For those of you who would debate whether the Baltimore Orioles’ first half MVP should be Manny Machado or Chris Davis, we won’t argue your choice. It’s a virtual tie, and the question of which one the team can’t afford to lose is also a tie. One of the keys to the second half is that neither should have a serious drop-off.
But let’s also address the honor of Oriole from whom the most improvement is necessary. Jason Hammel is in that conversation, along with Matt Wieters from an offensive standpoint. The position that has fallen the most noticeably short of expectations is Designated Hitter, which was divided between Ryan Flaherty, Alexi Casilla, Chris Dickerson, and just recently, Nolan Reimold and Brian Roberts, just since their return from the DL.
I have this little theory on the failure of the DHs. When you alternate different people in that slot, no one of them ever gets into a rhythm or a routine. In performing the DH role, even if you’re the full-time guy, you don’t get to play the field and forget your last at-bat. You just get to sit there and dwell on it, or if you got a hit, what you did says fresh in your mind to the point of repeating it. If you’re not the regular DH, you don’t even get to do that, even if it was good. You just have to go up there almost cold and try to make something happen.
All the best DHs in history, Harold Baines and Edgar Martinez, and whoever else you want to name who was consistently good, were their team’s main DH. Buck’s love affair with DHs who can also play the field works sometimes, but the constant alternation, while there have been highlights, often works to a disadvantage.
You may say it is a circular argument, because if a DH candidate could hit, he would play more regularly. But if it’s circular to say the great ones played more because they could hit, it’s also true they were made DHs because they were fine hitters in their careers, before age and injuries caught up and diminished them defensively (as is the case with David Ortiz right now). In other words, something – the fact that hitting has been their track record – must have qualified them for the job description stating: Your one and only responsibility is to hit. When you look at the O’s conglomeration of DHs, is great hitting in any of their backgrounds other than Brian Roberts?
Is Henry Urrutia the answer to any or all of this? To quote the classic cop-out of all the experts, only time will tell. It was reported today that Urrutia and Danny Valencia are being recalled and would join the team in Arlington, Texas, this weekend. Urrutia will be placed on what is called the 24-hour taxi squad, and his contract, according to reports, may be purchased from Norfolk after he is evaluated.
It did not take an expert, though, to see the roles played by Oriole representatives in the All Star Game. Adam Jones‘ double and run scored, J.J. Hardy‘s fielder’s choice RBI, Chris Davis’ hit moving Prince Fielder to third, and Manny Machado’s sparkling, defensive play.
The torn callus on Davis’ right hand didn’t seem to hinder him, and it would behoove that wound to heal by Friday, when the Orioles begin the second half against the Texas Rangers. To catch Roger Maris‘ mark of 61 home runs in the 66 remaining games, Davis, sitting at 37, would have to hit one approximately every 2-3 games. It is a given that he will hit a lull somewhere along the line.
Gentlemen, restart your engines.