Wind: 1.01 m/h
April sure was fun.
Watching the Orioles play semi-competitive baseball through the first few weeks of the season was a blast. It was fleeting — anyone following the team closely knew that the organization simply doesn’t have the talent and depth to even finish the regular season around the .500 mark.
What we were seeing was a mirage. So as the Orioles freefall — the club is 2-13 since May 7 — towards irrelevance for the remainder of the season, O’s games are becoming less and less enjoyable to watch.
But not all is lost for the upcoming summer. I’ll continue to monitor the progress of the Orioles’ younger players and minor league prospects and if we’re lucky, that process will get really fun towards the end of the season.
Until then, I’m doing my best not to lose sight of what we’re seeing from the Orioles two best players right now — starter John Means and first baseman Trey Mancini.
Even if Mancini weren’t returning from colon cancer, which he is, his 2021 performance would be more than admirable. After a slow start to the season, Mancini is slashing .280/.352/.520 for an OPS of .872. Mancini has already hit 10 home runs and driven in 41 runs, an American League high as of May 24.
In case you aren’t a believer in Mancini’s impact, just imagine the Orioles’ lineup without him. He’s overtaken Cedric Mullins for the team lead in OPS and leads the club in homers by four and in RBIs by 18.
Removing Mancini from the lineup would effectively render them a Triple-A lineup. That’s how good and valuable he is to the organization.
Means rivals Mancini in the sense that he generally guarantees that the Orioles will at least have a chance to win that particular game. Pitcher wins might not mean much, but Means has yet to be tagged for a loss this season and his American League-leading 1.70 ERA and American League-leading 0.754 WHIP validate that.
You can discount the no-hitter on May 5 at your own risk, but removing that masterful performance from his record doesn’t change much. Means has failed to finish the fifth inning just once while pitching through the sixth inning in his last six starts. He might not wow some with his low-to-mid 90s fastball or his low-key demeanor on the mound, but the guy gets results. And the results have thrust him into early Cy Young conversation.
The Orioles are going to lose a lot more games before all is said and done. It’ll get ugly and fans will complain. I’ll be writing about those things too, but for now, I’m focused on these performances by a former minor-league afterthought and a cancer survivor.
Maybe the most intriguing conversation for the rest of the season won’t be how many games the Orioles lose, but instead which one of these two will win Most Valuable Oriole.