The Orioles today can clinch their first playoff berth since 2016. Can’t really think about the division crown until finishing the first order of business.
The rebuild is behind them. I mean, really behind them. Like, pushed out of a car that speeds away.
Let’s dump out some of the contents of the mailbag, the latest sequel to the beloved 2008 original. And I'll keep stressing over missing my granddaughter's third birthday party because the Orioles could clinch.
Maybe I can attend both. But why bore you with my life?
You should know how the mailbag works. How I don’t edit for style, length, brevity or clarity. But you should cut back on the Claritin if it causes headaches, drowsiness, fatigue, dry mouth, dizziness or stomach side effects such as nausea or diarrhea. Contact your healthcare provider if these side effects become too bothersome.
And finally, my mailbag has a personal physician and yours waits for hours at Urgent Care.
Is the sky falling?
I don’t think so, but I’d still carry an umbrella. Like, one of those beach umbrellas.
Why God, why?!
I sense some panic here. It’s subtle. Also, this question arrived to me before last night’s game. Before the magic number shrank to one. It’s all in the timing.
Who do you think wins Rookie of the Year. And don’t say your mom?
I’d never! Arizona’s Corbin Carroll.
That’s the National League. Who wins in the AL?
I have a vote and must keep private until I’m allowed to do the big reveal. Blue smoke if it’s Gunnar Henderson, pink smoke if I lost my mind.
So, you’re voting for Gunnar?
I never said that!
Will the Orioles try to add Heston Kjerstad to the postseason roster? Is it even possible?
It’s possible. He was in the organization by Aug. 31. He’d just need to replace someone on the 60-day injured list. But the Orioles aren’t there, yet. He’s had three at-bats.
Can Kjerstad pitch also?
A few innings in high school. “Everybody pitches in high school,” he said, smiling. “It wasn’t my thing.” So, no. But credit to me for checking.
Everyone should use one of Jorge Mateo's bats, since it should have lots of hits in it. Who stole the Orioles' bats?
Who took the cookie from the cookie jar? Mommy took the cookie from the cookie jar. Who me? Yes, you. Couldn't be. Then, who? Sorry, I blacked out there. Remember Barney? Anyway, I’m back. And so are the bats, judging by last night. Clutch hits were bound to come. The Rays’ pitching is really good, so can’t lay all the blame on the Orioles. And softer-tossers like Adam Wainwright tend to befuddle them. Reminds me of my days covering prep sports in Anne Arundel County. Their softball pitchers were wicked windmillers. High velo for that sport and age. Then, they’d play a team from outside the county, like Western, and the slo-pitch approach wrecked their timing for a few innings. They’d practice by lowering the speed on the pitching machines as much as possible.
Glory days, they’ll pass you by.
That’s not a question. It’s also a tad rude.
I’d have Cedric Mullins batting leadoff, wouldn’t you?
I see the logic against right-handers, though Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman aren’t poor choices. I know that Rutschman hasn’t been hitting lately but he gets on base. And you saw what Henderson did last night. But yeah, Mullins and his speed are assets atop the order when he isn’t slumping.
Is Kjerstad going to play regularly for the rest of the season?
I didn’t get the sense that he’d be in the lineup most days, and so far it’s happened once in three games. We don’t know that he’s here for the rest of the season.
Jack Flaherty. Why?
The Orioles like his stuff or they wouldn’t have traded for him. Thought he could be an innings guy with a track record and playoff experience. Had plenty of irons in the deadline fires. Couldn’t swing other deals. Came to an agreement with the Cardinals.
Do you believe Mike Elias will be allowed to be aggressive in the off-season and pursue a top of the rotation starter and some bullpen help?
Pitching is always on the list. Elias has stated that payroll can increase when the Orioles are ready to contend, but exact figures aren’t available. The small-to-mid-market label makes it unlikely that banks will be broken, which is why trades are the more likely avenue if the prospect package is palatable.
When is it a must-win game?
When you must win it.
You really can be a jerk. Wait, is this further proof that you really can be a jerk?
Sorry. But nice job putting it in the form of a question. I respect that. I think it’s must-win if elimination is the alternative. If a loss ends something. You also could say it’s must-win if a defeat really puts you in a bad spot, but technically, you didn’t have to win it.
Does the Orioles' penchant for frequent roster moves ever create tension or anger in the players affected? How does Brandon Hyde avoid this from affecting team and organization chemistry?
I’ve never seen anyone throw a tantrum. Then again, the doors do close to the media. We’re always told, “He handled it like a pro.” I believe that. I don’t think an honest answer would be, “He flopped on the floor and held his breath until he turned blue.” Or, “I feared for my life.” Guys get that it’s a business. They don’t celebrate the demotions, of course, but I don’t think it creates serious issues. I’m sure there’s a little tension when a move is pending and some players wonder if it will impact them. That’s why the Orioles try to keep the news from leaking or hesitate to confirm one half of a transaction.
What albums do you think have the best opening song/closing song duos?
Fun question. Without putting much thought into it – sorry – I’ll nominate the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You” and “Shattered” from Some Girls. Also, “Thunder Road” and “Jungleland” from Springsteen’s Born to Run. Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours opens with “Second Hand News” and ends with “Gold Dust Woman.” I love this kind of stuff.
Is there some kind of consensus within the organization regarding dropping Flaherty for the playoffs?
Is this a mailbag version of just Jack? The club is evaluating him. Won’t reach an agreement this early. Much too soon to craft a playoff roster. For instance, they’re still seeing how John Means holds up. He’s made one start.
Any chance Jack Flaherty will be on the postseason roster? Tyler Wells?
Sigh. Both are possibilities but Wells has to get back here first. He’s still pitching in Triple-A and the results are mixed.
Do you think Flaherty is happy to be here?
I was happy when I thought we were changing topics. I think he’s happy to be on a team trying to win a World Series. I think he’s unhappy that he isn’t getting the best results – and going into his free agent season. I don’t know him, so I can’t say whether he’s usually a gregarious fellow, a cut-up. He seems quiet. I wasn’t in Toronto when he met with the local media for the first time and had an outstanding debut. I’m told he made a nice first impression. He gave a really thoughtful answer to my first question in Boston. We haven't seen the best of him. There's still some time left for it. The stuff is there. You can see it. It could be nasty coming out of the 'pen in the postseason if that's an option.
Where do you see the O’s ending up this season? Ditto next season?
The playoffs. The playoffs.
Is it beyond obvious that Tyler Wells can't start 2024 in the rotation? He is a great pitcher, but how does it help the team if he burns out by the All-Star break?
Could just be coincidence that he’s been a first-half guy. Keep in mind that he was injured in 2022. He was optioned in 2023 after being their best starter until the break. And the team decided to put him back in relief. There’s an innings consideration due to his Tommy John surgery, the pandemic, the Rule 5 bullpen role, his shortened 2022 season. I think he comes to camp next spring competing for a starting job. I wouldn’t give up on that.
Can Jorge López be on the postseason roster?
No. He wasn’t in the organization until Sept. 2. He’s here to help with the push.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers- overrated, underrated or let’s face it, just meh?
I vote “meh,” but lots of people like them. I’m not a fan of the group or the actual peppers. My hot take. And this seems like a good place to stop.
How many defensive players who are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame were afraid to hit people? Is it just Deion Sanders?
This is definitely a good place to stop.