The Orioles are coming off a demoralizing three-game sweep at the hands (actually, the bats) of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who won each game in walk-off fashion. I don’t need to tell you that Jim Johnson recorded blown saves in the final two games of the series.
Johnson currently ranks as the major league leader in both saves (39) and blown saves (nine). In the same season that he tallied his club-record 35th consecutive save, Johnson appears to be on the verge of setting an ignominious team mark with the O’s most-ever blown saves. One moment he’s Dr. Jeckyll, the next moment fans want his hide.
Johnson has already outpaced the four other relievers in the Orioles’ top five for career saves, albeit not by much, when it comes to blown saves in a season. Each of the other closers capped out at a career-worst of eight blown saves in a season - Greg Olson in 1991 and 1992, Tippy Martinez in 1985, Stu Miller in 1961, and Jorge Julio in 2003.
Moving beyond the top five for career saves, Johnson has more than doubled Armando Benitez’s worst blown save total for the Orioles. Benitez stands out in my mind as the embodiment of the blown save, not so much for the total number he tallied in Baltimore - which I would have guessed was much larger than it actually is - as for the torturous theater he provided.
Big stages meant big mistakes for Benitez. Think 1997 playoffs. Think Tino Martinez. Still, Benitez’s worst O’s season for blown saves came in 1998, when he had four (his career-high is eight for San Francisco in 2006).
So several Orioles closers know what it’s like to blow eight saves at some point in their careers. But with nine blown saves, Johnson knows a level of pain that no other Orioles reliever has felt before. That is, except for Don Aase.
Aase had nine blown saves in 1986, which is the largest total I could find for any O’s closer prior to this season. As for blown saves on consecutive days, try two blown saves in the same day.
Aase, the man with two As to begin his last name, lost two games to the A’s on Aug. 28, 1986. In the first, he allowed four hits and three earned runs in an inning of work in a 5-4 loss at Oakland. Given a chance to redeem himself in the nightcap, Aase allowed two hits and a run in two-thirds of an inning as part of an 8-7 loss.
Aase entered that 1986 doubleheader tied for the league lead in saves with 31 and ended up setting a major league record for most saves for a last-place team with 34.
So Aase had blown saves in consecutive games despite being the league leader for saves and, in the process, ran his total to nine blown saves on the season. It seems he could relate well to Johnson. Meanwhile, O’s fans might relate well to the sentiment expressed by Earl Weaver back in 1986: “They don’t come much tougher than this.”
Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.