Jeff Zrebiec's 2010 Orioles superlatives

Team MVP, best win, worst loss and more

October 06, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

A look at some of the best and worst of the Orioles' 2010 season:

Team MVP

With his average well under .200 heading into the second week of May, designated hitter Luke Scott was only a couple of more 0-for-4s away from getting jettisoned to Triple-A Norfolk. But the 32-year-old found one of his patented hot streaks and maintained a good approach for the rest of the season. Scott, who hit .258 for his first two years with the Orioles and couldn't avoid extended slumps, batted .284 this season, bashed a career-high and team-leading 27 home runs, drove in 72 runs and compiled a .535 slugging percentage.

Most disappointing player

In a season during which several of the Orioles' heralded young players regressed, ultimately costing manager Dave Trembley his job, outfielder Nolan Reimold performed so badly that he spent 31/2 months in the minor leagues, trying to rediscover his confidence and his batting stroke. The 26-year-old, who had a strong rookie season in 2009, batting .279 with 15 homers and 45 RBIs in 104 games, finished his sophomore season with a .207 average, three homers and 14 RBIs and lost his starting left-field job.

Best win

Despite the Orioles' having the fourth-fewest wins in baseball, there was plenty of competition in this category as they went 13-4 in extra innings and had 12 walk-off wins. But it's a hard to top a game-tying grand slam in the ninth inning off an All-Star closer and a game-winning solo homer in the 10th. With the Orioles down to their last out against the Texas Rangers on July 9, Corey Patterson hit the grand slam off Neftali Feliz and Jake Fox hit the solo shot off Dustin Nippert to win it an inning later. The 7-6 win was part of an improbable four-game sweep of the American League West champs, the highlight of a dismal first half.

Worst loss

Against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 9 at Camden Yards, the Orioles dropped a deflating game and lost one of their most irreplaceable players. The largest Opening Day crowd in Camden Yards' 19-year history booed newly signed closer Michael Gonzalez off the mound as he squandered a ninth-inning lead for the second time in three days in a 7-6 loss. Making matters worse, second baseman Brian Roberts aggravated a back injury in the first inning and went on to miss 31/2 months. The Orioles never found a suitable replacement for Roberts in the leadoff spot, and Gonzalez never regained the closer role.

Defining moment

With the Orioles on pace to set a franchise record for losses and sinking further and further into despair, Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail hired Buck Showalter on Aug. 2 to be the team's long-term manager. The results were immediate as the Showalter-led Orioles won eight of their first nine games. With the rotation reeling off quality starts, the defense much improved and the offense finally getting hits with runners in scoring position, the Orioles finished 34-23 under Showalter after going a combined 32-73 under Trembley and Juan Samuel. They also went 15-12 on the road and posted a winning August for the first time since 1997. Showalter brought stability to the manager's spot, which had been absent from this organization for several years.

Best newcomer

Right-hander Jake Arrieta announced his big league arrival by beating the New York Yankees on June 10 in his major league debut. There were some rocky stretches for Arrieta, whose command abandoned him at times. However, the 24-year-old went 6-6 with a 4.66 ERA and did nothing to dim the high hopes the organization has for the former Texas Christian standout. In his final three starts, Arrieta went 2-0 with a 2.60 ERA.

Best individual performance

Called up and handed the everyday third base job when Miguel Tejada was traded to the San Diego Padres on July 29, Josh Bell struggled mightily over the final two months. But he had one memorable afternoon Aug. 21 at Camden Yards, hitting his first two big league home runs in consecutive at-bats off Rangers ace Cliff Lee. He had three hits and drove in five runs in the Orioles' 8-6 victory and finished a couple of feet short of a three-homer afternoon.

Worst individual performance

Take your pick of any of Gonzalez's first three outings, which set the tone for one of the worst stretches in team history. In the season opener at Tropicana Field, Gonzalez, who was signed to a two-year, $12 million deal exactly for these situations, couldn't hold a one-run, ninth-inning lead, allowing two runs on a walk and three hits, including Carl Crawford's game-winning single. Two days later, he converted a one-run save, but not before loading the bases. He came home the following day and blew the save in the home opener, getting just two outs before he was booed off the mound.

Best front office decision

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