One of the big discussions in the press box before Friday's game was whether Jason Hammel will be an All-Star.
Not whether he is worthy – he has been the Orioles' best starter this season – but whether he'll be named to the team.
Because the biggest thing holding Jason Hammel back at a chance for the American League All-Star squad is his name.
He is Jason Hammel. And his chief competition to make the All-Star team includes guys who have been in the top tier for a while: Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Justin Verlander, Jake Peavy, CC Sabathia and David Price to name a few. Even the upstarts have a higher profile: Chris Sale, Yu Darvish and Brandon McCarthy, who could be the Oakland A's only representative.
Well, Hammel did the only thing he could do on Friday night: He didn't change his name to Jim Palmer. He just absolutely shoved again, allowing one unearned run on five hits while walking none and striking out 10, to tie his career high.
For the season, he is 8-2 with a 2.61 ERA (sixth best in the league) and has walked 29 while striking out 87 in 89 2/3 innings.
Those are All-Star numbers.
"Definitely," said Orioles catcher Matt Wieters. "I've been able to catch most of his starts, and he gives us a great chance to win when we go out there, which is all you can ask for."
Said manager Buck Showalter: "I think he should be a strong consideration. I'm biased. I get to see him pitch every fifth day. I can't imagine a guy having a much better year than he's having."
But if you really want an endorsement, look at what Nationals' shortstop Ian Desmond said, "If you don't know already, Hammel is a pretty unbelievable pitcher. He's an ace, probably one of the better pitchers we've seen this year. He's got three quality pitches and a 96-mph sinker."
Now, here may be the best part. This is the real reason Orioles' fans should want this guy to represent the team in Kansas City (along with, say, Adam Jones and Jim Johnson).
Hammel was asked about whether he felt he made a statement about his inclusion on the team (he has one more start before the rosters are announced on Sunday, July 1). And he dismissed it. Because it is not a team goal.
"I honestly couldn't care less about that. I think we have something bigger going on here, as a team," he said. "If that were to happen, that's awesome. There are other guys that are worthy, too, on this squad. But I don't think we're really thinking about that right now. We're just trying to compete and make it to the All-Star Break going strong."