Thursday Thoughts: Replacing “The Big Fella” is No Small Task

Chris Davis stands at first and prepares to field a throw.
GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. This year, I’ll be cutting it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl WeaverBrooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.

1. The Orioles are showing fans a scary glimpse into what life was like between 1998 and 2011 over the last few weeks. Losing has become common for this team once again, just as it was during the “Dark Ages.” They sunk down below the .500 mark (before pulling even again last night) and are working hard to stay out of the cellar of the tough AL East.

Everyone seems to be pushing the panic button, and there’s certainly some reasoning behind that. There’s constantly talk of a “window” surrounding any sports franchise, and that talk has been ramped up around the Orioles recently. That so-called window appears to be open through the end of 2018, when players like Manny Machado become free agents and contracts of Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette run out.

But there is now a collective group of people who are ready to attempt to extend that window by making changes now. In essence, they’d be closing the window for now and allowing it to open sooner down the road. There’s absolutely no guarantee to this happening. The plan to rebuild could very easily spiral into another decade and a half of complete failure. Yet there’s also no guarantee that holding on to current assets and continuing to push for a championship will work out.

The Orioles have proven that they can be competitive, but they certainly haven’t gotten over the hump yet. This is a debate that will go on for quite some time.

It will also just get louder over the next six weeks as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.

2. The Orioles have lost Chris Davis to an oblique injury, and it appears to be as bad as it sounds. Not only will this hurt the O’s offensively (despite the fact that he’s hitting just .226 with a MLB-leading 95 strikeouts), but it will really hurt them defensively as well. It means putting Trey Mancini or Mark Trumbo at first base, and neither player is as good as Davis with the glove. It also weakens the outfield by proxy.

Despite his struggles with the bat this season, Davis still brings the power numbers and is leading the team with 14 home runs. Taking that bat out of the order subtracts a presence if nothing else. Oblique injuries are also nothing to mess with. They typically keep a hitter out for at least six weeks, which means we likely won’t be seeing Davis until the end of July, perhaps even into August.

The only glimmer of silver lining in all of this is that Hyun-Soo Kim, who fans have been clamoring to see more of, is likely to see some more at-bats. He certainly won’t bring what Davis does to the lineup, however.

3. The Orioles could be facing something they haven’t met since 2011. I’m not just talking about a potential losing season, but the distinct possibility of having just one representative at the All-Star Game. This year’s Midsummer Classic in Miami has a good chance of having just one member of the Birds on hand.

Matt Wieters was the team’s lone player in 2011, and since then at least three have been sent to the game. In the latest voting update, no Baltimore player is in line to start the game. Welington Castillo and Machado are both third at their positions while Adam Jones is 13th among outfielders. If I had to guess, Castillo likely has the best shot of being a representative in his first season with the team.

The American League roster will likely want to have three catchers, which gives him a better shot. Machado certainly isn’t having an All-Star caliber season and Jones is buried in a deep field, even though Mike Trout is injured.

There definitely isn’t a pitching candidate on the roster.

4. The Edwin Jackson experiment came crashing down to Earth this past weekend. It lasted just three games and five innings. I was somewhat surprised when the Orioles gave Jackson the shot to pitch out of the bullpen. He hadn’t done anything spectacular to earn a chance with his 12th MLB team, but instead came up and flailed around in the bullpen for a few days.

What’s more confusing is that the O’s didn’t give the other player they had stashed in their minor leagues a shot before his opt out. Michael Bourn has gone on to sign a minor league deal with the Angels. Not that it could’ve been foreseen, but Bourn would’ve been a welcomed addition with the injury to Davis. His left-handed bat could’ve filled a role in the outfield that Kim hasn’t seemed to be filling.

Dan Duquette continuously adds pieces like Jackson and Bourn to the fold, even if they never see the field for the big-league club. Sometimes they work out, and other times, they are Jackson.

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