Orioles fans should give Gregg and Reynolds a chance

April 11, 2012|Kevin Cowherd

I see Orioles fans have a couple of new players to rip just six games into the new season, which might be something of a record around here.

The old favorite to rip, of course, was Michael Gonzalez. Gee, people loved beating up on him. But the Orioles traded the shaky closer to the Texas Rangers last August, so that was the end of that.

Now it's Kevin Gregg and Mark Reynolds who've been hearing the boos at Camden Yards and getting pounded on the talk shows. Although Reynolds' two-run double Wednesday night against the New York Yankees took some of the heat off of him — at least temporarily.

Gregg, of course, is the tall reliever with the Clark Kent glasses who blew a bunch of saves for the Orioles last year and gave up that two-run bomb to Nick Swisher on Wednesday night that gave the Yankees a 6-4 win in 10 innings.

If you want last season's numbers, he blew seven of 29 save opportunities and lost his closer role to Jim Johnson. And this was just one year after Gregg saved 37 games for the Toronto Blue Jays, where he developed the reputation of a gamer who loved getting the ball in tight situations.

But Baltimore fans started getting on him big-time last season. And they didn't exactly let bygones be bygones in the off-season. When he was introduced Opening Day, it was mainly to a chorus of boos.

Me, I thought that was a little harsh.

I'm not saying Gregg was Mariano Rivera last season. Actually, there were too many times when he pitched like Geraldo Rivera.

But the Orioles were such a train-wreck last year, there was plenty of blame to go around.

Why single out Gregg?

Why unload just on him?

Poor Brian Matusz, he was awful last year and finished with a 10.69 ERA. It was the highest ERA in major league history for a pitcher with 10 or more starts.

But when Matusz trotted down the orange carpet Opening Day, you would have thought it was Jim Palmer being introduced.

Someone please explain that to me. Because I don't get it.

Which brings us to Mark Reynolds, the third baseman with the blond, curly Peter Frampton locks. (OK, this was back when Frampton actually had hair and wasn't doing sappy Buick commercials.)

Maybe you heard: Reynolds had a rough outing Tuesday night in the Orioles' 5-4 loss to the New York Yankees in 12 innings.

In the sixth inning, he had a ground ball clang off his chest for an error. Unless you're an NHL goalie, things don't usually work out well when you play a ball off your chest. And they didn't this time, either.

Instead of the O's getting the third out and heading for the dugout, a run scored. And the Yankees tied the game at 4-4 when the next batter singled.

That was bad enough, of course. But then Reynolds staggered under a foul pop up and didn't catch it in the 12th inning, too.

So the boos rained down.

OK, just as in Gregg's case, there's a history here that Orioles fans can't forget.

Reynolds had a good year at the plate in 2011, his first season in Baltimore. He hit 37 homers and drove in 86 runs. And with 196 strikeouts, he wasn't exactly Ichiro, but he was better than he had been in the past.

In the field, though, it was a different story. He had 26 errors at third and looked slow and tentative all season. Finally, they moved him over to first base.

All the errors embarrassed Reynolds to no end, you could tell.

He worked hard on his flexibility and quickness in the off-season. He lost over 20 pounds. He told everyone he wanted another shot at third, and that he was determined to play it respectably this time.

That's why Tuesday night's sixth-inning debacle, and the subsequent boos, had to hurt him.

Go back and watch the video of Reynolds being interviewed after the game. He looked as down as I've ever seen him.

"It's very, very, very frustrating," he said. "It's tough having fans boo you – and deservedly so. It's a play that has to be made."

That's the other thing about Reynolds, and Gregg, too.

They're both stand-up guys. They don't hide from the media after a bad game. They don't go watch video or graze at the post-game spread until the clubhouse is clear of all the pain-in-the-neck reporters.

They stand right there in front of their lockers and say straight out "I screwed up" when they screw up.

OK, the fans don't care who talks to the media after a game and who doesn't. I get that. All the fans care about is: did the Orioles win? And who played well and who didn't?

So Orioles fans will continue to boo whomever they want to, as they always have. And the players are big boys. They can take it.

All I'm saying is that last season is over. And we're only six games into this season.

Six games.

Might be a little early for ripping anyone.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Listen to Kevin Cowherd at 7:20 a.m. Tuesdays on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

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