First thing’s first…all three Oriole all-stars got into last night’s MLB all-star game, won 8-0 by the National League. Oriole fans should take a lot of pride specifically of the eighth inning, when Adam Jones was in center field, Matt Wieters was behind the plate, and Jim Johnson on the mound. For the record Jones went 0-for-1 at the plate, Wieters 0-for-2, and Jim Johnson pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning with a strikeout. There were two other things that stuck out at me during the game. One of course was the respect shown to Chipper Jones by the fans and the media. And it was well-deserved; a player that’s had a career like his should be shown respect as he goes into the twilight. The other was the enthusiasm shown by the Kansas City fans towards their hometown all-star, Billy Butler. Butler was the only Royals’ representative on the roster, and those fans showed their appreciation for the season that he’s having.
There were a couple of things regarding the Orioles that bothered me about the game however. I watched the first part of the game at a local establishment with some friends (about five minutes from where I live). When I got in the car to drive home I put the game on the radio, ironically just in time to hear Jones’ and Wieters’ at-bats. The radio commentators probably didn’t go as far as saying that they didn’t deserve to be in the game, however they hinted at the fact that both players might have had hot first parts of the season only, which is why they were included on the roster. Later on in the evening when I was safely home in my own living room the MLB Fan Cave sent out this tweet asking who the best closer was (Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman).
Statistically, Jones and Wieters are having better seasons than the guys that started the game at their respective positions (Curtis Granderson of the Yankees and Mike Napoli of the Rangers). Yet you don’t hear commentators saying that a few good games got them elected to the all-star team. In fairness I turned the game on in the middle of a conversation, so those comments literally are taken out of context because I don’t know what was being said leading up to that point. However perhaps more disturbing is the MLB Fan Cave tweet. While it didn’t say who’s the best closer in baseball, I think that might well have been the implication. Jim Johnson has more saves than anyone else in MLB. So…statistically isn’t he the best closer?
Ironically, I can’t necessarily blame these respective parties for their opinions; I blame the Orioles in part. That probably raises your eyebrows a bit, right?! I think that the Orioles could probably afford to do a better job marketing their players and their brand. I’m not talking about locally, because everyone in the Baltimore/Washington area knows the Orioles and what they’re about. I’m talking on a more national level. And to be honest, I’m no marketing guru so I’m not even sure what they could do. However I do know that people are aware of the likes of Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Stephen Strasburg, Curtis Granderson, et al on a national level. In Matt Wieters’ case, it was only after the radio commentators mentioned that Wieters had “some good games” in the first part of the season that they said he was an all-star last year, albeit in a matter-of-fact kind of way. The guy’s a two-time all-star…he should be a household name to fans in the league.
Again, I’m not even sure what the Orioles could do to make themselves more well-known on a national level. Perhaps a Mother Goose-style nursery rhyme involving their players or something like that! However look at the all-star game roster itself; as I mentioned above, Jones and Wieters are statistically better than Granderson and Napoli. Yet the fans voted Granderson and Napoli as starters on the team. Josh Hamilton might have made the team due in large part to his four-HR performance in Baltimore earlier this year. Jason Hammel might have not made the team only because he wasn’t as well-known of a name. While I do believe that if fans are going to vote for the team they should use a little bit of common sense and look at statistics prior to casting their ballot as opposed to ticking the names of their favorite players, if they have to stop and think about who Adam Jones is for a moment that doesn’t help.
Again, I’m not sure what the Orioles could do to market their franchise and their players nationally. I think that a great first step was signing Adam Jones to a long-term deal. That provided a decent amount of national exposure, and MLB Network carried MASN’s feed of the press conference live. Yet would it kill them to pressure the agents of Jones, Wieters, and perhaps a few others to find some endorsement deals for their clients? Before Cal Ripken Jr, was “the iron man,” fans around the league knew him as a spokesman for drinking milk. Everyone remembers Jim Palmer’s Jockey underwear commercials as well. Plus during this off season the Orioles need to petition the league for a bit more national exposure in 2013. Given how competitive the team has been thus far, I feel that they’re due an appearance on Sunday Night Baseball. We have seen them on FOX a few times, including this coming Saturday against Detroit. Again, I’m no marketing guru. However as unfortunate as this is to say, we now live in a world where you can be spectacularly good and unless you market it properly nobody’s going to know or even care. On that note, kudos to Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Jim Johnson for representing one of baseball’s most surprising teams thus far in 2012.
Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala