There hasn’t been a whole lot that’s been fun about the 2019 Orioles season, especially once you take out the first weekend where they won four of six games. They’re marching towards the bad kind of history, with a strong likelihood that they will give up more home runs than any team has ever given up before. Even this crummy, miserable slog of a season can have its fun moments, and that’s why now we have the legend of Stevie “Dr. Poo Poo” Wilkerson.
I will not act like I’m not writing this story solely because I want an excuse to type “Dr. Poo Poo” a bunch of times.
As nicknames go, it’s inherently a funny one, all the moreso because its origin was apparently that Wilkerson, after a previous pitching outing, told reporters that he was “throwing poo poo out there” and then manager Brandon Hyde decided to elevate Wilkerson to a doctorate. And so here we are today, and Dr. Poo Poo has become the first position player to get a save in MLB history.
You only have to take one look at the Statcast pitch data to understand why Wilkerson placed that label on his own pitching. In the course of his one inning save in the game that started on Thursday and ended early Friday morning even on the west coast, the fastest that one of his pitches was clocked was 56mph. Most were below 55. It’s not every day you see a pitch that’s slow enough that if it was a car, it wouldn’t even be hitting the speed limit on I-695. That’s poo poo.
In any baseball game, things have to get weird for a position player to pitch. Most of the time it means a blowout where the losing team has a ragged pitching staff and is just trying to save having to absorb another inning from their tired pitchers. That’s no stranger for the 2019 O’s, who’ve had four different position players, including Wilkerson, take the mound this year.
Sometimes, the “weird” is simply the sheer number of extra innings. That’s how we ended up with the other famous example of an Orioles position player pitching, the legendary Chris Davis game in Boston, where Davis became the first position player in a long time to get a win as a pitcher. Although Davis wasn’t exactly throwing MLB pitcher stuff, his pitches on that day were at least recognizable as pitches. They were not poo poo.
Things got weird enough to call upon Dr. Poo Poo in the wee hours of Thursday morning’s 10-8 win over the Angels because of a series of bad relief outings. Shawn Armstrong walked two of three batters he faced in the seventh inning, then Paul Fry entered with the bases loaded and gave up a three-run double that gave the Angels a 4-2 lead. Angels reliever Ty Buttrey was then also bad, giving up two runs in the top of the eighth for the O’s to tie up the game.
Yes, a pitcher with “butt” in his last name was also involved, indirectly, in Dr. Poo Poo’s glorious moment. Let’s laugh it up and get it out of our system.
The game could have ended in a mere nine innings. Trey Mancini broke that 4-4 tie in the top of the ninth with a solo home run, his 23rd of the year. This turned out to be Mancini’s only hit in the game out of eight at-bats. Because this is 2019, closer Mychal Givens could not close the game in the bottom of the inning, giving up a game-tying home run to Brian Goodwin to send the game into extras.
In ordinary circumstances, the Orioles scoring three runs in the top of the 15th inning would have been enough to avoid needing to call upon Dr. Poo Poo. Nothing about the 2019 season is ordinary, though, especially where the bullpen is involved. Tanner Scott gave up a single and then walked three guys.
Even by Scott’s usual standards, that’s pretty bad. And then, the kicker, the Mike Trout double that almost cleared the bases, only the third runner, who would have been the walkoff run, was thrown out at the plate, or so said the home plate umpire and the replay center in New York, but I think the Angels have a legitimate beef with this call.
All of that is what it took for the Orioles to have to summon Dr. Poo Poo. And thanks to Jonathan Villar delivering a go-ahead two-run home run in the top of the 16th inning, Dr. Poo Poo was in line for a save rather than just desperately trying to have the game go one more inning.
Some say that before Dr. Poo Poo took the mound last night, he delivered a bit of Shakespearean oratory, inspired by Henry V:
And people in Maryland now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here
And hold their fandoms cheap whiles any speaks
That watched us upon Saint Christopher’s Day
I turned off the TV at midnight, with the Orioles leading, 2-1, assuming that I would wake up to read about another stupid 2019 loss. I don’t regret that I didn’t stay up until 4:27am Eastern, when the last out was finally recorded. But also, I do.
The legend of Dr. Poo Poo is not likely to spark the rebirth of the Orioles, unlike the way the Chris Davis pitching game once showed us that the 2012 season was heading somewhere different.
The 2019 season is still what it is, the rotation and bullpen are still what they are, and better days are still farther down the road than right now. That doesn’t mean that Orioles fans can’t enjoy something awesome when it happens. Dr. Poo Poo, I salute you, even if I hope the Orioles never need you again.