Pardon the irritating first-person narrative, but I’ve got a few more hours before I have to submit my Most Valuable Oriole ballot, and I’m getting the shakes.
There is room for only three players on that ballot and you could make a solid case for at least twice that many to be listed among the top three. The candidates get points for each first-, second- and third-place vote, and the winner will be announced during the Fan Appreciation festivities this weekend.
It’s not so much a matter of picking a top choice, though I’ll be keeping mine secret until the presentation. The tough part is deciding who to leave off the ballot. I mean, how am I going to look Félix Bautista in the chest if I think he’s a close fourth?
So, I tried to consult Orioles manager Brandon Hyde, who ought to have some idea by now, but he was absolutely no help.
“I don’t know,’’ he said. “You’ve got great candidates … and I’m not picking one. We’ve had a lot of guys have really good years. Special years.”
Fortunately for Hyde, he doesn’t have to pick one – or narrow the list down to three – but I have to sort through the cornucopia of great stats, defensive metrics and leadership qualities on this surprising team, and it’s like trying to eat soup with a fork.
Of course, you’re probably thinking there’s no way you leave Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman off the ballot, and it would be hard to argue with that, but what about Kyle Bradish, who has been one of the best starting pitchers in the sport, or Kyle Gibson, who has been the unquestioned leader and spiritual adviser to the entire pitching staff, not to mention being its winningest pitcher?
It is an indisputable fact that the Orioles would not be knocking on heaven’s door right now without Bautista, who is the main reason the Orioles have won so many one-run games and completed so many late-inning comebacks.
How could you possibly overlook Anthony Santander, who has been all over the team leader sheet, or Austin Hays, who was the club’s most consistent hitter during the first half of the season and has come on strong again down the stretch.
It’ll probably easier for the voters to take a pass on Ryan O’Hearn, because he hasn’t played nearly as many games as the other top hitters, but no one has been more clutch. And where would the O’s be if he hadn’t stepped in for the injured Ryan Mountcastle and filled the cleanup spot for a big chunk of the season?
The same could be said for veteran Aaron Hicks, who filled a similar void when Cedric Mullins was lost twice for extended periods, though he hasn’t had nearly as many spotlight moments.
I think I know who’s going to win, but I also think it’s important to point out that there really are a lot more than three players who have been so instrumental during this amazing season that the Orioles would not be on the verge of an AL East title without them.
No matter who I pick, I’m going to feel like I let the rest of them down.