It was a topic on “Mike & Mike in the Morning” on ESPN Radio this morning. They were discussing some of the feel-good stories of the sports year. It made me think about the 2012 Orioles, a club that produced a few feel-good stories of their own.
How about Lew Ford? Even though he hit just .183 in 25 games, he began last year in the Atlantic League and ended it in the American League. Plus, he had been out of the majors since 2007 until he made it back with the Orioles. That’s not a bad place to start.
Nate McLouth should get a mention here. After batting just .140, he was released in May by Pittsburgh after he had struggled in recent years with Atlanta. His career was certainly not trending up when the Orioles signed him and sent him to Triple-A. But where would the club have been without his contributions over the last two months? He was the Orioles’ best hitter in the playoffs. He took over in the leadoff spot after Nick Markakis got hurt and sparked the offense late in the season.
It is hard to have a better feel-good story than “hometown kid makes good,” and Steve Johnson, the Baltimore native, sure was good last year. He had heard for years that he didn’t throw hard enough and that his stuff might not play in the majors. Then he joined the Orioles and went 4-0 with an ERA of 2.11. He fanned 46 batters over 38 1/3 innings with a batting average against of .174. Those numbers were better than good and position him well to make the 2013 Birds.
You could do worse in this category than Miguel Gonzalez. To say he came out of nowhere is almost an understatement. In 2011, Gonzalez went 0-5 with an ERA of 6.17 for Portland of the Double-A Eastern League, and he threw a total of 56 2/3 innings. He had missed the entire 2008-09 seasons due to injuries, but went 9-4 with a 3.25 ERA for the Orioles and now seems solidly a member of next year’s rotation.
There were other feel-good stories during last season. Chris Davis, getting the chance to get more than 400 at-bats for the first time, coming through with a .270 average and team-leading figures of 33 homers and 85 RBIs. He produced maybe the most stunning moment with that pitching performance in Boston.
Manny Machado excited fans when he got called up in August. In his second game, he homered twice Aug. 10 against Kansas City. The kid stepped into the majors and made an immediate impact and did it during a pennant race.
Of course the biggest feel-good story of all was the team as a whole. Winning baseball returned to Baltimore and the fans returned, too. The late-season games and home playoff games against New York produced some of the wildest atmospheres ever heard at Oriole Park.
Even while some fans are frustrated right now that the Orioles have yet to acquire a bat for the middle of their order, it’s okay to take a minute or two to remember that we had a lot to feel good about in 2012. Plus, there is plenty of offseason remaining to make more additions.
What do you think?: What was the top Orioles feel-good story of 2012?