Thursday Thoughts: Expectations, No-Hit Bids, & The Davis Problem

1. There’s no question that the Orioles’ hot start is exciting. Even after coming into the season expecting the worst from this team, there’s always a desire to watch a winning baseball team. Who knows how long the O’s will keep up their winning ways, but when you anticipate a lot of losses coming in, you learn to appreciate victories even more.

I’ve written a lot about expectations over the last handful of seasons. This season’s are obviously the lowest they’ve been in perhaps seven or eight years. It’s important to remember where our context comes from when measuring progress and victories. In a micro sense, winning is great. In a macro world, it can be great as long as the big picture isn’t lost.

I’m somehow convinced already that with Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal at the helm, things won’t get lost.

2. The first “controversy” in the managerial stint of Brandon Hyde happened earlier this week with the whole David Hess no-hit bid situation. As I’m sure everyone knows by now, Hyde removed Hess from Monday’s game in Toronto after 6.1 innings and 82 pitches, in the middle of a no-hitter. It was easy to forget at that point that Hess had thrown 42 pitches in relief on Opening Day in New York as well. It created quite the stir on social media, with fans calling for Hyde to be fired (which is obviously ridiculous).

Hess said all the right things after the game and said he understood the hook. Hyde said he was looking out for the long-term health of Hess. In this day and age, it’s always nice to hear a manager wanting to look out for the longevity of a player rather than the alternative.

But it’s also important to note that baseball’s modern mindset of being uber-careful with pitch counts and workload does cut into part of what makes the game fun. I was vocally in favor of Hyde’s move the other night, but I certainly see why some fans were upset with it. Not to the extent of wanting the manager fired less than a week into his tenure, but I see the disappointment at least. In the long run, Hess was never going to finish the no-hitter the other night, and it was made to look worse when Pedro Araujo came in and gave it up immediately. The Orioles had to hang on for dear life to even win that game.

In my mind, this was all a micro-moment that leads into a macro-outlook, and that’s fine by me.

3. One of the unexpected bright spots of the early part of this season, aside from the wins of course, has been Dwight Smith Jr. in left field. Smith was an unknown to many when he was acquired in March from the Blue Jays, but has all of a sudden received a starter’s role and the coveted second spot in the order.

He’s a former first-round pick that didn’t break through with Toronto. But at 26, he can still provide something to an Orioles club that is rebuilding. He can be an important stopgap player that eventually turns into one of the more veteran players down the road when this whole thing hopefully turns around.

Those types of players will be important. Whether or not he sticks as a top of the order hitter is irrelevant. These are the types of buy-low opportunities Dan Duquette used to be praised for.

I’m interested to see how it shakes out for him.

4. The Orioles still have an obvious Chris Davis problem on their hands, and I’d imagine it will stay on their hands for many more months. Davis isn’t hitting, he’s not getting on base, and he’s not producing up to the $23-million he’s being paid. He’s hitless in his last ten games dating back to last season, which includes 20 strikeouts.

It’s been such an incredible slide down the hill from Davis’ 2013 season, when he hit .286 with 53 home runs and finished third in the AL MVP vote. The one thing Orioles fans can take solace in is that this new regime isn’t the one that gave Davis a big contract. They have no attachment to him, just like they have no real attachment to any other player on this roster. There has to be a firm belief that they will do something about him when it becomes necessary.

Whether that’s designating him for assignment or just letting him set on the bench, who knows? But the other thing that’s important to remember is that the Orioles aren’t really expecting to win this season. They don’t need Davis to be any good, and certainly aren’t expecting that either. They can sit back and play it out without any real pressure. That’s kind of what this season is.

Any wins, like the ones the O’s have already recorded, are tasty icing on a cake that was already burnt by another chef.

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