The Orioles organization always does a great job with celebrations. They have since I can remember – the 1991 farewell to Memorial Stadium, for instance, was one of the coolest things I have ever attended, sporting event or otherwise.
And Cal Ripken Jr.’s record-breaker was by far the best moment in this 25-year-old stadium. Some may argue the best in baseball history.
So, the Orioles did their usual fine celebratory job Saturday evening as they recognized the 1992 team that opened Camden Yards. The replica stadium giveaway was solid, and having Rick Sutcliffe throw out the first pitch to Chris Hoiles – the battery of that first game in 1992 – was a nice touch. The game drew 43,929 – and not all of them were here to see Mike Trout, that’s for sure — so, it paid off from a marketing standpoint.
The old-timer home run derby was an excellent concept, though, in practicality, it was a bit painful to watch, especially when the first participant, fan favorite Joe Orsulak, scored no points.
At least the Orioles had the good sense to award a point each time a ball traveled at least 300 feet. That made it more competitive, since the five participants combined for only four “legit” homers in the two-round competition (Sam Horn hit two and Chris Hoiles and eventual champion Brady Anderson each had one).
I think it again confirmed just how hard it is to homer out of a major league ballpark, even in an exhibition contest for fun. I mean, these guys are retired, but they are also former big leaguers. It ain’t easy.
“If you watch home run hitting contests through the decades, guys don’t (homer) routinely. (Gary) Sheffield, Ellis Burks, (Mike) Piazza, those guys have gone up for 10 swings, a collection of the greatest power hitters in the history of the game, and not hit one home run,” said Anderson, who participated in the MLB Home Run Derby in 1996 and 1997. “It’s not that easy all the time, even for current big leaguers.”
Overall, I was on board with the derby, especially since the participants, the current Orioles and the fans seemed to enjoy it.
And I was pleased that the Orioles fans politely applauded Glenn Davis when he was announced during pre-game ceremonies. Davis was acquired in the worst trade in franchise history – the club sent three future All-Stars to Houston in January, 1991, and Davis suffered through three injury-plagued seasons before retiring. Davis’ name often brings a collective groan (or shriek) from Orioles’ fans, but there were no audible boos, at least from where I was sitting.
If I have one complaint about the celebration – and, hey, this is me, there’s got to be one – it’s that there was no mention of former team president Larry Lucchino or architect Janet Marie Smith during the celebration.
Lucchino’s been a rival executive of the Orioles/Angelos family, and so I guess I get that omission. But putting a photo of Smith on the big board and honoring her contributions with a spoken line or two before the introductions would have been great. She’s in good standing with the organization, and this amazing stadium wouldn’t be the same without her vision (or Lucchino’s). Plus, as the father of two daughters, I think it is fantastic any time there’s a reminder of women excelling in male-dominated professions.
Showalter noncommittal on September shortstop
When the Orioles acquired Tim Beckham in July, Orioles manager Buck Showalter made a point that veteran J.J. Hardy would remain his starting shortstop once the 35-year-old came back from a fractured wrist.
Well, that was also before Beckham started crushing the ball, was moved to leadoff, providing the club with a huge spark of energy.
On Saturday, Showalter was a lot more non-committal, saying about Hardy: “When he gets here, we’ll see where we are. I think everybody in that clubhouse, including Tim, is looking forward to getting J.J. back. It’s been a long haul without him.”
A lot of fans – on my Twitter feed anyway – weren’t happy with that statement. My response: Let’s see what happens. Hardy is a tremendous soldier, a Showalter favorite and he’s a steadier defender than Beckham because he makes fewer mistakes.
But if these games mean something in September, Showalter has to go with his best chance to win. And, from what we’ve seen recently, that includes Beckham. As Showalter said Saturday, “It’s obvious Tim’s done real well for us.”
When push comes to shove, Showalter does tend to go with his veterans, those with track records. But if Beckham’s defense is up to standards, he should get most of the starts in a pennant race. He has to.
Hardy is expected to go out on a rehab assignment Monday or Tuesday. It’s possible, Showalter said, that Hardy could be activated before rosters expand Sept. 1. When Hardy is physically ready to return, Showalter said the Orioles will make that move.
Gausman struggles with command
Right-hander Kevin Gausman, coming off a strong outing in Seattle on Monday, struggled with his command from the beginning Saturday night. He allowed solo homers in each of his first three innings – including two by Angels superstar Mike Trout – before serving up a two-run homer in the fourth to Luis Valbuena (his second of the game).
Gausman was chased in the fifth after allowing the first two batters to reach base. He was charged with five runs on six hits and four walks in four-plus innings.
“I thought his command was a challenge for him. Early on, he walked some people he doesn’t usually walk,” Showalter said. “He’s been pitching well for us. (Saturday) was a break from that.”
Gausman’s four home runs allowed tied a career high first set against the Chicago White Sox on the first game of the second half, July 14.
Gausman also has had his troubles with the Angels this year. On Aug. 8, he allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings in a loss in Anaheim. It snapped his streak of four-straight quality starts.
He’s made 27 starts and thrown 144 innings this year, and Showalter said Gausman’s workload is another argument for putting Chris Tillman back in the rotation starting Sunday against the Angels.
“He’s one of the reasons we want to get Chris back into the mix. I think Kevin leads the American League in starts,” Showalter said. “As well as he’s pitched for us the last month and a half, really almost two months, that’s one of the things you see is the command a little bit. Stuff-wise, arm strength and velocity, he feels great. I think we have a chance to be a better pitching staff if we can get a little blow for some of our guys.”
Rain goes away
The Orioles dealt with their 16th rain delay at home Saturday – one that last 40 minutes before the top of the eighth.
That’s an incredible number. What’s even more incredible is that none resulted in a postponed game. The rainstorms have been fierce, but have moved on this year.
The Orioles only rainout in 2017 was on the road May 11 at Washington. That’s sort of at home, I guess.