It appears the Midsummer Classic is finally back to being must-watch television for baseball fans in Baltimore.
Gone are the dark days when the Orioles sent one (sometimes deserving) player to the All-Star Game. From 2006 to 2011, the Orioles had just one All-Star each year. And in the cases of George Sherrill (2008) and Ty Wigginton (2010), the Orioles were only represented because the league mandated they sent somebody, anybody.
The Orioles sent three players to the All-Star Game last season, just the second time since 2000 that they had multiple representatives. They could have even more at next month’s game, perhaps as many as five or six.
First baseman Chris Davis, shortstop J.J. Hardy and outfielder Adam Jones are leading their respective positions in fan voting through Saturday and are in position to start in the All-Star Game.
Should they slip in fan voting, they still have All-Star resumes.
Despite going hitless in his past four games, Davis is first in the American League -- and all of baseball, too -- with 20 home runs, second with 52 RBIs and third with a .333 batting average.
After an awful April, Hardy has raised his average to .271 and he leads all American League shortstops (by far) with 13 homers and 39 RBIs. He also continues to be excellent defensively.
Jones, who is battling the Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout for the top spot in the fan voting for outfielders, is batting .306 with 13 home runs and 43 RBIs. Jones has a .522 slugging percentage.
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado and catcher Matt Wieters are second in fan voting at their respective positions, but they are also strong candidates for selection to the Midsummer Classic.
Machado is not mashing like leading vote-getter Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers, but he is batting .316 with five homers and 33 RBIs. The 20-year-old also leads the majors with 27 doubles.
Like Machado, Wieters has also been very good defensively. His slash line (.245/.301/.429) is not impressive, but his play behind the plate and his growing reputation should be enough to get him in.
Also vying for a spot in the game are Nick Markakis and Nate McLouth, who are both in the top seven in fan voting among outfielders. I doubt McLouth, who is having a solid season, is selected as an All-Star. But Markakis has a chance to sneak in there somehow, as he is batting .290 with seven homers and 35 RBIs.
Six All-Stars might be stretching it, but five is a legit possibility and the Orioles should have at least four for the first time since 2005, when they sent Brian Roberts, Miguel Tejada, Melvin Mora and B.J. Ryan.
The Orioles' franchise record is seven All-Stars, set back in 1970. Paul Blair, Davey Johnson, Dave McNally, Jim Palmer, Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson were all selected that year.
The Orioles have had five or more All-Stars six times, the latest time coming in 1997, when they sent five.
Whatever that magic number is this year, there should be a few Orioles to watch in the All-Star Game on July 16, making it worth watching in its entirely -- unlike in recent years, when a lone Oriole made a brief cameo.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun