Plenty for Oriole fans to be thankful for - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Plenty for Oriole fans to be thankful for

Photo Credit: Gregory Fisher USA TODAY Sports

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What a year for Oriole fans to be thankful. There were so many years when fans had little to celebrate that it seems almost unfair to have so much this year.

The celebrations continued this month during awards season. Gunnar Henderson was the first Oriole to unanimously win the American League Rookie of the Year award. Henderson broke a 27-year drought, longest in the American League, by becoming the first Orioles rookie to win the award since Gregg Olson in 1989.

He also won two others from The Sporting News and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association.

Henderson also won a Silver Slugger for best utility player in the American League.

Adley Rutschman was the Silver Slugger for best catcher, and while Rutschman, Ryan Mountcastle and Austin Hays were all finalists for Gold Glove awards, none came away with a win.

Brandon Hyde won an unusually lopsided American League Manager of the Year award, getting 27 of 30 first-place votes. No one in 15 years, since his mentor, Joe Maddon, had gotten that many votes.

Hyde also picked up The Sporting News’ Manager of the Year award.

Mike Elias was named Executive of the Year by Major League Baseball and by The Sporting News.

That’s a lot of awards to be thankful for.

While no Oriole pitcher has won a Cy Young award since 25-game winner Steve Stone in 1980, Kyle Bradish is the first Oriole starter to get votes since Mike Mussina in 1999. Closer Félix Bautista got some votes, too.

Cal Ripken Jr. was the last Oriole to win the Most Valuable Player award in 1991. This year, Henderson (8th) and Rutschman (9th) were the first pair of Orioles to finish in the top 10 since Chris Davis and Manny Machado in 2013.

Bautista could win the Mariano Rivera Reliever of the Year award next week despite missing the last five weeks of the season with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery.

Despite that, it was a wonderful season for Bautista. Fans thrilled to his heroics and his inspiring entrance video.

There was more to be thankful for. Despite a late-season slump, centerfielder Cedric Mullins came back from two long stints on the injured list and got to play in his first postseason. So did Hays, Mountcastle and Anthony Santander.

They’re all thankful they made it through the long rebuild to experience the playoffs.

Even though the Orioles faltered in the playoffs, it was great to see Camden Yards packed again with attendance at its highest level since 2017. Fans were thankful to see a fun brand of baseball.

Some of those on the 2023 Orioles won’t be back, and they should be thanked.

Kyle Gibson, who signed on Tuesday with the St. Louis Cardinals, led the staff in wins and innings pitched, mentoring the young staff on the way.

Adam Frazier provided surprising power and solid defensive play at second base. Aaron Hicks, a surprise May signing when Mullins went on the injured list, stayed with the club for the rest of the season, providing steady play in the outfield and postseason experience in the clubhouse.

James McCann will be back next season. His veteran leadership behind the plate helped Rutschman and the young pitchers, and he has twin 5-year-old boys who show unusual coordination for their age.

Dean Kremer pitched in the postseason despite worrying about his family in Israel. He solidified his place among the starters.

Grayson Rodriguez finally made his major league debut nearly five years after he was drafted and had a memorable second half. His buddy, DL Hall, drafted the year before Rodriguez, got the opportunity to pitch in key relief spots down the stretch and was stellar in the playoffs.

Tyler Wells was a standout pitcher in the first half, and the Orioles are thankful for that. Their holiday wish is two halves like the first.

Yennier Cano was a happy surprise, making the American League All-Star team as an unknown reliever,and putting himself in the mix to step in for Bautista as the closer next season.

Jordan Westburg got his first shot at the major leagues, played well in the infield and contributed some key hits.

Other highlights included Ryan O’Hearn, a bargain pickup who provided surprising power and substituted for Mountcastle at first, and Danny Coulombe, who had bounced around the big leagues for eight years but contributed left-handed help in the bullpen.

Mike Baumann was converted to a reliever late in spring training and spent most of the season with the club, winning his first 10 decisions.

Sadly, John Means didn’t get to pitch in the postseason. His left elbow was sore and he sat out the Division Series. After missing nearly all of 2022 and 2023 after Tommy John surgery, Means won his first game since September 2021 in Cleveland, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning. He was worth waiting for.

Every clubhouse needs a character and reserve outfielder Ryan McKenna, whose dropped fly in the second game of the season led to a loss and turned many fans against him, showed why he’s a favorite with his stand-up explanation of his error and steady play whenever called on.

Fortunately, the Orioles decided to sign him to a 2024 contract last week.

So many others contributed to the 101-win season, and thankful Oriole fans hope that the fun is just getting started.

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