Radio Musings: Mancini's bad timing in trying to break Orioles' Rookie of the Year drought - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dan Connolly

Radio Musings: Mancini’s bad timing in trying to break Orioles’ Rookie of the Year drought

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon
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In a normal year, Orioles first baseman/left fielder Trey Mancini would be at or around the top of the early discussion for the American League Rookie of the Year Award.

It’s late June, and Mancini has 14 homers and 43 RBIs while hitting .321 with a .366 on-base percentage and a .589 slugging percentage. He has the third highest number of homers, second most RBIs, third highest average and second highest slugging percentage among AL rookies with at least 100 at-bats.

But this isn’t a normal year. There’s this big guy in New York that you might have heard of by the name of Aaron Judge. And he’s doing some pretty incredible things with his bat.

Among qualifiers heading into Monday night, Judge was leading all AL players – rookies and otherwise — in the three Triple Crown categories: homers (26), RBIs (59) and average (.332). He’s the current favorite for AL MVP – and, did I mention, he’s a rookie?

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Mancini, who went to the University of Notre Dame, doesn’t exactly have the luck of the Irish on his side here, at least when it comes to when his breakout season has occurred.

“I think it’s more of a race for second place at this point. Judge is ridiculous,” Mancini said with a laugh about his chances at the AL ROY award. “I played against (Judge) in the minors and always knew that he was going to be a special player. He’s a great guy too, and I’m really, really happy for him and all the success he is having. But, to go along with that, it is cool to hear your name at least mentioned in there for the race, if there really is one right now.”

Mancini is starting to get some national love for his breakout year at age 25. I talked with him recently about his season, his hot start and the fact he’s been able to continue to play well after hitting an inevitable rough patch.

“Defensively and offensively, there’s a lot of adjustments you have to make and the word gets out on you quickly. And you have to kind of know what other people are trying to do to you,” he said. “And I knew at the end of April that I was going to have to make some adjustments at the plate and, luckily, they’ve been working out for the most part. People will adjust again and then I’ll have to maybe switch some things up again. That’s how it is. It’s just an everlasting chess match here.”

The Rookie of the Year thing is pretty interesting to me, because if Judge weren’t a rookie, it would be an exceptionally tight race right now. Chicago’s Matt Davidson, Boston’s Andrew Benintendi, Seattle’s Mitch Haniger and Ben Gamel, Houston’s Yuli Gurriel and Kansas City’s Jorge Bonifacio are having noteworthy seasons.

Mancini is probably having the best run so far of that group – but Judge has already laid down the law in the race, terrible pun intended.

If Mancini were to win the 2017 Rookie of the Year Award, however, he would snap the club’s 27-year drought for that honor – one that goes back to closer Gregg Olson in 1989. No AL team has gone longer without having a player win the ROY award, and only one team in baseball has had a lengthier ROY drought: The San Diego Padres, whose last winner was catcher Benito Santiago in 1987. The Arizona Diamondbacks have never had a Rookie of the Year winner, but they didn’t come into existence until the 1998 season, nine years after Olson’s award.

Even an NL team has had an AL ROY winner more recently than the Orioles: Pat Listach captured it for Milwaukee in 1992; the Brewers switched to the National League in 1998.

The Cleveland Indians have had a similar drought as the Orioles – their last ROY winner was catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. in 1990. He’s now a coach for the team.

The Orioles have six Rookie of the Year winners in modern franchise history: Ron Hansen (1960), Curt Blefary (1965), Al Bumbry (1973), Eddie Murray (1977), Cal Ripken Jr., (1982) and Olson. They haven’t had a whole lot of close calls recently.

You have to go back to 2002 for a second-place finish by an Oriole: right-hander Rodrigo Lopez. Reliever Jorge Julio was actually third in the voting that season, with the duo losing to Toronto’s Eric Hinske.

So, what Mancini is doing right now is pretty special for a rookie around these parts – even if it pales in comparison to Judge’s exploits with the Yankees.

If you want to hear the whole interview with Mancini, which ran as part of my weekly radio show on WOYK, Sports Radio 1350 in York, Pa., you can listen on the station’s archive or click the play arrow below or download it from iTunes. Also during this episode, I talk all things Orioles with Mark Viviano, the sports director at WJZ-TV. Check it out.

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Osfan73

    June 27, 2017 at 9:05 am

    Barring injury Judge proably has ROY sewn up but it only being late June there’s still half a season to be played so Mancini has time to perform as he has been and we’ll see.
    Really like Mancini, and that he acknowedged above that he’s had to make adjustments, readjustments and how baseball is a “never ending chess match” speaks to his understanding of the game and how smart a player we have here.
    I don’t know if things other than the hard numbers are considered with the ROY award but I see Mancini as being a bit more versatile in that he can play and has played multiple positions. For now i’ll just continue to enjoy how Mancini plays the game and see how it plays out. Go Os!!!

    • Dan Connolly

      June 27, 2017 at 11:52 pm

      It’s usually hard numbers. And unless Judge really falls off, it’s gonna be tough to catch him. But like you said there are three-plus months left.

  2. Bancells Moustache

    June 27, 2017 at 9:07 am

    It would be nice to see the O’s get one of the big three awards this year and, as fantastic as Judge is this season, we still haven’t even hit the break. Granted, Judge plays for the New York Yankees and thus gets a 10 point head start for any media voted award, but he could run out of gas at some point, especially due to the mammoth strike zone he gives pitchers to work with. I wouldn’t count Trey out just yet.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      June 27, 2017 at 10:15 am

      ‘Stache?!?! Are you serious? Normally you’re the voice of reason and lowered expectations ’round here!

      • Bancells Moustache

        June 27, 2017 at 12:09 pm

        All I am saying is that Judge’s current numbers make him the second coming of Babe Ruth. And there ain’t but one Sultan of Swat, Boog.He’s going to slow down at some point, and we don’t know by how much. I just think Mancini is better equipped for the 162 marathon, even if he was blown off the starting line by Judge. That’s not to say Judge sucks, only that there is a lot of baseball to play. And its a moot point anyhow. If you are a New York Yankee and are successful, you are winning the award.

        As to your ‘voice of reason’ comment, you are talking to the guy who said Gausman was a Cy Young contender this year. Let’s not go giving me too much credit…

    • Dan Connolly

      June 27, 2017 at 11:58 pm

      Stache: I’m coming at you here as a member of the BBWAA. For the four awards, each of the 15 cities per league get two votes apiece. So Oakland gets as many voters as New York or Boston. The last Yankee to win ROY? Jeter in 1996. Before that, Righetti in 1981 and Munson in 1970. Three in my lifetime. Os have had four in that span.

  3. Wade Warren

    June 27, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Have not watched Judge but he will falter as the season goes on. Time will tell

    • Dan Connolly

      June 27, 2017 at 11:58 pm

      He’s really good Wade. But I doubt anyone can keep up this pace.

  4. Boog Robinson Robinson

    June 27, 2017 at 10:19 am

    The only way Mancini could catch Judge in this race is if cool nicknames were the deciding factor.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 27, 2017 at 11:59 pm

      Boom Boom or The Great Santini? Or both?

      • John in Cincy

        June 30, 2017 at 6:28 am

        I wish people would give the nickname thing a rest regarding Mancini, because he has one already, it’s Trey. His name at birth was Joseph Anthony Mancini. Besides, for me, Boom Boom is too obvious and slightly silly-sounding, while The Great Santini — what? it’s not even his name — conjures up the title of a Robert Duvall film by the same name, and the stage name of a memorable Columbo villain (played by Jack Cassidy in “Now You See Him”), that would be lost on most millennials. Trey’s fine, and doesn’t need any embellishing imho.

        As far as his great rookie season, if it continues to go as well as it has so far, he should easily be included in Baseball America’s 2017 MLB All-Rookie Team. Coinciding with your interview with Trey is one from yesterday from Buster Olney. I find that Trey always makes for a great listen.

        Of topic, but I was struck by your opening of this podcast as to how we really have no idea who the Orioles are as a team thus far. How true, and how so like other O’s teams of recent memory. (Which season was it where the rotation struggled mightily in the first half, then was one of the strongest in the league going down the stretch — 2014, maybe?)

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