Expectation management has become a bit of a buzzword surrounding the O’s these days. No one expects the O’s to win more games than they lose this year. I don’t think anyone even expects them to squeak their way into fourth place in the division.
In fact, if you’re planning on watching the games for the wins alone – it’s going to be a long season. So instead, we focus on the game within the game, and individual player performance is chief among them.
But one thing that Baltimore seems to be taking for granted is the return of Trey Mancini.
I think Phillies announcer Ben Davis summarized many fans’ opinion on the matter during Monday’s broadcast of the game when he said this about Mancini:
“Think about what he’s gonna add to their team from a physical aspect. I mean, a couple years ago he hit .291 with 35 home runs. I mean that’s gonna help them out tremendously.”
And man, I think I speak for all of Baltimore when I say, I hope he’s right. But anyone expecting Mancini to come back and be a near .300 batter and smash 30+ home runs right out the gate this year is likely to be sorely disappointed. Davis made it sound like it was adjusting a lineup on MLB The Show – plug Mancini in, and this is what you’ll get.
But this isn’t a video game, and Mancini is human. He’s had to overcome a ton just to get to this point. He didn’t sit out last season because of COVID concerns – he had cancer! And I think if we’d have had a full 162-game season, it’d be a little more apparent how much he was missed. But with a 60-game season, everything felt a bit like a wash – we all missed baseball right?
But Mancini didn’t just miss baseball. He went from March to November without picking up a bat, let alone facing a major league pitcher.
And just because he started swinging in November didn’t mean he was back to full strength. It took time and I’m sure a lot of work. While he’s going to work to get back to speed this spring, he’s farther behind the eight ball than anyone else out there.
Chances are he’s going to be a little behind right out of the gate. Heck, if it weren’t the Orioles he’d probably be considered a long shot to make the Opening Day roster. It’s not that he can’t come back to full strength, it’s just likely going to take a bit for him to get there.
I bring this all up to say this – he’s probably going to come out slow in April, maybe even into May and June. I for one, fully expect Trey to get into the swing of things at some point, but to assume that he’s going to come out and smack 35 home runs this year is more than a little presumptuous, and I think setting Mancini up for failure.
Moreover, I think it’s discrediting everything he’s overcome. Because if he does come out of the gate in mid-season form, that’ll be the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen in an O’s – or any – uniform. But even if he comes out slow and hits sub .200 in April and May, that’s still impressive and worth celebrating. It also doesn’t mean that he can’t piece it together later.
But if everyone’s expecting him to come out and put up great numbers right away, then he doesn’t, the questions are going to start. Can he put it together? Is he the same player he was before cancer? And while those are legitimate questions at some point, it’s not for 2021, and it’s an impossibly high bar.
Let’s manage expectations a bit and enjoy whatever Mancini’s going to offer the team this year. Because if he hits .250 with 20 home runs, that’s one heck of a comeback – and it’s a storyline to love in spring and the dog days of summer.