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A Birdland Salute to Jonathan Schoop

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Jonathan Schoop was one of the rare Orioles international signings. When they found him, they found their 2B of the future. That future is now our past. We remember the good times.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

There were four months of bad baseball this season to prepare us all for the idea that the Orioles might have to trade a bunch of people at the trade deadline in order to blow up the team and maybe build for the future. On a rational level, I was prepared for this. There was no choice but to trade Jonathan Schoop. I still wasn’t ready for it and I’m still sad about it.

Schoop came to the Orioles from Curacao, one of the rare O’s international amateur signings from the last decade. Many of those prospects never turn out as well as Schoop, but you would think that successful example might have inspired them sooner. Alas, it did not. The Orioles are still lucky that they took the time to find and sign their future All-Star second baseman.

It didn’t take very long for Schoop to get some notice once he was brought into a US-based minor league, with the classic frame where the scouting world could just be sure that the home runs were going to come. Nobody ever put Schoop at the top of a top 100 prospects list, but he rated in the 80s for three straight years from Baseball Prospectus. He was a shortstop once, if you can believe it, though that changed when some guy named Machado came along.

As good as either player was individually, it’s the memory of Manny Machado and Schoop together that will really last in Birdland. Machado predated Schoop by a couple of seasons, but we ended up with four full years of getting to enjoy that bromance. Goofing off with one another in quiet moments in the field, handshake celebrations after big home runs, brotherly competition, and stuff like this:

There are many glorious GIFs of this pair with happy memories that might sustain us a bit through these tougher O’s times. Please feel free to share your favorites in the comments below.

It was a sad day when Machado was traded because there would be nothing like this any more. Even when it was down to just Schoop, that makes for a sad trade too, because on his own he just seemed like such a joyful person who was happy to be playing baseball.

It certainly helps for remembering Schoop fondly that he got to play for some great Orioles baseball teams. Even though he was just 22, the Orioles brought him up for good at the start of the 2014 season because there was nobody else around to play second base and they thought he could handle it.

Schoop batted just .209/.244/.354 in that rookie season and it almost didn’t even matter because there were so many other good hitters around that there was no burden on Schoop to do any more than he did: Make some good plays at second base. The 2014 season saw him rate at +10 in Defensive Runs Saved, with equal positives for range and for converting double plays.

For a while there, the Orioles turning double plays was almost automatic. Maybe it was Machado firing to Schoop for an around-the-horn double play. Maybe it was Schoop feeding to J.J. Hardy for a little 4-6-3 double play. The sudden inability to make these magical plays look routine was one of the factors of their fall last season and particularly this season. We are past the end of an era in so many ways.

The fact that the Orioles never worked out a contract extension with Machado is one of those things that will probably drive fans nuts forever. That they never worked out one with Schoop either can also hurt. After being traded, he said there had been basically no effort that he knew of.

The why of this is a mystery. If you think that Schoop has several more seasons in him like last year, where he was the lone Orioles All-Star and a deserving one with his .293/.338/.503 batting line, with 32 home runs on the season, the fact that he’s not sticking around here is a tragedy.

Not that Schoop’s 2018 performance has made it seem like a sure thing that he will regularly be as good as he was last year. The debate may rage on as the Orioles go through this rebuilding period because it’s a more interesting thing to talk about than why the Orioles are 33-75.

When all was said and done, Schoop played in 635 games as an Oriole and was worth a total of 11.3 bWAR. If it feels like it must have been more, that’s probably because he was around for a great era of the Orioles. In the late 60s and early 70s, they had Davey Johnson. In the late 70s and early 80s, they had Rich Dauer. In between was the criminally underrated Bobby Grich.

Zoom ahead to the mid-1990s and the two Orioles playoff teams there and it was future Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar. None of these teams would have been complete without any of these guys. When, years from now, we think back on the Buck Showalter era of the Orioles, we will think of Jonathan Schoop at second base, as iconic as any of these guys.

Schoop was around for two great Orioles teams - a division winner and a wild card qualifier that deserved more than it got. They couldn’t have done either of these as well as they did without Schoop. He was a special part of that special era. It’s over now, but it was sure fun while it lasted.

Schoop was signed. He played. He is Birdland.

In the aftermath of the trade deadline moves, there are now just three members of the 2014 Orioles remaining with the team.