Were you to close your eyes and hear the following quote read aloud, you might think it came during the 2018 Baltimore Orioles season: “I always felt, from the beginning, we had the players here to win, but we haven’t put it together, and it’s hard to understand why we haven’t. This is the low point in the season right now.”
Rafael Palmeiro uttered those words on this day in Orioles history, July 26, 1996, after the Cleveland Indians pinned a 14-9 loss on the Birds to drop the team to 50-51 on the season. Unlike the 2018 Orioles, who would have trouble identifying the definitive low point in their season, the 1996 team figured things out and ultimately made the postseason.
Mike Mussina allowed an uncharacteristic eight runs in only 3.2 innings of work in his late-July start to drop his record to 11-8. Four of those runs came in the top of the first inning and included Jim Thome‘s 440-foot two-run homer that landed on Eutaw Street. It was the 10th Eutaw Street home run in Camden Yards history.
Zach Britton was not a member of the New York Yankees organization on this day in Baltimore Orioles history, July 25, 2014. Instead, Britton picked up his 19th save of the season as the O’s defeated the Seattle Mariners in 10 innings.
Zach Britton photo credit: Norm Schimmel
Chris Davis led off the 10th inning with a home run to right field that proved to be the difference on the scoreboard. Teammate Nelson Cruz – not yet a Mariner performing well at the end of a contract that he couldn’t get from the Orioles – homered off the then-potent Felix Hernandez in the second inning for the Orioles’ other run. It was Cruz’s 29th homer of the season and served as the lone blemish on Hernandez’s seven-inning pitching line that included 10 strikeouts and no walks.
Kevin Gausman = still an Oriole at the time of this writing – countered Hernandez with 6.1 innings of work. Gausman allowed seven hits and paired a trio of strikeouts with a trio of walks but managed to hold the Mariners to one run. Said run came on a Kendrys Morales sac fly following Robinson Cano’s lead-off triple in the bottom of the sixth inning. Brian Matusz – not yet a LOOGY – struck out three batters with no walks in 1.2 innings of relief work.
Brady Anderson homered twice in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome to help power the Orioles to a 9-2 victory against the Minnesota Twins on this day in Baltimore Orioles history, July 24, 1993.
Anderson and designated hitter Harold Baines each finished the game with three hits while pinch hitter Jeffrey Hammonds, appearing in his 23rd career game, went 2-for-2 with three RBI.
Soft-tossing lefty Jamie Moyer picked up the win for the Birds with 6.1 innings of work during which he allowed one run, struck out five, and walked none. Jim Poole picked up the save with 1.2 innings of shutout work. Poole finished his 11-year career with four saves, two of which came for the O’s during the 1993 season.
I had the distinct pleasure of serving alongside Jake English as a guest host on this week’s Bird’s Eye View podcast. Jake and Scott Magness put out a consistently entertaining product throughout the baseball season. I enjoyed being able to bring my own lack of insight and baseless opinion on the Baltimore Orioles to a show that prides itself on being the official source for such things.
Manny Machado photo credit: Norm Schimmel
The young man has gone West. Manny Machado joins the Los Angeles Dodgers following Wednesday’s trade that brought the Orioles a return package of five prospects headlined by outfielder Yusniel Diaz. The move comes as part of what Dan Duquette pledges is a new direction for the ball club that will include a focus on analytics and international scouting.
O’s fans have processed their grief by eulogizing Machado, sharing abundant memories of outstanding games and plays as he launched his career in Charm City. The multi-homer efforts, the walk-offs, the deke versus the Rays, the Brooks Robinsonesque throw out from foul territory in the Bronx – it’s all there.
The Orioles’ abysmal first-half record offered undeniable indication that the team’s much-discussed window of opportunity has finally closed. The Machado trade simply provided the heart-wrenching coda. Turn off the stadium lights, the party is officially over following five winning seasons, three playoff appearances, and one division title. Lest it be forgotten, the O’s won more games than any other American League team from 2012 through 2016.
That last sentence seems hard to fathom given that the franchise totaled 14 consecutive losing seasons prior to 2012. Sure, the 2012-2016 O’s never won as many games in a season (98) or in a league championship series (two) as the previous winning outfit, the 1997 Orioles, but it was the most sustained success the team had in taking on all comers since before a-ha released “Take on Me.” (Insert your own spoof of the “I’ll be gone in a day or two” lyrics here.)
Let’s go back to the beginning of that successful stretch to the uplifting 2012 season and Machado’s debut in orange and black.
A child’s imagination can do wondrous things when placed within the cozy confines of a ballpark. So it was that as a kid I created spurious correlations related to my favorite baseball team. I believed, for example, that my attendance should always inspire the Orioles to win. Think root, root, root for the home team taken to bold levels of naive conceit.
I likewise held a belief in the potency of promotions and their unique ability to inspire excellence in athletes. (See this 2010 Roar From 34 post for a rundown of how that sort of thing plays out in reality.)
I’m older now, perhaps even a shade wiser, and my favorite baseball team stinks. Imbued with a hard-earned sense of ballpark realism, I’ve resorted to rooting for quirkiness. The imagination is still there only minus the optimism.
Score a victory for whimsicality on Monday courtesy of Buck Showalter’s ejection on the night the team distributed Buck “Snowalter” Snow Globes. I had wished for that very outcome in a Tweet earlier in the evening. (The less cynical among us might use the phrase “speaking it into existence.”)
Nelson Cruz returned to Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Monday night as the reigning American League Player of the Week. As I wrote on Twitter, “Salt, meet wound.”
Cruz, who turns 38 on Sunday, has not fallen off toward the end of his four-year contract with the Mariners. Some (many?) in Baltimore anticipated a drop-off after he inked a $57-million deal to head to the Pacific Northwest. (Note: I was one of them.)
In keeping with the theme of an O’s season of little-to-no consolation, Cruz’s continued strength at the plate provides little-to-no consolation for fans of the orange and black. It’s still nice to see him playing in Camden Yards again even if it’s for the wrong team.
Cruz’s current $14 million salary would be about the fifth-largest payout on the 2018 Orioles squad behind Chris Davis ($23 million), Adam Jones ($17.33 million), and Manny Machado ($16 million), and roughly even with Alex Cobb ($14 million), according to Baseball Reference. Cruz would slot in just ahead of Mark Trumbo ($12.5 million) and Zach Britton ($12 million).
But I digress …
Let’s look back at Cruz’s two Player of the Week honors in Baltimore.