A day after teammates shared their disbelief that Rafael Soriano was left off the National League all-star team, the Nationals’ closer echoed similar sentiments of astonishment. Even before the all-star rosters were announced on Sunday, Soriano said he was looking forward to spending the all-star break in his native Dominican Republic relaxing with his family — but if he was selected to the team, he would go for the second time in his 13-year career.
But after the rosters were announced and Soriano’s name was left off the list, he was confused. All three closers selected to the team — Aroldis Chapman of the Reds, Craig Kimbrel of the Braves and Francisco Rodriguez of the Brewers — were chosen by player vote. In the players’ eyes, he wasn’t among the best three in the NL. Asked about being passed over, Soriano was more frustrated than upset. He wasn’t seeking the honor but didn’t understand what was wrong with his credentials.
“In this job, nothing is given,” Soriano said in Spanish. “What I’ve got, I’ve earned. No one has given it to me. Things are not given. The all-star game isn’t given to anyone. There are some pitchers who can’t pitch because they have to pitch on Sunday. I’m not going anymore. If the manager comes and tells me tomorrow, I’ll say I’m not going because I don’t want to be given anything. Things are not given, they’re earned. And if it’s by numbers, look up at the numbers of all the closers. Where am I? I’ll go home and spend three, four days there and I’ll forget about this.”
So even if other NL pitchers drop out of the All-Star Game, Soriano said he is going home to the Dominican. Starter Tyson Ross, for example, is scheduled to pitch for the Padres on Sunday and won’t pitch in the All-Star Game in Minneapolis, so a replacement will be needed. Chapman was dealing with a sore hamstring over the weekend and didn’t pitch Saturday.
There is a strong case for Soriano to have made the team in the first place. While he has only 21 saves, good for seventh in the NL, Soriano’s other numbers are superb. His 1.03 ERA is fourth-best among NL relievers, his measly 0.83 WHIP is fifth and opponents’ .154 average against him is sixth lowest. He has only blown two saves.
Chapman spent the first month and a half of the season on the disabled list and has made up for lost time, but has fewer saves (17) and a worse ERA (2.55) than Soriano. Rodriguez closes for the best team in the NL and, as a result, has the second-most save chances among NL relievers (30), while Soriano has 23. And although Rodriguez has 27 saves, tied with Kimbrel for the NL lead, Soriano bests him in ERA and WHIP. Kimbrel also has a worse ERA and WHIP than Soriano and has blown four saves.
“There are injustices in baseball,” said Soriano, who didn’t mention any other closers by name. “If I don’t have the numbers, that’s fine. But if I have the numbers, I have the numbers. It’s not because some guy says, ‘I want this guy and this guy.’ If I have better numbers than him, what’s up with the voting then? The numbers speak for themselves.”
Soriano also expressed his confusion with the overall selection process and voting. He wondered why the all-star representative of the Padres, the best bullpen in baseball for stretches of the season, was a starter. He was also confused why the Nationals, also among the best bullpens in the majors this season, had no all-star reliever selections. And, why Anthony Rendon, who has the NL’s 19th best OPS at .823, wasn’t included either as a utility player.