A week ago the All Star break couldn’t arrive soon enough for the Orioles or Oriole fans. After a four game road sweep of the Texas Rangers, however, the break serves only to slow down the momentum that the team had finally built after its otherwise dismal first half.
When the Midsummer Classic airs Tuesday night, Ty Wigginton will stand in wearing an Orioles uniform. Visually, he will remind the nation where the worst team in baseball plays. Of course, there’s no guarantee he’ll be seen after the national anthem.
Last year, Adam Jones earned the title All Star. Don’t believe me? Just flip on MASN and wait for a commercial break.
Jones hit a sac fly in the late innings of last year’s game to help the AL once again trump the NL. A twenty-three year old the Orioles picked up via trade, Jones’ presence highlighted the Orioles as a team that was young, raw, talented, and potentially ready to take a big step forward. Not a product of the Orioles farm system, Jones nevertheless demonstrated that the club had young talent acquired by a savvy GM moving the team in the right direction.
2010 All Star Ty Wigginton is far from Andy MacPhail’s worst offseason pickup. After
a tough start to ’09, he finished the year hitting .273 with 11 home runs. He entered 2010 unsure of his position with the club and did not make an appearance in the opening series at Tampa. However, injuries and former 1B Garrett Atkins’ pathetic performance opened the door for Wigginton, who surprised critics by hitting 13 home runs before the end of May. Unfortunately, he has hit only one since.
At 32, Wigginton is neither young nor old in baseball age. He is heading towards the end of a modest two year deal with the Orioles, his fifth major league team. A utility player who has played six positions in the majors, Wigginton does a little bit of everything but nothing particularly memorably. He is a six or seven hitter batting cleanup. A guy who averages 400 at bats per year who already has 300 this season.
A decent player for the Mets, who promptly traded him when megastar David Wright was ready for the bigs. An afterthought, a fill in guy, a token gesture, a throwaway pick.
Wigginton is thus an appropriate player to represent the Orioles in the All Star game. Like Wigginton, at their best the Orioles are decent, inoffensive, adequate. They can surprise you here or there. Unlike Jones last year, Wigginton doesn’t represent a potentially bright future for the long-suffering O’s. He is just there. Maybe he plays. Maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he manages to hit a double in the gap, a single up the line, or heck, even work a timely walk. Maybe he sits at the end of the bench holding Miguel Cabrera’s helmet. Maybe he makes a late inning appearance and hits a weak grounder off a first pitch ball outside.
Nick Markakis may be more deserving of an All Star, but Ty Wigginton is an Orioles All Star. He may not have been the best guy, but he is the right guy to represent this particular team in this particular game. Like Jones last year, Wigginton could surprise on the big stage. And the Orioles may surprise a few people in the second half, as they did when they swept the Rangers.
That’s the thing about low expectation. As long as you have it, modest success is a pleasant surprise.