Different reasons exist for candidates to qualify for Comeback Player of the Year in the majors. It can be a productive return from a down season. It can be a return from a serious injury.
Trey Mancini is a finalist in the Major League Baseball Players Association’s Players Choice Awards after missing the 2020 season with Stage 3 colon cancer.
Just typing that sentence makes him feel like the favorite over teammate Cedric Mullins and the Mariners’ Mitch Haniger, but we’ll find out Thursday night on ESPN.
Ryan Mountcastle, the Rays’ Randy Arozarena and the Rangers’ Adolis García are finalists for the MLBPA’s Outstanding Rookie Award.
Active major league players handle the voting and 2021 marks the 30th year.
The Orioles probably will be shut out in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America awards, with García and Arozarena attracting most of the rookie attention in the American League. Mullins will appear on some Most Valuable Player ballots, but he won’t threaten Shohei Ohtani.
Mullins is the first player in Orioles’ history with 30 home runs and 30 steals in the same season. Haniger, as the MLBPA release states, missed most of 2019 and the entire 2020 season with injury and established career highs with 39 home runs, 100 RBIs and 110 runs scored. He tied Aaron Judge for most home runs by an outfielder and led the American League in runs scored.
Any other year, Haniger likely would be the clear choice, considering that he hadn’t played in a major league game since June 6, 2019 after, and I wince typing this sentence, rupturing a testicle with a foul ball, then undergoing surgeries to repair a torn adductor muscle and a herniated disc.
Haniger was an All-Star in 2018 and placed 11th in MVP voting. What he did in 2021 constitutes one heck of a comeback. But again, Trey Mancini beat cancer. He’s raising the comeback bar to an unreachable height.
Mancini played in 147 games and accumulated 616 plate appearances, and he finished with 33 doubles, 21 home runs and 71 RBIs. He was runner-up in the Home Run Derby.
Mancini also was the Orioles’ nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award.
Stepping on the field again would have won Mancini a lot of admirers. He did more than that.
* Former Triple-A Norfolk pitching coach Kennie Steenstra, who was told earlier this month that he wouldn’t return in 2022, tweeted his appreciation yesterday to the people who made his experience so special:
“After 17 years with the Orioles, wanted to say a big Thank You to the many players, coaches, staff and fans who made it so enjoyable over the years! Also, a special thanks to all of you who’ve reached out to me over the last two weeks. I really appreciate it.”
The Orioles also need to replace Norfolk manager Gary Kendall, Rookie-level Florida Complex League manager Alan Mills, Single-A Aberdeen hitting coach Tom Eller and Single-A Delmarva hitting coach Patrick Jones.
* Former Orioles third base coach and infield instructor Bobby Dickerson is headed back to the Phillies as their infield coach, as first reported by USA Today. The same job he held in 2019 before going to the Padres in 2020 as their bench coach.
Dickerson spent the 2021 season serving as the Padres bench coach and third base coach. He was the Orioles third base coach from 2013-18 and is one of the best infield instructors in the business.
The Padres fired manager Jayce Tingler after they failed to make the playoffs. They fired pitching coach Larry Rothschild in August, and more changes could be coming to the staff when a new manager is hired.
The current staff includes former Orioles first base coach Wayne Kirby and former Orioles utility player Ryan Flaherty, who serves as major league advance scout and development coach.
* From Monday-Friday next week, the Orioles will be hosting Play Ball Days at local Maryland Title 1 elementary and middle schools in Baltimore City and surrounding counties to, as the release states, “continue to grow the game of baseball, inspire recreational play in underserved areas, and teach life lessons including teamwork, perseverance, and resilience.”
Schools include Beechfield Elementary Middle (Baltimore City), Edgewood Elementary (Harford County), East Salisbury Elementary (Wicomico County) and Oxon Hill Middle (Prince George’s County).
Partnering with SHAPE Maryland and the Orioles minor league affiliates, volunteers will provide instruction and assist in various fundamentals that include hitting, running the bases and catching popups. More than 2,200 children will be impacted.
Students also will enhance their skills in reading, math and the arts through various learning activities that include a reading exercise about the history of Negro League baseball in Maryland.