It probably just seems like it’s been years.
Nick Markakis hit a grand slam in the second inning and drove in two more runs with a double in the eighth inning as the Orioles beat the Rays 7-0 on Friday.
The outburst gave him as many RBI (six) as he had in his previous 27 games combined.
For those with short memories, Markakis actually was a run producer at one point. As a 23-year-old sophomore in 2007, he hit 23 homers and drove in 112 runs. Even in 2009, he finished with 101 RBI.
The homer totals, though, kept tumbling. After he hit 23 in 2007, he fell off to 20 in 2008, 18 in 2009 and just 12 last year. He entered Friday’s game with four in 59 games this season.
There were no injury explanations: apart from his rookie season in 2006, Markakis has averaged 160 games per year. He kept hitting plenty of singles and doubles and finished with averages of .300, .306, .293 and .297 the last four years.
However, even Markakis’ average had plummeted this year. He entered the game hitting .238. His OBP, which stood at .370 last year, was a meager .298. His slugging percentage was particularly horrid at .304. He had just four doubles after hitting 45 each of the previous two years.
The Orioles have to be hoping that tonight marks a turning point for Markakis’ season. He hit his first grand slam since 2009, and the six RBI were a new career high. Maybe it doesn’t mean much: Markakis actually had two other games this season in which he both homered and doubled and nothing came of them. But the Orioles need him badly if they’re going to score runs with Brian Roberts out.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.