Five All-Stars. That's what the Orioles deserve. Whether they get that many boils down to fan voting, roster obligations and American League manager Tom Kelly.
With the game still a month away, it's safe to assume Cal Ripken will be an elected starter, but less certain is whether Mike Mussina, Gregg Olson, Chris Hoiles and Brady Anderson will join him in San Diego.
Each is a strong candidate, but the Orioles haven't had five All-Stars since 1972, when there were two fewer teams in the league. They had six in '71, and a franchise-record seven in '70.
Granted, five is a hefty number, but it's not excessive. The Orioles have the third-best record in baseball. Of 28 available spots, it stands to reason they merit a significant chunk.
The problems, of course, are that fans often vote on name recognition instead of actual achievement, and that managers fill out rosters with the knowledge that each club must be represented.
There's no sense complaining about the system, which is highly popular and mostly fair. But it could prevent Hoiles from making the team, and damage Anderson's chances as well.
Not so for Mussina and Olson.
Mussina (8-1, 2.31) has a higher winning percentage and better earned run average than teammate Rick Sutcliffe, and his
selection should be virtually automatic if he gets to 10 wins.
Olson, meanwhile, already has more saves (18) than he did when he made the All-Star team in '90. He ranks second in the AL to Dennis Eckersley (22), and barring a sudden slump, he, too, will be a lock.
Hoiles faces longer odds. He and former Oriole Mickey Tettleton are the obvious choices at catcher, but the latest voting shows them running fifth and seventh, respectively, behind Sandy Alomar.
What is the obsession with Alomar? He deserved to be elected in 1990, when he won Rookie of the Year. But last year he missed 43 games with injuries before the break, and got voted in anyway.
Fans no doubt link him to his brother Roberto -- a legitimate All-Star -- but it's time they stop. Alomar is batting .237 with two homers and 15 RBIs. He's simply not as productive as Tettleton (.249, 15, 39) or Hoiles (.277, 14, 27).
The juicy question is, which rates the edge as the backup? Tettleton is coming off a better year, but Hoiles is better defensively. Either would be fine, but here's rooting for The Mick, just to keep the Orioles' front office in line.
Presumably, Hoiles will have his day. The same might be said of Anderson, but his stunning turnaround has been the talk of baseball all season. No way he or that other overnight success -- Oakland infielder Mike Bordick -- can be ignored.
The problem for Anderson is numbers. All-Star teams normally feature eight outfielders, but this season Kelly probably will go with seven in order to keep three first basemen -- Cecil Fielder, Frank Thomas and Mark McGwire.
Needless to say, those seven spots disappear quickly. Ken Griffey Jr., Kirby Puckett and Dave Winfield lead the fan balloting. Jose Canseco, Joe Carter and Ruben Sierra also merit serious consideration.
Anderson would make seven, but here's where things get tricky. Junior Felix is the most legitimate All-Star in California, Roberto Kelly the most legitimate one in New York. Both are outfielders.
Tom Kelly could always take a pitcher from one of those teams, but that would lead to other problems. Kansas City's Kevin Appier and Cleveland's Charles Nagy are thriving with such poor clubs, they're even more obvious choices than Felix and Kelly.
Start with those two on the 10-man staff, and go from there. Eckersley, Juan Guzman and Roger Clemens are givens. Dave Fleming is 9-2 in Seattle, Jack McDowell is 9-3 in Chicago, Bill Krueger is 6-1 in Minnesota.
Mussina makes nine and Olson 10. Case closed, provided you're willing to overlook Texas' Jeff Russell (17 saves), Texas' Kevin Brown (9-4) and Milwaukee's Bill Wegman (6-5, but with a 2.73 ERA).
Hey, no one said this was easy, and so much can change over the next month. Ripken will make his ninth consecutive start regardless of what happens. His teammates, however, can't afford to slump.
Five All-Stars would be something for a team that had only one last year. At their present rates, Anderson will have 58 RBIs by the break, Hoiles 18 homers, Mussina 11 wins, Olson 25 saves.
They shouldn't fret if they can't make the All-Star team with those numbers. They can spend the time off drafting contract proposals for 1993.
One man's All-Star team
Kevin Appier, Kansas City
Roger Clemens, Boston
Dennis Eckersley, Oakland
Dave Fleming, Seattle
Juan Guzman, Toronto
Bill Krueger, Minnesota
Jack McDowell, Chicago
Mike Mussina, ORIOLES
Charles Nagy, Cleveland
Gregg Olson, ORIOLES
Jeff Russell, Texas
Kevin Brown, Texas
Bill Wegman, Milwaukee
$ Jack Morris, Toronto
Chris Hoiles, ORIOLES
Mickey Tettleton, Detroit
$ Notable omission ,
Ivan Rodriguez, Texas
Cecil Fielder, Detroit
Mark McGwire, Oakland
Frank Thomas, Chicago
Roberto Alomar, Toronto
Chuck Knoblauch, Minnesota
Cal Ripken, ORIOLES
Mike Bordick, Oakland
Wade Boggs, Boston
' Paul Molitor, Milwaukee
Notable omission /
Carlos Baerga, Cleveland
Brady Anderson, ORIOLES
Junior Felix, California
Ken Griffey, Jr., Seattle
Roberto Kelly, New York
Kirby Puckett, Minnesota
Juan Gonzalez, Texas
& Dave Winfield, Toronto
Ruben Sierra, Texas
Jose Canseco, Oakland
Joe Carter, Toronto
) Rickey Henderson, Oakland