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Orioles' John Means falls short in AL Rookie of the Year voting

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Orioles' John Means falls short in AL Rookie of the Year voting

It was always going to be an uphill climb. Now? It’s reality.

John Means did not become the first Oriole to win the AL Rookie of the Year award in 20 years.

The surprising ace finished second behind Yordan Alvarez in this year’s voting. The result is less of a surprise, as Alvarez utterly dominated opponents at the plate all year long. From the moment he was promoted in June, Alvarez was one of the best hitters in baseball. 

By wRC+, an all-encompassing offensive metric, he was actually the second-best hitter in baseball behind only Mike Trout. And he owned the best OPS for a rookie in MLB history.

He accomplished all this while hitting in the middle of the most formidable lineup in baseball, a Houston unit that carried them to the American League pennant.

Alvarez didn’t enjoy the most prolific postseason of all-time, but he still pitched in with a few big hits against the Nationals in the World Series. His hot streak in the Fall Classic actually allowed him to lead the Astros in both batting average and OPS against the Nats.

For so many reasons, Alvarez earned his unanimous first-place finish. But don’t let that diminish Means’ year.

A non-prospect who was made the Orioles roster out of Spring Training, Means was the team’s lone All-Star representative this season. He held his own in the vaunted AL East, and was the clear-cut second-best rookie in the AL in 2019.

Means’ great season helped him receive 16 second-place votes, while no other candidate received more than six.

In a long, trying season, Means stood out as one of the most pleasant surprises for the Orioles in recent memory. The organization has long struggled to develop starting pitching, which has constantly placed them behind the 8-ball in their division. If the front office can unearth a few more hidden gems in the coming seasons, the rebuild may just work out after all.

Brandon Lowe of the Rays rounded out the top three finishers, while Eloy Jimenez finished fourth.

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Best Orioles of the Century: A tale of two decades behind the plate

Best Orioles of the Century: A tale of two decades behind the plate

With fans stuck inside and no live sports for entertainment, it's time to look to the past. Over the next few weeks, NBC Sports Washington is putting together a Best of the Century team for the Baltimore Orioles. Through the past two decades, there has been a surprising amount of star power to come through Charm City, and now we can determine who has truly been the cream of the crop.

It makes sense to start at catcher, considering the most likely face of the 2020 Orioles, Adley Rutschman, will be behind the plate in Baltimore sooner rather than later.

It's been a tale of two decades at the position for the O's. The 2000s saw names like Charles Johnson, Brook Fordyce and Geronimo Gil, while the 2010s brought stability in the form of a top-five overall draft pick who quickly became the most anticipated prospect in team history.

Here are the top contenders at catcher, in chronological order.

The Contenders

Javy Lopez (2004-06)

Lopez came to Baltimore in the exciting 2003 offseason. The Orioles added him along with veteran stars Miguel Tejada and Rafael Palmeiro. Lopez had just crushed a career-high 43 home runs in Atlanta the year before, finishing fourth in the National League in bombs and fifth in MVP voting.

It was hoped that Lopez would bring more success to the position than the Orioles had seen since Chris Hoiles, and while his debut season was a success - Lopez hit a home run on the first pitch he saw in Baltimore, an exciting first impression - he never replicated his success in Atlanta and was out of baseball after 2006.

Ramon Hernandez (2006-08)

Hernandez never made an All-Star team in Baltimore or brought much flash behind the plate, but he was a reliable contributor for three seasons. Considering the dearth of talent at the position in other parts of the decade, that small degree of stability is enough to warrant consideration here.

His best season was 2006, when he hit a career-high 23 home runs with a .275 batting average in his debut season in Baltimore. His OPS fell by more than 100 points the following two years, and in 2009 he moved on to Cincinnati.

The writing was on the wall for Hernandez when it became clear who the catcher of the future was.

Matt Wieters (2009-16)

Chuck Norris wears Matt Wieters pajamas. Sliced bread is actually the greatest thing since Matt Wieters. When Matt Wieters is hungry, he snacks on batting doughnuts.

These are just a few examples from the now-defunct Matt Wieters Facts website, dedicated to the greatness of the most highly-rated prospect in Orioles history. The hype surrounding Wieters was neverending from the moment he signed the then-highest bonus in Orioles draft history in 2007.

Wieters was billed as a catcher who could do it all. He was supposed to hit for average and power, frame pitchers better than anybody and had a cannon for an arm. He was Adley Rutschman before Adley Rutschman, and his talents shined in Baltimore for eight largely enjoyable seasons.

While the bat never fully came around - he hit .250 over eight years with Baltimore and never more than 23 home runs in a season - his fielding was superb and his leadership highly valued. He was at the center of several successful playoff teams, quickly becoming one of the most recognizable Orioles of the decade.

The Winner

Starting off with a no-brainer, the Best Oriole of the Century at catcher is Matt Wieters. It was never going to be anyone else.

Longevity alone give Wieters a huge leg up on the competition here. He played 882 games in Baltimore, more than Lopez and Hernandez combined (712). Wieters is also most closely associated with the Orioles while Lopez (Atlanta) and Hernandez (Oakland) are more closely thought of in other uniforms.

Wieters' best season by WAR (5.2 in 2011) also tops Lopez's (4.8 in 2004) and Hernandez's (4.2 in 2006). Team success also weighs heavily in Wieters' favor - no other catcher was atop the team's depth chart during any of the Orioles' winning seasons this century.

It's impossible to overstate just how much hype surrounded Wieters' arrival in 2009. When he was drafted out of Georgia Tech in 2007, he had as much pedigree as any player to ever enter the organization. Impossible expectations may lead some casual fans to consider his tenure a disappointment - he never became [Minnesota Twins catcher Joe] Mauer with power - but Wieters made four All-Star Games and won two Gold Gloves, while solidifying a position that desperately needed it.

He was one of the faces of the 2012-16 Orioles that led the American League in wins, and he is the easy choice as catcher of the century in Baltimore. 

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Orioles' Chris Davis discusses parenting during the quarantine and what he and his family have been doing to avoid cabin fever

Orioles' Chris Davis discusses parenting during the quarantine and what he and his family have been doing to avoid cabin fever

Chris Davis has been watching a show about tigers during quarantine, except it’s not the popular Tiger King documentary from Netflix as one might suspect.

"The one voice that just haunts me in my dreams is Daniel Tiger. He is a staple in our household and has been for every one of our girls," Davis said in an interview on MLB Network Radio.

The Baltimore Orioles first baseman has not only been spending time with his kids watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, but Davis discussed how he and his family have been trying to avoid getting cabin fever by getting creative with his three daughters.

"Right now the thing to do is just run. That's literally what they're doing," Davis said. "They're running in circles and laughing, 'Daddy come chase us,' and I'm like, 'Daddy's a little tired right now,' but I do what I can. And Ella, being our oldest, has figured out how to ride a bike without any training wheels, so we're doing a lot of bike riding." 

Davis went on to say that despite the unfortunate circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, “we understand as a family and just as a baseball family that the best thing for our game, the best thing for our fans and for the safety of everyone is to try and distance ourselves from people.” In the meantime, it seems that Davis is enjoying his time with his family and is looking forward to getting back to baseball.

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