As we say goodbye to the most forgettable season in Orioles history, let’s look back at some memorable days and quotes in the year that’s nearing its end.
January 27-The Baltimore Convention Center
Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop were no-shows at the Orioles’ FanFest, leaving Adam Jones to speak for the team. Machado and Schoop had pending arbitration cases, which were settled, and Chris Davis was excused because his wife just had twins.
Jones talked about his impending free agency.
“It’s not about money, it’s about winning,” he said. “If I’m in a winning environment, I’ll be happy. If I’m not, I won’t be happy.”
March 21-Sarasota, Fla.
A week before the season began, the Orioles completed their starting rotation by signing Alex Cobb to a four-year, $57-million contract. Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman saw the Orioles sign Cobb, Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman during spring training, raising hopes in Baltimore.
“They didn’t stop bothering me the whole offseason,” Cobb said. “They were very persistent, and I think that you notice that confidence they have in you just by the way they speak to you, and the questions you ask and not questioning anything that’s gone on.”
It’s hard to remember, but Jones ended Opening Day with a home run to give the Orioles a 3-2 win in 11 innings. Their 1-0 record was the only time they’d have a winning record in 2018.
Jones wasn’t in the mood to talk about the future then.
“Who knows, but I’m here now and it’s awesome,” Jones said.
During the early innings of an Orioles loss to Seattle, word reached the press box that there had been a shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis.
Later that night, it was confirmed that five were killed, including John McNamara, a longtime sports reporter who had been a press box visitor just a few weeks before.
To honor the memories of those killed, the Orioles placed flowers at the Capital Gazette’s seat, which is next to mine, the next night.
The Orioles’ first half was a mess, and Machado was the Orioles’ only All-Star. The day before, Machado was pulled from the game after a brief rain delay because the team didn’t want their most valuable trade piece to be injured.
At Nationals Park, where the All-Star Game was held, Machado fielded question after question about the trade talk.
“It crosses my mind all the time. I might stay here all year,” Machado said. “It’s a possibility. I would love that. I wouldn’t have to move … but you’ve got to be realistic.”
The day after the All-Star Game, Machado is traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Dan Duquette, the Orioles’ top decision-maker, says there’s more to come.
“Today is the start of the rebuilding process,” Duquette said. “We aim to retool our roster and get our organization back to the competitive stature that we’ve been used to.”
The first day of the post-Machado era begins with Tim Beckham at shortstop and Jonathan Schoop without his best baseball friend.
“You know it’s going to happen,” Schoop said. “When it happened, it’s real. In the back of your mind, you know it’s going to happen. I’m ready for it, but when it happened, you’re not ready for it because it’s real. Every thought. Like today, I ride [by] myself. I ride [by] myself to the field. Normally, it’s me and him. In the clubhouse, you always see me with him.”
July 31-New York
Duquette traded Zach Britton to the Yankees and Brad Brach to Atlanta. When Jones invoked his no-trade clause, vetoing a trade to Philadelphia, there was some thought the Orioles were done dealing, but just minutes before the deadline, Schoop was sent to Milwaukee, and Gausman and Darren O’Day to Atlanta.
“I feel like, to be honest, in my time here, I don’t feel like I pitched to my abilities,” Gausman said. “It’s unfortunate to say that. I really feel like I had [only] two years here where I was [pitching] to the best of my ability.”
August 2-Arlington, Texas
In the eighth inning of a lopsided loss to the Texas Rangers, manager Buck Showalter ran out of relief pitchers and turned to infielder Danny Valencia to complete the game.
Valencia struck out his only batter, Joey Gallo, and strutted off the mound as if he had saved a crucial September game.
I was definitely not going 100 percent today,” Valencia said. “There’s definitely more in the tank. Today, I was probably pitching around 80 percent.”
Eight days later, Valencia was cut.
The last day of the season ends with Jones playing an inning in center field and seven innings in right. Showalter removes him as the ninth inning is about to begin to a thunderous ovation.
“I’m going to this really excited because I’ve never been flirted with,” Jones said about free agency. “So I want to see if I can be flirted with a little.
“It’s been a great run here, a great tenure here. Hopefully, we’ll go somewhere and see what the next chapter in my career has [in store].”
Three weeks after he and Duquette were dismissed, Showalter returned to Baltimore to pack up his house and host the annual run to benefit KidsPeace, an organization that promotes foster care.
He explained why he didn’t acknowledge the fans on the final day of the season when he knew he wouldn’t return.
“I thought it was Adam’s day,” Showalter said. “I really did. I made sure it was all about Adam.”
After a six-week search, John and Louis Angelos make a rare public appearance to introduce Mike Elias as executive vice president and general manager.
“The plan is simple,” Elias said. “We’re going to build an elite talent pipeline that’s going to extend from the lowest realm of our minor league ladder … all the way up to Triple-A and up to the major league roster in Baltimore.”
December 11-Las Vegas
Elias had been able to keep his managerial search quiet until he reached the Winter Meetings. During an uncomfortable meeting with Baltimore media, news that Brandon Hyde had been selected as the Orioles’ manager was denied by Elias even as reports of his hiring were shown on the television a few feet away.
Elias ended the session with a quip.
“I’ll turn the TV off next time, huh?”
The day after the Winter Meetings, Hyde’s hiring was announced, and sitting in the front row was Brooks Robinson, exciting the organization’s 20th manager. Robinson is perhaps the only person who knew the previous 19.
“I grew up a baseball rat that knew history, knew tradition and to be around history and to be involved in a city like Baltimore is a dream come true,” Hyde said.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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