The skies in Baltimore were overcast on the Wednesday afternoon that was May 5, 2021. Even when it appeared the sun might break through, the clouds would quickly regain full control, and (to add insult to injury) occasionally spit down those annoying droplets of rain that windshield wipers seem unable to wipe.
However, to any Oriole fan that happened to be following the club’s date with the Seattle Mariners that fatefully unforgettable afternoon, there was certainly no concern in regard to the local cloud cover, nor the slightest care over any potential rain shower that may have crossed their path.
Indeed, there was only one forecast that thousands of Baltimore baseball fans had on their minds that day, and it was whether or not John Means would be successful in consecutively retiring the next trio of Seattle batsmen without surrendering a hit. As it turned out, Means was unhittable, and he turned in perhaps the best pitching performance of any hurler thus far in 2021.
Undoubtedly the most memorable moment of the Orioles’ young season, it now seems hard to believe that the historical day is barely a month old in our collective memories. What has occurred in the interim can be described as nothing short of a nosedive; the Birds followed Means’ no-no by dropping 22 of their next 28 games, including a sorrowful streak of 14 losses in a row.
After the game on May 5, Baltimore was not only basking in the glow of Means’ sensational no-hitter, but somehow sitting just three games out of first place with a respectable record of 15-16. The team is now 21-38 and sitting 9.5 games behind the 4th place Blue Jays (there is little point in thinking of 1st place, as the O’s are 16 games behind the A.L. East leading Rays).
At the present moment, the John Means of May 5 could not be further from the current minds of Oriole fans. In fact, there are quite a few fans who even look at the Orioles lefty as an aberration, with some convincing evidence on their side.
For one, the Orioles’ supposed ace has been treated like anything but an ace by Orioles Manager Brandon Hyde this season (note: Hydes’ collective mishandling of pitchers is certainly fodder for one, if not multiple articles to come in the near future).
In fact, Means has received more than the traditional four-days rest between starts on multiple occasions in a season that’s barely past the 1/3 marker; there was one instance when the O’s “stopper” (this complimentary term was once routinely applied to a team’s top starter) was pushed back seven days between outings.
On Sunday afternoon, Means stopped pitching after recording just two outs and officially exited the game due to “shoulder fatigue.” That fatigue has now earned him a spot on the 10-day Injured List, despite an MRI that revealed nothing noteworthy.
Unfortunately, one thing Means did provide regularly was the Orioles’ best weekly shot at attaining victory. However, even a good number of those efforts have been spoiled by the skipper’s insistence on seeing a merry-go-round of mayhem (alias for the Baltimore bullpen), rather than simply leave his far and away best pitcher in the game.
In conclusion, it’s difficult to determine what anyone or anything “means” when it comes to the 2021 Baltimore Orioles, whether it be John, the manager, or even the gloves being worn by the team’s catchers (which often seem to forget about the ball as it skips to the backstop).
On a positive note, it is the 50-year anniversary of the 1971 American League Champion Baltimore Orioles! For those that may be unaware, that means the last team to have four starting pitchers who all managed to top 20 wins for the season. Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, and Pat Dobson combined to win 81 games that year. Somehow, they also combined to pitch 70 complete games.
To wrap things up, how do you feel about John Means? Is he the future ace of this club? Are you worried about his arm? Do you think a lot of the blame lays on Brandon Hyde? Let us know in the comments!
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