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Mancini Could Bring Hope To Orioles, Baltimore In Otherwise Gloomy 2020

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Doug Kerr via Flickr
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By any reckoning, the 2020 Orioles season is going to be a long, tough slog. 

The Birds enter the campaign staring down the barrel of another 100-loss year to match or even exceed the losing of the last two years.

In the offseason, the team traded away second baseman Jonathan Villar and pitcher Dylan Bundy, two players with something approaching notoriety, if not stardom.

That left a stream-lined payroll and a collection of no-names and aspirational players on the roster and very little in the way of recognizable talent.

Outfielder and first baseman Trey Mancini appears to be on the verge of being the face of the Orioles’ franchise, and not just by virtue of being the only person remaining to keep the lights on.

Mancini, who turns 28 this week, is the kind of player a club would want to build around, exhibiting exuberance and personality, not to mention leadership, an important quality on a team struggling to find its identity. 

And he’s got the talent to match. In three fulltime seasons, Mancini has a career .276 batting average. Last year, he hit 35 home runs and drove in 98 runs, both career-highs, while batting .291.

Mancini was an overwhelming choice as the Orioles’ team Most Valuable Player and, with a modest $5 million salary this year, seemed a logical choice to be traded near midseason for more talent. 

But Mancini is now likely to stay in Baltimore all year after news emerged last week that he was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Mancini had taken part in spring training drills and games in Florida through March 2, when he left a game after two at-bats because he wasn’t feeling well, which, in and of itself, didn’t trigger any alarms since other players had been sick also. 

However, five days later, manager Brandon Hyde announced that Mancini would leave the club to undergo what he described as a non-baseball medical procedure, which turned out to be surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his colon.

Mancini issued a video after the surgery thanking the club and fans for their support and expressing his excitement about getting back to the roster. 

The concept of Mancini returning to baseball may seem far-fetched given the possible route of treatment that may await him. But the Orioles already have a track record of outfielders who have beaten colon cancer.

In 1997, the Birds signed free agent Eric Davis, who had achieved some stardom as a central figure with the Cincinnati Reds who won the World Series seven years earlier.

Davis was diagnosed with colon cancer during the 1997 season and underwent surgery and then chemotherapy. He missed most of the year, but returned in September to help the Orioles to reach the playoffs. 

In the following season, after taking chemo treatments into February, Davis came back to hit .327 in 131 games, providing talent and inspiration. 

We don’t know what’s in store for Trey Mancini in 2020, but we know that his story could provide hope in a city that could use some, on and off the field.

And that’s how I see it for this week.  

 

 

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