The infielder/outfielder spent the first four years of his MLB career as one of the best players on some very bad Baltimore Orioles teams, and then his career was interrupted by a colon cancer diagnosis. After the Orioles announced he had undergone surgery to remove a malignant tumor from his colon, Mancini sat out the entire 2020 season while undergoing chemotherapy.
Mancini’s surgery was announced on March 12, 2020. Fast forward 31 months, he was winning his first career World Series title.
It was a long road back for Mancini, but not without support from across baseball. He said there were times he wasn’t sure if he would ever play baseball again, but he was finally declared cancer-free in November of that year.
His return to MLB was impressive, while his status as a fan favorite was clear. He earned an invite to the Home Run Derby and AL Comeback Player of the Year honors in a 2021 season in which he hit .255/.326/.432 with 21 homers, then was on his way to another solid season this year when the Orioles made the controversial decision to trade him to the Astros.
The Mancini trade was an odd one, as the Orioles hadn’t entirely ruled out pushing for a postseason berth. Mancini was a popular player, but also a pending free agent for a team very focused on the future. The upside for Mancini was clear, though. He was on a much better team, and headed to the playoffs for the first time of his career.
Mancini’s performance at the plate as an Astro wasn’t exactly the stuff of legend (he hit .176 in the regular season and was hitless in the postseason until Saturday), but there may have been no defensive play more pivotal for the Astros than a lead-saving catch at first base in the eighth inning of Game 5.
Mancini was promoted to starting first baseman for Game 6 due to a knee injury to Yuli Gurriel, and he was on the field for the final out. Say what you will about the Astros, but It’s hard to not be happy for player like Mancini.