At the end of each season, members of the media who cover the Orioles on a regular basis will reflect on the campaign and turn in votes for the Most Valuable Oriole of the year. It’s typically a pretty clear-cut race, but can provide some good debate among the masses. What normally isn’t discussed is the opposite end of the spectrum. I can’t for the life of me remember more discussion or chatter about who the “Least Valuable Oriole” would be than I’ve seen this season, and that’s for a team that seems bound for the playoffs.
When getting into this topic with friends and colleagues or on social media, many names have been brought up, but few ground rules have been set. For the sake of argument, I’m looking at this season alone. I’m also not factoring in a contract, so that should help Ubaldo Jimenez’s case (though at this point it’s tough to do so). I’m mainly looking at players who could easily be replaced.
The one name that keeps getting hammered, and basically has since his tenure in Baltimore began, is Ryan Flaherty. I can understand why some have an issue with Flaherty being kept on the roster, but I have always been a fan of what he brings to the table. He’s a guy who isn’t going to impress you with the bat, but provides plus defense and great versatility in that spot, as well. He can basically play any position on the diamond outside of pitcher. I’ve always believed that when composing a roster you will have certain spots that only provide one thing, and Flaherty’s is defense. These guys are going to creep into your lineup from time to time. Not every team can have nine Mike Trouts in the lineup each day.
I’ve also heard a lot of criticism of David Lough throughout the year. I was admittedly one of the top critics of Lough in the first half of the season, but I’ve come to see his value as a late-inning defensive replacement and threat on the base paths. Lough is nothing more than a fourth outfielder on this team, and perhaps that’s OK.
I already mentioned Jimenez as someone who has been less than valuable. Four-year contract and $50 million aside, Jimenez has only had a few starts this season worthy of praise. The rest have mostly been awful. It’s difficult to be too critical of a guy who only sees the field every fifth day, but Jimenez is doing his best to make it easier. The fact that the O’s have five other capable starters could say a lot about his immediate future.
As a former top draft choice, Brian Matusz’s career in Baltimore seems to have slid down one step to the next. He was once a promising starting pitching prospect. Then he was demoted to the bullpen and became somewhat of a left-handed specialist. Now he’s a lefty who can’t seem to get left-handers out. Unless your name is David Ortiz or Josh Hamilton, you really have no reason to fear Matusz. The trade deadline acquisition of Andrew Miller told me a lot about what the Orioles think of Matusz.
The last name I thought of for this dreadful distinction is one I couldn’t have dreamed of at the start of the season. Chris Davis has hit 21 home runs this season, but has been a constant drag on the lineup by hitting under the Mendoza line. He’s provided plus defense and has even been versatile in moving to third base when needed, but Davis was expected to be one of the big boppers in the middle of the lineup. No one could have dreamed he’d have the type of season he did last year, but you also couldn’t have predicted this big of a drop-off.
There are perhaps a few other names I’ve left out of discussion, but maybe they deserve more of a look. I’m curious as to who gets your distinction so far as this year’s Least Valuable Oriole. Regardless of the answer, it’s nice to be nitpicking about this type of thing with a team that leads the American League East by a wide margin and is likely headed to the playoffs for the second time in three years.
Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. 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.