Thursday Thoughts: O’s Fans Should Stuff the Ballot Box…for Nick

Nick Markakis tips his helmet.

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. As of last year, I cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver/€“Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.

1. I’ve been scouring the internet all week to look for potential Twitter burner accounts used by Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette. I mean, hey, I hear it’s a popular thing to do these days. We’re talking about the same guy who once had his personal cell phone number posted on social media, so who knows what is out there. I’ll keep you posted.

I figured that’s the best place to look for clues at this point when it comes to trying to find out what the Orioles might be doing between now and July 31st. They certainly haven’t announced any plans and haven’t given any clues. Memorial Day, which as you know was this past Monday, was supposed to be the demarcation day for when the O’s decided what kind of chance they had this season. Obviously they didn’t need to wait that long, but now that the day has come and gone, I’m waiting on pins and needles for some kind of direction. Any hint of a plan, or who is in charge of the plan or whether or not the Orioles realize there should be a plan would be nice.

In the meantime, I’ll be thinking of potential Twitter handles that could be out there just revealing any speck of information from the Warehouse.

2. One part of any plan for the next few months should involve Zach Britton, who got his injury rehab stint underway last night with Frederick. The Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli was on hand in Wilmington, Delaware last night (with his trusty radar gun) for the Keys’ game against the Blue Rocks.

(As a side note, a wonderful place to take in a ballgame).

Zach Britton looks in for a sign.

GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

Meoli reported that Britton was sitting at 92-94 on his fastball during a scoreless inning in which he recorded three swinging strikeouts. Britton is going to be a crucial part of the Orioles’ plan to rebuild. They need to ensure that he comes back to the big league club fully healthy and with enough time to build back some value before the deadline. They aren’t going to get a haul for Britton, but they should be able to get something. It’s the same with basically every other player that has an expiring contract on this team. The value won’t be super high, but they have to be able to acquire something from these pieces, rather than just letting them walk in the winter.

3. I’m doing my best to temper my expectations, but each time David Hess takes the mound, it’s hard not to be a little impressed. Hess seems like the perfect candidate to make Chris Tillman just float away into the abyss this season. The Orioles don’t need him to become a top-line starter this season, or next. Hess just needs to continue developing into a decent pitcher. That’s all. That’s all they need from a player where there really aren’t any expectations. He’s not Tanner Scott or DL Hall. He’s certainly not Hunter Harvey. Hess can settle in and give the Orioles quality where they aren’t even anticipating it.

What’s probably most important in the near future is that Hess is giving the Orioles cover to keep Tillman away from the mound. As long as he can continue to do that, I’ll be more than impressed.

4. Voting for the All-Star Game starts tomorrow, and Orioles fans may think they don’t have much motivation to stuff the ballot box (virtually of course). Manny Machado will likely be the O’s lone representative (as long as he isn’t traded before teams are announced). There really isn’t any other player that’s close to deserving of a trip down the street to Washington, DC for this July’s AL-NL tilt.

But there is another reason O’s fans should spend some time on MLB.com voting for the players that will get in the game.

It’s time to remove Nick Markakis from the “best players to have never been an All-Star” list. The boys from the Birds Eye View podcast were all over this earlier in the week, and I encourage you to give a listen to their thoughts on Markakis. The former Oriole is having a great season in Atlanta alongside his brother-in-law, Ryan Flaherty. Markakis is on pace for more than 200 hits, which would be a first in his career. The 34-year-old also already has seven home runs after hitting eight all of last year. He’s also on pace to have more walks than strikeouts this season, in an age where that is virtually impossible.

Markakis has been a key veteran on a young, surging Braves team that looks poised to make a playoff push in the tough NL East.

O’s fans should get him to the All-Star Game, or at least root for it to happen. It’ll make cheering for him during his induction into the Orioles Hall of Fame someday that much sweeter.

5, There was a ton of fervor on social media this week regarding the Orioles wearing gear in support of the Washington Capitals. I say all of this as an actual real life Caps fan from the Baltimore-metro area – who cares?

None of this really does anything for me, even though I’ve been a fan of the hockey team since the mid-90s, when I actually learned what hockey was. There are a lot of anti-Washington people in Baltimore, and I get that. I also understand fully how weird it is that the O’s players and coaches were wearing Caps colors this week while playing against another Washington team (which happens to rock the same colors). It’s all weird. But it also doesn’t really matter.

Folks were getting so worked up about this, probably just because they are tired of getting worked up about how bad the baseball team is this year. I guess it gets under my skin because I’m tired of being called a bad Baltimore sports fan because I support a team from Washington. The Capitals are the closest hockey team to Baltimore, and their games have aired in the region forever. They are the team I got to grow up watching, therefore I support them. I find it weird that the Orioles have been throwing their support behind them, but I also don’t really care. It also makes a bit of sense for the organization, considering they are trying to encompass as much of the Washington, DC market as possible.

It’s easy to forget that before the Nationals were around, the O’s could draw fans not only in DC, but deep into Virginia as well. The Orioles are likely just still trying to siphon some of that support, which from me, gets the biggest of shoulder shrugs.

6. The MLB first-year player draft gets underway on Monday, and I have a simple reminder to fans who have any interest: Whoever the Orioles happen to select with the 11th overall pick isn’t going to be the replacement for “Player X.” If they pick a third baseman or shortstop, it won’t be because they are planning on losing Manny Machado this offseason. If they select an outfielder, the same goes for the future of Adam Jones. If it’s a pitcher, don’t think it’ll be that guy replacing Chris Tillman in the near future. What’s important to remember when it comes to these prospects is that they are mostly malleable. Mychal Givens, for example, used to be a shortstop. There are certain tools and traits each draft pick will have, and what’s more important is how they are developed.

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