With the 2018 baseball season now in full swing, the Delmarva Shorebirds have easily been one of the most promising teams in the Orioles’ organization, sitting atop the South Atlantic League with an impressive record of 20-8.
A main contributor to the team’s early success comes from none other than outfielder, Zach Jarrett. In 95 at bats, Jarrett is batting .305 with 7 home runs and a .579 slugging percentage. This places him in the upper echelon of all Single-A affiliate batters and has earned him the honor of being named an Orioles minor league co-player of the month for April.
Jarrett was not always a highly sought-after prospect though. Being the son and grandson of Hall of Fame NASCAR drivers Dale and Ned Jarrett, baseball did not seem to be in the genes. Falling all the way to the 28th round of the 2017 MLB draft, this Charlotte product had a very underwhelming stat line for Baltimore’s Short Season-A affiliate, Aberdeen. The organization still decided to call him up to Delmarva for the 2018 season, and that decision has more than paid off thus far.
This offensive weapon has tons of potential and seems to be improving every game. Although the season is young, the sky seems to be the limit for this kid and the Shorebirds as a whole. Keep an eye out for Zach Jarrett climbing his way up the Orioles’ system.
As the Baltimore Orioles slump to the worst record in the American League, a familiar face and much-loved figure from the Orioles’ last period of significant struggle, Nick Markakis, is experiencing completely different fortunes with the National League East leading Atlanta Braves.
The Braves, who are without doubt one of the most exciting young teams in all of baseball, are 19-11 and the 34-year-old veteran right fielder is hitting .336 with eight doubles, five home runs, and 23 RBI. In his 13th major league season and last of his current four-year contract, the left-handed hitter is showing no signs of slowing down despite injury concerns being a hotly debated subject during the 2014 offseason.
After a memorable American League East division-winning 2014 season in Baltimore, Markakis was quite vocal in his desire to re-sign with the Orioles and remain in the city he had grown to love throughout his entire major league career. After nine seasons, Baltimore had become a second home for the New York native, and in 2008 he and his family purchased a property in Monkton, an affluent community just a short 30 minute drive down the I-83. In addition to his on-field success with the team, his charitable work off-field also enhanced his high standing among fans. The Right Side Foundation, started by Nick and his wife Christina in May 2009, helps disadvantaged, sick, lonely, or grieving children throughout the state of Maryland and frequently draws much praise from leaders within the community who see first hand how much of a difference the Markakis family’s efforts make.
Despite his strong desire to remain though, the front office had other ideas.
Following the end of the 2014 playoff run at the hands of the Kansas City Royals, Markakis and the Orioles looked set to sign a four-year, $40 million deal in early November, however negotiations suddenly stalled. While never admitted by the Orioles front office, it was a widely-held belief that the organization was concerned by an MRI on his neck which showed a bulging disk. This is despite Markakis openly stating his neck wasn’t causing him discomfort, and that fact that he’d played 160 and 155 games in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
Ultimately a deal between the two parties was not forthcoming and just a few weeks later on December 3, Markakis agreed to a four-year, $44 million contract with the Atlanta Braves, much to the frustration of Orioles fans. To further rub salt into the wound, the ever-classy Markakis took out a two-page advert in the Baltimore Sun, thanking fans, the city, and the organization for his nine seasons with the club. Players of his caliber both on and off the field don’t come around often, and the Orioles had just let one slip away.
Speaking on the event in early 2015, the typically quiet Markakis surprised many and didn’t hold back:
“Don’t believe a word they say. It was all because of my neck. They can say what they want to make them look good. It’s all B.S.”
“It’s a weird feeling. It’s different. You don’t realize until you go through it. And I always thought I’d be coming back as an Oriole. But I’ve been through it all now and the business side I understand.”
More than three years have since passed and overall, the Orioles have enjoyed more success than the Braves, winning 81, 89, and 75 games respectively and reaching the postseason again in 2016. The rebuilding Braves meanwhile won just 67, 68, and 72 games respectively between 2015 and 2017.
When comparing the numbers between Markakis and the Orioles’ various right fielders used since he left though, it makes for truly fascinating reading.
Nick Markakis (Offensive), 2015 to Now
Orioles RF (Offensive), 2015 to Now
As the numbers indicate, Markakis’ offensive value is superior in most categories to what has been achieved by Orioles’ right fielders combined since 2015. The exceptions are home runs and runs scored, however one must also keep in mind that Markakis has played on a significantly weaker team where both RBI and run scoring opportunities have been less frequent. Also noteworthy is Markakis’ much higher on-base percentage which stems from drawing 80 more walks.
Defensively, the Orioles have never truly settled on a regular right fielder since Markakis left and in total, have tried 24 different options – most of which with minimal success. Now mostly forgotten, this has included Gerardo Parra, Alejandro De Aza, Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, Joey Rickard, Nolan Reimold, Seth Smith, and Anthony Santander among others.
Nick Markakis (Defensive), 2015 to Now
Orioles RF (Defensive), 2015 to Now
Yet again the numbers tell a clear story of Markakis’ higher value and superior performance since 2015, especially in that defensive WAR category which must be particularly alarming for anyone within the Orioles organization.
While it’s easy to sit back and criticize the Orioles’ front office for the numerous lost opportunities in recent years which has contributed to the misery seen in 2018 (i.e. Nelson Cruz, Andrew Miller, etc.), the stability, consistency, and reliability of what Nick Markakis offered the ballclub has undoubtedly been missed. Further, his leadership on field, as well as he and his family’s charitable work off it, has also been a big loss to the ballclub and city in general.
With the Braves flying and clearly valuing Markakis’ consistent performance both in right field and at the plate, one would expect them not to make the same mistake the Orioles did by letting this underrated star walk at season’s end.
Extreme weather, new rules dividing opinion, exciting new talent bursting onto the scene – it’s sure been a fascinating first month of the 2018 MLB season hasn’t it? For many of the 30 teams, the first month of the season has been absolutely chaotic and there’s been no shortage of story lines to capture the attention of baseball fans all around the world.
Here’s 25 things I’ve learned/confirmed throughout the first month of the season…
There’s a famous saying in baseball, that pennants can’t be won in April, yet they can most certainly be lost, and after just four weeks of the 2018 season an alarming number of teams are doing their best to prove this old adage true.
The Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Miami Marlins, and Kansas City Royals have all made horrific starts this season, however none of which are as far off the pace as the slumping Baltimore Orioles (6-18 record) who will wake up Thursday morning a staggering 12.5 games behind the AL East leading Boston Red Sox.
Despite 138 games still remaining, this gap will not be closed. Further, with three teams in the American League not leading their division and still possessing records over .600, the two wildcards appear all but out of reach too. Quite frankly, from a playoff aspiration perspective, the season is already over.
While the 6-18 record to start the season is concerning, the 4-19 record to close out 2017 must also not be forgotten. Combining the two, the Orioles have lost 37 of their last 47 games – a feat no team in baseball comes even remotely close to ‘achieving’.
During this stretch we’ve seen it all, all too often. The starting pitching is far too inconsistent, even despite the exciting results Dylan Bundy is achieving. On the rare occasion a starter can produce the goods, they’re seldom backed by an embarrassingly one-dimensional offense which truly does live and die by the long ball. The bullpen and defense, which between 2012 and 2016 were two massive strengths of this team, have capitulated. Once reliable relievers now operate on a Jekyll and Hyde type basis, while the defense has more holes in it that a slice of Swiss cheese.
The fans are no longer attending in masses, with 2018 on pace to be the worst attended season in Camden Yards’ history – by far.
The farm, while showing some signs of improvement in recent years, is still one of the worst ranked in baseball and there’s only a handful of prospects on the horizon who may be capable of adding some improvement to the big league team in coming years.
All in all, the organization is in a pretty chaotic state and sadly – for the passionate, devoted, success-starved fans – the dark ages of pre-2012 have returned with venom.
Despite such an abundance of failures, mismanagement, and missed opportunities, it seems nobody is being held accountable in Baltimore, and the mainstream media – which we know has had press passes stripped off them in years prior – don’t appear to be brave enough to ask the tough questions.
Why isn’t General Manager Dan Duquette being quizzed over so many failed pitching signings and acquisitions in recent years? (i.e. Ubaldo Jimenez, Yovanni Gallardo, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Miley, etc.)
Why hasn’t anyone probed deeper into the ‘ones that got away’ and continue to perform well elsewhere? (i.e. Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, Gerardo Parra, Andrew Miller, etc.)
Why isn’t Pitching Coach Roger McDowell being quizzed about the alarming decline in performance from Chris Tillman since the start of last year, or the continued inconsistency of Kevin Gausman and almost the entire bullpen?
Why isn’t Scott Coolbaugh being quizzed over the massive decline in production from Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo in recent years, or his inability to turn their form around?
Why have the likes of Mike Wright, Tyler Wilson, TJ McFarland, Craig Gentry, and others continually received more opportunities in recent years than any other Major League ballclub would allow?
Why was the decision made to rush back Alex Cobb when clearly he is under-prepared and now suffering a complete lack of confidence?
Why have so many players with obvious potential gone on to succeed elsewhere after their time in Baltimore has come to an end? (i.e. Jake Arrieta, Zach Davies, Parker Bridwell, etc.)
Why haven’t/didn’t/aren’t first round draft picks of recent years developed/developing as expected? (i.e. Josh Hart 2013, D.J. Stewart 2015, Cody Sedlock 2016)
Why weren’t extension talks held with Adam Jones, Jonathan Schoop, or Zach Britton over the winter months?
Why wasn’t Manny Machado traded last June when the time was right? Or at the very least, when will serious discussions start occurring with other clubs this season, before it’s too late and he walks as a free agent after the season concludes?
The fan base is beyond frustrated with the results and they fear what the future holds. Baltimoreans love their baseball team and grew to love the return to winning ways in 2012-2016. They don’t want to experience another run of 14 consecutive losing seasons.
The fans want answers and they’re not getting them. They want to see someone held accountable for this current mess, and they want more transparency in knowing what the plans are going forward. If a rebuild is on the cards, they want to know. They want to understand. They want to be involved and want to go along for the ride.
Until these tough questions are asked, key decisions made, and the coaching staff and front office is held to account, the frustration will continue and the stands will remain empty.