Mancini and Means lead Orioles by example - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Mancini and Means lead Orioles by example

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

When the Orioles began the 1988 season with 21 straight losses and finished with a then-franchise record of 107 defeats, they had two Hall of Famers — Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr.

The 2021 Orioles have no likely Hall of Famers, but they do have centerfielder Cedric Mullins, who’s nearing 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases, which would be a first for the Orioles. They also have Rookie of the Year candidate Ryan Mountcastle, who passed Ripken’s record for most home runs by a rookie by hitting his 29th in Thursday night’s 3-2, 10-inning win over the Yankees.

The development of Mullins and Mountcastle has been fun to watch, but there are two other players — Trey Mancini and John Means — who have provided veteran leadership for a young and struggling team.

Mancini’s battle with colon cancer has been well documented and his willingness to talk about the struggle and the generosity with his time has been lauded. After the first home game of the season, Mancini tried to turn his attention back to baseball and was critical of his performance. He tried to approach this season with a different perspective after missing 2020, but he’s often hard on himself.

Mancini’s statistics are solid: 21 homers, 66 RBIs, .261 average and .786 OPS. They’re just not as good as they were in 2019, when he had 35 home runs and 97 RBIs.

He didn’t cut himself any slack this season, rebuilding his strength as soon as his chemotherapy treatments ended, setting an example of leadership. His next excuse will be his first.

Means doesn’t have the same story, but he does share some of the same qualities. He pitched the Orioles’ first solo no-hitter on May 5th but has won just once in 16 starts since then.

His 5-7 record is unimpressive, but a 3.41 ERA and a 4.3 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), sixth among all American League pitchers, are.

It’s hard to pitch for a bad team. There might be an exception like the exceptional Steve Carlton, who won 27 games in 1972 for a Philadelphia Phillies team that won just 59. But generally standout pitchers, like Means, fail to be rewarded when their teams play poorly.

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After Means allowed just two runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings in Wednesday night’s 4-3 loss to the Yankees, he said that he was fortunate that he had command of his fastball because his other pitches weren’t sharp.

Means doesn’t complain about an offense that doesn’t support him or a bullpen that doesn’t hold leads.

“John has really turned into a pro,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “When he takes the mound and he takes the ball, it’s his start, and he feels like he should win the game. We didn’t help him out [Wednesday] night at all, by not scoring early, giving him an opportunity to pitch with a lead. It’s very difficult against a lineup like that.

“He’s so hard on himself. He’s very self-critical. He didn’t have a good changeup [Wednesday] night. That was really bothering him. Even though he didn’t have his best stuff, to be able to get in his [nearly] six innings, leave giving up two runs, it’s an outstanding start. More times than not, you’re leaving with a lead in that kind of situation. He’s tough on himself.”

Hyde hopes the younger pitchers are paying attention.

“The guys who have been here haven’t been here very long, so I’m hoping that they can soak up John’s competitiveness and the intensity,” Hyde said.

During his time with the Chicago Cubs, he remembers how starters such as Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey and Jon Lester impressed him by how they approached a start. In his first months with the Orioles, he felt the same way about Andrew Cashner.

“Game day, you can tell it’s different,” Hyde said. “The good starting pitchers I’ve been around, they’re in a different mood on the day they start.There’s a different feel in the clubhouse when they’re on the mound, and it’s a real businesslike atmosphere, and that’s how Meansy is.”

If the Orioles were to make Means, who is entering his first year of arbitration eligibility, available in a trade, teams would line up to bid on him.

They need for Means to continue to be the No. 1 starter and serve as an example of accountability. It’s what has also earned Mancini so much respect among his peers. It’s why the Orioles have two strong leaders in the clubhouse.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Orioles20

    September 17, 2021 at 11:17 am

    This team definitely has some bright spots. Means, Mullins, and Mountcastle are the heart and souls of this team. But there’s also so much they can do. Santander and Hays are so up and down in there performance and you never know what you’re getting. Stewart is bad. No other way around it. He provides not value on defense or the bases. Therefore only hitting 200 is not going to cut it. Urias has been a pleasant surprise. I think the biggest holes on this team are pitching catcher and third base. Severino is a terrible defender and while Guetteriz can pick it at third he’s far from a superstar with the bat. And the pitching is terrible. Ellis has been pleasant. Means obviously is the ace of this staff. But none of the young pitchers have ceased their opportunity. Kremer has been awful this year in the majors. Lowther and Wells have room for improvement. Akin seems to have turned a corner recently so that bodes well. If I’m Elias I’m spending some money on a pitcher this offseason. Maybe not a guy like scherzer who will command top dollar but a middle of the rotation guy like Marcus Stroman would fit. Maybe I’m overly optimistic but think this is the last year of the mess we see on a nightly basis. A lot of prospects will be up next year.

    • CalsPals

      September 17, 2021 at 11:49 am

      1/2 full, really (God I hope) can’t get worse, like Mad Max, think he’ll probably stay in LA, pitcher(s) & 3B priorities…go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        September 17, 2021 at 1:22 pm

        With all due respect Os20, I think you sell Hays and Santander waaay short here. The only downs I see in either are injury related, and … knock on wood …Hays had a relatively healthy season. His problem is playing for a manager/GM combo that doesn’t allow him regular at bats against right handed pitching and insisted on platooning him this year.

        As far as Santander goes, he’s been getting better as a hitter right in line with his ankle improving. He’s a monster and an extra base machine .. again … when healthy. And no,I don’t believe he’s brittle or injury prone. Just a bit unluckey so far.

        I’d put these 2 right alongside the M&M boys as the current and future heart of this team.

        • Orioles20

          September 17, 2021 at 2:03 pm

          I agree. Good to see hays be healthy these be healthy and same with Santander. He had that oblique which I don’t think helped early on in the year then the ankle. I would like to see hays plays against righties more. But inconsistencies are inconsistencies. Some of those like you mentioned can be attributed to injuries.

    • OriolesNumber1Fan

      September 17, 2021 at 5:15 pm

      O’s20 I have to agree with your point that the “bright spots. Means, Mullins, and Mountcastle are the heart and souls of this team.” But I would include Mancini as well. Hays has been better as of late and could be added as well. He needs to show he can handle right handed pitchers better, where his stats prove that point.
      But all the other young pitchers drafted or traded for by Dan Duquette have shown very little or nothing at all. This is the reason the Orioles are where they are. Period. Pitching rules in baseball. Period. So if Mike Elias and Chris Holt can convince them to buy into the analytics shown on them, maybe they can make something of their careers. A simple change was suggested and bought in by Akin per Chris Holt by removing the windup seems to have helped him somewhat. But he still needs to throw more quality strikes with his secondary pitches. I don’t think he trusts himself to throw a quality one when it’s needed. At one point in his recent outing he threw 8 fastballs in a row to a hitter proves this point.

      • OriolesNumber2Fan

        September 18, 2021 at 1:27 am

        I second just about everything this man says! He’s rigtht about pitching being ruling and the way that MikeElias and Holt have trained the young guys about pitching with analytics. That would explain why Akin has pitched much better lately.

        Orioles Number1

  2. willmiranda

    September 17, 2021 at 12:44 pm

    Thanks for the profiles, Rich. The Four M’s have indeed been bright spots this year. With Means and Mancini, however, I wonder where the O’s will stand in arbitration. I don’t think they’ll be as forgiving as you are about Means’ 5-7 record. I think, unfortunately, that the rise of Mountcastle may have made Mancini redundant. Neither is going back to the outfield, and there’s no lefty-righty reason to keep both as DH’s. Both have similar skill sets, but Mancini is older. Mounty is minimum wage and Trey is arbitration. Let’s enjoy them while we can.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 17, 2021 at 2:43 pm

      Thank you, Will. I think Means’ WAR speaks to his value more than his record.

    • dlgruber1

      September 17, 2021 at 6:17 pm

      Ok, so I’m not to proud to say I’m gonna admit I don’t understand WAR. Is it based on comparison to your teammates? Because, even tho I think Means has had a good year, the fact is he’s 5-7. What I’m asking is this. What in fact does Wins Against Replacement mean? If it just means it’s a comparison to other pitchers on their staff then I’m sorry, but it’s a bogus stat. The rest of the staff sucks.

      • Rich Dubroff

        September 17, 2021 at 7:23 pm

        It’s based on the average player–what’s termed a replacement player. It’s meant to average how many wins this player adds than a replacement player. Means adds 4.3 wins. Ohtani adds 7.8. It’s not in comparison with your teammates. It’s a theoretical average of all players, Dave/

  3. Orial

    September 17, 2021 at 12:52 pm

    Good article. Means and Mancini are at the point where their value to this this is as much with leadership and example setting as it is with their talents. Hopefully someday they’ll be rewarded with a nice playoff run(not to mention contract). Agree about 3B being a “black hole”. Hopefully amongst Westburg/Henderson the answer lies. Of course they’ll both tell you they’re shortstops. Seen that before(Manny). Watching the game yesterday and seeing the Yankees NOT swing at anything where the O’s swing at everything is an area that can’t be over-stated enough. Mountcastle with the sky as his limit is still a hitter teams want to pitch to in crucial situations. Way over aggressive. That flaw,which should be outgrown in a year or two, is to me the offenses biggest weakness. Can’t wait to see this team in 2 years. But back to the subject at hand–could you imagine where the collective mentality would be if Mancini/Means weren’t there to look up to?

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 17, 2021 at 2:43 pm

      Thank you, Al.

  4. Boog Robinson Robinson

    September 17, 2021 at 1:23 pm

    Contract? Did you say CONTRACT?? Scary thought with this team.

  5. Letsgetmikey

    September 17, 2021 at 7:18 pm

    I just turned on tonight’s game. What’s up with the yellow and blue?

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 17, 2021 at 7:25 pm

      As I tweeted a few minutes ago Michael, it’s not an old Oakland A’s uniform, it’s Nike’s City Connect uniform that they’ve down with some other teams. Boston is the only AL East team they’ve partnered with.

    • CalsPals

      September 18, 2021 at 8:26 am

      Ugliest uniforms I’ve seen, looks like UCLA East…lol…go O’s…

  6. Letsgetmikey

    September 17, 2021 at 7:28 pm

    Thanks Rich. I’ve never done Twitter.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 17, 2021 at 8:25 pm

      That may be a good thing.

  7. TxBirdFan

    September 17, 2021 at 8:04 pm

    Great article Rich! The M&M’a have been a bright spot in yet another dark (tank) year. I differ with You a bit in that I never view Means to be a #1 starter, except on a team with poor pitching. Here’s hoping he’s our #2 or #3 pitcher in the next year or so.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 17, 2021 at 8:24 pm

      Many thanks, TX.

  8. Buzz1979

    September 17, 2021 at 9:19 pm

    WTF, send down Jones, and keep Valiake? That ship has sailed, maybe he has photos like Wilkerson did!

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      September 17, 2021 at 10:03 pm

      Buzz … I’ll admit I’m a big Pat V. fan, but I’m with you on this one … this move makes absolutely NO sense. I have no problem with keeping Valiaika, but if this is what they think of Jahmai Jones, then tell me again how we robbed the Angels with that trade? A quality MLB pitcher for what?

      Pajama Boy, please save me your rebuttal numbers. I know all about the payroll….and I know he’s been hurt a bit this year, but I am telling you that we could’ve used even the truncated numbers Cobb gave the Angels this year. What did we get in return? Nice trade Mikey.

      Don’t like Yellow Uniforms? Don’t buy Nike
      Drink Pepsi

      • Buzz1979

        September 17, 2021 at 11:05 pm

        Cobb, 8-3, 3.59!!??

  9. Buzz1979

    September 17, 2021 at 11:44 pm

    So glad Machado was never extended, right now, a 300 million dollar bust!

    • BarstoolSleeper

      September 18, 2021 at 7:19 am

      Do you just pick a random player every few days and word vomit? Machado has a 4.9 WAR, batting .274 with 93 RBIs, played 139 games and has a 96.8 fielding percentage. It doesn’t get much better than that. By the way, your fringe journeyman Austin meadows hit his 100th rbi last night.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 18, 2021 at 7:42 am

      Dave, maybe he follows me on Twitter and saw that I had Machado as my “Jersey of the Game.”

    • BarstoolSleeper

      September 18, 2021 at 7:54 am

      Oh ok. I don’t have a Twitter so if that was it, my apologies.

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