This week’s visit from the New York Yankees brought all kinds of attention to the Orioles’ plight, some deserved and some not.
The various home run records the Yankees set at the Orioles’ expense, and the ones they carried into this series, are solely on their shoulders. It was probably less fair that rookie outfielder DJ Stewart was a highlight of the Internet after slipping while trying to make a play and getting a concussion because a baseball hit him in the head.
But Chris Davis needing to be restrained from going after manager Brandon Hyde in response to a dugout chirp during a 14-2 loss flies against everything both the player and the team need to abide by right now: Just put your head down and pray no one pays attention.
That’s true for Davis, whose removal from Wednesday’s game after the altercation meant he now has four different stretches of at least four starts without a single hit, including his historic 0-for-33 to start the season.
Davis breaking that streak got him plenty of goodwill from the local fans, but his $161 million contract looms large over everything at Camden Yards, and his .182/.269/.320 batting line means this one will challenge last season as one of the worst statistical outputs in major league history.
Such a season has meant Hyde, hired for his player development skills, has had to answer for Davis’ struggles on a regular basis.
Considering the inexperience of this team and its struggles, it’s hard to believe only the team’s astonishing ability to allow home runs could challenge Hyde’s handling of Davis as the main litmus test of his first season in charge.
Davis, to hear Hyde tell it, has a good relationship with both the manager and his teammates. They admired how he kept working through his hitless streak, and celebrated with him when it ended.
That was nearly four months ago, though, and the ensuing stretch was spent largely with Davis floating in and out of the lineup as the matchups saw fit, playing better defense than he has in years past and largely staying under the radar.
Wednesday just serves as another occasion to wonder how much of the three-plus remaining years on his contract he’ll be here for; how much of the roughly $56 million in present-day salary he’s owed will be earning while actually a part of the Orioles (before the $42 million in deferred money even kicks in); and how long before the first wave of young talent to bubble up to the majors means Davis won’t have a spot here?
It’s a constant conversation. Anthony Santander has already made himself an everyday outfielder. Trey Mancini has long been pushed to the outfield for Davis. And there’s a redundancy with every well-regarded hitting prospect near the top of the organizational rankings with Ryan Mountcastle, Yusniel Díaz and Austin Hays.
All of that likely had little to do with the unfortunate minute in the Orioles’ dugout that dredged it all up. That neither Hyde nor Mark Trumbo would speak to what precipitated the conversation was likely based in the here-and-now struggles of the Orioles.
Both Hyde and Trumbo, who restrained Davis and spoke on behalf of the team, were right in saying frustrations can escalate.
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Hyde, asked whether such a display was appropriate for a player toward a manager, quickly noted the conversation that sparked it went two ways. Both also noted that this week for the Orioles is a particularly frustrating one, and regretted the interaction was seen at all.
What the world saw was a big flashing light directing their attention, however briefly, to the 38-76 Baltimore Orioles.
The past three losses saw them set the following major league records: 10 consecutive games allowing multiple home runs, a streak that grew to 12 on Wednesday; most home runs allowed to a single visiting team in one season (43); most home runs allowed by one team to a single opponent in a season (52, with four games remaining).
This major league season is understood to be simply an obligation the organization needs to meet as it focuses on building executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias’ “elite talent pipeline” everywhere but here.
Some are focused on those developments on the farm to distract them from the here and now. Others are more than happy to look back at the glory days, which this weekend’s 30th anniversary of the 1989 “Why Not?” Orioles is meant to do.