On every Little League baseball team in America, there is the same kid.
You know this kid. Everyone knows this kid.
He tries hard, he really does. And occasionally, he’ll make a good thing happen, like leaning into a pitch to get on base or not committing a throwing error to first base on a routine grounder. But most of the time, his play makes his teammates throw their heads back and groan, maybe curse into their gloves so no one else sees the bad sportsmanship on display (by the way, if you don’t remember this kid on your LL team, this guy was you. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news).
He lets pop flies fall meekly to the grass while flinching away from the ball, and seems surprised whenever he makes contact at the plate. He makes bad decisions on the base paths because, hey, he doesn’t get there very often.
This kid grew up to be Baltimore Orioles utility infielder Ryan Flaherty.
Currently hitting .204 on the young season with a .278 OPB, Flaherty has been one of the biggest blemishes on the field for Baltimore. He is also slugging .265, so the few hits he has collected have rarely been anything other than a single. And it’s not just his offense that is an issue; his two errors are the second-most on the team, behind only Jonathan Schoop’s four (the team, as a whole, has committed eight errors, so these guys hold a sizable share of them). Schoop, though, has played 21 games in his career; he will get better with time and reps at different positions. Flaherty has played 178 games, and has yet to show any improvement with decision-making or discipline.
The solution to the initial problem may be obvious: Manny Machado will be coming off the disabled list in a few weeks, and will reclaim his rightful spot at third base, where Flaherty has played the majority of his games this season.
But what about second base? Manager Buck Showalter has shown an intense loyalty to Flaherty in the past, even when the Vanderbilt graduate was struggling mightily. Would he show that loyalty to him again, playing him over the highly-thought-of prospect Schoop? It’s possible, but Showalter has also said he wants Schoop playing every day, wherever that opportunity exists, and I don’t think the O’s plan on sending him to Norfolk any time soon.
As long as Machado comes back soon and stays healthy, I think Schoop says at second base, and Flaherty rides the pine, thus eliminating a weak link in the order. If Machado takes longer to come back than expected, however, Baltimore fans might have to deal with Flaherty for a while longer.