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FRANCISCO -- As far as some in the Reds clubhouse were concerned Sunday morning, old rival Tony La Russa found a way to get a last laugh in retirement.
While there was elation that Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Aroldis Chapman were named National League All-Stars, there was disappointment that rotation ace Johnny Cueto and two-time All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips were left off the team.
Cueto, 26, is 9-4 with a 2.26 ERA in 16 starts and is well on his way to breaking his career high of 12 wins. Over 107 2/3 innings, Cueto has allowed 98 hits and 25 walks while striking out 79. His ERA and 13 quality starts are second only to the Mets' R.A. Dickey, the likely NL starter, in the Senior Circuit.
"I'm very surprised," Bruce said. "He's one of the best pitchers in the league on a first-place team pretty much all year. Just because he didn't make the All-Star team doesn't speak to how valuable he's been to us. He's been great for us. He ranks among league leaders in pretty much every category."
Phillips, 31, entered Sunday batting .288 with 10 home runs and 46 RBIs and the three-time Gold Glove winner has again demonstrated fantastic defense throughout the season. His RBI total is first among NL second basemen and his home run total is second to Atlanta's Dan Uggla, selected by fans as the NL starter. The Astros' Jose Altuve, who was selected by the players, leads NL second basemen with a .307 batting average and 12 stolen bases.
La Russa, who retired as Cardinals manager after winning the World Series last season, is the National League skipper and, after the fan and player selections, had nine roster spots to select. He selected pitchers Cole Hamels, Clayton Kershaw, Wade Miley, Jonathan Papelbon and Huston Street, catcher Carlos Ruiz, versatile infielder Ian Desmond, and outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Bruce.
Despite his selection of Bruce, the Reds feel La Russa's history with their organization has something to do with the omissions of Cueto and Phillips.
"I don't understand that one there," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Cueto and Phillips' omission from the NL roster. "Somebody always gets snubbed. It just kind of looks bad that Johnny and Brandon were at the center of our skirmish between us and the Cardinals. Some of the Cardinals that aren't there anymore are making some of the selections."
The Reds and Cardinals rivalry has been heated for the past several seasons, and it's lasted even longer between Baker and La Russa. But the most notable moment came in August 2010 during a bench-clearing donnybrook between the two clubs at Great American Ball Park. The flashpoint of the incident came the previous day when Phillips made comments about the Cardinals. The benches cleared the next day when he and St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina had words at home plate.
During the scuffle, Cueto was pinned to the backstop and tried to kick his way out of trouble. Some of those kicks struck Cardinals catcher Jason LaRue, which gave him a career-ending concussion.
"I don't know if they based their selection on what happened in 2010 and that brawl," Cueto said through an interpreter. "But I don't think that's the way it should be. That's not fair if that's the way they pick and choose players. You should pick and choose players based on their performance and numbers on the field.
"I see that I have great numbers. Really to be honest, I thought with the way I was pitching this year I would have a chance to go to the All-Star Game. I don't know what happened, really."
La Russa explained Sunday during the MLB All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell that the pool of deserving starters was very deep and very difficult to decide. Cueto is slated to pitch Sunday vs. the Padres and the Reds would also like to give him the ball in the first game after the break, July 13 vs. the Cardinals, and that was a factor in La Russa's decision-making. Also not included was Brewers ace Zack Greinke.
After learning of the Reds displeasure, La Russa was pointed in his response to the criticism in speaking with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
"If Dusty had been more interested in Cueto being on the team, then he wouldn't be pitching him on Sunday," La Russa said. "Cueto probably would be on the team if he wasn't pitching Sunday.
"The comments Dusty made clearly disappoint me and are attacking my integrity. The All-Star experience is too important to let anything stand in the way of a decision like that. No way am I going to penalize anybody for any kind of past history. The fact is that Cueto is going to be pitching on Sunday. Some other day, he's probably on the team."
Neither Baker nor Votto felt like celebrating the fact that the Reds had three All-Stars. Votto was elected by the fans with over 7 million votes.
"It's kind of difficult to be overly happy today considering the two guys that I thought were shoo-ins aren't going to be on the team," Votto said. "That's frustrating. I knew a long time ago that I was going to be an All-Star. I was really hoping for those two guys and all five of us to go to Kansas City."