2019 Baltimore Orioles
2019 Baltimore Orioles / Franchise: Baltimore Orioles / BR Team Page
Managed by Brandon Hyde
History, Comments, Contributions
Little was expected of the 2019 Baltimore Orioles coming off the worst year in franchise history and in the first full season of a rebuild that was likely to take a few seasons to bear any fruit. Under new manager Brandon Hyde, they went into the season with a very young and inexperienced line-up, the only veterans still around being those like 1B Chris Davis whose contract made them impossible to trade. It was therefore a bit of a surprise that the Birds started off strong, winning 2 of 3 against the mighty New York Yankees, on the road no less, from March 28-31. On April 1st, second-year pitcher David Hess took a no-hitter into the 7th inning against the Toronto Blue Jays and had still not allowed a hit when Hyde took him out after 6 1/3 innings after he had reached a predetermined pitch count limit of 80 pitches. He had a 6-0 lead, but the bullpen almost squandered it, as Pedro Araujo immediately gave up a two-run homer to Randal Grichuk that broke the no-hit bid, and the Jays pulled within one run and had a runner on third before Richard Bleier struck out Lourdes Gurriel to save the 6-5 win. The bullpen was likely to be an area of concern all season, as three different pitchers had recorded the save in their first three wins, and none had pitched particularly well. When they defeated the Jays again the next day, it gave the Orioles four straight road wins, something they had not done since 2016.
After these few promising early days, things went back to normal - normal being a steady stream of losses. Starting on May 7th, they went 8-32 over their next 40 games, including 10 straight losses from June 12-21. Their pitchers were also allowing homers at a record pace - 150 over their first 75 games. However, amid all this gloom, there was a brief glimpse of very improbable sunlight on June 29-30 when the O's manhandled the Cleveland Indians in back-to-back games, winning by the same lopsided score of 13-0 both days. It was their first wins in consecutive games since May 4-6! The O's sole All-Star was 26-year-old rookie John Means, a pitcher who had come out of nowhere to work his way from the back of the bullpen to being a very solid starter, with a record of 7-4, 2.50 in the first half. One other pitcher was doing surprisingly well, veteran Andrew Cashner, who turned around a horrid 4-15 record in 2018 to go 9-3, 3.83 in 18 first-half starts. After going 27-62 before the All-Star break, the O's cashed in on his value on July 13th by trading him to the Boston Red Sox in return for two 17-year-old prospects, both of whom were still playing in the Dominican Summer League. It may have been a good long-term business decision, but it did not make it any more likely that the second half would be much different than the first.
After being in the news mainly for negative reasons all year, the Orioles did set one positive record in July when they managed multiple homers in 10 straight games from July 17-27, breaking the previous major league record of 9. They also won 7 of those 10 games, including a marathon 16-inning contest on July 25th against the Los Angeles Angels in which OF Steve Wilkerson became the first position player since the adoption of the save rule in 1969 to earn a save. He preserved a 10-8 lead in the bottom of the 16th as the Birds' 10th pitcher of the long night, retiring the Angels in order on 55 mph lobs to the plate. On August 5th, Jonathan Villar became the first Oriole since Felix Pie to hit for the cycle, when he pulled off the feat in a 9-6 loss to the Yankees. In that game, the Orioles allowed 5 homers, which meant that they became the first team to allow multiple homers in 10 straight games, a little over a week after being the first team to accomplish the same thing on the batting side! They set another negative home run record on August 21st when their pitchers allowed #258 on the year, tying the Cincinnati Reds, with over a month of games left to play. It was clear that they would establish a new record by a huge margin, the only question being whether they would cross the magic 300-homer threshold! Indeed, the Orioles' pitchers allowed another homer on August 22nd, this one to Austin Meadows of the Tampa Bay Rays, to take sole possession of the record. They would finish the season with 305 homers allowed.
All the losing and daily beatdowns had an effect on the team's morale, as illustrated by a couple of incidents in the dugout. On August 7th, manager Brandon Hyde nearly came to blows with underperforming slugger Chris Davis, and on August 28th it was reliever Richard Bleier and third-base coach Jose Flores who exchanged heated words and had to be separated by teammates. Bleier was also having a rough season, with a bloated 6.30 ERA at the time of the incident. The team finished with a record of 54-108, a seven-game improvement on the previous season, but still good for last place by a wide margin. Depressing news continued after the season, as in late November, the Orioles decided to have Villar, who had played all 162 games and been their most consistent player by hitting .274 with 24 homers and 73 RBIs, was designated for assignment so that they would not have to pay him a competitive salary in 2020; on December 2nd, he was traded to the Miami Marlins for a low-level pitching prospect.
Awards and Honors
- Associated Press: "Losses mount for rookie manager Hyde as Orioles rebuild", USA Today, July 11, 2019. 
- Gabe Lacques: "As long rebuild begins, new-look Orioles resolute: 'We're going to learn how to win'", USA Today, April 24, 2019.