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 Weaver–Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.
1. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that watching your favorite team lose a bunch of games stinks. The Orioles have seen their fair share of losing recently, and it does indeed stink. The recent seven-game losing streak caused many O’s fans to have flashbacks to what is commonly referred to as the “Dark Ages” (1998-2011), and with good reason.
Each game looked a lot like any example of a game from that era. It is important to remember though, that this isn’t that era. There’s been quite a bit of talk recently about blowing things up and starting over. That’s not in this team’s mindset. It’s not something the Orioles are inclined to do, because they believe they can contend this season.
For the record, they aren’t wrong. This is a team that is not all that different from the one that went to the postseason a year ago. A few changes have been made here and there, but, the core remains intact.
If you are anxiously awaiting a big fire sale at the trade deadline, you may be left disappointed.
2. There’s a big issue with the Orioles removing Ubaldo Jimenez from the rotation. It’s not the fact that it was based on performance. In no way does Jimenez’s performance warrant his inclusion. Instead, it’s the replacement that the O’s came up with. To be completely fair, there isn’t a suitable replacement for Jimenez right now. Alec Asher isn’t that player. I’m not just basing that on his awful turn at replacing Jimenez’s spot. Asher isn’t a great option based on what we’ve seen from him overall.
It’s just like Gabriel Ynoa or Tyler Wilson aren’t suitable replacements. Mike Wright, Vidal Nuno and Jayson Aquino aren’t good options either. The biggest issue with all of this requires playing revisionist history and realizing that the Orioles didn’t adequately upgrade their pitching this offseason in order to make up for poor performance by players like Jimenez.
In fact, the Orioles downgraded the depth of their starting staff by shipping Yovani Gallardo away. In no way am I arguing that Gallardo would fix everything, but he’s another arm that would’ve been thrown into this mix of players right now.
3. I’ve heard this one in the past, but it certainly received more bluster this week – “It’s time to fire Buck Showalter.” The arguments are plentiful, but none garner all that much merit. I’ve heard things like his history of being fired after bringing a team to the edge of glory. I’ve also heard about how little he’s done to “control” Manny Machado, which isn’t really something I thought needed to be done.
Showalter is not immune from criticism, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been the first to jump on the chance to take a stab at Showalter when he mismanages a situation or sits on his hands too long. The biggest problem with firing Showalter would be the same issue that arises when moving Jimenez out of the rotation – Who replaces him?
I’m sure you could rattle off a number of candidates, and I’m sure that list would include Brady Anderson. No one has the experience or the “know-how” that Showalter does. None of the candidates you could name have the clout that Showalter brings to the table, and simply put, none of them would be an improvement right now.
There’s no murmurs about the message being lost among players right now. Everyone is buying in to what Showalter is selling in that clubhouse.
Until any of these things happen, Showalter is going to have a presence with the Orioles.
4. Speaking of Machado, we can no longer just call what he’s going through a “slump.” We are past Memorial Day, so we can confidently say that he’s simply not been very good this season. The man is leading All-Star voting among third basemen and is struggling to keep his batting average above the Mendoza line. Some of the power numbers are still there, and when you dig a bit deeper you realize that some of Machado’s struggles can be attributed to bad luck.
But sitting in a current 0-for-18 slump, Machado simply looks lost at the plate. I wrote a while back about how Machado’s 2017 season is shaping up to be very similar to Bryce Harper’s 2016 campaign. It may simply be a down season for the Gold Glove winner, and that would obviously be very bad for the O’s hopes in staying competitive. Aside from all of the talk about whether or not Machado will stay in Baltimore long-term, while he is in town, the Orioles need him to play up to his potential.
It’d be crazy for the Orioles to think about trading Machado THIS season, even though that idea has been floated by some. There’s no way they will consider it, unless they were to lose every game between now and the deadline. Even then, they’d only consider it.
For now, the Orioles have no option but to hope that their best player starts acting like it.