The All-Star break didn’t shatter the Orioles’ momentum toward their first playoff berth in seven years.
They are 16-7 in the second half. Their lead over the Rays grew to three games. Their 70 wins matched the Braves’ total yesterday.
Any drama left in the season appears to involve possible promotions, fitting pitchers on the roster who are returning from the injured list, and whether the Orioles win the division and receive a first-round bye in the playoffs.
That last one is a biggie.
If the season ended today, the Orioles would kick back and wait for the winner of the Rays-Astros wild card series. The Rangers would play the Twins or Blue Jays.
The Astros are in town tonight for a three-game series before the Orioles head to the West Coast, with stops in Seattle, San Diego and Oakland. I’ll handle the coverage in the last two series.
I’ll give it my best effort, refusing to simply mail it in.
And speaking of mail …
Time to tackle more questions in the latest sequel to the beloved and iconic 2008 original.
You ask, I answer – both of us staying in our lanes. And if I do any editing, it will be minimal and not worth a disclaimer.
Also, my mailbag sits in the splash zone and yours lies in a puddle on Russell Street.
Which players would you choose for your postseason starting rotation? Feel free to assume nothing goes awry with John Means return.
We don’t know whether Means reenters the rotation. Kyle Gibson and Jack Flaherty are locks. Let’s see how Grayson Rodriguez does over these last two months and whether he can leapfrog Kyle Bradish and Dean Kremer. We can’t forget about Tyler Wells. Maybe we should view this period, among other things, as a chance for the Orioles to evaluate and make final decisions on the rotation.
Do you think a reliever/closer should be up for the Cy Young Award?
I don’t think they should be forbidden from receiving it. Pretty hard to argue against Dennis Eckersley in 1992 unless you have strict rules that I don’t adhere to. Gerrit Cole, Shane McClanahan and Nathan Eovaldi, among others, are deserving of strong consideration. I understand. It’s a different set of responsibilities from a bullpen guy. But people who think Félix Bautista doesn’t belong are dead wrong. Make the T-shirts. And while you're at it, research his stats and where they stand in baseball history.
With Buck Showalter back in town, it was a reminder of the "end of days" time in 2017-2018. Will we ever know the story of how that all fell apart so fast and horrendously? Is it still too soon, a danger of violating confidences, or was there really no one specific reason? Do we have to wait until they open the time capsule 100 years from now?
I never considered it a big secret or conspiracy. The window for contention slammed shut. The farm system wasn’t equipped to keep the talent flowing. Moves weren’t made to build off the 2014 season, and the Orioles went into a steady decline. There’s a shelf life when using those methods to build a winner, especially with no presence in the international market. And the well-publicized friction was viewed as becoming too much of a distraction and detriment. Major props to the people who made it work. Who produced three playoff teams. A winning culture returned to Baltimore. But it was decided that changes had to be made which led to major expansion of the international scouting and analytics departments. A more “modernized” approach.
Whose success is more surprising to you: Yennier Cano or Ryan O’Hearn?
Yes. Both. I’m floored. If I had to choose, I’d say Cano because I saw him pitch last season and, I hate to admit, wondered why he stayed on the 40-man roster over the winter. I hadn’t formed any impressions of O’Hearn.
Which team is more impressive, 1983 or 2023? What are some things that are alike and different about them?
Well, the 1983 team won the World Series. They deserve to rank first. Let’s see what happens in 2023. But this year’s club wasn’t a favorite to make the playoffs. The Orioles came so close in ’82. Completely different situations and perceptions. The ’83 Orioles had more veterans with track records. Heck, they had three future Hall of Famers. They had a Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner. Completely different. But the 2023 Orioles also have a wonderful chemistry. They’re a tight bunch, just like in ’83. They get contributions up and down the roster. They play defense and play hard.
Who was your favorite player from the '83 team? Favorite moment from the '83 celebration?
I didn’t cover the team. I’m not that old. But Rick Dempsey was just so much fun. I prayed for rain delays. My favorite moment from the celebration was Eddie Murray’s introduction and how animated he was coming out of the dugout, and again after throwing the ceremonial first pitch. Did a little strut. I never saw that side of him. He loved the fans chanting “Ed-die, Ed-die” and motioned for them to keep it going. My highlight. Otherwise, asking Tippy Martinez and Lenn Sakata if they’d forever be linked, and getting their responses. I never met Sakata until that day.
Holliday get the call in September?
I’d be less surprised if Billie Holiday got the call in September.
So that’s a ‘no’ to Jackson Holliday?
To go from Delmarva to Aberdeen to Bowie to Norfolk to Baltimore? I don’t see it. I don’t know how anyone can see it. And is there really a need to do it? A team with World Series aspirations putting a 19-year-old in the lineup after he began the year in low A? Gunnar Henderson is the main shortstop. People want to run Jorge Mateo out of town, but manager Brandon Hyde mentioned Sunday how Mateo brings value with his speed, defense and versatility. Qualities that teams seek while trying to make the playoffs. So, I don’t see Holliday playing in the majors this season. I’ll say it again: Prove me wrong.
What's your favorite O's moment so far this season?
Every single off-day.
Oh, we’re still conversational. Any major league debut. Great to watch and to write about. A story placed on a tee. Swing away. And seeing Camden Yards packed again. Seeing how many fans travel. And the press box ice cream at Citizens Bank Park, served by Frankie “Two Scoops,” because I wouldn’t have been there without the Orioles.
With all of these guys on the injured list scheduled to come back between now and September, who are the players most at risk losing a roster spot?
I don’t know how they’re going to make room for the relievers. I don’t know if every reliever on the IL is coming back to the Orioles. Outfielders Cedric Mullins and Aaron Hicks could push Colton Cowser and Ryan McKenna to the minors, unless the Orioles are committed to keeping Cowser.
For those of us who don't live near Baltimore, can you set up a virtual option for SOR Night?
I don’t organize the actual SOR Nights, but I like the idea. Would be nice to keep everyone connected in the off-season beyond the comments section.
Is Gunnar Henderson the favorite for ROY with Josh Jung going down?
Could depend on how long a fractured left thumb sidelines Jung. The severity of the injury. He absolutely was the favorite before Sunday, but a prolonged absence elevates Henderson – assuming that he keeps raking.
Will Adam Jones be more involved with the O's moving forward?
I don’t know if there are plans for Jones to do more, but it appears that he’s going to be more visible. He’s always going to have those ties to the city. He did so much for it as a player.
With the way the O’s have been playing so far this season, would anything short of a World Series appearance be considered a letdown?
That would be unfortunate. I’d hate to see a playoff exit ruin the season for fans. Or for anybody. What were the playoff odds back in March? I understand the disappointment if the Orioles can’t have a parade. The club is convinced that it can win a title. But 2023 already is a rousing success.
Do you think Heston Kjerstad gets a September callup?
Rosters expand by two players. One pitcher. Is there room for Kjerstad? And is there a need for Kjerstad? So, maybe. It’s easier to answer whether he’s in the majors in 2024. That’s a resounding “yes.”
Do the Orioles now look at DL Hall as a bullpen arm instead of a starter long term?
The goal remains to develop Hall as a starter, but he needs to report healthy to spring training next year, stay on a starter’s routine and stay healthy. Did I mention health?
Is American cheese the best cheese for a cheeseburger or does the cheese stand alone?
It’s the best cheese for a grilled cheese. Melts perfectly. But add a few other cheeses, too, and get crazy. There are many options for a burger, except for Swiss, which is the worst. Don’t do it. I know cheese lovers who pass on it. I’d rather eat goat cheese. I’d rather eat a goat. I’ve done both.
The last John Means update has him throwing off the mound again. Will we see him on the roster before the end of August, in time to help the playoff push, in any capacity?
The goal is the beginning of September. In any capacity.
What actually happens for 2024 if the stadium lease expires after 2023 with no resolution?
The sides could negotiate another short-term extension like the one agreed upon two years ago. But a long-term lease remains the anticipated outcome.
Which is more likely to happen with Jackson Holliday. A: He's called up in September. B: He starts the 2024 season in an O's uniform. C: He starts 2024 in Norfolk?
I wish that I had inside Holliday information. I don’t think the Orioles know. I’ll repeat, since that’s basically why this mailbag exists, that I don’t think he plays for the Orioles this summer. Five levels in one year? At age 19? Get outta here. Maybe he competes for a job in spring training, and yes, there are incentives for the Orioles to get him on the Opening Day roster and hope he’s American League Rookie of the Year. Otherwise, if it’s just about baseball, C makes a whole lot of sense. And especially if he doesn’t go to Norfolk this year.
Is Brandon Hyde even more against bunting than Earl Weaver was?
Weaver hated to give away outs. Said you only get 27. Hyde has bunted multiple times this season to play for one run and get the ball in Félix Bautista’s right hand. But I’m assuming, and I haven’t done a lick of research, that bunting is down across the league except in certain late-inning or extra-inning situations. Show me a manager who’s bunt happy. Maybe I’ve just missed him.
Will Joey Ortiz return to the Orioles this season?
Without an injury to an infielder? I thought he might supplant Jorge Mateo, who’s out of options and would have to be designated for assignment. They don’t seem to be in that mindset. So, there may not be a spot for Ortiz before 2024, when there could be multiple spots available.
What looks more unmanly, the oven mitt to run the bases or the googles to celebrate winning in the playoffs?
This is probably a good place to stop.
In another universe, is Billy Rowell head of Orioles scouting, reporting directly to Brandon Snyder and his invisible genius statistician co-pilot, Chris Smith?
This is definitely a good place to stop.