Ugh. I have a temper, especially when watching sports, so I do my best not to "blog angry". Last night I watch Felix Pie make the Birds' 479th out on the basepaths, thereby blunting a first-inning rally. I fumed and sputtered and considered filling this space with my sharpest invective against the stumbling, bumbling O's and their baffling lack of baseball IQ. But I figured that 24 hours of cooling off were in order, and with a day to mull it over I've lost the desire to go that route. Besides, others have already stated the case much more completely than I ever could. Instead, I'll talk about Felix Pie.
Look, I really wanted to like Felix, for reasons both compelling and ridiculous. His name doubles as a delicious dessert (though it's pronounced pee-YAY, sadly). He wears his socks high. He put up fantastic minor league numbers over several years, but never put it together with the Cubs. He overcame a Spring 2008 bout of testicular torsion, which just sounds painful beyond my comprehension. But his first couple of months in Baltimore have made it very difficult to be a Piehead.
The O's aren't going anywhere this year (spoiler alert!), so they said all of the right things early this year about giving Felix a chance to establish himself as a major league starter. He'd never had that chance in win-now Chicago, after all. But not only did Pie get off to an awful start in orange and black, he looked terrible doing it. I understand that left field isn't his natural position, but I can't think of any other center fielders who moved over to the corner and immediately turned into a drunken antelope. Still, I was surprised to see the O's bench Pie six weeks into the season. Of course, when Nolan Reimold took his place and immediately started hitting home runs, the ex-Cub's fate as a seldom-seen fourth outfielder was sealed.
It's a lot easier to accept him as a pinch runner/defensive insurance kind of guy, but weird stuff just keeps happening when he's around. In a rare start in Oakland, he fouled a ball off of his own throat and had to leave the game after only one at-bat. Tuesday night in Miami, he was brought in as part of a double-switch in the seventh inning. He played left field for two-thirds of an inning, and was replaced by pinch hitter Oscar Salazar in the top half of the following inning. Last night, Felix got an increasingly rare start so that Adam Jones might rest a bit. In his own inimitable style, he got two hits and still managed to raise the ire of his manager and the fans. In the first, there was the aforementioned baserunning blunder. On the back end of a double steal with Brian Roberts, he stopped dead in his tracks while the catcher threw to second base, then made a half-assed attempt at a rundown and was easily tagged. I'm still not sure what happened. Then in the seventh inning, with the O's having cut the Marlins' lead to one run, Florida third baseman Emilio Bonifacio stole second, advanced to third on an overthrow by Matt Wieters...and scored when Pie came up with the ball in center field and again froze up before making the relay thrown back to the infield. Dave Trembley was infuriated, and pinch-hit for him with Jones in the following half-inning. He had some harsh comments for the youngster after the game, which made me question a few things:
As I said, the Birds have been making boneheaded mistakes like this all year. Getting thrown out going first-to-third, getting picked off here and there, running into busted hit-and-runs, etc., etc., etc. Why did Felix get singled out? Was Trembley just at his boiling point, or is he having problems with this particular player behind the scenes?
Throughout his turbulent three months in Baltimore, Felix has had a secure place on the major league roster because he's out of options. Simply put, the O's would have to expose him to waivers before sending him to the minor leagues, and a player with his set of tools (there's that word) would surely be grabbed by some other team willing to overlook his lack of major league success. The Orioles weren't willing to chance losing him. But every day his leash seems to get shorter. At some point they'll have to ask themselves just what there is to lose.