Time to revisit more notes from the 2023 season. And not just the facts.
Here’s another attempt to expand on them. Stretching the truth.
Fact: Jorge Mateo became the first player in Orioles history and the eighth in the majors since at least 1901 with multiple stolen bases in a team’s first two games of the season. He also became the first player in club history and the 14th player since 1901 with at least four stolen bases in his first two games to begin a season. Mateo became the ninth Oriole to steal at least 20 bases in the team’s first 68 games and the first since Nate McLouth had 23 in 2013.
Follow: If only Mateo could reach base more often, but that’s been his issue at every stop.
Top 100 prospects don’t usually move around this much. He’s been traded twice and claimed on waivers, and he’s only 28.
The Orioles were smart to claim Mateo in August 2021 and designate infielder Pat Valaika for assignment. An athletic upgrade for an organization that hadn’t moved past its rebuild. A new player with a much higher ceiling.
They haven’t issued any guarantees that Mateo is on the Opening Day roster next year, but they signed him to a contract for the 2024 season. He was a non-tender candidate. So, there’s that.
Fact: James McCann became the first major league catcher to go 3-for-3 or better with a walk, stolen base and five RBIs in a game since the latter became an official statistic in 1920. He did it on Aug. 4 against the Mets. He also was one of three players since 1920 to record five or more RBIs and reach base safely in every plate appearance in their first game against a former team, joining Vladimir Guerrero versus the Nationals in 2005 – they moved from Montreal - and Bobby Bonds versus the Angels in 1978. McCann reached base in a career-high 16 straight games from July 16-Aug. 25.
Follow: The Orioles appeared to demolish their spring competition for backup catcher by trading for McCann, with the Mets responsible for the bulk of his salary over the next two seasons. McCann crossed them up by injuring his oblique, which allowed Anthony Bemboom to break camp for the second straight year.
McCann just needs to stay healthy next spring. He’s the undisputed backup to Adley Rutschman, and he’s giving the Orioles exactly what they wanted.
They love his defense and handling of the pitching staff. They trust him enough to lighten Rutschman’s workload. And also to lay down a bunt or three while the ball is aimed at his face.
You have to see it to believe it.
McCann also can play first base or pitch if the situation requires it.
Fact: Cedric Mullins tied the club record set by Corey Patterson and Brian Roberts in 2006 with 13 successful stolen base attempts to start the season.
Follow: Mullins took another step back from his 30/30 season, All-Star selection and Silver Slugger Award in 2021. His average dipped to .233 with a .721 OPS. His home run total was sliced in half from two years ago.
How much are injuries responsible for it?
Mullins was sidelined twice with right adductor/groin strains, and he talked about the impact after the Orioles were eliminated in the playoffs. Didn’t have his legs. Wasn’t the same player.
There had to be an explanation for his 2-for-48 finish and going hitless in 12 at-bats in the Division Series.
The Orioles are banking on a bounce-back season from Mullins. He doesn’t have much competition for the center field job. He owns it.
Fact: Cionel Pérez registered a 1.86 ERA in his final 36 appearances from June 23-Oct. 1, with the Guardians scoring three of the six runs on Sept. 21 in Cleveland. He posted a 2.32 ERA against teams outside the American League Central and had a 31.50 ERA with seven earned runs in two innings over four appearances versus the Guardians.
Follow: Stop using him against the Guardians.
OK, maybe that’s asking too much. Probably just a quirky stat.
Pérez is out of options and appeared to be running out of time with the Orioles after posting a 5.23 ERA and 2.516 WHIP the first month, with opponents batting .391/.482/.522 against him. He was only a smidge better in May and had a 4.45 ERA, 1.780 WHIP and .309 average against in the first half.
The poster child for bullpen regression, right? But the Orioles were rewarded for their trust and patience.
Pérez held right-handers to a .218/.293/.293 line in 2022, but they hit .305/.390/.381 this season. The three-batter minimum rule makes it harder to play matchups. But the Orioles will keep using him in high-leverage situations and hope he avoids the early-season hiccups.
Fact: Adley Rutschman reached base 257 times – 163 hits, 92 walks, two hit-by-pitches – which is the most by a primary Orioles catcher in team history. He drew multiple walks in 20 games, the most in a season by an Oriole since Albert Belle had 21 in 1999. His six intentional walks were the most by an Orioles batter since Manny Machado had 12 in 2018. He’s also tallied 66 doubles in his first two seasons, the second-most in a player's first two years behind Nick Markakis (68) from 2006-07.
Follow: Rutschman seemed to be overshadowed this year by Gunnar Henderson, the American League’s Rookie of the Year. No small feat considering that Rutschman made the All-Star team.
However, Rutschman is arguably the most irreplaceable player on the roster. His importance is widespread. No one can begin to fill those spikes.
One of his most impressive qualities is his ability to reach base. The patient and professional at-bats.
His keen eye at the plate can work against him at times, with umpires ringing him up on pitches that miss the zone by a hair. He’s right more times than he’s wrong but won’t always get the call.
Robo umps would solve that problem.
Fact: Ramón Urías tripled in consecutive games from Aug. 8-10, the first Orioles player since Jonathan Villar from Aug. 5-6, 2019.
Follow: Urías is underrated and underappreciated, though not in the clubhouse and in the organization.
Manager Brandon Hyde kept campaigning for Urías to win the Gold Glove at third base in 2022. He was right. He likes Urías’ sneaky power, defensive versatility and tendency to deliver in the clutch.
If Urías isn’t on the Opening Day roster, it’s because the talent pipeline flushed him away. He was tendered a 2024 contract on Friday.
The organization is flooded with infield prospects and graduates like Henderson and Jordan Westburg. Don’t blame Urías. He’s done the best he could.
And a very sad fact: Former Orioles third baseman Ryan Minor has been placed under home hospice care following a year-plus fight against Stage 4 colon cancer.
Follow: Minor's twin brother, Damon, posted the heartbreaking update over the weekend on social media.
Minor was diagnosed in October 2022.
“After meeting with his team of doctors at John’s Hopkins there are no more available treatment options for him,” Damon wrote. “He is at home under hospice care. Thank you to everyone for their continued prayers, support, and donations during this time.”
Minor will forever be remembered in Baltimore for starting at third base on Sept. 20, 1998, the night that Cal Ripken Jr. voluntarily ended his consecutive-games streak at 2,632.
As I've recounted many times, manager Ray Miller informed Minor that he was playing third that night, and Ryan responded, "Does Cal know?"
Minor spent parts of three seasons with the Orioles and finished in 2001 with the Expos. He also was a basketball standout at the University of Oklahoma and drafted in two sports. He later managed in Delmarva and Frederick.
My heart hurts for Ryan's wife, Allyson, and daughters Regan and Finley. I got to know him pretty well, including the night spent sitting next to him and sharing laughs at one of the Shorebirds' banquets. I wrote a sidebar on Minor for The Baltimore Sun on the night that The Streak ended, interviewing Damon for the early edition because I needed in-game quotes.
Ryan loves baseball but it doesn't come close to his family. He's a kind, generous man, and what's happening to all of them is so brutally unfair.
Here's the link again to the GoFundMe page.