When the National League All-Star team is revealed Sunday night, Miami Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee won’t be surprised if his name is omitted.
Instead of playing in the majors last year, McGehee rediscovered his swing in Japan, blasting 28 homers and knocking in 93 RBI. He isn’t a household name like David Wright or Aramis Ramirez.
Despite leading all NL third basemen in average (.313), RBI (50), on-base percentage (.382) and fielding percentage (.983), McGehee wasn’t get much love from fans, ranking outside the top five at the position in All-Star balloting when the last update came out prior to the close of voting on Thursday night.
"If I just do my job and people feel like I’m deserving than I should be able to go," McGehee said. "I’m not too concerned about that."
Over the offseason, Miami’s most glaring need was arguably that at third base. When McGehee signed a deal that doesn’t make him a free agent until 2016, it received little fanfare.
The term "stopgap" was used, especially because months earlier the Marlins used their first-round pick on University of North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran.
McGehee, 31, has been more than that batting cleanup behind slugger Giancarlo Stanton, taking advantage of teams afraid to face the NL home run and RBI leader. His .385 clip with runners in scoring position paces all of baseball.
"Whoever used that stopgap word?" president of baseball operations Michael Hill teased recently. "All of the signings. You knew he was still controllable for another year beyond this year. That was definitely behind the madness going after guys we went after. He’s been a good story."
This spring, McGehee wondered whether some of his younger teammates even knew who he was when he arrived in Jupiter, Fla. Prior to his stint in Japan, he played parts of five seasons in the big leagues from 2008-12.
His career year came in 2010 when he knocked 23 homers and drove in 104 RBI with a .285 average over 157 games.
Christian Yelich, 22, would be one of them. He is in his first full big-league season after earning his call-up last June.
"I knew he played for the Brewers and the Yankees," Yelich said. "I didn’t know he played for the Pirates. I knew who Casey McGehee was. Obviously I didn’t know him, but I knew who he was."
Stanton, 24, has benefited from McGehee’s presence in the lineup, receiving more protection than he had in 2013.
"I played against him for a little bit, but I didn’t know much because he wasn’t in our division," Stanton said. "That’s about it. Not really much."
Right-hander Tom Koehler, 28, can picture McGehee wearing a "big uniform" for the New York Yankees in 2012 after being traded from the Pirates.
"I remember those big years he put up with the Brewers and I also remember when I was following the Yankees growing up a Yankee fan when he got traded over," Koehler said. "I watch a lot of MLB Network and stuff so I saw what he did over in Japan and kind of had a feeling we were looking to fill that third base position that he was a target."
After that impressive 2010 season, though, McGehee hit just .223 with 13 dingers and 67 RBI in 2011. With the Pirates, he batted .230 with eight long balls and 35 RBI before being traded to the Yankees. There, he contributed just a homer and six RBI in 22 games (59 plate appearances).
Despite those struggles, Garrett Jones knew what the Marlins could get out of McGehee. They were teammates in Pittsburgh.
Jones was a more heralded acquisition over the offseason and has been a constant at first base, something Miami couldn’t get from the oft-injured Logan Morrison.
"I knew he was a good player," Jones said. "When he was with the Pirates he never got in his groove and never really found his swing there, but I knew what he could do playing against him with the Brewers. Put up some numbers, played a good third base. I knew he was a good player and signing going in and could be a steal. Look what he’s doing now. It looks like he’s found his comfort zone and feels good. I’m sure he just wants to stay consistent, keep it going. He’s been one of the most consistent bats through the whole year.
"It seems like every year there’s a guy that gets out of baseball or goes overseas or something happens where they kind of get lost and they come back and totally rejuvenate their career. Casey’s a good guy, he works hard and it’s good to see that hard work come back to him and him getting a second chance in his major-league career."
Whether McGehee makes the All-Star team doesn’t matter much to him. He doesn’t expect to garner enough support from fans should he be part of the final vote.
All that matters to him is what his teammates and coaches think, the ones around him over the course of a 162-game season.
"When the guys that play the game and understand what it takes to do every day and you earn their respect," McGehee said. "That’s a real big thing. It’s also not the end-all be-all as far as that goes. The most important thing is those 25 guys plus the others in the locker room. They count on you and appreciate you. That’s the most gratifying thing."