A division title and collective pie for Baltimore Orioles and fans
By Steve Katz
Baltimore Orioles players celebrate after clinching the AL East title against the Toronto Blue Jays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards Tuesday night. The Orioles defeated the Jays, 8-2. Photo: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
And so, stage one is over. The Baltimore Orioles are the 2014 American League Eastern Division champions, capping off a dream season from which I hope I don’t wake up for a while, and a sentence I still can’t believe I typed. What a great game last night’s clincher was to attend. Let that champagne flow.
As I write this, I’m on my second viewing of the game replay and camera-wobbling postgame party, including Steve Pearce‘s children running on the field and Adam Jones putting pies in the faces of only too happy fans.
Most of Baltimore couldn’t be blamed for being doubtful Ubaldo Jimenez could get the job done, and thinking the Orioles would need to win tonight to seal the deal. But Jiminez survived some par-for-the-course, early trouble and retired 10 straight, giving up only two runs until coming out after the 5th inning. I was one of the doubters, almost stunned to see the smooth sailing. When Alejandro De Aza tripled with the bases loaded in the 7th – notwithstanding the frightening moment when Nick Markakis was hit by a pitch – I knew it was over.
I chuckled to realize Markakis won’t have to miss this postseason, as he did two years ago, when a Yankee pitcher who shall not be mentioned broke his thumb.
It would take a palm reader to be able to say the Orioles would have lost Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, and recently Chris Davis, and turned the division into a runaway without all three. Last night marked the team’s fifth win in six games without Davis, and in terms of winning percentage, they played very nearly as well without Machado as with.
Addressing the Davis controversy momentarily, questions abound that may never have answers. Of course, what did he know, when did he know it, and whom did he tell? For all we know, he had told Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette, and both decided it was unnecessary to make it public, but this is pure guesswork, and I will not fill this blog with uneducated conjecture. My other question is simply whether Davis was using Adderall when he was slumping, or when he was hitting pretty well – although he really wasn’t hitting well most of the season.
Did it, in other words, actually cause him to perform well, or poorly? We can probably never know for sure. In pure baseball terms, I can’t help wondering if his loss is, in truth, a net gain in team performance, because someone who can get more hits will fill his spot in the lineup. I’ll go out on a limb and say there are people who would agree. The ticklish aspect is that, with his suspension ending in time for the World Series, if the Orioles win the pennant, who gets bumped from a roster spot so that Davis can be reinstated?
Today, the team recalled Norfolk first baseman Christian Walker, so it might be him.
A more forgiving light falls on Davis with the knowledge that he took an active part in aiding a traffic accident victim on I-295 Tuesday, helping to roll a truck back up onto its wheels.
There will always tend to be people at both ends of the emotional spectrum in the Davis saga
There will always tend to be people at both ends of the emotional spectrum in this saga. But why a player would take a knowing risk of being caught and missing the playoffs is dumbfounding to me. It has come out in the past week that he couldn’t focus in the batter’s box without it, and I sympathize to a degree, with the responsibilities of fatherhood being added to his plate this season. One hopes for full mental and physical health, for his sake.
At any rate, starting tonight, we should start seeing the David Loughs and Quintin Berrys of the world get on the field on a more regular basis as Jones, Markakis and Pearce, in addition to other regulars. start healing their bodies for the playoffs. It will be interesting to see Berry, a high school teammate of Jones’, play some ball rather than just pinch-run. Seeing what Walker can do with the opportunity to play first in the Majors also has intrigue.
Officially, the Orioles stand 91-60 after clinching, with leads of 13 1/2 over the Blue Jays, and 14 1/2 over the Yankees. They went from 6 1/2 games behind Toronto and a game over .500 on June 6 to the lead they now have, a 20-game pickup and 61-31 stretch, in a little over 90 days. Would things have been different if Masahiro Tanaka had stayed healthy for New York, or Edwin Encarnacion for the Jays? Not all that much, I daresay. Both teams lacked the cohesiveness, pitching and leadership of the Orioles.
It was nice to learn today, in Roch Kubatko’s MASNSports.com blog, that the team was motivated by the memory of the late PR Director Monica Barlow, whose husband was part and parcel to the celebration.