One of the residuals of the Orioles' struggles over the past decade is that they have routinely sent just one representative to major league baseball's annual All-Star Game.
Dating to 2001, only once have multiple Orioles gone to the midsummer classic. That was in the surprising 2005 first half, when reliever B.J. Ryan and infielders Miguel Tejada, Melvin Mora and Brian Roberts were selected.
This year, with the Orioles having the worst record in the majors, the club will surely send just one player to Anaheim, Calif., for the July 13 exhibition. No mystery there.
But the question is which Oriole gets the nod when the teams are announced Sunday night.
"That's actually a tough one," Orioles interim manager Juan Samuel said. "When I was handed the ballot [for players and managers], I was like, 'Who is going to be our guy?'"
More this season than any other in the past decade, the Orioles don't have a clear-cut All-Star, though baseball requires one to be selected.
No Oriole ranks in the top five at his position in fan voting. And no Oriole is without his statistical faults, though three have played well for much of 2010.
"There are three guys that stand out to me performancewise," veteran reliever Will Ohman said. "Obviously, Ty Wigginton and Nick Markakis. And I would truly say Jason Berken, too."
Wigginton, who has started at first base, second base and third base, leads the team in homers (13) and RBIs (40). He is batting .266 overall after a June slump in which he has hit .218 with no homers.
"I'd like to see Wiggy get there," Markakis said. "For this team, Wiggy is my guy with the bat. He was put into a tough role earlier in the year, not knowing where he is going to be. To play him every day and see what he is doing is great."
Markakis, the Orioles' starting right fielder, leads the team with a .306 average and his club-best .398 on-base percentage is sixth highest in the American League among qualifiers. But he has just three homers and 24 RBIs, a disappointment considering he has averaged 20 homers and 100 RBIs the past three seasons.
"I would have to say right now it is Markakis," Wigginton said about his pick for Orioles All-Star. "Granted, I don't think he has had his best year, I know he has had better years going into the break, but he's been consistent every day."
The dark horse is Berken, who has been phenomenal out of the bullpen after going 6-12 with a 6.54 ERA as a rookie starter in 2009. In 431/3 innings this year -- an AL high for relievers -- Berken has allowed just eight earned runs and 48 base runners. His 1.66 ERA is fourth-lowest in the AL among relievers with 30 or more innings pitched.
"He has been the MVP of our bullpen for sure," Ohman said. "He has done long relief, he has done short relief. He has set up. He has been a savior to us."
Berken has probably been the best Oriole in 2010, but middle relievers rarely are selected to the All-Star team. He understands that and, in fact, said he was excited to be on the short list of relievers on the 2010 players ballot. Although the voting is confidential, several Orioles said privately that they checked off Berken when selecting AL pitchers.
"Obviously, it is very flattering. Just to be on the ballot is pretty cool," Berken said. "The [players] ballot came, and to see my name on there is definitely an honor."
Typically, when making final roster decisions, the All-Star managers contact their managerial counterparts in search of suggestions. As of Sunday afternoon, Samuel hadn't heard from the New York Yankees' Joe Girardi, but if asked, Samuel said, he might go in a different direction than the three most obvious candidates.
"I am leaning toward maybe Jonesy," Samuel said of center fielder Adam Jones, who was the club's lone All-Star representative in 2009.
Jones was widely criticized for his slow start, when he hit just .223 with a .245 on-base percentage and three homers in April. But his bat has been scalding in 24 June games, in which he has hit .315 with seven homers and 18 RBIs. He is first on the team in runs with 35, second in homers (12) and RBIs (33), and has pumped up his season average to .271.
Because the winner of the All-Star Game gets home-field advantage for the World Series, and the Orioles' representative likely wouldn't play until the late innings, there's merit in selecting the hitter from a struggling team who is on the best streak.
"I am thinking maybe Jonesy because he is hot right now, and hopefully he won't cool off and he'll hit a couple more home runs and bring [those numbers] up more," Samuel said. "I was thinking about Berken, I was thinking about Wigginton, when you look at the power. Nick, his average is there, but his [power] production hasn't been there. ÃÂ It's going to be a tough one."
Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said he expects the choice to "come down to Nick or Wiggy," but he added that if Jones "keeps it up, he'd be in the running."