Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy couldn’t quite explain his sudden spike in the most-recent All-Star Game fan balloting, in which he became the leading votegetter among American League shortstops.
Other than providing his usual exceptional defense, Hardy has been on an offensive tear, hitting .341 (44-for-129) with 10 doubles, 10 homers, 24 RBIs and 13 multi-hit games since May 4. He currently leads all AL shortstops in homers (13) and RBIs (39).
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“It just says that the fans are out there voting, people out in Baltimore,” Hardy said. “Maybe my dad's sitting at his computer at home. I don't know. But it says people are voting.”
Hardy isn’t alone. The latest fan-balloting numbers have three Orioles players — first baseman Chris Davis, center fielder Adam Jones and Hardy — as the top votegetters at their respective positions. Three other Orioles — catcher Matt Wieters, third baseman Manny Machado and right fielder Nick Markakis — are currently in second in their positions.
If Hardy, Davis and Jones are elected, it would mark the first time since 1997 that three Orioles were voted in as All-Star Game starters. That year, Cal Ripken Jr., Roberto Alomar and Brady Anderson were voted in.
Before three Orioles were named to the All-Star Game last season, the Orioles had just one representative in the game for 10 of the past 11 years.
“I think it is the exposure we’ve been getting with playing in the playoffs last year, the stretch run last year, a lot of expectations this year,” Jones said. “I think a lot of people have turned their TVs on to us and paid more attention to how we play the game. We’re becoming a little more relevant in baseball and it’s cool to be recognized, but more as a team than individuals.”
The Orioles have been conducting a “Vote Orange” campaign encouraging fans to vote for players at Camden Yards and online. And the Orioles have already surpassed last year’s number of ballpark ballots cast with nine home dates remaining until voting ends, a team spokewoman said Sunday.
“We’ve got Birdland out there voting a lot more,” Jones said. “We’ve got more eyes on us.”
Said Hardy: “It just says a lot for the team. There are a lot of guys having really good years and it helps everyone else. When everyone else is having good years, it helps other guys on the team. It's nice that people are noticing. I think a lot of it was last year. The fact we're right in it again this year. Winning helps a lot. People start to notice when you win.”