Last-place O’s need to address failures
BALTIMORE – Last place.
Let’s hear the baseless excuses. Let’s hear the pleas to purchase season tickets.
For once, let’s hear the ways the now-forlorn Baltimore Orioles are going to become viable again.
Losers of 19 of their last 23 games, the Orioles had virtually no reliable bodies on their talent-barren bench.
Many of the starters got tired. When their bats slowed and their hits were left in batting practice, there was no player to replace them with more than another 0-for-4 night at the plate.
Joey Rickart, Seth Smith, Caleb Joseph, Ryan Flaherty, Austin Hayes, oft-injured J.J. Hardy and Craig Gentry are not capable major league hitters. So when Adam Jones or Jonathan Schoop needs a rest there is no replacement available.
With one of the worst starting pitching rotations in all of major league baseball, the Orioles were a team without any room for error.
In all likelihood the team will be without Wade Miley, Ubaldo Jimenez and Jeremy Hellickson as three-fifths of their rotation next season. Chris Tillman, a one-game winner with a 7.84 ERA, won’t re-emerge as a worthwhile starter.
Is there any reliable starter coming from Norfolk or Bowie and the arid Baltimore minor league system? Probably not.
This winter’s list of free agent starters of much worth is very short. Jake Arrieta, once cast aside by the Orioles, won’t be returning from the Cubs. Yu Darvish will be two years removed from Tommy John surgery and will be chased by plenty of suitors. Alex Cobb is 30 and is a viable option. Francisco Liriano is 34 and beyond his most productive years.
It’s troublesome to think the team will try to force Gabriel Ynoa, Miguel Castro or Jimmy Yacabonis into the five-man starting rotation.
A last place finish would be Baltimore’s if that happens.
Will Dan Duquette trade Zack Britton or Manny Machado, who will be a free agent after next season?
Are either (or both) Mark Trumbo or Chris Davis finished as capable hitters? Trumbo batted only .234 with 23 homers and 65 RBIs, a huge drop-off from what he accomplished in 2016. Davis batted a puny .215 and had 26 homers and just 61 RBI. He struck out 195 times and missed time with nagging injuries.
The brightest development was Trey Mancini, who batted. 293 with 24 homers and 78 RBIs in his rookie season. Schoop was an All-Star with his 32 homers and 105 RBIs. Welington Castillo and Tim Beckham did well, and after a poor start, Machado finished with 33 homers and 95 RBIs.
But there was no rest for the weary with a bench with no punch or run production.
Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman can be serviceable starters, but neither is going to win more than 16 games and both usually need relief after six innings.
The often reliable bullpen took a giant leap backwards. Brad Brach, Darren O’Day and even Britton didn’t replicate their previous seasons when they could be trusted to be supermen.
There are a small group of relievers coming to the free agent market this winter.
Wade Davis from Kansas City, 30-year-old Craig Kimbrel, and 33-year-old Brandon Kintzler are by far the best of the relievers. Kimbrel has a club option and may not be available.
Just tweaking the Baltimore roster won’t be enough.
Hoping for meteoric improvement from either Trumbo or Davis is a pipe dream. Believing your farm system has anything of much value is asking for more trouble in the form of a fourth- or fifth-place finish in the division.
The best of the non-pitcher free agents are Eric Hosmer, Logan Morrison, Eduardo Nunez, Mike Moustakas, J.D.Martinez, Andrew McCutchen and Yonder Alonzo. How many will seriously consider Baltimore?
If the team doesn’t bring in some players (almost anybody would be an improvement over the current situation) to upgrade its bench, then the Baltimore Orioles will once again fade like the lazy, hazy days of summer do when mid-August is reached. Another 7-20 record in September could be seen again in 2017.
Get your season tickets. Mini-plans anyone? Last place was just an aberration.