Orioles Step Up to the Plate as Major League Contenders

Good to be an O’s fan these days. We have no idea what kind of owner David Rubenstein will be, and it could be he’s just as interested in the “ballpark village” that John Angelos secured the tax money for before selling up. But his status as “Not An Angelos” will provide Orioles fans with optimism regardless.

Burnes is probably the best pitcher who was available this winter either through free agency or via trade. While Yoshinobu Yamamoto may turn out to be that, Burnes has already done it in MLB and for a few seasons. He runs a career 3.11 FIP, a 30 percent K-rate, and an ERA- of 77 (100 is average, the lower the better). At his best, he can dominate a lineup. True aces are rare to be able to pick off, and the Orioles just did so. If Grayson Rodriguez can continue to flash the form he did after his recall from the minors in the second half of last season (2.76 FIP in 76 innings), the O’s will have perhaps the best 1-2 at the top of their rotation in the AL, and certainly in the division that they just won (sorry, Yanks, but there’s still not much behind Gerrit Cole). With Kyle Bradish now properly slotted as a No. 3, the Orioles really only have to worry about health.

Making it better for Baltimore is that they didn’t have to give up anything they’ll miss. DL Hall couldn’t find the plate with a team of foxhounds in the minors as a starter and was shifted to the pen last year. The O’s churn out relievers. Joey Ortiz massacred the ball in AAA last year in just over half a season there, but literally had nowhere in the infield to play at Camden Yards. The O’s have that many good players that there was no way in between Jordan Westburg, Jackson Holliday and Gunnar Henderson. Are there some warning lights with Burnes? Yep, which may be why the O’s wait on a contract extension beyond this year for him. His Ks dropped from 30 percent to 25 percent, and he lost a tick on the cutter he uses primarily to 94.1 MPH from 95. His walks went up two percentage points, too, and as he’s 29, it’s fair to wonder if he’s already on the downside of his peak. But he has options. He has a wicked curve that runs a whiff-percentage up near 50, and he could lean on that more heavily, along with a change-up that gets a ton of grounders. Maybe his orgy of strikeout days are behind him, but there are still more than enough tools here to get a lot of hitters out every five days. Simply running back last year’s team might still have kept the Orioles as favorites in the AL East. They just added one of the best pitchers in baseball. We don’t know that the new owner won’t sanction more moves at the deadline, which they have plenty in stock to trade to make happen that still isn’t even on their MLB roster. Camden Yards has always felt like a place that should be the center of baseball. It might be now. Don’t cry for Milwaukee On the Brewers side, there is this narrative that given the size of the city and market, this is just how they have to operate, basically abdicating the division this year to the stationary Cubs or not-as-augmented-as-they-should be Reds while they reload with young, cheap talent. Here’s Ken Rosenthal espousing that owner propaganda. It’s horsesh-t. The Crew drew 2.5 million fans last year, which even going by their average ticket price should have netted them somewhere between $170-200 million. Yes, their TV deal is with Bally and could be going any number of ways, but it rumored to get them another $30 million per year or so. They just got the state of Wisconsin to pay for upgrades to whatever they call Miller Park now to the tune of $500 million. Owner Mark Attanasio bought the team for $220 million 20 years ago, and they’re currently estimated to be worth $1.6 billion. Maybe more after the stadium deal. Does anyone really care if he loses a couple million a year, given what he will sell this team for somewhere down the line? Michael Buble’s magic mushroom ride And now, Michael Buble looking like me at the last Queens of the Stone Age show I attended: Legalize mushrooms so everyone can know this joy.