People love “best” and “worst” lists, so naturally Ty Wiggington’s appearance on the 2010 American League All-Star roster got fans wondering where he ranks among Orioles representatives to the Midsummer Classic. Could Wiggington be the O’s least-deserving All-Star?
All-Stars are measured primarily by their offensive numbers, so much attention has been focused on Wiggington’s modest slash line of .252/.334/.434. The 13 home runs that placed him among the league leaders in April and May look less impressive after he added just one home run in June.
In essence, an anemic month at the plate doomed Wiggington to join the likes of 1987 Terry Kennedy (.264/.318/.432, 13 HR, 42 RBI) in the conversation for least-deserving Orioles All-Star.
However, my advice to O’s fans is this: Don’t go down that path, because you won’t like what you find. If you’re going to use Wiggington and Kennedy’s offensive numbers against them then you have to put the Iron Man in the conversation as well.
Cal Ripken Jr. was an automatic All-Star for much of his career with fan balloting carrying him to 19 consecutive appearances in the game. More often than not he deserved the start he earned at shortstop. Nevertheless, Ripken brought Wiggington-like offensive numbers with him to at least a third of his All-Star appearances.
Consider a snapshot of seven seasons where Ripken struggled in the first half (1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1998, 2000, 2001) in comparison to Wiggington’s performance in five offensive categories: average, OBP, slugging percentage, home runs, and RBI.
In five of those seven seasons Wiggington’s 2010 average would be equal to or better than Ripken’s average at the time; his OBP was better in four; his slugging percentage was better in six; his home run total was better in all seven; and his RBI total was equal to or better than Ripken’s in six.
You couldn’t have staged an All-Star game in Baltimore without Ripken, but the Iron Man’s 1993 numbers didn’t help make that case. While O’s fans best remember that contest for Cito Gaston, legendary Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich directed the attention elsewhere:
“As for those Baltimore fans who turned loose their boos at Gaston for the perceived slight to Mussina, where were those fans’ sense of justice when their man, Cal Ripken, who was being outhit by seven guys on his own team, was heavily voted into the all-star lineup?”
Obviously, Ty Wiggington is no Cal Ripken. And while I appreciate that Wiggington, a gamer by many accounts, enjoyed an All-Star appearance, I believe Nick Markakis belonged in Anaheim. Nevertheless, I don’t begrudge the guy his opportunity.
Wiggington deserved some reward for the month-and-a-half he spent carrying a woeful Orioles team on his back. Besides, to begrudge Wiggington would be to begrudge Ripken. And I don’t think any Orioles fan wants to do that.
Here’s a look at Cal Ripken’s first-half numbers in seven of his 19 All-Star seasons:
1989 – .275/.337/.416, 11 HR, 51 RBI
1990 – .252/.354/.397, 9 HR, 39 RBI
1992 – .262/.347/.397, 10 HR, 40 RBI
1993 – .229/.312/.394, 12 HR, 45 RBI
1998 – .258/.322/.362, 7 HR, 36 RBI
2000 -.239/.239/.444, 13 HR, 43 RBI
2001 – .240/.270/.324, 4 HR, 28 RBI