The MLB All-Star Game rosters were announced last night, and for the first time in his career, former Oriole outfielder Nick Markakis is playing in the Mid-Summer Classic. In fact, he’s starting.
Anyone who’s checked out of the baseball season–and honestly, who could blame you given the woeful state of the Orioles–may have missed that Markakis is having a career year in his fourth season with the Atlanta Braves. As of this writing, he has a personal best in batting average (.322) and has hit more home runs (10) at this point than he did all of last year.
But the fact that Markakis had to until his 13th year in the league to make an All-Star team only proves something Orioles fans (and center fielder Adam Jones) have known for years: He’s incredibly underrated. And when you add in the unwritten rule that every team gets a representative at the All-Star Game, it’s clear Markakis should have been selected long ago considering he played on some pretty awful Orioles teams. Here’s a look at some of the worst snubs.
2008 (team record: 68-93): At first glance, it would look like Markakis’ sophomore season, in 2007, would be a deserving one. After an impressive rookie campaign, Markakis hit .300 with 23 home runs and 112 RBI. But a look at the splits reveals he had a pretty pedestrian first half, slashing .279/.340/.431 before going on an absolute tear in the second half of the season.
That hot streak continued into 2008, when Markakis hit .301 with 14 home runs and 50 RBI in the first half on what was a surprisingly formidable Orioles offense–the team was actually .500 at the break before collapsing. But he was passed over for Josh Hamilton, Manny Ramirez, Ichiro Suzuki, J.D. Drew, Carlos Quentin, Grady Sizemore and Milton Bradley.
A case could be made that second baseman Brian Roberts and designated hitter Aubrey Huff were overlooked here, too.
Though the home run power fell off a bit in the second half, the 24-year-old Markakis continued to hit for average and draw walks, and his OPS (on-base plus slugging) actually improved four points. Judging by wins above replacement (WAR), as calculated by Baseball-Reference.com, this is by far the best season in Markakis’ career (note: he has 3.0 so far in 2018). His 7.4 WAR was best on the Orioles and better than everyone who made the All-Star Game ahead of him.
The Orioles’ actual representative: reliever George Sherrill.
2009 (team record: 64-98): In what should represent the start of his peak years, Markakis suffered from a bit of a power outage, only hitting 18 home runs and slugging .453 on the season. But he continued to do the things he does well: hit for average and get on base. And by the time of the All-Star break, he had driven in 57 runs, good enough to rank fourth in the American League among outfielders.
Ichiro Suzuki, Jason Bay, Josh Hamilton, Carl Crawford, Nelson Cruz, Curtis Granderson Torii Hunter, Ben Zobrist and Markakis’ teammate, Adam Jones, all made the squad as outfielders.
To be fair, Jones did have a monster first half, slashing .303/.357/.481 in the first half, only to badly fall off.
Markakis kept on plugging along, collecting another 44 RBI to reach 101, good for fourth among American League outfielders. By season’s end, his 2.9 WAR ranked higher than Jones, Cruz and Hamilton (whose season was shortened by injury).
The Orioles’ actual representative: Adam Jones.
2010 (team record: 66-96): Much like this year’s team, the 2010 Orioles were horrendous in the first half of the year. They were 30 games below .500 at the break, and that was only after a four-game winning streak got them there.
Markakis, however, was one of the few bright spots, hitting .308 and getting on base more than 39 percent of the time in the first half. He had 50 walks to 51 strikeouts. But again, his numbers were dragged down by a lack of power. He only tallied six homers after 87 games, though he did hit an impressive 28 doubles in that same period.
Some of the names that made the roster in the outfield are familiar by now: Ichiro Suzuki, Josh Hamilton, Carl Crawford and Torii Hunter. They were joined by Jose Bautista, Vernon Wells and Nick Swisher.
But remember, there’s the unwritten rule that every team in the league is represented in the All-Star Game. Wearing the Orioles’ colors that year? Utility infielder Ty Wigginton. Seriously. He was only hitting .252 at the time the game was played.
Perhaps taken aback by this horrible injustice, Markakis had a rather ho-hum second half, slashing .285/.339/.417. He could take comfort in receiving his first Gold Glove award at the end of the campaign.
The Orioles’ actual representative: Ty Wigginton.
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