If there is a Babe Ruth of space exploration, it's Neil Armstrong.
He's the most famous astronaut that ever lived, and arguably accomplished the most amazing physical achievement in the history of the Earth. Think about it. He was the first known creature to step foot on a foreign celestial body. His first contact with our lifeless, gyral satellite was the very moment earthly life dovetailed—or collided—with the tactile extraterrestrial world. What you might not know is the name and face and legacy of the last man to walk on the moon, but that doesn't really hold water in mid-air like the story of Neil Armstrong. Sure, Buzz Aldrin did the exact same thing as Armstrong did a few moments later, and the events that led to his being the first man on the moon were circumstantial, but in the history books, he's in a class of his own.
The same can be said for perennial All-Stars like Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera in the modern famescape of Major League Baseball. Beyond the season-after-season debate on their MVP credentials, both players are considered one of the best in the game without any legitimate skepticism.
Alex Gordon, on the other hand, is a little bit more like Eugene Cernan, the 24th—and last—man to walk on the moon. Maybe you've heard of him, but probably not. "The 24th Man to Walk on the Moon" doesn't have much musicality to it. His achievement is far from being as historical as Armstrong's, but still, he's been to the goddamn moon ... and you haven't. Similarly, Gordon isn't a record-breaking super-deity like Trout or Cabrera, but he is one of the best players in the game.
Trout and Cabrera made the All-Star roster before the voting even started. It wouldn't be an All-Star game without them, but Gordon wasn't selected by the fans. He finished outside the top 15 among American League outfielders, behind players like Torii Hunter and Nick Markakis, despite leading the sub-Trout tier of American Leaguers in fWAR and ranking third in bWAR.
Most of Gordon's value comes from his seemingly unethical arm strength and his superb range in left field. Maybe that's a knock on his All-Star credentials to some, since the metrics that inflate the defensive hemisphere of WAR are volatile. Is it more volatile than the BABIP-tethered merits of batting average, or the number of times a ball lands on the other side of a fence? Maybe, maybe not. The volatility of those metrics tends to average out over the span of a few years, and since Gordon began seeing regular playing time in left field in 2011, only Trout, Cabrera, Andrew McCutchen, Robinson Cano, and Ben Zobrist have produced more wins according to FanGraphs. Like Gordon, most of Zobrist's value comes from defensive metrics. In fact, the two players are almost indiscernible, yet Gordon doesn't have quite the same ironically notorious reputation for being underrated.
The All-Star Game might not seem like a big deal, but it counts—which is precisely why Gordon is going to be there. No matter what your opinion is on the matter, home field advantage in the World Series is going to be determined in Minnesota this year. Beyond that, the Midsummer Classic is a way for fans to show their support for players in a quantifiable way.
Maybe it's unfortunate that defense is only popularly appreciated in concert with which highlight segments get the most play on cable sports channels, but then again, maybe guys like Alex Gordon like dominating from the shadows.
Even if Gordon isn't close to being one of the best players in the game in your book, he almost has to be considered among the top 24 or 25 guys in the American League right now. He'll be on the team, but he might slip into the foggy corners of your memory like Eugene Cernan.
Tyler Drenon is a freelance writer and graphic designer based in Springfield, Missouri. You can follow him @TylerDrenon.