Ubaldo Jimenez's Baltimore swan song ends with another ugly duckling performance - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

Ubaldo Jimenez’s Baltimore swan song ends with another ugly duckling performance

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

The Ubaldo Jimenez Experience has ended its four-year run at Camden Yards.

There will be no return engagement, at least not in orange and black.

What surely was Jimenez’s Baltimore swan song as an Orioles pitcher ended in another ugly duckling performance – which, I suppose, is the way it had to be.

Jimenez, 33, has probably been booed more by the home crowd than any other player in team history. It happened again Friday, when he surrendered two homers, including a second-inning grand slam to Wilson Ramos in an eventual 8-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

At least Jimenez was saved the indignity of being pulled mid-inning Friday and having to complete a final walk of shame to the home dugout. Instead, he was replaced after completing three innings, yielding six runs on eight hits and one hit batter. He put his team into 4-0 and 6-2 holes before departing.

No one really expected this to end any differently. Jimenez, obviously, was hoping it would, though he said pitching his last game in Baltimore as an Oriole was not on his mind.

“I don’t even think about that. Whatever is happening I just thank God every time for giving me the courage to be here so long and, whatever happens, I’m just going to go with it,” he said. “Of course, I didn’t want it to happen again like it (did), but it’s part of the game. I’m never going to dwell on that. It happened, I move on.”

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We all know Jimenez’s narrative by now.

The Orioles surrendered a first-round draft pick as compensation in February 2014 while giving Jimenez the largest free-agent contract for a pitcher in club history: Four years and $50 million. The deal raised eyebrows at the time because Jimenez had a streaky reputation and a difficult-to-repeat delivery, but he was coming off a second half with the Cleveland Indians in which he was the American League’s best pitcher.

The Orioles and Dan Duquette, the president of baseball operations, chose to bank on that half – a 1.82 ERA in 13 starts – Jimenez’s relatively young age (30 that January) and his impressive durability.

Well, let’s just say it didn’t work out.

Jimenez posted a 4.81 ERA in 2014, was demoted to the bullpen and ultimately went back to the Dominican when he was left off the postseason roster. He rebounded in 2015, going 12-10 with a 4.11 ERA in 32 starts, a pretty solid year. But, by then, Orioles fans were already soured on the affable, hard-working Dominican and his rollercoaster performances.

He had a 5.44 ERA in 29 games in 2016, rallied for two excellent months and then gave up the walkoff homer to Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion in the AL Wild Card game to end the club’s season. This year, Jimenez has turned in his worst campaign as an Oriole, a 6-11 record and a 6.81 ERA in 31 games (25 starts).

He’s a free agent this offseason, and there’s no way he comes back – or would want to for that matter, although he’d never say that publicly.

“It’s had its ups and downs, of course,” Jimenez said of being an Oriole. “But being here in this clubhouse with such a great group of guys is something that I’m always going to take with me. Nothing is going to erase that.”

He’ll be 34 in January, remains incredibly durable thanks to an unyielding physical routine and said “there’s no doubt” he wants to keep pitching. Someone will take a chance on him, hoping that getting Jimenez out of Camden Yards – a 5.53 ERA in 55 games pitched there – might help.

The problem, of course, is Jimenez’s unrepeatable delivery that provides tremendous deception when on and significant command issues when off. That likely will remain the same no matter where he pitches.

So, Jimenez’s maddening inconsistency won’t be missed in Baltimore. He may make one more start next weekend at Tampa Bay and then officially end his Orioles career. If he doesn’t get the opportunity to pitch again this year, his time with the club will halt with this Orioles’ career line: 32-42, 594 1/3 innings pitched, 614 hits, 345 earned runs, 275 walks, 548 strikeouts, 83 homers allowed and a 5.22 ERA.

Yes, four years, 42 losses and a five-plus ERA does not equate to $50 million. I get it. It’s arguably the worst expenditure in franchise history.

It is a shame, though.

Partially because Orioles ownership believed contracts beyond three years for aging, free-agent pitchers were bad investments. But owner Peter Angelos altered his philosophy on the Jimenez deal because Duquette and company pushed for the signing. It turned out to be a terrible investment – and you have to wonder if the Orioles will ever dip into that end of the free-agent pool again under the Angelos family.

But this ending is also a shame because Jimenez is one of the most professional, even-tempered, decent people I’ve ever covered. For all the criticism thrown at him, Jimenez always took the ball, always met the media and always answered questions about his struggles politely and with a smile, never snapping or ducking as many would have.

This year, I predicted Jimenez would have a strong season, because he was facing free agency, and because he had a mini-resurgence in the second half of 2016. It was part logic and part gut feeling. And I think, also, deep down I wanted to see this guy have success for his sake, his sanity. Good things happening to good people.

But it wasn’t meant to be. The difficulty of pitching in the majors won out over a good story. As it often does.

And, on Friday night, Jimenez stood on the Camden Yards mound one last time in a black Orioles’ jersey.

Sadly, predictably, it didn’t end well.

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. bigdaddydk

    September 23, 2017 at 8:19 am

    There have been few Orioles whom I have liked as people, based on what I see of and read about them, as much as Ubaldo Jimenez. The guy is a total class act. I have really wanted him to succeed in Baltimore, not just because I want the team to win, but also because he is such a class act as a human being. I’ve never read anything or seen anything to suggest he’s anything except a total gentleman off the field.

    Yet, a little bit of me dies each time he takes the hill. As much as I’ve hoped he’d pull it together and be the very good pitcher he’s been in the past, I have been frustrated again and again by his outings. I, as with many O’s fans, have grown weary of the repeated hooks after 2, 3, 4 innings with big deficits that the offense has to overcome. I’ve grown weary of the burden he’s put on the rest of the team to produce way more than they should be expected to. Good pitching is the beginning of good baseball. Good pitching usually beats good hitting. But good hitting will eat mediocre pitching alive. What happens to bad pitching…well, we’ve seen those results too many times.

    I wish Ubaldo well as he heads elsewhere. Someone may indeed take a chance on him, and I hope he succeeds. I will not look back with regret that he wasn’t re-signed in Baltimore, no matter if he goes on to win a Cy Young Award in a band box park next year. For whatever reason, he simply was not going to succeed on that leve with the O’s. It’s a shame because, as you said Dan, I wanted to see Ubaldo succeed too. I wanted good things to happen to good people.

    • Dan Connolly

      September 23, 2017 at 8:53 am

      I think he’ll definitely have a job next year. Too much talent not to bite at a reasonable cost.

    • Tessiebird

      September 23, 2017 at 10:21 am

      you wrote exactly what I would have written….a class act indeed and I certainly do wish him well….

  2. Osfan73

    September 23, 2017 at 8:23 am

    True he always acted in a professional manner, alot of players should take lessons on that. Unfortunately the record and ERA were not what was expected.
    One of the real shames of this too I think is how remarkably healthy he was, no arm/elbow /shoulder problems and I think one stint on the DL for an ankle issue (??). While that’s good it still offers no explanation as to his off and on nature.
    Before signing with the Os he had just 3 winning seasons. I think maybe there was too much emphasis on that last year in Cleveland and not enough consideration on his overall performance before that.

    • Dan Connolly

      September 23, 2017 at 8:54 am

      There definitely was a lot put on that 2013 second half. But it was a great second half.

  3. GSISDANNO

    September 23, 2017 at 9:13 am

    Giving pitchers a long-term deal is a crapshoot. If you look around MLB, there are a lot of regrettable deals that have been made for pitchers. They get the big money and they get hurt or they aren’t effective.
    Do you the Red Sox regret signing David Price? How about Detroit with Jordan Zimmermann? The Yankees certainly regret Carl Pavano, among others.
    Jimenez may have been the most-booed player to play for the Orioles but I respect him. He never made excuses and he kept working.

    • Dan Connolly

      September 23, 2017 at 10:38 am

      Agreed on all points.

  4. pedro

    September 23, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    I’m just so done with Ubaldo. So tired of talking about him. The best thing is that’s it’s over and he’s going.

  5. willmiranda

    September 23, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    I agree with all the comments about Ubaldo being a nice guy, but somewhere Leo Durocher is smiling.

  6. Boog Robinson Robinson

    September 23, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    I’m sure that I’m in the minority around here, but I’d rather have another 4 years of Ubaldo & his contract than another 4 of Crush Davis and his.

    • mlbbirdfan

      September 23, 2017 at 4:00 pm

      Cannot stand the thought of either contract.

  7. mlbbirdfan

    September 23, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    Here are some questions I have:
    1. If Jimenez offered to pitch for the Orioles for three years for $10 million total, plus performance-based incentives, would you sign him? In other words, do you object to his contract more than you object to his performance?
    2. If the Orioles could sign Tillman for one year for 8 million, would you sign him?
    3. If the Orioles could negotiate with Miley to waive his option and sign for one year for $8 million would you sign him?
    4. I just read that Showalter insists on his pitchers being “quick to the plate”. How much has this contributed to our pitching staff failures? In other words, how likely is it that any starting pitcher will exceed expectations with the Orioles? Name the last SP who did so.
    5. Finally, with the departures of JJ Hardy, Seth Smith andpresumably Tillman, and Castillo,

    • mlbbirdfan

      September 23, 2017 at 4:19 pm

      … we will free up about $37 million a year. Would you use that money to sign Manny, or would you trade Manny for four Prospect starting pitchers ?

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      September 23, 2017 at 7:54 pm

      1) I’d absolutely give Ubaldo that deal.
      2) Yes I would
      3) No, I give up on him

  8. Mau

    September 23, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    At this point I’m convinced DD is Toronto’s trojan horse. Rumor has it that they’re not interested in shopping Manny and they have near 0 chance to re-sign him. We’re now talking about re-signing ineffective pitchers on the cheap. O well. Every year begins with the need for starting pitching mantra and every year ends lamenting the starting pitching. That is DD’s legacy.

  9. Ben1

    September 24, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    maybe DD will leave and he can sign Ubaldo with his new team.

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