I want to go through the team's performance this year, from area-to-area - starting pitching, bullpen, catchers/infielders, and the outfield. I will start with the outfield, since it was probably the most useless part. And given that I deem the OF to be the most useless part of the team, let's go ahead and start right off with the most useless of them all.
I think we had a few hopes for the outfield after acquiring Sosa. Nothing spectacular, really, but Sosa despite his decline did still hit 35 homers last year, and that was a hell of a lot more than any of the 2004 Orioles outfielders hit. Plus, we got him cheap (for Hairston, a crappy pitcher that promptly retired, and Mike Fontenot), and we weren't even paying him a whole lot.
I expected 30 homers from Sosa. I didn't think he'd be any better than the .253/.332/.517 line he put up in his final season as a Cub, but I also didn't expect the dreadful mess he DID give us.
Sosa's numbers are appallingly bad for what is supposed to be your everyday right fielder. Making things worse (or better, depending on how you look at it), Sosa missed sixty games with injury and only had 380 at-bats. He hit 14 homers and slugged .376. It seemed like if there was a chance for Sosa to ground into a double play, by God, he would do it. For the record, he grounded into 15, which is a lot for only 380 at-bats. He's done worse before, with 16, 20 and 17 from 1997-99, but he also had 625-643 at-bats those seasons. He also hit 165 home runs combined.
Sosa is washed way up. At 37 in November, he's now a free agent. He doesn't want to play in Japan and does want to come back to Baltimore. I don't want him back unless it's a cool minimum salary and a one-year deal, so that when he sucks in spring training or through the middle of May, we can just send him out the door.
You probably think I rode Gibbons a little harder than he deserved this season looking at those final numbers. But to be quite fair, it was a strong finish from Gibby (.333/.389/.596 in September) and a nice May (.300/.351/.644) that really saved his season. He was hideous in April, June and August, and only some homers saved him from having an awful July.
I still don't like Gibbons. He's always a mild slump away from making himself a non-factor, and it's not like he's Mark McGwire or anything. He's also 28, so I think this is the best we'll ever get from him. He's also not in any way an everyday player, because he can't hit lefties. And he sucks in the field, a born DH.
But I'll tell you what I liked about Jay this year: He killed Boston (1.015 OPS) and the Yankees (1.027). He hit seven homers with 23 RBI against those two teams, batting .345 against both of them. And also, he and Mora seemed like the only guys on the whole damn team that didn't phone the last month in. So I can respect that. But if you can get something for Gibbons from a team that just goes, "Ooh! 26 homers!" then I still say take it.
I'm skipping more important players to get to Eric Byrnes right away. We may have been better off letting Larry Bigbie get injured for us instead of running Byrnes out there for 52 games. He was horrendous.
You know the expression, "It grows on you"? Well Byrnes is the total opposite of that. At first you think he's an OK guy, he sure tries hard, he runs around in circles and looks like he's having a freakout dancing off the bag to get everyone's attention, but then he gets picked off. And then every time Byrnes flails his way into a wall or does a somersault trying to pick up a grounder that got past Tejada or Mora, you get progressively more annoyed by him. He does work hard, but he also just had a terrible season and he's a bad outfielder. He's also going to be 30.
Byrnes could be up for arbitration or the O's could just let him walk. I say let him walk. Thanks for the hustle, Charlie, but I'd rather get real players.
You can do worse than an above-average glove in center field that hits some singles at the bottom of the lineup, and has a little speed. You can do better, too, but it's not all that easy. The New York Yankees, for instance, would have been thrilled to have a guy like Matos around this season.
It wouldn't be a Luis Matos season without some injuries, though, and for a while he left us messing around with David Newhan, Center Fielder, and that was a little scary. With Fiorentino and Markakis coming up the chain, Matos is rapidly running out of time to establish himself. He's not getting any younger, and he doesn't appear to be getting any better. Once one of the kids gets up and makes their mark, Luis could end up being the new Chris Singleton, wandering around with the abilities he has looking for work.
He is still a lazy center fielder if you ask me, and watching him and Bigbie together was sometimes infuriating. It was like a turtle v. turtle race for which one could get to the ball in the gap.
I was on Surhoff's case enough this season. Word is he'll retire, and I wish him well. He gave us some damn fine years, including being the third baseman of "the best infield of the 1990s," according to Bill James (and I refuse to argue). Happy trails, B.J.
G AB H HR RBI 2313 8258 2326 188 1153 BA OBP SLG .282 .332 .413
"I don't look at the numbers. You play this game to win. It's everything. It's never about you."
Newhan's whininess rubbed some of us the wrong way. I know it made me anti-Newhan briefly. But then I remembered why I was anti-Newhan in the first place. He's not very good. Like Surhoff, Byrnes/Bigbie and Sosa, Newhan had a pitiful season at the plate and contributed basically nothing to the team except for spelling a few games in center field, where he did a fine job.
Surprise! Eli Marrero was an Oriole this year! If you had forgotten, you get a pass. 22 games in a uniform, then one day he tries to run out an inside the park homer, basically collapses like that guy in the Gatorade commercials, leaves the game, and is really never heard from again. I thought it was a good idea when they got him, and we got him for beans, but I think we'd have been just as well off eating the beans.
Someday, Jeffrey P. Fiorentino will get a real review after the season. It ain't this day.
If we're lucky, neither of these two will ever get a real review after the season.