Thoughts on Ubaldo Jimenez, stand-up guy -

Dan Connolly

Thoughts on Ubaldo Jimenez, stand-up guy

I really didn’t think about it until I saw a comment on our website this week.

A reader said the Orioles should mercifully trade away Ubaldo Jimenez this offseason so he doesn’t have to hear the boo birds on Opening Day at Camden Yards after giving up a home run to Edwin Encarnacion last week that ended the Orioles’ 2016 season.

That kind of caught me off-guard. Honestly, it never occurred to me that Jimenez might be booed next April, not after his final six weeks of the 2016 season in which he arguably was the club’s best starting pitcher.

But I know Orioles’ fans have long memories.

I often tell the story about reliever Kevin Gregg back in the summer of 2012. The previous season Gregg was signed to be the Orioles closer, and had his share of troubles, eventually losing the job to Jim Johnson.

In 2012, he was used more as a setup man and pitched fairly well with the exception of the occasional isolated implosion and a rough patch in June. He hit his stride in July, giving up one run in the month. The Orioles went on a road trip during that time and when they returned, Gregg immediately was booed by the home crowd when he entered a game at Camden Yards.

I had a good relationship with Gregg, and I clearly remember the conversation when he called me over that next day. “Connolly, what’s wrong with your people? Boo me when I suck and come out of a game. I’m fine with that. I deserve it. But don’t boo me when I’m going well and haven’t even thrown a pitch.”

I tried to explain that the fans were still booing the Gregg from 2011. Let’s just say he wasn’t a fan of that logic. Frankly, it still makes me laugh to this day. I don’t consider Orioles’ fans particularly harsh. But when they don’t like someone, for whatever reason, they stick with it.

No one has been booed more in the last three seasons than Jimenez, who hasn’t lived up to the four-year, $50 million deal he signed in 2014. But he did receive his share of cheers in his last few starts at Camden Yards. And I guess I assumed fans would remember that more than the 11th inning home run he served up as an emergency reliever in Toronto.


Really, I just figured he’d get very little response at the beginning of next season as fans wait to see which Jimenez shows up in the final year of his contract.

So the comment that he may get a rough reception in April surprises me.

I try not to tell fans who to cheer for and who to boo. It’s been nearly 20 years since I cheered at a baseball game. As a sports journalist, you have to treat every team, and every player, objectively.

But I’ll say this: If you got to know Jimenez the person, it’d be hard to boo him. I’m not sure I’ve covered a player who has taken more crap from his home fan base – and I understand why. He was paid a lot of money and, more times than not, has been bad at his job.

I know I’ve never covered a player who has handled the criticism as well as Jimenez, though. The guy kept smiling. He didn’t lose his patience with the same questions after every poor start. He just kept saying he was going to work hard to get out of his funk. And he ultimately did that in 2016.

This was a big year for Jimenez. He was married last offseason. He became a U.S. citizen and he had his first child, a baby daughter, this year. He kept focusing on those things to keep his mind off of how badly he was pitching.

So when he turned things around in August, everyone seemingly was thrilled for the guy.

And that brings us to Oct. 4 in Toronto, when Orioles manager Buck Showalter chose to bring in Jimenez with one out in the 11th inning instead of a traditional reliever such as Tommy Hunter or closer Zach Britton.

Jimenez is not a reliever by trade. He pitched four regular season games out of the bullpen in 2016 and gave up multiple runs in three of them. Also, his first inning is typically his worst – it was one of his main obstacles as a starter.

Jimenez, of course, took the ball, and promptly gave up two singles and a homer without recoding an out.

After the game, there were two major storylines: Britton not pitching in that game and outfielder Hyun Soo Kim having to dodge a full beer can thrown at him from the stands.

I bring this up because it illustrates my point about Jimenez, the man.

When the media was allowed to enter the clubhouse that evening, I noticed Jimenez was immediately by his locker. But no one went to him, instead focusing on Britton or Adam Jones, who jawed with fans after the beer-can-tossing incident. Jimenez waited an appropriate amount of time and then went into the shower.

When he came out and got dressed, the media was still preoccupied with others, like Kim and Britton. So Jimenez stood quietly at his locker for a few more minutes. Frankly, he had given us ample time to interview him and no one bit. So he could have walked out of there and no media could have complained. He didn’t, though. He basically waited his turn to take responsibility for the loss. In a clubhouse of stand-up guys, that was an all-time stand-up moment.

While being interviewed, he was provided with an out; he’s not a reliever, after all. His response: “It’s not an excuse. As a professional, you’re trying to do the best you can in the position they put you, but it’s not my best. I’m trying to do the best I could out there. … I tried to do the best I could, especially as a reliever. It didn’t happen.”

He also added a line that I think sums up what I felt about Jimenez that night: “It’s not going to erase what I was able to accomplish the last seven, eight games. There’s no doubt about that.”

I guess the interesting question for fans is whether those seven or eight games give Jimenez a clean slate as he runs out on the orange carpet next April.



  1. DauerPower

    October 12, 2016 at 8:03 am

    This is why I love this site; great back stories.
    I hope Ubaldo does have a solid 2017 with the O’s but it is frustrating that a sub standard pitcher is kept on the roster due to contract and not performance. You did a great job explaining this year why he was not tradable or releasable from a financial point but it’s still frustrating.
    It’s like working with the boss’ son who is incompetent but can’t be fired. Although you understand the realities of the situation, it still sucks.
    Hope he continues to build off those last 8 starts.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 12, 2016 at 9:08 am

      Dauer: Thanks for checking us out. I get what the frustration was. I really do. My point all along is that this guy’s track record shows that the light could turn on at any moment and the Orioles were not deep enough starting P wise to cut him, pay his salary through 2017 and then have that potential light go on for another team. I wasn’t predicting; just looking at the reality of the situation. Just imagine how the fan base would have reacted if O’s cut him in July and he pitched the way he did down the stretch for the Red Sox on the Orioles’ dime.

  2. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 12, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Hey Baltimore, Ubaldo didn’t put himself in that game … in that situation … it was Buck.

    One bad pitching decision amongst the thousands of good ones. That’s baseball, and spring is just around the corner. Get over it.

    As long as Ubaldo is wearing the black and orange and giving his all, he’s one of our guys.

    Go O’s!!

    • Dan Connolly

      October 12, 2016 at 9:09 am

      I love how you can go from optimist to pessimist to optimist again. Your emotions are like Ubaldo’s mechanics. I love it.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        October 12, 2016 at 12:51 pm

        It’s the inner 10 year old boy.

        And baseball…the one constant through all the years was baseball. It’s rolled on like an army of steamrollers …. or something like that.

  3. eddienj

    October 12, 2016 at 8:55 am

    The fact that he waited at his locker tells you all you need to know about the guy.

    Trade Jimenez? It’s his contract year. You will get close to nothing in return. The last time he pitched for a contract he came up aces. I’d like to see him try to do it again rather than selling low.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 12, 2016 at 9:09 am

      That’s my take too.

  4. claudecat

    October 12, 2016 at 9:01 am

    While it won’t surprise me if Ubaldo gets some boos on opening day (never a good move BTW), I certainly don’t blame him for that loss. Plenty of blame to go around. If anyone deserves boos it’s Buck for putting Ubaldo in harm’s way to begin with, and especially for leaving him there when it was blatantly obvious that he was struggling. Someone (hmm… I wonder who?) should have been warmed up and ready to go at the first sign of trouble, like maybe that first, non-competitive pitch, or maybe the first single, or the second single.

    That loss is on Buck and the stagnant offense, not Ubaldo.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 12, 2016 at 9:11 am

      I just look at it as he was the emergency guy and it wasn’t emergency time yet. You still had 2 — 3 counting Bundy — guys that are accustomed to being a reliever. Including one that had allowed four earned runs in 67 innings.

  5. pedro

    October 12, 2016 at 9:27 am

    I’m not the booing type, but if I was, no way would I boo Ubaldo. Managers talk about putting their players in a position to succeed. The more intriguing question is whether Showalter gets booed for a poor decision. I bet there is a smattering of boos for Buck.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 12, 2016 at 12:17 pm

      Maybe a smattering. But I think there’s enough equity built up there.

  6. Bancells Moustache

    October 12, 2016 at 9:36 am

    Mr Connolly, you have besmirched my character good sir! We must now meet on the field of honor, I choose pistols at dawn on the Pickles Pub Veranda. The Honorable Boog Robinson Robinson shall be my second. Good day sir!

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 12, 2016 at 12:41 pm

      Did someone say Pickles?

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        October 12, 2016 at 12:41 pm

        As in REAL beer?

  7. jan417

    October 12, 2016 at 9:49 am

    People should remember that without Ubaldo pitching well in the second half, we would have been out of the playoffs well before the end of September. Give credit where credit is due, fans.

    He gave the best he could all season, it just wasn’t that good in the first half. Give him credit for not throwing in the towel. Many other players would have.

    I hope he has an amazing 2017.

    And I think like Boog Robinson Powell said, Buck had one bad decision from all the thousands made this year. I wonder how many of us can say that? Maybe we should boo ourselves every day.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 12, 2016 at 12:16 pm

      No arguments here.

  8. Bancells Moustache

    October 12, 2016 at 11:05 am

    I have calmed now, and in the interest of curbing the violence already too rampant in our fair city, I am canceling my duel with Dan and instead offering a clarifying retort.

    The way my comment is framed in the article is to imply it a knee-jerk response to a momentary slip-up by Jimenez, and that sparing him the wrath of the fans on opening day was my sole motivation. That’s an overly simplistic view and perhaps I didn’t properly convey my thoughts the first time. Cut me some slack, it’s tough to get your point across typing on your cellphone at work.
    It would be best for all parties concerned if Ubaldo Jimenez played for a different baseball team in 2017. This is a second order effect resulting from the disaster that was last Tuesday night. I brought up his greeting on the Orange carpet just as the most dramatic example of the venom which will directed the poor man’s way, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Yes, Kim was booed on opening day, but that incident has been blown out of proportion as time has passed. There was a sizable contingent booing Mr Kim, but there was just as many, if not more, cheering for him. All he did was have a bad spring. Jimenez carries the weight of perhaps the most devastating playoff loss since 1979. This will not just heal itself over time. Every time he takes the hill and walks the lead off man, or gives up a first inning home run, the wolves are going to be at his door. Never mind a can of Molson, their liable to rip out the chairs and throw them on the field! This isn’t me condoning such idiocy,though I have zero issue with people booing as its part of the game, only being a realist. I mean, my God, listen to talk radio today. It seems everyone and their brother wants John Harbaugh’s head on a platter, he of the Super Bowl ring and 3 title game appearances, when the guy is 3-2 and lost two close games to playoff contenders.
    We can imply that this is knee-jerk and emotion-based. It is not. From a baseball perspective, riding the Ubaldo-coaster has hurt more than it has helped. Yes, his performance in September was critical to their making the postseason BUT, if we are going play that game, if he isn’t absolutely horrible in the first half while the bats were still alive, maybe they win 4 more and take the division. If he doesn’t get shelled by a bad Angels team in July, then at the very least the WC game is in Baltimore.
    This isn’t to bash Ubaldo, who by all measures is a good man. On the contrary, since he is such a good guy, I’d like to see him get a fresh start somewhere else. It would benefit him to dump the titanic baggage he accrued as Encarnacion and his goddamn invisible bird circled the bases, and benefit the Orioles to move on from this maddening experiment. Jimenez is who is he is. He’ll give you a couple of great starts, lull you into thinking he has it figured out, then come crashing to the pavement once again. It’s been that way for three years and is not changing. It’s insanity for a team and a fanbase whose only goal for the next two years should be to win a World Series to accept it as status quo.
    Again, it seems from every thing I have read that Jimenez is a great guy and I hate see him in this position, as this was ultimately laid bare by his boss making the non-use of a closer heard round the world. There is no excusing the game ending with the best pitcher in baseball wearing a jacket and watching through a hole in the outfield fence. Buck has been crushed by every English speaking media outlet on Earth, and deservedly so. But to be fair to Buck, Ubaldo Jimenez might not be a reliever, but he is still a veteran pitcher (a well compensated one to boot) who has been throwing baseballs for the better part of 25 years. For him to toss them in underhand to two of the most dangerous hitters in Major League Baseball is unacceptable, regardless of it it was or wasn’t the most comfortable situation for him.
    They cannot keep doing this, Dan. On a business side, do they take a bath on the contract? Absolutely. Such things happen in business and there are times when you have to swallow your pride and break out the checkbook. However, ducking the cost and allowing it to affect your product is an even worse decision. If I pay to install a machine in my facility and that machine damages my output, I have to take the hit and address it immediately. I’ll get hammered in the short-term, probably have some uncomfortable talks with corporate, but long term I can recover. If I leave said machine in place, hope it works most of the time and bad product gets to the customer, I’m getting fired.
    For an organization whose window for a championship, what should be the ONLY objective over the next two years, is rapidly closing I fail to see how that same principal should apply. It’s time to cut losses and mark hard decisions. Let him go.

    • Bancells Moustache

      October 12, 2016 at 11:26 am

      Apologies for the length and clerical errors. Like I said, I’m typing this stuff on my phone while attempting to work. I’ll now open it up for everyone to shout me down and call me everything but a child of God…

    • Dan Connolly

      October 12, 2016 at 12:14 pm

      I enjoy the rants, Stache. And for the record I didn’t call you out or throw you under the bus. On the contrary, your opinion made me think and spurred another blog topic. So that’s the highest compliment I can give. And obviously it’s worth the discussion because we’ve had some good give and take today. As for the canceled duel. Phew.

      • Bancells Moustache

        October 12, 2016 at 12:31 pm

        Eh, you’d have been fine. I’m a lousy shot and have a teething one year old, so I’d have probably overslept anyway…

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          October 12, 2016 at 12:44 pm

          So does this mean no Pickles and Real Beer?

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 12, 2016 at 12:45 pm

      That was awesome. You ARE a professional aren’t you?

      • Bancells Moustache

        October 12, 2016 at 2:33 pm

        Sadly, no. Just a regular dude in Anne Arundel county who constantly jeopardizes his employment status by reading and commenting about a baseball team on company time.

  9. karks

    October 12, 2016 at 11:07 am

    I certainly wouldn’t boo him just for walking out on that orange carpet. I wouldn’t boo any Oriole during an opening day ceremony unless there was really some odd circumstance (like an arrest or turning their back on the team, etc).

    To me, there’s not a ton of hope that Ubaldo has a lights-out kind of year. History just says that is a long shot. But I know he’s going to give it everything he’s got in whatever role he’s in. I appreciate that, even if the success isn’t always there.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 12, 2016 at 12:15 pm

      The harshest I can remember is Mike Gonzalez, who was bad in his opening series as as Oriole in Tampa and then got destroyed on the orange carpet before his 4th game. He heard it worse than Aubrey Huff.

      • karks

        October 12, 2016 at 12:35 pm

        What about Terry Matthews? Seemed like that poor fellow was always getting it from the crowd.

    • Dan Connolly

      October 12, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      I was talking orange carpet. But Terry got crushed. Got to the point that Davey Johnson stopped pitching him at home.

  10. OsFanStuckInNY

    October 13, 2016 at 1:03 am

    I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mr. Jiminez, especially after your excellent article. He was put in a tough situation and left in a exceedingly bad one. There was plenty of blame to go around in that game, a game in which if the offense was even mediocre, there never would have been extra innings. I wish him the best in 2017 and beyond — and am I hope he is enjoying his family!

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