With the Major League Baseball All-Stars to be announced tonight, it looks like 2014 will be another near-miss for Orioles leadoff hitter Nick Markakis, despite trailing only Jose Altuve (37) and Ian Kinsler (34) with his 33 multi-hit games, reeling off hitting streaks of 18 and 14 games and continuing to play Gold Glove-worthy defense. As of the last balloting update, Nick placed eighth in the running for the three outfield spots, and teammate Adam Jones was fifth, keeping two Orioles just out of reach. While Jones has already made three All-Star appearances, the longest-tenured Oriole, despite being one of the franchise’s most prominent faces, has never been named to the team. Let’s take a look at each season of Nick’s career and try to figure out why.
2006: 147 games, 143 hits, 25 2B, 16 HR, 62 RBI, .291 BA, .351 OBP
In Nick’s rookie season, he finished sixth in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting (won in a landslide by Detroit’s Justin Verlander), and was the second-highest ranked position player (Seattle’s 30-year-old import Kenji Johjima finished fourth on the strength of 18 homers, 76 RBI and a .291 batting average in what would ultimately be the most productive season of his four-year career).
While Nick’s stats look like the mark of a future star and certainly something to take notice of around All-Star balloting, this was not the actual case. At the break, Nicky was hitting .268 with only 2 home runs in the first 76 games of his career. Nick instead rode a torrid second half to cap off his rookie year, hitting .311 with 14 home runs and 17 of his 25 doubles in his final 71 games.
The Orioles’ lone representative in 2006 was shortstop Miguel Tejada - Miggy’s third straight season as an Oriole All-Star. Miguel led the Orioles with 24 home runs, one ahead of catcher Ramon Hernandez (!). At the break, Tejada was hitting .315 with 17 home runs and 62 RBI and certainly was a worthy pick to represent an Os squad that eventually finished 70-92.
2006 All-Star: Miguel Tejada
Honorable Mentions: Ramon Hernandez (15 HR, 61 RBI, .273 at the break), Chris Ray (22 SV, 3.19 ERA on the way to 33 saves and a 2.73).
Worth Noting: Erik Bedard won a career-high 15 games for the 2006 Birds, and had a 10-6 record at the break, but that came with a 4.28 ERA.
2007: 161 games, 191 hits, 43 2B, 23 HR, 112 RBI, .300 BA, .362 OBP
Following the hot conclusion to his rookie year, Nicky came out firing on all cylinders at 23, as 2007 marked career-highs in hits, home runs and RBI. However, up to the All-Star break, Nicky looked merely solid, with a .279 batting average, 9 home runs obscuring flashier marks like his 24 doubles and 51 RBI. For the second year in a row, Nicky hit 14 home runs *after* the All-Star break, and in 15 fewer games, knocked in ten more runs while hitting a scorching .325 over his final 73 games.
The Orioles were represented at the midsummer classic with the second all-star nod for Brian Roberts, who led the American League in steals with 50, and hit .290 with 12 home runs and 42 doubles with 103 runs scored. At the break, Roberts was swinging a hot bat, with a .324 batting average and 112 hits to accompany 27 steals. It’s hard to fault his selection, even though Nicky ended up with a more impressive season overall for an Os squad who finished a game worse than the 2006 edition to the tune of 69-93.
2007 All-Star: Brian Roberts
Honorable Mentions: Erik Bedard had a 7-4 record with a 3.40 ERA, but eight no-decisions kept his win total down. He finished his last season in Baltimore with a 13-5 record (the Orioles were 19-9 in his starts) and a career-low 3.16 ERA. He finished third in the American League with 221 strikeouts, led in strikeouts per nine innings and was rewarded with a fifth-place finish in Cy Young balloting.
Worth Noting: As seen in Bedard’s no-decisions, the bullpen was a huge weakness for the Birds in 2007. Chris Ray led the team in saves with a paltry 16 and only two relievers (Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford) pitched more than 30 innings to an ERA under 4.43).
2008: 157 games, 181 hits, 48 doubles, 20 HR, 87 RBI, .306 BA, .406 OBP
2008 saw Nicky post career-highs in doubles, batting average and on-base percentage. It was his second-straight 40+ double, 20+ home run, .300+ batting average season. At the All-Star break, Nicholas William reversed the trend of his first two seasons and had 14 home runs *before* the midsummer classic, along with 26 doubles in his 107 hits and 50 RBI. After those 92 games, his average was .301 and his OBP .402. 2008 represented Nicky’s strongest All-Star chance yet.
The Orioles had five players who would hit 20 home runs in 2008 (Kevin Millar, Melvin Mora, Luke Scott, Markakis and Aubrey Huff), two who drove in 100 runs (Mora with 104 and Huff with 108) a 51-double, 40 steal campaign from Brian Roberts and 32 homers from Huff. Despite the team’s 68-93 record, several Orioles had strong stat lines, although not a single starting pitcher had a winning record.
The Orioles’ All-Star representative was closer George Sherrill. The Brim Reaper had 27 saves at the break and was elected to the team despite six blown saves and a 4.12 ERA. He did, however, put on a heroic performance during the 15-inning thriller, pitching longer than anybody else, covering part of the 12th then the 13th and 14th as the last pitcher before eventual winner Scott Kazmir. Despite this, based off his hot start to the season, and the reputation as a rising star from his previous two years, Nick Markakis should have became an American League All-Star for the first time in 2008.
2008 All-Star: George Sherrill
Should Have Been: Markakis
Honorable Mention: Aubrey Huff (18 HR, 28 2B, 59 RBI, .284 BA at break)
2009: 161 games, 188 hits, 45 doubles, 18 HR, 101 RBI, .293 BA, .347 OBP
Nick played every single game of the 2009 Orioles’ season and was consistent in both halves. At the All-Star break, Nicky had 27 doubles, 102 hits, 8 home runs, 57 RBI and a .291 batting average to accompany his .349 on-base percentage. It would be his second 100+ RBI season and his third consecutive year of 40+ doubles.
25-year-old Markakis was passed over by an outfield teammate for the first time, as 23-year-old Adam Jones’ second season in Baltimore started with a .303 batting average, .357 OBP, 17 doubles, 12 home runs and 47 RBI after 80 games. During the All-Star game, it would be Jones who knocked in the winning run for the American League with a sac fly to bring home Curtis Granderson. An ankle sprain limited Jones to 39 games in the season’s second half and his average slipped to .277 as he finished with 19 home runs, 70 RBI and a Gold Glove.
While Jones looked like a young breakout star, the Orioles’ strongest performer in the first half was arguably Luke Scott, who would eventually lead the team with 25 home runs. Scott deserved the nod as the Orioles 2009 representative.
2009 All-Star: Adam Jones
Should Have Been: Luke Scott (18 home runs, 51 RBI, .305 batting average at the break).
Honorable Mention: Jones
2010: 160 games, 182 hits, 45 doubles, 12 HR, 60 RBI, .297 BA, .370 OBP
While Nicky hit another 45 doubles and his on-base percentage rose 23 points, his home runs slipped by a third and he lost 41 RBI. At the break, Nicky was consistent again, with his first and second halves fairly identical. He had six home runs, 31 RBI, 28 doubles and a .308 average with an exceptional .395 OBP. Nicky was having a solid season, nonetheless lacking in flashy statistics.
The 66-96 Orioles were represented by first baseman Ty Wiggington, who had 14 home runs, 45 RBI and a .252 average at the break, on the way to 22/76/.248. Injuries kept Luke Scott to 12 home runs and 30 RBI at the break, although he would eventually lead the Orioles with 27 while contributing 72 RBI. Markakis’ reduced RBI output is less egregious when its noted that no Oriole recorded more than Wigginton’s 76. Adam Jones had 14 home runs and 39 RBI at the break along with a .276 batting average, but despite 30 more games, he finished with 19 home runs and 69 RBI in 149 games - the same number of homer and one fewer RBI than he had a year before.
Markakis had 22 more hits than any Oriole, 16 more doubles, led in batting average and on-base percentage and played in 160 games to lead the squad. He was clearly the face of the Baltimore Orioles, but alas, the nod went to Wiggington, who signed with Colorado the next season.
2010 All-Star: Ty Wiggington
Should Have Been: Nick Markakis
Honorable Mention: Adam Jones
2011: 160 games, 182 hits, 31 doubles, 15 HR, 73 RBI, .284 BA, .351 OBP
In a season that began with more of the same losing ways and ended with the promise of Buck Showalter’s franchise revival, Nicky saw another half and half split. 7 home runs, 36 RBI before break, 8 and 37 after. He missed the 40 double mark by nine, but crossed 100 hits before the All-Star break once again.
While Luke Scott and Brian Roberts were sidelined for large chunks of the season and free-agent signings Derek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero disappointed, the Orioles got an influx of power in 2011. Matt Wieters and Adam Jones had their first 20 home-run seasons with 22 and 25, JJ Hardy launched 30 in his first year in Birdland and Mark Reynolds was the first Oriole to reach 37 since Albert Belle.
Matt Wieters rode his wave of defense, buzz and capable hitting to the All-Star berth, with a .264 batting average, 8 home runs and 34 RBI headed to the Midsummer Classic. Adam Jones was hitting .285 with 13 home runs and 49 RBI at the same point, JJ Hardy had 13 homers, 33 RBI and a .278 line over his first 61 games for the Birds, and Mark Reynolds, despite 96 strikeouts and questionable defense at third, was showing a patient eye at the plate to offset his .227 batting average into 50 walks and a .346 OBP at the break to complement 16 doubles, 20 home runs and 49 RBI. Another Oriole worth serious consideration would be reliever Koji Uehara, who would be sent to Texas shortly after the All-Star break.
2011 All-Star: Matt Wieters
Should Have Been: Mark Reynolds
Honorable Mention: Koji Uehara (2.03 ERA, 52 K/8 BB, 10 holds).
2012: 104 games, 125 hits, 28 doubles, 13 HR, 54 RBI, .298 BA, .363 OBP
Nicky struggled with injuries in 2012 at the start of the season, and saw his chance to see his first postseason cut short when a CC Sabathia pitch broke his wrist. Nicky only saw 50 games before the All-Star Break and launched 8 home runs with 26 RBI to go along with 13 doubles. While his batting average (.256) was below his usual, Nicky was showing signs that his power stroke was returning in full force.
The Orioles, on the way to their first winning season since 1997, sent Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Jim Johnson to the All-Star game, all of whom were worthy choices.
2012 All-Stars: Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, Jim Johnson
2013: 160 games, 172 hits, 24 doubles, 10 HR, 59 RBI, .271 BA, .329 OBP
As the Orioles cruised to a somehow-frustrating 85 wins, Nick returning from an injury-hampered 2012 to record career-lows in batting average, on-base percentage and doubles, despite playing 56 more games than 2012. Markakis nonetheless had a spot in the fan voting well into late-June, but narrowly missed election.
The resurgent Orioles sent five players to the All-Star Game, including Chris Tillman - the first Orioles starting pitcher named to the team during Markakis’ entire major league career.
2013 All-Stars: Chris Davis, JJ Hardy, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Chris Tillman
Good luck, Nicky. There’s always hope to be named as a reserve, but it appears that the man who ranks sixth all-time among Orioles hits leaders (behind five men - Cal Ripken, Jr., Brooks Robinson, Eddie Murray, Brady Anderson and Boog Powell - who played in 51 All-Star games between them)’s best bet to hit Midsummer glory is being picked as a reserve by manager Buck Showalter. You know, after Buck’s Birds win the World Series.