Ubaldo Jimenez was so bad last season that the Orioles basically did everything they could to avoid relying on him in the rotation just months after signing him to a four-year, $50 million contract as a free agent.
However, this offseason he talked extensively about hoping to get healthy after lots of nagging injuries and making an effort to revamp his mechanics with the coaching staff. Whatever he did, it’s been working.
Jimenez shut out the Indians for eight innings Sunday, improving to 7-3 and lowering his ERA to 3.09 with an 89/27 K/BB ratio in 87 innings that represents by far the best mark of his career. He’s been the Orioles’ best starting pitcher this season, which is a statement that would have sounded insane last year.
Sunday’s gem included seven strikeouts and zero walks. It was the third time this season he’s walked zero batters in a start and he’s walked three or fewer batters in 14 of his 15 outings. By comparison, last year Jimenez failed to have a single zero-walk start and walked three or fewer batters in just 13 of 22 outings.
Jimenez’s raw stuff hasn’t changed. His average fastball of 90.5 miles per hour is the exact same as last season and his off-speed stuff has similar velocities to 2014 as well. But he’s trusted that raw stuff far more, cutting his walk rate in half from 5.5 to 2.8 per nine innings while maintaining a strikeout rate near his norm of around one per inning. And in doing so he’s gone from a signing the Orioles immediately regretted to sitting atop the rotation for a first-place team.
As you no doubt saw already, Mets manager Mickey Callaway had a bad day yesterday. After some testy exchanges with the media over his bullpen use, he blew up at Newsday reporter Tim Healey after Healey told Callaway that he’d see him tomorrow, which Callaway took as sarcastic. Then Jason Vargas unhelpfully piled on, walking toward Healey and threatening him with violence. Healy spoke to his Newsday colleague David Lennon and explained the whole thing here. He’s pretty even-handed about it.
Callaway was already thought to be on at least moderately thin ice as Mets manager given his team’s underachievement this year. Thin ice or not, it’s not unreasonable to say that his behavior yesterday is something that a lot of teams would think of as a fireable offense. At the very least leaders in other businesses would think that way if one of their public-facing employees treated a reporter who covered him in that manner. In addition to it simply being bad form, it raises questions about Callaway’s temperament and his ability to handle pressure and adversity.
The Mets, however, do not seem to consider the matter to raise to that level. While they offered apologies to Healey and vowed that that he will be welcome in the clubhouse — for which Healey was appreciative — Callaway will be back to work as usual today, with the Mets announcing this morning that he will hold his usual pre-game press conference at 4PM in advance of tonight’s game against the Phillies.
Tell me: if you’re the GM or owner of a team and your manager does that, do you keep him? What do you do?