Three things to watch for as the Ravens take on the Rams Thursday night

The Baltimore Ravens will take on the Los Angeles Rams Thursday evening at M&T Stadium in their week one preseason matchup.

The Ravens look to build off of their preseason-opening 17-16 victory over the Chicago Bears in the Hall of Fame game last week in Canton Ohio.

Here are three things watch for during Thursday night’s contest.

1) Who plays and for how long? 

According to ESPN‘s Jamison Hensley, Ravens starting quarterback Joe Flacco said that he expects to play in Thursday’s game. If Flacco does play, could this mean the debuts of the revamped starting receiving corps of Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and John Brown?

If any of these guys see the field on Thursday night it is unknown how long they will play. Traditionally Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has had his starters play a series or two in the first preseason game. It would mark the first preseason action for Flacco since Aug. 27, 2016 versus Detroit as he missed all of last year’s games with a herniated disk in his back.

What impact will Flacco’s apperarance have on the playing time of the other Ravens quarterbacks? Robert Griffin III performed well in the preseason opener while Lamar Jackson struggled and looked like a quarterback who needs as many reps as he can get this preseason.

It will also be intriguing to see if veteran defensive stalwarts Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle see the field Thursday night. Suggs is entering his 16th season and has looked great in camp this summer. Weddle is entering his 12th season but you wouldn’t know it from this clip after joint practice with the Rams on Monday as he seems as charged up as ever.

2) Who keeps their momentum going and who bounces back?

The toast of the town late last week was Ravens third-year linebacker Kamalei Correa. Correa was a beast against the Bears, finishing with six tackles, three sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. His effort earned him some praise from Harbaugh.

Going into the contest, I was anxious to see what impact new defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale would have on the defense and Correa’s big night was a product of returning to outside linebacker, his natural position. It will be interesting to see if Correa can provide another big night and continue to remove himself from the roster bubble.

Looking to bounce back for the Ravens would be wide receiver Breshad Perriman. The trials and tribulations of Perriman have been well documented and on the Ravens first possession last Thursday night, Perriman provided another moment to his list.

This interception led Gordon McGuiness of Pro Football Focus to take still frames of two plays from Perriman’s last two games against the Bears.

Perriman finished the night with two catches for 19 yards and has quite a mountain to climb to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.

3) Offensive Line play

Ravens quarterbacks were sacked eight times last Thursday night. Six of the eight sacks were endured by mobile quarterbacks Griffin and Jackson.  This is an alarming trend considering both players move significantly better in getting away from pressure than Flacco does.

Orlando Brown Jr led the group in total snaps and performed satisfactorily in his first taste of NFL action.  It’s worth noting that the remaining leaders in offensive linemen snaps (Jermaine Eluemunor, Bradley Bozeman, Maurquice Shakir, and Randin Crecelius) are not anticipated to be starters for the Ravens but it leaves the offensive line’s depth in doubt.

Given Alex Lewis and Marshal Yanda’s injury history, this is a definite area of improvement for the Ravens this Thursday night. Lewis returned to practice on July 28 after sitting out a few sessions with a nagging ankle injury. He missed all of last season with a shoulder injury.

Yanda came off the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list on Monday and returned to practice on a limited basis. This is a great sign for the Ravens as he is working his way back from a fractured ankle he suffered in week two last season. He also suffered a partially-torn rotator cuff while lifting weights in December and underwent a procedure to fix it up. The shoulder injury is actually what’s held Yanda out to this point. He is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season.

The Details:

Image Credit: Baltimore Ravens

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Three things to watch for as the Baltimore Ravens preseason begins

The Baltimore Ravens will head to Canton Ohio to kick off their 2018 preseason schedule against the Chicago Bears in the NFL Hall of Fame Game on Thursday night.

It will mark the first time the Ravens take the field since their heartbreaking 31-27 season-ending defeat against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on December 31, 2017. That loss landed Baltimore out of the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.

With most of the starters not expected to play on Thursday, here are three things I am watching for as the Ravens start their 2018 campaign.

1. Lamar Jackson

The buzz around Baltimore has been significant surrounding Lamar Jackson ever since the Ravens traded back into the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft to select the 2016 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback out of Louisville 32nd overall.

Jackson’s accolades and statistics in the collegiate ranks are unprecedented. To go along with his Heisman Trophy, Jackson was the 2016 and 2017 ACC Player of the Year. He was also a unanimous first team All-American in 2016. In Jackson’s final two years at Louisville he amassed 10,375 total yards and 96 total TD’S.

So what does all of this mean at the next level? Absolutely nothing. The learning curve for Jackson begins for real this Thursday night and I cannot wait to see how the “future” of the quarterback position in Baltimore looks in his first test as an NFL quarterback. It will be interesting to see who starts the game, but it is expected that both Jackson and Robert Griffin III will receive significant playing time.

Jackson channeled his inner Bart Scott when asked about his debut:

2. Wide receiver corps

While nothing has been announced as of yet, it is unlikely that the Ravens new look receiving corps of Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and John Brown will see much action in Thursday’s opener.

That means the spotlight will be on Chris Moore, Breshad Perriman, and rookies Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley as they look to establish themselves as contributing members of what has recently been a very disappointing position group of late for the Ravens.

Moore has the inside track to be the number four receiver and is looking to improve upon his numbers from last season (18 catches 248 yards and 3 touchdowns). Moore is entering his third season in Baltimore out of the University of Cincinnati and Thursday could prove a key moment for him as he looks to gain a stranglehold on that fourth receiver spot.

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Breshad Perriman is fighting for a roster spot. Image Credit: Sporting News

The much maligned Perriman is entering his fourth season with the Ravens. The first- round draft pick in 2015 missed his entire rookie season with injuries and has struggled in his two seasons since, tallying just 43 catches and three touchdowns. After the Ravens picked up his roster bonus, he is now battling to make the week one roster. This could be Perriman’s last chance is Baltimore and a good showing on Thursday night could relieve some of the pressure he is sure to be feeling.

Scott and Lasley appear poised for significant reps at receiver in the preseason opener as well. Scott, a fourth-round pick out of New Mexico State has struggled out of the gate at training camp. Lasley was drafted in the fifth round out of UCLA and has been the more impressive of the two in training camp so far. Look for both to be featured prominently in the Ravens offense on Thursday night.

3. New Defensive Coordinator

While the 2017 Baltimore Ravens defense finished sixth in the NFL in points-per-game allowed (18.9), many Ravens fans, myself included, were excited when Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees retired one day after the 2017 season ended.

Often times Pees would sink into a “prevent” style defense when the team had the lead late in games.  This was a contributing factor in the Ravens inability to hold on to a 38-29 lead in the fourth quarter of what became an AFC North division clinching loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh.

Enter Don “Wink” Martindale who was promoted to Defensive Coordinator this off-season. Martindale struggled in his only prior stint as an NFL defensive coordinator when he guided the Denver Broncos to a last place finish in total defense.  That hasn’t stopped many Ravens including Tony Jefferson from raving about him this offseason:

While it is just the first preseason game, the excitement around town is noticeable. Amid the Orioles fire sale, the Ravens will look to provide a welcomed distraction for Charm City as they get their 2018 campaign underway on Thursday night.

Image Credit: Associated Press

Examining the Orioles 2018 Season to Date: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Baltimore Orioles came into the season with expectations to challenge for at minimum the second Wildcard spot in the American League.  The team had brought back most of its notable offensive firepower from last season and had bolstered their rotation through the free agent signings of Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner.

However, as the Orioles and their fans are enjoying the 2018 All-Star break, the team is sitting at 28-69 overall, a whopping 39.5 games behind the first place Boston Red Sox. Only the Kansas City Royals at 27-68 have a worse record than the Orioles on the season.

Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of the 2018 season to date.

The Good

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Manny Machado at the 2018 All Star Game. Image Credit: Getty Images

At 28-69 it is extremely difficult to locate any positives with this ball club, but the one player who stands out is soon to be ex-Oriole Manny Machado.  Machado is having yet another monster season hitting .315 with 24 homers and 65 RBI as we hit the All-Star break.  Not surprisingly, Machado is also the only Orioles representative at the 2018 Mid-Summer Classic.

It is expected that the club is nearing a trade for Machado prior to the end of the All-Star break which means that we may have seen the last of Machado in an Orioles uniform. Machado will hit free agency this summer and many Orioles fans will be hoping he doesnt sign in the Bronx with the New York Yankees.

Honorable Mentions for the good would include center fielder Adam Jones  (.275, 10 homers and 36 RBI) and outfielder/DH Mark Trumbo (.251, 12 homers and 28 RBI) who have put together decent seasons in what otherwise has been a year to forget for Orioles fans up to this point.

The Bad

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Image Credit: MassLive

The bad could go on and on but some points have to be slotted into the ugly category so to start off the bad lets look at Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini.  Mancini was a lightning rod for the Orioles offense last season finishing the year with a .293AVG while belting 24 homers and adding 78RBI. Mancini, 26 was late in arriving to the majors but many Orioles fans were expecting more of the same from “Boom Boom” in 2018.

Mancini has struggled throughout the year and is hitting just .216 with 12 homers and 26 RBI at the All-Star break.  Mancini has not been the same player since he crashed into the wall at Camden Yards on April 20 against the Cleveland Indians. Prior to the injury that saw him miss two games, Mancini was hitting .284 but has seen his average drop consistently ever since.

Also lumped in with the bad are the struggles of second basemen Jonathan Schoop. After a career year in 2017, Schoop is hitting .229 with 10 homers and 25 RBI to this point in the year.  Schoop missed 20 games with a right oblique strain from April 14- May 8 but was hitting just .230 prior to the injury. With Machado on the way out the contract talks (or lack there of) with Schoop could garner headlines this summer.

The Ugly

Where to start? Let’s start with the absolute abyss that is Chris Davis and the Orioles financial obligations to the first baseman.  Davis is enjoying what could be the worst season in MLB  history hitting .158 with nine homers and 28 RBI through the first “half” of the season. The Orioles owe the 32 year old over $90 million over the next four seasons and Davis has been so poor that he has been benched at multiple points throughout the year.

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Alex Cobb has had a miserable first season in Baltimore. Image Credit: USA Today

 

Davis is not alone in the ugly category to say the least. Free agent signing Alex Cobb is the second most disappointing Oriole to date. Cobb, who arrived in Baltimore after Spring Training had begun on a four year $57M contract, has yet to find his footing with the Birds. Cobb is 2-12 on the season with a 6.41ERA. Cobb had been a consistently reliable starter throughout his tenure with the Tampa Bay Rays but he has been Ubaldo Jimenez bad this year for the O’s.

For the rest of the ugly let’s consider the plethora of other reasons that this team is a dumpster fire. Colby Rasmus is not an MLB player and walked away from the club. Chris Tillman is barely a Single-A caliber pitcher at this point but is still being considered an option for starts in the second half of the season.

Tim Beckham is not an MLB third basemen. Trumbo cannot play the outfield. Danny Valencia, Craig Gentry, and Jace Peterson shouldn’t rank in the top ten on your team in games played if you have any aspirations for the playoffs. Furthermore Valencia, Gentry, and Peterson are taking at bats from younger players who should be getting the call up from the minors.

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Image Credit: The Baltimore Sun

Which brings me to the ugliest of the ugly.  The Orioles organization as a whole is a complete and utter failure. No one seems to know who is in charge although according to sources it is not pending free agent GM Dan Duquette. If Brady Anderson is in charge now or in the future should we be optimistic about the guy who lobbied to bring in Cobb and other free agent bust Cashner?

Why at 28-69 has not a soul been fired including pending free agent Buck Showalter? I’m betting at this point that no one is going to be. There will be trades of fan favorites and some of the younger players folks have been pining for will be called up from the minors, but will we see any accountability from a coaching/front office perspective? If so when?

It has been a “first half” to forget in Charm City. There is plenty of intrigue regarding the Orioles and how their team and organization will look when they arrive at the end of the season and into the future.

Unfortunately it won’t be the on the field intrigue that many had hoped for in March.

Image Credit: MLB.com

Washington Capitals Head Coach Barry Trotz Resigns

WASHINGTON- Eleven days ago head coach Barry Trotz and his Washington Capitals had just put the finishing touches on the team’s first ever Stanley Cup championship in 44 year of existence. Since that moment, DC has been riding this momentum through championship celebrations including last Tuesday’s parade that saw upwards of 100’s of thousands of Capitals fans flock to DC to be part of the party.

And in blink of an eye, the momentum was dashed. The Washington Capitals announced today that Barry Trotz had resigned from the club and would be moving on effective immediately.

It has since been reported by various sources that the moment that Trotz guided the Capitals to the championship, a two year contract extension worth roughly $2 million per year had kicked in.  Unfortunately for the Capitals, this contract extension language was agreed upon in 2014 prior to the explosion of NHL head coaching contracts that started with Mike Babcock in Toronto and Joel Quenneville in Chicago.

Both of those former Stanley Cup winning coaches make upwards of  $5 million per season.  It is also being reported that both sides attempted to renegotiate the terms of the extension but the two parties couldn’t come to an agreement and ultimately Trotz chose to resign.

The real question is what does this mean for the Washington Capitals moving forward. It is widely expected that assistant coach Todd Rierden will be promoted to head coach with Trotz’s decision to resign. Rierden has been with the club since 2014 and he has largely been considered the coach in waiting.

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Image Credit: Sportsnet

According to Nick Kypreos, Rierden was in consideration for the head coaching vacancies in Arizona, Buffalo, and Florida last off-season and Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan denied interview requests for those teams to speak with Rierden. Many saw this revelation as an indication that perhaps Barry Trotz wouldn’t be back in Washington, Stanley Cup or not.

It is also important to note that on April 15, the Capitals were trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-0 in the best of seven series and on their way to another playoff disappointment.

Many fans and prominent reporters have also criticized Trotz throughout the season for questionable line up decisions and his unfaltering loyalty to struggling veteran players such as Brooks Orpik and Alex Chiasson among others. Often times, Trotz would scratch promising youngsters like Christian Djoos, Andre Burakovsky, and Jakub Vrana in favor of these veterans. All three younger players played a key role in the Caps finally climbing the Stanley Cup mountain.

It is unknown where Trotz will head next.  The only head coaching vacancies in NHL right now are the position that Trotz just resigned from and the New York Islanders. Trotz finishes his impressive four year tenure in Washington with a record of 205-89-34, which was good for the best record in the NHL.

Image Credit: Sporting News

Orioles must change offensive approach to end losing ways

The Baltimore Orioles (17-41) enter the week of Jun. 4 with the worst record in the Majors. Losers of seven straight games, the 2018 season is already over. Now over two months into the season, Orioles ownership faces a cloud of uncertainty with the contracts of both general manger Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter expiring after the season. That’s not a good situation for a team like the Orioles who sit 22.5 games out of first place in the American League East.

Whether Duquette sticks around or leaves town following the 2018 season, the Orioles’ offensive approach needs to change in order for the team to find success again. Since Duquette arrived in Baltimore, the Orioles have relied on lineups full of power bats to carry the team via the long ball. From 2012-17, the Orioles finished in the top 3 in home runs, and they led the major leagues in 2013, 2014, and 2016. Also in that time span, Baltimore finished within the top 10 in strikeouts three times. So far this season, the Orioles rank fifth in strikeouts (523) and 14’th in home runs (65). They’re also 27’th in walks taken (159), 27’th in average (.230) and 29’th in both on-base percentage (OBP) (.293) & runs scored (210).

While these stats span just over two months total, it’s not hard to figure out that these numbers do not point to a successful offense. While ranking 14’th in home runs still puts the Orioles in the middle of the pack, they’re not scoring enough runs, not getting on base enough, and they’re striking out at an alarming rate.

Currently, only four regular starters in the Orioles lineup – Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Trey Mancini, and Mark Trumbo – own OBP’s above .300. This means that over half of Baltimore’s lineup is failing to reach base in seven-of-10 at-bats. Guys like Jones and Trumbo have done all they can to carry the offense, but even they carry free-swinging power bats who will see large strikeout totals when the 2018 season comes to a close.

Easily, the biggest disappointment for the Orioles dates back to the 2016 offseason, and that’s Chris Davis. Since signing a seven-year, $161 million deal in the winter preceding the 2016 season, Davis has hit an alarming .196 with 68 home runs and 487 strikeouts. Things seem to be hitting rock-bottom this season with Davis hitting .152 with just four home runs. Davis has hit at least 21 home runs in seven of 11 seasons, but he’s on pace to finish 2018 with 12 home runs (and about 219 strikeouts).

One factor playing into the declining offensive numbers has to be age. The Orioles are a veteran-heavy team with Jones, Davis, and Trumbo all at the age of 32. Pedro Alvarez, who’s been playing fairly often in the DH spot, is 31. Jonathan Schoop and Mancini are both 26, and Machado turns 26 on Jul. 6. When Davis, Jones, and Trumbo were in their late 20’s, relying on the home run got the Orioles by. Now, a lot of these guys are well above 30 and have started to decline. None of them will admit to it, but the Orioles are a veteran team in need of a turnover that includes plenty of youth.

This should not come as a surprise, but the Red Sox (40-19), Yankees (37-17), Astros (37-23), and Braves (34-24) are the highest scorers of the 2018 season to date. Boston, Atlanta and Houston make up the top three teams in hits while the Yankees, Red Sox and Astros hold the top three spots in RBI. Meanwhile, the Rangers (25-36), Padres (26-34), Giants (28-30) and Orioles make up four of the top five teams in strikeouts this season, with third-place Philadelphia (31-25) being an exception. The stats don’t lie. Teams that hit consistently, score runs and play small ball see success more often than not. Home runs will only get you so far, and strikeouts are the killer.

The scary part about this situation is that the Orioles’ front office appears to be very naive to the issue with no real drive to change the offensive approach. Despite a plethora of designated hitter, power bat types already on the roster (in the forms of Davis, Trumbo and Alvarez), Duquette recently expressed interest in 34-year-old free agent Hanley Ramirez. Duquette has prior experience with Ramirez from his tenure with the Red Sox, but signing a 34-year-old power bat to a team that should be selling makes no sense. With a 17-41 record and a lineup full of aging, undisciplined batters, comments like these from Duquette are extremely concerning.

Another frustrating practice the Orioles implement is neglecting their farm system of international talent. In May, Ben Badler of Baseball America wrote a story highlighting Baltimore ownership’s refusal to spend money in the international market. As Badler wrote in the piece, Duquette’s input only goes so far since the decisions on talent are ultimately made by the Angelos family. The decision to not dip into the international market not only limits the scouting the Orioles can do, but the return the team gets for sending off their international pool money amounts to almost nothing.

The struggles of the 2018 Orioles must not all fall on the offense. The pitching has not been perfect either, with the starting rotation sporting a 5.43 ERA and a bullpen that’s dealt with several injuries. However, since defeating the Red Sox 7-4 on May 18, the Orioles scored three runs or fewer in 13 of their last 14 games, going 3-11 in that span. Even if Dylan Bundy or another Orioles starting pitcher delivers a quality start, the chances of the Orioles’ offense providing just three runs have not been good as of late.

With just under two months remaining before the 2018 MLB trade deadline, there’s still time for Duquette and Orioles’ ownership to make some moves to better the club beyond 2018. All aspects of the club could use some work, but the offense appears to be the biggest issue plaguing the team. The scary reality Orioles fans are faced with is that the team’s ownership has been extremely reluctant to make any sort of changes to the way they construct their team, and no recent events point to that pattern changing. The reliance on the home run worked for a few seasons, but it’s time to change the offensive approach. Until the Orioles do that, the team’s losing ways will continue indefinitely.

Image Credit: Beyond the Box Score

 

The tragedy of Chris Davis and the worst contract in Orioles history

The day is Apr. 5, 2013. It’s Opening Day at Camden Yards and Chris Davis just launched a grand slam into the left field seats to put the Orioles up 9-5 in the eighth inning. It marks his fourth home run in as many games to start the season but he is only getting started. Davis went on to finish that season with a franchise record 53 homers to accompany a solid .286 batting average and 138 RBI’s.

Fast forward five years and Davis is on pace for another 200+ strikeout season while hitting a measly .152 in the second month of the season. The O’s first baseman has reached a point where he would contribute more by riding the bench and it’s justifiably left the fan base very angry. Unfortunately, this terrible stretch is far from an anomaly for Davis, who has now hit below .250 in three of the last four seasons.

Plenty of players at the MLB level will put up similar numbers but only one has received a seven-year contract worth $161 million and that’s exactly where the problem comes in. Davis pulled one of the biggest con jobs in baseball history by turning two standout seasons into the most lucrative contract to ever come out of the front office in Baltimore.

Now let’s make no mistake, 2013 was a special year for Davis and his numbers don’t lie, but it’s the only year of his career where he produced something worthy of $23 million. Sure, 2012 and 2015 were quality years for Davis as well but far from enough to justify the deal he received. Despite this, you cannot deny Davis was an integral part of the Orioles’ successes between 2012 and 2015, which made him favorable in a town that had been starved of baseball glory for over a decade.

CaptureI would argue that the warning signs of Davis’ downfall were present between 2012 and 2015, particularly in 2014 when Davis slumped for most of the season before making an early exit due to suspension. This forced him to take nearly 150 less plate appearances than the year before but it didn’t stop him from striking out 173 times.

Yes, that is a lot of strikeouts. In fact, it now sits as the sixth highest single season strikeout total in franchise history. Now I know what you’re thinking. That’s ridiculous. Well, it gets even worse when you realize that all six of Davis’ seasons in Baltimore can be found on this list.

We tend to focus on the strikeouts a lot when it comes to Davis but 2014 was bad for him in almost every offensive capacity. His .196/.300/.404 line was one of the worst in his career, dating back to his time with the Texas Rangers where he never started a full season.

When the O’s ended up making the ALCS that year, many looked past or simply forget Davis’ concerning numbers at the plate. By the time he fixed them the following year, it was too late. The fan base was craving more playoff baseball after falling short of a World Series appearance the previous year and Davis’ bat was surely the answer to get them back, right? When the final weekend of the 2015 season rolled around, Davis received a standing ovation and pleas to stay in Baltimore from the home crowd at Camden Yards. Everyone was so convinced that Davis would be gone in a matter of weeks.

As luck would have it, weeks turned into months and Davis still had not reached a deal with another team. How could this be? These teams all saw what the Orioles didn’t, and that was a flawed, one-dimensional player asking for way too much money. After realizing they could make Davis an offer and he would actually listen, the Orioles got baited into paying him an insane sum of money to be their franchise first baseman until he turns 36 in the year 2022.

Not only was Davis a flash in the pan on offense, his defense has also taken a hit since signing the mega deal. Fans loved to taught the first baseman’s defensive skills but was he really that good? Davis has never won a Gold Glove, but you might be surprised to know he has some Gold Glove-worthy numbers under his belt. Davis posted a higher ultimate zone rating (UZR) than American League winner Eric Hosmer in both 2014 and 2015. The UZR metric is used to measure a player’s defensive ability by factoring in the aspects of defense that don’t show up in stat sheets like range and arm strength as well as the differences between different ball parks.

22d15a04-e051-4f7b-b2a7-51fe4182a407While he was not better than 2016 winner Mitch Moreland, Davis was still considered an above average defender based on UZR. It was around this time that fans were able to dismiss some of Davis’ troubles at the plate because they were not quite the norm yet and he was still a plus defender. However, the defensive numbers have taken a troubling dive in the past year and at this point we can’t even point to Davis’ defense as an excuse for him being in the lineup. His -2.4 UZR since the beginning of 2017 is the second-worst among qualified first baseman in the American league.

What makes Davis’ contract the worst in franchise history extends beyond his own numbers. The time period in which it happened is what truly makes the deal so puzzling and indefensible in hindsight. Obviously, no one would agree to this contract knowing what we do now but there’s really no sensible reason for the O’s to have fallen into this trap.

The Orioles are currently on the verge of a harsh reality. They have been avoiding this moment for a while but there is no way around it at this point. The core of this team is about to take a big hit and there isn’t anything in the farm system to compensate for that. It’s hard to say just how long the O’s can expect to be bottom feeders in the American league but we all remember the 14-year playoff drought that ran through the 2000’s. Those 65-to-75 win seasons are back and might be here to stay for the next few years.

I’m by no means blaming the Orioles’ current situation on Davis’ contract. The inability to develop pitching talent in-house and trading your farm system away for rentals at the deadline are contributors to the state of the Orioles in 2018, but Davis’ contract is certainly a big factor as well and here’s why.

Let’s start with the money. In the upcoming offseason the Orioles are set to lose their best player, Manny Machado. This has been a long time coming and now that the O’s know they have no chance of signing Machado, the only option is to trade him. Whether that actually happens or not doesn’t matter because we already know Machado will not be in an O’s uniform come 2019. In today’s market, $161 million is only a fraction of what Machado will command, but the O’s would certainly like to at least have that on hand to make him an offer because let’s be honest, Davis’ has not touched Machado in terms of value even when he is at the top of his game.

We knew Machado would be the better player in 2013 and we certainly know that now, but in case you need some numbers consider that Machado has had a higher WAR and WAA than Davis every year since 2013. Yes, that includes Davis’ two monster years where he hit 53 and 47 homers respectively.

Okay, maybe you’re not a fan of rolling out a huge deal for Machado either. That’s understandable. Especially considering there are more needs for this O’s team right now. That $161 million could have come in handy over the past few years when the Orioles were trying to entice free agent starters. Or maybe it could be divided into a couple of extensions for the young talent, like Jonathan Schoop, Trey Mancini and Dylan Bundy. Instead, you have an Orioles team with no financial leverage and $92 million still committed to a first baseman who has more strikeouts than hits and walks combined since signing his contract.

Besides the easy financial complaints we can look at the Orioles prospect options coming out of 2015. The previously mentioned Mancini made his MLB debut toward the end of the 2016 season, which didn’t come out of nowhere. He would follow that up with a full season in 2017 and finished third in the Rookie of the Year vote behind New York’s Aaron Judge and Boston’s Andrew Benintendi. Why on earth would the O’s commit seven years to a first baseman when you knew you had a prospect like Mancini ready to make his debut within the next year? Even if Mancini didn’t make it to the majors until the midway point or the end of 2017, you would be able to fill that hole at first for a much cheaper price than Davis.

In addition to that, everyone in the organization should have seen that Mancini was a more balanced hitter with the ability to hit for both contact and power while Davis is an aging free swinger with a home run-or-bust mentality. Now you have created a scenario where your first baseman of the future is getting a majority of his playing time outside his natural position.

I fear the negative effects of this signing have a chance to linger long into the future, which is why it should be considered the worst in franchise history. It’s not just Davis turning in bad numbers. It’s the fact that he is now stuck at the Major League level because of the financial commitment you made to him and he is bringing down the players around him.

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The Sporting News / Getty Images

So what other contracts can compete with this? Up until recently, Albert Belle was considered the worst signing in franchise history. After agreeing to a five year deal worth $65 million, Belle only played two years for the Orioles before being forced to retire because of the osteoarthritis in his hip. The loss was extremely disappointing due to how unforeseen it was but Belle had not shown any signs of dropping off and rarely missed time with injuries. In fact when Cal Ripken ended his consecutive game streak in 1998, Belle became the holder of the longest active streak.

Even though he was injured for three of those five years, Belle was worth his contract in the brief time he spent in Baltimore. The veteran slugger averaged 30 home runs and just 75 strikeouts in 1999 and 2000 while hitting .289. He would also extend his streak of 100 RBI seasons to nine by picking up 117 in 1999 and 103 in his final season.

Over the final three years of Belle’s contract he did not play for the Orioles but still took up a spot on the 40-man roster. This is the only aspect of the contract that made the team look especially foolish, but that changed when the O’s were reimbursed $27.1 million of the $39 million they paid Belle between 2001 and 2003 due to an insurance settlement.

Belle gets a lot of flack for being a clubhouse cancer and not playing a majority of the most expensive baseball contract of the late 90’s. However, Davis has already surpassed Belle in terms of being a bust with just under five full seasons left on his deal.

There isn’t really good answer as to what to do with him. No matter what it’s a waste of money but you have to decide if you’re willing to put a $161 million man in the minor leagues. Many would say yes but at the very least you have to try to give him less at bats if he is staying at the major league level. That means moving him down to the bottom of the order, where he belongs, or benching him for extended periods.

The Davis issue has been on everyone’s mind this week as Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer made some interesting remarks on the first baseman and his effort. “You’ve got to make some adjustments,” Palmer said. “I don’t see anything. I don’t see a wider stance. I don’t see him dropping his hands. I don’t see anything.”

The comments seemed normal enough until Palmer dropped a bit of a bomb on listeners.

“He told everybody in spring training that he worked with Scott Coolbaugh,” Palmer said. “So, I asked Scott, ‘Hey, you must have really put in a lot of work.’ He goes, ‘We didn’t work.’ So, I don’t believe anything.”

The legitimacy of Palmer’s comments have been debated with Coolbaugh and Davis defending their work. Assuming these claims are true, the Orioles have an even bigger problem on their hands than an overpaid player. They have an overpaid player unwilling to make adjustments like any other struggling player would. It makes you wonder if benching Davis even sends a message. Buck Showalter seems to think so but continues to place Davis in the middle of the lineup almost every day.

Unfortunately, the only thing we can do now is watch the madness of this contract continue to unfold. It probably won’t be pretty and I’d be willing to put money on the entire situation getting worse before it possibly gets better. All the evidence is right in front of us and it’s not even debatable anymore. Chris Davis’ seven year, $161 million contract is the worst in the history of the Baltimore Orioles. By the time it’s all said and done, it could be among the worst in Major League history.

Image credit: Nick Wass / AP