It’s Thanksgiving, and spring training begins 11 weeks from today. Looking back on 2013, there are five things Orioles fans should be thankful for.
1) Manny Machado
Manny Machado had the best full season imaginable—until the last week. Machado’s fielding was spectacular. Who can forget that great play he made in Yankee Stadium when, in the words of Buck Showalter, he nearly shook hands with the beer vendor?
Machado’s offense was a happy surprise, too, and now that the Detroit Tigers have traded Prince Fielder to Texas and moved to Miguel Cabrera to first, his chances to start an All-Star Game should improve.
His season came to an abrupt end at Tampa Bay when he stepped awkwardly over first base, and underwent October knee surgery. Hopefully he’ll be ready for the start of next season. If not, he’ll he shouldn’t miss much time.
2) Chris Davis’s great season
Davis’s season started out with a bang, home runs in the first four games, 53 in all. Davis is a legitimate slugger, and he broke Brady Anderson’s 17-year-old club home run record.
It was not only one of the best offensive seasons in Orioles’ history, it was one of the better ones in baseball history. Not only the home runs, but 138 RBIs and 42 doubles.
His year was so good that it’s unlikely to be repeated, and fans shouldn’t be unhappy if Davis “slumps” to 35 home runs and 100 RBIs. That would be just fine.
3) J.J. Hardy
Hardy has spoiled Orioles fans with his great play at shortstop and at bat. He was rewarded for both with the Gold Glove for the second straight year and the Silver Slugger.
He plays every day and is a most admired teammate.
Orioles fans have been spoiled by great shortstop play. In the last 50 years, Luis Aparicio, Mark Belanger, Cal Ripken, Mike Bordick, Miguel Tejada and Hardy have been the team’s regular shortstop every year but four.
4) Long-term stability
Last January, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and Showalter signed long-term contract extensions that run through 2018.
The Orioles haven’t had a long-term general manager in years, and by the end of the 2014 season, Showalter will have the longest run since Earl Weaver.
Having a management team in place enables Duquette and Showalter not to make rash decisions and to plan for the long term.
5) Oriole Park
When the Braves announced their intention to move out of Turner Field, opened for baseball in 1997, earlier this month, it was yet another reminder of the great venue we have in Baltimore.
Oriole Park is now older than more than two-thirds of all major league ballparks, and thanks to occasional sprucing up, it’s still in nearly terrific condition.
NOTES: Armando Benitez and Mike Timlin are two former Orioles on the Hall of Fame ballot. There are others who clearly don’t deserve election on the ballot, either. Jacque Jones and J.T. Snow are also there.
Jones had a lifetime .277 average with 165 lifetime home runs. Snow batted .268 with 189 home runs.
On Wednesday, Tood Jones, who was an excellent major league closer with more than 300 saves, pleaded for voters to ignore him. He didn’t deserve a single Hall of Fame vote.
“The only thing the Hall of Fame will let me in for is to use the restroom,” Jones said.
Some have asked, why are players who had merely solid careers, like Snow and Timlin on the ballot.
Players considered for the Hall must have completed 10 seasons, and a screening committee of six members of the baseball writers looks at the qualifications, and if two believe he’s qualified, he makes the ballot.
Just because a player completes 10 seasons doesn’t mean they’ll get Hall of Fame consideration. Rick Cerone played 18 seasons, and in only four did he play more than 100 games. The career backup catcher never made the Hall of Fame ballot.
Perhaps the most bizarre Hall of Fame vote was the one received by Jim Deshaies, who was just 84-95 in 12 major league seasons. Somehow, this pitcher turned broadcaster somehow got a Hall of Fame vote.
Todd Jones is more deserving than many players on the list of 36, but he’s realistic enough to realize that he’s not on the same level with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent.
For that, we can be thankful.