How Omar Infante Became an All-Star Thanks to a Rival Manager

May 09, 2010; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Atlanta Braves shortstop Omar Infante (4) rounds third base in
May 09, 2010; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Atlanta Braves shortstop Omar Infante (4) rounds third base in / Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
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In 2010, five Atlanta Braves players were selected as All-Stars. Brian McCann won the All-Star Game MVP, but a notably forgotten part of that Midsummer Classic for Braves fans was that one of the team's bench players, Omar Infante, was selected for one of the most prestigious games in baseball. Even weirder, he wasn't even the worst All-Star on the team.

But why would Charlie Manuel, the manager of the rival Phillies choose a Braves bench player? How was it possible for an All-Star starter to be worse than a bench player?

2010 Omar Infante was good

Despite being a bench player, Omar Infante was actually pretty good in 2010. On the season, he slashed 321/.359/.416, good for a 111 wRC+ and a 2.0 fWAR. His versatility was incredibly valuable, as the team lost Yunel Escobar, Chipper Jones, Matt Diaz, and Martin Prado to injuries at various points in the season.

Even though he wasn't technically a full-time player, Infante still managed to appear in 134 games, starting 106 of them. The utility player started all over the diamond, with 63 starts at 2B, 12 at 3B, 18 at SS, 8 in LF, and 5 in RF. By DRS, he was at least average at every single position he played, maxing out at 2 DRS at 2B and SS.

By bWAR, Infante was the 5th best player on a playoff-team By fWAR, he was 8th-best.

Adding Omar Infante to the All-Star roster certainly was certainly far different than adding a run-of-the-mill bench player like Eric Hinske. However, Charlie Manuel's decision wasn't entirely performance-based.

Why Charlie Manuel chose Omar Infante, a rival player, to the All-Star Game

Until 2017, the manager of the AL and NL teams selected a portion of the All-Star rosters. This rule was changed in 2017 to prevent favoritism (more on that in a second).

The All-Star managers are the managers of the AL and NL champions the season prior. In 2010, the Phillies played the Yankees in the World Series, so Charlie Manuel, the Phillies' manager, got the final picks for the NL team.

Sometimes, it's hard to know how a reserve or pitcher is selected for the All-Star game, but Infante's case was well documented. The pick was controversial, which led Manuel to defend himself to the media.

He didn't choose Infante because of the utility player's numbers against the Phillies – in fact, he was quite bad against them in 2010 – it was because of a new rule.

Before the season began, MLB announced a universal DH for the All-Star Game to avoid awkward situations where American League pitchers like Roy Halladay, who don't have the right equipment, are forced to hit. They also expanded the roster size from 32 players to 34.

These rules were notable, but the rule that got Infante in was the re-entry rule. To encourage managers to use every player in the All-Star Game, MLB allowed the All-Star managers to designate one player to would be eligible to re-enter the game. They told the managers to select someone who could play multiple positions, a utility player.

Manuel took this suggestion very seriously and Infante was, in his mind, the best utility option in the National League. Except he wasn't. There was a better utility player in the NL All-Star starting lineup, and he was Infante's teammate.

While Chase Utley won the voting to start at second base, he missed the All-Star Game due to injury, and Martin Prado was selected to replace him.

In 2010, Prado was the Braves' primary 2B, but also started 42 games at 3B and appeared at 5 games at 1B. In seasons prior, Prado played every position except for CF, P, and C. For some reason, it didn't occur to Manuel that Prado could have been the designated re-entry player, and so Infante got to pack his bags for Los Angeles that July.



Omar Infante wasn't the worst All-Star on the NL roster thanks to favoritism

Hilariously, Infante wasn't even the worst NL All-Star, and it was thanks to Charlie Manuel's favoritism. In addition to selecting Infante, Manuel also got to select who the starting DH was, since the NL didn't have the DH at the time, which meant fans couldn't vote for the starter.

His choice? Ryan Howard. Of course, comparing 1B to a utility player might not be fair because of the positional adjustment, but Howard was actually having a much worse season than Infante at the time.

Going into the Midsummer Classic, Infante had a 0.7 fWAR in 63 games. Across a full season, this would expand out to roughly 1.7 fWAR. Ryan Howard had a 0.5 fWAR in 87 games. In a full season, his fWAR would have been 0.9.

His WAR was heavily dinged for defense, as he was still had a 127 a wRC+, but even still, he shouldn't have been starting. Albert Pujols and his 158 wRC+ was the starting 1B, but Joey Votto and his 170 wRC+ was initially left off the roster (though he eventually made it thanks to the Final Vote.

And if you think I'm wrongfully accusing Manuel of favoritism, he admitted to it before the All-Star Game.

Aftermath

Prado went 0-3, Howard went 0-2, Votto went 0-2, and Infante didn't even appear in the game, which is likely why this oddity isn't thought about that much.

This would be the only All-Star selection for Omar Infante,but he was nearly voted in by the fans five years later despite having an OPS under .600. This was due to Kansas City Royals fans stuffing the ballot, leading to MLB throwing out votes.

There's a little more to the Infante story, like how the 2002 All-Star Game played a role in getting Infante selected, but I made a video for that if you want to learn more.