Baltimore Orioles: Looking Back Helps Looking Ahead


Jul 10, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph (36) congratulates pitcher Zach Britton (53) after a game against the Washington Nationals at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles defeated the Nationals 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Even though it can change at any moment, there are currently no new rumors involving the Baltimore Orioles outfield. But by the time I complete this, post it and you read it, maybe Willie Mays will be on the radar.

Looking ahead to the coming season, there is no shortage of concern as to what the Orioles are going to do to cover the corner outfield positions and replace the lost production of lost players. At this point it would appear that all the quality options have been claimed by others and that what remains is less than stellar. How can the O’s possibly succeed with simply what they have on their current roster?

Sometimes it helps to not only look ahead, but to looks backwards as well.

A year ago today I wrote an article on the collapsing deal with Grant Balfour. You’ll recall that there was great consternation in Orioleland about the prior trade of Jim Johnson and the resultant empty “closer” role. It seemed that the situation may have been redeemed with securing the Balfour Rage, but then came the infamous failed physical exam.

The article on this date last year began …

The Baltimore Orioles and Grant Balfour deal is apparently swirling downward in a fashion that reminds one of the water in a porcelain … ugh … forget that, that’s not a good picture. Geez! This is not good. The unofficial reports are that the physical exam has identified some nature of shoulder concern, and now the deal is disintegrating and may be flushed.

The feeling about this vacancy had at that time very much the same feeling as exists today about on base percentages, a leadoff hitter, home runs, and sufficient defense in the loss of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. And as we are doing these days when looking at the 40-man roster and wondering who could possibly plug the hole, internal closer options were discussed last December with all their warts and imperfections duly noted. I continued in that article …

The loss of the contract with Balfour would seem to leave the Orioles a bit thin on back-end-of-the-bullpen arms. The internal options of Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter, and Darren O’Day are all a bit sketchy when their overall good stats are broken down into right and left splits.

The logical thought at that moment was that the Orioles would have to look outside the organization. During the time that all of this physical exam foolishness was happening, the Padres scooped up the one good closer still on the market – Joaquin Benoit. All that seemed to remain – in terms of any decent relievers with closer experience – were Chris Perez (Indians) and Fernando Rodney (Rays).

Those choices were not entirely appealing. Rodney was amazing in 2012 with an ERA of 0.60 and WHIP of 0.777 in 76 games, saving 48.  But in 2013, his ERA had ballooned to 3.38.

Chris Perez didn’t really look any better. Again, having had a decent 2012 campaign with 39 saves, his ERA in 2013 had blown up to a chubby-looking 4.33.  But again, he was an All-Star in 2011 and 2012. Was 2013 an aberration; and could he regain his prior form in a new atmosphere under the “Fresh Eyes” of the Orioles pitching staff?

As we know from completed history, the Orioles did not make a move to find a closer. They chose instead to grow one. The names of Matusz, Hunter, and O’Day were in the mix, along with possibly the previous acquisition from Miami – Ryan Webb. He seemed the best candidate to me, given that he did not have the left/right split problems of the others, along with being a sinkerballer.

Nowhere in my article did the name Zach Britton appear. Wow, what a jerk I was to not see that one, eh? Well, 100% of everyone else were jerks too; nobody was writing that Zach Britton was clearly the choice to be the closer for a 96-win team. If Duquette had said the job was going to Britton, he would have been excoriated even worse than he was already being denounced as a cheapskate.

But to make the point, let’s put the eventual closer Zach Britton’s 2014 numbers in a chart with the two possible outside candidates who would have been expensive to secure …

2014 TeamRecordSavesERAWHIP

All of this is to say that when looking to the past, it may help us to not have a sense of panic when looking to the future. The

Baltimore Orioles and Buck Showalter talk all the time about being a place of opportunity. And maybe the answer to the corner outfield situation is not that far away, but also not at all obvious.

More from Baltimore Orioles

< No extra charge for this: Late last night I saw where the Royals released an outfielder who has not proven he can hit and stick in the big leagues. His name is Carlos Peguero, and at age 27 he looks like a Dan Duquette specialty type. In portions of four seasons with the Mariners and Royals, over 69 games he has only managed a .196 average. However, at AAA last year, he hit 30 home runs in 104 games on a .266 average. He has 167 career homers in the minors. He throws and hits from the left side and is 6’5” / 250 pounds. >

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