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

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Orioles can’t hold on to early lead, drop series opener to Nationals 9-7

WASHINGTON, D.C — After salvaging a win over the Marlins on Sunday, the Orioles (20-50) made a trip down the beltway to face the Washington Nationals (38-32). When these teams met back in late May, the Nationals walked away with a sweep. The O’s interleague rival picked up where they left off and won Tuesday’s series opener 9-7 thanks to some timely offense. The win also secured the Nationals first season series victory over the O’s since 2007.

The Orioles got shutout twice in that previous series but came out of the gates on Tuesday looking to makeup for it. Thanks to a pair of two-run homers by Jace Peterson and Trey Mancini, the O’s were able to take a 4-1 lead in the fourth. The Birds added a fifth in the following inning by taking what Nationals starter Jefry Rodriguez was giving them.

Rodriguez, who was making his first major league start, wasn’t finding much success early on. He completely lost control in the fifth by walking David Hess and Peterson to start the inning. Rodriguez could not get settled in after this and proceeded to hit Adam Jones in the next at bat to load the bases.

The Orioles should have gotten more out of this situation, but Manny Machado grounded into a double play. The at bat managed to bring Hess home but it also quickly put an end to a potentially big inning. As the game progressed, this developed into an even bigger missed opportunity.

Hess was stout early on in his start and looked like he was on his way to a quality start. However, the 24-year-old rookie ended up falling apart in the fifth. Just like Rodriguez did in the top of the fifth, Hess opened the inning by loading the bases. Hess had a little breathing room to work with, but that was erased fairly quickly after giving up a two-RBI single to Adam Eaton.

The Nats grabbed another two runs with a sacrifice fly by Anthony Rendon and a double by Bryce Harper. Just like that, the game was tied and Hess’ night came to an end.

The O’s offense didn’t waste any time getting the lead back in the sixth but once again there was a big missed opportunity as Jonathan Schoop led off the inning with a triple. Later in the inning Mancini hit a ground ball back to the mound and Schoop got caught in a rundown. The Orioles loaded the bases once again but only managed to push one run across with a fielder’s choice.

This slim lead would not last long in the hands of the O’s inconsistent bullpen. Tanner Scott entered the game to pitch the seventh but the Nationals batters continued to dominate at the plate. A two-RBI double by Rendon gave Washington the lead once again and they would continue to pile on runs after chasing Scott out of the game. Mike Wright was brought in to try to put out the fire but that didn’t go over well. Wright doesn’t often find himself in these high leverage situations, and for good reason.

As you might expect, Wright was not able to escape the inning without giving up two additional runs. One was credited to Scott but it doesn’t really matter as both relievers failed to maintain the lead the offense had given them.

The O’s went into the final two innings down 9-6 and that was just too much for the offense to overcome. Joey Rickard‘s solo homer made it a 9-7 game in the ninth, but that was all the offense could muster. Nationals closer Sean Doolittle recovered from the mistake and managed to finish off the inning for his 19th save of the year.

Image credit: Patrick McDermott / Getty Images

Series Recap: Orioles end 11-day win drought with sweep over Mets

QUEENS, NY — The Baltimore Orioles earned a two-game sweep over the New York Mets on Tuesday evening and Wednesday afternoon. Baltimore’s record moves to 19-41, 22.5 games back in the American League East. The Mets fall to 27-32, extending their losing streak to six games. They now trail the National League East-leading Braves (36-25) by eight games.

Game 1 (2-1 BAL): The Orioles plated two runs in the first inning, and that ended up being all they needed to win for the first time in 11 days, ending a seven-game losing streak.

Trey Mancini, Adam Jones, and Manny Machado got it going right away with three straight singles to begin the game. Mancini scored on Machado’s single, which simultaneously moved Jones over to third. Then, Danny Valencia flew out to left field, but Jones scored and awarded Valencia an RBI.

Machado stole second base after his single, but Mark Trumbo struck out and Jonathan Schoop flew out to end the top of the first inning.

Alex Cobb breezed through his first four innings, as catcher Kevin Plawecki drawing a walk in the second inning wound up being the Mets’ only baserunner in the first four frames. The Mets cut Baltimore’s lead in half in the fifth inning when rightfielder Jay Bruce scored on a flyout by former American League East-foe José Bautista. Bruce singled to begin the inning, and moved to third on a Plawecki double. But, Cobb pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning, and left the game after throwing 99 pitches, 61 for strikes. His effort earned him his second win of the season, lifting his overall record to 2-7.

Mychal Givens pitched the seventh inning and one third of the eighth inning. He walked one and struck out two. Richard Bleier got the final two outs of the eighth inning, and Brad Brach earned his ninth save of the season despite walking Bruce with two outs.

New York starter Jason Vargas lost his fourth game of the season after winning two straight games, dropping his record to 2-4.

Game 2 (1-0 BAL): Both starters – Zack Wheeler and Dylan Bundy – cruised through seven shutout innings. Each allowed just three hits and stuck out five. Bundy led in walks over Wheeler 3-1. Bundy threw 96 pitches (62 strikes), and Wheeler tossed 93 (60 strikes).

The Orioles scored their lone and winning run in the eighth inning. Pinch-hitter Pedro Alvarez, batting leadoff, singled on a ground ball thrown by relief pitcher Jeurys Familia. Craig Gentry came into the game to run for Alvarez. Mancini lined out to Bruce, but then Jones singled to left field, advancing Gentry to third base. Machado drove Gentry home on another single, this one to centerfield. The score led to Baltimore’s sweep and gave Familia his third loss of the season, lowering his record to 2-3.

Once again in the ninth inning, Brach earned his second save in 24 hours. Leadoff hitter Todd Frazier singled to begin the inning, but Brach regrouped and retired the side to end the game. Bundy received the win, raising his record to 4-7.

Up Next: The Orioles head to Toronto for their first series at the Rogers Centre of the 2018 season. The four-game series versus the Blue Jays features 7:07 pm starts on Thursday and Friday, and 1:07 pm starts on Saturday and Sunday.

Image Credit: NY Daily 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

 

Orioles look to snap losing streak as Yankees come to town

BALTIMORE — The Orioles return to Camden Yards earlier this week did not have the soothing effect one might hope. After dropping the last two games of their series against Tampa Bay, the O’s came home and got swept by the Washington Nationals.

Tis weekend the New York Yankees will visit Camden Yards for the first time this season for a four game set against the basement dwelling O’s. Unlike the O’s, New York continues to find themselves in a constant battle with Boston for the AL East crown. While it is still very early, the Yankees can’t afford to lose matchups like this weekend’s series if they want to keep pace with Boston. With that being said, the O’s have already showed they can give the Yankees trouble despite being one of the worst teams in the league.

Last meeting: The Orioles and Yankees squared off back in early in April with a four game weekend series at Yankee Stadium. The Orioles ended up surprising everyone and took the series 3-1 thanks to a pair of extra inning wins. Manny Machado led the way for the Baltimore offense with seven hits and four RBI’s in the series. Things were not going as well at the time for Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees newly acquired slugger struck out eight times in the series, five of which came in Sunday’s 12 inning finale.

Game times and pitching matchups:

Game 1: Thursday, May 31, 7:05 pm – Andrew Cashner (2-6, 5.07 ERA) vs Sonny Gray (3-4, 5.98 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 2: Friday, June 1, 7:05 pm – Kevin Gausman (3-4, 4.31 ERA) vs Masahiro Tanaka (6-2, 4.62 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 3: Saturday, June 2, 4:05 pm – Alex Cobb (1-7, 6.80 ERA) vs Domingo German (0-3, 5.45 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 4: Sunday, June 4, 1:05 pm – Dylan Bundy (3-7, 4.46 ERA) vs CC Sabathia (2-1, 3.73 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Notes on Orioles:

  • The Oriole’s lineup is full of inconsistent hitters but there are some slumps that start to become very concerning the longer they go on. Trey Mancini is in the midst of one right now and while the cause has not been directly attributed to anything, many fear that a lingering injury could be to blame. Mancini got off to a solid start in 2018 and hit .284 through most of April. However, on April 20 Mancini injured his knee while sliding into the wall in left field. It forced him to leave the game but he returned to field a few days later. Since experiencing that scare, Mancini is batting .198 and has picked up just one hit in his last six games.
  • The Orioles have played quite a few series against division opponents so far in 2018 but have only managed to win a pair of them. Coming into their second meeting with the Yankees, the O’s hold a record of 9-14 against fellow AL East teams.

Notes on Yankees:

  • Yankees veteran starter, CC Sabathia will be making his 43rd career start against the O’s this weekend. The only team he has faced more in his 18 years in the majors is the Tampa Bay Rays (45). Twenty five of those starts have taken place at Camden yards where Sabathia holds an 11-7 record with a 3.58 ERA.
  • When these teams last met in early April, Didi Gregorius was off to a scorching hot start. The Yankees shortstop was batting .375 and had accumulated ten RBI’s through the first ten games of the season. Since then Gregorius has cooled down significantly and is batting .146 in the month of May with just four RBI’s.

Image credit: Andy Marlin / USA Today Sports

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

Orioles offense steps up in series finale to split four game set against White Sox

Game 1 (3-2 BAL): The Orioles opened up their second four-game road series in a row with a quality performance. Andrew Cashner got the start for the Orioles and battled his way through five strong innings before turning it over to the bullpen.

Three relievers entered the game after Cashner’s exit to close out the final four innings of a one-run game. Mychal Givens tossed two clean innings and Richard Bleier worked through the eighth on just 10 pitches. Brad Brach has been shaky this season both in and out of the closer role and that didn’t stop on Monday. Brach caused a scare by loading the bases in the ninth, but still managed to escape and pick up his seventh save of the year by striking out the side.

The O’s offense was not particularity dominate but utilized three solo home runs by Manny Machado, Mark Trumbo and Adam Jones to edge past the White Sox.

The Orioles also got some crucial defensive plays from Trey Mancini and Machado in the fifth inning that ended up being huge in maintaining the slim lead. It started when Chicago’s Adam Engel tried to stretch a hit into a double but ended up getting cut down by Mancini’s throw to second base. The White Sox base runners did not learn their lesson and once again tried to be aggressive with two outs in the same inning.

With runners on first and second, Jose Abreu came through with a clutch double to left field that looked like it might score two. Mancini recovered the ball quickly and got it in to Machado who fired his relay throw to home plate in time to save a run.

Game 2 (3-2 CHW): These two evenly matched teams played another close game on Tuesday that ended in the same score as game one. However, this time the White Sox came out on top after picking up three runs in the eighth inning.

Kevin Gausman was even more effective than Cashner the night before, tossing 6.1 innings of work and racking up 10 strikeouts. Gausman has been the most consistent member of the O’s rotation so far this season and did a good job of getting back on track after a rare six-run performance last week against Boston.

Unfortunately the Givens and Bleier combo was not as effective as they were in game one. Givens finished off the seventh without any issues but ran into trouble in the eighth after giving up a leadoff triple and then loading the bases. Bleier entered the game and quickly traded the lead for the second out of the inning when Yoan Moncada hit a sacrifice fly. Yolmer Sanchez followed with an RBI single to give the White Sox their first lead of the game.

Miguel Castro closed out the inning but the damage had already been done and the O’s offense was left with just one inning to get their lead back or at least tie it up. Chris Davis walked and Trumbo singled to get two on with one out, but the potential rally ended there and Chicago escaped with a comeback win.

Game 3 (11-1 CHW): Full recap of Wednesday’s game by Ian Schultz

Game 4 (9-3 BAL): After completely imploding on Wednesday the Orioles regrouped and got great outings from both the offense and Dylan Bundy to force a series split. It started right away in the first inning when the Orioles offense took everything that was being given to them by White Sox starter Lucas Giolito.

The O’s started the first very impatient, getting two runners on but also picking up two outs after just eleven pitches. Davis, of all people, was the patient one at the plate and took a walk to load the bases and start the string of  good at-bats. Giolito could not settle down after walking Davis and proceeded to give up a pair of runs by walking the next two batters. Chance Sisco capped off the inning with a two-RBI single to make it a 4-0 game early.

Through the next two innings the Orioles offense would add five more runs. Mancini and Jones went yard back-to-back in the second while Machado and Pedro Alvarez added RBI singles in the third to put the O’s up 9-0.

Bundy also delivered a great start that was much needed after Cobb made an early exit the night before. Bundy went the distance for the second complete game of his career. He only ran into a little trouble in the fourth when Jose Rondon launched a three run homer to left field. It resulted in a weird box score as Bundy hit a batter and then allowed another to reach base on a wild pitch strikeout earlier in the inning. After the fourth the White Sox had scored three runs but recorded just one hit.

Bundy settled down after this and gave up just one more hit through the next five innings as he picked up his third win of the year. He would also finish with 14 strikeouts, just shy of the franchise record for most in a single game. The record of 15 strikeouts has been reached by three different pitchers with Erik Bedard being the most recent in 2007.

Up next: The Orioles wrap up their road trip this weekend against the Tampa Bay Rays. This marks the third meeting between these two AL East teams so far this year, but the first time in St. Petersburg.

Image credit: Charles Rex Arbogast / AP