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June 22, 2011

It's getting ugly fast for Orioles

I'm sure that everyone is going to focus on second baseman Blake Davis' error in his Major League debut, which brought home both the game-tying and go-ahead runs off Zach Britton in the fifth inning today.

And I guess I understand that. That play has to be made by a professional baseball player. But my game story off of the Orioles' 5-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates is focused on how Davis' gaffe shouldn't obscure what is going on with these Orioles.

Their starting pitching is inconsistent, they can only count on about three relievers in key spots, their offense comes up especially small in key spots, the defense is below average at best and abysmal at worst, and they are so void of quality depth that Blake Davis was asked to make his Major League debut at a position that he hadn't played all season.

In fact, Davis has started only 19 games at second base over six minor league seasons spanning 493 games. All of those starts came last year.

“I misread it,” said Davis, speaking about Josh Harrison's groundball which bounced through his legs, allowing the two runs to score. “I thought it was going to skip up and bounce up a little bit higher and it stayed down on me. I need to make that play. I feel terrible.”

The Orioles had chances to take Davis off the hook, but they went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven baserunners. They stranded 26 baserunners in the three-game series, and went 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position over the final two games.

They also didn't exactly get great starting pitching against a Pirates' offense that the Orioles three best pitchers right now should have handled: Britton, Jeremy Guthrie and Jake Arrieta combined to allow 14 runs (11 earned) on 21 hits and six walks over 17 1/3 innings.

"I definitely feel like it was a missed opportunity,” said Britton who allowed five runs (three earned) over six innings in absorbing his fifth loss. “With the division that we're in, we want to be able to compete and we have to come out and take two of three from these teams. They've been playing really well, but we've been hitting well enough and pitching well enough to beat these teams."

The scary part is this: The Orioles went just 3-6 on this road trip while playing the Pirates, Washington Nationals and Toronto Blue Jays. All three of those teams were under .500 at the start of action today.

The part of their schedule that was supposed to be forgiving is now over. The Orioles play their next seven series, or 23 consecutive games, against teams with winning records. That includes 14 straight contests from July 4 to the 20th against the three teams – the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians - currently leading their respective divisions in the American League.

"If you dwell on it between here and the plane, you can't live in that world,” said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. “I can come back on some games that didn't look like they presented a good option for us, but we ended up winning those games. We won one game in each city that we went into and we'll try to learn from it. If you stay in that woe is me mentality, nobody feels sorry for you. You've got to pick yourself up. We had some good things happen on this trip. We swung the bats well. Some guys are giving us a chance. We're fighting through some health things."

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 6:22 PM | | Comments (19)


I feel sorry for Davis. However this is simply another example of the Orioles finding a way to lose. Some teams find ways to win. 54 years an Orioles fan and it saddens me how far they have fallen .They have trouble beating anybody. Throw in another injury or two which are inevitable and the train wreck gets worse.

The defense isn't so bad, with the exception of third base, second base, and left field (depending on who is playing). We're still strong up the middle.

I think the worst problem is the lack of organizational depth.


Very well put. There is no way to put a happy face on what is going on with this team. Ultimately, someone must be held accountable for what will probably turn into another route by August 1. Seasons are won and lost in the offseason. Andy has had four of them and he simply has not gotten the job done. Showalter is a good soldier and shows great character by not throwing his players under the bus.

How many more years can the organization possibly go, basically adrift, with no real core values, no cogent strategy, and a lack of an all out committment to changing the paradigm?

The team will likely be about 20 games out on August 1. How is "Grow the Arms and buy the Bats" working out for you, Andy?

I still don't understand why Davis was even in this situation. I would have really liked to see Adams platoon with Andino and really get a chance to play. In a platoon, he would have gotten enough at bats that there would have been no disruption to his development, and he is close to being ready.

Blah, blah, blah. The Orioles lose another game. Blah, blah, blah. An Oriole commits an error in a key situation. Blah, blah, blah. The Orioles leave 30 runners in scoring position for the series. Blah, blah, blah. An Oriole injures himself by being stupid and diving headfirst into 1`st base. How does this end? The Baltimore Orioles have a better record then last year at the same time, but they had no where else to go but up. The stories are old, the players are sub par and the management bewildered. I`m about ready to throw in the towel to save everyone a bit of embarassment. Thank God the football strike is almost over.

O's fans and media alike are missing the big picture. Analyze all you want: a missed play here, a missed hit there. That's small time stuff. Let's analyze the two elephants in the room: Angelos and MacPhail. The players are doing the best they can with the little talent God has given them. You put garbage in, you get garbage out. Why is everyone disappointed with the results? Did you expect anything different? Well ... wake up and smell reality. It's time to call out those making the shots. How come Angelos and MacPhail are not being called out by any media outlets in Baltimore?

Jeff - When do we as fans stop believing the spring "hype" regarding a .500 record for 2011?

It looks like the only thing an Oriole fan can look forward to is to discover if this team win at least one more game than the 2010 Orioles.

Will they?

Jeff Z's reply: Unfortunately Steve, that's your choice whether you want to believe the hype or not. I'm not big on 'I told you so's' but I said all along that an awful lot of things had to go right for this team to be a ,500 club. I predicted between 72 and 75 wins.

Gil I'd "love" to see how much better you could have turned it around in only 4 years

Let's see Colin,we've lost for 13 years,soon to be 14.We've gotten very high draft picks each of those years.Where are they now?How many of those 1st round picks are starting at the major league level after 13 years?Who is the last everyday player we have developed besides Weiters?Nick is choked up on the bat about 2 inches,no wonder he can't hit for any power.BRob is hurt and may be done for the year,who knows?Matusz is very fragile and has lost both velocity and location.Britton and Arietta have been servicable,but not earth shattering or consistent.Who had Jakabouskas in their rotation at the beginning of the year.Our most consistent starter is a Rule 5 pickup from the Indians who gets no run support,and no defensive help.Meanwhile the Nationals are a .500 team with a lot of young talent,both offensively and defensively,and pitching as well,even though Zimmerman has been out for 59 games and Strasburgh may or may not even pitch this year.And Jayson Werth,their megamillion dollar man,is batting .234 with only 24 RBI's.Yet they have won 10 out of the last 11 games.When have the O's had a streak like that in meaningful games say anytime after Memorial Day?Enough saide.McPhail said before last years season,that 2010 would be about results,and we know what happened there.2011 isn't looking much better.Buy the bats doesn't mean Mark Reynolds,Vlad Guerrero,and D.Lee,all players nobody else wanted.His plan to do everything on the cheap will never pay off.Enough said.

Colin- 'only four years'?
Have seen how quickly Tampa turned it around under new ownership? Or the Red Sox when John Henry bought the team? This franchise is a train wreck.

Read this...


Germany recovered in less than four years after being depleted in WWII. Are you suggesting that a baseball team cannot be rebuilt in four years? A little reality check for you: The Marlins won 2 world series from 97-03 while gutting and rebuilding the team twice in the process. How many years would you say it takes to rebuild? Heck, let me throw you a batting practice fastball: How many years before they can be a .500 team? I'd love to see how many decades it would take you to rebuild a team.

Another measuring stick for a bad ball club were the Pirates. So guess what, now we're worse than the Pirates. They pitched and hit better for two out of three...worse part, Hurdle is considered a so/so manager and Buck the "better" one and we made them a .500 ball club again while we go south. Any club can win ball games here and there...what seperates the good clubs from bad is a winning attitude, and apparently Clint Hurdle speaks the right language to his players. I know Buck is better, I just want to know when the players on this team will start to play real baseball and stop the incessant underachieving...thats what bothers me. If just plain losing bothered me I would have stopped driving 6 hours round trip a long time ago and started rooting for the Mets. (NOT yankees)

The O's have one key problem - the scouting and player development department. it needs to be gutted. We need to steal proven scouts from other teams and once they are in place then we need to trade our best pieces, Markakis, Wieters, Jones, Guthrie for two or three can't-miss prospects apiece. 12 for four would be ideal. We won't get real value for anyone else except these four. Signing players in the off season that no one else wants is never going to work. And in our present condition as one of the worst teams in baseball for the last 14 years, no valuable free agent will ever come here. We either bite the bullet or continue to wallow in last place.

The one consistent since Pat Gillick left is Peter Angelos. He IS the problem


As you wrote elsewhere: "Give credit to Britton (6-5), a 23-year-old who regularly holds himself accountable and always seems to have a firm grip on reality, for acknowledging what has become painfully obvious."

Even more than Britton's ability, i love his attitude. His nickname should be Bulldog Britton. He is the grittiest gamer on a team that has so much complaceny. However, i don't know how many yrs that wonderful gritty gamer attitude can last with so much losing & so much organizational mediocrity.

Here's to Bulldog Britton. We'd be better off if more of the O's players had his attitude.

Jeff Z's reply: Couldn't agree more. Britton and Jones are two guys that absolutely despise losing. Good qualities to have.

Thanks Jeff,

As a follow-up to being a gritty gamer, i detest a seeming prevalent attitude in baseball on getting by on skills alone.

Before the hiring of Buck (and i like Buck), i advocated the hiring of Kirk Gibson. As a young player Gibson had immense physical talent. As a WR at Mich St, some thought enough to play in the NFL. As a young baseball player, some thought enough power & speed to be compared to a young Mickey Mantle.

However, injuries robbed Kirk of a lot of his natural talent. But he became a gamer who gritted it out & he still had some success.

It's nice to see the success that Dirty Kirk is having with the D'backs this yr. He's one of the best examples of a guy who didn't rely on "skill" or talent alone or rather what happens when they're unfortunately diminished.


Unfortunately, i agree with you. An organization with as little positional talent, throughout the org, as the O's have can't afford to have sentimental favorites.

Imagine if the money that was spent on Hobgood, Atkins, Gonzo, Duchscherer, etc, etc was spent on spread around luring successful scouting & development people from successful organizations.

Oriole pitching will be fine. Remember, Arietta has nine wins. My biggest concern with young pitchers is that they will break down.

As was stated before, this organization's development has crashed and burned. Who can name a top notch position player since Cal Ripken? We ought to be able to get our share of the occasional stars that come along, but beside that look at Yanks and Red Sox. They buy a lot of talent, but they also find the Jeters, Canos, Youkilis's along the way. Why can't the O's?

Here is my theory.

Baseball players come at a dime a dozen, especially the ones from Latin America.

What you need to do to win is take a business like approach. What do companies like Google and Microsoft do that makes them successful and gives them an edge over competitors? Well ... many different things ... but one of them is snatching talent from their competitors.

I'm not talking about players. I'm talking about coaches and scouts. Take the Tampa Bay Rays for example. For them to be successful as they are, with nobodies, they've got to have an exceptional scouting dept, and a very adept minor league level coaching and managing.

Get the picture? Target these people, and make them come to the Oriole organization. They are the cheapest investment when compared to player investment, and they will give you better results with lesser players, consistently.

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

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