Neal Shaffer: All-Star voting indicates O's gaining national prominence

Of all of the positive developments we've witnessed in Birdland over the past 18 months or so, the best one (outside of the playoffs) might be this year's All-Star voting results.

As of Monday, four Orioles - Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Chris Davis, and J.J. Hardy - were in position to start the All-Star Game. Not just make the team. Start. One more player - Manny Machado - is a near lock to be selected even if he isn't voted a starter (he's currently second behind Miguel Cabrera at third base). I'm not sure I was even alive the last time the Orioles had four All-Stars, period, to say nothing of four starters and five players.

In baseball, as in many things, there are two tiers of success. There's that which is visible to careful observers - in this case, fans of the team - and then there's that which can't be denied. The second level is where even those who have no vested interest start to take notice, where the generalized mass perception shifts from either flawed or non-existent to positive. This, amazingly, is now where the Orioles sit.

To consider that they've managed to pull this off just one season into no longer being terrible is amazing. They were, for over a decade, synonymous with losing. They were to losing as Apple is to great design and beards are to Brooklyn. A cultural shorthand and an easy joke.

The All-Star voting results so far don't tell me how good any of those players are (although they are all, obviously, very good). They tell me something that is, in its own way, kind of more important. They tell me that the Orioles are now seen as winners, at best, and at the very least as a team that fields a broadly competitive and credible lineup.

That translates into more interest. More interest means better, healthier crowds and, potentially, an easier sell for upper-tier free agents. It means more national TV games and a heap of positive momentum.

Keep that kind of thing going long enough and suddenly success itself shifts from exception to rule. Wouldn't that be something.

Neal Shaffer regularly blogs about the Orioles at The Loss Column, and his work appears here as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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