The voting for Most Valuable Oriole ended yesterday at noon, with members of the media who cover the team pressured into remembering to e-mail their ballot and not treat it like their BGE bill.
This could be the narrowest margin of victory since I've been on the beat, and my first full season was 1997.
I announced my choice on Sunday's edition of "O's Xtra" on MASN while sitting in front of the visiting dugout at Fenway Park and feeling a light mist against my back. The grounds crew was watering the infield.
Probably a detail you didn't need, but I wanted to share it anyway.
I chose closer Jim Johnson, then watched Adam Jones try his hardest to make me reconsider. Trust me, it wasn't a slam dunk, and I've talked to a few reporters who picked Jones ahead of Johnson in their top three. I'm also aware of at least one first-place vote for Matt Wieters in my unscientific poll.
Nick Markakis has appeared in only 104 games because of a broken hamate bone and left thumb, but he's on at least one ballot because of the impact he made as the leadoff hitter. The Orioles really seemed to take off after activating him from the DL and moving him up in the order.
J.J. Hardy could get some love for his defense alone. I'd rather see him get a Gold Glove.
The No. 1 reason why the Orioles are in playoff contention, beyond manager Buck Showalter, who isn't eligible for the award, is their bullpen. As I've stated before, I'd like to cast one big vote for the entire group. I'm just not sure Kevin Gregg would make it back here.
The Orioles are 69-0 when leading after the seventh inning and 70-1 when leading after the eighth. Johnson set the franchise single-season saves record with 48 and is on pace for 51. He's blown three saves all season. He's the anti-(insert name of your least-favorite, gasoline-carrying closer.)
You can't go wrong with Johnson, Jones or Wieters, whose handling of the 700 pitchers that the Orioles have used this season is reason enough to give him the award and a huge raise. Wieters is arguably the most indispensable player on this roster. As one scout said, if Wieters goes down, the Orioles are done.
Oh, yeah, and Wieters also leads the club in RBIs with 82, one more than Jones, and he practically owns the month of September with a .338 average in 77 at-bats. Jones also has a sales slip with his .327 average in 104 at-bats.
Jones is batting .292 this season with a team-leading 38 doubles, 32 homers, .517 slugging percentage, 15 stolen bases, 182 hits and 101 runs scored. He ranked fifth in the American League in extra-base hits a few days ago. He's going to receive votes for Most Valuable Player.
He has a better chance of being MVO for the second consecutive year. It's going to be real close.