© 2024 WYPR
WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore WYPF 88.1 FM Frederick WYPO 106.9 FM Ocean City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Pitcher's injury likely means end of '22 run for Orioles

Baltimore Orioles mascot

Well, that didn’t take long.

And by that, we mean the moment that the Orioles became irrelevant in 2022 and the countdown for the Ravens’ new season began. That time came Saturday afternoon when pitcher John Means announced via Twitter that he would be having surgery on his left elbow.

That news officially ended his season and got the slog to superfluousness started in earnest.

Normally, in recent years, the baseball Birds manage to make the spring and summer reasonably interesting with a modicum of scrappy play and the introduction of a new face to rally around.

In the absence of actual wins, players on the order of Trey Mancini, Anthony Santander, Cedric Mullins and Means himself have emerged as reasons for hope or at least provided an excuse to watch.

But Means’ forthcoming Tommy John operation and the subsequent year long recuperation are the proverbial white flag on 2022 for the Orioles, a signal to abandon all hope for all who enter Camden Yards or who watch on television.

Let’s be clear: Even if Means had become the first pitcher since Denny McLain in 1968 to win 30 games in a season, the Orioles weren’t going to be a contender this year as the Birds, as presently constituted, are set up to fail. Disagree? Their payroll of roughly $45 million is easily the lowest in baseball. They play in a division with the Yankees and Red Sox, two clubs who likely spend that much in salary in a month. The Orioles, in effect, play with their hands tied behind their back, and, it’s worth noting, by choice.

Between broadcast and ancillary revenues, there’s more than enough money available for ownership to take a deeper dive into the free agent pool than the $10 million it spent this year.

Of course, spending money in and of itself is no predictor of winning. If it were, the Yankees, who typically have a payroll in the top five, wouldn’t be in the midst of a 13-year World Series drought.

Indeed, the Tampa Bay Rays, who have won two American League pennants in the last 15 years and are a perennial playoff participant, have moved to the upper echelon of the game with a labor force that makes next to nothing.

But while the Rays have come close to a World Series, they haven’t won, and you wonder if a few well-placed free agent signings might have put them over the top.

It seems all the Orioles have learned from the Rays is how to go cheap, by building a farm system that will supply young, inexpensive talent, with the emphasis on inexpensive.

The Orioles’ collection of minor leaguers, including catcher Adley Rutschman and a trio of pitchers, is said to be among the top five in baseball. So, in theory, help could be on the way.

But the game is played on the field and not in theory. Based on what we’ve seen, that help almost certainly won’t arrive in time to make 2022 any different from what we’ve seen recently.

The good news: September and football are only five months away.

And that’s how I see it for this week. You can reach us via email with your questions and comments at Sports at Large at gmail.com. And follow me on Twitter at Sports at Large.

Until next week, for all of us here, I’m Milton Kent. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games.

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.