On May 5, the Orioles finished off a brief West Coast trip with an impressive 4-2 mark, having taken two of three from the Athletics and Mariners. Their last win of the trip was John Means’ no-hitter in Seattle.
The trip brought the Orioles’ season record to 15-16 — hardly a world-beating mark, but it was a “light at the end of the tunnel” moment for the Orioles. Since then, the tunnel at the major-league level has been fully shut again, with very little in the way of light coming through.
The Orioles have gone 2-13 since the no-hitter and are now buried in last place in the division. Let’s face it, folks. For 2021, it looks and feels as if the Orioles have fallen and can’t get up.
Much has been made of the Orioles’ Jekyll & Hyde season given their play on the road (11-11) and their horrid home mark (6-18). But it’s really much easier to look at the dollar signs as the real culprit — at least the pitching dollar signs.
I won’t go pitcher by pitcher in the American League. Let’s keep this in easy smoke signals that everyone can understand. The highest paid pitcher the Orioles have on the staff is Matt Harvey, who is pitching on a one-year, $1 million contract. The second-highest paid pitcher the Orioles employ is the $825,000 man Shawn Armstrong. In total, this group (including Hunter Harvey, Mac Screoler and Wade LeBlanc) is coming in at a little under $10 million.
In this week’s power rankings, you’ll see the Red Sox at No. 3, Yankees at No. 4 and Rays at No. 5. Tampa Bay is riding a 10-game winning streak, which included a total three-game annihilation of the Orioles at Camden Yards last week. The Blue Jays have been in and out of the top 10. The Jays fell to No. 12 this week after the Rays beat them in three straight this weekend down in Toronto, Fla., otherwise known as Dunedin.
The Yankees are paying ace right-hander Gerrit Cole $36 million this year, and they’re paying $29 million to their top two relievers — Aroldis Chapman ($16 million) and the injured Zack Britton ($13 million). All told, the Yankees are paying pitchers more than $100 million this year.
Let’s look at the supposedly surprising Red Sox, not including Chris Sale and his $24 million as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. The Sox have Nathan Eovaldi ($17 million), Garrett Richards ($8.5 million), Eduardo Rodriguez ($8.3 million) and Martin Perez ($4.5 million). Closer Matt Barnes is making $4.5 million, and the Red Sox are paying all of Adam Ottavino’s salary ($8.85 million) after acquiring him from the Yankees this past offseason. In total, the Red Sox are paying close to $60 million for their staff, not including Sale.
The pesky and smart Rays are led by free-agent signee Chris Archer, who signed for $6.5 million on a one-year deal. Ace right-hander Tyler Glasnow is making $4 million. Michael Wacha ($3 million) and Rich Hill ($2.5 million) are on one-year deals. The Rays even gave my guy Collin McHugh $1.8 million. They’re at $25-$27 million all in.
The Blue Jays are led by former Dodger Hyun-jin Ryu, who is making $20 million. Robbie Ray is making $8 million. The Jays picked up ex-Padres closer Kirby Yates at a bargain deal of $5.5 million. He will never throw a pitch for the Jays, at least not this year, due to Tommy John surgery. The Jays tally up to right around the $50 million mark.
We can debate the way Orioles GM Mike Elias has gone about the rebuild, and Lord knows I understand the need to tear something down and start all over. But in the immortal words of the late Dennis Green when talking about a Chicago Bears team his Arizona Cardinals had let off the hook, albeit with a lot less drama, “We know what the Orioles pitching staff is … we watch them every day.” And it’s not major-league caliber when all you spend is about $10 million.
Here are this week’s rankings.
1. San Diego Padres (30-17, No. 3 last week): What’s scary is the Padres are playing this well with nobody on offense having a great season. With Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer that could change faster than you can say Jackie Robinson.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (29-18, No. 4): A wake-up week of 7-0, including a three-game sweep in San Francisco of the rival Giants, means the Dodgers have won 11 out of their last 12. This comes after three weeks in which they went 5-15. I think they have awoken from that three-week slumber.
3. Boston Red Sox (29-19, No. 1): Really did not do anything to drop a couple spots other than not be perfect. But look at the AL East with three teams in the top five.
4. New York Yankees (28-19, No. 7): Remember when after 15 games this team in pinstripes was 5-10? Since that low point, the Yanks have gone 23-9. The top three in the rotation — Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber and Domingo German — seem solid enough. The news is promising on Luis Severino, too. He’s set to go on a rehab assignment in early to mid-June.
5. Tampa Bay Rays (29-19, No. 11): The Rays take a 10-game winning streak into this week. With shortstop Wander Franco, baseball’s No. 1 prospect, waiting in the wings, it really shouldn’t have surprised anyone that the club traded shortstop Willy Adames. But the shock came when the Rays bypassed Franco to bring in Taylor Walls to hold down the shortstop position in the middle of an intense three-way battle for the AL East.
6. Oakland Athletics (28-20, No. 2): With veteran Elvis Andrus struggling to hold down the shortstop position, Chad Pinder looks like he might be about to steal the job. Andrus’ stat line (.177/.222/.224) makes me think the end may be very near for a terrific veteran.
7. San Francisco Giants (28-19, No. 8): The story of the week — maybe the season — has to be Scott Kazmir, who is 37 years old and had not pitched in a game since September 2016 before starting a game against the Dodgers this past week. Kazmir’s very solid four-inning start was the only real bright spot for a team that was just swept by its bitter rival at home in San Francisco.
8. Chicago White Sox (26-19, No. 5): Hall of Fame skipper Tony La Russa has it working if his goal is to have all his players think he’s a jerk. His latest dunce-like move was not having all-world closer Liam Hendriks ready to pitch bottom of the ninth if his team tied the game or took the lead in the top of the ninth inning in the Bronx May 23. When rookie Andrew Vaughn shockingly tied the game at 4-4 with a homer off Aroldis Chapman, La Russa stuck with lefty Aaron Bummer for his first appearance of more than one inning. Hendriks? Oh, he got in the game after Bummer had loaded the bases with no outs. Hendriks walked Aaron Judge to force in the game-winning run.
9. St. Louis Cardinals (26-20, No. 10): The club was excited to get right-handed starter Miles Mikolas back after he missed all of 2020. He looked good in his season debut May 22, but he had to be pulled after four innings with forearm tightness.
10. New York Mets (21-19, No. 13): They get back the best pitcher on the planet in Jacob deGrom. That seems significant.
11. Houston Astros (26-21, No. 6)
12. Toronto Blue Jays (23-22, No. 9)
13. Cleveland Indians (24-20, No. 15)
14. Milwaukee Brewers (23-23, No. 14)
15. Chicago Cubs (24-22, No. 19)
16. Philadelphia Phillies (23-24, No. 12)
17. Washington Nationals (20-23, No. 22)
18. Kansas City Royals (22-23, No. 21)
19. Miami Marlins (22-24, No. 20)
20. Atlanta Braves (23-24, No. 16)
21. Minnesota Twins (17-29, No. 27)
22. Texas Rangers (22-27, No. 26)
23. Seattle Mariners (21-26, No. 17)
24. Cincinnati Reds (20-25, No. 18)
25. Los Angeles Angels (20-27, No. 23)
26. Detroit Tigers (18-28, No. 29)
27. Baltimore Orioles (17-29, No. 25)
28. Arizona Diamondbacks (18-30, No. 24)
29. Colorado Rockies (18-29, No. 30)
30. Pittsburgh Pirates (18-28, No. 28)