Orioles return home; playoff chance left on road - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dan Connolly

Orioles return home; playoff chance left on road

Photo credit: Anthony Gruppuso/USA Today Sports

It’s fitting that the Orioles, losers of eight of 10 on a road trip that unofficially but unquestionably torpedoed any postseason hopes, would win their final game in Yankee Stadium thanks to the right arm of Ubaldo Jimenez.

Kind of sums up this season perfectly.

Things never went as the script dictated in 2017.

Jimenez, arguably the most beleaguered of any Oriole in history after failing to make good on the richest contract the team has ever given to a free-agent pitcher (four years, $50 million), threw five innings of one-run ball and struck out 10 on Sunday afternoon.

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That’s 10 New York Yankees batters fooled by Jimenez. You know, batters that play for the club that has absolutely hammered Orioles’ pitching this year.

And the guy on the mound was Jimenez, who, well, you know the deal there.

So, the Orioles at least avoided a four-game sweep in the Bronx. And they are still mathematically alive in the American League Wild Card race –  5 ½ games out of the second spot with a dozen to play. Therefore, if they win all 12 …

Yeah, it’s time to end the 2017 charade. The players won’t. They’ll still say the right things for a little while longer. They have to. And, so will manager Buck Showalter, who, as he likes to remind us, refuses to live in that world of negativity.

But the rest of us do; we also have a condo in the universe of reality. And we understand what 2017 was and is: A season that started out well and could have been promising, but ultimately ends in disappointment. Whether that’s unofficially, after this train wreck road trip – which began with the Orioles two games out of the second Wild Card spot – or officially Oct. 1.

And the disappointment isn’t simply because the Orioles likely are headed for their first under-.500 season since 2011.

It’s because what truly sunk this year is what concerned everyone last October and December and February and April: The starting pitching wasn’t good enough.

That’s on executive vice president Dan Duquette – and it’s also on Showalter and vice president Brady Anderson. This is a three-headed management consortium. I know what the titles and job responsibilities are, but I also know that all three possess significant clout within the warehouse and, perhaps most important, at the law offices of owner Peter G. Angelos.

I have no idea how that consortium shakes out this winter. Or which man was most instrumental in which decisions this year (and in the past).

I don’t know if a head will roll in the offseason – Duquette and Showalter each have a year remaining on their contracts; I would imagine Anderson has some type of contract, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge on that subject.

But one sub-.500 season usually doesn’t get you punted, especially by Angelos, who prefers to honor the totality of contracts when possible.

But I do know we all believed the starting pitching was a house of cards in March and that it may not be sturdy enough to withstand a couple storms. Admittedly, I didn’t think it would topple so quickly, and, statistically anyway, end up boasting the worst rotation ERA in club history.

I foolishly thought Hurricane Ubaldo would be good this year in his free-agent season after a strong, eight-week twister to end 2016. And I didn’t think Chris Tillman’s shoulder injury and rehab would throw the bulldog off his game so much that he was rendered unusable. Or that Kevin Gausman would be one of baseball’s worst starters in the first half of the season.

Yet I was acutely aware that if a couple things went wrong, Duquette’s patchwork quilt of Plan Bs would not be enough to win the AL East.

There were other problems in 2017, of course, like the annual hand-wringing over the all-or-nothing offense, and a bullpen that didn’t have an infallible Zach Britton to lean on daily.

Put it all in a blender, and 2017 comes out an oozy mess of underachievement and disappointment.

Now, there are two weeks left in the season. There are seven more home games at Camden Yards.

There will be reasons to care, I suppose. Tillman’s and J.J. Hardy’s rock-solid Orioles’ careers are likely ending. So, too, may Brad Brach’s or Britton’s (I’d still be shocked if Manny Machado isn’t the Orioles’ starting third baseman on Opening Day 2018, though).

Outfielder Austin Hays should get more playing time in these next 12 games. So, should catcher Chance Sisco (though I’m not convinced that will happen) and maybe outfielder Anthony Santander (even less convinced).

Trey Mancini and Jonathan Schoop will be putting a cap on their fine seasons that should garner them at least peripheral votes in the AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP races, respectively.

So, given all that, this was not a fully lost season, though many fans want to sell it as such. There were some bright spots painted, some building blocks established and some meaningful September games played (not many, but some).

Still, it was a season that should have been better, could have been better with more attention given to the obvious weaknesses. And it wasn’t. And we all know that now — fans, players and staff alike — regardless what the spin will be until the Orioles are mathematically eliminated.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    September 18, 2017 at 9:46 am

    OK Dan, I’m officially depressed. Even the football season being in it’s infancy doesn’t help. And the worst part of it all is that the Tap Room isn’t even open today. I could really use a virtual Natty Boh right about now. As far as the possible players at the end of their tenure with the team, I truly will miss JJ the most.

    But buck up my fellow fans of the feathers, I’m thinking a winning season is not yet out of realm of possibilities considering Ubaldo has finally found his stride!

    Go O’s!!!

    • Dan Connolly

      September 18, 2017 at 10:34 am

      I shoulda opened today Boog. I considered it. But thought today was more of a wrap-up morning than a question morning. We’ll get it open soon, though

  2. Bancells Moustache

    September 18, 2017 at 9:51 am

    Oof. When our man Dan, who operates an Orioles-based website and therefore has a financial interest in the team attracting viewers, pens a eulogy you know the music has stopped and the house lights have come on. A proposed quick fix, boys; move the goalposts. The sandcastle that is the second wild card has long since washed away. Now it’s time to worry about staying ahead of Toronto and Tampa and not finishing in the cellar, a very real possibility. So rally up, men! Let’s show those bums in Florida and Canada we can out-mediocre their mediocrity when it counts!

    • Dan Connolly

      September 18, 2017 at 10:38 am

      Stache: you are absolutely right. I’m in a weird spot in that waning interest in the team doesn’t help me much. But my belief (hope) is that what I sell here is perspective (and some cold, fake beer). And you guys are way too smart for sugarcoating. This season still had a chance in early September. The standings showed us that. But not now. Too few games. Too many teams to leapfrog. Too much inconsistency.

  3. Osfan73

    September 18, 2017 at 9:57 am

    Just looking for the Os to finish up strong, give Boston a hard time at home this week. Keep playing Hays and any other younger guys to get a look for next year. Didn’t the Os call up/add a LHP Tanner Scott this weekend, can’t wait to see him, hear he throws mid-ninties. Go Os!!

    • Dan Connolly

      September 18, 2017 at 10:39 am

      He actually can hit triple digits. And I assume he’ll get a chance to pitch in relief in a game or two. His problem, when he struggles, has always been command.

  4. Wade Warren

    September 18, 2017 at 10:42 am

    fat lady hasn’t sang a note yet but she is taking a deep breath and puckering up. I am very disappointed in the hitters not all but some that just gave up. Dan have you heard any bad chemistry in club house? Something just doesn’t look or seem right with the team….

    • Dan Connolly

      September 18, 2017 at 4:11 pm

      No. Chemistry seems fine. Good clubhouse. Not happy that they are losing. But the vibe seems fine.

  5. Craig417

    September 18, 2017 at 11:11 am

    I would expect any manager or coach to be nothing but optimistic about their chances of winning the title. If they didn’t believe they could win then they shouldn’t be running the team. The problem is that there is a problem with the architect (s) that built the team. Managers / coaches use the tools given to them. The orioles are loaded with hammers but lack the finishing tools that are so needed. It is fun to swing hammers but hammers just make a lot of noice and a big mess.

    Going back to my workshop.

  6. Creatively_19

    September 18, 2017 at 11:51 am

    RIP 2017 Orioles

  7. Birdman

    September 18, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    Good summary of the state of the team … Orioles will free-up about $46 million in salaries in 2018 by letting J.J., Ubaldo, Tillman, and Miley go – do you think that’s enough to prod Pete to make a legitimate extension offer to Manny? If not, will they deal Manny in the off-season for prospects?

    • Dan Connolly

      September 18, 2017 at 4:12 pm

      Those are questions I can’t answer.

  8. OriolesFan1986

    September 18, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    At this moment I think its time to take stock of players who will be part of the 2018 team(Sisco, Hays, Santander, Scott, et cetera). I know Buck doesn’t want to not play Castillo or Smith but they’re not going to be pieces of our future but Sisco and Hays will be. We also need to get a look at Santander, we do after all have to carry him for 45 days(???) to keep his Rule V status.

    It’s certain, in a weak free agent market for catchers that Castillo will turn down his $7M player option for 2018 and seek a multi-year deal which should be easier coming for him. The only other big catchers available via free agency are Lucroy, Avila, and then you’re down to the next tier of good #2 catchers. Smith has done his job well platooning but Hays is the long-term RF of the future so we might as well get even more of a look at him, especially after having a good series in New York.

    This offseason they still need an organizational review of the weak state of affairs of top-level pitching in the upper minor league levels and also why they have trouble developing pitchers or can’t identify what other teams can see in pitchers like Arrieta, Davies, Hader, Triggs, and Parker Bridwell this year. I know we beat this dead horse into oblivion but something concrete needs to come of it. They need to convince Angelos of the logic behind signing international players to rebuild a bad farm system, though that is easier said than done. For example, I doubt if beyond lip service that they would ever consider Otani if he came over this offseason which would be negligence.

    Next season after all the money is doled out after arbitration raises, the money saved by Jimenez, Tillman, Miley(who I think they bring back at a discounted rate), Hardy, Castillo, and Smith I have to guess they have about $15-20M to spend which won’t bring in a lot, maybe another middle tier SP. For the most part, I think they will field the same team next year even if I like to see them explore trades on Britton and Brach before the risk of their value falls even further.

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