(A failed attempt to reference “Old School”)
This team has played eight series. Six have resulted in sweeps - the Orioles on the good side of three and the bad side of three. And now their losing streak has reached four games to lower their record to 12-12.
The alternate cap should have a broom on the front.
Players that live by the clichéd “one game at a time” motto are handling the losses in the same manner as the wins. Can’t get too high or low. Control the emotions, embrace a new day.
It’s an approach endorsed by manager Brandon Hyde, who checked the 2020 baseball forecast and never expected smooth sailing.
“I think we’ve done a nice job of that for a couple of years,” he said yesterday. “We’ve had multiple tough losses in the last year-plus and I feel like we’ve rebounded fairly well.”
No matter what happens the rest of the way, one point, for me, is indisputable:
If anyone had suggested that this team would be .500 on Aug. 20 and four above a week earlier without Trey Mancini for the season, John Means going on the injured and bereavement lists and still building up his pitch count, Hunter Harvey on the injured list and still waiting to make his 2020 debut, Iglesias dealing with a leg injury that kept removing him from the lineup and eventually forced him onto the IL, Austin Hays on the IL again, Richard Bleier traded and Chris Davis 6-for-49 with no home runs and reduced to occasional starts, my guess is you would have laughed or accused the person of excessive alcohol consumption.
* I never would have believed that pitcher César Valdez and utility player Dilson Herrera would remain at the alternate camp site almost four weeks into the season. And with so much roster turnover due to injuries and struggling relievers.
Valdez made a tremendous impression in spring training and summer training camp. Pitching coach Doug Brocail, I’m told, was really impressed, and that’s a good guy to have in your corner.
Herrera couldn’t stop hitting at the summer camp and played a solid, and occasionally spectacular, left and right field. We already knew about his versatility in the infield.
The assortment of injuries and some shaky defense in left haven’t prompted the Orioles to select his contract from the alternate camp site.
I would have bet on it.
* Hyde can accept the losing a lot easier if the Orioles are playing good fundamental baseball. Baserunning gaffes would make him pull out his hair if ... you know.
Some are so obvious, like Dwight Smith Jr. getting caught in a rundown between third base and home plate in the 10th inning of Saturday night’s loss. Some are a little more subtle, like Chance Sisco breaking from third base on contact yesterday in the first inning and being an easy out at home. And Anthony Santander holding at second base on the play.
Sisco was supposed to pause before heading home on a throw across the diamond and Santander should have bolted for third.
Improvement on the bases has been a point of emphasis this year. It’s also been streaky.
“A little better, but we have a long way to go still,” Hyde said.
“We still make too many mistakes and that’s just part of being an inexperienced group. We’re improving, but we’re not where we need to be.”
* Former Orioles minor leaguer Mike Yastrzemski began yesterday slashing .311/.436/.656 with seven doubles, three triples, six home runs, 19 RBIs, 21 runs and 20 walks in 25 games with the Giants. He was tied for the major league lead in triples, tied for third in walks, ranked sixth in OPS at 1.092 and was ninth in on-base percentage.
Fans keep asking whether the Orioles released Yastrzemski, lost him on a waiver claim or traded him. He was dealt to the Giants in March 2019 for pitcher Tyler Herb, who posted a 7.16 ERA and 1.904 WHIP in 16 games at Triple-A Norfolk. Herb remains in the organization but not in the 60-man player pool.
It’s an unfortunate swap in hindsight, but young Yaz batted .221/.312/.369 in 94 games with Norfolk in 2016 and .240/.322/.417 in 81 games the following summer. He hit .202/.276/.327 in 27 games at Double-A Bowie in 2018, though he also registered a .359 on-base percentage and had six triples in 94 games with Norfolk. Other outfielders in the organization moved ahead of him.
He was exposed in the Rule 5 draft three winters in a row and no one claimed him.
Every team passed, including the Giants.
As I recall, the majority of reactions from fans after the trade involved Herb’s name and a bunch of weed jokes. There wasn’t much outrage. But I sensed a little disappointment based on Yastrzemski’s bloodlines, homegrown status and earlier work in the minors as a triples machine. And he finally got a spring training invitation in 2019.
Yastrzemski is a terrific story and anyone who’s met him is happy for his success. But teams weren’t lining up for him. What’s happening is catching the industry by surprise.
Maybe he would be doing the same in Baltimore at age 29 if given an extended audition. Maybe not. Guess we’ll never know.
* In a random act that interrupted my viewing of yesterday’s game, I decided to check Adam Jones’ stats with the Orix Buffaloes of the Japan Pacific League.
Jones appeared in 48 games and was batting .236/.313/.362 with seven doubles, five home runs and 23 RBIs in 195 plate appearances.
The five-time All-Star, and one of the most popular players in Orioles history, must be stuck in another rebuild.
The Buffaloes were in last place with a 16-32-4 record, 12 games behind the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
* Former Orioles pitcher Jimmy Yacabonis is on the move again.
Signed by the Padres to a minor league deal over the winter, Yacabonis was traded yesterday to the Mariners for cash considerations and sent to their alternate camp site.
The Norfolk shuttle hurt Yacabonis more than other pitchers in the organization. So did the indecisiveness regarding his role. A reliever, a starter, a reliever - depending whether he pitched in the majors or minors. A possible opener or a potential bulk guy, never able to get comfortable before packing his bags again.
The counter argument takes us back to an old Buck Showalter story - there are so many - about the part-timer who argued that if he played more, he’d play better.
“Play better,” Showalter countered, “and you’d play more.”
Something along those lines.