On Friday, days before the 2017 All-Star Game rosters were revealed, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said that he has been lobbying for at least four different O’s for the All-Star roster. While it’s nice to know that Showalter is loyal to his guys, this was always just pie-in-the-sky thinking and it’s no surprise that the Orioles ended up with just a single All-Star reserve: Second baseman Jonathan Schoop.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow for Orioles fans who have become accustomed to rosters full of Orioles. There have been at least three Orioles All-Stars for the past five seasons. Last year’s edition of the Midsummer Classic had five Orioles in it. There won’t be a whole heck of a lot to watch for the parochial Orioles fan this time around.
Should it have been any different? Showalter apparently thinks so, but no, things don’t deserve to have been any more tilted towards the Orioles. It’s quite possible that the only reason they had an All-Star at all is because of the one-per-team rule that hasn’t been a consideration for O’s fans since the dark days. Second base is the only spot in the AL infield with two reserves.
Fair or not, it takes a good team to get loaded up with All-Stars. That’s partly because teams that are good get a popularity bump. But mostly, good teams have good players who are deserving of bunches of All-Stars.
Look, you don’t need me to tell you that the Orioles best players haven’t been playing well. That’s why they are where they are in the standings. If Manny Machado or Chris Davis or Mark Trumbo were playing better, and certainly if their pitchers were pitching better, then the team might be deserving of more All-Stars. Those things haven’t been happening.
There are eight teams accounting for at least three All-Stars this season. All are currently in playoff spots. Three of the four teams with the most, five All-Stars apiece, are division leaders. Those teams have been playing well and they are ending up with a bunch of All-Stars. That’s how it is.
It’s tough to even figure out who are the four Orioles that Showalter might have been lobbying to have on the team. There aren’t four players whose performance truly stands out among their peers this season.
Schoop, with a career-best year, is an easy choice for a lone All-Star. Stack him up against the other American League second basemen and he still stands out. Schoop’s .297/.352/.545 batting line is good for a wRC+ - that’s weighted runs created, a stat where 100 is average and higher is better - of 133.
The only AL second baseman who can top Schoop’s performance is Jose Altuve, who was chosen by the fans as the starter. Hey, good pick, fans. Schoop can back him up with his first career All-Star selection. That’s the way it should go. Get the good players in the game.
Unfortunately, that’s not something that applies to many other Orioles. Certainly, if you want to nitpick the roster that was chosen, you might find some players who don’t seem to belong, based on their 2017 performance.
For one, Michael Brantley doesn’t exactly stand out among American League outfielders. With the Orioles not having any good performers among their outfielders, it’s not like you can argue an Oriole should replace Brantley, even if someone should. Yankees reliever Dellin Betances doesn’t seem like he should make the cut either. That’s really about it.
Trey Mancini is worth a mention here. He’s right on the edge of having enough playing time to qualify for the batting title, although he hasn’t been out on the field every day. Mancini is hitting very well by any standards, rookie or otherwise. If you go purely by OPS, Mancini came into Sunday with a .905. That’s 14th best among all American League hitters with at least 200 plate appearances.
What it’s not is better than the first base reserve for the AL: Machado’s brother-in-law Yonder Alonso, the lone Athletics representative on the team. Alonso is up there even higher with a .935 OPS. Mancini is ahead of the DH reserve, Nelson Cruz, who entered Sunday with an .872 OPS. Cruz is the only Mariners representative, and he has some name recognition, so it’s tough to squeeze Mancini in there ahead of him.
Mancini was probably one of Showalter’s favorites. That’s fair enough, but it’s not enough to make him an All-Star. Hopefully he keeps hitting well and gets a shot to get in there next season.
Who else? Welington Castillo? Sorry, Beef, but you haven’t played quite enough with your two DL trips, and compared to the two catchers in the game, Salvador Perez and Gary Sanchez, you haven’t hit well enough either, despite starting out well. No other position players are worth discussing.
As for pitchers, none of them are really worth discussing at all. The last shred of a chance Dylan Bundy might have had was removed by him getting lit up on Saturday. And that’s the best Orioles starter, now sporting an ERA around 4. When you look at the All-Star roster of Cy Young contenders and other strong starting performers, there’s no question.
Maybe a reliever? Brad Brach has done well enough this season, Friday’s frustrating blown save notwithstanding. Brach, of course, was already an All-Star last year. But Brach just can’t match the gaudy ERAs or strikeout totals of the likes of Andrew Miller or Craig Kimbrel.
Should Betances be in there? Probably not. But even if not, there are many who would come before Brach, or if you’re feeling generous, Mychal Givens. A team that’s led the division for a lot of the year can sneak a guy like Brach in there. A team that hits All-Star selection day two games below .500 is not going to get that benefit of the doubt.
Much as I would love to see an All-Star roster and an All-Star Game with Orioles everywhere you look, that’s just not the kind of Orioles season we’re getting this year. They don’t deserve much more than this.
All we can hope for is that the second half of the season goes much better than their first half. At the end of the season, it doesn’t much matter how many All-Stars you had at the break.