Baltimore Orioles: Is there a serious problem in Birdland?
Alex Cobb pitched a quality start for the Baltimore Orioles today against Washington. That’s both literally and statistically. Cobb’s line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 3 K.
Cobb was fairly dominant of Washington’s lineup this afternoon, as evidenced by manager Buck Showalter‘s post-game comments about him (all quotes courtesy of Steve Melewski, MASNsports):
Good, huh? I thought he was good. One pitch, so to speak. He will probably lament a walk there in that inning, but Alex gave us a great chance to win. That was fun to watch for him. That’s more like the guy we know is capable of pitching like that. We’ll take that type of outing against a good club any day. We’re just not scoring any runs. He had a feel for his changeup today, got some outs there. That’s one of the ingredients he’s capable of bringing that he hasn’t had every time. When he’s got three of them, he will have a solid outing like he had today
Cobb was the first one to admit however that one of the few mistakes he made was allowing two Washington hitters to reach with two outs in the third. That allowed Rendon to smack a three-run homer, giving them a 3-0 lead. Washington would also get RBI-singles from Adams, Taylor, and Difo in the eighth inning, and they took the first game of three from the O’s at 6-0.
As I said, Showalter was very complimentary of Alex Cobb after the game. That wasn’t all that he said, however. Later in that same press conference Showalter was asked about his team struggling at the plate, and being dominated by Washington’s Gonzalez:
Well, I think you’re being nice when you say a little (struggling). It’s been a challenge for us and I’m gonna always give credit to them. He certainly has … he’s got an ERA under 3.00 and he’s having a solid year. So to answer your original question, I’ll give him credit, but we all know it’s a little bit more than that. We’ve had some success against good pitchers before, but there’s a good situation for other pitchers right now. They’re really good and we’re not swinging the bats well – that’s a bad combination.
That’s an answer loaded with riddles, from a manager that’s well aware of how to use words to his advantage. When he says, there’s a little bit more than that, what exactly does that mean? Consequently, he went onto say at the end of the quote that in effect opposing pitchers are getting fat off of Oriole bats.
That leads me to wonder if these struggles aren’t so much physical, philosophical, etc. What if they’re mental? And in saying that, what if they amount to more than just a lack of confidence?
The Orioles’ clubhouse has always been a tight group since Showalter’s arrival. Has something changed? The answer there is a resounding YES. But all teams change a few pieces year-over-year. Are players frustrated with the franchise’s philosophy? Or direction?
I can’t really answer that, because if they are frustrated by those things players generally won’t admit it. However here’s some food for thought; the organization seems hell bent on using the Rule 5 draft, which I might understand guys questioning. One player here or there is one thing, but it’s every season (under Duquette). But it could well go further than that.
Don’t underestimate the potential affect on guys’ psyche’s of having the highest paid player in franchise history struggling the way that Chris Davis is struggling. This isn’t to say that Davis isn’t trying to get out of his funk, because I do believe that he is. But the fact is that he has four years’ worth of guaranteed money regardless of how he performs. If I were a guy who had to battle to be on the roster and perhaps is having to battle to stay there and to feed his family, I might look at that situation with a slight bit of resentment. Not to mention the perennial all-star third baseman insisting that he play SS – and the organization acquiescing.
And then there’s the direction of the franchise. Showalter and Dan Duquette are both free agents at the end of the year. As are Adam Jones and Manny Machado. Jonathan Schoop comes up after next season. I think it goes without saying that if he wants to be back with the organization in any capacity, Showalter will be here. But players know what’s going on; they know that it’s tough for Duquette to work on a trade for Machado right now, because the fact is that the Orioles don’t know what their way forward is. And part of that starts in the GM’s chair. If it’s going to be Buck moving into that seat, fine. If Buck stays in the dugout, no problem. But they need to figure out what the plan is moving forward. And that falls on John and Lou Angelos.
Players are all aware of the tension in the air in these various situations. Does it affect play on the field? That I don’t know. But players also need to compartmentalize their concerns and just go out and play. If they’re worried about who the next GM is or why they have to scrap while Davis eases by, that’s really on that individual player – NOT Duquette, Davis, or anyone else. So if any of these things among others are issues in that clubhouse, players need to force themselves to stop making these things issues. Because to borrow a line from the business world, all of it is above their pay grade.
The series with Washington continues tomorrow night at Camden Yards. Dylan Bundy gets the start for the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by Washington’s Jeremy Hellickson. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.