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. Everyone in the Twitterverse or the blogosphere continues to talk about the Orioles like changes need to be made. Changes on the field, changes off the field, and changes in the dugout have been speculated upon for weeks, if not months.
At this point, I’d be shocked. I don’t see any scenario where Buck Showalter or Dan Duquette aren’t finishing out this season in their current positions. The Orioles aren’t the type of team to make extreme changes in-season. They know this season is going nowhere. They also probably know who is in control going beyond this season. But they aren’t giving up that information.
The rest of us will just have to sit and wonder how long this misery will last beyond this season.
2. The Orioles continued to pour gasoline on their season over the past week, and as the flames rose higher, an old friend emerged from them. Zach Britton made his return to the mound Tuesday night, after rupturing his Achilles in December. Britton did not impress in his first outing, walking three of the first five Red Sox hitters he faced. That marked the first time in his relief career (spanning 246 outings) that he walked more than two hitters.
Still, he managed to get out of the inning unscathed. There’s a lot riding on Britton’s next few weeks of appearances. The more he can build up his value to potential trade suitors, the better off the Orioles may be.
The main target to me remains the Houston Astros, who thought they had a deal in place for the left-hander last year. They could use another arm in their bullpen, which may be the closest thing they have to a weakness.
3. Richard Bleier left yesterday’s game with what the Orioles are categorizing as a lat injury, which is very bad news. Bleier was among the few Orioles having a good season and because of that, was a top trade target for teams looking for bullpen help. His emergence this season was pretty much from out of nowhere. He’s allowed just seven earned runs in 32.2 innings, good for a 1.93 ERA. That includes 15 strikeouts to just four walks.
With just under seven weeks until the trade deadline, there’s virtually no chance a team will be able to deal for the injured left-hander now.
4. As the Orioles have become more and more of a laughing stock this season, one Baltimore bar is taking advantage. Edward Lee of The Baltimore Sun reports this week that Bartenders Pub on Boston Street is handing out free shots every time Chris Davis gets a hit. The shooters are a “Dr Pepper” shot, a mix of amaretto and Miller High Life. Apparently they taste like the soft drink, not that I’d know anything about that.
It’s gotten to the point with Davis that seeing him get a hit really is reason to celebrate. Actually, seeing him make contact with the ball is reason to celebrate. I’m always surprised at this point when Davis doesn’t strike out. Hell, I’m encouraged when he doesn’t strike out looking. “At least he swung,” is something I’ve caught myself saying this season.
This is a genius idea by the folks at Bartenders Pub. It’s not like they will be losing a lot by doing it, and it can create conversation if nothing else. It’s sad, but it its own little way, it’s endearing. Baltimore really is embracing the awfulness of the Orioles.
5. If you are an Orioles fan that is interested in watching (or perhaps pulling for) a good story this season, might I interest you in the Seattle Mariners? The M’s are very 2012 Orioles-esque this season. They’ve gone 21-9 in one-run games this season, get timely hitting, and have a lights out bullpen.
Sound familiar? Seattle is playing well above its “expected” win total, and some are calling them lucky. Sound familiar? Oh yeah, and they are 6-0 in extra inning games. Sound familiar?
Let’s also not forget to address the fact that the Mariners have the longest current playoff drought in all of the big four North American sports. They haven’t played in a postseason since 2001, which was Ichiro’s rookie year. That mark had belonged to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills before they made the playoffs last year.
Right now, the M’s are in a dogfight with the Astros in the AL West, but even if they aren’t able to hold on to the division, the playoffs look very plausible. Assuming one of the Red Sox or Yankees take one of the two Wild Card spots, there isn’t really another AL team that is a massive threat. The Angels are probably the best bet, but they’ve just lost two-way star Shohei Ohtani to injury. I’m going to pull for the Mariners this season to end that long drought, not only because I have friends that are long-suffering fans, but because it’s a good story.
In a season of awfulness for the Orioles, I’ve afforded myself that luxury. Deal with it.