Choosing the MVO

Manager Buck Showalter started Danny Valencia against a right-hander last night, and he put Steve Clevenger behind the plate for the Baltimore native’s debut with the Orioles. He also inserted Ryan Flaherty at second base instead of Brian Roberts.

And it worked.

Showalter handed the ball to closer Jim Johnson in the ninth inning, and the Orioles headed back to their hotel with a 5-3 win over the Blue Jays.

Showalter has been an easy second-guess target of late, but his lineup and ninth-inning choice didn’t backfire. The only eyebrow-raising moment came when he called upon Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland in the seventh inning of a tie game.

Not the usual role for McFarland, but Tommy Hunter stranded two runners by striking out two Blue Jays, and the Orioles scored twice in the eighth.

The Orioles have 15 games left in the regular season. They’re trying to gain ground in the wild card chase. Postseason awards can wait.

And yet, I’m dedicating this morning’s blog entry to the Most Valuable Oriole. A little distraction from the stress of a pennant race.

The media that covers the team has been instructed to vote for the top three players in a 5-3-1 point system. Ballots must be turned in by Sunday, and the winner will be announced before the final game.

Want to watch me go out on a limb? I’m predicting that first baseman Chris Davis is the unanimous winner. And yes, I’m working without a safety net.

Davis is batting .296 with 40 doubles, 50 home runs and 129 RBIs. He’s tied with Brady Anderson for the most homers in a single season in franchise history. He’s joined Babe Ruth and Albert Belle as the only players in major league history with 50 homers and 40 doubles.

Put a cape on him and he’d catch crooks.

Davis is crushing the MVO competition. Turn away if you’re squeamish.

It’s the second- and third-place decisions that are raising debates in the press box and dining room.

You could argue that three Orioles are vying for two spots: center fielder Adam Jones, third baseman Manny Machado and pitcher Chris Tillman. Shortstop J.J. Hardy also should be a consideration.

Am I missing anybody? And the first person who suggests that my ballot should read Yamiaco Navarro, Luis Exposito and Jair Jurrjens will be ordered to stay after school and beat erasers.

Jones will receive Most Valuable Player votes in the American League. Bubbles and wild swings at sliders out of the strike zone will not be a deterrent. He’s hitting .293 with 32 doubles, 31 homers and a career-high 102 RBIs. He can’t be omitted from the MVO ballot.

Jones has won the award the past two seasons, and an informal survey indicates that he’s a popular runner-up choice in 2013.

Machado is a serious Gold Glove candidate at third base who also just happens to lead the majors with 49 doubles and is tied with Mike Trout for most hits with 180. I’m predicting that he finishes third in the voting.

Tillman could be the odd man out despite a 16-5 record and 3.66 ERA in 29 starts. He’s the staff ace. And he would be approaching 20 wins without the blown saves.

It really seems unfair to exclude him from the ballot, but I remember seasons when finding one worthy candidate was a chore. A top three? Laughable.

During those lean years, Hardy’s numbers would have made him a unanimous choice. He’s totaled 25 doubles, 25 homers and 73 RBIs. And his defense again is worthy of a Gold Glove. He’s the undisputed leader of the defense.

Since the break, Hardy had posting the second-highest OPS (.845) among major league shortstops before last night, trailing only Hanley Ramirez (.931).

I’ll reveal my ballot during the final game.

As we approach the announcement, I take great pleasure in again sharing my favorite MVO quote since I’ve been on the beat. It’s actually one of my favorite quotes ever uttered inside the home clubhouse on any occasion, and I break it out every September.

After selecting B.J. Surhoff as the MVO one year, reporters approached his locker seeking a comment. How does it feel? What does the honor mean to you? Stuff like that.

“I know why you chose me,” Surhoff said. “Cal’s hurt and you hate Albert.”


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