Thursday Thoughts: Strong Starts for New Orioles

Tim Beckham and Jonathan Schoop of the Orioles high five each other.

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. I’m not entirely sure what to make of the Orioles right now. They’ve won five straight by getting good pitching and strong offense. The O’s just shut down one of the hottest teams in baseball.

And yet, I still don’t really buy it all. Call me crazy, I know, but the past week has been a whirlwind and I’m not ready to say these Birds are ready for a run. Maybe I’m just not prepared to be sucked back in and hurt again.

It’s not that I’m rooting against the Orioles. I love what they are doing right now. Winning should always be the goal.

The Orioles still have a long road ahead if they want to sniff the postseason. They are still in the muddled mess that is the AL Wild Card chase, which includes the Royals team they just swept out of Camden Yards.

But hey, while we’re at it, why not just step back and realize that it’s early August and the O’s are only 5.5 games out of the division lead?

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2. My jaw hit the floor last week when the Orioles made a strange trade for Jeremy Hellickson. It was also on the ground last night when the veteran tossed seven scoreless innings in his O’s debut, helping them sweep the Royals.

Like the Orioles’ winning ways, I also don’t really expect this to continue. But it’s still nice to see Hellickson make a strong debut.

Right now my mind is so clouded by winning, all I can picture is Dan Duquette coming out of the warehouse wearing a red trucker hat that doesn’t say “Make The Orioles Great Again,” but instead, “I Told You So.”

Settle down, Dan. It’s only been one start for Hellickson.

What baffles me is that Hellickson is just the type of pitcher the Orioles would sign this offseason to re-stock their rotation.

Don’t be surprised if this happens and don’t be surprised if he costs something right around what Ubaldo Jimenez cost four years ago. That’s the type of market the O’s dance in when it comes to starting pitching.

3. The Orioles made another strange move this week, but looking back, it wasn’t nearly as strange as it seemed at first.

Acquiring Tim Beckham from the Rays actually makes a lot of sense when looking at the long-term, as well as the short-term.

In my eyes, Beckham is J.J. Hardy’s replacement next season. At least he’s getting the next two months to audition for the role. Hardy is still expected to return at some point this year, but I think Beckham will get the chance to prove he can be the guy, or at least one of the guys, going forward.

Everyone knows Hardy’s contract situation makes it virtually certain that this is his last season in Baltimore. There’s a reason Beckham was the top overall pick in 2008. He’s obviously got some talent. It hasn’t quite panned out the way he maybe wishes, but at 27, there’s certainly still tread on the tires.

Obviously it’s going to take more than a few days or weeks to evaluate the trades for both Beckham and Hellickson, but they are at least off to nice starts. I’m on board to enjoy the ride as long as it lasts.

4. The underlying issue that wasn’t discussed as much as it maybe should’ve been over the last week or two leading up to the trade deadline is the future of Dan Duquette. Absolutely no one, including Duquette himself, really knows what the future holds for him in his current role.

I can’t imagine it’s easy to allow him to make trades and continue to build this team for a future that there’s no guarantee he’ll be a part of.

To me, players and construction of the roster aren’t the only big question mark entering the offseason. The future of Duquette is supremely important entering 2018, along with that of manager Buck Showalter.

Aside from recent winning ways, the Orioles still appear to be a rudderless ship without a true direction. That has to change as soon as possible.

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