The club didn't make any major acquisitions in the off-season, but they really didn't have to. Last year's young, talent-laden roster is mostly intact, minus streaky and overpriced 1B Mark Reynolds. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. What the team did do, is amass incredible depth in pitching and outfielders, creating a stockpile of players for the Big League club to pull from, all hungering for a chance to join and contribute to this exciting Orioles team.
Orioles Spring Training was exciting this year too. Take Spring stats and records for what they're worth, but a good Spring Training usually means good organizational depth. The Orioles compiled a dominent 19-9 record. Many players really stepped up their game to prove they deserved a spot on the team: Pearce, Jackson, Ford, Robinson, Dickerson, Casilla, Exposito, Valencia, Jurrjens, McFarland, Gausman, Bundy, etc. Unfortunately, most of those players didn't make the Major League team. Ryan Flaherty did not make that list, but was handed a roster spot anyway, despite having options, no longer being a Rule 5 player, and needing to learn how to bat and field.
Early on, the Orioles 2013 Regular Season has been exciting as well. Oriole Park at Camden Yards has averaged over 40,000 fans for the first home series. The crowd is full of orange shirts this year, rather than Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies jerseys. The fans are loud, raucous, and excited, creating a playoff atmosphere in April. The team hasn't disappointed. Through the first 5 games, 1B Chris Davis is having a historic run: .556Avg. 4HRs 17RBI. CF Adam Jones has been solid: .552Avg 12H 7RBI. RF Nick Markakis is hitting .348. C Matt Wieters has thrown out 3 of 4 baserunners and is batting .333. Nate McLouth has added hustle and speed at the leadoff spot and acrobatic catches in left field. Young 3B Manny Machado is playing defense like Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson. SS J.J. Hardy is showing a resurgence in his power hitting. The team is excelling in speed, timely hitting, and turning double plays. Reliever Darren O'Day has been brilliant. Starter Miguel Gonzalez had a great first start of the season. Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland pitched 3 1/3 shutout innings in his Major League debut. There has been a lot to be excited about so far, but not from Ryan Flaherty.
I know you've heard me complain about Flaherty over and over. You may ask why I pick on a young guy who looks like he's 12 years old. Unfortunately he's proving me right. Do I wish Ryan would have a great season and help out my favorite team? Sure. I wish that of everyone in the Orioles organization. But that's not what he's doing so far.
The Orioles selected Flaherty from the Cubs in the December 2011 Rule 5 Draft, meaning they had to keep him on the Major League roster for all of the 2012 season, or they would have to send him back to Chicago or trade for him. For some reason, Baltimore's front office and coaching staff believed enough in Ryan to waste a roster/bench spot on him for the entire 2012 season and get him into 77 Big League games, despite his anemic hitting and bumbling defense. How did Flaherty reward them? With a .216 batting average and 19 RBI. He often looked like a deer caught in headlights at the plate, almost always being an automatic out. He couldn't run, grounding into many double plays. Calling him "versatile" just means he played poorly at multiple positions. The Orioles wasted a spot on their 25 man roster for all of last season on a guy who will never be more than a utility bench player. Maybe there's a reason why Chicago didn't protect him from the Rule 5 Draft by not even having him on their 40 man roster?
So far this season, Flaherty is 0-10 and has played poorly defensively. He misplays a lot of the balls that come his way. He always seems to be out of position. He does not have a good throwing arm. I'll give you one guess who misplayed the ball that allowed the Twins to score the go ahead run last night...
Yet the guy who shouldn't even be on the roster continues to be handed at bats, starting at 2B in both games since walking wounded 2B Brian Roberts unsurprisingly went down with yet another injury, despite 2B Alexi Casilla having much better stats in Spring Training and last season. And for some reason manager Buck Showalter hasn't even had automatic out Flaherty batting 9th.
I'd love to be excited by Ryan Flaherty since he's on my favorite baseball team, but I just can't. He's hurting the team by taking away a roster spot and at bats from more deserving players for the second straight season. I'm not sure what the Orioles coaching staff and front office see in him, but I certainly haven't seen it yet.
Copyright 2013 Denim McDemus