It makes me happy that even as jaded and repeatedly beaten down as us Oriole fans have gotten, we will still find particular moments or games from seasons past to celebrate. Around these parts, the day little Luis Hernandez (of all people!) stood in the box against Eric O'Flaherty isn't just something kind of cool that happened, it's the stuff dreams are made of (...or something). Maybe that's the human spirit shining through all of the jaded cynicism. Maybe it's the only way to press on with the Baltimore Orioles, to squeeze those miracle plays tight and cherish them. Probably we're all just nuts.
I have a good one, something I will talk about with my non-Orioles fan girlfriend at the drop of a hat. Actually, less than that. If we're talking, and I bring up something that slightly reminds me of this one game, then I'll regale her with the exploits of the men in black and orange. She's probably heard this damn story a dozen times, but she always listens (or at least doesn't interrupt while she's checking her e-mail or something) the whole way through, even though there isn't even a shade of the drama of the moment left in the telling.
I don't really need to tell you guys all of the details, I'm sure you remember quite well. It was May 27, 2009, and the Toronto Blue Jays were in Baltimore for the much anticipated pitcher's duel of Roy Halladay versus...Rich Hill. This went exactly as well as expected, and it was 7-2 Toronto after four innings. Halladay pitched seven strong and left with a 5 run cushion, which the bullpen coughed up immediately, sending the game into extras.
You will not be surprised to recall that Danys Baez came on for the 9th, 10th, and 11th, where he did what he does, giving up a two run home run to Aaron Hill. The Orioles, being the heroes of the story, were seemingly unfazed, and quickly got one of the runs back in the bottom frame, which left two men on base with one out and the Orioles still down by one.
And then Nolan Reimold came up to hit.
I guess it's easy to forget now, but Nolan Reimold had a really good rookie season in 2009. His .831 OPS was best on the team. His .365 on base percentage was best on the team. If you want to get a little more sabrmetrical, his .365 wOBA was (yes) best on the team and (notably) better than Vladimir Guerrero's 2009 or 2010. Reimold's Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs' version) was only 1.2, sixth among Orioles position players, but if Reimold had played the whole year, he might have doubled that, and more if you think better of his defense than fWAR did. He really could have had a special year, if he had just played all of it.
Yeah, but he didn't.
Reimold of course did have as disappointing a year as you could reasonably imagine in 2010. He took a massive step backwards in basically every facet of the game. He was, however, hurt and still recovering from a lingering Achilles injury, and had to deal with what I would consider some pretty heavy off-the-field issues. If Reimold had been 100% physically and mentally, it's not hard to imagine he could have been just as good as he was in 2009.
Yeah, but he wasn't.
So who is Nolan Reimold, besides a bunch of what-ifs and excuses? I can't tell you, and that's the point. Nobody knows what kind of ballplayer Reimold is going to be in his career. What we do know, though, is that he has the ability to be a solid piece of the puzzle here in Baltimore. Not a star, cornerstone kind of guy, but an above average everyday starter. He already showed that with a good combination of power, patience, and even a little speed.
But, again, nobody has any idea if that's who he is today, at 27 years old, or if he's every bit as washed up as he looked last year. And that's why the best thing the Orioles can do in 2011 is give Nolan Reimold as many opportunities to prove himself as possible.
Which brings us back around to Vlad Guerrero, who was an exceedingly popular topic at FanFest last weekend. I made the point previously that signing Vlad would be largely a name move and not a production move, but that I was also not concerned with giving the stagnant Felix Pie plate appearances. With Reimold however, I'm of a different mind, because we've already seen that Reimold has the talent to be a part of the next good Orioles team.
Perhaps I can't convince you that the Orioles should hand out 500 plate appearances to a guy who gave Cesar Izturis a run for his unbatting crown last year. Maybe you're dying to see the light of .500 again and will take the guaranteed wins from Guerrero over learning about Reimold. And maybe you aren't convinced that a year in AAA is going to cloud our perceptions about Reimold.
That all seems fair to me. I've been back and forth on the Guerrero thing a lot myself. But there are smarter people than me who'd be quick to tell you that the offense you gain with Vlad over Pie/Reimold is probably going to be nearly or completely offset by the defense you lose with Luke Scott over Pie/Reimold. At the absolute best we're talking about picking up two wins in exchange for discovering whether or not Nolan Reimold can regain that electric spark that he had on that May afternoon two years ago.
Are two wins in the best possible (but unlikely) case, in a season where regardless of those extra wins the Orioles will need to be lucky to win 82 games, worth more to you than the knowledge of whether or not Reimold can again flourish in Baltimore? They aren't to me.