections in their future.