SEATTLE – When Orioles rookie phenom Manny Machado lined a RBI double in the seventh inning Sunday against the Oakland Athletics, he ignited an important rally for the Orioles, again demonstrating his value to the bottom third of the team's lineup.
His next at-bat in the eighth, his 131st since his surprise Aug. 9 call-up from Double-A Bowie, represented something a little more disappointing for Orioles fans.
It pretty much guaranteed that the 20-year-old third baseman will not become the club's first American League Rookie of the Year since pitcher Gregg Olson in 1989.
Because he has exceeded the 130 at-bat threshold for qualifying, Machado will not be eligible for the annual Baseball Writers' Association of America rookie award in 2013. Instead, his official rookie season is this one.
And as impressive as Machado has been in his limited time with the Orioles this year, he has no legitimate chance this season to win against Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, who is a Most Valuable Player candidate and likely will receive all 28 first-place votes for AL Rookie of the Year.
Oakland outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, a Cuban defector who has ignited the A's offense when healthy, is expected to finish second in voting with a host of others, including possibly Machado and Orioles lefty Wei-Yin Chen, receiving some third-place votes.
Machado said winning the award would be an honor, but he's in line for something that Trout might not accomplish this season.
“Of course, you'd want to have that, you'd love to get it,” Machado said. “But how I feel is, we have a chance to make the playoffs. And to be a rookie in the playoffs, that's going to be great. To be a part of this organization and be part of this team to get into the playoffs — we haven't been in the playoffs in a long time — to be a part of that covers up being rookie of the year or any of those honors.”
Machado said he thought he might have a chance to be eligible next year since he didn't accrue much big league time before rosters were expanded Sept. 1. And that is one way to keep rookie status.
According to Major League Baseball rules, a player is considered a rookie if he doesn't log 45 days of service on the 25-man roster before it expands to 40; Machado had 23 days before Sept. 1. But that distinction doesn't matter if a player has more than 130 at-bats in his big league career before a new season. Pitchers cannot throw more than 50 innings in a season and also must adhere to the service time rule to maintain rookie status.
Trout remained eligible this year because he had 123 at-bats in 2011 and didn't accrue enough service time.
The Orioles have had six Rookie of the Year winners in their history: Olson, Cal Ripken Jr. (1982), Eddie Murray (1977), Al Bumbry (1973), Curt Blefary (1965) and Ron Hansen (1960).
Machado, the third pick in the 2010 amateur draft, is one of the more heralded Orioles prospects of the past decade. A natural shortstop, his arrival immediately strengthened the team's defense, even though he had played third base only twice in his minor league career.
He has helped improve the club's fielding percentage from the lowest in the league to among the highest since his arrival. He has made just two errors — one on a blown call — while playing every inning at third since his call-up.
He has also held his own at the plate, batting .267 with four homers.
Brimming with quiet confidence, Machado said missing out on Rookie of the Year doesn't mean he expects to have an empty trophy case throughout his big league career.
“I can still keep playing,” he said. “And there are honors you can get out there that aren't about being a rookie.”