There have been a number of bad Orioles seasons over the years where only the rule that each team must have at least one All-Star representative made sure there was an Oriole sent to the game. The 2021 season is not one of them. The Orioles have a no-doubt deserving All-Star on their roster, and nothing screwy came along to keep him from making it to the game. Cedric Mullins will represent the Orioles in this year’s edition in Denver.
The only real question is whether Mullins might make it into the starting lineup. He was not among the top three vote-getters at the position that were announced on Thursday, with Cito-loving Toronto fans flooding the last day voting to claim a spot for the less-deserving Teoscar Hernández.
One of the three who were named there is Mike Trout, who is injured and not able to play. His replacement would also be in an All-Star starting lineup. That announcement will not be made until closer to the game itself.
If Mullins was on any team other than the on pace for 53 wins Orioles, he would be one of the biggest stories of the season in baseball. Mullins, who worked his way to some prospect status after being picked in the 13th round in the 2015 draft. His 2019 season saw him bat 6-for-64 at the MLB level before eventually dropping all the way down to Double-A. He looked like nothing more than a once-prospect who didn’t work out.
That Mullins overcame all of this and then gave up switch-hitting at age 26 only to turn around and be one of the best 4-6 position players in the American League - and unquestionably the best outfielder - to date is remarkable.
Mullins’s 99 hits led all AL batters heading into today. Almost 40% of his hits have gone for extra bases, including 14 home runs. He has stolen 15 bases, and he’s doing all of these things while drawing walks in about 9% of his plate appearances. Just for good measure, Mullins is third among all MLB outfielders in Statcast’s Outs Above Average fielding metric. He has been great and there’s no one on the 2021 Orioles who deserves to be there more.
The Orioles will also be represented in Denver by Trey Mancini, who was named as a participant in the Home Run Derby. Mancini is also one of baseball’s great stories this year who’s faded into the background somewhat as part of a terrible Orioles roster. The guy was undergoing treatments for stage 3 cancer a year ago and now he’s back with 15 home runs in the first half of the season.
You have to go back to the 2016 season to find multiple Orioles as part of the roster for the All-Star game itself. That year had the bounty of five players on the roster: Brad Brach, Zack Britton, Manny Machado, Mark Trumbo, Matt Wieters. Since then, it’s been one player per year, with Jonathan Schoop in 2017, Machado just before being traded in 2018, and John Means in 2019. The global pandemic wiped out the possibility of a 2020 All-Star game.
Means might have had an interesting case to repeat as an Orioles All-Star if he had stayed healthy and kept performing near the same level he’d performed in the first half. His no-hitter was the capstone of 12 starts where he had a 2.28 ERA and 0.831 WHIP. Even after having not pitched since June 5, Means entered Sunday in the top 10 of bWAR among all AL players.
Some day the Orioles will be a better team with better players and then O’s fans might get to watch the game for more than one player again. 2021 was not that year. I wouldn’t hold my breath for 2022 either. Hopefully Mullins finds his way into the starting lineup by the time the game rolls around on July 13.