I was in Paris when the Baltimore Orioles’ trade for veteran DH Jim Thome became official and didn’t get much of a chance to opine about it. My guess is that I would have politely said something along the lines of “sure, Jim Thome is better than no one, but is a part time DH with little left in the tank really going to make much of a difference?”
I’m glad I didn’t have the chance to say that. Boy would there be egg all over my face.
Thome has come to the plate in six of the Birds’ eight games since being acquired. He’s managed to collect five hits (all singles), score a run and drive in another. He’s also walked four times and struck out 11 times. He’s been far from terrible since arriving, but hasn’t really made much of a difference in the lineup either. The O’s have won three of the eight games they’ve played since acquiring Thome and enter the All-Star break without scoring a run over their last 21 innings.
The Birds finished the first half of the season with a 45-40 record, good enough for 2nd place in the AL East and currently holding what would be the second Wild Card spot in the American League. The troubling part is that over their last 19 games before the break, they compiled a 6-13 record and averaged scoring less than three runs per game during the stretch.
I don’t want to seem like I’m taking the Orioles’ pitchers off the hook during the stretch. The team allowed nearly 5.5 runs per game during the same stretch, demoting starting pitchers Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta to AAA Norfolk in the process.
I’ll stop short of labeling the stretch “a disaster” for the Birds, but I’ll admit that I went through about ten minutes of inner monologue before I decided the term would be unfair.
I’m not particularly mad at Thome for not lighting the world on fire during his first week with the Orioles. It would be unfair to expect any player to become a serious catalyst in just one week, but there was absolutely zero reason to expect a soon to be 42 year old who hasn’t put up particularly good offensive numbers since 2008 to be the one to do it.
The truth is that the Thome acquisition is going to bug me until the Orioles decide they want to acquire players who are actually good.
I know WNST.net’s Drew Forrester said Sunday the Birds “had better” make moves to upgrade the team before the July 31 trade deadline. My column today isn’t just an echo of Forrester’s sentiments. My column is much more particular.
I’ve said for some time that the Birds cannot view their start to the 2012 season as a sign that they’re on the cusp of turning the page. There simply is not enough evidence of that being the case. There is significantly more evidence of the Birds experiencing good fortune thanks to a couple of nice pieces (OF Adam Jones, C Matt Wieters and P’s Jason Hammel & Jim Johnson notably) and an element of luck via injuries to rival teams.
I’m certainly not backing off of those statements. The start of the 2012 season is in NO WAYS a sign that the Birds’ “rebuilding” plan has worked, or that former executive Andy MacPhail and current GM Dan Duquette have put together a group of players that are just a year away from reaching greatness. The reality is that there just aren’t enough good players either currently at the Major League level or set to reach the majors in the next year or two to suggest the team will be able to win for more than half a season.
The players I mentioned before (Jones, Wieters, Hammel, Johnson) are good players. Unfortunately, that’s about where the list ends. OF Nick Markakis and SS JJ Hardy are supposed to be good players. SP Wei-Yin Chen and RP Pedro Strop have showed signs that they might be good players. P Dylan Bundy and SS Manny Machado are believed to be good players for the future. Thome and 2B Brian Roberts USED to be good players. 3B Mark Reynolds and 1B Chris Davis (or is that 1B Mark Reynolds and OF Chris Davis?) are players you want to believe are good but you know better.