With only a few exceptions in recent years, the Orioles' involvement in the All-Star Game has pretty much been reduced to the obligatory one representative. Someone has to be chosen, no matter how poorly the team is performing. It's baseball law.
Matt Wieters last summer. Ty Wigginton in 2010. Adam Jones in 2009. George Sherrill in 2008. Brian Roberts in 2007. Miguel Tejada in 2006.
Yes, I'm referring back to 2005 again while noting that Roberts, Tejada, Melvin Mora and B.J. Ryan represented the Orioles. But it was Tejada in 2004, Mora in 2003, Tony Batista in 2002 and Cal Ripken in 2001.
(The Orioles had seven representatives in 1970. Pause for a few minutes and try to name them without looking up the names. Answer at the bottom.)
Before the 2012 season began, I predicted - and I'm pretty sure that I kept it to myself, so you'll have to trust me - that Wieters would be voted into the game. He won a Gold Glove last year. His offensive production was on the rise. And the American League's field wasn't loaded with worthy competition.
Well, Wieters slipped from second to third in voting last week, with the Twins' Joe Mauer overtaking him while the Rangers' Mike Napoli continued to lead the pack. We'll find out in a few days whether he's gained any ground.
Wieters could be chosen as a reserve, of course, but how many catchers is AL manager Ron Washington planning to take to Kansas City?
I checked some stats last night, and the White Sox' A.J. Pierzynski was batting .286/.329/.500 with 11 homers and 40 RBIs in 57 games. Wieters was batting .252/.339/.440 with nine homers and 32 RBIs in 60 games. He also committed seven errors, compared to two for Pierzynski and Napoli.
There's still plenty of time for the stats and voting to change, but right now I'm predicting that Jones and closer Jim Johnson are selected to the mid-summer classic.
Jones, fifth in voting among outfielders last week, is batting .311/.360/.583 with 14 doubles, 18 homers and 39 RBIs in 66 games. He was an All-Star in 2009, so there's a history. But it's hard to crack the outfield, and much depends on the positions manned by players on the teams with the one obligatory pick.
Johnson has a 1.21 ERA and is 20-for-21 in save chances. The rest of the American League East lost its opening day closers to injury, so the competition has thinned a little. Mariano Rivera is on the disabled list. Jonathan Papelbon is in Philadelphia. The All-Stars are aligned for Johnson.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy deserves to be chosen for his defense alone, and his 11 home runs lead all shortstops, but his .254 average works against him.
Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen must be considered. They're both 7-2. Hammel ranks sixth in ERA at 2.87, while Chen is 11th at 3.36.
I pretty much dismissed their chances earlier this month, but Hammel is beginning to sway me. He's also recorded 77 strikeouts and opponents are batting .219 against him. And he just gained national attention by taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning Saturday night in Atlanta and finishing with a one-hit shutout.
Again, so much depends on the teams with one representative and whether Washington deems the Orioles worthy of three or more players.
I'm not stating a case for Pedro Strop, Darren O'Day or Luis Ayala simply because it's extremely difficult, though not unprecedented, for a non-starter and non-closer to make the All-Star team.
Here's how the voting stacked up last week at positions that include the Orioles:
1. Mike Napoli, Rangers, 1,640,160
2. Joe Mauer, Twins, 912,997
3. Matt Wieters, Orioles, 904,425
4. A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox, 733,282
5. Russell Martin, Yankees, 602,983
1. Ian Kinsler, Rangers, 1,920,364
2. Robinson Cano, Yankees, 1,732,359
3. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox, 1,037,522
4. Robert Andino, Orioles, 402,083
5. Jason Kipnis, Indians, 357,651
1. Derek Jeter, Yankees, 2,419,508
2. Elvis Andrus, Rangers, 1,448,544
3. J.J. Hardy, Orioles, 663,042
4. Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians, 514,741
5. Alcides Escobar, Royals, 493,947
1. Josh Hamilton, Rangers, 3,833,504
2. Curtis Granderson, Yankees, 2,033,239
3. Nelson Cruz, Rangers, 1,398,534
4. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays, 1,357,784
5. Adam Jones, Orioles, 1,318,091
6. David Murphy, Rangers, 884,522
7. Nick Swisher, Yankees, 862,648
8. Jeff Francoeur, Royals, 654,999
9. Brett Gardner, Yankees, 612,306
10. Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners, 605,663
11. Austin Jackson, Tigers, 545,032
12. Alex Gordon, Royals, 520,156
13. B.J. Upton, Rays, 504,914
14. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox, 503,912
15. Nick Markakis, Orioles, 502,615
If you ask me today, I'm saying Jones and Johnson make it and Hammel could join them if he doesn't get shelled in his next few outings.
Back in 1970, the Orioles sent Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Boog Powell and Davey Johnson to the All-Star Game. How many did you guess correctly?