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. It feels as if the Orioles are playing in some sort of twilight zone so far this season. In the past handful of seasons, the Birds have been successful by having a powerful offense, shutdown bullpen, and absolutely no starting pitching. Recently, they’ve had no offense, not much of a bullpen, and some pretty decent starting pitching. The defense has also been historically strong, and this year it is, well, not.
There’s not a whole lot else to say about the Orioles right now. They aren’t all that fun to watch. They are losing games that are easily winnable. You can keep reminding yourself that it’s still early. It’s still a small sample size. We aren’t even to Memorial Day quite yet.
But the O’s are digging themselves a hole that is deep enough that they may not be able to climb out.
2. The largest issue to me with the Orioles right now, despite their fairly decent starting pitching, is Chris Tillman. I beat the drum all offseason that the Orioles needed to come into the year with six viable starting pitchers, not five. That meant going out and signing four guys to pair with Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. They ended up one short of that, and that included acquiring Tillman.
There’s been nothing redeemable about what Tillman has presented so far that tells me he can be a productive member of this team going forward. The O’s are going to keep trotting him out there, but it’s really just out of necessity at this point. I have a feeling that it won’t be long before they remove necessity by finding another option. Tillman simply hasn’t been the same since his shoulder injury in 2016, and there’s no proof that he’ll return to anything close to his previous form.
I’m not mad at Tillman. He was the team’s best and most consistent pitcher through a stretch of baseball for this franchise that was very memorable. It just might be time to finally move on if things don’t change quickly.
3. I feel like I now spend part of this weekly column explaining or defending my other weekly endeavor over at MASNSports.com. This week, I took on writing about Buck Showalter’s job status, and it touched some nerves. In no way was I attempting to suggest the O’s should look into firing their manager. But we’d all be turning a blind eye if we didn’t look at those who ARE talking about it.
There are a lot of fans calling for Buck’s head. Many believe he’s taken this team as far as it can go. Others think he’s been handed a roster that’s incapable of winning, and doing his best with it. It’s the old chicken salad theory. I am somewhere in the middle. In no way do I think Showalter is infallible, but I also think there are much deeper issues with the Orioles.
If Showalter is the odds-on favorite to be the first MLB manager fired this season, count me out on that. I don’t see it happening.
4. Being that yesterday’s game was moved to the afternoon, I had the chance to enjoy it via the radio. It’s a nice treat to be able to listen to a game while at work, so I took full advantage. What was even nicer was that former Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts joined Joe Angel in the booth from Detroit. Roberts has a pretty good knack for being a color man, and he showed it. The 40-year-old was pretty on-point with most of his analysis and was able to detail some of the finer points of the game by recalling his own playing days.
Specifically yesterday, he basically called the first two home runs of the game. Danny Valencia’s blast came after Roberts spoke about the reason he’s in the lineup – to hit left-handed pitching with power. He also played Nostradamus when it came to Jeimer Candelario’s home run in the third inning, pointing out that Kevin Gausman was going to be forced to throw a fastball after falling down in the count 2-0. Candelario was ready for it, and took him deep. Roberts was also very fond of describing Gausman’s breaking ball as “slurvy,” which I found entertaining. Perhaps the only criticism I had of Roberts is that he talked quite a bit. It seems like an odd thing to critique, being that it is his job and that he’s on the radio to do it, but he chimed in after virtually every pitch and Angel’s call.
The two had good chemistry, but sometimes it’s nice to let an at-bat breathe a bit as well. I think Roberts could have a future as a radio personality, in the same way I think Ben McDonald does. I look forward to hearing both in the future calling O’s games.