As has become custom before we face a less familiar team, I reached out to the site manager for Camden Chat, Mark Brown, to talk about the Orioles. Thanks again to Mark for being a good sport and answering me so quickly.
1. Chris Davis obviously set a very not-great record this season with his whole start, and had fans around baseball feeling bad for him. What is going on with Davis, and is he going to end up coming back from the slow start?
Chris Davis is the $161 million mystery for the Orioles. He was in the headlines just earlier this month for breaking a couple of MLB records for consecutive hitless at-bats. There’s no getting around that, but he’s now got five hits in his last 13 at-bats, offering some hope that he might be coming out of the darkness. Davis seems to have made a little progress doing some work with the new coaching staff. I don’t know where it all ends up for him, though. He could sink right back into another 0-30 streak and I wouldn’t be surprised by that.
2. Speaking of not-very-great, the Orioles were abysmal last season, and aren’t a lot better this year. Where is the light at the end of the tunnel for the team? Are the fans still patient, or is there unrest among the fanbase.
After the disaster that was last season, I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by the Orioles so far this year. That’s not to say that I think they’re a good team, because I know they’re not. It’s just, they’re not as bad as expected. After last year’s 47-115 record and few real improvements to the roster over the offseason, the media narrative that built around the team was that of course they would be as bad or worse, just the most pathetic set of losers to ever don the same uniform together.
Since there is a new general manager, Mike Elias, who has the pedigree on his resume of helping to build World Series winners in both the Cardinals and Astros front offices, fans remain patient. He sounds like a guy who knows what he wants to do and how he should try to make the Orioles winners. There was no expectation at all that the turnaround would be immediate. The farm system left behind by the old regime wasn’t great and neither was the MLB roster. I don’t know if fans will have the appetite for the 3-5 year rebuild that may be required, but at least for one month into year 1, the fans seem to accept the reality and are on board with the plan.
3. Brandon Hyde, like Rocco Baldelli, is a first time manager. What do you think of him so far?
The toughest task for anybody in sports is to be the guy after THE GUY. Buck Showalter had been THE GUY in Baltimore. For a lot of fans, he was a central part of the 2012-16 run of success, so it was sad to see him leave. For my part, it was clear that Showalter was not the right person to lead the Orioles into this new rebuilding era, so I’m glad they didn’t try to bring him back to that. But it’s still big shoes for Brandon Hyde to fill.
There were a lot of stories in spring training about how Hyde was running both a more competitive spring training that was also looser and more fun for the players. The players all seem to be supporting one another, and also goofing off and having fun with one another while staying dialed in to the game. This wasn’t something we saw at all towards the end of the Showalter tenure. When the O’s got their first win of the year on the road at Yankee Stadium, this was also the first win for Hyde as a manager. They dumped him into a laundry cart, wheeled him into the showers, and then poured a bunch of beers over his head. On the road, at Yankee Stadium! That was delightful. I think Hyde’s created a unique vibe and I hope the O’s play decently enough for it to last.
4. Our new second baseman, Jonathan Schoop, was with Baltimore for a long time. Anything we might not have heard about him you want to tell us?
I have to tell you that it still hurts me a little to think about Schoop playing off by himself with Manny Machado nowhere in sight. Those two were inseparable going back to their time in the Orioles minor leagues together, and now Machado is in San Diego and Schoop is in the Twin Cities. Being a baseball fan is hard sometimes when you really get invested, because nothing lasts.
Anyway, as far as Schoop, you’ve probably figured out his deal pretty good after three weeks of this season. I think he’s capable of better than he’s batted so far this year, but even when he does well he’ll still strike out a lot and not walk much. As a bigger second baseman, he didn’t have the greatest range, but he helped salvage a lot of double plays with strong throws from second to first. There’s basically no such thing as a takeout slide when Schoop is turning the double play since he’s built more like a linebacker - pity the fool who wants to run head long into that.
5. Who is a player we probably haven’t heard of that will have an impact on this series?
A fun thing about the 2019 Orioles is that you probably haven’t heard of almost anyone. The best player for the O’s so far has been Trey Mancini, who I don’t exactly think is a household name outside of Baltimore. Mancini is in his third year now, after finishing in third place in the AL Rookie of the Year in 2017 and having a bit of a sophomore slump in 2018. He’s taken nicely to the instruction of the new coaches with the new analytics information and through 20 games is batting .338/.393/.650, leading the Orioles in just about every offensive category. If the Orioles score some runs in this series, he’ll probably be at the center of that.
6. What didn’t I ask you that I should have?
I appreciate your politeness in declining to ask how it feels to have a starting rotation that consists of Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner, Dylan Bundy, Dan Straily, and David Hess. That was thoughtful of you. I know you’re curious, so I’ll tell you: It’s not great.