This all felt too familiar.
First, the rain delay. Then, the alternate programing featuring on Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.
There was left-hander Keegan Akin, taking the mound for the fourth time this week in a re-televised reality, a blast from the recent past that is an empty Camden Yards during a 5-1 victory against the Atlanta Braves on Sept. 16, 2020.
It all began with a rain delay June 23, then continued with delays Monday, Tuesday and Friday. Each time, the rainy reality at Camden Yards morphed into what MASN considers a classic: Akin struck out a career-high nine batters while completing five innings for the second time that year for a team that was still five games below .500 despite the win.
This, of course, made The Baltimore Banner curious. What constitutes a MASN Classic? How are those games chosen, and why is this seemingly random 2020 game on a daily repeat during a rain-drenched week?
So we asked a MASN spokesman.
“A variety of factors go into picking a game for a ‘classic,’” Todd Webster wrote in a statement. “Those factors include: Is it a team record? Is it a league record? If a rookie has a lot of hype when he was drafted — like a [Stephen] Strasburg, [Bryce] Harper, [Ryan] Mountcastle or [Gunnar] Henderson for example — is it his first game and did he perform? Is it a star player’s first milestone — a Grand Slam, No-Hitter, Cycle, etc.”
Akin was a second-round selection in the 2016 MLB draft. And, at the time of his start, he was ranked Baltimore’s No. 11 overall prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He arrived in August 2020, and the significance of this particular game against the Braves was, after further inspection, sort of apparent.
With Akin’s five-inning performance, he earned the first win of his major league career.
“The Orioles have [a] deep bench of historical classics, but what’s exciting about the 2023 Orioles is that the club has more contemporary classics and MASN is focused on the here and now,” Webster wrote.
Focusing on the here and now — or, a 2020 game for the fourth time in a week — excludes other classic performances more near and dear to fans’ minds. In previous years, the game when Cal Ripken Jr. reached 3,000 career hits was used. Other options could include when Eddie Murray clubbed the 500th home run of his career on Sept. 6, 1996.
More recently, before the rebuild, the Orioles clinched an American League East title in 2014 — their first since 1997.
If MASN prefers to highlight a pitching debut, there was another 2020 performance that was even more impressive. Right-hander Dean Kremer made his first career start Sept. 6, against the New York Yankees. He allowed one run on one hit in six dominant innings. And while Akin has found a spot as a middle-relief pitcher — and currently is on the 15-day injured list with back discomfort — Kremer has maintained his spot as a key rotation piece.
The three 100-loss seasons since 2018 make it somewhat more difficult to pick a meaningful team performance, but there have been a fair amount of top moments, especially in the past year.
Outfielder Austin Hays hit for the cycle last season, and Henderson and Adley Rutschman both made memorable debuts. Henderson clobbered a home run and Rutschman tripled, sparking even more excitement over the two top prospects.
Instead, fans watched the first part of Akin’s first career win. For the fourth time in a week.