James McCann should be an All Star. That's not me advocating a position as much as it is stating a fact: Barring something crazy, McCann should be a member of the American League roster next month in Cleveland.
Whether McCann is starting behind the plate or he'll get his turn in one of the later innings is in the hands of baseball fans, with the polls currently open for them to choose a starter between him, Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees and Robinson Chirinos of the Houston Astros. Sanchez is probably the favorite to win the most votes. He has the first-place Yankees' worldwide fan base behind him, as well as 23 home runs and 52 RBIs.
But McCann has his own stellar case to start, in the midst of a, frankly, out-of-nowhere campaign of spectacular proportions. He entered Wednesday afternoon's game against the Boston Red Sox with a .326/.387/.508 slash line to go along with everything else he's done for this team.
McCann did a little more to add to his case Wednesday, picking up a pair of hits against Chris Sale, one of which was mashed over the Green Monster for a third-inning home run in the White Sox win on getaway day.
"He's the best catcher in the American League," White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito said during Wednesday's broadcast. He's a tad biased, of course, but it doesn't mean he's necessarily wrong. "So I think that's all you have to really say. Offensive numbers, how much he's helped this team from a leadership standpoint, he checks all the boxes. He deserves to be starting the All-Star Game."
McCann has been a hell of a find for the White Sox. When they added him in December, it appeared they were simply acquiring a veteran bridge, and a backup at that, to get them to highly rated catching prospect Zack Collins. Instead, McCann has performed so well that he's being penciled in by fans and onlookers as the team's catcher moving forward. At 29 years old, that's hardly outrageous, and he's still arbitration eligible following this season, making it very easy for the White Sox to bring him back for 2020.
And why wouldn't they? He's made a shocking improvement to the offensive numbers he put up in five years with the division-rival Detroit Tigers, a half-decade during which he hit only 240/.288/.366. It goes without saying that whatever McCann did this offseason worked.
"It's something I've worked for," McCann said last week at Wrigley Field. "It's something, as a little boy, you dream of, and as you get older you work for it. It's a culmination of a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication.
"After a down year offensively last year, I got to do some soul searching, and the biggest thing for me was not trying to be someone that I wasn't. And it sounds simple, sounds silly, but literally just trying to be who James McCann is and not trying to be someone else."
Who James McCann is has been a middle-of-the-order hitter for these White Sox and a game-changer behind the plate. It didn't take long for manager Rick Renteria to make #CleanupManJamesMcCann a thing, and it took a similarly brief amount of time for Renteria to give the majority of the catching duties to McCann in his timeshare with Welington Castillo.
While McCann's offensive presence has been great, his ability to do what Castillo couldn't during the latter's 80-game steroid suspension last season has been perhaps McCann's greatest contribution. He's excelled working with the pitching staff, specifically Giolito, whose turnaround from the statistical worst pitcher in the game to one of the best has been the biggest story of the team's season to this point.
"I have nothing but fantastic things to say about him," Giolito said last week. "He's done a great job this year. Looking forward to him being an All Star. There's not enough good things I can say about what he does defensively and offensively for us."
McCann often deflects the credit heaped onto him by Giolito back to the pitcher. But certainly that part of the White Sox acquisition of the veteran backstop in the offseason has come to fruition. The offense? General manager Rick Hahn has said multiple times that McCann has exceeded their expectations in that department.
"Obviously I played against them for five years, so they'd seen me quite a bit," McCann said last week. "I just turned 29, which I guess in the game of baseball some people think is old now, but in all reality I feel like I'm just coming into my prime. I hope that's the way the organization looks at me.
"I'm thankful for the opportunity, and I've really enjoyed my time here."
That opportunity has yielded an All-Star first half for McCann. See you in Cleveland, James.
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