Oh, Danny Boy, Time To Stop the Insanity
By Stan "The Fan" Charles
At Saturday's polished event celebrating the unveiling of the statue of former Orioles manager Earl Weaver, No. 4 went out of his way to defend Orioles owner Peter Angelos to the fans in Birdland.
"He's doing everything in his power to get this thing going in the right direction," Weaver said, "and with [general manager] Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter, and that's a great start."
As if on cue, Duquette waved his magic wand and traded for a solid hitter, former Philadelphia Phillie Jim Thome, to add to the limping lineup Showalter has had to post on a daily basis during the past couple of weeks. It was expected that the offensive problems would start when right fielder Nick Markakis went on the disabled list. But, that's not exactly when the O's offense got its flat tire.
As so often happens, it came immediately after the game June 14, when the Orioles scored 12 runs against the Pirates to finish off a three-game sweep. The Birds went into Atlanta, won two of three while scoring just nine runs, then were swept and mesmerized by the Mets' trio of R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana and Dillon Gee, against whom they scored three total runs. Again, coming home, the Orioles scored just five runs in taking two of three from Washington.
During these past few weeks, the eye has been on the offense, and it was thought that the return of veteran second baseman Brian Roberts would pay some dividends. That simply hasn't been the case.
But, the dirty little secret of Baltimore's baseball team is that despite the good first halves by starting pitchers Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen, as well as the bullpen, the other starters – Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Tommy Hunter -- may as well have been mostly Larry, Moe and Curly. That the club is still somehow in reasonable hailing distance of a second wild-card spot is amazing. Yet, it rings of fool's gold.
The insanity I allude to in the headline is directly related to one of the most disappointing players in recent O's history, Matusz. Matusz gave up seven hits and five runs -- four earned -- against the Cleveland Indians Sunday, lasting just four innings. After the game, the Orioles optioned him to Triple-A Norfolk.
This is an easy one for Duquette to fix. First off, Matusz was not a Duquette pick. That one, like a few others, is on former Orioles scouting director Joe Jordan. Duquette can't have it both ways in Birdland. He cannot portray himself as going for a playoff spot and yet allow Matusz to make another start in 2012, without a lengthy, successful time at Norfolk.
Much has been made of Matusz's respectable velocity this year of getting to 92-93 mph ... up some 4-5 mph from last season's disaster. But at what cost?
As Orioles color commentator Jim Palmer alluded to Matusz's lack of front-end balance at his release point, he said, "It's as if he is overthrowing to get to 92-93 mph." Although I am not a Hall of Famer like Jim Palmer, it's easy to see that Matusz's failure to really follow through is the reason his stuff is up, and when his stuff is up ... he gets hit, and hit hard. An ERA of 5.24, after an ERA higher than 10.00 last year, demands answers dictated by those that run the organization.
Miguel Gonzalez came in Sunday and gave the team a chance to win, pitching 4.1 good innings in long relief. He did his job, and his next assignment should be to start when Brian Matusz's turn next arises. It's Duquette's time to give his team a chance to win, and that chance starts with the starting pitcher not being Matusz for a long time.
Posted July 1, 2012