Sometimes, I scratch my head at things the Baltimore Orioles do. With all the roster intrigue on almost a daily basis, the one guy in the infield who has not missed a beat in terms of playing time is -- you guessed it -- Jonathan Schoop.
While I praise Schoop, I am not so sure he belongs in the big leagues. On April 24, Schoop hit a home run against Toronto. At the end of the game, Schoop was batting .261, with two home runs and 10 RBIs.
At the time, he'd already had a couple of defensive meltdowns, but what was and is still impressive is how calm he was through some of the tough early times. He showed he was not being swallowed up by the challenge of playing at the MLB level.
That was then, and this is now. From April 24-May 25, Schoop has gone 13-for-75 with one home run and five RBIs, and his average has dropped to .215.
With the Orioles more or less spinning their wheels through the first 48 games at 25-23, the more prudent course may be to try to see whether they can get Ryan Flaherty untracked at second base, and also reinstall Steve Lombardozzi on the big league club.
Schoop's time will come. But, a six- to eight-week refresher course at the Triple-A level would seem a far more rash thing to do with Schoop right now.
Speaking of scratching my head, twice during the Orioles' four-game series versus the Indians May 22-25, I found myself at odds with manager Buck Showalter. And both times, the batter in question was Jason Giambi, a former American League MVP and a poster boy for steroids. Once one of the game's most feared hitters, Giambi, 43, is a shell of his old self, and I have the numbers to prove it: .105 batting average with one home run and three RBIs. I'll grant you the one home run he's hit this year came May 23 against Bud Norris, who gave up a three-run shot to Giambi.
Later that night, in the top of the sixth, the Orioles were clinging to a 5-4 lead. Norris was still on the mound, and the Indians had a runner on third and two outs. Showalter opted to intentionally walk Giambi in order to pitch to catcher Yan Gomes. Gomes flew out deep to right fielder Nick Markakis, who made a terrific play battling the wind on the warning track. The O's were able to hold onto the lead and scored three in their half of the seventh to cement the victory.
On May 25, with the Orioles once again holding on for dear life in the late innings, the Indians had a runner on first with two outs in the top of the eighth. This time, Orioles reliever Brian Matusz was on the hill, and right-hander Darren O'Day was warming up. Matusz has just retired Nick Swisher for the second out.
Giambi was the next batter up. I realized that if Matusz stayed in the game, the Indians would likely send in a pinch hitter for Giambi. Again, Showalter elected not to have Giambi bat in that situation. He left Matusz in to pitch, and Cleveland manager Terry Francona countered with switch-hitting Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera, who hadn't started because of an injury, struck out swinging to Matusz. The eighth inning ended, with the Orioles clinging to the 4-2 lead they'd use to win the game.
After the game, I got a chance to talk privately with Showalter and asked what he thought Francona would have done if he had brought in O'Day in place of Matusz.
I reasoned that I would want the 43-year-old guy batting .105 to bat in that situation. Showalter was respectful, but the matchup between O'Day and Giambi didn't seem to make much sense to him.
Both times, what Showalter opted to do paid off. I guess that's why he makes the big bucks.
When Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein was the general manager of the Boston Red Sox, there came a time in 2008 when he and almost everyone else associated with the Red Sox couldn't wait to rid themselves of the almost hernia-like headache outfielder Manny Ramirez had become.
"That's just Manny being Manny" had become an almost apologetic mantra that those in Red Sox nation would recite to explain away yet another episode of Ramirez's increasingly loutish behavior.
Epstein found a willing taker in the Dodgers, and was able to acquire a young, then solidly productive outfielder -- Jason Bay -- from the Pirates. The Pirates got back two minor league players each from Boston and Los Angeles. The only player in the deal for Pittsburgh who turned out to be worthwhile was a guy named Brandon Moss, whom the Pirates later dealt to the Oakland A's.
But I digress. The point of the story is that at the time, the notion that some six years later, Epstein would sign Ramirez to a contract to do anything for a team he was in charge of would be akin to expecting Nancy Kerrigan to invite Tonya Harding over for dinner.
Well, the Cubs have signed Ramirez to a minor league player-coaching gig with their Triple-A Farm club in Des Moines, Iowa. Epstein said Ramirez would play only in a limited capacity, and that he would not take at bats away from younger prospects.
Although Epstein suggested that if Ramirez showed he still had some magic in his bat, he could make it back with some other major league team, it was made clear that the Cubs were bringing in Ramirez at this point during his career to mentor some of the organization's young hitters.
One key prospect for the Cubs is shortstop Javier Baez. Drafted during the first round (No. 9 overall pick) in 2011, Baez combined to hit 37 home runs and 111 RBIs in 2013 at Single-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee. But for Des Moines this year, Baez has just seven home runs, 22 RBIs and a .211 batting average.
It says here this is a nice story, and perhaps Ramirez can morph into a batting coach, but this is really all about him trying to impart some of his knowledge about the art of hitting into the young and impressionable Baez.
With the Red Sox having lost 10 games in a row, the streak has us all looking to see the last time a world champion baseball team, during the year after winning the World Series, had lost 10 games in a row.
Well, the Florida Marlins (now Miami Marlins) actually turned the trick twice in 1998. There was one big difference -- that was one of the Marlins' incarnations that was quickly broken up to get rid of high-priced players for younger and more controllable commodities.
The Red Sox's current streak of 10 losses in a row is the longest for the team since the 1994 club lost 11 in a row under Butch Hobson's tenure as skipper.
To put it in some real historical perspective, the only two teams that have lost 10 games in a row during a season and still made the playoffs were the 1951 Giants and the 1982 Atlanta Braves.
1. San Francisco Giants (32-18 overall record, No. 3 ranking last week)
2. Oakland Athletics (30-20, No. 2)
3. Atlanta Braves (28-21, No. 6)
4. Detroit Tigers (28-18, No. 1)
5. St. Louis Cardinals (28-22, No. 8)
6. Los Angeles Dodgers (27-24, No. 5)
7. Milwaukee Brewers (30-21, No. 4)
8. Toronto Blue Jays (29-22, No. 13)
9. Los Angeles Angels (28-21, No. 12)
10. New York Yankees (26-23, No. 7)
11. Colorado Rockies (27-23, No. 9)
12. Washington Nationals (25-25, No. 10)
13. Baltimore Orioles (25-23, No. 11)
14. Kansas City Royals (24-25, No. 15)
15. Seattle Mariners (24-25, No. 16)
16. Texas Rangers (25-25, No. 17)
17. Miami Marlins (26-25, No. 18)
18. Tampa Bay Rays (23-28, No. 20)
19. Pittsburgh Pirates (22-27, No. 23)
20. Minnesota Twins (23-24, No. 19)
21. Boston Red Sox (20-29, No. 14)
22. Cincinnati Reds (22-26, No. 21)
23. Cleveland Indians (24-27, No. 25)
24. Chicago White Sox (25-27, No. 26)
25. New York Mets (22-27, No. 22)
26. Philadelphia Phillies (21-26, No. 29)
27. Chicago Cubs (18-30, No. 30)
28. Arizona Diamondbacks (20-32, No. 27)
29. San Diego Padres (23-28, No. 24)
30. Houston Astros (19-32, No. 28)
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