• The (Salisbury) Daily Times writes that it might be time to give up hope on this Orioles season.
These are the days when it's tough to be an Orioles fan. After an offseason full of hope and a competitive couple of months, Baltimore has plummeted out of the American League East race. You know it's bad when the Seattle Mariners -- who lost 17 games in a row before Wednesday -- still have more victories than the Birds, who currently own the worst record in the AL.
If you enjoy a adult alcoholic beverage, it might be time to crack open another one. Might dull the pain some.
The best thing now is to look toward the future and how the Orioles can best improve themselves for 2012 and beyond. Baltimore has some solid pieces in place -- J.J. Hardy, Matt Wieters, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones -- but obviously not enough yet to compete with the big boys of the division.
With Wednesday's 9-2 victory at Yankee Stadium, the Mariners ended their 17-game skid, helping them avoid tying the 2005 Royals' mark for most consecutive single-season losses since the Wild Card era began 16 years ago.
The American League record is 21 by the Orioles in 1988, the Major League record is 23 by the Phillies in '61 and 10 franchises -- the Athletics, Braves, Nationals/Expos, Orioles, Phillies, Red Sox, Reds, Royals, Tigers and Twins -- have dropped more than 17 straight games in a season since '01.
Orioles: 21 (1988): The O's began that season 0-21, and Cal Ripken Sr. was let go as manager only six games in.
• Heath Bintliff of Dempsey's Army writes that while many people are blaming pitching and offense for the Orioles' failures, fans shouldn't forget to look at just how bad the team's defense has been.
The Orioles are playing at right about the level they usually do in late July, jockeying for position for one of the top three picks in the amateur draft for 2012 and basically filling the role of American League doormats. The fans are pointing fingers at the pitching staff - rightly so since they are dead last in ERA among American League teams, and it's not really close. Some also point fingers at an anemic offense which, while not as abysmal as the pitching, is slightly below league average in run production and has underachieved in 2011.
But I'm here to tell you that it's even worse than all this because the defense has been pretty awful as well.
Feeling lonely out there, Matt Wieters? He should, since he is playing Gold Glove-caliber defense behind the plate while the rest of the team is below average at best.
• Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated analyzes the upcoming trade deadline with a team-by-team breakdown.
[Jeremy] Guthrie is likely to go somewhere, and so are a few relievers. Koji Uehara is the most attractive of those, but Mike Gonzalez and Kevin Gregg are also candidates for trade. They've gotten calls on outfielders Adam Jones and Nick Markakis but don't seem ready for that type of overhaul. It's possible Mark Reynolds could go, though (the Angels and Reds are among teams that might look at third base).
• Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated believes former Oriole Roberto Alomar, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame last weekend, is the seventh greatest second baseman of all time.
The greatest second baseman of all time was either Eddie Collins or Joe Morgan. Collins, a deadball-era superstar for the Philadelphia Athletics and Chicago White Sox, hit .334/.424/.430 with 3,217 hits and 734 stolen bases in his 19 seasons as a starter at the position, won the American League MVP in 1914, played on six pennant-winners, and was a four-time world champion. By the numbers, he was clearly the best second baseman in the game's history, but given the wildly disparate eras in which the two men played, there's room to argue for Morgan, who hit .272/.393/.428 with 688 steals in his 20 seasons as a starter at the position, won five Gold Gloves, and was the National League MVP in 1975 and '76, when his Cincinnati Reds won the World Series.
Alomar does not enter into those discussions. He was not the greatest, most productive, best-fielding, or most significant second baseman in the game's history. Can we at least say he was the best second baseman of the last 20 years?
Sandberg's last great season was 1992. Alomar won the first of his 10 Gold Gloves and first appeared on an MVP ballot (something he did seven times, five times in the top six) in 1991. Since then, the only men to challenge his career value at the position have been Craig Biggio, whose first season at the keystone was 1991, and Jeff Kent, who didn't become a star until he arrived in San Francisco in 1997. Among active players, Chase Utley appears to already be in decline in just his seventh season as a full-time player, and it's too early to know what kind of careers Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia or Ian Kinsler will have.
• Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com wonders if the Orioles young pitching staff, which started the season with so much promise, will ever live up to its potential.
No one said it was going to be easy, but with 10 weeks of the season remaining and a 14th sub-.500 season nearly a foregone conclusion, no one could have predicted it would be this difficult. Largely, that same group of Orioles arms that flourished upon Buck Showalter's arrival last August -- pitching to a 3.16 ERA in the final 57 games -- has struggled all season with injury and ineffectiveness, as a spring that started with promise has become a summer littered with setbacks.
In lieu of their young starters, the Orioles have been forced to employ Alfredo Simon, Chris Jakubauskas and Mitch Atkins with a roster in a constant state of flux as Showalter and president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail piece together starts game by game. To say that the trio of arms -- none of whom was on the Opening Day roster -- weren't in the team's original plans would be putting it mildly. Simon, who has filled in admirably, missed all of Spring Training with legal issues. Atkins was sidelined with injury and didn't throw a meaningful pitch in camp, and Jakubauskas didn't even get an official big league invite.
The team's projected No. 2 starter in the Opening Day rotation, Matusz (1-4, 8.77 ERA), is in Triple-A with Tillman (2-3, 4.69 ERA), while Britton (6-7, 4.05 ERA, an early American League Rookie of the Year Award candidate) was sent to Double-A earlier this month to help stretch his season and alleviate a rough patch preceding that. Bergesen (2-6, 5.54 ERA), who has seen time in the Minors and the bullpen, has struggled to get into a rhythm all season, although he is coming off a quality outing on Saturday, while Arrieta (9-7, 5.02 ERA) has been the best of the group -- but largely inconsistent. It is a far cry from the final two months of the 2010 season in which Matusz and Bergesen both posted sub-3 ERAs, with Arrieta (3-3, 3.78) and Tillman (1-1, 4.08) also showing marked improvement.