A mostly fun decade of Orioles baseball ends with pain and perhaps some hope - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

A mostly fun decade of Orioles baseball ends with pain and perhaps some hope

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

The Orioles’ decade began with the Opening Day crowd booing manager Dave Trembley’s removal of Mike Gonzalez from the mound after he blew his second save in the first four games.

Nearly 10 years later, that image is still fresh. Gonzalez blew saves in the team’s opener at Tampa Bay and four days later in Baltimore.

Less than two months later, Trembley was gone and replaced by Juan Samuel. It was clear that Samuel was an interim manager, and when Buck Showalter took control in early August, Samuel refused to head back to the third base coaching job he’d held previously.

In 2010, the Orioles had three managers who each managed roughly a third of the season, something unprecedented in baseball. It wouldn’t be the last time in the decade the Orioles did something unique.

Things changed when Showalter came, and he inherited Gonzalez, who complained he wasn’t pitching enough. “If you want to pitch more, pitch better,” Showalter would tell players and repeat to reporters.

In the decade that ends tonight, there were so many names that were memorable and forgettable.

The Orioles’ All-Star on the team that Showalter took over was Ty Wigginton, an infielder who was chosen over Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters, all in the early parts of distinguished careers.

After a fine final two months of 2010, expectations were raised for 2011, but that season turned out to be the 14th straight losing one.

The 2011 season wasn’t a waste because in the last six weeks the Orioles went 22-16. In the final game of the season, they knocked the Boston Red Sox out of the playoffs on a single in the bottom of the ninth by Robert Andino that scored Nolan Reimold.

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That was the final game for Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, who chose Showalter as manager and acquired Jones, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Manny Machado  and Chris Tillman through the draft and trades.

MacPhail’s good work was improved on by Dan Duquette, who brought in Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Jason Hammel and Nate McLouth in 2012.

Perhaps the most remarkable regular-season game in team history took place on May 6, 2012 at Fenway Park when in the 15th inning, Showalter remembered that Davis had pitched in college.

To that point, Davis was a free-swinging slugger who’d played at third, first and in the outfield.

On that late Sunday afternoon, Davis, who began the day as the Orioles’ designated hitter and struck out five times and hit into a double play in his first six at-bats, shocked everyone by warming up in the bullpen.

He pitched two scoreless innings, and the Orioles won in 17 innings when Jones hit a three-run home run off another position player, Darnell McDonald, who had once been a No. 1 pick by the Orioles.

That game finished off a rare winning road trip to New York and Boston, and put the Orioles 10 games over .500.

In retrospect, it marked the beginning of the Orioles’ renaissance, one that would last for much of the decade.

Later there would be the historic relief work of Zack Britton and the slugging of Nelson Cruz, which helped overcome  season-ending injuries to Machado and Wieters in 2014.

The decade that’s ending brought fun to Baltimore, but after Showalter declined to use Britton in the wild-card game in Toronto in 2016, things turned sour.

The 2017 season started off well, and the team was threatening to make the postseason once again before a late-season sputter ended the year sourly.

The next year, the Orioles hoped that the old gang could again produce some magic, but it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t going to work.

No one could have imagined 223 losses in two years to end the decade, nor the small crowds.

For years, Camden Yards was the place to be. In 2015, after the city’s disturbances, it hosted the only fanless game in major league history as fans demanded to be let in.

In 2018, the team tried to pump some excitement by allowing children in the park for free with paying adults, and while that was critically acclaimed, and continues, there just weren’t enough paying adults.

General manager Mike Elias is trying to rebuild the organization in every way, bringing in younger people with newer ideas and hoping that sometime soon, the crowds will return.

Davis, who began his Orioles career with so much excitement, is nearing the end of it and fans find it hard to remember the great home run years and that wonderful afternoon in Fenway.

The decade ends with Jones, the most memorable player of the 10 years, beginning a new decade thousands of miles away, playing for the Orix Buffaloes in Japan and Showalter still hoping for another managerial job.

Dylan Bundy, one of the most publicized draft picks in team history, spent nearly all the decade as Orioles property, but now moves on to the Los Angeles Angels for 2020.

In the 2020s, there will be new names for Orioles fans to learn and a younger generation of fans can only hope that the coming decade will be as much fun as most of this decade was.

It’s just hard to remember where the fun went sometimes.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. The Cartoon Bird

    December 31, 2019 at 7:31 am

    Nice reflective piece. I decided to read the Extra 2% over the holiday season. Speaking of the future, I hope the new team that will be responsible for marketing and fan relations will come up with innovative and unique ideas to raise the organization’s profile and reputation in the community.

    Also, going forward, I hope Dan Connolly’s remark that Elias’s “hands are tied more than he had preferred” financially is not storm clouds on the horizon into the next decade. I hope it isn’t already a misunderstanding between ownership and the front office of what they were getting themselves into and how to proceed. I want to believe that Elias and Mejdal knew what they were getting themselves into when they accepted the responsibility.

    • Orial

      December 31, 2019 at 8:30 am

      That is a very relevant comment(“storm clouds”). Worth keeping an eye on.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 31, 2019 at 10:26 am

      Thank you, CB.

    • deqalt

      December 31, 2019 at 6:24 pm

      What did Dan Connolly say I didn’t see his article?

  2. Fareastern89

    December 31, 2019 at 8:12 am

    Enjoyed the retrospective piece, Rich. Who among us remembers Ty Wigginton, for heaven’s sake? I’m sure there will be fun times ahead, although maybe not for another season or two.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 31, 2019 at 10:26 am

      Thank you, Fareastern.

  3. Orial

    December 31, 2019 at 8:33 am

    Agree Rich this was a decade to remember. Everyone seems to think that pitching held the team back from a WS title in the glory years but it just seemed that all they really needed was just that ONE big hit. Oh well. 2 names will stand out:Robert Andino and Delmon Young.

  4. chico salmon

    December 31, 2019 at 9:54 am

    Thanks, Rich. I’ll also remember the development of Manny Machado, his trade and all the others in 2018, and the rare public appearance of the Angelos sons sitting on those Vegas-style lounge chairs announcing the Elias hire. One son looked mortified, and the other thoroughly enjoyed the attention, while coming across as arrogant (commenting about how he went to Duke and Elias to Yale, so maybe there was Ivy League envy). Oh brother. These are the guys gathering the storm clouds.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 31, 2019 at 10:27 am

      Thank you, Chico.

  5. Phil770

    December 31, 2019 at 10:07 am

    Thanks, Rich. Great piece that was most enjoyable to read. I am more optimistic about the next decade than many others. I think the investment in player development will show up even in 2020, with Hayes and later Mountcastle, plus a surprise pitcher like Means to breakthrough.

    Happy New Year!

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 31, 2019 at 10:27 am

      Thank you, Phil.

  6. Orial

    December 31, 2019 at 11:25 am

    Sorry to be so rude Rich BUT Happy New Year

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 31, 2019 at 11:29 am

      Happy New Year, Orial.

  7. Camden Brooks

    December 31, 2019 at 11:39 am

    Another great article Rich. One small correction, Davis pitches 2 scoreless innings, but not hitless.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 31, 2019 at 12:06 pm

      Thank you for the catch. I knew that, CB. I was there. Good editing job.

  8. Bancells Moustache

    December 31, 2019 at 12:17 pm

    I think this decade hinged on two turning points; the hiring of Showalter and letting Markakis walk. Everyone knows the impact of Buck’s arrival. I’m not sure the loss of Markakis is viewed with the proper gravity. Nick was homegrown, highly respected in the clubhouse and had weathered the dark times like a real pro. When they wouldn’t pay him I think it sent a message that poisoned the well and initiated the slow collapse of the Buckle Up O’s. So now here we are, trusting the process and hoping a bunch of 16 year olds in the Dominican somewhere ride to our rescue before Rich starts writing his 20’s recap. Happy New Years boys!

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 31, 2019 at 12:58 pm

      I hope Rich is around to write the 20’s recap, Bancells!

    • Diamondguy

      December 31, 2019 at 2:27 pm

      Sure do miss Nick in right field!

    • Birdman

      December 31, 2019 at 2:45 pm

      In my view, the really big blunder after the 2014 season was losing Nelson Cruz because the Orioles were too cheap to add a fourth year to their contract offer. During those next 4 years with Seattle, Cruz had 163 HR and 424 RBI.

      As for Markakis, in hindsight, letting him walk certainly looks like a big mistake. But I think, at the time it was a defensible decision by the Orioles. Markakis’ offensive production was declining his last few seasons with the Orioles, and he was thought to have potentially serious physical problems.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        December 31, 2019 at 7:01 pm

        I’ll always blame the fan backlash for their failure to sign Cruz for that knee jerk decision to sign Davis to his mega-contract. That in my mind was the beginning of an end to a nice run.

    • Camden Brooks

      December 31, 2019 at 2:54 pm

      I’m with Birdman here. While I was very sad sentimentally to lose NM, I couldn’t argue much with that decision. Nobody could predict he would hit .288 with Atlanta, and it’s impossible to say what his stats would’ve been if he stayed in Baltimore. Still one of my favorite Orioles.

  9. BirdsCaps

    December 31, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    That was one heck of a ‘15 game and always makes me wonder if we could put Cash in the bullpen so he would be less destructive. Also, in order to increase attendance the birds could offer free admission to any fan alive during the last WS win a la major league. This would help get butts in seats and would complement the kids cheer free promo. II’m joking, but I bet most of the park would still sit in empty if it were to happen.

  10. WorldlyView

    December 31, 2019 at 4:01 pm

    Thanks for this, Rich. I continue to enjoy reading your reports as well as the usually insightful and sincere postings from my fellow commentators. One negative takeaway from Rich’s retrospective: If the Orioles don’t end the recurring loss of first-class players (Machado, Britton, Markakis, Britton, Cruz, Schoop, etc.) because of real or imagined budgetary constraints, the team is unlikely to return to its glory days that we miss so much. Restocking the farm system cannot keep up with a constant exodus of stars.
    I wish everyone a Healthy New Year.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 31, 2019 at 7:58 pm

      Thank you, Professor Cohen!

  11. TxBirdFan

    December 31, 2019 at 6:03 pm

    First of all – thanks Rich for all your reporting during the year. You stuck with us and didn’t tank, and we appreciate it.

    It hasn’t been Fun in a while and Hope isn’t a plan. As a result Camden Yards is no longer a destination spot and may not be for quite some time.

  12. Frank Howard LF-1B

    December 31, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Thanks for the Decade recap Rich!

    Thanks to all the dedicated “posters” on the boards here
    The epitaph for the 2010-19 Orioles had a sad ending
    But the epitaph for the 2000-2009 Orioles had no good news at all!

    I expect 2020-2029 will bring some real good fortune, and sooner than folks might think
    If for no other reason than Mr. Angelos, Sr. is not in the new GMs face (and Manager’s face too)

    My New Year’s Resolution is to not gloat excessively when the O’s surprise everybody and win 72 games

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 31, 2019 at 7:59 pm

      Thank you, Frank!

  13. CalsPals

    January 1, 2020 at 8:44 am

    Happy New Years to all, especially Rich for putting up with all of us…go O’s…

  14. Bhoffman1

    January 2, 2020 at 3:09 pm

    Rich why doesn’t Elias look at Addison Russell. He knows him from Cub days. He was a all star a few years ago. Everybody deserves a second chance. He’s young and we definitely need a SS. Doesn’t this one make sense

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 2, 2020 at 6:21 pm

      Bruce, in the current environment taking a chance on Addison Russell doesn’t make sense.

  15. garyintheloo

    January 2, 2020 at 5:23 pm

    Nice retrospective. MLBTV added on the final innings of that Chris Davis game in 2012. It was one of the most fascinating and enjoyable I ever saw next to Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. I remember Wigginton started hot and MLB Tonight projected 34 homers for him in 2011. The end of 2010 when the Os went 32-22 after Showalter started got me back on the bandwagon. I don’t like long rebuilds as we are not building the pyramids. Show us something before MASN and the team go broke.

  16. Borg

    January 4, 2020 at 12:54 pm

    Maybe they should turn Davis into a full time pitcher. He hits like one already.

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