The Orioles are really hot right now. No, they aren’t pitching well, aren’t hitting well, and aren’t fielding well. Yet they are hot … but so are all of us who live around Baltimore right now in this heat wave!
So how to fix what is wrong with the Birds these days? That is not an easy answer. It seems to me like playing that arcade game “whack-a-mole.” It is that game with a rubber mallet where you attempt to “whack” the moles that randomly pop up through a number of openings. As soon as you smack one, up jumps another. And that is how it has been for the Orioles. When the pitching has been good, the hitting has often struggled. And just about the time the batters start to come around, the pitching falls over the cliff. And the defense has been pretty consistently awful.
So where should the management begin? Well, I’m sure the coaches and entire organization are seeking to constantly address all the issues with individual players – toward a final result that the cumulative effort will produce better excellence and more victories.
Duquette has made a move to enhance the offensive punch by the addition of Jim Thome. At first glance, this seems to me to be a positive move – as Thome also brings a huge veteran presence in the locker room along with what he can do at the plate. Beyond this and the current good performance of Betemit, one would have to believe that some of these hitters are going to come around soon.
In terms of the pitching, Hunter and Matusz certainly had to go down to AAA and work on some things. I can’t explain why Matusz had some “lights out” games not terribly long ago, but suddenly again has no fast ball to speak of. He is an enigma. When he comes out of the game, it looks like he’s on the verge of tears … and if he’s not, I am!! I certainly wish him well and hope he can figure it out, but if he were a stock on the NY Exchange, I wouldn’t invest in him.
Remember that psychologist the team used in Spring Training? Maybe the Orioles need to get him back! Or if he’s been there all along, they need to fire the dude and get a better one!
OK… back to baseball… On the issue of what to fix first… Rick Dempsey said he believes the team should focus on fixing the porous defense as its priority effort. That is intriguing that he would say that, and I understand where he is coming from. But still, we keep hearing about how the Orioles are the second worst hitting team since June 1st (after the Dodgers!), so it does not seem that this element of the game can be minimized in any way.
Here is my view. I do not believe the revolving doors of interchangeable pieces are serving the Orioles well right now. Much of this problem has been thrust upon the Orioles due to the abundance of injuries and the ripple effects thereby created. It would seem like there is strength in having such a number of players who are able to cover a variety of positions. I said “able to cover.” That does not mean they are excelling at any of those positions.
For example, the other night there was a situation where the Orioles had an opportunity to double an opponent off 1st base and end an inning. But Betemit was “fishing” for the base with his foot, and the opportunity was lost. I believe three runs scored after that incident. Enough errors have shown up in the box score to have the Orioles leading the league in such; but the problem is just as severe with “errors” that don’t get officially recorded – allowing extra bases, not hitting cut-off men, being out of position, miscommunications between outfielders unfamiliar with playing together, etc.
What I am saying is that the Orioles would be served well by settling the line-up a good bit more … for example, putting Betemit at 3rd base for the foreseeable future and keeping his away from 1st base. Of course, getting Markakis back will help this entire scenario. And a regular place must be found for Chris Davis – his upside potential has to be maximized. All of this probably puts Reynolds in the “left out” category – oh well – he is not going to be back next year given the terms of the contract.
But again, settle on a more regular line-up in the field and even at the plate. All of these varied line-ups that are so different every night … they are interesting, but in my view are not serving the team well at this juncture. Better to do a few things well than many things mediocre.