The Present And Future Of Hyun-Soo Kim

It’s kind of ironic because before the game broadcast today (5/14), Trey Mancini sat down cross-legged on the warning track behind home plate and was interviewed by a cute little girl with a ponytail. It was an interview that thorough to the point, executed by an up-and-coming professional who asked all the hard and very important questions.

“Who is your best friend on the team?”

I mean, talk about hard-hitting. You want to watch your mouth because the last thing you want to do is send any emotional ripples through the clubhouse, right? Mancini, being the young, naïve sociably-pliable guy that he is, did his job admirably and chose his words carefully, pausing ever so briefly before announcing to the world his answer.

“Hyun-Soo Kim.”

mancini swingAnd forever into the history books goes his response. And that isn’t because it was outrageous or off-the-wall. It seems to be known that Kim is one of the most personable players in the locker room, and so it isn’t entirely unexpected that the power-hitting rookie smiles when he proclaims his admiration for his teammate. Instead, it is because Mancini and his hot bat is the obvious reason that Kim has lost playing time since the end of April.

Kim hasn’t done anything to deserve being benched as much as he has in the last few weeks. And so that is the tough part for Orioles fans to wrap their heads around. He has been a fan favorite since he proved himself worthy of getting starts, earning his worth in the eyes of Buck Showalter, about this time last year. Kim, who put himself in Buck’s dog house last season by having a terrible spring training and then demanding that he make the major league roster, despite being told he would begin the campaign in Triple-A Norfolk, has worked hard to shake that reputation. However, now that Mancini has arrived and has played well in the role that Kim previously held, it seems as if Showalter has decided that he has every reason to keep Kim on the bench.

Rumor has it that Hyun-Soo could be shopped around, although the asking price cannot be that appealing. Despite his work last season, Kim is relatively unproven, having little track record against left-handed hitters. He is older than most fans in Baltimore realize, having played professional baseball in Japan since 2007. The fact is, he is no rookie, despite his status last season in the majors. His contract is up at the end of this season, leaving him to become a free agent and putting any acquiring team in a vicarious situation if they inquire about trading for him. And it doesn’t help that the team has five guys on the bench and only six in the bullpen, leaving it up to only a matter of time before changes are made to solidify the relief help.

We are at a crossroads in Baltimore. If Mancini continues to tear apart major league pitching, we could see Kim designated for assignment sooner rather than later. Orioles’ fans will protest, and rightfully so, but in a business sense, keeping him on the roster is becoming more and more of an deterrent, almost on a daily basis. The trade-off won’t be much, as the return for Hyun-Soo will be little to none, depending on whether they can even find a suitor to take him on. However, time will tell, but don’t be surprised if Kim finds himself elsewhere, whether it is Norfolk or another major league ball club, in the near future.

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Real Life: Guest Of The National Anthem Singer

When SSG. Ian Bowling was asked to sing the National Anthem at the Orioles game on May 9th against the Washington Nationals, I highly doubt I was even close to being his first choice as one of the people to accompany him onto the field. He knows a lot of people. He’s traveled far and wide. He’s a baritone in the United States Army Field Band.

Now, according to one NPR article, the baritones, in the Opera-house sense, are usually cast in a production as the bad guy or the father figure, but rarely the character who gets the woman in the end. This seems like a sad state of affairs; one cannot simply judge a man’s character or make assumptions because of his vocal range. It’s outrageous!

Thank God Ian abstains from those types of stereotypical roles and chooses to see the bigger picture. Luckily for me, Ian is dutifully fighting these clichés by dating my Fiancée’s younger sister, a position that all of us in the family could not be happier about. And that level of happiness skyrocketed when Ian told Lauren to choose someone to join her on the field with him while he sung the Star Spangled Banner and her choice was none other than yours truly.

Of course I agreed to such an undertaking and immediately set my brain loose, imagining all the ways I would be able to strike up a conversation with Adam Jones or Wayne Kirby, slip into the batting cages to take a few swings, or run a lap around Camden Yards, slapping hands with all the fans that had shown up early to see Ian’s rendition of our National Anthem. I was fully prepared to talk some confidence into Chris Davis, reprimand Bobby Dickerson that not every player is fast enough to make it home from second base, and sympathetically pat Hyun-Soo Kim on the shoulder while gently letting him know his playing time will increase eventually.

We arrived on the front steps of Camden Yards at 6:00pm, Ian wearing his Orioles’ tie and looking quite dapper, Lauren with her classic Mr. Boh “85” t-shirt, and me in my treasured authentic #23 Chris Hoiles jersey that my brother lovingly gave me for my birthday a few years back. We pushed our way through security, surrounded by official looking team staff members wearing headsets and press passes, all eyes on us as people quickly realized how important we were. Celebrity status!

Upon entering Camden Yards, we stood by the elevator for a few seconds before deciding to be health conscious and take the steps down to the field level underground tunnel that runs beneath the main concourse. When you’re on the fast track to stardom, like the three of us obviously were, sometimes it’s a humbling experience to have to walk down stairs as opposed to having the elevator take you. We reached the tunnel and signed ourselves in while the staff prepared guest passes for us. As I unsuccessfully attempted several times to adhere the sticky pass to my jersey, I came to the conclusion that this is where costs were being cut as a result of giving Chris Davis $164 million dollars. If that’s the case, I think I can live with it.

Rachael, our tour guide/lady in charge of making sure we didn’t run off into the clubhouse, showed us to the interview room where we would wait for a few minutes

lauren post game interview room

Lauren, saying all the words. You’re out! Charge! Baseball!

until the raucous crowd had filed in and our grand appearance on the field would be legitimized by a deafening roar from the stands. As Ian warmed up in the corner, Lauren and I took turns playing the role of Buck Showalter in his postgame interviews, posing at his desk in front of the MASN/Orioles backdrop. It was surreal to realize that this was the exact desk Buck has rested his hands on while calmly answering whatever questions reporters throw at him. It’s the same microphone he has probably sprayed with sunflower seed flavored saliva. The same seat he has graced with dirt, sweat, and flatulence. It was all very exciting.

 

With Ian warmed up, Rachael asked if we would prefer to wait on the field. Seeing as it was only 6:35pm, and the Anthem was not scheduled to be sung until 7:01pm (according to Rachael, usually not even until 7:03pm), we debated on whether to spend more time creepily touching all the interview room things or go onto the field to get a good look at Camden Yards from the perspective of real-life baseball players. We chose the latter.

Single file, we walked down the tunnel. We shuffled past the Ernie Tyler Umpire Room and had the door held for us by the Ball Girls, in uniform and ready to go. And then, as if we were entering the pearly gates themselves, Rachael pushed open a big green double door and the blinding open sky filled the hallway. For a few seconds, we could see nothing but bright, heavenly light. But as we stepped out of the door and under the backstop screen, the entire experience became very crystal clear. This was Camden Yards in a way we had never seen before.

It was beautiful.

The stadium seats wrapped around us, the warning track crackled beneath our shoes, and the soothing sound of Ryan Wagner, the Voice of Oriole Park At Camden Yards,

camden yards field view

The best ballpark in baseball

resonated off the atmosphere-reaching upper deck. The grounds crew was finishing up watering the dirt and Nicole McFadyen, the Head Groundskeeper, who has won so many prestigious awards over the last several years, walked right past me; I’m almost positive, under her breath, she whispered “nice man bun”. The camera crews circled like hawks, positioning themselves for the perfect shot for whatever media outlet they represented. Wayne Kirby and Roger McDowell appeared in the dugout, wandering up and down it’s long trenches, and Trey Mancini and J.J. Hardy arrived to sign autographs for the kids who were anxiously waiting to meet the future face and the defensive-minded veteran. Bryce Harper sought out prime real estate in the visitors dugout and then took the field to go harass the battery units warming up in left-center.

As I stood there, taking in the crowd and evesdropping on the conversation taking place behind me about my Chris Hoiles jersey, I noticed Adam Jones and Jonathon Schoop tossing the ball back and forth. Being an avid Orioles game attendee, I’ve noticed this manny jonesypregame ritual before, but was certain when I arrived on the field that they had already completed it and had moved on to bigger and better things, like the stash of Bazooka Bubblegum piled high in the corner of the dugout. So when they began to take steps back from one another, increasing the distance between the two of them and, in turn, causing Jonesy to get closer and closer to me, I fought off the trepidation that if he missed the ball, it would smash my skull in and probably kill me instantly, and relished the fact that here was the star center fielder for my beloved Baltimore Orioles, mere feet from me, playing catch as if this was a little league field. As he returned fire up the line to Schoop, life got even better as Manny Machado came to join Jonesy, and together they chatted, although I couldn’t hear their conversation above the thumping of my heart in my chest. Manny, who stood taller than I ever expected him to stand, laughed a little before moving on. But the damage had been done. I was hooked. This was the place for me.

A few details remained, including a photo shoot with the Orioles Bird and fixing the discovery that the microphone did not go quite high enough to comfortably reach Ian’s mouth. But there were no worries. After a suggestion of a phone book to be placed under the microphone stand, and a few interesting glances my way, the issue was brushed aside as a miniscule problem and quickly forgotten about. We had bigger fish to fry. It was just a few minutes shy of 7:01pm. The time had almost finally come.

After finding our family in the stands, placed in prime foul ball territory up the 1st base line, we turned our attention to the first pitch. Logan Verrett, who had just been called up that day to take the injured Zach Britton’s spot on the 25-man roster, pulled the duty of playing catcher. After scooping a solid throw that landed squarely in the middle of the right-handed hitters batters box, Verrett retreated to the dugout and we prepared ourselves to honor America. Ian Bowling stoically approached his microphone, sans phone book, and Ryan Wagner reminded us to remove our caps.

You know the words.

The resounding “O!” was as intense as I’ve ever experienced it. It echoed around Camden Yards, bouncing like a loose ball in basketball, off the upper tiers and the warehouse. It resonated long enough to drown out the next few words, “say does that star…”, words that Ian informed me that he had been instructed not to keep contained for a few seconds, despite knowing the reaction this part of the Anthem would get. The show must go on, it was explained, so refrain from giving time to let the “O!” dissipate before continuing. Power through.

But that didn’t stop him from holding the word “free” as he approached the end of the song. It was a drawn out, melodic, goosebump-inspiring note, finalized by a break during which much of the crowd erupted with impressed acclaim, before he dove into final line, six words, an exclamation to an arresting rendition that the fans in attendance quickly recognized. What an experience to be a part of!

Quickly after the National Anthem finished, Rachael ushered us off the field. There was a game to be played! I gave a wave to my new best friend, Adam Jones, and we made our way back down the umpires tunnel, into the interview room, and grabbed our things. The Orioles Bird followed us in with his helpers and we were given one more opportunity to get any pictures we wanted. After a very genuine thank you to everybody involved, we were on our way back up the steps (we don’t forget where we come from) and made our way to our seats.

I’d like to thank SSG. Ian Bowling for allowing me to join him. Thank you to my future Sister-In-Law, Lauren, for choosing me to share my high anxiety levels with hers. It was absolutely amazing. I never thought I’d have an opportunity to do something like this, and to be able to experience Camden Yards from the field itself was a wonderful dream come true. Thank you to the Orioles’ organization and specifically to all the people that were involved helping us make our way through the process and finally onto the field. Thank you to the Bird for being such a generous picture-poser, to Adam and Manny for allowing me to paparazzi your warm-up and conversation, to Rachael for being a kind and caring host, and to everyone that works so hard to put these productions together on a nightly basis.

Baseball is a tough job. It is relentless and unforgiving. The hours can be draining and the workload hard to bare. Much like the game itself, the production is intricate and specific, requiring the closest attention to details and organization. It’s success rides solely on the ability of every single person involved to bring their game face and do their job the right way each and every time. Thank you for allowing me to experience the payoff of just a few minutes of your hard work.

camden selfie

Camden Yards selfie

The Umpire Problem in Major League Baseball

 

This doesn’t want to be Orioles related. It struggles to be, like seaweed on the ankle of a surfer, or a spider web you didn’t happen to see when you walked through a doorway. In fact, I debated for a long time over whether or not to write about this subject, mainly because  I wasn’t sure if there was a relationship between the umpiring in Major League Baseball and the Baltimore Orioles. But, the more you look into it, not so surprisingly, the conspiracy theories seem to dissipate, leaving a very real idea in Baltimore fans’ heads that umpiring is, in fact, not just humanistic, but subject to real life bias.

The issues, if that’s what you want to call them, stem back to the recent series with the Boston Red Sox. Let’s just assume we all saw it. And if you haven’t seen what’s been happening, then let’s give you a link to YouTube. Or www.mlb.com. Either of those should help you out.

Last night, umpire Sam Holbrook, took it into his own hands to kick Kevin Gausman out of the game after Gausman plunked Andrew Bogaerts with a 77mph slider to the GTY 678087536 S SPO BBO BBA USA MAbackside. Bigger heads, not circumstances, should have prevailed. However, later in the game, it became quite obvious that Holbrook had it out for the Orioles when he ejected Adam Jones for displaying disagreement over whether an obvious outside pitch was actually the strike three that Holbrook claimed it had been.

And here we stand, where the human aspect of umpiring resides. Baseball uses the excuse that it won’t replace the creatural ideals that man the bases because it relieves the sport of the mechanical right and wrong to which so many sports have adapted.  And, with that statement, it’s easy to see why so many baseball enthusiasts jump on board, arguing that baseball is the classic sport which places itself as the essence of human error as utmost athletic godliness. However, with those human characteristics that are involved with balls or strikes, safe or out, fair or foul, baseball then takes on the responsibility of human emotion. It isn’t something that is taken into account much by the traditionalists, who believe the fallible elements have existence within balls and strikes but not beyond to the complicated aspects of emotional reasoning involved in controlling the ebbs and flows of the game . But it is something of which to be aware.

Baseball is not hockey. It is not football. It is not even professional basketball. It is a technical sport. It is a sport that lacks a lot of physical contact, but instead makes up for it all by intricacies, the stats, the pieces that make it so hard to explain to your children. And while the abstruse aspect creates an enveloping aurora of love that is hard to match, the obsession with human error has come back to haunt the league when it comes to the growth of emotion in series such as the one between Baltimore/Boston.

There needs to be a medium. Most of us who read these types of blogs understand that our love of baseball has its roots in the idea that this sport is the only one left with a human element. But, unfortunately, as we’ve been witness to, the emotion that gets dragged from divisional series, when teams and players see each other 21 times a season, affects not only the players’ heads but the men who are supposedly in charge sam holbrook 3of keeping order and calling it down the middle. There is no reason to believe that Sam Holbrook did not mean well when he tossed Gausman and turned his back to Caleb Joseph and Buck Showalter. He was doing what any person would do who found himself in a situation that he did not find to be comfortable. Like anybody on the face of the Earth, Holbrook acted on raw emotion, attempting to suit everybody by acting immediately and determining what needed to be done without question. Unfortunately, he was wrong, as so many umpires are when they are held to the standards of snap-fast reaction. The Orioles found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, and so we find ourselves in a precarious situation.

The escalated altercations between the Orioles and the Red Sox led to the problems both between the players and the umpiring. Major League Baseball, as well as management, had a responsibility to step in and defuse what had grown to be an explosive problem. They failed. And, as fans, we witnessed what would become a lesson in how the ripple effect of controversy has a solid hand on all aspects of the game, umpiring included. The problem now lies in the reactions of those who determine the outcomes of the game. not the men who are actually playing. Because, as we have seen, despite any on-field wrangles between the Sox and O’s, the umps became the most emotionally diluted team to change the outcome of the series.

Manny, Cool Your Jets

I like Manny Machado. I like him just as much as the next person. He is a team leader on the field. In fact, he’s probably the most talented guy on the roster. There is constant debate over who the best player is in the majors and Manny Machado’s name is always in the discussion. But it’s time for him to grow up.

It is no coincidence that Machado finds himself at the center of controversy every season.

In 2014, then Oakland A’s thirdbaseman Josh Donaldson applied a tag to him that he considered too hard. It led to confrontation and the benches clearing. The next night, Machado took exception to a pitch he thought was too close for comfort and he let go of his bat on his next swing, sending it spiraling down the third base line toward none other than Josh Donaldson. It led to another bench clearing debacle and his ejection from the game.

 

In 2016, against the Kansas City Royals, Machado watched as the late (hotheaded) Yordano Ventura pitched him inside on a couple pitches back-to-back. In the replay, you can see Manny stare him down and then bark something at him before taking a third pitch inside. Machado then charged the mound and took a violent swing at Ventura followed by a DDT that Jake The Snake Roberts should be proud of. Both players were ejected and served suspensions.

This season, Machado has found himself in hot water again after being accused of violating the “late slide rule” which has been created to protect secondbasemen and Image result for machado pedroiashortstops from being crashed into cleats first by players attempting to slide into the bag. In last night’s game against Boston, Manny slid, relatively late, and cleated the Red Sox Dustin Pedroia in the calf, causing him to have to leave the game. Tempers once again rose, though not to a point of clearing the dugouts, and managers argued with umpires about whether Machado had been in violation of the late slide rule. It was ruled that he was not, however, Boston may have different thoughts tonight when they face the O’s in the second game of the series.

Machado has been called out for his lack of hustle on ground balls. He doesn’t play his hardest all the time. He relies too much on his pure talent and forgets the basics. These are all things that, at one time or another over the last few years, have been pointed out by the few and far between. But they are things that need to be acknowledged and corrected.

The point is, Baltimore fans hold a lot of opposing players near and dear to their heart as the bad guys. Current Blue Jay Jose Bautista or former Red Sox David Ortiz hear boos resonate around Oriole Park whenever they show face on the field or in the batter’s box. Josh Donaldson gets the royal villain treatment, as did Ventura in the games following his altercation with Machado last year. And while we enjoy to hate these guys, knowing that they have done things throughout the years to really piss us off and disrespect our team, it doesn’t excuse the Orioles from having a guy behave in the same, aggressive manner. Manny Machado is young; he is only 24 years old and has had to grow up in the majors. However, that is not an excuse for his knack to have a short fuse and a loud mouth. Realistically, his actions could cause a lot of problems for his team. Long term suspensions leave the team high and dry without their best player. Bench clearing brawls can cause injuries.

It’s time for Machado to face the music. His outbursts on the field may seem to be the kind of shakeup that baseball needs once and a while, but life is much better without it. A team like the Orioles, who have found themselves as annual competitors over the last five years, cannot afford to have their star player acting like a jackass whenever he feels slighted.  He is too great of a player to have an attitude problem paperclipped to his resume.

Am I The Only One?

We’re two weeks into the season and the Orioles are off to a hot start, leading the AL East and as of 4/17, holding the best record in baseball. Here are some thoughts thus far. Am I the only one…

Who hasn’t lost complete faith in Wade Miley? I understand he got lucky in his first outing of the year by finding a way to avoid giving up an earned run despite seven walks. However, in his start against Toronto on April 14th, Miley looked impressive. He struck out eight batters and left the Orioles with a great chance to win the game (which they went on to do). Miley isn’t the ideal candidate for a 3rd or even 4th starter, but if he can go out on his days and hold his own for six innings, he gives this high powered offensive team a chance to win every time.

Who believes Adam Jones should have come out of the game after running into the wall in Toronto? Jones put 100% effort into trying to track down a long fly ball hit in the 8th inning of Sunday’s game against the Jays, but ultimately did not make the play and sent himself flying into the outfield fence. It caused an “uh oh” moment for fans watching as he struggled to get to his feet for a few minutes before finally waving away the trainer and Buck Showalter. However, the next inning, Jones was replaced defensively anyway. The Orioles were winning the game 11-2 at the time, and it doesn’t seem to make much sense for Showalter to risk further injury to his star center fielder and team leader by not playing precautionary measures in a blow out. The Orioles don’t have a viable long-term option in center if Jones were to go down with a lengthy injury, and so for a player who has had injuries in his past, it seems as if the better move would have been for Jones to come out right away.

Who sees Dylan Bundy on the fast track to becoming a better major league pitcher than Kevin Gausman? A Facebook friend smartly pointed out that “while Gausman is still developing from a thrower to a pitcher, Bundy seems to have already figured it out”. This is no knock on Gausman who has seen his share of big league success and the future is bright. But Bundy seems to be so natural at it. Of course, last year we saw a hot start for Bundy once he was inserted into the rotation and then an eventual decline as the season progressed, and no one is to say that won’t happen again. However, Bundy has five pitches that he can effectively use to fool major league hitters, as he has shown in his three starts so far in 2017.

Who is impressed with Chris Davis’ hot start? At this point, we all know what Davis brings to the table; He hits lots of homeruns in exchange for lots of (ugly) strikeouts. The strikeouts haven’t changed much this year, as he has whiffed 16 times in 11 games, which puts him on a rough pace to break his own single season record for the third straight year. But Crush is also finding ways to get on base more often. He’s got an early season OBP of .391, which is sixty points higher than his career average. Davis is streaky and will surely cool off at points throughout the year, but it is a good sign to see him producing thus far.

 

Am I The Only One?

Another season in the books. Afterwards, was I the only one who…

…Thought the reaction from Adam Jones toward the Toronto stands after a beer can came flying at Hyun-Soo Kim’s head was entirely justified? Adam is a leader of the team who has been questioned throughout the year by some of the Baltimore fanbase for swinging at bad pitches and starting the year off slow enough for Buck to permanently move him to the lead-off spot. But, as one would probably assume, on-the-field play isn’t the entire spectrum when it comes to the chemistry of a baseball team, and Jones displayed some of the hidden emotion with his very angry defense of his teammate. There is little as impressive in professional sports than to see human emotion displayed by the leaders of a team, and AJ has a knack for doing it at the right times. Kudos to his gut reaction and sticking up for his teammate.

…Thinks that if the Orioles are not able to sign Mark Trumbo, who had his best major league season this year and led the majors in homeruns, that Pedro Alvarez would be a good second option? Odds are, if Trumbo were to be brought back, it would be a role in which he found himself playing DH much more often than he did in 2016. Alvarez, a left-handed hitter, already fills that role. With the power he has displayed throughout his career, it could easily be beneficial for him to see more consistent playing time and opportunity to put up the big power numbers he showed off during his days in Pittsburgh. He will most definitely come cheaper than Trumbo, for good reason, but if the Orioles are concerned about money due to their upcoming contract discussions with Manny Machado, Chris Tillman, and Kevin Gausman, cheaper may have to be the path they choose.

…Thinks the lack of attendance this season was a bit embarrassing? It seems to me, according to a lot of social media outlets at least, that Orioles’ fans pride themselves on being able to fill the stadium better than a lot of teams. Most notably, I remember discussions during the O’s dark years about how Camden Yards was consistently more filled than a place like Tropicana Field, home to a perennial playoff Tampa Bay Rays team. However, now that the shoe is on the other foot, Camden Yards sat half full almost every night, allowing Boston and New York fans to take over when their teams were in town. “Fenway Park South” is the nickname for OPACY, and that is not a compliment to any sort of historical milestone. Baltimore is a blue collar football town, for sure, but surely O’s fans can do a better job of filling the seats when their team is in the running for a playoff spot.

…Thinks that not making any attempt to sign David Price last off-season was one of the best moves the front office made? Price, who is pitching for Boston, lost again in the playoffs last night. He has a 2-8 record and a 5.54 ERA in playoff games in his career, putting him up near the top of the most unreliable pitchers in the playoffs in the modern era. Don’t get me wrong- he’s a good pitcher, as his 3.21 career ERA shows, but when you want your ace to win the big game, it’s got to be frustrating to watch him go out there and throw a dud time and time again. Maybe him and Clayton Kershaw should join a support group together.

…believes that speaking of starting pitching, the Orioles should be hands off again this off-season when it comes to free agent starters? There are two guys on the market that are worth any value as a player who could improve the rotation. Rich Hill, who is 37, is undeserving of any long-term contract, and has battled hand issues during the entire second half of the season. Hill, who has played in Baltimore before, resurrected his career this season by pitching lights out ball in Oakland before being traded to the Dodgers at the deadline. The other name is Doug Fister. Fister, who is younger, would be more attractive if the market wasn’t going to drive his asking price through the roof. The conversation will always revert back to money because the Orioles have a limit and they also have forthcoming contracts. Overpaying for a guy like Fister would be a mistake. It will be better for the Orioles to continue to rely on Tillman and Gausman, let Bundy work back up to a full season workload, and find their 4th and 5th starter in Spring Training.

…feels a little bit bad for Ubaldo Jimenez? Let’s be real here. The guy pitched some insanely good baseball for the last two months. A ton of people were calling for him to start the game against Toronto in the playoffs. Buck’s decision to bring him in during the 11th inning was not a black mark on Jimenez, despite him giving up two singles and a homerun to end the game. Buck should have known his player better; Ubaldo, more often than not, begins his game shaky. Hitters are batting .331 off of him with seven homeruns, 28 RBIs, and 27 walks in his first 15 pitches of the game. On top of that, he has a 6+ ERA against Toronto this year in 21 innings pitched. Jimenez has proven in the media that he cares about this team. He has shed tears on TV for God sake. And before you make that horrid “well, he makes millions of dollars” argument, tell me the last time the amount of money you made affected how much you cared about the effort you put into wanting to do something well. Maybe it’s time we give the guy some slack- without his stellar performance in the stretch toward playoff time, this team wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play in the wildcard game.

The Britton Debacle

You can blame Buck Showalter all you want about his decision not to bring in Zach Britton in the 11th inning of Tuesday’s loss to the Blue Jays. It’s the easy thing to do, to say the least. We watched in anguish as Ubaldo Jimenez was chosen by Buck to come in as a relief pitcher, and then almost as quickly as it took him to walk from the bullpen, give up two singles and a homerun to end the game. And so the question bares asking- Why not Bitton?

“Nobody has been pitching better for us than Ubaldo, too, so there are a lot of different ways to look at it,” Showalter stated. This is a true statement. It is also something that many opponents of Buck’s decision seem to forget.

Ubaldo Jimenez had a rough first half of the season, there is no doubt about that. But, he improved himself so much in the last two months that there was a fairly large outcry from a portion of the fanbase that he should have been the starter for the game against Toronto. It seemed as if everyone was jumping on the Jimenez bandwagon, and with good reason. He found command of his fast ball. He was pitching great baseball. He was limiting damage to keep his team in the game and he was becoming the dominant pitcher that he showed he could be in his years in Colorado.

So when the decision arose for Buck to decide who to bring into the game in the 11th to hold the lead yet again, he went with the hot hand, not the closer. Showalter made it apparent after the game that he decided this because he needed to keep Britton in case the Orioles’ offense, the real culprit for the loss, ever decided to score a run and put their team on top. But as fate would have it, Showalter would never have the opportunity to get his All-Star lefty in the game and he and Jimenez took the fall.

It’s easy to look back and criticize Showalter’s decision not to bring in the best closer in the game. However, it’s a much harder task to understand that Buck saw that the situation didn’t call for his closer. He needed a stopper. Someone that he has been able to rely on lately to get the job done resolutely and permanently. And so, he brought in his hottest starting pitcher to face the middle of the Blue Jays lineup and everything imploded.

In fact, one might argue that Buck’s decision to pinch hit for Hyun-Soo Kim with Nolan Reimold, who proceeded to strike out on three pitches, all out of the strike zone (it took him 25 seconds from first pitch to final swing-and-miss), was the final nail in the coffin. With other options on the bench, most notably 22 home run guy Pedro Alvarez, it seemed as if Buck could have made a better decision by forgetting the statistical matchups and sending Alvarez up there to hack away. He couldn’t have done any worse than Reimold did.

But, let’s put all that behind us and try to understand one thing. There is no fairness in demanding Buck Showalter be fired from his job because he made a decision that did not work out. There is a reason behind Buck’s continued success wherever he goes as a manager, and he is especially well known for his ability to play matchups and make in-game decisions that generally work to his favor. To banish the guy to the same realm as Lee Mazzilli, Ray Miller, Mike Hargrove, Sam Perlozzo, Juan Samuel, and Dave Trembley is utterly disappointing and a bit unnerving considering that is the same kind of mindset Peter Angelos ran the team with for so long and that drove potential managerial candidates away from the Orioles’ organization in the first place. There are no possible manager hires out there that would be smarter and better equipped than Buck Showalter has been since he began his career in Baltimore in 2011.

In fact, it’s embarrassing that professional media personalities have to tweet, Facebook, and write articles explaining why Buck Showalter will not, nor should be, fired from his position. There is and always will be room for error in baseball; Anyone that knows anything about the game should understand its intricacies and complex reliance on statistics that separate it (and in some opinions, make it better) than any other professional American sport.

The real culprit here for the Orioles loss to Toronto in the Wildcard game is the offense. For a team that had 253 homeruns this season (an average of 1.57 per game), they allowed themselves to fall into the same habits that were the sole reason the team slipped from atop the division to scraping to get in to the playoffs via a second wildcard spot. The Orioles couldn’t even generate a base hit after the sixth inning. Despite their bullpen providing ample opportunities by extending the game, allowing the offense to have extra innings to score the game-winning runs, the offense fell silent- a characteristic that we had become familiar with throughout the stretches of struggles that the team faced during the regular season. Four hits in eleven innings does not win playoff games. It sends you home early.

This off-season, the question hangs over our heads like it has every year since Dan Duquette took over operations of this team. What will this team look like next year? Who will they pursue in free agency? Who will they try to re-sign? Duquette has a dark cloud above him in regards to his off-season aggressiveness. In order for the Orioles to improve, it might be time to give up the ‘homerun or die’ mentality and find some on-base guys to surround the middle of their lineup. Will they attempt to bring back Mark Trumbo? Matt Wieters? There are a lot of decisions to be made in the next six months. However, one of them we can be sure is not in question- Buck Showalter will be at the head of the ship as it sails into Spring Training in March. And there is nobody else this fan base wants, regardless of whether they know it or not.