The struggles of Markakis are becoming a national story

June 04, 2011 |

With each passing day, many of us are eagerly anticipating an awakening of the Orioles offensive attack. The production, or lack thereof, is becoming a predictable expectation for opposing teams and their followers.

Friday’s edition of the Toronto Star previewed this weekend series as an easier task than a few recent slugfests involving the Blue Jays, especially given the “light hitting” Orioles attack.

Truth hurts, huh?

I won’t suggest the birds clubhouse is brewing with finger wagging and varied versions of the blame game; plenty of accountability and resulting culpability exists among the ranks.

But, a sobering reality is the Orioles find themselves at 25-30 and in familiar digs; they’re occupying the cellar of the American League’s Eastern Division, as the final days of spring trickle into summer.

The seasonal change means there is a LOT of baseball remaining. Can this lineup awaken from a season-long slumber? Doubts are growing by the day, and a prominent name that usually evades criticism, locally and nationally, is starting to feel the heat.

Welcome to the current plight of Nick Markakis …..

I am making certain to police my views and opinions on this very subject, because I have been especially critical of Nick’s star power and value among Orioles fans. And, my strong assessment can be attached to prior seasons.

Do I think he’s a good ballplayer? Without question, YES. However, I have never subscribed to the belief he’s one of the best young talents in the game, nor have I thought he was a foundational player for the franchise.

That said, I think Markakis has displayed a consistency in his first five seasons that suggests he’s a dependable offensive threat. Through his big league career, he has rewarded normal expectations of a top of the lineup hitter.

Over the past 4 full seasons, he’s averaged: .299 avg, 45 doubles, 18 homers, .466 slugging

When such numbers are yielded with consistency, a resulting expectation ensues. That’s the deal, period. And, such accomplishments eventually translate into a more global sense of demand, specifically on the national stage.

So, when Sports Illustrated released yesterday’s figurative roster of baseball’s MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYERS thru the first couple months, I was not surprised to see Nick Markakis as a prominent part of it.

He’s hitting .239, with 4 doubles, 4 homers and a putrid .311 slugging line. Do you realize how difficult it is to achieve such a low slugging percentage? Better yet, have you considered how difficult it will be to keep a player with such poor numbers at the top of a lineup?

For all his well publicized struggles in the first couple months, freakin’ Derek Jeter has a higher slugging percentage than Markakis. Yes, that’s how bad it really is …..

As I stated, there is plenty of “blame sandwich” for just about all of the Orioles hitters to gets a substantial bite, but expectations should not be ignored when it comes to the failures at the plate.

Mark Reynolds? He is exactly what last season evidenced …..

Derrek Lee? In 14 fewer games, most of his production exceeds that of Markakis …..

Yet, they’re the lightning rods for most of the scorn emanating from the impassioned souls of Orioles fans. Why is that? Well, as always, Markakis gets a notable “pass” with the baseball loving people in this city.

“He is the future”

Damn, if I had a couple bucks for every caller who made that statement.

Perhaps, we shouldn’t be shocked by lesser numbers and production from Nick Markakis – his doubles, homeruns and slugging percentage have flattened or decreased over the span of the last 3 seasons.

But, disappointment and frustration should exist given the lack of overall production, in 2011. Maybe it’s time to reassess the pedigree of Markakis. Better yet, it’s absolutely time to reevaluate the lofty reputation he’s garnered.

Don’t misunderstand my message, it’s not his fault that fans have overrated his abilities and true existence from a threat perspective. He’s not peddling “Nick Markakis” via Twitter or any other social marketplace.

He’s very much himself; a guy who doesn’t appear to say much or carry a leadership quality among teammates. Give him credit on this one – he’s not pretending to be a more demonstrative presence.

Lets just be honest about the season and the failures of the Orioles lineup …..

Nick Markakis is tasked with a responsibility to spark this offense, while also driving in runs. That’s why he gets paid the big bucks. That’s why he’s gonna get paid even bigger bucks, next season, and beyond.

A significant portion of the Orioles weak offensive production rests upon his shoulders. He needs to figure it out …. NOW. As I’ve said, I have never believed he’s as good as many hometown followers suggest. But, he’s not this bad, either.

Nick Markakis has been disappointing. And, I didn’t need a national publication to point it out.