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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How Good Does Baltimore Have To Be?

The weird thing about the Baltimore Orioles is that, despite how detestable it seems their pitching is, or how silent their bats can be during several game stretches, there is a reason they are 66-51 this year, sitting in first place of the AL East, and quietly making statements time and time again that this is their division to win. All of a sudden, it’s August 16 and the O’s have spent the majority of their season in first place of the only division in baseball that has four teams above .500.

So, exactly how good do the Orioles have to be from here on out in order to solidify their chances for the post-season? On the surface, one would have to think that they need to play lights out baseball for the next month and a half. And while that would certainly help matters, it may not have to be that difficult. Because Baltimore has kept themselves in contention all year, they have positioned themselves to be able to take advantage of some fortuitous scheduling.

Of the four teams contending to be AL East champion, a few factors remain that could easily work out in the Orioles’ favor. With a record of 39-17 at home this year, the O’s will most certainly benefit from the fact that 25 of their last 45 games are at Camden Yards, including a huge eleven game stretch from 9/15 through 9/25. Neither the Blue Jays, Red Sox, or Yankees have that advantage- in fact, all three of those teams have more road games left to play than they do games at home. Of those three. Boston has the best home record, but unfortunately for them only have 15 games at Fenway remaining on their schedule.

All three teams- Toronto, Boston, and New York- have a west coast swing still left on their schedule. Combining the travel and the time difference is a critical detriment for teams that fly out west for extended time, and because the Orioles have already made their road trips across country, it leaves them with the advantage of less travel.

Unfortunately, it’s not all good news for the Orioles. They have more remaining games against teams with winning records than any of their AL East opponents (35). Besides nine games against Tampa Bay and a series against Arizona, the O’s have drawn the short stick when it comes to facing better teams later in the season. Boston sees a schedule that pits them against +.500 teams 25 times, Toronto 26 times, and the Yankees 31 times.

When the end of the season does roll around, and almost for certain these four teams will be playing for first place, the schedulers took it upon themselves to revel in the idea of nail-biting, down-to-the-wire competition. The Red Sox end their season hosting the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park for a two game set while the Orioles travel to New York to face the Yankees for three games. While there is no counting out any of these teams, it certainly seems as if letting Boston and Toronto beat each other up may put destiny in the O’s own hands.

In the end, it is simple. In order to win the AL East, you need to win games. Take one look at the standings and you will see that all four of these teams have shown how capable they are of doing that. Of the four teams still in contention, Baltimore, Boston, and New York have over 30 games remaining against AL East opponents, a statistic that forewarns of the importance of getting wins. To keep consistent with their current winning percentage (.564), Baltimore needs to win 25 of the remaining 45 games on the schedule. If that were the case, they would finish with a record of 91-71, a mark that should almost be a shoe-in for a playoff spot. However, most fans would probably like to see a little more finality and impact as the season rolls toward the end, and a finish more along the lines of 30 wins would be much more comfortable for everyone.