Everyone writing about baseball these days seems to be focusing on the same two things -- the All-Star Game and Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. Those two will overlap next week, but until then, here's what they're saying about the Orioles this week, with a heavy dose of Machado.
-- In a roundup of the 10 biggest storylines of the second half on Grantland Tuesday, Mallory Rubin wrote of Machado's quantum leap this season and how much he means to the Orioles.
"Manny Machado turned 23 on Monday, and because he's a kind and caring soul, he celebrated by giving gifts to all of us: the 18th homer of his 2015 season and the second All-Star berth of his young career. Those small tokens of affection have become increasingly common in recent weeks, as Machado has regained the form that had people mentioning him two years ago alongside Mike Trout and Bryce Harper as one of the game's brightest young stars.
On top of those 18 boppers, Machado has 13 steals, 53 runs, and his now customary gaggle of web gems. But he also has something else: maturity. … He's focused, overcoming an unfortunate early-season error barrage to regain his easy grace at the hot corner; he's confident, seemingly running and swinging without fear of injury after undergoing season-ending knee surgeries in consecutive seasons; he's even married!"
-- Jeff Long wrote about Machado's progression into a star at Baseball Prospectus, and then I kind of wondered aloud whether Adrian Beltre's incredibly productive 17-year career would be good enough for someone as precociously talented as Machado. Here's Jeff:
"Of late, there's been a lot more chatter [about Machado], and for good reason. He's not only one of the best young third basemen now, he's one of the best players period. Machado seems to be blossoming into a superstar, one who very well could join players like Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera in the ranks of the game's elite."
-- FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal had an anecdote in his notes column about a September simulating game Ubaldo Jimenez threw, and how pitching coach Dave Wallace has put time into making him the pitcher he is this year—with a 2.96 ERA and a plummeting walk rate compared to this time last year.
"His resurgence is partly due to his work with the Orioles' new special assignment pitching instructor, former major leaguer and fellow Dominican Ramon Martinez. ... Jimenez also appears to have come back stronger after throwing only 125 1/3 innings last season due to a sprained right ankle and time that he spent in the bullpen.
"One other thing: Jimenez believed in himself, allowing Wallace, manager Buck Showalter and others to believe in him. 'He didn't give in at all,' Wallace said. 'He looked at us and said, 'I have more faith and trust in myself than anybody. I'm going to be OK.' He continually said that no matter how bad things were. And they got pretty bad.' "
-- In this FanGraphs' poll of fans on the performance of their front office, the Orioles' front office primarily lived in the average (38.6 percent) to pretty good (43.8 percent) range. There's no indication how many people voted.