MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Yes, we’ve seen it before; we’re seeing it again. Only the names change to protect the hitting.

This year it’s 20-year-old Jackson Holliday, the No. 1 prospect in baseball, who in nine games in the big leagues is 1-for-30 with just two walks and 16 strikeouts.

The same people who were ganging up on general manager Mike Elias for not putting Holliday on the Orioles roster out of spring training are the same people who are now ganging up on Holliday and are calling for him to be sent back to the minors.

These same people, by the way, knew nothing then as they know nothing now.

The Orioles are 14-7 and have won six out of seven, yet young Holliday is the most recent kidnapper of the Lindbergh baby.

This time last year, if you recall, it was 21-year-old Orioles rookie infielder Gunnar Henderson who was like the weather – everyone complained about his lack of hitting, but no one did anything about it. Which is why I suppose the Orioles did absolutely nothing about it since there had been plenty of precedent – in Baltimore and everywhere else throughout the history of baseball.

Prior to that, long ago, after a good first game and after he told his parents during a phone call back to Little Rock, Arkansas that he didn’t know why he had been wasting his time in the minor leagues, Brooks Robinson couldn’t buy a hit in his first two years in the big leagues.

Cal Ripken Jr. was even worse in the second half of the 1981 season when the Orioles brought him up and through the first month of his full rookie season in 1982. Matter of fact, Ripken, who is now part of the new Orioles ownership group, used to tell the story about how a talk from an opposing player was likely the reason he turned things around the way he did in the 1982 season.

At the end of April, Ripken was batting well below .200 with one home run, which he had hit on Opening Day, and anybody with a buck in their pockets would have bet it that he’d be in the minor leagues sooner rather than never.

“I was beginning to wonder how long they would stick with me,” he told the Baltimore Sun. “Could I play and would they send me back to Rochester? There’s always a point where you wonder if you can do it in the majors even if you’ve done it in the minors.”

Naturally, he had his father and his lifetime coach, Cal Ripken Sr., on the team as third-base coach to turn to, which he often did.

“I call Dad my best instructor because he has always given me the best advice.” Ripken told the Sun. “But somehow, it didn’t register this time because everyone else was saying so many things.”

Then the California Angels came to Memorial Stadium (God rest its soul), and late in a May 1 game, our old friend Reggie Jackson, then the Angels right fielder, reached third base where Ripken was playing at the time. When play stopped, Jackson struck up a conversation.

“Reggie said, ‘Hey kid, I want to talk to you,’” Ripken said. “I thought, ‘Oh no, here we go again.’ But he told me that the Orioles had traded away a quality third baseman (Doug DeCinces) to give me the job, and I should just go out and be myself, and go out and do what Cal Ripken can do. I don’t know why, but it just clicked. It jolted me.”

Ripken then went on a tear in May of 1982 and the rest is history. By the way, Henderson also went on a tear in May of 2023 and for the rest of the season to become, as Ripken had 41 years before him, the American League Rookie of the Year.

Elsewhere, things didn’t start out too promising either for 19-year-old MIlwaukee Brewers shortstop Robin Yount in 1974. Two AL MVPs later, at two different positions, you can find him along with Robinson and Ripken in the Hall of Fame.

This, of course, is not to compare Holliday to Yount, Henderson, Ripken, Brooks or to anyone else. And truthfully, Holliday looks younger than 20, smaller than 6-foot, 185 pounds and overmatched at the plate most of the time; but as bad as you feel for the kid, just let him continue to grind. It’s the only way he’s going to climb out.

Things are going pretty well for the Orioles these days, so my guess is the club is going to let him figure it out in the big leagues for as long as he’s not hurting the team. He’s already torn up Triple A and every other level of the minors, so what is he going to learn back there? Just keep allowing him to get as many at-bats as he can and, hopefully, some bleeder or a gork off the fists can help get him going.

Or a few encouraging words from someone he never dreamed was even watching to remind him he should just go out and be himself, and go out and do what Jackson Holliday can do..

He’s still the top-rated prospect in all of baseball, so there must be a pretty good reason for that. Jackson Holliday has what it takes, and having spent his entire life in and around big-league baseball, he has the makeup to get through this.

So just lay off the kid, will ya? We’ve seen it all come together before. We’ll see it again.

As the great Rudy Russo once said, “Trust me.”

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT