Baltimore Orioles: Could the players have been more accountable?
The Baltimore Orioles got themselves off to an early lead yesterday, and starter Kevin Gausman was dealing early. Things appeared to be looking up in this particular game. That is, until they weren’t. Gausman’s line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 K.
Gausman mowed Minnesota hitters down, until he started allowing base runners in the fourth inning. This continued into the fifth when Kepler smacked a solo homer, and Wilson an RBI-single. Gausman went from pitching a good game to being on the ropes in a matter of minutes. Later in that inning he loaded the bases, and Cave scored on a wild pitch. One inning later Wilson’s RBI-double would give Minnesota a 5-3 lead.
The timing of the Minnesota run does play a role, as it was the second (and third) time through the order. Gausman fooled them the first time through, but they apparently picked up on something he was doing, and he couldn’t replicate that. Late in the game the Birds did try to make a run of it on an RBI-double by Jace Peterson, but it was too little too late.
One thing of interest; anyone who follows the Washington Nationals knows that they were suddenly having their lunch handed to them until the middle of this past week. They held a players only meeting, and since then it’s been smooth sailing so to speak. They even rebounded from being down 9-1 to beat Miami 14-9 on Thursday. Now that in and of itself is probably an anomaly. But that team’s really picked it up since then.
Did the Orioles’ veterans miss an opportunity to do something like that earlier in the year? We know that Buck Showalter held at least one meeting in which the team was in effect rebuked for their poor play earlier in the season. However I’m not talking about him or any of the other coaches. I’m talking about the veterans on the roster; the Jones’, Davis’, and heck even the Machado’s of the world.
Granted, we don’t know that anything like that never happened. It well could have, although usually when players only meetings occur in sports they’re publicized in the media. (This so fans get the message that the players are trying to do something to fix the problem.) Again, something along these lines could have happened, and it just wasn’t made public.
But let’s assume that it didn’t; why didn’t it? There was certainly a point very early on this season when it was obvious that something was going south, and perhaps an opportunity existed to right the ship. I can’t tell you what goes on in these meetings, because I’m not a player. I can’t even tell you how effective they are overall – because I’m not a player. However I tend to think that perhaps an opportunity was lost there if in fact there was nothing like that arranged. And if something did occur, it was ineffective.
And here’s another point; far too much is still being made about Showalter not using Zach Britton in the 2016 AL Wild Card game. Many fans point to that as the moment things started going south for the Orioles. Now seriously I want people to think about this; does it really make sense that Showalter’s decision in one game (albeit a big one) in October of 2016 is causing Chris Davis to strike out so much? Or errors in the field?
National media reports have said that players lost faith in Showalter after that. I maintain that had I been Showalter I would have considered the same move. What if you get the lead later in the game and you need your closer but he’s already been used? Obviously hindsight is 20/20, but at the time I didn’t feel it was the worst thing.
That aside, if one decision in one game forces players to lose faith in a manager who’s done more for this franchise than anyone else in recent history, I’m not sure what to say. It comes off as a little fickle to me. Furthermore let’s say that they have lost faith in Showalter. Again, is that in and of itself causing strikeouts and errors? Are guys purposely goofing off in a sense BECAUSE of Showalter?
The answer to that has to be no. Even if faith was lost in their leader, I think these guys are still professionals. They still play with pride in a sense, and are doing everything they can to win games. For whatever reason, they’re just falling short.
The O’s will try to salvage one game in this series in the finale this afternoon at Target Field. Alex Cobb gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Minnesota’s Jake Odorizzi. Game time is set for just after 2 PM.