With all the storylines in this Orioles’ season — the hot start, the starting pitching mess, the homer barrage, the bullpen dominance, the lack of attendance and the ice-cold bats – the one that may intrigue me the most is the Orioles’ fans relationship with Hyun Soo Kim.
The fans booed the Korean outfielder on Opening Day at Camden Yards because he chose to exercise his contractual right to stay in the majors instead of going to the minor leagues after a horrendous spring adjusting to Major League Baseball.
Veteran outfielder Adam Jones was so taken aback that he called the Opening Day reaction “very disrespectful and distasteful.” He used even more colorful language that day, but you get the picture.
When I talked to Kim about the booing back in April, you could tell he was a bit stunned, but said he would do what he could to turn it around.
He has. He’s hit .301 with a .379 on-base percentage in his first year in the big leagues while playing a solid left field.
On Friday, the Orioles had a Kim T-shirt giveaway, complete with his name and “Orioles” both written in Korean.
“I really am honored and really appreciative that the organization is actually doing this for me,” Kim said through translator Danny Lee. “It’s a very exciting event.”
It’s a pretty crazy turnaround, from being booed to being one of only two Orioles’ players – Mark Trumbo was the other – to have his own T-shirt night at Camden Yards this year.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter moved Kim up to the leadoff spot Friday for just the second time this season, and first time with Jones in the lineup. Showalter said he wanted to give the struggling offense, “a little different look, a little different feel.”
But he also joked that, “It’s Kim’s night with the T-shirts, and I want to make sure that we get him out there front and center.”
(Showalter also joked that he hoped the translator, Lee, hadn’t been messing with them and the Korean script on the shirts actually reads, “Orioles” and “Kim.”)
With the majority of the announced 37,815 fans wearing the T-shirts, Kim walked in his first plate appearance. He walked again in the seventh and also threw out a runner from left field.
He was cheered each time – just another example of ‘Play well, and the fans will cheer.’
“Coming towards the end of the year, it’s great and I’m just glad that the fans are actually happy about me now,” Kim said. “Back in the early days (of the season), I wasn’t really able to perform, so it was kind of OK that they were responding that way. Now, they are (cheering me) and I’m glad.”
Manny is MVO – deservedly so
Third baseman Manny Machado was announced as the 2016 Louis M. Hatter Most Valuable Oriole Award winner on Friday and will receive the award during an on-field ceremony Sunday.
Local media votes on the honor, and this was one of the more interesting ones in recent years, because there were at least five guys that arguably had a claim to it.
We’re allowed to vote for first, second and third places, and I actually voted for four players, splitting my third-place vote between two guys that I thought were too worthy to leave off the ballot. Ultimately, seven players were mentioned on at least one ballot: Machado, Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Chris Tillman and Mark Trumbo.
“Manny’s very deserving of that consideration and being named, but he’d be the first to tell you there’s some other people there, too,’ Showalter said. “There were a lot of good choices there. He’s one of them.”
For me it came down to Machado and closer Zach Britton. I didn’t want to split my vote for first – I’ve never done that – so I went with the guy who has played just about every game and has been outstanding offensively and defensively.
This is Machado’s first MVO. He finished second last year to Davis.
He said the right things Friday afternoon as his team was freefalling in the pennant race.
“It’s always an honor when you get an award. It’s something that is humbling. … I see it more as a team thing. The team gave me an opportunity to put up the numbers that I have and have the great season that we’ve all had,” he said. “In the end of the day, none of this really matters unless we get to where we need to be.”
Drake gets first MLB win
You want a cool story from Friday?
Well, right-hander Oliver Drake, the U.S. Naval Academy product who was selected in the 43rd round in 2008 when no other club realized he was draft eligible, picked up the first win of his major league career Friday.
He threw a perfect 12th inning in his 15th big league appearance and Trumbo guaranteed the win with a walkoff homer in the bottom of the inning.
After nine pro seasons, the 29-year-old gets that elusive first win in a crucial game in September.
“Yeah, that was an awesome, awesome time for the first win,” he said. “You know, every game counts right now, so it’s huge.”
One quick thing on this: The 43rd round doesn’t even exist anymore. Now, MLB stops at 40.
Gausman scheduled for Tuesday or Wednesday
Showalter said right-hander Kevin Gasman (intercostal) was feeling better and was still in line to pitch either Tuesday or Wednesday in Toronto.
Things could change, of course. Gausman was originally scheduled to start Sunday, but was pushed back while dealing with some discomfort in his ribs.
But the fact Showalter is still talking early next week is a positive. In fact, if Gausman pitches Tuesday, he theoretically would be able to pitch Sunday’s season finale if that game is a difference-maker. The other option is for Chris Tillman to pitch Tuesday and be available for Sunday.
I’d still think the latter is the more likely scenario. You know Showalter has looked at all the scenarios.