A song to play while you’re reading about the Orioles: “Baltimore,” by Randy Newman. I was tempted to use Nina Simone’s version, but Randy’s is just so good. Newman is a dark comedy genius, however, this song depicts a dying city in the late 1970s and is missing the comedic lyrics you hear in some of his other work. There is a deep uneasiness and sense of despair that permeates throughout the song. Deindustrialization crippled the city, and the song is a reflection of the economy and neighborhoods struggling to survive.
I’ve kept a journal since 1996. I am not as consistent as I’d like to be with it, but it does help me remember details that I would otherwise forget. I know that on February 11, 1997, I was in the 5th grade and wanted to be a private detective/spy because of Harriet the Spy. I dropped my tuna sandwich on the floor in our cafeteria. Barrett Wallace said “condom” instead of “condominium” and our student teacher, Ms. Trivaletus, did not think it was as funny as a gaggle of 11-year-old boys did. Had it not been for an old journal, I wouldn’t remember that I had a tuna sandwich that day, or that all of that occurred on a Tuesday in February when I was 11. One common theme throughout all of the journals is that I have always been a baseball fan. (Also, in 1996 I was apparently really into my Yomega Fireball.)
Last year, perhaps by luck or some twisted form of fate, I decided to journal about Manny Machado’s last season as an Oriole. I was hoping it would go one way, had suspected that it would go a different direction, and really wanted Adam Jones to sign an extension. Not because it would make on the field sense, but because he was good for the city of Baltimore, and the world could use more Adam Joneses. Here are some random entries from a journal that got real dark pretty damn quick.
March 29, 2018 – Orioles 3, Twins 2; 1-0
“The Orioles opened the year at home against the Twins. They beat the Twins 3 to 2. This is a really good start to the year! Bundy looked awesome and I have this weird feeling that this is finally going to be his breakout year. Bleier got the win, and I don’t understand how he does what he does. But he does it. Caleb Joseph is on pace for 162 triples. I want to be optimistic about this season, so this is a great start! Maybe this won’t be such a bad season?”
April 4, 2018 – Orioles 2, Astros 3; 1-5
“Ooof. So…yeah. The Orioles are not doing well. This was their fifth loss in a row. Chris Davis doesn’t even look like he knows what the baseball is. Caleb Joseph isn’t even on pace for 162 triples! What the hell? Bundy looked good again, so there’s that. He’s striking people out and his slow slider is moving and making guys look foolish. His fastball looks like it is going to get crushed though.”
April 26, 2018 – Orioles 5, Rays 9; 6-19 Woof
“Bundy did not look good tonight. Something tells me that the Orioles will only have been over .500 after their first damn game of the season. The only bright spot right now is Machado, who is hitting very well but playing meh defense, Bundy who is striking guys out but just looks like he will lose it any day, and Bleier, who I don’t understand how he does what he does. But he is probably my favorite pitcher on this team. He is a fun dude that should suck but doesn’t. It’s only April, but 6 and 19 is not a record you can come back from. Oh, so Shohei Ohtani is legit, btw. He homered in three straight earlier this month and is probably (definitely) the Angels’ best starter. This season is not looking good.”
June 13, 2018 – Orioles 1, Red Sox 5; 19-48
“Welp. The good news is that I am alive. I have my health. My dog is cool. My cats are chilling. The snow is all gone and it’s finally warm. I can take my paddleboard out on Lake Ontario. The bad news, holy crap the Orioles are bad. At this point I want them to lose the rest of their games and break every negative record they can. Be like America and only lead the world in negative statistics, you know? It’s honestly getting difficult to watch all of this. This was the 48th loss that I’ve watched this year. I was hoping they wouldn’t get to this point until August. They’ve only won 19 games. Oh, and I’m pretty sure Bleier got hurt tonight. Looked like an arm thing, so this season can go to hell.”
July 15, 2018 – Orioles 6, Rangers 5; 28-69 (I can’t believe this is right)
“Pretty sure this was Machado’s last night as an Oriole. He hit a homer, his 24th of the year, then was removed. The Dodgers and Phillies could use him, but so could a handful of other teams. The Braves make sense to me, but there’s no way they do it. Anyway, Chris Davis is not playing well. I haven’t looked into yet, but I am pretty sure he has got to be having a historically awful season. I’m glad he got paid when he did. He gave Baltimore some awesome years. Oh, I learned today that there are 13 different species of otters and 12 of them are decreasing because the world is a cold dark place that deprives even the best of us of happiness and love.”
August 14, 2018 – Orioles 6, Mets 3; 36-84
“The Orioles just played their 120th game of the season, and if they win tomorrow I’m pretty sure this will only have been the second series win all year. Villar actually looks exciting for them. But what the hell do I know at this point? I got excited the other day when they only lost by 7 runs. I’m on vacation and chose to watch the Orioles. At this point I just want to see how many games they can lose. When they win it just messes with my heart. Why did I do this? I’ve learned nothing from any of this. Baseball breaks your heart.”
September 18, 2018 – Orioles 4, Blue Jays 6; 43-108
“Did you know that otters use their poop to communicate with other otters?”
September 30, 2018 – Orioles 4, Astros 0; 47-115
“What the hell was that? The Astros only got 1 hit? Why do I watch baseball? What’s the point in any of this? Ugh. It’s funny that I started this whole stupid thing as a way for me to remember Machado and Jones’ last season with the Orioles. I think at some point I enjoyed watching this game. Maybe I enjoyed parts of it at least. I thought that I was just a general fan of the sport or life in general. But it all just sucks. There’s no point to it.”
2018 was a tough year for Orioles fans. While the next few years will not include many wins, the team is hopefully maybe perhaps on the right track. One thing is for certain, I do not plan on journaling the 2019 season.
Win total prediction: 51
What is the Orioles’ most recent accomplishment?
I sat listening to singer Phoebe Bridgers for a solid 15 minutes while trying to think of a recent Orioles accomplishment. Adam Jones had just signed with the Diamondbacks, officially ending any chance of a reunion with the O’s, and signaling a true end to a pretty fun era. The struggle to find anything positive or any accomplishment at all was daunting. So, to cheer myself up I opened Twitter. Luckily, I saw a report about bullpen cameras and I realized that their most recent accomplishment took place over the offseason and likely immediately made a positive impact. Their biggest accomplishment of the past year is hiring Mike Elias and, subsequently, Sig Mejdal. Whether it is the Edgertronic cameras that are now lining their bullpen, or their Minor League pitching coordinator, Chris Holt, holding mandatory spin axis seminars on the back fields, this is a team that is finally on the analytics train. Zack Britton offered this little nugget into his experience with analytics to David Laurila of Fangraphs: “It’s (targeted) to each individual player. I don’t want to get into specifics, but some of it is how my ball moves, both my sinker and my slider, compared to different hitters’ swings. It kind of opens your eyes to things you maybe didn’t think of when you didn’t have that information.” Since this quote, the Orioles have increased the size of their analytics department fivefold. Mejdal received 700 resumes for two analyst positions and 500 for developer roles with the organization. While it’s not signing Bryce Harper or former Oriole Manny Machado, I’d say this is a pretty huge accomplishment.
How will the Orioles define success in 2019?
If the Orioles can get three months of good pitching from one or two of Cashner, Cobb, and Bundy, they will have some trade candidates. Otherwise, the season will only be a success if the likes of Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, Ryan Mountcastle, DL Hall, Yusniel Diaz, Dean Kremer, Ryan McKenna, Keegan Akin, all show positive growth during the season.
The Orioles’ most Effectively Wild player: Richard Bleier
Quick, name the pitcher with the best ERA+ minimum 100 innings pitched? If you guessed Richard Bleier you’d be correct. By this measure, he had the best start to a pitching career of all time. Bleier has tossed 119 innings in the majors in 111 relief appearances. Here is his stat line:
I love this guy! He struck out a whopping 3.7 per 9 in 2017 across 63 innings! Bleier gets ground balls, gets out of jams, and stops rallies. Richard Bleier is good, and if the baseball gods want this Orioles fan to have anything good this season, he will continue to be good. I cannot think of any pitcher that is more Effectively Wild(ier) than this guy.
2019 giveaway worth the price of admission
The 2019 Orioles are going to have to give fans a lot of reasons to come to the park. Most of those reasons won’t be to see the team win or to see great players. With Schoop, Machado, and Jones all gone, there are not a lot of options for bobblehead giveaways. One of the better promotions this upcoming season is a baseball movie night at OPACY. The May 11 game against the Angels will be followed with a showing of A League Of Their Own. The first 20,000 fans 15 and over will receive a “There’s No Crying in Baseball” t-shirt, and there will be ticket packages that will allow fans to watch the movie from the field. Oh, you can also pick yourself up a Rockford Peaches hat at the game.
…and finally, a haiku for 2019
Bye bye Adam Jones Next post: Season Preview Series 2019: Tampa Bay Rays
I softly weep in my chair
Perhaps not so soft
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