Who’d have thought that the year the Orioles look to be heading for a last-place finish, their first since 1988, would be such a pleasure to watch? We are bad — yes. But we’re running last in the strongest AL East in memory, which with the current unbalanced schedule means we’re playing the hardest schedule in memory. And even so, we’re closer to .500 than we’ve been in ten years. We’ve scored just two fewer runs than we’ve allowed. We’re carrying a legitimate young star in Nick Markakis, and (though no one outside Baltimore has noticed yet) one of the 10 best pitchers in the league, in Jeremy Guthrie. We get to watch surprsingly great slugging from Aubrey Huff and Luke Scott, though they’re not part of the team’s future. And surpringly great set-up work from Jim Johnson, who might be. We shucked off old, expensive Miguel Tejada and middle-aged, expensive Erik Bedard, and, for once, we got legitimate talent in return.
The Bedard trade, to be sure, should have been completed by trading George Sherrill for something we need, like an unembarrassing shortshop; turning Bedard into Adam Jones and a major-league shortstop would be a real coup. And there must be something about Huff’s contract I don’t understand, because it’s hard to imagine there wasn’t a contending team willing to trade something valuable for a DH with the 7th-best OPS in the AL. Huff, Roberts, Sherrill, and Scott are all probably as valuable as they’re going to be — I like watching them play, I like that they’re Orioles, and I’d like to see them gone as soon as possible.
Some miscellaneous Orioles links I’ve been meaning to post:
Mike Pagliarulo gives insider dish on the 1993 Orioles, one of my favorite squads. Here’s what I wrote in Rain Taxi about that team a few years back:
1993 was the year Fernando Valenzuela pitched for the Orioles. Valenzuela, when he was 21, already had a Cy Young award and was going to be the pitcher of our time, but by 1993 he was seven years past his last winning season. For some reason he came to Baltimore, and he had another losing season. But he brought a bit of noble twilight to the team, a team which was, all in all, a perfect mix of nobly twilit old guys (Valenzuela, Rick Sutcliffe, Harold Baines), young guys who hadn’t found themselves (Mike Mussina, Arthur Lee Rhodes, Jeffrey Hammonds), and, maybe most importantly, middle-aged, middle-talented guys who picked that year to have great seasons which they must have known they would never again equal (Chris Hoiles and the incomparable Jack Voigt). It was somewhat shocking to me to look up the statistics and see that the Orioles were actually pretty good that year, and finished in a tie for third. My memory of that team is Valenzuela losing in the late afternoon.
Also, the Orioles are bike commuters. I give you Jeremy Guthrie:
“I hate cars, I hate driving, I hate doing something I don’t have to do. For me to drive downtown is a waste of gas; it’s a waste of my time. I can ride faster than I can drive.”