Baltimore Orioles: Might Brandon Hyde use an opener?

We know that with Brandon Hyde in control of camp and of the franichse on the field, there are going to be differences in style among other things from what Orioles fans are used to seeing. However there’s one idea that’s been floated about which I hope doesn’t come to pass: the use of an opener. Tampa began the practice last season, and a few other teams followed suit as the season went on.

Just as a refresher, in essence an opener is simply the opposite of a closer. A team opens the game with what would have normally been a relief pitcher, who’s lifted after recording 2-4 outs. Then the guy who was traditionally the starter comes in, in essence in long relief.

Admittedly, I’m not a fan of the practice. There’s the obvious argument of that’s just not how the game is played that one could make, and I do believe in that point. However I would submit that it would also induce the propensity to blow through one’s bullpen as well. Managing a bullpen – knowing when to make changes and when not to – is much tougher than it appears. If you blow through bullpen relievers like candy, someone’s arm’s going to fall off. GM Mike Elias on openers:

The opener strategy doesn’t make sense for every team, every rotation or every bullpen. But I can see a scenario or two this year where we might use it this year

Courtesy of Joe Trezza,

Given what I said above about using bullpen relievers, it just seems to me that it wouldn’t mesh with a rookie manager’s outlook to use this strategy. But then again, if you’re going to try something on a trial & error basis, this might be the year to do it. However my personal opinion is that this is simply a gimmichy thing in MLB which will eventually run course.

Baltimore Orioles: Will free agents sign this week?

Baltimore Orioles’ pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota on Wednesday. Those who haven’t already reported, that is. All position players are to have reported by next week, and Opening Day for the Florida Grapefruit League is one week from this coming Saturday.

This off season has been all but void of big free agent signings. The likes of Adam Jones are the least of the free agents still out there (obviously Machado and Harper are the big ones). However this week is the final opportunity for players to sign with a team and still have a semi-normal spring training. I say semi-normal because any guy who signs this week is going to have to make travel arrangements to either Florida or Arizona, lodging arrangements for the next 5-6 weeks, etc. That normally happens over the course of the off season – assuming that guys know where they’re going.

However keep in mind also that these spring games aren’t just a dog and pony show. They don’t count towards the season standings, however they do mean something. Players need them to get into game shape. I’m talking timing at the plate, routes to get to balls on defense, and in some cases guys literally having to “get in shape.” In sum, there’s more of an emphasis on fundamentals as opposed to during the regular season.

I’ll point out the likes of Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner, who both signed during spring training last year with the O’s. Between the two of them, they had one spring start. And that was Cashner’s, which came late in spring training. Both pitchers struggled in the first month of the season. So arguing that these games don’t have meaning isn’t really fair, because that in and of itself should prove that they do. What players will do in spring training in the next few weeks will make a difference when the season starts.

So to me it stands to reason that we’ll see some signings this week. Will any of those be by the Orioles? That remains to be seen.

Baltimore Orioles: Changes in the booth?

If a report that came out yesterday is correct, Baltimore Orioles fans should expect a change in 2019 regarding one of the ways they consume the games. Longtime radio voice Joe Angel is rumored to be retiring. Angel, 71, has been calling Orioles’ games on the radio since 2004.

And let me also say that he’s been calling Orioles’ games very well on the radio since 2004. I’m a fan of Angel’s work, and assuming I’m fact that he’s planning on “hanging up his mic,” it’s a loss for Orioles fans. Nobody’s blaming the man for retiring mind you, but I felt he was really great at what he did.

Angel enjoyed two stints with the O’s, working with Jon Miller and Chuck Thompson during the late 80’s and early 90’s. He returned to the Orioles in 2004, where he was paired with Fred Manfra. As time went on Manfra cut back his work load, and more and more Angel found himself calling the games with Jim Hunter. Angel and Hunter in my opinion had chemistry together, and I always felt that they presented the games very well together on the radio.

For the record, neither the Orioles nor Joe Angel himself has commented on this report – it could always be erroneous. However the report’s out there. The question is where do the Orioles go now in terms of a lead play-by-play guy? I would submit that the aforementioned Jim Hunter could easily fill that role. In fact, as loyal as he’s been to the organization I think he’s deserving of a shot to fill that chair.

Like many teams the Orioles in effect have traditionally used a dual play-by-play man in the radio booth. The announcers would alternate every couple of innings. If the Orioles go with Hunter, do they bring in another guy capable of doing play-by-play, or instead bring in someone just to fill the color commentary role?

Whatever happens, the Orioles need to get this right. There’s no other sport which has a relationship with radio the way that baseball does. Radio play-by-play is a huge thing in baseball, and it’s a role that teams really need to figure out when the position is open. They also need to ensure that whomever is paired with that play-by-play guy has good chemistry. Again, this is more important in baseball than in any other sport.

Assuming in fact that this report is true, I wish Joe Angel well.

Baltimore Orioles: Frank Robinson and Adam Jones

The Baltimore Orioles and the baseball world lost a good one this week in Frank Robinson. This much we know. I think that part of why he’s so beloved in Baltimore and will always be thought of as an Oriole (despite playing more years in Cincinnati) is because he turned the Orioles into champions. Or at the very least, they became champions upon his arrival.

The Orioles were already a good team; they had a budding organization that was almost built into a proven winner. Then Robinson was added to an already potent lineup, and suddenly the Orioles won the World Series in his first year with the team (1966). With Frank it wasn’t so much his play on the field. That set a standard of par in and of itself; as a player, Robinson was never anything less than outstanding.

However more so with Frank Robinson, it was about his leadership both on a off the field. He didn’t expect excuses from his teammates as to why they screwed up or why this or that happened. Over the past couple of days I’ve heard more than one or Robinson’s former teammates say how if they committed an error in the field, it wasn’t a coach they were worried about facing, it was Frank. While Robinson could be tough at times, it was all in the interest of making the team better.

Over forty years after the Orioles traded for Frank Robinson, they made another trade. This time however, the centerpiece of the trade wasn’t an established winner or a proven talent. It was a guy named Adam Jones, who had an incredible upside and who represented a potential bright future for the young Orioles.

I don’t need to go into too much detail about Adam Jones. We all know who he is and what he’s accomplished in Baltimore. (We all also know that he’s still a free agent lingering out there ready to be signed…but that’s another story for another day.) Let’s be clear, Jones didn’t bring a world championship to Baltimore. He tried valiantly, but it just never happened.

The Orioles also had further to climb to get to that level when Jones arrived as opposed to when Robinson came aboard. However Adam Jones did very similar things on a slightly smaller scale for the Orioles and the city of Baltimore. I suspect that wherever Jones goes for the remainder of his career, he’ll always be seen and remembered as an Oriole – much like Frank Robinson. Similarly, his play on the field spoke for itself. But it was also the way he conducted himself that stood out.

Jones was an example to players young and old who came through the Orioles during his tenure. Again similar to Robinson, he held teammates to a high standard. And that began with him taking accountability when he made mistakes. However with his play on the field and with how he conducted himself on and off of it, he immediately endeared himself to the Baltimore community and to his teammates and coaches.

Again, Frank Robinson brought championships to Baltimore. However it can’t be stressed enough that Adam Jones helped to guide the Orioles further than they had gone in a generation. I don’t think that will ever be forgotten. Frank Robinson’s legacy with the Orioles has been set for some time. However I think you can put Jones up there with Frank as a similar-type character in the history of this team and this city. Neither time nor consequence will ever dim the glory of their deeds.

Baltimore Orioles sign pitcher Nate Karns

The Baltimore Orioles have officially signed a free agent in anticipating of the 2019 season. Pitcher Nate Karns signed on with the O’s yesterday. Karns signed a one-year deal worth $800,000, plus a possible $200,000 in incentives.

Over five seasons with four different teams (most recently Kansas City), Karns has a career win percentage of .573, and a 4.37 ERA. For what it’s worth, he gives up on average of 27 home runs per 162 games. Karns hasn’t appeared in a game since May of 2017 with Kansas City, after which he underwent thoracic outlet surgery. Then last year he was shut down during spring training with elbow inflammation and didn’t pitch in 2018.

So the Orioles are assuming a bit of a risk in signing Karns. I’m not sure he should be labeled a reclammation project, but it’s been awhile since he’s appeared in a game due to one injury or the next. He was ultimately outrighted last October by Kansas City, and he became a free agent.

The Orioles have two slots presumably open in the starting rotation. I suspect that’s where Karns will land, although his and others’ performances in spring training will play a role in that as well. Karns has been a starter for most of his career, but again nothing is set in stone per se.

In other news, Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA is projecting the Orioles to finishe with 105 losses in 2019. That’s the highest projected loss total in the majors. That would also mean that they’d win 57 games – a ten-win improvement over 2018.

Would that be considered a successful season? In the context of rebuilding, I would submit that it would. However again things have to be put in the proper context. Out of context, that’s a miserable season. But put back into the proper context of a ten-win improvement, a rebuilding team, and a young team, I think most Orioles fans will take that.

Baltimore Orioles: Frank Robinson taught the Oriole Way is the CORRECT way

We got word earlier today that former Baltimore Orioles great Frank Robinson passed away after a battle with bone cancer. He was 83. Robinson played for the O’s for six years, hitting an even .300 and smacking 179 home runs. He was a 14-time all-star, and a World Series MVP.

But this isn’t about statistics. Frank Robinson taught the Orioles how to win. He had played in Cincinnati for ten years, and was traded to the O’s in 1965. They were World Champions in 1966. During his tenure in Baltimore he went to three consecutive World Series between 1969-71, winning one of them. He’s also remembered as the only player to hit the ball clear out of Memorial Stadium. An orange and black flag with the word HERE was placed at the spot where the ball cleared the grandstand.

Robinson played for various teams throughout his career, and in 1975 became a player/manager with the Cleveland Indians – homering in his first at-bat under that title. And with that, he became baseball’s first African-American manager. His time as a manager led him back to Baltimore, taking over for Cal Ripken Sr. six games into the 1988 season. He was relieved of managerial duties in May of 1991.

Obviously you have the “old guard” of the Orioles, which includes the Brooks’, Palmers,’ Powell’s, et al of the world. Frank Robinson is definitely a part of that group. Any Orioles fan of that 1960’s or early 70’s era identifies with Frank Robinson. Those such as myself knew him from stories from our fathers – and of course as one of the Orioles’ managers. 

Ironically one memory I have of Frank came well after his playing and managing days were over and he worked in the MLB offices. When the Orioles unveiled his statue on the left field flag court in 2012, Robinson returned to Baltimore to speak at the event. That speech includedn this simple but poignant quote, invoking past, present, and future:

The Oriole Way – is the CORRECT way.

That always struck me. Robinson of course remained popular in Baltimore for the remainder of his life, which as we’ve chronicled sadly ended yesterday. His final managing job in the majors was with the Washington Nationals, in their first three years of existence. Coming into Camden Yards as a visiting manager, he still got the royal treatment with a video tribute between innings. In typical Frank Robinson fashion, he accepted the accolades humbly by lifting his cap skyward and thanking the fans.

It was always about the fans for Frank and for many others of his generation. As I said, Robinson played for quite a few other organizations. Heck, he played in Cincinnati for four years more than he did Baltimore. However I think if you ask most baseball fans, they’ll identify him as a Baltimore Oriole. And I think that Frank Robinson would be cool with that. Because as he himself taught, the Oriole Way is the CORRECT way. Rest in Peace, Frank Robinson.

Baltimore Orioles, MLB could be playing under different rules

If commissioner Rob Manfred gets his way, the rules under which the Baltimore Orioles and the rest of MLB play might soon be vastly different. And in saying that, I mean…there are rules that get tweaked (which happens every year), and then there’s what Manfred wants to do. Make no mistake, if he gets his way the game will never be the same.

As originally reported by The Athletic, Manfred and the player’s union are discussing the following changes: Universal Designated Hitter (eliminating the need for pitchers to hit in the National League), three-batter minimum for all pitchers, 20-second pitch clock, trade deadline prior to the all-star game, expansion of rosters to 26 men, and a provision for two-sport players to sign major league deals Let that sink in for a moment.

Not all of these ideas are bad in my view. I’m indifferent to the trade deadline concept and two-sport players being able to sign big league deals. However I think allowing 26 men on the roster is a good idea. It doesn’t change things a heck of a lot, but it allows teams some additional support.

I’ve been very clear on the DH over time – for those who have read me over the years. I think that the rules on both leagues should in fact be uniform. And thus I think the DH should go away entirely. I’ve never liked it. Certainly the player’s union is going to be in favor of it because more high-salaries DH jobs will open up and help extend guys’ careers. But it gets us further and further away from what the game always has been and should be.

Manfred has wanted a pitch clock for some time. Now what would focus on the pace of play would be forcing teams to leave relievers in for at least three hitters. But again, I’m not a fan of that. Managers matching up in later innings is part of the game. It always has been, and it always will be. Are we really considering removing that from the sport?

End of the day, baseball evolves just like everything else. I just hope it doesn’t happen too quickly. Again, pitchers are a part of that day.’a lineup. Why shouldn’t they hit also? So to Rob Manfred and the rest of the league, I would simply say to be careful.

Baltimore Orioles: Brandon Hyde and a Super Bowl takeaway

With the Super Bowl now being over, the Baltimore Orioles and the rest of the Major League Baseball are now on the clock. Pitchers and catchers report next week. I can sense the excitement already.

That said, there’s something I’ve noticed about manager Brandon Hyde in his limited public remarks thus far. He seems very dedicated to forming relationships with the players. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s trying to be “buddy-buddy” with them. But he’s trying to get to know them, and what makes them tick. And certainly I’m sure, he’s hoping that they’re trying to do the same thing with regard to he and his staff.

I noticed a similar motif regarding the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots last night. Coach Bill Belichek and quarterback Tom Brady of course are the constants over 17 years of success. But I heard more than one player say that it was about relationships. That’s what makes a team a team.

So that really boded well for the Orioles’ future in a sense. If there’s one organization that any team in any sport would want to emulate, it would be the Nee England Patriots. If the Patriots are all about relationships and the Orioles are trying to form relationships, that probably means that the Orioles are doing something right.

Baltimore Orioles: Super Sunday

The Baltimore Orioles are roughly a week-and-a-half away from pitchers and catchers reporting. However that and everything else in the sports world takes a back seat today. It’s Super Sunday!

Baltimore of course has a rich history in the Super Bowl, with the Colts playing in two and winning one, and the Ravens winning in both of their appearances in the big game. It’s also worth mentioning that the CFL Baltimore Stallions won the Grey Cup, which is Canada’s version of the Super Bowl. And of course no discussion of Baltimore’s pro football championship ties is complete without mentioning the great Johnny Unitas and the 1958 NFL Title Game – the greatest game ever played.

Ironically, there is an old school tie to Baltimore football in today’s Super Bowl game. The original owner of the Baltimore Colts was Carroll Rosenbloom. In 1972 he executed a tax-free swap of franchises (basically a straight up trade) with Robert Irsay, then the owner of the Los Angeles Rams. That second name of course is one that still makes hair on the backs of necks stand up across town – not limited to my Dad, who was a HUGE Colts fan as a kid.

Obviously the direction of both franchises since then is well-documented. Having said that, Rosenbloom died in 1979, and his widow, Georgia Frontiere, inherited the team. Ironically Rosenbloom had redrawn his will so that his son Stephen would get it, however he died before that will could be executed. However the Rams have since been sold and are no longer in the Carroll Rosenbloom family.

Of course the Rams since then moved St. Louis, and now they’re back in Los Angeles. But that’s Baltimore’s slight connection to today’s game. For what it’s worth, it’ll be a very close game. Personally I’m rooting for Los Angeles. But it’s tough to pick against Tom Brady.

Baltimore Orioles: Super Sunday

The Baltimore Orioles are roughly a week-and-a-half away from pitchers and catchers reporting. However that and everything else in the sports world takes a back seat today. It’s Super Sunday!

Baltimore of course has a rich history in the Super Bowl, with the Colts playing in two and winning one, and the Ravens winning in both of their appearances in the big game. It’s also worth mentioning that the CFL Baltimore Stallions won the Grey Cup, which is Canada’s version of the Super Bowl. And of course no discussion of Baltimore’s pro football championship ties is complete without mentioning the great Johnny Unitas and the 1958 NFL Title Game – the greatest game ever played.

Ironically, there is an old school tie to Baltimore football in today’s Super Bowl game. The original owner of the Baltimore Colts was Carroll Rosenbloom. In 1972 he executed a tax-free swap of franchises (basically a straight up trade) with Robert Irsay, then the owner of the Los Angeles Rams. That second name of course is one that still makes hair on the backs of necks stand up across town – not limited to my Dad, who was a HUGE Colts fan as a kid.

Obviously the direction of both franchises since then is well-documented. Having said that, Rosenbloom died in 1979, and his widow, Georgia Frontiere, inherited the team. Ironically Rosenbloom had redrawn his will so that his son Stephen would get it, however he died before that will could be executed. However the Rams have since been sold and are no longer in the Carroll Rosenbloom family.

Of course the Rams since then moved St. Louis, and now they’re back in Los Angeles. But that’s Baltimore’s slight connection to today’s game. For what it’s worth, it’ll be a very close game. Personally I’m rooting for Los Angeles. But it’s tough to pick against Tom Brady.

Baltimore Orioles sign Jesse Sucre to a minor league deal

The Baltimore Orioles appear poised to throw a veteran into the battle for the starting catcher’s spot. Today they announced that they signed former Tampa catcher Jesse Sucre to a minor league deal. If Sucre makes the club out of spring training, the deal guarantees him $850,000.00. It also grants him a March 22nd opt-out date.

The contract includes an invitation to big league spring training, which usually means that the player will be given an opportunity to compete for a starting position. In six big league seasons, Sucre’s a .223 hitter. However he’s a .996 career fielder behind the plate. The Orioles could use his experience.

Catcher might be one of the big position battles this year in camp. The Orioles still have Austin Wynns and Chance Sisco on the roster, both of whom are rookies. More than anything else, this move tells me that the Orioles aren’t looking to have to young catchers behind the dish in 2019. Both Sisco and Wynns are probably interchangeable, and if Sucre ends up on the roster I suspect that both will see time in the bigs and in triple-A. Time will tell.

On an unrelated note, former Bowie Baysox manager Gary Kendall has been named the manager at Triple-A Norfolk for the Orioles. Kendall’s been a rising star in the organization for some time. Worth keeping an eye on over time as managerial jobs come available.

Baltimore Orioles: Camden Yards needs to make a difference this year of all years

The Baltimore Orioles play in the best ballpark in baseball in Camden Yards. Granted those of us who cover the O’s or go to the games are going to view that in a biased manner. However when in fact what you have has been copied time and time again, it goes without saying that you have something special.

And with Camden Yards it’s never been just about the ballpark. I mean…the park itself we know is special. But it’s that special park combined with the old fashioned manner in which the game is presented. Almost every hill thing is a part of a tradition – whether it’s Country Boy during the stretch, the Oriole Bird running around, or the songs they play between innings. It’s all tradition-based, this as opposed to some parks where rap music blasts and so forth.

Point here being that the game is presented in a very old school manner at Camden Yards, and most Orioles fans like it that way. As the 2019 season draws near, it’s that game day experience on which the Orioles will want to lean. With a young team, young manager, and a not-so-hot outlook for this year, there might be a few games where attendance could be dicey. Throw in a cold night or unpredictable weather, and who knows how many fannies are in the seats.

But the Orioles really need to hone in on the fact that they have the best setup in the league. Who wouldn’t want to come to Camden Yards on a summer evening or afternoon and take in a big league game? It’s spring and summer in Baltimore; baseball is what we do!

Incidentally, contrary to popular belief this doesn’t mean offering mass discounts on tickets. The Orioles already are one of the most reasonably priced franchises in sports. When you offer a discount often times you’re just discounting tickets for people who are already planning on coming to the game. So in essence you’re cutting into what would have been your profit margin.

Maybe you can have a few games here and there where you have a discounted food item, but in general discounting already cheap tickets doesn’t work. If there’s one change I’d make if I were the Orioles, I’d offer a “happy hour” at a beer stand – maybe from the time the ballpark opens until the scheduled first pitch. They did that awhile back but apparently that’s no longer a part of their concessions strategy. Just an idea. Point being that the more ways in which you drive home the point that Oriole Park at Camden Yards is the place to be this summer, the more fans will show up.

Baltimore Orioles: Camden Yards needs to make a difference this year of all years

The Baltimore Orioles play in the best ballpark in baseball in Camden Yards. Granted those of us who cover the O’s or go to the games are going to view that in a biased manner. However when in fact what you have has been copied time and time again, it goes without saying that you have something special.

And with Camden Yards it’s never been just about the ballpark. I mean…the park itself we know is special. But it’s that special park combined with the old fashioned manner in which the game is presented. Almost every hill thing is a part of a tradition – whether it’s Country Boy during the stretch, the Oriole Bird running around, or the songs they play between innings. It’s all tradition-based, this as opposed to some parks where rap music blasts and so forth.

Point here being that the game is presented in a very old school manner at Camden Yards, and most Orioles fans like it that way. As the 2019 season draws near, it’s that game day experience on which the Orioles will want to lean. With a young team, young manager, and a not-so-hot outlook for this year, there might be a few games where attendance could be dicey. Throw in a cold night or unpredictable weather, and who knows how many fannies are in the seats.

But the Orioles really need to hone in on the fact that they have the best setup in the league. Who wouldn’t want to come to Camden Yards on a summer evening or afternoon and take in a big league game? It’s spring and summer in Baltimore; baseball is what we do!

Incidentally, contrary to popular belief this doesn’t mean offering mass discounts on tickets. The Orioles already are one of the most reasonably priced franchises in sports. When you offer a discount often times you’re just discounting tickets for people who are already planning on coming to the game. So in essence you’re cutting into what would have been your profit margin.

Maybe you can have a few games here and there where you have a discounted food item, but in general discounting already cheap tickets doesn’t work. If there’s one change I’d make if I were the Orioles, I’d offer a “happy hour” at a beer stand – maybe from the time the ballpark opens until the scheduled first pitch. They did that awhile back but apparently that’s no longer a part of their concessions strategy. Just an idea. Point being that the more ways in which you drive home the point that Oriole Park at Camden Yards is the place to be this summer, the more fans will show up.

Baltimore Orioles: Is youth the new hand of experience?

It didn’t take much to know that the Baltimore Orioles were going to go with a youth movement this year. New GM Mike Elias (who’s incidentally younger than I) and new manager Brandon Hyde certainly fit that bill. These are men who have never done their respective jobs to this point, but who have certainly seen how to do them and seen it up close.

That’a not unlike moving up in any other career path, for the record. If you get into a company out of college on the ground level, you see your superiors doing their jobs. After a couple of years maybe one of those jobs comes available, you apply, and you’re hired. You have no experience in the job, although you’ve seen it close up.

However as I look around sports, I see lots of teams getting younger in the dugout or on the sideline. The Washington Nationals, New York Yankees, and Boston Red Sox all have young managers. It’s one thing for the 2019 Orioles – a rebuilding team. But those are teams looking to contend. Heck, Boston won the World Series with a young manager.

The Los Angeles Lakers of the NBA have a young coach in Luke Walton. Again, that’s a team who expects to go to the playoffs each year. And look at the Ravens right here in Baltimore. When they hired John Harbaugh they were looking to contend; and he had no experience.

In my world, there’s no substitute for the steady hand of experience. That’s why Buck Showalter was the right hire in 2010 for the Orioles. And results over time proved that point to be correct. But is the sports business changing?

I think that there’s a perception out there that older and more experienced coaches or managers are less likely to think outside the box or take chances in games. They’ve always done it this way, and that’s not going to change. Younger coaches are hungry and they’re eager to make their own way.

I still maintain that there’s no substitute for the steady hand of experience. That should and will always be the case. Again, the 2019 Orioles were almost begging for a young leader. Someone exactly like Brandon Hyde. However it’s just interesting to see that experience doesn’t necessarily mean what it used to across the sports industry.

Baltimore Orioles: A different kind of spring training awaits

Pitchers and catchers for the Baltimore Orioles will report to Sarasota for spring training roughly a week-and-a-half after this weekend’s Super Bowl. That’s kind of tough to believe if you think about it! It seems like just yesterday we were bidding farewell to the horrid 2018 season. But yet here we are.

Nevertheless, it’ll be interesting to see how new manager Brandon Hyde conducts spring training. It goes without saying that from manager to manager things will be a bit different. It also goes without saying that regardless of who the manager is, this year was always going to be a bit different.

At this time last year the O’s were expecting to contend in 2018. Heck, at this time over the course of the last several years they were expecting to contend. That effort always began on the green fields of Sarasota. That’s certainly where this year’s journey will begin as well, however there’s no real expectation of being in contention. Yes, we know that things happen and that hope springs eternal – but I’ll just leave it at that.

I think that in spring training this year we’ll see more of an emphasis on fundamentals. However even before that, we’ll see an emphasis on becoming a team. The Orioles of yesteryear didn’t have t go through that process per se. This new group will.

Once the games actually begin towards the end of February, one difference I think we’ll see is that home games and travel rosters will be much more interchangeable. Most of the time veteran players are granted a professional courtesy in a sense, and they aren’t required to travel to the road games (maybe two or three here and there, generally towards the end of the spring). However this year I suspect things will be different.

Hyde and his staff are literally trying to figure out the composition of the team. The question of who’s on first is going to be much more than a slapstick routine. So I suspect we’ll see some similarities in terms of who plays in Sarasota and who’s on the travel rosters.

And as I said at FanFest this past weekend, Orioles’ fans should look at this season and specifically at this spring training as an opportunity to “get in on the ground floor” of a new team. 2019 is going to feel much different, and that’ll be true from the very beginning. But the first time this group wins a game in walk off fashion, that old feeling of Orioles Magic will come back through the yard. And things won’t see so off.

However in the interim, Brandon Hyde and GM Mike Elias will have to get a starting lineup ready to go. And that process will start in the coming weeks in Sarasota.

Balimore Orioles: 2019 is big for Trey Mancini

One of the more unsung Baltimore Orioles this off season has been Trey Mancini. And quite frankly I think most players would prefer that. Like most of the 2018 Orioles, Mancini had a down year last year. However he’s still young enough to where he can rebound and recapture some of his 2017 season in which he hit .293.

Mancini however is in a bit of an odd position of still perhaps being considered a young player, but also being a veteran. At Orioles’ FanFest he mentioned that he had some of the younger pups asking him how to handle aspects of professional life, such as 401K. Mancini joked that last year it was him asking those types of questions.

Mancini of course came up first in 2016 – for five games. He then made the team out of spring training in 2017, and over the course of the season hit 24 homers and 78 RBI. Most people forget this, however he had a great spring training last season as well. However in the first week of the season he injured his leg crashing into the wall chasing a foul ball at Camden Yards. While he only hit .242, he still managed to smack the same amount of homers (24), but his strikeouts were up.

So this shapes up to hopefully be a bounce back year for Mancini. However it’s more than just his on the field production that will be scrutinized. As I said above, Mancini’s going to need to be though of as a leader in this year’s clubhouse. While he’s still young himself, he has a plethora of experience as opposed to some of the other guys who’ll find themselves on the roster. And it’ll be part of his job to help all of those guys along this year.

Baltimore Orioles: Why no fanfare for the minors?

All of the Baltimore Orioles’ minor league affiliates are in the mid-Atlantic region, with the exception of the Gulf Coast Orioles. The Norfolk Tides of course are a bit of a hike, but still relatively close. This as opposed to years ago when your affiliates could literally be anywhere.

Yesterday I was flipping channels and I noticed that the Capital City GoGo were being televised locally. If you aren’t aware, the Capital City GoGo are an NBA D-League affiliate of the Washington Wizards. It came across as a low-quality production, but the fact remains that the game was on television, giving fans an opportunity to see the stars of tomorrow right now.

Obviously the Wizards are the main responsibility in terms of providing coverage for the local media (in the context of basketball). But as I said, having the D-League team on television on occasion gives fans a shot to see tomorrow’s stars. So…why doesn’t MLB do this with it’s minor leagues?

In the Orioles’ case, it would be fairly easy given that their affiliates are all local. But I’m a believer that giving fans access to players as such before they’re stars simply cements those players as leaders at the big league level once they arrive. It gives fans an early stake in players who one day might become a force in the majors.

Of course the difference in baseball is that it’s everyday. It might be easy enough to say that a network such as MASN could cover a Norfolk or Bowie game on an off day, but for the most part the O’s are playing everyday. So it would probably be tough to do. But more coverage is never a bad thing.

Baltimore Orioles’ FanFest a rousing success

Yesterday the Baltimore Orioles hosted an estimated 8,000 fans at the Baltimore Convention Center for their annual FanFest. That’s down from previous years; there have been FanFests which have drawn 12,000 or so people. However given the fact that many players on the team wouldn’t have even been recognizable on the street, I think that’s a decent number.

You have to take into account the rebuilding process that the Orioles are going through, and then put the dip in attendance into that context. And the fans who came were genuinely excited and enthusiastic to be there. The way I see it, the current state of the team gives folks an opportunity to get in on the ground level so to speak on the next era and generation of Orioles baseball.

Folks don’t know what to expect going into this year with a new manager and almost an entirely new roster. Yet the fanfare around the club was familiar to people yesterday. Oriole Park at Camden Yards is still a great place to spend a summer evening or afternoon. Not everything will be different – the beer will still be cold!

One thing of note, it’s interesting to hear first baseman Chris Davis speak to some of the changes he’s made (mainly in his offseason workout regiment) going into 2019. Davis, it appears, is fully on board with attempting to reverse the disastrous 2018 season he turned in:

It was a lot different this year. Unfortunately, I’m not getting any younger and I think this past season more than anything just really taught me a lot about taking care of my body, the way it looks like as I get older. I can’t go in there and crush arms all the time or just load up and attack training the way I have in years past. So I’ve had to do some different things this offseason.
I’m a little bit lighter and everybody keeps telling me that I look skinny, so I guess that’s a compliment. But I feel good. I feel more ready this time this year than I did last year. That’s saying a lot because I felt like I was really going to have a good year going into spring training. I’m ready to get it started, I’m ready to put last year behind us and start this season off. We’re actually going down to Sarasota a little early.

Quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports

Whether Davis’ new manner of working out and treating his body makes a difference remains to be seen. However that might well be the key to whether the Orioles show marginal improvement or decent improvement in 2019.

Baltimore Orioles’ Fanfest is today

Today Birdland unofficially opens for business in 2019, as the Baltimore Orioles will hold their annual FanFest. The event, as always, will be at the Baltimore Convention Center- right across from Camden Yards. Admission is $12.

I always tell people that FanFest is eveything you love about Orioles games, except the baseball game itself. There are autograph signings, free giveaways, media panels, and other things. FanFest is a beloved event in Birdland, and while there’s a long way to go it always reminds folks that the season is drawing near.

So that’s it for today. Will there be a surprise signing that’ll break news literally as the team entertains it’s fans for the first time in 2019? Could you, you never know. Only way way to find out!

On an unrelated note, former Oriole Mike Mussina won’t wear a hat in his MLB Hall of Fame is induction. Probably the best all-around decision that could have been made.

Baltimore Orioles: Can success make you soft?

The 2014 Baltimore Orioles were the most successful version of the team in a generation. This much we know. However if you ask some people, part of the reason that Buck Showalter‘s team ran away with the division that year was because the AL East was weak.

In essence, they won by default. I don’t buy that, as that team was as solid as anyone else. They won the division at home in dramatic but semi-anticlimactic fashion two weeks before the end of the season. They then swept the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS, a series that included a blowout in game one, and a dramatic bases-clearing double by Delmon Young in game two.

But after that, they were swept in the ALCS by Kansas City. And they looked fairly inept in doing so. Now there are technical reasons why that series swung the way that it did. But…did the success already sustained distract the Birds to an extent?

Sports is a business in which you can’t really celebrate success for too long. Especially in baseball where you play everyday. It’s the ultimate what have you done for me lately sport. If you go 0-for-4 one night, it isn’t acceptable to respond by saying yeah but I hit two grand slams last night. Nobody cares. You have to keep your foot on the gas.

Only the players involved know if they became “overly-satisfied” in that moment. I don’t think they did, because as I said there were technical reasons as to why they lost that series. But the key to sustained success in effect is sustained hunger. If you cease to be hungry, it becomes easier to defeat you.

Again, I’m not saying that happened to the 2014 Orioles. But that is a fact. You have to keep the pressure up in sports, otherwise someone else who’s hungrier will come along.

Baltimore Orioles: Should the Birds reunite with Adam Jones?

Former Baltimore Orioles’ center fielder Adam Jones remains unsigned. So do a lot of decent free agent players. This question has been asked various times this off season thus far, but should the Orioles consider a reunion?

Earlier this off season my response was perhaps, but with a caveat. That caveat was that he would have to be willing to sign for relatively cheap, and on perhaps a one-year deal. (My thought process in general would be that perhaps they could unload him at the deadline, however keep in mind that he’d return to the Orioles with the ability to nix a trade, which is what he did last year.) However I think it’s worth re-visiting the idea at this point.

I think that any deal with Jones should still be short(ish). Perhaps two years with a club option for a third, or something along those lines. However when I wrote about this earlier this off season I expected that by now the log jam of free agent players would be broken. That seems to be as true as the Federal Government re-opening sometime soon. So for the second year in a row, the teams are at this point in a power position in terms of dictating contract terms.

My hope would be that any deal offered would still take into account the fact that Jones is an Orioles’ legend. However one thing that he would have to accept would be that he’d be playing right field. And knowing Jones, I don’t think that would be a problem. He was widely lauded around baseball for how he handled handing off the center field duties to Cedric Mullins last year. That isn’t an easy thing to do.

If Jones understands that he’ll be primarily a right fielder, is willing to sign a club-friendly contract, etc, the Orioles should consider bringing one of their own back home. (And in reality he’ll have never left.) That would also give manager Brandon Hyde a decent amount of flexibility when it comes to the lineup. Trey Mancini and D.J. Stewart could platoon in left field, and Mancini and Chris Davis at first base. And perhaps all of the above as well as Jones (and Mark Trumbo) could rotate at designated hitter.

Having Jones back would also give the Orioles a larger veteran presence in the clubhouse. And that can be huge. While the direction of the team has definitely gone to the youth movement and will stay there, you still need veterans in the clubhouse. Who better than Adam Jones to fill that role?

Is it something that the Orioles and Jones are considering? That I can’t tell you. But it’s something that they should consider. Both parties would benefit, and both would be in a position to help the other out. Plus I think the fans would kind of dig having Jones back at Camden Yards everyday.

Baltimore Orioles: Mike Mussina gets the call from the hall

Former Baltimore Orioles’ pitcher Mike Mussina has gotten the call. In other words, he’s going to the hall of fame. Mussina will be enshrined in Cooperstown as a member of MLB’s best team in July.

It’s been a long time coming for the former Oriole pitcher, who of course famously defected to New York following the 2000 season. Rumor has always been that New York offered approximately half a million more than the Orioles – but he got the number he wanted and didn’t turn back. There was semi-bad blood for awhile, especially as Mussina was never fondly received at Camden Yards in pinstripes. But in recent years he’s been seen at Orioles games here and there. And I think that Orioles fans have forgiven and forgotten as well.

Mussina was drafted in 1987 by the Orioles, and made his debut in 1991. Over ten years with the Birds, he won 147 games and had a win percentage of .645. He also pitched to an ERA of 3.53 over those ten years. For the record, those numbers are all better than the numbers he accumulated in his eight years in the Bronx.

For his entire career, Mussina won 270 games with a win percentage of .638. Not to mention an ERA of 3.68. As I said, Mussina’s Orioles numbers were better than his New York numbers. He also pitched for the Orioles for two seasons longer. Far be it from me to suggest which hat Mussina wears into the hall, but…them’s the facts!

Baltimore Orioles: What’s up behind the dish?

Who’s the starting catcher for the Baltimore Orioles in 2018? Is there even a designated starting catcher? The Orioles currently have Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns on the 25-man roster.

Both saw action last season – both with the Orioles and in the minors. My personal opinion is that both of them could perhaps benefit from just a little more time in the minors. That isn’t to say that they both shouldn’t or won’t be on the roster come Opening Day.

My personal opinion is that much like other positions, the starting catcher spot will be decided in spring training. And again just a prediction, I think it’ll be Wynns and Sisco in essence platooning the spot. But there’s another side to this as well…

…catcher isn’t just a run-of-the-mill position. People like to compare pitchers to quarterbacks in football. For sure, both positions find themselves throwing the ball. However in reality the quarterback is really the brains of the operation – as is the catcher. The Orioles are a young team and that’s true across the board. But catcher is a spot where the O’s could perhaps benefit from having a steely veteran leading things.

Whether that happens or not remains to be seen. Again, I wouldn’t be surprised if they go with the two young guys in a platoon setting. But one way or the other, catcher is a position battle on which to keep an eye.

Baltimore Orioles: Umpiring and officiating

The Baltimore Orioles have been victims of poor umpiring in the past. Every team in baseball has. You’ve probably seen #umpshow on twitter. MLB, along with every other league out there, is usually fairly guarded in terms of how it deals with it’s umpires and officials.

In watching yesterday’s NFL games, I have to admit that I was outraged at some of the calls. The New Orleans Saints flat out missed out on a shot to go to the Super Bowl due to what should have been a clear pass interference call that was let go. In the AFC game, New England quarterback Tom Brady was the beneficiary of a phantom roughing-the-passer call when a defender’s hand passed in front of Brady’s face mask – without touching it.

These are all judgement calls – much like balls and strikes. I’ve never been one to suggest removing the human element from officiating in sports. Not only that, but if leagues introduced some sort of robotic officiating system that could always be hacked. Are we really thinking that some fan with the means and know-how wouldn’t hack and corrupt the system in favor of his favorite team?

However one thing I noticed on my twitter feed last night was that a lot of people were saying that the NFL has an officiating crisis. I might agree; officiating this season was atrocious. I’m not one to suggest games are fixed; however the two teams who benefitted from bad calls yesterday were New England and Los Angeles – both big media markets. Interesting twist to say the least.

I suspect that leagues can keep up the charade that these are judgement calls and so forth only until it affects their bottom line. When ratings start to go down, that’s when leagues will take notice. No, I’m not suggesting that people stop watching sports – because I’m not doing that myself. However that’s when leagues would take notice. And I’m talking something major – such as horrible Super Bowl ratings, or even a non-sold out Super Bowl or World Series game.

Of course, the alternative is that leagues could recognize the issues for what they are and fix them. Pool reporters are allowed in officials’ locker rooms across sports after games. The refs/umps have the option of giving statements if they so desire. That also means they don’t have to do so if they opt not to.

How exactly is it fair that players and coaches are required to speak to the media, but officials can hide? Perhaps a place to start is to force these guys to speak to the media. If the media wants to talk to them, that is (not every game is going to have blown calls and require a statement). Perhaps that would garner some accountability on the part of the officials. If they know they’re going to get grilled for their mistakes, that is.

Needless to say, all of this is a tough sell. Leagues don’t want to make changes, but as I said…the New Orleans Saints flat out lost a shot to go to the Super Bowl yesterday. As hard as teams work to get to that point, that’s tough to rectify.

Baltimore Orioles need to honor Buck Showalter in 2019

The fact that 2019 will be a strange year for the Baltimore Orioles and their fans should go without saying. And it’s not just limited to the players on the field. Fans will have to get used to peering into the Orioles’ first base side dugout at Camden Yards and not seeing Buck Showalter manning things.

That’s not a dig at new manager Brandon Hyde. It’s merely stating a fact. As I said when Hyde was hired, fans shouldn’t dislike him simply because he’s not Buck Showalter. Because I can guarantee you that Showalter probably wouldn’t take that attitude.

That aside, the manager will simply be one difference this coming year. However I would submit that the Orioles do need to make Buck a small part of this season. I would hope that it goes without saying that he’ll be in the Orioles’ hall of fame at some point. But that’s not what I’m talking about…

…the Orioles owe it to Buck to have a “Buck Showalter day/night” at Camden Yards in 2019. I’m not sure how exactly that would work, but in essence everyone in attendance gets some sort of Buck Showalter souvenir, and have a ceremony on the field before the game honoring Buck and presenting him with some sort of award.

Let’s not forget that Buck took the organization and brought it further than it had ever gone in years. However perhaps more importantly, he restored pride to the Orioles’ organization. The same pride that Brandon Hyde is now taxed with restoring.

Too often we remember figures for how they left us – and Buck is no exception. However the Orioles and the city owe it to him to show their appreciation this year. Some of these theme nights can come across as corny for sure. But it’s an honor that Buck deserves – sooner rather than later.

Baltimore Orioles: Can Chris Davis regain his stroke?

One of the biggest questions surrounding the Baltimore Orioles in 2019 will be whether or not Chris Davis can improve his offensive output. Davis’ current contract, worth $161 million, is the largest in team history. It hasn’t paid off as of yet per se.

If Davis can turn things around, the “new administration” will immediately get props from the fan base. But either way, that’a a big if. Davis is doing his part however, as he’s changing up his workout regiment this off season. Davis has been working out in Texas for the past month or so. The hope is that he can regain the stroke he had a few years ago.

But what if he does regain some sort of power? That obviously bodes well for the O’s, but what would that mean for the rebuild? Odds are it would mean that the young hitters around him would become better in shorter time. No pressure there for Davis.

Baltimore Orioles: Hindsight is 20/20 with Chris Davis

The Chris Davis contract has become one of the most scrutinized in Baltimore Orioles’ history. Especially when the alleged contract that’s been offered to Manny Machado by the Chicago White Sox amounts to approximately $2 million a year more than what Davis is making with the Orioles. That’s certainly not lost on the fan base.

However hindsight is always 20/20. At the time the Davis contract was inked, there was legitimate fear amongst fans and team officials that one of the best sluggers in the league would leave Baltimore. And yes, at the time Davis was considered one of the best sluggers in baseball. The contract was widely applauded by fans and analysts alike. Nobody could have predicted that the bottom would fall out on Davis when it did.

We’re also talking about a different time. Yes for the Orioles, but also for the league. That Chris Davis contract might well end up being one of the last massive long-term deals. Teams aren’t as willing to commit big time dollars over a long period of time. Granted the Machado deal that’s on the table in Chicago is bigger. But it’s a far cry from the ten years, $400 million that he was seeking.

Ultimately, it’s unfair to judge the past by the standards of the present. Furthermore, the final chapter on Chris Davis in Baltimore doesn’t have to have been written yet. Things can always improve. And if the new regime in Baltimore has anything to do with it, perhaps in fact they will.

Baltimore Orioles: Will the fans stand behind the 2019 Birds?

As it stands now, the 2019 Baltimore Orioles appear to be void of any star power. Certainly there are a few familiar names, such as Chris Davis. Four or five years ago he would have been considered a star. But odds are that’s not the case any longer – at least not for now.

He’s not the only familiar name. Orioles fans will also recognize the Mancini’s, Bundy’s, and Trumbo’s of the world. And a few others. However there’s a difference between familiar players and stars. For years it’s been Adam Jones‘ team. He was the star. Until further notice, there’s no real star on this team.

And that make no mistake that there’s still an upside to that. Because that means that the next true Orioles’ star could be anyone. At this point it appears that time, fate, or consequence will decide who that’s going to be. It’ll happen organically.

However there is a concern and quite frankly a risk on the part of the organization. Most fans and analysts alike applauded the Orioles for the rebuilding effort. Both in deciding to do it, and how it’s been done to this point. But will fans respond in kind at the box office?

That’s the age old question. There is a certain mindset amongst some people that if they’re going to see (what temporarily could be deemed) minor league talent with no star power, they may as well use their entertainment dollars by going to Keys or Baysox games. Time will tell, but hopefully the fans remain constant and accepting of the process – and turn out to see this team play.

Baltimore Orioles: Piano Man set to rock the yard

The Baltimore Orioles won’t be the only thing rocking the yard this summer. It was announced yesterday that legendary singer and songwriter Billy Joel will be making his maiden appearance at Oriole Lark at Camden Yards on Friday, July 26, 2019. In fact, it’ll be the first concert in the history of Camden Yards.

Tickets go on sale to the general public on January 18, 2019 at 10 AM. A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will go to support music and arts education programs across Maryland. Needless to say, this is big news for Baltimore.

Billy Joel played M & T Bank Stadium in 2014. But neither he nor any other artist has ever played Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The only other “act” ever held there to my knowledge is a mass in 1994 said by his holiness, Saint John Paul II. So in the history of the ballpark, this will be a historic event.

On a selfish note, Billy Joel’s my favorite singer. Covering the Orioles and Angels game that night will probably take precedence, but I think it’s cool that my favorite musician will be the first to ever play Camden Yards. And the fact is that Joel’a act belongs in a baseball stadium. There are references to baseball throughout his songs; mostly New York baseball, but references to baseball. Needless to say, for at least one night in July, Baltimore will be in a New York State of Mind!

(Side note: I’m a Billy Joel superfan. I listen to his channel on satellite radio on a daily basis. Did you REALLY think that I wasn’t about to say something along the lines of that NY state of mind line? Keep in mind that Allentown isn’t far from Baltimore – I could have just worked a lyric from that song in also. Or mentioned the lyrics from PRESSURE where he talks about it being in the ninth with two men out and three men on. Nowhere to look but inside, right?!)

Baltimore Orioles: I don’t know who’s on third

Baltimore Orioles’ GM Mike Elias said that roster construction was going to be slow-going when he signed on and took the job. So Orioles fans shouldn’t be concerned that things are moving at a snail’s pace. However Orioles’ FanFest is in fact coming at the end of the month; it would be nice for a few things to be in place by then.

Let’s start here; who’s the starting third baseman? In the past this was never an issue, as the Orioles had a guy named Machado. But this year we’re going to see a new starting third baseman – or perhaps a platoon of them.

If there’s an incumbent, it’s probably Renato Nunez. However I’m not sure even he can get that distinction. He was taken by the Orioles off of waivers last year, as was Rio Ruiz, Nunez’s apparent competition for the role. Of the two, Nunez is probably the better one. The Orioles could let these two duke it out in spring training, or even look outside the organization.

There’s also another option, which I’ve suggested before. We talk a lot about Chris Davis and his offensive struggles. Davis has played third base in his career, including during his stint with the Orioles. He’s a solid first baseman, and a decent third baseman. Would the Orioles consider making Davis the full-time third baseman this year if no better option were out there?

The other hidden benefit of that arrangement is that it would open up competition for more younger players in the outfield. The Orioles could simply move Trey Mancini to his normal position at first base. The question is whether or not the Orioles would want to do that or need to. Time will tell.

End of the day, I think there needs to be more of a plan in place for that position than “we might look at several people.” Once the regular season starts, that is. The hot corner is a very important position, which is something that Orioles fans have probably taken for granted at times in the recent past.

Baltimore Orioles: April sets the tone

For years I’ve said that the Baltimore Orioles needed to get out to a good start in April. Last season really showed what can happen if you get down early in the season. I maintain that last year’s team was better than 46 wins. And while we don’t know what this year’s team will look like, I would hesitate to say the same.

Last year’s team just got down early in April and the season snowballed. And that was a team of veterans. This is going to be a very young team, with a young manager in Brandon Hyde. You just can.’this afford to get down big in the standings early.

But this year it’s for a different reason. In the past the idea was to compete for a post season spot. That’s not expected to be something that’s on the line and n 2019. So why would I still put an emphasis on April?

The answer is simple; because you want this year to be about guys getting comfortable playing together and for the Orioles. If the team gets too buried early on, guys will start going through the motions – which is part of what happened last year.

You want the games to be compelling, and for people to come away saying, “…win or lose, that team’s fun to watch.” Which incidentally is the exact opposite of what they said last season. But I digress.

You don’t want this young team starting to think that losing and losing big is the modus operandi around here. Not even in the midst of a rebuild. The expectation is to play hard and to get the basics correct. The rest will eventually fall into place.

Baltimore Orioles: My fickle friend

I admittedly thought it was ridiculous that a few Baltimore Orioles fans wanted to replace manager (at the time) Buck Showalter after the 2016 AL Wild Card game. Utimately those people got their wish after last year. However given Showalter’s record with the Orioles and his skills as a manager, I thought it was a bit ridiculous.

This morning I awaken to my twitter timeline full of tweets and re-tweets of Alabama Crimson Tide fans saying that the University should terminate head football coach Nick Saban. Let’s be frank; that’s an overly-emotional reaction to a situation that’s still very raw for those people – having lost the national title game last night. But…do you really want to suggest firing someone who’s considered not just Alabama royalty, but College Football royalty?

What this shows is the newly fickle nature of fans. Yes, I wrote that. We hear so much about how younger fans don’t consume sports the same ways that previous generations did. And we’re told that’s not necessarily a bad thing. And in fact it’s not. But the flip side of that is a lot of younger fans are simply going to tune out of the team isn’t meeting their goals or needs.

The Alabama case (and even the situation with Showalter) is really an extreme one. You made it to the title game, and since you lost fans want you booted? Again, that’s an emotional reaction to what’s still a very raw situation. However I’ll be honest; that type of fickleness bothers me. How can sports as an industry survive in that climate? Because let’s be honest; Alabama lost one game this year. It was obviously THE GAME, but in reality they lost one. Are we in essence saying that anything less than perfection is unacceptable?

Because if we are, sports as an industry are doomed. Heck, a lot of businesses are doomed. That’s not a standard that’s attainable. My hope is that this is simply young people shooting their mouths off. No way Nick Saban deserves to be fired for losing that game last night, especially coming off of multiple other titles – including last season. Just like there’s no way that Buck Showalter deserved to be fired after the 2016 AL Wild Card Game, especially coming off of returning the Orioles to glory, winning the AL East title in 2014, and multiple post-season appearances.

Baltimore Orioles: Why is Baltimore’s question always WHY?

The next professional game involving a Baltimore team will be the Baltimore Orioles on Opening Day. Unless you count Spring Training. But I digress. The Baltimore Ravens’ season ended yesterday when they lost to the Los Angeles Chargers.

However I harkened back to the 2016 AL Wild Card game in watching yesterday’s game. We all remember that, right? Buck Showalter holding Zach Britton in the bullpen while the Orioles gave up a walk off homer. Yesterday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh kept his starter (Lamar Jackson) in the game down big, as opposed to going to Joe Flacco. Many fans, myself included, thought it was worth a shot bringing Flacco in.

I’m not going to debate the savior fair of making or not making any of those moves. In fact, the game situations themselves were vastly different, never minding that they’re different sports. All of that said, why is it that it’s Baltimore fans consistently put in the position of having to ask questions like these? The question of…WHY?!

Obviously the difference with the Ravens and the Orioles is that the Ravens have a young quarterback with a good upside. The Orioles of 2012-2016 were always an injury, a bad call, or a bad decision away from ending up like the 2018 Orioles.

As soon as that wild card game was over, fans were calling for Buck Showalter’s head. Just as now they’re saying the same about John Harbaugh. And in reality that shows how fickle fans can be these days. You’re really only as good as your last win. In Showalter’s case, people had to know at that moment that he was in no danger of being replaced – at that moment. In Harbaugh’s case, time will tell.

Baltimore Orioles trade Valera, Zach Britton to NY

Former Baltimore Orioles’ closer Zach Britton is headed back to the Bronx. New York resigned him reportedly last night to a three-year deal worth (a reported) $39 million. Britton of course was traded from the O’s to New York last season. So in a sense he’s returning to the Bronx.

While Britton wasn’t as effective with New York as he was with the Orioles, this means that Orioles fans will be seeing a guy that they consider one of their own playing against them consistently in the division. Time will tell how that turns out.

There is one quirk about the reported deal for Britton. It’s a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth year. However the team has to pick up that club option after year two, otherwise Britton can opt out – after year three.

The Orioles also completes a trade. On Friday they DFA’d Breyvic Valera off the roster. Yesterday they traded him to the San Francisco Giants for cash considerations. Not much to see here, just a low-level trade from one team to another. Obviously Valera didn’t figure into GM Mike Elias’ plans moving forward.

Baltimore Orioles claim RHP Austin Brice

The Baltimore Orioles made an interesting personnel move yesterday – they claimed right-handed reliever Austin Brice off of waivers. Brice, formerly of the Anaheim Angels, has been a big league reliever for three years. He spent 2016 with Miami, and the past two seasons with Cincinnati.

Brice has an ERA of 5.68 and a record of 2-4 over 70 appearances in three years as a reliever. That’s hardly the type of production for which the Orioles are looking or that they need. However he does have an upside in that he’s young. And he’s coming to an organization in the Orioles which has a lot of young pieces and a young coaching staff.

I suppose part of what I’m saying is that this could be a classic “change of air” type of situation. The other interesting thing about this is who the Orioles had to DFA to make room for Brice on the roster. That would be Breyvic Valera, who was acquired in the Machado trade last year.

Valera was expected to compete for a possible platoon role in the infield. However for now, he’s been DFA’d off the roster. It’s certainly possible that he clears waivers and opts to accept a minor league assignment, remaining in the organization. However one thing to keep in mind is that Valera was acquired in a trade consummated by Dan Duquette.

Mike Elias, the current GM, has no ties to that move. So…is Elias more inclined to see the parts in that trade as moving pieces as opposed to bedrocks? Interesting question for sure.

Baltimore Orioles: Where’s the line of justice?

One of the teams with whom the Baltimore Orioles share the mid-Atlantic region is the NFL’s Washington Redskins. As a disclaimer, the Redskins are “my team.” My NFL team that is. I’m certainly pulling for the Ravens moving into the post-season, as I pull for them if they aren’t playing the Skins. But I digress.

The San Francisco 49ers cut linebacker Reuben Foster in November after he was charged with domestic violence. The Redskins submitted a waiver claim on him, and he’s now under contract in Washington. Foster was cleared of all charges yesterday. So in essence this was a good move by the Redskins, although the NFL could still suspend Foster for conduct detrimental to the league going into next season.

This column isn’t about Reuben Foster. But it is about how leagues handle player conduct off the field. We see discipline for off-field conduct in MLB much more often than we do in other sports. The other leagues are starting to follow suit now, and we’ve seen a crackdown on domestic violence in the NFL. The league has no want for players who beat women. And I support that.

But the idea of “conduct detrimental to the league” casts a very wide net. Domestic violence in and of itself is fairly cut-and-dry. Again, I support disciplinary action against someone in any league who beats women. That’a unequivocal. But what about someone like Foster? You know, someone who in essence is innocent. Are we now holding people accountable for even being charged with a crime?

I would simply say this; while not perfect, our criminal justice system is based on the pillar of innocent until proven guilty. So a guy who.’a ether found innocent of a crime or as in this case if charges are dropped – is that someone who should pay a price to the league? Would it not behoove the leagues to take their cues from the criminal justice system?

Before you come back with the fact that the number of false accusations made are few and far between (and that’s a fact), let me share something with you. I’ve been falsely accused of something in my life. It wasn’t anywhere near as serious as domestic violence; but it was still very damaging and it was 100% untrue.

So I suppose my stance on some of this stuff is that while I agree the number of false accusations are few and far between, I would wait for evidence beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law to convict someone. And if a player is convicted of a crime, it goes without saying that he should be held accountable by MLB (or whichever league he represents). However the next time a baseball player or any athlete is accused of something of this sort, maybe we should offer the benefit of the doubt before the entire story comes out in the public domain.

Baltimore Orioles: Can you call 100 losses a success?

If you’re looking at wins and losses, 2019 won’t be too far off from 2018 for the Baltimore Orioles. Remember all of those frustrating nights where everything that could go wrong would go wrong? Yeah, we’re probably looking at that again for 2019.

However I am on record and I do believe that come the end of the season the Orioles will have an improved record. And I say that for one reason; all of their starters will presumably have a full slate of spring games and training sessions. That wasn’t the case last year. In my view it affected some early season games. Furthermore, the current team will build chemistry from day one and get stronger.

Even still, it’s not shaping up to be a season in which the Orioles contend. They could still lose 100 games plus. But keep in mind that if they improve by 14 wins, they’d still have 100 losses.

In general if you win 14 additional games year-over-year, that’s a good improvement. But regardless of the overall number, could fans consider a 100-loss season a success?

Baltimore Orioles: How to attract younger fans?

With today being January 2nd, the Baltimore Orioles will begin their march back towards normalcy. I’ve always seen the end of the holiday season as January 6th, but needless to say the portion of the season whereby people are off is basically done. That means it’s time to get to work.

This is a big month for the Orioles, as it culminates with Orioles’ FanFest, one of Birdland’s most celebrated annual events. The O’s are going to want to have more of a vision and a plan carved out by the end of the month if that’s going to be a well-attended event. The same is true of games once the season gets closer.

I’ve read a lot of late about how various teams in various sports and cities are having to look outside the box to draw fans to games. Mainly, to draw younger fans. I’m not talking about kids, but more so perhaps recent college graduates. Your 22-30 age bracket.

According to most “experts,” this age group rejects conventional marketing ploys. I’m not exactly sure what that means; does it mean that they aren’t swayed by seeing an advertisement paid for by the team on television or hearing it on the radio? But…how is that even possible? Does this age group not watch television?

They do…they just don’t do it as you and I are used to consuming these media. But many people are now moving away from cable and satellite dishes, and getting their television service through other means, such as AT&T. Many kids don’t listen to the radio like you and I do, as they’re listening to their favorite podcasts.

Keep in mind that this is the generation that grew up playing video games as opposed to playing outside. So where as I played in the backyard and pretended to be Cal or Eddie as a child, people ten years younger than I were busy playing video games. Recreational play wasn’t necessarily tied to sports for them as it was for people older than them.

The Orioles’ program instituted last year of allowing parents to bring two kids to the games for free is a great example of outside-the-box marketing. Because this generation is also shaping up to be incredibly civically-minded. They see everything as a “product” into which they’re buying. And if part of the return on their investment is that their kids get a free experience, they’re on board with that.

I wish it were as easy as throwing together a few discount days, offering free food, or even free tickets. That’s how it used to be, and that’s what I’m quite frankly used to. But in some instances that’s actually backfiring. Some younger fans actually take that as an insult because they feel like the team is trying to in essence buy them.

Whether we like it or not, the Orioles have to pay attention to these trends – whatever they are. And the fact that they share a region with another big league team only makes it tougher. Not only that, but there’s also competition from several minor league teams (most of which are Oriole farm teams), AND other sports. The mid-Atlantic region is home to franchises literally in every professional sport. And if that’s not enough, there are other entertainment venues that compete as well.

Baltimore Orioles: Welcome to 2019!

It’s New Year’s Day, Baltimore Orioles fans! That means that 2019 is officially “this year.” Or perhaps more specifically “this year coming.” Tomorrow the team offices will re-open for business, thus ringing in the new year.

What will 2019 hold for the Birds? We know it’s going to be a big rebuilding campaign, in effect a continuation of the end of last season. However time will tell in the long run. If the Orioles can somehow find their way just a bit, 2019 will be a successful year.

And by find their way, I mean improve their record. So what I’m saying is that the goal for this year should be to win more than 46 games. If the Orioles can do that, the organization will have taken a step forward. I’m not going to split hairs over how many more games than 46 they should win, but you get the idea.

The team needs to make progress on it’s promise to rebuild. And thus far, there’s nothing that would indicate they aren’t planning on doing just that. With that in mind, I wish all of Birdland a very happy New Year!

Baltimore Orioles: Common sense turned on it’s head in 2018

I did a season recap for the 2018 Baltimore Orioles back in October. I’m not about to re-hash that now. It the fact is that 2018 was unkind to the Orioles and their fans. And the logic behind all of it made no sense.

Somehow Buck Showalter became an incompetent manager in the eyes of some fans. Things got so bad that he wasn’t offered a new contract. That aside, Showalter expected (and rightfully so in a sense) that guys would somehow progress back to their career means. The likes of Davis, Mancini, and others – somehow their numbers at some point had to improve to where their career averages said they should be, right?

They never got there. This much we now know. However that’s why I say that logic was turned on it’s head this year. In contrast, it seemed that Oriole opponents did more and more things outside the box, or against logic. And somehow it worked. Essentially in perpetuity.

I never felt that effort was the issue for the Orioles. Somehow it was just the perfect storm of things working against them. And all they can do is hope on this New Year’s Eve that with the regime change, perhaps 2019 will be different.

And of course let us not forget the send off made by Orioles fans to Adam Jones on the last day of the season. That was a single moment where everything made sense, in a year where common sense turned sidewards. To a lesser degree that farewell was for Buck as well, however the sentiment for him was felt much more in print and on message boards than at the ballpark that day.

Buck and Adam were the faces of a rebirth of the Orioles. And while they’ll be sorely missed, their legacies will live on. The hope of course is that someone on the current roster will step up and take that mantle moving forward.

Baltimore Orioles: Brandon Hyde and Mike Elias will grow with the team

The Baltimore Orioles will be all about change in 2019. Mike Elias is now the head of the organization (save for ownership), and Brandon Hyde is in charge of the operations on the field. Not to mention that we’ll see more change on the field in terms of the players than we have perhaps since circa 2008.

However the Orioles find themselves in a position in which perhaps they’ve never been. Literally the entire organization is going to be new (or semi-new) to their respective positions. Sure the Mancini’s, Davis’, and Trumbo’s of the world are holdovers. There are also a few holdovers in other areas of the organization, such as scout Nathan Showalter (Buck’s son). But I digress.

For the most part, everyone’s new. Mistakes will be made; I’m just telling you that up front. When Buck took over in 2010 there was an expectation of a certain par which came with an experienced manager (and one of his caliber at that). Not to mention that at the time Andy MacPhail (an experienced GM) manned the front office. While the team wasn’t necessarily stacked with veterans, there were lots of players who had been around for awhile at that point. None of that is true this time around.

Spring Training will have a huge say in who starts at which position and so forth. However once the (semi) permanent lineup is set, as I said mistakes will be made. And I’m not talking about grounders rolling under mitts, pop flies being lost in the sun or lights, or anything along those lines. That happens with veterans – as we saw in 2018. I’m talking about guys taking the wrong route to balls, missing cut off men, etc. And not only that…

…mistakes will be made by coaches also. Brandon Hyde has managed in the minor leagues, but this is MLB. He’s going to make mistakes. As will the base coaches among others. Ironically Showalter was a master at a trait at which so many young managers struggle: handling the bullpen. As I look around baseball, I see so many young managers flat out abusing their bullpens to the point to where someone’s arm could fall off. And it’s not just a recent phenomenon; it’s been going on for years.

Guys like Buck who turn into great managers all started by misusing their bullpens. So maybe expect a little of that from Hyde – maybe not, for all I know. My point is that he’s going to make mistakes; as Buck said so often, we’re dealing with human beings here

My hope is that Orioles fans are patient and forgiving with Hyde. Not to mention the players, and even Elias in the front office. These guys are all going to be new to their jobs. Yes from Elias to Hyde on down they’ve all seen their respective jobs done up close, but the fact is that they’ve never done them. And it’ll take some time for everyone to be on the same page. Because the entire organization is going to be collectively growing together.

Baltimore Orioles: Brandon Hyde begins hiring coaches

Baltimore Orioles’ manager Brandon Hyde began hiring coaches yesterday. Tim Cossins was formerly a catching coordinator in the Chicago Cubs’ organization, sill be joining the Orioles. It’s unclear what his title will be, however he’ll be working with the Orioles’ catchers.

It makes sense that Hyde would bring some people with him from Chicago, where he was formerly the Cubs’ bench coach. As I said when the Orioles hired Hyde himself and GM Mike Elias (formerly of the Houston Astros’ organization), if you’re going to poach talent you might as well do so from winning organizations. The experience that these guys bring is incredibly valuable, because they all know organizationally what it takes to win.

Hyde has also hired Philadelphia first base coach Jose Flores. It’s unclear what his title will be, but he’s expected to work with infielders and coach base running. The Orioles made some blunders on the base paths last year, so Flores might have his work cut out for him. Flores also spent five years in the Cubs’ organization, which obviously bears a connection to Hyde.

Baltimore Orioles: Is television hurting sports?

With the Baltimore Orioles’ team offices closed for the holiday season, the only team in town right now is the Ravens. Of course if the Ravens beat the Cleveland a Browns on Sunday, they go to the playoffs as a division champion. However even for such a big game, the team is having to publicly ask fans to come out.

There have been empty seats at Ravens games all year. It’s also been a league-wide problem – attendance is down. There are varying reasons for this, and it’s not limited to one thing. But one common one I hear is that the TV product is so good.

So here’s the question; is this limited to only the NFL? Because baseball has it’s own attendance issues. Similar to the NFL, it also has high definition games with graphics and other features. Would people really rather sit and watch the game at home than in person?

Baseball and football are two different animals. Football’s right home games, while baseball’s 81. Football’s also once a week as opposed to everyday. And I would argue that’s what sustained NFL attendance for so long in so many areas. Ten years ago the Ravens wouldn’t have to beg fans to come to the game on Sunday. But now people look at the forecast, see it’s cold, and look at the benefits to watching at home, and they have a decision to make.

So what can be learned from this? Should the TV packages not be as good? The answer is no. But what teams need to do is to give people a reason to come to the stadium. The Orioles’ idea of letting kids in for free is an example of this. Yes, you’re giving away free tickets. But the more kids come to the games the more they’ll enjoy themselves. And they’ll become accustomed to being there. Watching on television will in essence become a second-tier experience.

That model isn’t going to work in the NFL. But the point is that you have to find a way to generate interest in coming out. Until that happens, people might continue staying home.

Baltimore Orioles: The holly remains hung the day after

The Baltimore Orioles’ offices remain closed. So does the Federal Government – but that’s another story. Is today a holiday also?

The Orioles’ offices are closed through New Year’s. As I said previously, don’t expect any big news until then. Manager Brandon Hyde went to Hawaii with his family for the holiday. However my understanding is that he was treating it as a working vacation, as he brought film and reports to look over in his hotel room.

So my recommendation is that fans enjoy another slice of fruitcake and perhaps another Christmas cookie. It’s still going to be a long winter.

Baltimore Orioles: Holiday doldrums

‘Tis the season for the Baltimore Orioles. In saying that, I mean the season where nothing happens. The Warehouse is closed, probably until after the New Year.

Point being, you won’t see much news out of the Orioles for the next week or so. New Manager Brandon Hyde took a bunch of film and scouting reports with him and headed for the sandy beaches of Hawaii. I’m not sure whether GM Mike Elias is in town or not, but presumably he’s with his family as well. For his sake I hope he is.

If any news breaks about the O’s moving forward…you know I’ll be on top of it. But don’t hold your breath!

Baltimore Orioles: The case against Manny Machado

Baltimore Orioles fans are well-versed in Manny Machado. Both good and bad. The good is obvious. The bad has to do with attitudinal issues, such as Machado’s comment while he was with Los Angeles about “not being Johnny Hustle.” The fact that comments as such didn’t occur more often while he was in Baltimore is quite frankly a testament to Buck Showalter and his management style.

However quite frankly, the Orioles would be stupid to consider bringing Machado back – UNLESS it were on a 1-2 year contract, enabling them to trade him at the deadline one year. Or after the season. But odds are Machado isn’t looking for a deal like that. He’s looking for a long-term deal, and odds are he’ll get it.

But why would the Orioles be stupid to bring back a player like Machado? The answer is because that would run contrary to the current plan. The Orioles are building a team from the bottom up. If you start bringing in high-priced free agents, you’re moving away from that pathway.

As I’ve said previously, Machado is a piece you bring in if you’re one guy away from winning a title. The Orioles need to trust the process and stay the course. And I suspect that’s what they’ll do.

Baltimore Orioles: Is Manny Machado’s choice down to three?

I hope that Baltimore Orioles fans are following the Manny Machado saga. The former Orioles’ third baseman and shortstop visited New York (Yankees) on Wednesday, and Philadelphia yesterday. Rumors are that the Chicago White Sox are also in the mix.

Obviously if you’re an Orioles fan, you’re hoping that he lands in Philadelphia. To his credit, he stopped on the street there and took a selfie with a construction worker. Already endearing himself to the fan base?!

Conventional wisdom however says that he plays in Yankee pinstripes. Once New York gets involved, it’s usually a done deal. But time will tell.

It’s also interesting that the ChiSox appear to be involved. In New York or even Philly, Machado would be seem as sealing the deal from the perspective of winning a title. I suspect that if he were to sign with the ChiSox, that franchise would still be several years away. For their sake, you have to hope that they aren’t allowing themselves to be played.

But the good news is that there’s nary a rumor of the Orioles being involved. Why is that a good thing? Because signing (or re-signing) a player like Machado would derail the rebuilding process. The Orioles are hoping to re-grow players to replace him. Not spend unnecessary money to get him back.

Baltimore Orioles: 2019 is Spring Training all year

Brandon Hyde‘s Baltimore Orioles will struggle in 2019. And not just in the division, but across the board. Will they win more than 46 games? My personal opinion is that they will. But I suspect the team will still struggle.

That’s why I think 2019 will in essence be spring training all year. And I say that in one very specific context. Over the past few seasons I’ve always told fans during spring training that wins and losses weren’t important. And in reality during the spring they aren’t. What’s more important that you gel as a team.

So if the assumption is that the Orioles are going to be bad this year, are wins and losses really that important? That isn’t meant to be as bad of a comment as it sounds like. There’s most definitely a difference between spring training and the regular season. Good year or bad, there’s always the “urgency of today.”

However the expectation is that this year will be more about getting people in the right places, and then gelling as a team. In effect, building for the future. Some fans will be turned off by the concept of spring training in perpetuity. However if the process is done right and trusted, at some point you go from just competing to winning. That’s what we saw in 2012 from the Orioles. And we could see it again.

Baltimore Orioles: Does greed really cause ruination?

Now that the Baltimore Orioles have their new manager, we can probably put to bed any substantial news surrounding the team before Christmas. You never know what’s going to break, but that’s just an educated guess. So let’s talk above the dugout and the front office in a sense; let’s talk about ownership.

Whenever things go south for the Birds, we’ve always heard fans describe the evils of Peter Angelos and his ownership. I’m not going to argue that the man isn’t perfect. He’s made mistakes that other owners seemingly haven’t made, and in fact many other franchises have benefitted off of his mistakes. However I don’t think he’s the worst owner of all time either.

Obviously while on paper he’s still in charge, we all know that his sons John and Lou are in essence running the team. And so far so good, I might add. However, I do feel that fans of any franchise are too quick to point at the owner and suggest that he’s more about money than winning, or that his greed is running the team into the ground. Can greed really ruin a team or company?

None of us knows what it’s like to run a professional sports franchise. However I think most people would agree that it probably isn’t easy. Each and every one of your customers (fans) thinks he has a stake in every aspect of how the team is run and what they do. And they aren’t shy about saying so.

I would say that greed could ruin any company if the management flat out didn’t care about their customers. As an example, fast food used to be known as such because it was fast (and cheap). But if you go to McDonalds nowadays, you’re paying $7-$9 or so for a burger, fries, and a Coke. And to be honest, it’s not that fast anymore!

When you can go to a regular restaurant and get a better quality burger, fries, and a Coke for $10-$11 or so, is it really worth going to McDonalds? I would submit that it isn’t, and to be honest I back that up by not eating too much fast food in my everyday life. So given that they’ve let their prices creep up, I would argue that McDonalds is losing customers to greed.

How does that translate to sports? I think you have to know your market and the dynamics thereof. Baltimore is a working class blue collar town. People aren’t looking to drop $100 on a ticket, plus food. Most people want a seat somewhere in the grandstand with a reasonable view, and maybe a hot dog and something to drink. Given their ticket prices, I would argue that the Orioles get that, and they price themselves very well in their market.

Look down the pike however at D.C. United, Washington D.C.’s MLS franchise. They have a similar dynamic I suspect in that many of their fans are working class people. So…why does their new stadium sell seats for $80? That seems exorbitant to me, and quite frankly it comes across as pricing out some of your more ardent fans.

There are a million other examples across sports. But if you’re overestimating what your customers are willing to pay your bottom line will eventually suffer. Other than that, owners are in this business to make money. That’s a sordid truth that most fans simply don’t want to understand. It’s easier to paint Peter Angelos as a villain trying to suck money out of your pockets than it is to understand that he’s just trying to provide for his company and his family.

So where’s the line of justice? Tough to say, but I suppose that’s up to the fans.

Baltimore Orioles introduce Brandon Hyde as new manager

The Baltimore Orioles formally introduced Brandon Hyde as their new manager yesterday afternoon. Hyde was hired by new GM Mike Elias, and is the 20th manager in franchise history. Hyde on the hire:

Being named manager of the Orioles is a dream come true, and I’m incredibly humbled to be here today. When [Elias, Sig Mejdal and I] met, it was immediately clear to me that we share the same vision and passion toward building a winning culture, an elite organization and a championship ballclub.

Quote courtesy of Matt Kelly,

Let me say this; Hyde came across as a stand-up guy. He also came across as incredibly straight-forward, which perhaps is what the franchise needs as things progress. Either way, Hyde’s the man to lead the charge.

It’ll be awhile before fans and writers such as myself get a feel for Hyde and what he’s about. With Showalter we seemingly knew what to expect from the beginning. But this will take some time, perhaps even after spring training has completed.

It’ll be awhile before fans and writers such as myself get a feel for Hyde and what he’s about. With Showalter we seemingly knew what to expect from the beginning. But this will take some time, perhaps even after spring training has completed.

One way or the other, Hyde seems to understand the job he’s going to be taxed with doing. He said that his first order of business will be to assemble a coaching staff, and then to learn the roster a bit. So yes, he’s as green as green can be. And that might well be precisely what the Orioles want.

Baltimore Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

The Baltimore Orioles have added a veteran infielder in Alcides Escobar. They dined him yesterday to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. If he makes the O’s he would be in line to make $700,000.

You can look at this as a low-level signing, although Escobar could compete for the shortstop position. Escobar is an 11-year big league veteran, most recently with the Kansas City Royals. He’s a career .258 hitter, it doesn’t have much power. GM Mike Elias on Escobar (Quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

Alcides Escobar will add a great veteran option to the middle infield competition we have brought into this camp. We are looking forward to having him join us here in Sarasota and enter the mix.

This could be viewed as a curious move by a team that’s in full rebuild mode. However as I’ve said before, you have to have some sort of veteran presence. The O’s will look to Escobar to assist in this department.

Position players are due to report today – many are already in Sarasota. The first full team workout is tomorrow.

Baltimore Orioles: Say it ain’t so, Joe!

This year is all about change for the Baltimore Orioles. That now includes in the radio booth. The Orioles announced last this week that longtime play-by-play man Joe Angel is retiring. Angel, 71, leaves after 19 years (in three different stints) with the O’s.

It sounds as if this has been in the works for some time, with the Orioles having told Angel that they’d work to accommodate whatever schedule he wanted to work this year. If he wanted to work a reduced schedule in some manner, they wanted to make that happen. However Angel felt that the time was right to step away entirely, and called it a career.

So no longer will the Orioles be IN THE WIN COLUMN! Home runs will no longer be waved bye-bye. Angel had several catchphrases that became beloved by fans. Speaking for myself, I’ve never heard anyone offer a cross word about the guy professionally. That should mean something.

Keep in mind that no sport is as tied to radio as baseball. So replacing Angel is no short order. Orioles fans have always been spoiled in the booth, as they had Chuck Thompson, John Miller, and then later on Joe Angel. Plans to replace Angel have not yet been announced, although the first radio broadcast of the year is next Ssturday’s Grapefruit League opener against Minnesota. So an announcement might have to come in very short order.

Baltimore Orioles: Does Dylan Bundy start the Florida opener?

Last year Dylan Bundy was in effect named the Baltimore Orioles’ staff ace when he drew the Opening Day assignment. So even with this being a new day in Baltimore and so forth, does that translate into a start next Saturday afternoon against Minnesota in the Florida Grapefruit League? Here’s a follow-up; does it really matter?

My prediction is that new manager Brandon Hyde named Bundy the starter for Opening Day in New York. But again, would that mean he’d get the start in game one of spring training? Furthermore once again, does it matter?

Even the best teams don’t really use a rotation in spring training. Pitchers’ innings are actually scheduled ahead of time. Not only that, but the guys who start games may well be relievers. It could be more about seeing how a prospective reliever stacks up against the top of someone’s lineup than anything else. But again, let’s not forget that these spring games are in essence scripted.

I suppose that if Bundy gets the start in the Grapefruit League opener that does actually mean something. However again, there’s no real rotation at this stage. As teams go into the final week or so of spring training managers might start to line pitchers up in a rotation of sorts. If you’re Bundy, you’d love to get the ball in game one. But you’re probably not losing sleep if you don’t get it.

Baltimore Orioles: The buck stops with Brandon Hyde

Things are going to be different this spring for the Baltimore Orioles and their fans. This much we know. But they’ll also be different for manager Brandon Hyde, who’s going from being an assistant to now running the show.

Hyde of course has managed before, but at the minor league level. There’s a vast difference between the two roles. As the title suggests, the buck stops with him now.

The good news for Hyde is that the fact is there aren’t too many holdovers on the roster. That means fewer players who could possibly say, but we’ve always done it this way. And the players who do remain from the Showalter era (the Davis’ of the world as an example) probably aren’t the types to say that. These guys all understand that regardless of how things were done in the past, they’re now going to be done a different way.

But I would also remind fans to be patient with Brandon Hyde. We’ve all started new jobs before, and we know the butterflies that comes with that at first. There’s nobody who’s more aware of the fact that he’s the new guy than Brandon Hyde. Mistakes will be made – especially at first. The good news is that the first 30+ games or so (Florida Grapefruit League schedule) don’t count!

Baltimore Orioles: Pitchers and catchers report today!

Today’s the day to which Baltimore Orioles fans have looked forward for some time. Pitchers and catchers report to the Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota today. Their first workouts will take place tomorrow. The first full squad workout will take place on February 18th.

This is merely the first step in a series of events that will take place, culminating in Opening Day. The Orioles yesterday signed outfielder Eric Young to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. It’s unclear where Young will fit in, if at all. But an invite to spring training means he’ll get an opportunity to compete for a job. That’s all anyone can ask.

This will be an interesting camp in the sense that it’ll be Brandon Hyde‘s first as a manager. Not just his first as manager of the O’s, but his first as a manager overall. It’ll be interesting to see how he runs his camp, and gets the team into game shape.

Fans will have their first opportunity to find out the answer to those questions in a week-and-a-half. Opening Day in the Florida Grapefruit League is Saturday, February 23rd against Minnesota!

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