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. My favorite thing to witness over the last week or so surrounding the Orioles is all of the people claiming that “now they are done.” It’s about the third or fourth time many of those same people have made the same proclamation.
The funny thing is, they were right the first time they said it. At this point, there really isn’t much to say about these Orioles. They remind me a lot of the 2015 version that finished .500 and in third place. They are extremely mediocre, to a point of frustration.
There is the rare game where they get good pitching, and the offense fails to show up. Then there is the game where they hit the cover off the ball but can’t get anyone out. With 16 games to go, the Orioles are 4.5 games out of a postseason spot with five teams to jump over. They aren’t going to pack it in right now, but they are getting prepared to dust off the golf clubs.
We’ve known this was the most likely scenario for quite a while now, it’s just finally coming to fruition.
2. There’s been a big “play the young guys” push over the last few days. Austin Hays, Chance Sisco and Anthony Santander have their own little fan club among Orioles faithful. I don’t really see a big issue with giving more at-bats to some of the unproven players, but I also don’t see the real benefit either.
Buck Showalter isn’t going to throw those guys into the mix until the team is mathematically eliminated. Though, honestly, seeing Hays and Santander in the outfield can’t be any worse than Mark Trumbo (defensively) and Joey Rickard (offensively). I don’t really buy the whole idea that momentum can carry a player from one season to the other, but we did see Trey Mancini get a nice debut in the final week of last season. He’s parlayed that into an outstanding rookie season.
Over the final few games, expect to see these guys in the lineup. Just don’t expect them to duplicate what Mancini did at the end of last year.
3. Zach Britton bounced back with his 14th save of the season last night, inducing a game-ending double-play ball. But on Tuesday it was a different story in Toronto. Britton blew his second save of the season after going all of 2016 without blowing a single save.
I’m not hitting the panic button over the fact that Britton has blown a few saves. His season has been ravaged by injury, and that’s the bigger issue here. Trade talk surrounding Britton is going to ramp up during this offseason, just as it was at a fever pitch near the deadline in July. The issue is that Britton still looks hurt. He was sidelined earlier this year with the forearm issue, then dealt with a knee issue. I joked the other day on Twitter that Britton’s offseason Tommy John surgery is bound to hurt his trade value.
But truthfully, closers are fickle enough from year to year. I can’t imagine a team wanting to give up anything of value for one who is coming off a season full of injuries and struggles. Britton’s trade window may have already closed.
For the Orioles, that could come back to bite them.
4. There’s still some 2017 games to be played, but MLB released the 2018 schedule this week. I always like to look ahead and see if there’s a good road trip the O’s will be on. A few years ago, I was able to make trips to Texas, San Diego and Anaheim from my perch here in Arizona. This season, the Orioles were pretty lucky to only have one trip to the Pacific time zone, but next season they’ll make two. The O’s hit the road to face the Angels and Athletics in early May, and have to return to the west coast as part of a brutal three-city trip that includes Seattle in early September.
That late-season trip includes games in Kansas City before heading to Seattle then St. Petersburg to face the Rays. That’s three different time zones in ten days.
The other quirk I noticed in the schedule is that the Orioles play the Astros on the road in their second series of the year, then don’t host them until their final series of the season. It’s rare you play a non-divisional opponent with that kind of time separating the two series.
There is one thing about the schedule that Buck Showalter will likely be happy with. There’s just one interleague series after the All-Star break, and it’s at home against the Mets. Every other series against NL teams happens prior to the break, including a six-game home-and-home with the Nationals and a four-game home-and-home with the Phillies.
This season, the O’s have to take a trip to Pittsburgh to face the Pirates within the final few weeks – the second to last series of the year is against an NL team. That’s something that will surely bother the skipper.