On a rudimentary level, things have been going swimmingly for Brandon Nimmo this season. The 2011 first-round pick has been arguably the Mets’ best offensive asset in 2018, battling his way into an everyday spot in the lineup with a .258/.382/.504 clip that features 12 home runs, 26 RBI, and seven stolen bases.
I wrote a quasi-controversial article as recently as a week ago citing the possibility that his production was on the decline, given the downward trajectory of some of Nimmo’s stats through June. I don’t think I was wrong in bringing such an idea forward then, but I wouldn’t stand a chance making the same argument now. Nimmo has reached base safely in all seven of the games he’s played since July 2, scoring six of the team’s last 22 runs while hoisting a .387 OBP.
Don’t let the joy in Mudville fool you, however.
Brandon Nimmo is an exceptional player with a beautiful smile and a lot to give, but over the past eight months, the message clearly hasn’t registered with everyone in baseball. When former-GM Sandy Alderson first made his infamous “tongue-in-cheek” comments lampooning Nimmo’s credibility as an everyday outfielder in December (a poorly-timed joke explaining the Mets’ indecision to go after an outfielder before settling for Jay Bruce), most fans held the inept front office accountable.
The story repeated itself in April when Nimmo, who at the time had struck out just once through his first 15 plate appearances while walking nine times, was optioned (albeit briefly) to Triple-A Las Vegas. And again, the outrage had as little to do with Nimmo’s being mistreated as it did the team itself being run poorly.
Now, however, and perhaps echoed by the fact that the Mets themselves have become a doormat to the National League, Nimmo, despite establishing himself as a saving grace in an otherwise unwatchable season, remains overlooked by Major League Baseball.
Entering last night, Nimmo’s weighted on-base average (wOBA), at .387, ranked 16th in the majors, ahead of Jose Altuve, Joey Votto, and Nick Markakis, among a myriad of established, selective hitters. He held a wRC+ (weighted runs created) of 148, ranking ahead of such names as Matt Kemp, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. Nimmo’s .901 OPS ranked 19th, a few pegs ahead of Javier Baez, and over 50 points beyond the reach of Ozzie Albies and Bryce Harper. Overall, Nimmo’s fWAR of 2.5 is tied for third among NL outfielders.
Every one of the aforementioned players was selected, be it through fan-vote or reserve appointment, to represent Major League Baseball in the upcoming All-Star Game at Nationals Park.
Such familiar names as Giancarlo Stanton, Trea Turner and Brandon Belt are all in line to fight for the Final Vote in their respective leagues. Brandon Nimmo was left off of the ballot, off the roster, and out of the running for the Final Vote. Nimmo could possibly make the team if injuries strike at the last minute and demand substitutions, but the wait in line is now a little longer with the outfielder shoved behind a group of talented, though in some cases less-deserving candidates for the Final Vote.
As the story has been since the day he arrived in Queens, Nimmo has done everything to stay focused, citing the merits of his teammates, the focus going forward, and just about anything you’d expect from a humble, driven ballplayer.
“[It’s] encouraging because of where I started this year,” he said. “I was supposed to be a bench player. To even be in these All-Star conversations, I should be really proud of that.
“I felt like if I finished a little bit stronger these last couple of weeks maybe things would’ve been a little bit different.”
Brandon Nimmo missing out on the All-Star Game is not a straw breaking the camel’s back in terms of Major League Baseball marketing itself poorly because ultimately, the premise of “making baseball fun” has been pretty horribly carried out by Rob Manfred as well as a number of media outlets that continue to play favorites.
The discussions about Harper’s impending free agency, Baez’s defensive skillset, Altuve’s size, and Stanton’s power projections in Yankee Stadium, with all due respect to these four players, can only be topics of conversation for so long before fans know what’s coming, roll their eyes when they hear it, and change the channel, desperate for another way to invest their time.
The meteoric rises of Juan Soto, a 19-year old Dominican outfield prospect, and Blake Snell, a young lefty phenom on a disheveled Tampa Bay squad, are the experiences baseball fans will always want more exposure to. Children and adults alike cling to unlikely stories, and will likewise be glued to the majesty of Aaron Judge‘s swing no matter how many different angles ESPN decides to replay. No stone goes unturned if one actually sets out to turn as many stones as they can; in other words, why make it a popularity contest that nobody is asking for?
If executives and social media coordinators in Major League Baseball want to attract an audience, they need to dig in, ditch the ostentatious, regurgitated nonsense about money, and throw players like Nimmo a bone instead.
Watching somebody who never played organized high school baseball sprint around the bases, grinning ear-to-ear with every stride, is something I will remember my entire life, but even more so, it’s something I wish to hell I could have enjoyed as a 7-year-old constantly seeking more out of the game than the same clips of A-Rod’s 500th home run, followed by sports radio waxing poetic about the money he’d be owed in free agency.
Sports need variety. Brandon Nimmo is not only a perfectly diverse and exciting player to watch from every angle, but he has more credentials this year than a plethora of ballplayers who, while qualified, have also had their shine, and in many cases, will have plenty to show through the rest of the season on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball and everybody’s MLB At-Bat feed.
The objective of the All-Star Game should be a mix between fielding the best players in the world and fielding the most exciting players in the world so as to build and attract a market, so it’s sad to say the least that Nimmo was snubbed.