When “Ross Stripling, Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star,” became a reality last week, it marked a pretty special point in what’s becoming a remarkable ongoing journey for the right-hander. Oh, that he’s experiencing success shouldn’t be that huge of a surprise. He was well regarded at Texas A&M, even throwing a no-hitter there. There was speculation he might potentially make the Dodgers’ 2014 opening day roster when he was diagnosed with a Tommy John Surgery-requiring UCL injury. Then he no-hit the Giants for seven-plus innings in his big league debut and has been mostly adequate or better in a swingman role for the club since. What he’s done in 2018, however, is ace level. So while his berth in the Mid-Summer Classic is absolutely deserved, nobody could have predicted it. If not for injuries to multiple starting pitchers, he’d never have been given the opportunity, at least not this season, to emerge as a premium starter, making him one of the more unlikely All-Stars in LA Dodgers history.
“Chicken Strip” is hardly the first Dodger to come from out of the proverbial nowhere to be an All-Star. In honor of Stripling, here are the Dodgers’ most unlikely All-Stars since their move West from Brooklyn.
Honorable Mention: Jose Offerman, 1995
Offerman was a top prospect in the organization, so a ton of hype followed him around. He did nothing to quiet that by homering in his first big league at-bat. Most people remember him more though, if not for charging the mound with a bat in an independent league game after his big league career was done, for his appalling defense at shortstop. He was pretty much already considered a bust after 1994 when he hit only .210. So when he hit .287 with a .389 OBP in 1995, earning a spot in the All-Star Game, it had to be a shock to most. Offerman went on to have a decent career, mostly in the American League and even made another All-Star Game in 1999 when he led the AL in triples, but his star never ended up shining as brightly as many thought it would.
- Hong-Chi Kuo, 2010
The flame-throwing lefty from Taiwan was actually ticketed for big things, but couldn’t stay healthy. He’d already had several surgeries on his pitching arm by the time 2010 rolled around. One could be forgiven if, by that point, they figured the most memorable achievement of Kuo’s career would be his home run on July 13, 2007, the third in a back-to-back-to-back sequence following Wilson Betemit and some dude named Matt Kemp. Then, for the first time in his career, he didn’t get hurt, and the result was a minuscule 1.20 ERA over 56 games. He’d only pitch one more year and 40 games in the big leagues due to, you guessed it, injuries, but man… that 2010 campaign.
- Takashi Saito, 2007
Dodger fans who have been around a while remember Saito fondly. The affable Japanese righty saved 81 games for the Dodgers from 2006 to 2008. He went on to have more great seasons for the Red Sox, Braves and Brewers. The only time he finished a year with an ERA above 2.83 was his final year, at age 42, for the Diamondbacks. So wait a minute, what is surprising about his All-Star appearance? Well, first, by the time the Dodgers signed him, he was already 36, coming off of four seasons in Japan as a starter where he didn’t win more than six games, mainly due to injury. It wasn’t a surprise when he didn’t make the Dodgers as a non-roster invitee in Spring of 2006, but everything that happened after, a surprise would be an understatement.
- Mike Sharperson, 1992
It’s not too often a utility infielder suddenly starts raking and becomes an All-Star. But wait! What about Justin Turner!!!??? Ok, find me another one. In 1992, that’s what Sharperson did. Always somewhat handy with the bat, Sharperson was carving out a nice little career for himself as a bench guy when seemingly out of nowhere, he was among the National League leaders in batting average at the 1992 All-Star break. Even after a cold second half, he finished the year with a 124 OPS+. Sharperson’s story doesn’t have a happy ending, unfortunately. Injuries limited him to only 80 more games in the big leagues from 1993 to 1995, and in 1996, he tragically died in a car accident after being called up by the San Diego Padres.
- Mike Morgan, 1991
It probably speaks more to the state of the Dodgers franchise in 1991 than it does anything else that Morgan was their representative in the game. Morgan was a highly-regarded prospect in the late 1970’s, but was “rushed” to the majors, and was mostly terrible for the A’s, Yankees, Blue Jays, Mariners and Orioles before joining the Dodgers in 1989. He was actually decent in ’89, and serviceable in 1990, but excellent in ’91, winning 14 games and finishing the year with a sparkling WHIP of 1.09 over 236 innings. He was good again for the Cubs the following year, but bounced around for another decade afterward, delivering pitching ranging from mediocre to horrifying for a variety of teams.
- Billy Grabarkewitz, 1970
Who? Don’t worry, that was my reaction too. Grabarkewitz stormed onto the scene in 1970 as the Dodgers third baseman, clubbing 17 homers, knocking in 84 runs, and finishing the year with an impressive OPS of .852 in 156 games. For good measure, Billy G as they called him (author’s note: I don’t actually know if they called him that, but it sounds cool), stole 19 bases. Was a star born? Not exactly. Grabakewitz was out of the big leagues by 1975, never again playing more than 87 games in a season. Strange, right? Maybe a little, but even in his breakout season, Grabarkewitz struck out 149 times, then a Dodger single-season record. While you wouldn’t even describe a guy who fanned 149 times these days as whiff-prone, the K was a scarlet letter 48 years ago. And of course, a guy named Ron Cey came along and turned out to be pretty darn good for a while. One might think Grabarkewitz’s abilities would have been more appreciated these days than back then, but who knows?
Did I miss anyone? Let us know on Twitter @thestainsports and @DodgersNation. Thank you for reading.
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