Perhaps it’s fitting that the Orioles are 44-44 as they pause for the All-Star break. That’s because the first half of the season lacked definition. They weren’t good, except for a three week stretch where they won 18 of 23, and they weren’t bad, not even over the last two weeks when they lost 10 of 13.
They’re in third place in the AL East, four games behind the New York Yankees and 3 ½ games out of the second wild card.
There’s plenty of time for them, but isn’t that what we thought in 2013?
It was two years ago, the season that’s been forgotten, that the Orioles headed into the All-Star break at 53-43 and won their first four games afterward, and then floundered.
They ended the season 85-77, a good season, to be sure, but not up to 2012 or 2014.
Could 2015 be similar?
Take away the 18-5, and the Orioles are 26-39. Surely one good stretch isn’t going to win this team the American League East, even if the division looks substandard.
They need at least two substantial runs in the second half to play beyond Oct. 4.
The first half was marred by injuries and remembered because of the disruption caused by the riots.
On Sunday, manager Buck Showalter referred to some of those who were on the disabled list, Kevin Gausman, J.J. Hardy, Jonathan Schoop and Matt Wieters were all out for significant time.
“I try to keep in mind we had four or five guys who were missing that we have back now. Whether It be Jonathan or Matt or J.J., Adam [Jones] was down for a while, Gausman has been out for a while. I try to stay on the positive side of that, that knock on wood they're going to be there for us where we didn't have them. We had some good people come in and keep us engaged in the competition and we're there,” Showalter said.
The team is healthy now. Only Jason Garcia, a little-used Rule 5 draft pick and Wesley Wright, who the team has room for, are currently on the DL.
A decision on Wright could be coming shortly, but there seems to be little chance that he’ll be a second half contributor. After more than three months on the disabled list, Wright has horrifying numbers in Norfolk, and the Orioles have several others they’d rather have in their bullpen.
There were a few surprise contributors to the team: Jimmy Paredes and Chaz Roe have helped enormously, but several who were counted on for big roles have disappointed.
Besides Wright, who the team signed for $1.7 million, Everth Cabrera, Alejandro De Aza and Delmon Young are all gone. The Orioles will end up paying $4 million of De Aza’s $5 million contract, and combined with Cabrera ($2.4 million) and Young ($2.25 million), the team will pay more than $10 million for little production.
That’s approaching 10 percent of the team’s Opening Day payroll.
Because of that dead money, it’s questionable how much they’ll be able to spend to add players before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
While there’s publicly no worry about the key players who’ll likely depart due to free agency, the team can’t trade away some of its best younger prospects because some of them are going to be needed as replacements next year.
There’s little or no likelihood Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Davis or Matt Wieters return next year, but they can’t be traded for prospects because the team is in the race, and they’re playing key roles.
At the break, there are eight teams 10 or more games out of first place, and just two in the American League. Most of the other 22 teams think they have a chance to contend. That’s a lot of competition for players who could be traded.
Showalter was being realistic when he referred to the second half on Sunday.
“I look at all the answers we're going to need are in our locker room and in our organization. I'm very confident in the people we have,” Showalter said.
Many of these players have been through three races, and shown they can perform well under adverse circumstances. With Hardy, Jones, Schoop and Wieters healthy, they’ll look for better things.
“It’s time to focus, time to put that head down and ride it out and get into July, August and ride into September,” Jones said.
They’ll take these four days off and start again on Friday.
“I want these guys to get as far away from it as they can, take some pride in the way they've competed and knowing that it's still there for them,” Showalter said. “A lot of baseball left and we're engaged in the competition and will continue to be.”