I hosted a social event this weekend for the first time in, well, a while.
My “Jobbing Out” co-host A.J. Francis (the former Maryland and NFL defensive tackle turned WWE performer “Top Dolla”) came up to hang out after he had gone to the Orioles game Friday night, June 18. You’ll remember that one as “the game they won in recent memory.”
A.J. is a lifelong Orioles fan and was raving about Cedric Mullins’ massive two home run performance on his T-shirt night. “What a legend,” A.J. said. I concurred. In a miserable season, Mullins has been an absolute revelation and it has been a joy to watch him perform, particularly knowing how much he’s had to grind to get another opportunity.
A few minutes later, a friend of mine named Dan brought levity to the conversation, sheepishly asking “hey, who’s Cedric Mullins?”
What you should know: my friend Dan is a sports fan, but not baseball-obsessed. He was caught up in the madness of the Buck Showalter-Dan Duquette era but said something along the lines of “I’m sorry, man, things have just been so bad that I haven’t really paid attention.”
To be fair, there can’t be that many Dans left at this point. You’d have to have tuned out both baseball and baseball conversation completely in Baltimore to not be aware of Cedric Mullins at all. The man isn’t just having a breakout season, he’s having the type of season that would have him in the MVP conversation if he played for, say, the Cubs.
But Dan followed up that statement by posing a bit of a question. “I guess he’s gonna be our All-Star, huh?”
There’s less than a week remaining in the first phase of MLB All-Star voting. As of the last voting update, Mullins trailed NINE American League outfield vote-getters, this despite being behind just two position players in all of baseball (MVP candidates Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Ronald Acuna Jr.) in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), according to FanGraphs.
Perhaps Mullins will survive to reach Phase 2 of voting with a late push from Orioles fans. But his chances of being voted as an All-Star starter don’t exactly seem great.
“So what?” you ask. “If he’s still playing like this in a couple of weeks he’ll be selected as a reserve for sure!” And, yeah, well, maybe? The All-Star Game is a funny thing, particularly when you’re on a very bad baseball team and even if you’re a very good player.
Cedric Mullins COULD be the Orioles’ chosen representative. But he probably wouldn’t be their ONLY representative. As an employee from another MLB team said to me recently, “Trey Mancini will be an All-Star. I promise you that. Even MLB can’t screw this up.”
What that person was alluding to was that the All-Star Game is, of course, a glorified television show. While Mancini IS deserving of going to Denver from a baseball standpoint (.272/.353/.490, 14 home runs), his story makes him a virtual lock for a selection.
There has almost certainly been SOMEONE in American League manager Kevin Cash’s ear, reminding him that Mancini should probably be on the AL roster. Particularly in correlation with the “Stand Up 2 Cancer” promotion MLB always pushes during the All-Star Game, Mancini’s inclusion will make for a tremendous later-inning story on the FOX broadcast in an attempt to keep casual viewers tuned in.
Mancini HAS to be an All-Star. (And again, is very much deserving of the nod to boot.)
This is where things get messy. Mullins (.319/.389/.552, 13 home runs) has looked like Adam Jones, but, as blasphemous as this might sound … better! But if he’s not a starter, he’ll need to be one of three to five others (depending on how many players miss the All-Star Game, potentially including Mike Trout) among AL outfielders to make it.
While that seems like a no-brainer, strange things can occur. The Tigers’ best All-Star candidate is probably former Oriole Jonathan Schoop. But if there’s more of a squeeze in the infield than in the outfield, Cash might choose to eschew Schoop in favor of, say, Robbie Grossman, whose name so perfectly captures the situation. If that were to happen, it could well bump Mullins out of a potential spot.
And it wouldn’t be a “travesty” or an “unfathomable mistake” or whatever other ridiculous thing you’re going to say about it. Two and a half months of baseball is still a VERY small sample size. Players with less of a track record sometimes have to wait a year to finally get their first nod (Mancini is STILL waiting!). When you remember that, again, this is a friggin’ television show, it’s just not a crime of the century if Mullins somehow doesn’t make it.
That’s not to say he won’t, either. He most definitely SHOULD. But the Orioles are very, very bad and it’s tough to give very, very bad teams multiple spots on an All-Star roster. But either way, the Mullins story is incredible and probably worthy of a little time during a national FOX broadcast too!
And you still have time to vote if you’d like to make sure this isn’t an issue. Perhaps you and a few hundred thousand of your closest friends could help change this altogether.
Photo Credits: Kenya Allen/PressBox