Baltimore Orioles: Legit Worries? Or an Abundance of Caution?


Oct 5, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy (2) walks back to the dugout after striking out against the Detroit Tigers during game three of the 2014 ALDS baseball playoff game at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

There have been nine days completed already of the Baltimore Orioles spring training for 2014. Even better news today is that the calendar says “March.”  Unlike last year, the regular season doesn’t begin until April, but soon – very, very soon in fact – there will be baseball games again! This was a February in Maryland to be forgotten.

As a theme today, I am going to bring up a topic that I admit may portend just a bit of paranoia on my part. But a number of items have come together at the same location my brain to make me raise the following question:  Is there concern on the part of Orioles management about J.J. Hardy’s health – most specifically his back? Could there be an undisclosed knowledge that all is not well “back there?”

Even as you might identify my train of thought as a slow-moving freight train, here is my observational evidence…

  1. The late offseason collection of fringe infielders, culminating with the $2.4 million deal with Everth Cabrera. There was not a lot of talk about this as a need earlier on. All the conversation was about the left-handed hitting corner outfielder and the hopes for another reliever, etc.
  2. Today we read from our local eyewitness that even Jonathan Schoop is taking ground balls at shortstop.
  3. Releasing outfielder Alex Hassan instead of infielder Jimmy Paredes, the opposite of which would have made more sense given their long-term upside potential.

Trying to be logical, it seems to me that all of this is one of three things:

  1. That indeed there is a high level of concern about Hardy’s back, either because of something specifically known, or because of observation that it has been a recurrent issue. After a pair of seasons with 158 and 159 games played, Hardy dropped to 141 in 2014.
  2. That the Orioles are simply piling up infielders as plentiful insurance, acknowledging that there is not a great deal of talent in the upper levels of the minor leagues. The organization needs to have level-capable players at each stop in the system. It does a pitcher on the cusp of breaking through at Norfolk no good to have to pitch with an A-level infield behind him if that is all the system can generate.
  3. A strategy is being developed to intentionally give Hardy a significant number of off days. This would make sense and may be filled with great wisdom. If there is a way to save Hardy and his back without a significant drop in defense or offense, it may be the smartest thing to do.

It could also be that Buck Showalter is just so extremely thorough that he is using the time to prepare for and cover every possible contingency in a grand abundance of caution. After all, he is as close to be omniscient when it comes to the sport of baseball as is humanly possible.

Let me know if you think I should seek out a paranoids anonymous group, but then again, I’d be too suspicious to attend.

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