Early on Sunday evening, the big news broke. Major League Baseball announced its All-Star Game rosters and, as expected, the Orioles will only be sending one player to the Midsummer Classic. The surprise came when it was revealed that the player selected was not the one most people expected.
Trey Mancini, the outfielder/first baseman that the organization’s social media team had been pushing hard for the last month or two, will stay home while rookie pitcher John Means reps the orange and black in Cleveland.
Understandably, Orioles Twitter went a little berserk at the news...
The All-Star selection show just announced the AL reserves and they didn't list Trey Mancini. He has been robbed.— Camden Chat (@CamdenChat) June 30, 2019
Trey Mancini not on the All-Star team is the most egregious snub in All-Star history and it’s not close.— Joe Papparotto (@JoePappa) June 30, 2019
I’m so pumped for John Means but Mancini not being selected as an All Star is absolute donkey shit— Orioles Fan Problems (@OriolesFanProbz) July 1, 2019
I try not to get worked up about All-Star snubs, but Trey Mancini has been FUCKING robbed.— Justin McGuire (@JMcGuireMLB) June 30, 2019
You won’t hear any argument from me. Mancini deserved to make the American League team. He’s having a much better season than Jose Abreu at first base, and you could reasonably claim that he would be an improvement over Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, and Austin Meadows in one of the outfield spots. There is the chance that Mancini still earns a spot if another player has to withdraw from the contest due to injury, but for now this is a notable snub.
However, it should be said that the player who is going, Means, is a deserving selection. This is not on the same level as Ty Wigginton being the pick for the O’s in 2010, when he was batting .252/.334/.434 at the mid-season break en route to a 1.1 bWAR/-0.1 fWAR season.
The difference here is that Means is actually good, and he has some numbers to back it up.
Among pitchers with at least 50 innings thrown this season, Means is third in the AL with a 2.50 ERA behind only Mike Minor (2.40) and Charlie Morton (2.43), two fellow All-Star team members.
He’s good at keeping runners off the bases as well. His 1.10 WHIP is 12th in the AL among starters with 50+ innings pitched, and his .221 batting average against is 13th in that group.
On top of that, Means keeps the ball in the ballpark during a season in which home runs are soaring at a record rate. He ranks 13th in the AL with a 0.95 HR/9 rate, and he is all the way up in fourth with his 8.1% home run-to-fly ball rate.
There are only 12 pitchers on the AL roster, so all of those numbers put the Orioles left-hander right into the conversation without stretching much, if at all.
We shouldn’t have to make this all about “Mancini versus Means,” but let’s be honest. The powers that be who put the rosters together knew they were giving the cellar dwelling Orioles one spot, and there were only two real candidates.
There could be a version of the AL All-Star team that includes both Means and Mancini, but if only one can go, you could make a convincing argument that Means is actually the better option. His 3.2 bWAR dwarfs Mancini’s minuscule 1.3 bWAR, although they are tied with 1.7 fWAR.
The O’s are pretty bad at both pitching and hitting, but the bats are a touch deeper than the arms. Means has been one of two (Andrew Cashner) consistent pieces on an otherwise pitiful staff. That’s impressive coming from a rookie. Mancini, on the other hand, has had at least a little help from Jonathan Villar, Hanser Alberto and Pedro Severino throughout the season, not to mention Anthony Santander and Chance Sisco coming on hot recently. You could interpret that as Means being more “valuable,” one of the most fungible words in the baseball lexicon.
Arguing over who makes the All-Star team and who was snubbed feels like a pointless activity made to fill column inches and airtime on talk radio, but these decisions do have real consequences. Monetary bonuses for these honors are written into player contracts. They can affect future salaries. It can be a big deal.
Orioles fans have a right to be upset about Mancini’s exclusion. It’s pretty easy to see where he fits on that AL roster, and he has enough of a track record to prove that the guy is actually a pretty good hitter. Means is a rookie with stats that, admittedly, have some smoke and mirror factors built in.
But Means has had a heck of a year so far. Is it any worse than a really good reliever on a bad team making the cut? If anything, it’s cool to see the Orioles send a starting pitcher (a home-grown one to boot) to the All-Star Game. When was the last time that happened? Chris Tillman made it in 2013. Before that, it was Mike Mussina way back in 1999.
Personally, I’m looking forward to having my social media feeds filled with John Means content during All-Star week. We will get to see his reactions to home runs. We will see him interacting with other players. He will speak to reporters at that press day thing. Maybe he will even have his hat on backwards at some point! Oh, it will be so much fun!