As the O’s 2013 season wound down, and the prospect of making the playoffs seemed more and more remote, O’s fans started looking for any excuse that we could. One of these suggested excus- er…reasons for the Birds having their first non-winning September under Buck Showalter (14-14) was that the core “wore down.”
Fans and media noticed late in the year that the O’s were going to have more players play 140+ games (7) and 150+ games (5) than any other team in the majors. The Boston Red Sox (who just advanced to the ALCS, by the way), to compare, had only one player play more than 140 games. Tampa Bay, who Boston just eliminated, had five players over 140, and four over 150.
Now, before I get into this, I should first note how lucky the Birds were that none of their key players suffered serious injury in 2013 (until Machado in September, of course), a fact that allowed those numbers to even potentially occur. A hat tip to the O’s offseason conditioning program and training staff for keeping the fellas healthy is certainly in order.
In a chat with Steve Melewski of MASN, though, Adam Jones (160 games) disagreed vehemently when Melewski suggested that he and his teammates wore down.
At one point, I got into a lengthy discussion with Jones about the fact that several Orioles players were among the league leaders in games played this year. Did that lead to the team and the offense wearing down in September?
“Do you pay me to sit the bench or play baseball every day?” Jones said. “We had our days off. You get paid to play the game. You don’t want a day off, man. You don’t need it. You get paid to play the game.”
But is this something Buck Showalter has to look at when thinking about next season?
“Nope,” Jones said. “You get paid too much money to sit. Play. I show up here ready to play every day, that is my job description. We get 20 days off a year. That is plenty for me.
As Melewski notes, the Birds scored 4.8 runs per game prior to the All-Star break this season, and 4.3 runs per game after. Jones attributed the Birds’ failings down the stretch to simply running up against good pitchers.
What went wrong is, we struggled down the stretch against very good pitching. Period,” Jones said. “Our pitching was good. Our defense was superb. We struggled as an offense down the stretch against very good pitching. You can’t cry about that. You ran into (David) Price, (Alex) Cobb, (Chris) Archer, some good starters. We gave it our all. Tip your cap and bring it next year. No crying in baseball.
“We are not doormats anymore. People changed their approach to us and paid more attention to us. They scouted us a little heavier. It’s cat and mouse. Now next year you figure out how do we get better.”
Now, I love AJ as much as anybody. I’m ecstatic to have him as the face of our franchise, and I defend him when silly fans get on him for non-issues like blowing bubbles while he plays.
But, he’s a damn hard head.
Just completely, 100% stubborn.
Of course, he said exactly what I’d expect him to say, given the question. Would I like him to say “yeah, we should probably get a day off here or there?”
Still, “We don’t get paid to sit on the bench” reminds me a lot of his “don’t get paid to walk” quote from the All-Star break. Ballplayers get paid to win games, by any means necessary.
If that means taking a base-on-balls every now and again so that Chris Davis hits a two-run homer instead of a solo shot? You do it.
And if it means resting once every two or three weeks during the dog days of July and August so you’re fresher in September? You do it.
That’s not just for Adam. I’m sure Buck had a hell of a time getting any of his players to take a day off this season. But I’m sticking to my own personal opinion that Buck rides his core guys too hard. There’s no reason that a guy like Ryan Flaherty shouldn’t be spelling the infielders (Hardy, Machado) for a game here and there every few weeks. It would not only cut down a bit on the wear and tear of the main guys (didn’t Manny especially seem a bit tired down the stretch?) but it would keep bench players like Flaherty engaged and getting regular at-bats.
I’m also convinced that Matt Wieters’ struggles at the plate are at least partially a result of leading the world in innings behind the dish, while also being a backstop for one of the least efficient pitching staffs in the league (O’s starters aren’t happy unless they’re averaging 20 pitches/inning).
Another glaring example – Nate McLouth played 146 games, despite his horrible splits against left-handed pitching (.209/.283/.357 in 130 PA).
The Birds need better depth in 2014, and Buck needs to be better about giving his guys a rest here and there. Whether they like it or not.