5. The best offense is a good defense…and a bunch of home runs.
This a three part story.
Part #1 is Mark Reynolds. Reynolds was inexplicably moved back to 3B before the season, where he had six errors in 15 games and an .850 fielding percentage. After being moved back to 1B, Reynolds had just five errors in 108 games with a .995 fielding percentage. He also clearly found himself more comfortable at the plate as well, hitting 15 of 23 home runs in the final two months of the season. His ability to stretch but hang on to first base with seemingly just a toe became Gary Thorne’s go-to down the stretch on MASN broadcasts.
Reynolds’ move to first left slugger Chris Davis without a position, but comfortable in many. Part #2 of this story is Davis, who played 60 games as DH, 41 in the outfield. Despite moving between positions, Davis appeared to get more and more comfortable as the season went along as well. He finished the season with 32 home runs and 85 RBI to go with an .827 OPS, finally solidifying himself as the Major League power threat many believed he was capable of being. Oh…and he also did this against the Red Sox.
And tying this whole story together is of course Manny Machado. After moving Reynolds to 1B, the Birds tried turning to Wilson Betemit, Ryan Flaherty and Robert Andino…with basically worthless results. After a win over the Mariners August 8, the organization decided to pull the trigger on calling up their top position player prospect. He produced a .967 fielding percentage and this AMAZING moment against the Rays…
4. Thanks, Red Sox!
This is the storyline no one in Charm City has really wanted to talk about, but I think the Wikipedia page for the Boston Red Sox offseason tells a very interesting story…
It’s not like the Red Sox were the only team that spent most of the 2011/2012 offseason as bystanders. The New York Yankees’ only move(s) of significance were signing Huroki Kuroda to a one year deal (a move that has worked out quite well) and trading their top hitting prospect (Jesus Montero) for up and coming then Mariners pitcher Michael Pineda. Pineda has yet to throw a pitch in pinstripes.
ESPN’s Jayson Stark explained this phenomenon back in January. It’s quite a mouthful. The bottom line is that both teams have viewed a HUGE economic benefit for getting under the $189 million mark by 2014. To do so, they simply cannot take on the same types of major contracts we have grown accustomed to these teams taking.
So in an offseason where the likes of Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and CJ Wilson were available; the teams atop the AL East were all but spectators.
This season made a VERY compelling argument for those who have believed baseball would be better with a salary cap.
(Oh and also…while the Yankees still managed to win the division without spending a ton of new money, the Red Sox became one of the more hilarious disasters in all of baseball. I could not have enjoyed it more.)
3. Shut it down.
Our WNST MLB analyst Allen McCallum made the case for closer Jim Johnson as Orioles MVP (the award ultimately went to OF Adam Jones) during the final days of the season. Here’s his case…
“Take everything that has happened this season exactly as it did, and then imagine Kevin Gregg as the closer. Too much? OK look up John Axford’s stats with the Brewers. He was nearly untouchable last season, and has 33 Saves this season. I would tell you that his blown saves this year are going to keep that team out of the playoffs. The Brewers are one of the top offensive teams in the NL. Far better than the O’s statistically. In fact, they only got over .500 when he straightened himself out. (They spent so long under .500, they traded off parts thinking they were out of it.) The team record in 1 & 2 run games can be directly attributed to JJ. I expect Adam will win it, but for all those who say this season hasn’t made sense, I would point them directly to the bullpen, and that is headed (or closed) by Mr. Johnson.”
Credit is also due to relievers Darren O’Day, Pedro Strop, Luis Ayala, Troy Patton, Lindstrom and Hunter for helping the team finish the season an almost impossible 74-0 when leading after 7 innings.
Honestly, that’s impossible-right?
51 flipping saves. As our own Luke Jones likes to say, “Cue The Pretender.”
2. We only need one Buck.
After every Orioles win, our own Damon Yaffe would post a picture of Buck Showalter and modified lyrics to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” he called “Thunderbucked.” I always loved the accompanying photo…
Showalter might well be passed over for AL Manager of the Year by Oakland Athletics skipper Bob Melvin, but it won’t remotely change just how amazing his efforts were in ending a miserable streak of 14 consecutive losing seasons.
At the beginning of the season we were quick to question the decisions of the organization’s leadership-either personnel decisions or in game decisions. By the end of the season, we accepted the notion of “In Buck We Trust” to explain why we weren’t questioning moves that perhaps needed to be questioned.
“Joe Saunders is 0-6 all time against the Rangers in Arlington? I don’t know…In Buck We Trust.”
“The Birds are letting Luis Exposito start in Right Field in the AL Wild Card game? I mean, In Buck We Trust.”
Wait…that second one didn’t happen. But…would you question him if it did?
1. The crowning of a superstar.
A lot of you have remembered the back and forth Adam Jones and I had on-air and via Twitter on the eve of Opening Day. My anger was directed towards Jones calling a group of fans who dissented towards Peter Angelos’ ownership “fools”. The specific group Jones named wasn’t WNST, but instead a group called “Occupy Eutaw Street” whose message I also supported.
I haven’t talked a lot about that day since then, mostly because I didn’t need to. The part of the story everyone seems to forget is that Jones apologized for his comments both privately in a text message exchange and publicly via Twitter. I said at the time I was impressed with Jones’ maturity after being called out and have continued to be impressed with his maturity both on the field and off the field throughout the season.
Jones is a legitimate superstar, but 2012 belonged to him not only for his on-field stardom. 2012 belonged to Adam Jones because he finally gave the fans of this city a centerpiece to be proud of. After wins or losses, fans could walk proudly knowing Adam Jones played for their favorite team.
Jones is by no means perfect, but no baseball player is. (No, not even Mike Trout, sabermatricians.) But Jones’ legitimate middle of the lineup bat, defensive prowess and willingness to commit long-term to being the face of the Baltimore Orioles made this HIS year.
I have no videos, no GIFs, no silly pictures to offer here. Only my gratitude and presumably the gratitude of an entire region.
Only a fool would argue.
Flexing my mic muscles since 1983…