Who Should Represent The Orioles At The All-Star Game?
Each week, two PressBox baseball writers weigh in with their thoughts on a different question. With the 2012 MLB All-Star Game just three weeks away, Matt Palmer and Jim Henneman debate who should represent the Orioles. Could this be the first year since 2005 (Brian Roberts, Miguel Tejada, Melvin Mora, B.J. Ryan) that the Orioles have more than one All-Star?
By Matt Palmer
There is no doubt the Orioles, with one of the best records in baseball, should have more than one All-Star this season, but it's going to take some behind-the-scenes string-pulling by manager Buck Showalter to make it happen. The Orioles have several players with legitimate cases for the game.
Players such as Adam Jones, Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen and Jim Johnson should be in the discussion. Arguments could be made for Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy, as well.
If Jones and Johnson don't make the mid-summer classic, something's wrong. Jones is in the hunt for the popular vote among outfielders. If he doesn't make it that way, he should be a no-brainer addition by American League manager Ron Washington.
Jones is 20th in the majors in batting (.307), tied for seventh in home runs (18) and tied for 33rd in RBIs (39). The one real knock against Jones is his five errors, tied for the second most among MLB outfielders. Still, Jones should be a lock for a spot on the AL team.
The same will be said for Johnson, who has the second-most saves in the AL and Major League Baseball with 20. Johnson was a natural in the closer position and took to the role right away. His 1.21 ERA is ridiculous. During eight June games, he has given up just two runs and blown just one save opportunity during that time span. He's converted all but one of his 21 save opportunities during the first three months of the season.
Chen and Hammel have both been strong additions to the Orioles. Hammel's 2.87 ERA (19th best in the majors) is stronger than Chen's still-impressive 3.36 during his rookie campaign. If either gets a sniff, the odds are probably better for Hammel. Still, given the competition, it might be hard to get either on there.
Wieters was an All-Star selection a year ago, but he's trailing in the voting this year and could miss out on being added to the team. He's still rock solid behind the plate and nearly impossible to run on, but his .249 batting average is in the middle of the pack for catchers. The odds of a second straight appearance right now could be tough.
Hardy is first among AL shortstops in home runs (11) and tied for third in RBIs (28), while his batting average (.250) and on-base percentage (.289) are more middle of the pack. His two errors are still tied for second lowest among AL and major league shortstops.
By Jim Henneman
First off, it's a lock that the Orioles will be represented by more than one player at this year's All-Star game. That is a lock. As opposed to years past, when the speculation was who, the only question this year is how many?
By almost any standard of evaluation, the Orioles have six legitimate candidates, and the fact that three of them are pitchers tells you all you have to know about the team's turnaround through the first two and a half months of the season.
I've got Adam Jones inked in, not penciled, as a member of this year's AL squad. At this point, with career closer Mariano Rivera on the sidelines, Jim Johnson is probably the next-most deserving, though his selection could depend on how many Cleveland players manager Ron Washington takes to Kansas City. Chris Perez has almost identical numbers, and with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was running an undeserving fourth in the shortstop balloting as of June 18, Perez might be the Indians' lone representative, which may or may not affect Johnson, who nevertheless should be a no-brainer.
Next on my O's list is Jason Hammel, whose numbers have him front and center among AL starters to this point during the season. Buck Showalter would undoubtedly like him to have the extra four days to rest his gimpy knee, but Hammel edges out teammate Wei-Yin Chen on this ballot.
Matt Wieters has no match defensively among AL catchers, but the All-Star game is an offensive show, and Washington may opt for A.J. Pierzynski, a left-handed hitter, as an alternate for Mike Napoli. With Washington likely to carry three catchers, Wieters will be in the mix.
That leaves us with the deserving Oriole most likely to be as overlooked as he is underrated -- shortstop J.J. Hardy. As Showalter has pointed out many times, there is no sounder shortstop in the AL than Hardy, whose low OBP (.289) is offset by his power numbers. But the reality is that Cabrera is the best offensive threat among the shortstops and is equally deserving of a chance to back up resident incumbent Derek Jeter. The Rangers' Elvis Andrus is running a strong second in the voting as of June 18, and Kansas City's Alcides Escobar might be the most deserving player for the Royals, who will get some love as the host team.
So, how many O's in KC? Anything less than three would classify as a mockery and four is a possible scenario. For me, Jones, Johnson and Hammel are locks, with Wieters a tepid choice as a third catcher. That leaves Hardy as still one of the game's least recognized players, and Chen on the outside looking in, despite a remarkable introduction to the big leagues.
Posted June 19, 2012