I have a number of beefs with baseball’s All-Star Game, and that in itself is ridiculous. What should be a fun day for fans and players, a celebration of the best in the game, turns into a bunch of pouting and politics. Players are added who don’t deserve it. Players back out. Sportswriters overwrought with the task of upholding the sanctity and moral order of the event shout at the rain. Managers don’t know what they’re doing. Bud Selig knows less than that.
But if there’s one All-Star gaff that’s more glaring than the others, it’s this — Trot Nixon was never an All-Star. That’s insane.
Early in his tenure as the right fielder for the Boston Red Sox, Nixon soon fashioned out a niche for himself as The Red Sock, the player that fans identified with first and foremost. He had a number of big hits in his career, he played a solid — and at times great — right field in Fenway Park, and he played hard every day. And for the most part, the numbers bear that out. In his time with the Sox, Nixon hit .278 with an 845 OPS, and from 2000 to 2006, he averaged 23 home runs, 35 doubles and 91 RBI per 162 games played.
Certainly, those aren’t the flashiest numbers around, but they were more than solid, and well above average (the 117 OPS+ in that span bears that out). But despite some strong first half performances, Nixon was never tabbed to represent the American League, while a number of suspect outfielders made the cut.
Looking the numbers over (you can investigate his splits on his Baseball-Reference page), Nixon should at least have been in the discussion in five seasons — 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006. Some of the numbers that jump out, though, include 14 home runs, a .315 average and a 151 OPS+ in the first half of 2003, a 129 OPS+ in the first halves of 2005 and 2006, and double-digit home run totals in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
Who made the All-Star team ahead of Nixon those years? Among A.L. outfielders were Greg Vaughn (2001), Robert Fick (2002), Randy Winn (2002), Melvin Mora (2003, not a third baseman that year), Carl Everett (2003), Scott Podsednik (2005) and Gary Matthews Jr. (2006).
There were plenty of extenuating circumstances keeping him off some of those teams, I’m sure. The need to have every team represented, the competition among outfielders and the fact that the Red Sox seem to send at least six or seven players every year couldn’t have helped.
Nixon, of course, doesn’t need that to have a place in the hearts of Red Sox fans forever. He was on the 2004 team that broke through, he kept his cap folded in his back pocket, he terrorized Roger Clemens, he threw his bat at Ryan Rupe, and he started the comeback against the Oakland A’s in the 2003 Division Series. Obviously, this entire piece is a bit of a petty rant on behalf of a longtime favorite.
I’m going out to a birthday party tonight, and I’m sure the All-Star Game will be on. I’ll watch in passing while I enjoy a drink and make conversation, I’ll get a kick out of watching 30 different uniforms take the field like I always do, and then I’ll go back to reality on Wednesday morning.
But the game will always be a little lame, because Trot Nixon was never an All-Star. That’s bunk.