As another disappointing year for Oriole fans comes to a close, it’s important to remember that not everything went wrong.
Yes, there was a 14-game losing streak in May and a 19-game skid in August, the second longest in franchise history. In May and August, the Orioles went 9-47, but two of those wins stood out.
On May 5th in Seattle, John Means threw the Orioles’ first solo no-hitter since Jim Palmer pitched one in August 1969.
With the Orioles just two games from equaling their 21-game losing streak to begin the 1988 season on August 25th, a large crowd gathered around the bullpens just before game time.
They weren’t there to watch Chris Ellis make his first start for the Orioles. They were there to watch the American League’s Most Valuable Player, the two-way wonder, Shohei Ohtani, of the Los Angeles Angels.
Ohtani allowed four runs in five innings and struck out three times in four at-bats. The Orioles scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth and broke their losing streak, 10-6. Backup catcher Austin Wynns purchased incense and Trey Mancini sprinkled it around the ballpark, and the Orioles’ streak was over.
Mancini was the feel-good story of 2021. After missing 2020 because of colon cancer surgery and chemotherapy, Mancini played 147 games. Although his statistics were down — .255 average, 71 RBIs and 21 homers — he was the Comeback Player of the Year.
In 2021, the Orioles used a franchise-record 62 players. Many of them — Brandon Waddell, Zack Burdi, Nick Ciuffo, Jay Flaa, Manny Barreda and Mickey Jannis — were here briefly. Two, Barreda and Jannis, were positive stories. After years knocking around professional baseball in the United States and abroad, they each got to pitch in the majors. That’s what happens when you lose 110 games.
After the Orioles went 25-35 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, there was hope that 2021 might be better than the two previous full seasons in which the Orioles went 47-115 and 54-108. It wasn’t, although there were some other bright spots.
Centerfielder Cedric Mullins became the first Oriole with 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season.
First baseman/designated hitter Ryan Mountcastle set a team record for most home runs by a rookie, 33, although he didn’t finish in the top three in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.
Brandon Hyde will be back for a fourth season as Orioles manager, and he should have more talent.
Cather Adley Rutschman and pitcher Grayson Rodriguez should make their debuts in 2022, and might be joined by some other prospects.
The Orioles’ farm system was named the best in Major League Baseball by MLB Pipeline, and fans in Bowie got to watch three months of Rutschman before he was promoted to Norfolk, and Rodriguez, who made the jump after beginning the season at High-A Aberdeen.
After Frederick was dropped by the team as an affiliate as part of the streamlined minor leagues, Aberdeen moved up from a short-season team to a full-season entry.
Infield prospects Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg began the season at Delmarva before they moved up to Aberdeen and finally to Bowie.
Kyle Stowers, a top outfield prospect, started at Aberdeen, ended at Norfolk and could be called up by the Orioles later in 2022.
Outfielder Colton Cowser, the Orioles’ top draft pick in July, had a strong few weeks in Delmarva after tearing up the new Florida Complex League.
Heston Kjerstad, another college outfielder who was the top draft pick in 2020, has yet to play professionally because of myocarditis, an enlargement of the heart. But Kjerstad was able to work out in Sarasota at the Fall Instructional League, and he’s looking forward to playing next spring.
The troubled career of Chris Davis came to an end when a hip injury forced him to retire in August.
Pedro Severino, who caught the most games in the last three seasons, wasn’t invited back. He’ll be in Milwaukee instead.
The year ends in uncertainty because of a lockout. Although there haven’t been substantial talks about a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in the last month of the year, they should begin shortly, with spring training just a little more than six weeks away.
For Oriole fans, late December brought a sense of melancholy when former manager Buck Showalter returned to baseball for the first time since 2018, when the Orioles went 47-115 and Mike Elias and Hyde replaced Dan Duquette and Showalter. He will take over the New York Mets, who have the talent to make the playoffs, which the Orioles last made under Showalter in 2016.
For you, the readers of BaltimoreBaseball.com, a heartfelt thanks from our publisher Steve Cockey, editor Jack Gibbons and me for our best year ever. Fans especially seemed to enjoy the minor league coverage, and there will be plenty more of it in 2022.
Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera likes to caution those that cover his team: “Don’t make what’s interesting, important.”
For 2022, I’ll continue to report on what’s interesting and important with the Orioles, and perhaps there will be a few more wins to tell you about.