Lefty Brian Matusz was sent down to triple-A Norfolk after last night's 9-6 loss to St. Louis. I'm a huge Matusz fan, however the move was necessary. Since returning after his injury, Matusz has consistently had a lack of velocity and command in the strike zone. The good news is that this is easily correctable; just not at tha big league level. The Orioles recalled reliever Pedro Viola, who will be in Atlanta for tonight's series-opener against the Braves.
During Sunday's game against the Reds Dave Johnson said something interesting on WBAL radio. He said that there was a feeling out there that Jeremy Guthrie didn't "know how to win." Johnson, a former big league pitcher in his own right, refuted that concept because many of the losses Guthrie suffers aren't his fault. An error here or a fluke hit there, and suddenly the game balloons out of control. More importantly the Orioles struggle to put up runs for Guthrie. I've never been a fan of the "knowing how to win" idea. You win games by outplaying and/or outthinking your opponent; it's as simple as that. However maybe I'm misguided and there's a little more to it than meets-the-eye. This Oriole franchise was going nowhere for about ten years. Certainly owner Peter Angelos and the management in place would try in vain to put a halfway decent team on the field and sell the fact that they were a player away to the fanbase each spring. However perhaps there was a feeling of complacency after awhile in that players were collecting a paycheck. When Andy MacPhail came along and infused the franchise with players such as Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold, Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, Chris Tilman, and Matt Wieters, we all thought that they were headed in the right direction...
...and they are. However the fact is that many of the above-mentioned names have had their struggles. Furthermore, the players over time that the O's have brought in from outside (Vladimir Guerrero, Mark Reynolds, Kevin Millwood, etc) have even struggled at times. So I suppose this is one of those "culture of losing" kind of arguments as well. Again I don't buy into any of that because ultimately players wouldn't be playing if they didn't want to win. So then how can you explain Millwood's record last year, and this season's struggles for Guerrero, Bergesen, Tilman, and Reynolds? First off, in Kevin Millwood's case he ended up out of the league this season so perhaps that was a pitcher on his final leg (that he shouldn't have stood on to begin with). However all of these young players have had struggles at various points just as Matusz is going through now. Is it poor scouting on the Orioles' part? Poor coaching? A little bit of everything? I'm so confused!
The correct answer is none of the above. Not only did Oriole scouts, executives, and coaches agree that these players were good draft picks/aquisitions, but analysts across the league lauded the O's for the various moves. It's just not possible for all of them to be swings and misses. Guerrero's problem is that he swings at everything and he seems to love the outside pitches. If you have to almost take a knee in order to possibly connect with the ball, it's probably outside. Bergesen, Tilman, and now Matusz have all struggled with command. Again, were all of the Oriole people and all of the national people wrong about these guys?
Just because you're good enough to be in the big leagues doesn't mean you're going to stay there. You have to consistently work at it because opponents are always making adjustments to what you're doing. Keep in mind that last season many people questioned whether Adam Jones and Matt Wieters would pan out to what we thought they could be. This season they're both in the all-star conversation. So a lot of things can happen between point A and point B. Unfortunately the Orioles are also snakebitten in terms of injuries; we don't know how Matusz would have faired had he not hurt himself out of spring training. Derrek Lee spent some significant time on the DL, and of course Brian Roberts. Nevertheless it seems to me that knowing how to win is something that shouldn't even be asked or questioned, however perhaps it's the questions that we feel shouldn't need to be asked which beg to be asked the most.