It’s still possible that the Orioles’ Trey Mancini will end up an All-Star, even though he wasn’t originally chosen to be among the nine outfielders on the American League team for Tuesday’s Midsummer Classic in Cleveland.
Stuff happens and deserving players can be added to the roster right up until the break, but Mancini was not even next in line for the open spot when Texas Rangers outfielder/designated hitter Hunter Pence was forced off the AL roster by an injury. Boston Red Sox outfielder Xander Bogaerts, another deserving player who originally was overlooked, was announced Wednesday as his replacement.
No matter what, Mancini’s offensive statistics and his ranking among league leaders in nearly every important category shout loudly that he belongs on the team. His play also provides solid evidence that — based on his poor results in the first round of fan voting — he was the victim of both the size of his team’s market and the Orioles’ dismal performance over the past 22 months.
These are not new issues, even if the All-Star selection process was revamped again this year. Major League Baseball has been experimenting with almost every aspect of the event since the infamous 2002 All-Star tie in Milwaukee.
No one questions the sport’s desire to make the selection process as even-handed as possible, but a sponsor-driven internet election that allows fans to vote countless times certainly lends itself to big-market bias and national team identification.
In a perfect world, an All-Star selection should be based on individual performance and not population, popularity or team record, but that’s not the world we live in.
Factor in the Orioles’ 2018 trainwreck and dwindling attendance, and Mancini was doomed from the start.
Teammate Chris Davis could see where this was going three weeks ago, noting Mancini’s low standing in the first phase of balloting and pointing out that Mancini was not getting his fair share of votes from outside Baltimore.
“I wish we could look at the percentage of votes that he’s received from our fan base and the percentage of other fan bases,’’ Davis said, “because I feel like Orioles fans are voting for him, but the masses are voting for the Red Sox players, the Yankees players, the bigger-market teams, the more well-known players.”
Mancini, at that time, was leading the AL in total bases, tied for second in extra-base hits, third in slugging percentage, tied for fourth in hits, fifth in batting average and sixth in runs. And that was among all AL position players, and he ranked only 17th among the league’s outfielders.
On the day he learned that he did not make the team, Mancini ranked second among qualifying AL outfielders with a .302 batting average, third with a .907 OPS behind Mike Trout and J.D. Martinez and second in wRC+ (weighted runs created) with 136, behind only Trout — who got more votes than any other player in either league in the starters election.
The Orioles organization did everything it could to encourage fans to #VoteTrey, but he didn’t get close to making the cut for the starters election and that probably sealed his fate.
Rookie left-hander John Means was chosen as the Orioles’ only representative, and he certainly earned his spot with a 2.50 ERA that currently ranks second among AL pitchers with 13 or more starts (excluding openers, who pitch one or two innings to start the game and are removed).
It is interesting to note, however, that Means was selected to the team because of that one terrific stat, but Mancini was left off despite ranking in the top five among qualifying outfielders in five categories and in the top 10 of several more.
Though players on winning teams have an obvious — some might even say logical — advantage in the voting and overall selection process, the case can be made that Mancini should be the one getting extra credit for putting up those terrific numbers in a lineup that does not feature any other truly imposing hitters.
Being on a team with the worst run differential in the majors (minus-173 entering Wednesday) certainly has cost him at-bats and RBI opportunities that might have made him an even more obvious choice.
Oh well, there’s always the next 10 years or so.