Baltimore Orioles add exhibition game at the Naval Academy

The Baltimore Orioles announced yesterday that they’ve added an exhibition game to the end of the schedule. They’re slated to play the NY Mets on Tuesday, March 26th at 2 PM. The game will be held at the Naval Academy, and by broadcast on the Orioles Radio Network.

The Birds will play the NY Mets the day prior as well in their Sarasota finale. This game will count towards the Grapefruit League “standings” – for what that’s worth. The O’s open the season two days later on March 26th against the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Two years ago the Washington Nationals “hosted” a final exhibition game against Boston at the Naval Academy. The Orioles stepped in however and ensured that they would be the only team allowed to do so again, as Anne Arundel County is located within Baltimore’s television market. The Birds did some outreach last year at the Naval Academy prior to the regular season starting, and now this.

The Orioles also announced that Chandler Shepherd will get the start in tomorrow’s exhibition opener at Atlanta. I have to admit, I didn’t see that one coming. Shepherd ironically started the regular season finale last year against Boston at Fenway Park. He’s only expected to pitch a couple of innings tomorrow, but he gets the start. Still no word on who starts Sunday at home against Boston.

Baltimore Orioles: How crisis' are handled does matter

Along with the rest of MLB, the Baltimore Orioles have to be looking towards West Palm Beach where the Houston Astros train while shaking their heads. Not only because of what they were doing in terms of the cheating scandal. But how they’ve handled it since the news of it brok. How one handles a situation can often begin to take on a life all of it’s own in cases like this. Needless to say with Houston, that’s what’s happening.

First off, when Houston won the 2017 World Series there’s not a fan across baseball that wasn’t happy for them. They had rebuilt their organization from the ground up. It appeared they had done it the right way, and that they had succeeded. Save for the fact that they cheated, that may well have been true.

But the players came across as less than humble about their success. They were loud and proud about the fact that they were the champions. Some people might not have an issue with that per se, however when it later comes out that you were cheating…yeah you’re going to get some blow back when you were less-than-gracious winners to begin with.

But it goes well beyond that. Players have come off as less than contrite when talking about this matter. And that’s a real problem. ALL PLAYERS from the 2017 squad should be counting their blessings that they got immunity. Instead, in their minds they seem to have done nothing wrong. That’s a major problem.

Each time they speak on the matter they put their foots further and further into their mouths. We’re supposed to believe that someone’s wife just didn’t want him taking his shirt off? And then we’re later supposed to believe that he had a bad tattoo he didn’t want shown? We’re just supposed to accept that?

This story isn’t going away. People are still talking about the 1919 Black Sox scandal, they’re still talking about gambling in baseball, and they’re still talking about PED’s. This isn’t going away. But engaging in self-preservation tactics such as excuse-making isn’t going to make it go away faster. It’s going to keep it in the national discussion.

The moral of this story is that organizations need to engage in proper damage-control when things like this happen. Because if you don’t, the poor manner in which the situation is handled will blow right up in your face.

Baltimore Orioles: Who starts on Sunday?

Many fans will want to know who gets the ball in the Baltimore Orioles’ spring opener on Saturday against Atlanta. And for sure, it’ll mean something when manager Brandon Hyde tells us who it’s going to be. That will happen sometime between now and Saturday!

But keep in mind that many starters and/or regular players don’t play in road games during spring. At least not until the end of the spring. So whether Saturday gives us a fair representation of who might be in the rotation might be tough to gauge.

That’s why Orioles fans should be more in tuned with who starts on Sunday afternoon against Boston. That’ll be the “home opener” in Sarasota for the Birds. And generally the regulars will play in the home games. So it stands to reason that whomever gets that assignment might be looking to be in the rotation.

Baltimore Orioles: Presidential First Pitches

The Baltimore Orioles will open the season on March 26th at home against NY. The rest of the league opens that day as well, and we’ll see first pitch ceremonies across baseball that day. But as of right now, to my knowledge, there’ll be one guy specifically NOT throwing a first pitch: President Donald Trump.

This is one of my favorite repeat or annual columns that I write. I do a variation of it every year on President’s Day. There’s no sport in America which has the relationship with the White House that Major League Baseball has. And in large part, that’s due to baseball being America’s Pastime. It was our only sport of consequence for some time.

But it’s also due to the fact that in 1910, President William Howard Taft was invited to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day for the Washington Senators. And the tradition stuck. President Barack Obama commemorated the 100th anniversary of Presidential First Pitches in 2010 on Opening Day at Nationals Park.

Generally these Presidential First Pitches come on Opening Day or in the World Series. Obviously one of the most famous was in 2001 when President George W. Bush threw out the first ball in the World Series after 9/11 in New York. But there are plenty of other notable times a President has thrown out the first ball.

President Calvin Coolidge did the honors on numerous occasions. Ironically however “Silent Cal” wasn’t a huge baseball fan. Instead it was his wife who followed the sport, but he appreciated the opportunity to take her out to the ballgame every year. In 1940 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first pitch (on Opening Day at Griffith Stadium in Washington DC) hit a Washington Post camera. Roosevelt was President for 12+ years, and he did the honors many times. He just had poor aim!

President Harry Truman, being ambidextrous, threw two balls in 1950 – one right and one left-handed. President John F. Kennedy also opened the 1962 season by throwing out the first ball at the new DC Stadium. Ironically, it would be renamed years later for the President’s slain brother, and is still known today as RFK Stadium.

President Richard M. Nixon, in the absence of baseball in Washington, took the tradition to the west coast in 1973 and did the honors in Anaheim. Finally in 1979, the tradition came to Baltimore. President Jimmy Carter threw out the first pitch in the 1979 World Series at Memorial Stadium. President Ronald Reagan came to town in 1984 for and did the honors, although not on Opening Day. President Reagan was also the first President to throw the pitch from the field. Previously Presidents would sit in the first row near the home dugout, and throw the ball to the catcher from there.

President George H.W. Bush came to Memorial Stadium in 1989 for Opening Day, and he returned later in his term with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip. I remember that well, as they sat in a suite during the game and got to meet players and coaches from both the Orioles and Oakland A’s. I recall in the lead up to the game people were wondering if the Queen would eat a hot dog, requiring her to remove her white gloves. President Bush also came to Camden Yards for the inaugural first pitch on Opening Day in 1992.

The last President to do these honors in Baltimore was President Bill Clinton. He came to Camden Yards twice, most recently in 1996. However baseball returned to Washington in 2005, all but guaranteeing that future Presidents would most probably a throw out first pitches exclusively at Nationals Park. George W. Bush did so twice, and Barack Obama once.

Which brings us back to President Trump. I’m not naive, folks. I’m aware of the controversy surrounding this President. I have strong views on the situation, which I choose not to share in this column. But this is a fun, and non-partisan tradition. I wish it would continue.

Especially for a guy like Donald Trump, who apparently had a tryout with the Philadelphia Phillies. It nevertheless, I’m of the opinion that the President should throw out the first ball on Opening Day in Washington DC every year. Trump did attend a World Series game in DC last October, but didn’t throw a pitch. I call on the Washington Nationals organization, and the White House to make this happen. In closing I’ll say it again (and I always close this column in this manner): The President of the United States should throw out the first ball in Washington DC on Opening Day EVERY YEAR.

Baltimore Orioles: Flu bug biting the Birds

One thing that manager Brandon Hyde had learned about managing the Baltimore Orioles is how precarious guys’ health can be. And I’m not talking about labrums, quads, knees, etc. I’m talking the flu.

Pitchers and catchers reported last week, and sure enough so did the flu bug. All it takes is one guy to have something, and suddenly the entire clubhouse is at risk. All the Orioles can really do is send guys home when they’re taken ill. And that’s exactly what they do.

However the problem is that with any virus you’re at your most contagious in the 24 hours before you show symptoms. So you could be exposing other guys and not know it. Kind of a big issue.

This happens to almost every team on an annual basis. Last year it happened to the O’s in April – during the regular season. That’s certainly worse than having it happen now. It just goes to show you that players aren’t superhuman. They’re just as susceptible to germs and virus’ as you and I.

Baltimore Orioles sign Tommy Milone

The Baltimore Orioles have made what appears to be a minor signing, but one that could have implications for the 2020 season. They signed LHP Tommy Milone to a minor league deal. The contract also comes with an invitation to spring training.

Milone, 33, made his debut with Washington in 2011, and has pitched for six teams since then. He has a career 4.47 ERA, and a record of 50-47. Now a veteran, Milone has primarily been a reliever the past couple of seasons after being a starting pitcher before that.

My understanding is that the Orioles are going to attempt to work Milone out as a potential starter. And why not, given that he’s started before, and he isn’t costing them too much money. And on a minor league deal at that.

But Milone has the potential to be a veteran back-of-the-rotation presence who could eat some innings. A guy to whom perhaps the Means’ of the world could look for guidance. The rotation is the biggest question mark for this organization going into Grapefruit League play, so if Milone can step up and look good in spring outings he has a real shot at breaking camp as a starter for the Orioles.

Baltimore Orioles: MASN to air seven spring games

Baltimore Orioles’ fans are in luck if they want to get an early look at the team. As per usual, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) will be airing seven spring training games in 2020. Whatever your reason for tuning in, be it to see the regulars gearing up for the season or to see the future of the team, I suggest you tune in.

The seven games aired by MASN are as follows:

  • February 23rd vs. Boston (1 PM)
  • February 26th vs. Atlanta (1 PM)
  • March 2nd vs. Tampa (1 PM)
  • March 8th vs. NYY (1 PM)
  • March 12th vs. Toronto (1 PM)
  • March 20th vs. Boston (6 PM)
  • March 22nd vs. Philadelphia (1 PM)

That first game against Boston of course is the Orioles’ home opener in Sarasota. There might be other games that are aired on television in the sense of them being picked up by ESPN or MLB Network. But that remains to be seen. The Orioles presumably will also have a slate of games air on the radio, and we’ll report on that list as soon as we get it.

Baltimore Orioles: More comes out on Houston

As the Baltimore Orioles gather in Sarasota for their preliminary workouts, the baseball world’s eyes are once again on Houston. As time is going on, it appears that the cheating scandal is getting worse and worse. Yesterday we heard alleges of the cheating continuing past 2017, and that it went back well before that year as well.

As we know, Major League Baseball already handed down it’s punishments to Houston. But could there be more on the way? The players presumably were given immunity from punishment, and I believe that regardless of anything else the league should honor it’s commitment. (Legally they might have no choice.) But could this change things?

If in fact it turns out that the cheating continued past 2017, perhaps there’s some leeway. The league may well be able to hand down suspensions because in theory the players were only talking about 2017 in terms of the immunity. Maybe what happened after 2017 is still free game.

It sounds like a lot more people knew what was going on than we initially though. And the fact is that the league’s been under pressure by more and more fans to issue further discipline. Again, I don’f favor that per se. But if the scandal went further than previously though, I think that does make a difference.

Baltimore Orioles' pitchers and catchers report amidst potential playoff changes

Today Baltimore Orioles’ fans can utter one of the most beautiful phrases in the English language: pitchers and catchers report! Many of them, along with many position players, are probably already in Sarasota working out. But today’s the drop dead report date. It all begins today.

I’ve said this before, but all this week pitchers and catchers will work out at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. Early next week position players will have to have reported, and Grapefruit League play begins next Saturday, February 22nd. The Orioles will open the home portion of the schedule on Sunday, February 23rd in Sarasota against Boston.

One thing to watch between now and then is who gets the start, specifically in that home opener. It’s understood that the “road opener” might have a different roster set for the game, however who starts that home game might give us some insight as to who’s looking to burst into the rotation. Or where someone stands in the rotation. Regardless, I’d only look for the starter to go two innings or so. Nothing major.

Pitchers and catchers report however after a report that came from the NY Post yesterday saying that commissioner Rob Manfred is considering the concept of changing the postseason structure. Before I go into the proposed changes, I want to mention that I like the way it is now. I liked the addition of the second wild card team, because I felt that the wild card games put more onus on winning the divisions. And over the years those wild card games were usually very compelling. 2019 was no exception.

However the new alleged proposal would scrap the wild card games, and expand the playoffs to seven teams in each league. The top seed would get a bye, and the divisional series’ would be a best-of-three (at the same ballpark). Here’s the kicker: the highest possible seed would get to pick their opponent.

Let me state for the record, I’m against this. It’s unfathomable to me that a team should get to choose which opponent they’ll get to play. This isn’t a schoolyard kickball game whereby captains pick teams. I think this would be a big mistake.

Baseball’s a game that always has been and should always be about tradition. You don’t get to pick your opponent – that’s ludicrous. And expanding the playoffs? This shouldn’t be the NBA or the NHL where half the league gets into the post season. That’s just not how baseball’s supposed to work. But I’d gladly let more teams in it meant avoiding teams picking their opponents.

This is an obvious attempt by the league to spice up the post season and make things more interesting for casual fans. And as a purist, I resent that. You don’t spit at your base customers just to draw in casual customers. We’ll see where this goes, but hopefully it’s nowhere.

Baltimore Orioles: Calm before the storm

One might argue that today’s the final day of the off season for the Baltimore Orioles. I wouldn’t go quite that far. However it is the last day before we start getting real Orioles’ news coming out of camp.

This because pitcher’s and catchers report tomorrow. Again, one of the best phrases that can be uttered in the English language. It means that baseball season is in the process of beginning. And it means that once again, hope springs anew and eternal.

It’ll be interesting to see what the early camp battles are this year, and how things fall at the end. Many of the players are already at the Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota, but tomorrow is the date that they’re required there – pitchers, catchers, and injured players.

All roster players and invites will have to report by early next week, and Grapefruit League play begins next Saturday (February 22nd). I’ll only mention this about 100 more times before the midway point of camp, but just keep in mind that the pitchers will be ahead of the hitters for the first half of camp. This because they’ve been there working out for an extra week.

Furthermore, the spring games are supposed to help coaches decides who’s on the team, and for regular players to get their timing back. So if you see guys flailing at balls and so forth, that’s the reason why. These games are designed to help them get that out of their system.

Baltimore Orioles: What makes for a good camp?

Pitchers and catchers are due to report for the Baltimore Orioles in Tuesday. That’s the day after tomorrow. Many players are already in camp and working out, but nevertheless Tuesday’s the report date.

What will make Spring Training 2020 a success? Well first off I’ll tell you what WON’T define it’s success or failure. That would be wins and losses. While you want to look crisp in games, the team’s spring record should be viewed as irrelevant. It’s more about how the team looks than it is the final score.

But what I just said above will decide the success or failure of this year’s camp. As I said, you want to look crisp in games. It’s more about training for the season and looking in mid-season form – for now. If the Orioles look and play the part, it’ll have been a good camp.

So as we progress from pitchers and catchers reporting, to full squad workouts, and into games, keep that in mind. If the presumed starters look great in a game that ends up being a loss because a minor league farmhand blew the lead late, that’s still a good day. Ultimately, you play like you practice. So practice as if it’s for real.

Baltimore Orioles' GM Mike Elias will not be implicated in cheating scandal

Baltimore Orioles’ GM Mike Elias was a guest on Baltimore’s 105.7
“the fan” (WJZ-FM) earlier this week, and he spoke to Dan Connolly of The Athletic. In both interviews, the topic of the Houston Astros and the ongoing cheating scandal came up. Elias of course was the former Asst. GM in Houston. Elias on his role there:

But I have said, and I will say, that my role there was running the minor leagues, running the international scouting, running the draft. And I was very focused on it. I’ll leave it at that

Quote courtesy of Dan Connolly, The Athletic

In short, Elias is saying, it wasn’t me. However MLB’s investigation found similar things to what Elias is saying. Now he was also silent on whether he knew what was going on. Odds are he would be subject to the league’s discipline had he said he knew it was happening. And obviously did nothing.

However this should put some Orioles’ fans minds at ease. The league has bigger fish to fry than Mike Elias, and they aren’t going to hand him out to dry just because he’s now a GM and he was there in Houston at that time. Elias also said that the Orioles would be doing things the “right way,” so again fans should be at ease that the franchise isn’t doing something that could come up later on and be investigated.

Baltimore Orioles: Where does Chris Davis fit?

We heard a lot about Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles this off season. Some reports had him changing his workout regiment, and some had him keeping it the same. I would argue that he should change something up given his results the past few years.

But that aside, what are the Orioles’ plans for Davis in 2020? I’ll throw in the fact that there’s always the chance that he could be traded (including this year he has three seasons left on his contract). I think that’s really a long shot at best, but anything’s possible. He’s still a reliable glove at first base; if a team loses it’s first baseman to injury or something along those lines…as I said, anything’s possible.

But assuming he remains an Oriole, they have to have an idea of how they’re going to use him. Last year he didn’t play everyday, however needless to say he was still a “regular” player. Again, he’s a good defensive first baseman. That does mean something.

However the O’s would like to see more production at the plate. And keep in mind, if Davis does get hold of a pitch, it can still travel a long way. However I think at this point the Orioles would take him just hitting over the Mendoza Line. But it’ll be interesting to see how often he’s in the lineup during Spring Training, and at which position.

Baltimore Orioles: Reactions to the Mookie Betts trade

As I said yesterday, Baltimore Orioles’ fans should be thrilled that the likes of Mookie Betts and David Price are out of the AL East. However up I-95 in Boston, the reaction has been significantly different. And that’s to be expected.

I’m a little intrigued to see that a lot of Boston fans are shocked and appalled at the fact that Betts was traded. The guy’s in the final year of his contract, and they had obviously reached an impasse on a new deal. So they wanted to get something for him, and get under the luxury tax at the same time. Not to mention the potential loss of draft picks that are coming. This gives them some young talent.

But the reaction from Boston fans has been very negative. And that surprises me in a sense. This is a franchise that for years has bought other teams’ talent in the same manner that they just sold off Mookie Betts. People have no problem pointing out that it’s a business decision when it’s Miami, Milwaukee, or even the Orioles selling off their assets. But when the shoe’s on the other foot…things appear a bit different.

Again, from the Orioles perspective this is a good thing. Boston’s still a good team, but Betts himself carried them over the Orioles over a long period of time. It leaves a hole in their lineup, that will have reverberations up and down. Does this mean the Orioles are headed to the post season this year because of this? Let’s not get crazy. But maybe they’re good for one or two more wins over a division rival this season.

Baltimore Orioles: The road gets slightly easier

Mookie Betts hit .297 against the Baltimore Orioles (for Boston) last year. Now the Birds won’t have to worry about him again for the most part. Betts and starting pitcher David Price were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers late last night. It was a three-way trade, also involving Minnesota – who sent a top pitching prospect to Boston.

There’s irony in the fact that Boston appears to be unloading salary. This trade gets them under the luxury tax. For years they’ve feasted off of teams who couldn’t afford to keep their talent. Now things are different.

Having said that, I suspect this has more to do with the potential punishments the franchise might face due to the cheating scandal. They probably recognize this, and are proactively re-stocking their farm system. Which to be frank is probably a smart thing.

However having these two players out of the AL East will benefit everyone – including the Orioles. Betts has traditionally played some of his best games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. And Price has been an ace. Nobody mourns their loss across the division.

Baltimore Orioles set 2020 promotional schedule

You know we’re taking a turn towards home in terms of the offseason when the Baltimore Orioles release their promotional schedule for the upcoming season. That happened yesterday, and the Birds have once again stockpiled lots of different promotions for fans of all ages. And that’s a good thing.

The fun begins on Opening Day, March 26th against the New York Yankees. All fans in attendance will receive a 2020 season magnet schedule. Overall, the Orioles will have six Friday Fireworks games. Those games will also be featuring “women of country music.” There will also be 26 gate giveaways, 5 bobbleheads, six rooftop sessions (pregame), four t-shirt giveaways, two post-game concerts, 12 “kids run the bases” (Sundays), and two jersey giveaways.

All promotions and giveaways can be found by clicking here. I tell people all the time that baseball has the best giveaways. Occasionally other sports will do similar things, but not as often as baseball teams. And that’s due in part to the fact that there are so many games in all. It draws people to the ballpark.

No word yet on whether the O’s will be re-upping the promotion where you can bring two kids under nine for free, however I would hope it’s something that continues. While I don’t think it’s gotten the amount of play the past two years that it could have, I think it’s an important element to the current rebuild. It gives parents more incentive to bring their kids to the ballpark. You really can’t go wrong.

Baltimore Orioles: From the sandlot to a Super Bowl MVP

The Baltimore Orioles could have just as easily been facing Super Bowl MVP, Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes, son of former major leaguer Pat Mahomes, was drafted by the Detroit Tigers. Being the son of a big league baseball player, he grew up around the game, played it, and loved it.

However luckily for football fans, he loved football more. Mahomes and his Kansas City Chiefs of course won Super Bowl 54 last night in Miami. However again, he just as easily could have been playing major league baseball.

Mahomes is also the Godson of former Oriole LaTroy Hawkins, who played with his father Pat. However that aside, congratulations to Mahomes and his Kansas City Chiefs – and their fans. It’s a well-deserved honor to a great team. And…pitchers and catchers report a week from tomorrow.

Baltimore Orioles DFA Stevie Wilkerson

The Baltimore Orioles yesterday claimed Travis Lakins off of waivers from the Chicago Cubs. Larkins is a right-handed relief pitcher. I would expect him to compete for a bullpen job this spring.

Unfortunately for the O’s, this move came at a price. They had to designate utilityman Stevie Wilkerson for assignment. Now with that said, he could certainly remain with the organization if he clears waivers. He would need to do that, and then accept a minor league assignment.

And that’s exactly what happened last season. Whether it would happen again in 2020 is another story. Wilkerson happily did everything and anything that was asked of him last year. He played almost every position, including spot reliever. And on the final day of the season he made a dramatic catch in the grandstand at Fenway Park that made a late case for catch of the year.

Notice I said in the grandstand at Fenway Park. He threw his body all out to make the play. He’s a good guy to have on your roster, and one I’m sure that the Orioles would welcome back with open arms if they have the opportunity. But first thing’s first – he has to clear waivers.

As for Lakins, as I said I suspect he’ll have the opportunity to compete for a bullpen role. You can never have too much pitching for sure, however this comes at a price, as I said. Hopefully it works out.

Baltimore Orioles: Ten years in Sarasota

Baltimore Orioles’ pitchers and catchers are set to report to Sarasota in just over two weeks. I can feel the excitement out there. In fact, pitchers and catchers report is one of the finest phrases in the English language.

That aside, this will be the tenth year that pitchers and catchers (and eventually position players) will be reporting to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. The Orioles first moved there from Fort Lauderdale in 2010. When they first arrived the stadium and complex was showing it’s age, although it was light years better than their former facility in Fort Lauderdale. But how quickly things progressed…

…the Orioles almost immediately (after that first season at Ed Smith) started pumping money into the ballpark and the complex. They also invested big time in the Sarasota community. And that’s something that’s truly paid dividends for the Orioles, as Sarasota’s really embraced them. Sarasota’s as much a part of Birdland as downtown Baltimore.

Once the team breaks camp and vacates the park after spring training, the Gulf Coast Orioles move in and make Ed Smith Stadium their home during the Gulf Coast season. As I said, the Birds invested in Sarasota big time ten years ago. And that’s continued. Furthermore as a result, Ed Smith Stadium is considered one of the premier spring training facilities in baseball.

Put it this way – when the O’s trained in Fort Lauderdale, it was getting to the point to where it was hard for them to get a schedule together because teams didn’t want to come to play them. The facilities were antiquated, and the ballpark was falling apart. Then in 2010 they made the move to Fort Lauderdale, and once they began renovating the facilities and making it into the great place it is today, they had teams lining up to come and play them. It’s been an incredible transformation.

So hats off to both the Orioles, and the Sarasota community. Both are equally invested in one another, and it shows. And they’ll celebrate the ten-year anniversary of their union this spring.

Baltimore Orioles: Did the Birds win DESPITE Buck Showalter?

Former Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter was not hired by the Houston Astros this week. That distinction instead went to Dusty Baker. This off season Showalter interviewed with Philadelphia, the NY Mets, and now Houston. None of which offered him the managerial job.

Admittedly I’m surprised and disappointed in that development. I fully expected Buck to have a job this year if he wanted one – which the act of him interviewing says that he did. There are two “knocks” on Buck however as a manager. The first is that his insistence upon attention to detail can grow cumbersome.

And that may well have occurred in Baltimore. I know that it did in other places – such as Arizona, where he apparently threw a fit about the colors of the carpet in the clubhouse not matching up perfectly with the team colors. Speaking for myself, I’m somewhat detail-oriented myself. So I don’t have an issue with a manager who’s going to cover all of his bases to a T. That’s how it should be.

The other “knock” on Buck is that he doesn’t embrace analytics. Now not having been a player, I can’t tell you how analytically-driven Buck was or was not. However everyone has to use some sort of analytical approach in baseball. It’s part of the game. Buck’s point however is that you have to still have a feel for the game. And a lot of that is being lost with analytics.

So while I personally may be on board with Buck Showalter’s old school approach as stated above, did that potentially cost him a job? Furthermore, did the Orioles of the 2010’s win DESPITE Buck not embracing new age ways of operating? My personal view is that they won partly BECAUSE of Buck. And that opinion won’t change. But what do you think?

Baltimore Orioles sign Wade LeBlanc, knuckleballer

The Baltimore Orioles yesterday signed veteran knuckleballer Wade LeBlanc to a minor league contract. He’s expected to compete for a starting job, and will be in camp in a few weeks once it starts. If he makes the Orioles, his contract would allow him to make up to $800,000.

LeBlanc made 27 starts for Seattle last year, going 9-5. He also pitched to a 5.71 ERA, which has a lot to be desired. However this is a low risk move by the Orioles, given that it’s a minor league contract. Another interesting aspect of this is that LeBlanc had other teams interested and picked the Orioles. Might that be a nod to the positive culture that’s being created?

It very well could be. I personally noticed that the O’s came together a bit during the final two months of last year. That doesn’t mean that they won more games, but they looked more like a team. So I might believe that wanting to be a part of what’s going on in Baltimore played a role. However I suspect that LeBlanc also saw an opportunity to start in the big leagues.

The real interesting thing is that he’s a knuckleballer. I think that’s something that could truly be an asset for an Orioles’ rotation that lacked depth last year. Teams will have to be wary of the fact that he’s a knuckler, and prepare for it. This of course assuming that he makes the team and the rotation in spring training.

Baltimore Orioles: How does the new bullpen rule affect the Birds?

The Baltimore Orioles and the rest of the league will have to deal with a major new rule in baseball this year that will have big time affects on games. In short, when a reliever comes into a game he’s required to pitch to a minimum of three hitters, except in cases where the inning ends. An exception is obviously made in cases where a player becomes incapacitated or injured beyond playing.

Up front, let me state that I’m not a fan of this new rule. It’s being done to assist in baseball’s quest to improve on the pace-of-play, however I’m just not in favor of legislating how and when teams can use the bullpen. But like the rule or not, it’s coming. And it’s coming this year.

So how does this affect the Birds moving into 2020? Ironically, it could make the bullpen somewhat more solid overall. I’m taking NOTHING away from a guy like Richard Bleier. Absolutely nothing. However he’s a left-handed specialist for the most part. Every team has had one up to this point. Perhaps now instead of using a lefty specialist, teams will look to just bring the eight best relievers north out of spring training.

In the specific case of Richard Bleier, he would probably still make the team. He’s also subbed as a long man in a pinch. So he may well be one of the eight best people to put into the bullpen for the O’s. But in the case of some teams that may or may not be the case. It may well shake up how bullpens are constructed.

What the rule will definitely do is change how managers call games and use their relievers. Invariably (save for injury), managers are going to know that they can’t change pitchers on a whim once they bring someone in. This will be true for the Orioles, as well as for Oriole opponents.

This meaning that if an opponent brings in a pitcher who’s having control problems that game, that’s to the Orioles’ advantage. Obviously it could also work against them as well. But time will tell – we’ll have to see how things shake down.

Baltimore Orioles: Some events cross over sports

The Baltimore Orioles yesterday joined the rest of the sports world (and the real world) in mourning the loss of former Los Angeles Laker great Kobe Bryant. As we all know, Bryant and his 13 year old daughter Gianna were tragically killed in a helicopter crash in California. Seven other people died in the accident.

This isn’t a baseball story. But as they say, some events rock the world. In fact, numerous MLB stars, including former Oriole Adam Jones, took to Twitter to mourn the loss of Bryant. Incidentally, you can draw a bit of a parallel with the tragic death of Roberto Clemente in this situation as well.

Speaking for myself, I had a “mixed relationship” with Kobe as a fan. And I say that in the sense that I never would have doubted his talent, nor would I have disagreed with the statement that he defined a generation of the NBA. However in my mind he was taking the place of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson. And I wasn’t okay with that! However he proved that he belonged in the same sentence with those guys, and he proved to be the absolute best ambassador to the game of his era. His loss will be felt throughout basketball, and the entire sports world.

And was eleven years old in 1992 when the Dream Team won Olympic Gold. But USA basketball was in steady decline from that point onward. Kobe Bryant was on the team that restored Olympic Gold to Team USA. And he did it twice. So speaking for myself I’ll always remember and appreciate that.

At the end of the day, however, alone Bryant was someone’s husband, father, and son. His family is more affected by this than anyone. My thoughts are certainly with them, and with all who knew and loved the late Kobe and Gianna Bryant.

Baltimore Orioles: Does MLB’s All-Star game need re-tooling?

Spring Training workouts start for the Baltimore Orioles’ pitchers and catchers in just over two weeks. That means that Super Bowl Sunday is next weekend. And…the NFL’s Pro Bowl is today. Whoop-dee-flippin’-doo.

It’s by far the worst of all of the sports’ all-star games. I log all of ten minutes with it every year. However for better or for worse, the NFL has, in fact, re-done the way it’s being done over the years. It used to be the weekend AFTER the Super Bowl, and always in Hawaii. Now it’s the weekend before the Super Bowl, and the location varies.

Today’s game is in Orlando, FL, and it’ll have a distinctly Baltimore flavor. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and his staff will be coaching the AFC team. For what that’s worth.

With that said, should MLB consider taking a page out of the NFL’s book and consider re-tooling the All-Star Game? I’m not even sure what could be done, as the venue itself rotates around already. (This year’s game will be at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.) But would more people pay attention to what’s in essence an exhibition?

My answer is that there are two very minor things they could change. The first would be doing what the NBA and NHL do and play the game over a weekend. Now the schedule’s set up so that the game’s on a Tuesday and the season resumes on Friday, but they could remedy that also. Ratings might be better for a Saturday night game.

The other thing would be to move the game back closer to the midpoint of the season. It’s unclear to me as to why the league moved the ASG to the middle of July, which is well into the statistical second half of the year. Granted every team’s different in terms of when their games fall, but ideally they’d have the ASG when most teams had played between 80-84 games.

But other than that, speaking for myself I can’t think of anything else that could be changed. Or that needs to be changed. What are your thoughts?

Baltimore Orioles: Sort of an apology for cheating

The Baltimore Orioles and the rest of Major League Baseball finally got a apology for the cheating scandal from a player from the Houston Astros. Sort of…kind of. Pitcher Dallas Keuchel, now a member of the Chicago White Sox, stepped up and apologized for the actions of his former team. A pitcher. Consider that.

If anything the vibe from the current Astros has been that they’re getting unnecessary scorn. But it took a pitcher, someone who would have never benefited from his teammates’ cheating antics, to apologize. In reality, all Keuchel’s guilty of is not speaking up.

For the record, Astros’ owner Jim Crane has indicated that the franchise will be getting together during spring training and issuing a strongly-worded apology. But it should act as further embarrassment for this group that the only guy who’s had the decency to say anything about being sorry for what happened is a guy who never benefited from the situation. And at that, one who no longer is with the organization.

Meanwhile, the Astros tweeted out a few celebratory tweets touting their players’ accomplishments during the 2019 season. It’s shocking to me how tone deaf people can be. Baseball’s a game of humble men. That attitude spits in the very face of that, which is part of the reason why the league came down so hard on the Houston Astros.

Baltimore Orioles: Minor leauge signings

The Baltimore Orioles yesterday signed RHP Brady Rogers and catcher Taylor Davis to minor league contracts. Both are expected to get invites to spring training. And I would suspect that both have a shot at making the big league roster depending on how that goes.

Rogers was drafted by Houston (when current Orioles’ GM Mike Elias was there) in 2012, and appeared on the way to having a decent big league career. However he was derailed by Tommy Johns surgery in 2017, and was never really able to regain his form. Obviously this is a low-risk move for an Orioles’ franchise who needs to stockpile pitching.

Davis was signed by the Chicago Cubs in July of 2011 as a non-drafted free agent. A career .235 hitter in the minors, he’s apparently very good at framing pitches. He’ll join a large group of catchers looking to break camp in the major leagues with the Birds. Thus catcher will be an important position battle to watch as Grapefruit League play goes along.

Baltimore Orioles to begin Birdland Caravan

The Baltimore Orioles had to come up with a new way to connect with fans after scraping FanFest this year. They had the inaugural “Winter Warm-up” at Camden Yards in December, which seemed like a great event other than the fact that it was on Eutaw Street and it rained. But now we know what the other part of the plan is going to be.

The O’s will be hosting the first ever Birdland Caravan next month. In essence, players, coaches, and alumni will be venturing out into the community over a three-day period, hosting a series of Happy Hours for fans. The official release and the schedule of events is available by clicking here.

Other franchises do this sort of thing, and I think it could be a nice event to attend. Specifically, my understanding is that the February 7th event at the Green Turtle in White Marsh includes a guest bartending feature. So if you’ve ever wanted to get a martini from an Orioles’ player or coach, there’s your chance!

However this all falls under community outreach, and it’s a good thing. You’ll notice that none of the events on the docket are actually in Baltimore. They’re in surrounding suburbs and across the Old Line State. As opposed to FanFest or Winter Warm-up, this event is about the Orioles coming to you.

Baltimore Orioles: How often to play starters this spring?

Baltimore Orioles’ pitchers and catchers are due to report to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota for Spring Training three weeks from yesterday (February 11th). It’s going to happen – ready or not! Roughly a week later position players will be due to report, and February 22nd is the Grapefruit League opener on the road against the Atlanta Braves.

What will the lineup look like that day for the Orioles? Which players get the plush travel assignment that morning from manager Brandon Hyde, and get to play “on the road” against Atlanta? How often veterans or starters find themselves wearing gray during the spring is always an interesting topic.

I would submit that Oriole “regulars” should be seeing as much time as possible in these spring games. This is a very important spring training for the O’s, as they want to make some strides this year. And it all starts in the spring.

It’s a tough line to walk at times because Brandon Hyde will also want to get a look at some younger players, and some minor leaguers. And you do have to be fair to those guys about getting them into games and giving them time to develop. However the “regulars” could also benefit from appearing in an additional game or two above the slate of home games at Ed Smith Stadium.

This isn’t to say that the regulars get the day off when the team’s on the road and they aren’t on the travel roster. They stay behind at the complex, work out, take batting practice, etc. It’s still very much a full work day for them. But nothing beats live games.

Baltimore Orioles: Adley Rutschman get spring training invite

The Baltimore Orioles are giving their top prospect from last year’s draft, Adley Rutschman, an invite to big league spring training. That means that anyone who makes the trek down to Sarasota for Florida Grapefruit League games starting next month will potentially get a look at Rutschman.

Fans shouldn’t let this get their hopes up to see Rutschman in the big leagues this year. The Orioles would be foolish to bring Rutschman to the big leagues in 2020. It’s impossible that he’s ready for that. Seasoning a prospect does in fact take time.

But we will see him in major league games during the spring. I would expect him to be on travel rosters as the spring goes on, meaning he’ll be facing some big league pitching. I’d also expect to see him as a defensive replacement in home games at Ed Smith Stadium, giving the home fans a chance to see him play. Again however, don’t be shocked when he’s cut and goes down to minor league camp. This is just a chance for him to get his beak wet.

Baltimore Orioles: MLB Handled the Houston scandal properly

Baltimore Orioles’ fans and fans of other teams across the league are increasingly more angry at MLB commissioner Rob Manfred regarding the Houston Astros’ cheating scandale. Many people are saying that the players should be punished for their transgressions. They’re right about that – but so is the commissioner in terms of how this was handled.

The players should absolutely face discipline. However while this hasn’t been confirmed, it’s presumed that all 69 players that were interviewed were granted immunity by Commissioner Manfred. Again this is assumed, however if immunity was granted one would be led to believe that it was done in writing.

So given the outrage that exists, if Commissioner Manfred went back on his word and issued discipline to players, he would be putting the league at legal risk. And it would be an open-and-shut case. So then people demand to know why immunity was granted in the first place. The answer is fairly easy…

…the league would have never cracked the case the way that it did had there been no testimony from players. And the only way the commissioner could get the players to talk was through a promise of immunity. It’s all very much a Catch-22 in a sense.

But there’s another reason that giving immunity to the players was the right thing to do. Commissioner Manfred undoubtedly saw how things spiraled out of control during the NFL’s Bountygate scandal. Suspending the coaches and executives involved isn’t privy to an appeal. When NFL players were suspended for their roles in that scandal, the union got involved and it turned into a mess.

So the immunity situation aside, Manfred didn’t want to be in a situation where he was suspending multiple players and having the MLBPA get involved in appeals among other things. They want this to go away, as well they should.

Again, Commissioner Manfred would be putting the league at legal risk if he disciplined the players at this point. Now the is an exception to this. If new evidence were to come out, or if a player or players were found to have lied, one could then argue the immunity was null and void. However as it stands now, this is just something with which fans will have to deal and accept.

Baltimore Orioles: Is Rio Ruiz the answer at third?

Rio Ruiz provided the Baltimore Orioles and their fans with the most memorable moment of the 2019 season, hitting a walk off homer to defeat the Houston Astros in August. (Evidently Houston didn’t have some elaborate cheating scheme going that day at Camden Yards. But I digress.) the big question facing him now is whether or not he’ll be the starting third baseman in 2020.

And the answer to that appears to be yes. If for no other reason, by default. He’s the main third base candidate on the roster right now. Granted that could change, but for now it’s the case. Last year Ruiz started 114 games at the hot corner. Now before people say that whatever the O’s did last year didn’t work, keep in mind that they’re a rebuilding team. They’re trying to find their way.

Incidentally, Ruiz also fielded at a 9.69 clip at third last year. There’s room for improvement, but that means that almost 97% of the time Ruiz wasn’t committing an error. Most teams will take that.

Offense is Ruiz’s bugaboo in a sense. He only hit .232 last year. And he’s struggled at the plate for much of his short career. The Orioles would like to see more production out of that spot in the lineup.

However again, I suspect that Ruiz will be the starting third baseman in Sarasota, and on Opening Day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. This barring a free agent signing or a trade.

Baltimore Orioles: Did MLB crackdown on cheating for more than one reason?

Commissioner Rob Manfred put the Baltimore Orioles and the rest of MLB on notice with his penalties to the Houston Astros this week regarding sign stealing and cheating. It’s not going to be tolerated. For the record, I agree with that, and I agree with the penalties to Houston (and eventually Boston).

However I also suspect that these penalties are being dished out for more reasons thank just the integrity of the game, per se. Professional sports, including Major League Baseball, are getting cozier and cozier with the gambling industry. I won’t get into the hypocrisy of this regarding baseball, but I’ll simply state that the fact is the league’s accepting gambling more and more.

PointsBet Sportsbook announced yesterday that any bets involving the New York Yankees, the Houston Astros, and/or the World Series in 2017 will be issued a full refund. Now while the Yankees’ sense of entitlement with 26 rings in their arsenal already does come across as smug, the fact is that anyone who placed a bet does have a legitimate gripe.

Sportsbooks are going to eventually be partners to various leagues. Heck, there are rumors that part of the new entertainment center at Nationals Park in Washington is going to be a Sportsbook. Can you imagine that? Gambling IN a big league park?

However if that’s going to become a thing, it behooves MLB to ensure that the games are fair more and more. And I suppose there’s some irony in that. Gambling helping to clean up the game. Imagine that.

Baltimore Orioles: Buck Showalter interviewed with Houston

Former Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter interviewed yesterday with the Houston Astros earlier this week for their managerial job. Showalter of course led the O’s from August of 2010 through the culmination of the 2018 season. Showalter led the O’s to their first playoff birth since 1997 in 2012, and their first division crown in as much time in 2014. His contract was not renewed at the end of 2018.

Personally I think it would be a perfect situation for Buck. It would probably be the most talented team by far that he would have inherited in his career. It’s a championship-caliber team, that will probably have a chip on it’s shoulder given the scandal which has erupted. Buck’s probably just the type of manager who would be able to put a stop to the type of antics which got Houston into this mess to begin with.

The flip side of course is the Orioles. More specifically, the Orioles’ fans. While it would be tougher to see him go to Boston because they’re in the Orioles’ division, I think it would be hard for a lot of people seeing Buck manage another team. And I’m not going to lie, you can count this non-biased writer as one of them.

While I understood why the Orioles wanted to make a clean break and go in a totally different direction after 2018, I did feel that Showalter should have had the opportunity to come back if he wanted to do so. I still feel that way. It wasn’t just the fact that he put a winning product on the field for the first time in so many years, it was that he restored pride to an organization and a city that had searched for it for so long.

That’s Buck Showalter’s legacy in Baltimore. It’s simple, but poetic. He restored pride to the Orioles. And in large part to the fans as well. He often said that he “got Baltimore.” And that’s important; it’s a city that a lot of people find difficult to “get,” for one reason or another. So would it be tough to see him in another uniform? Absolutely. But that’s how this business of baseball works sometimes.

Former Toronto manager John Gibbons is also reportedly going to interview for the job. Which direction they go is another story, but ANY organization would be lucky to have Buck Showalter at the helm. With that said, Orioles fans shouldn’t blame manager Brandon Hyde for not being Buck. Yes, personally I believe that Buck should still be here. But that’s not to say that Hyde isn’t a good guy for the job, and that he isn’t doing a decent job.

For what it’s worth, Houston comes to Camden Yards for a three-game set on Friday, June 5th. If Buck Showalter’s in the third base side visitors’ dugout, my hope is that Baltimore turns out that night and that weekend and shows it’s appreciation.

Baltimore Orioles: Could the Birds take advantage after the cheating scandal?

The Baltimore Orioles find themselves in a league with two teams that already are and/or will be guillotined due to the cheating scandal in MLB. Both Houston and Boston have fired their managers, and while the organizational discipline hasn’t come down yet on Boston, odds are it’ll be similar to what we saw with Houston. The Orioles have the additional benefit of being in the same division with Boston, a team which again is about to be handicapped for years to come.

Could this help the Orioles in 2020? Yes…it could possibly help them. But more poignantly, does it make the Orioles reconsider their strategy of not going after big ticket items? And by that, I mean via trades.

I think it’s a long shot, but there’s always a chance that GM Mike Elias in effect decides to become a buyer in a sense, and maybe makes a trade for a player currently on Houston or Boston’s roster. Again, I think this is a long shot. But it’s something to consider, and it’s something that I hope Elias would at least give some thought to doing. If not now, perhaps at the trade deadline.

Why should this effect the Orioles’ direction? Those two teams are going to be losing some top draft picks the next couple of years. That will thin out the herd in their farm systems by a country mile. So might they perhaps consider swinging a trade for a major league player right now in exchange for a prospect who could re-energize their farm system?

I suspect that both teams would hold off on doing something like that until after the season starts. They’re both still good teams with good players; odds are they aren’t about to punt the season before it starts. Now if at the deadline things aren’t going well, would it not be something they’d at least consider?

Which brings us back to the Orioles. Would they want to potentially move the rebuilding process along quicker by perhaps acquiring a great player from a championship-caliber team? That’s really a tough call. You’d be sacrificing some farm system depth for a player who probably isn’t going to help you right here and right now. But one who perhaps might have a few years left of team control and could help you to contend down the line. I can’t tell you which is the best way to proceed. But I can tell you that I think Elias would be foolish to not at least consider that option.

Baltimore Orioles: Who's managing Boston on Sunday, March 23rd?

The Baltimore Orioles open the home portion of their Florida Grapefruit League schedule on Sunday March 23, 2020 against the Boston Red Sox. It’s fairly safe to say that Brandon Hyde will be in the home dugout at Ed Smith Stadium that afternoon managing the O’s. But who’s going to be manning the third base side visitors’ dugout?

As of last night, Boston’s current manager, Alex Cora, and the BoSox “mutually agreed to part ways.” Basically, the writing was on the wall. Incidentally the league said that the investigation into the Red Sox is still ongoing, and Cora and the organization could still face penalties. If what happened to Houston is any blueprint, the Red Sox organization is about to be guillotined.

Because he figured so prominently in the Houston situation and then appeared to bring the same system to Boston, many people “in the know” are saying that discipline for Cora was going to be worse than what Hinch got in Houston. Are we talking perhaps a two-year suspension? That part’s unclear.

Many fans have openly wondered whether the tentacles of this thing could reach the Orioles given that Mike Elias and much of his staff came from Houston. Anything’s possible, folks. Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that Houston and Boston were the only teams pulling stunts like this. That would be incredibly naive and foolish.

However I tend to believe that Elias would have been suspended on Monday with the rest of the Houston personnel had he been on the league’s radar. I also tend to believe that given the fact that his name didn’t appear in the official report, odds are he’s in the clear. But you know who’s not in the clear? The Boston Red Sox.

Baltimore Orioles: You can run but you can't hide from justice

The Baltimore Orioles defeated the Houston Astros exactly once in 2017 – the year in which Houston, led by manager A.J. Hinch, won the World Series. As we know now, Houston cheated their way to that title, and kept right on cheating after winning it. Yesterday those chickens came home to roost.Major League Baseball announced that the Astros were having the following penalties levied against them:

  • One-year suspension for manager A.J. Hinch
  • One-year suspension for GM Jeff Luhnow
  • Loss of first and second round draft picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts
  • $5 million organizational fine
  • The placement of former Astros assistant GM Brandon Taubman on baseball’s ineligible list

Let me be very clear; these penalties are appropriate. When you cheat the game you do so at your own risk. You can run, but you can’t hide. And when it comes, justice is swift and sure.

And in this case justice is being handed down at a particularly sensitive time. Pitchers and catchers report in less than a month. So in essence an interim front office staff’s going to have to figure out whether it makes sense to elevate a base coach as an interim manager, or whether they should hire someone from outside instead.

Furthermore if you’re a Houston Astros’ fan, you have to think that perhaps the season’s going to be punted. Not to mention the future, with the team missing two years’ worth of first and second round picks. All of this sends a powerful message to all players when it comes to cheating. Just don’t do it.

Incidentally, within an hour of these penalties being handed down, Houston decided to fire both Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch. For what it’s worth, my understanding is that Hinch still cannot be a part of any organization this year. So even if someone wanted to hire him in some capacity this year, that would be out of the question. All the more reason not to cheat.

Baltimore Orioles: Is sports knowledge too commonplace?

The Baltimore Orioles lucked out when they hired Brandon Hyde. In him they got a good baseball man who had worked his way up the coaching ranks. And it in fact appears that he’s being given full autonomy to do what he wants to do with the team on the field.

I heard a disturbing story over the weekend regarding the Cleveland Browns (of the NFL) and their new head coach, Kevin Stefanski. First off, Stefanski’s a guy who could be seen as similar to Hyde. He’s worked his way up the coaching ranks, and now he’s getting his big break to be a head coach.

It’s almost a given that a coach in any sport who’s never been the head guy is going to take over a bad team. And the Cleveland Browns certainly qualify as a bad team (at best, underachieving). But I read an article over the weekend which stated that Stefanski was told that he’s to turn in his game plans to ownership and to the analytics department at the end of every week. Owner Jimmy Haslam and his analytics department will then go over the game plan, and presumably have the autonomy to make changes if the deem it necessary.

That’s an alleged report. However it’s consistent with some of the things I’ve heard about Haslam’s ownership tenure. And that’s an untenable situation for a head coach in any sport. To have to turn in game plans to the owner? That’s akin to a baseball owner calling pitches from his suite.

However as sports have become more and more a part of mainstream culture in America, they become more well-known. I think I know baseball pretty well – needless to say, well enough to write about it! I also think I know football and basketball pretty well. But I’m also smart enough to know that I don’t know enough about these sports to coach them at the professional level.

I suppose what I’m saying is that many people seem to believe that simply because they “know the game,” they’re good enough to know it at all levels. It appears that the Cleveland Browns have an owner who’s not only not empowering his people, but who thinks he knows the game well enough to be going over game plans. That isn’t a recipe for success.

Baltimore Orioles: Does swagger overcome skill?

Over the last decade I’ve covered some of the best Baltimore Orioles’ teams, as well as the worst. For the record, the worst team was probably the 2018 O’s. And that still has me scratching my head, incidentally. But the best? The 2014 AL East Champion Orioles.

About that 2014 team…in my view they were the best in baseball that year. Hands down. Justifiably, that should have been the franchise’s fourth World Series Championship. Not only were they a championship-caliber team, but they handled themselves as true professionals. As only a true Buck Showalter-led team can be.

The O’s of course were tripped up in the ALCS by a Kansas City Royals team that was on a mission. Professionalism was put on the back burner by that group, as their only focus was winning the game. And win they did. Again, I personally believe that the O’s were the best team in baseball that year. Yet a team with swagger, confidence, and joie de vivre defeated this power-hitting team by way of broken bat singles and hunts. The Birds were paper cut to death.

When I watched last night’s Ravens’ playoff game against Tennessee, I had flashbacks to that ALCS. Once again, Baltimore was the better team – on paper. Once again, you had an opponent who came in with a lot of momentum and a lot of swagger. And they somehow defeated a Baltimore team that they shouldn’t have. And if you look at Tennessee’s offensive numbers last night, they kind of paper cut the Ravens to death. (Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for 88 yards last night – and two touchdowns.)

So…does swagger outdo skill? If you take the 2014 Orioles (and Royals) and the 2019 Ravens (and Titans), perhaps it does. Heck, look at the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles defeating the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Did anyone other than Philadelphia see that coming?

Look at a team near and dear to my heart, the current Maryland Terrapins’ basketball team. This is a team that’s loaded with talent. They were outdone the other night by an Iowa team that had noticeably less talent. But which did have swagger. The same is true of the Terps’ loss earlier in the season against Penn State.

This isn’t a recent phenomenon, incidentally. The 1969 NY Jets famously defeated the Baltimore Colts in the Super Bowl. You see the same thing there. A great team was beaten by a team less-skilled team who simply believed they could shove it down their opponents’ throats.

So if swagger wins games, why isn’t every team full of it? I’m not sure it’s quite that simple. You have to play with swagger and live with it. All of the teams I’ve mentioned totally threw caution to the wind. They so hated the concept of losing, they became unafraid of it. Outwardly that makes little sense, but again consider the 2014 Royals. If you look at the determination they had in their eyes to win, it almost looks like the Orioles were playing not to lose. The same is true of the Titans last night.

This attitude is merciless to opponents. Again, any break the Royals and Titans caught in games, they exploited. And they weren’t shy about tell you. Again, it’s too easy to suggest that anyone who believes he’s going to win and is willing to take risks will do so. But maybe there’s something to be said for confidence. Obviously, however, skill means something also.

Baltimore Orioles to no show at arbitration this year

The Baltimore Orioles won’t be going to arbitration this year. At all. And that’s a good thing for everyone involved.

The Birds yesterday reached salary contract agreements with their remaining three arbitration-eligible players, Trey Mancini, Hanser Alberto, and Mychal Givens. Givens signed for $3.225 million, and Alberto for $1.65 million. Mancini’s number hasn’t yet been disclosed.

Again, the fact that no Orioles are being scheduled for arbitration is a good thing.. As I said yesterday, I think it’s one of the stupidest processes in sports. Now it just so happens that the Orioles are pretty good at it, having lost two cases in the era of Peter Angelos’ ownership. But it can cause ill feelings and it’s just not worth splitting hairs in my view.

Baltimore Orioles: Arbitration deadline day

Today is the deadline for the Baltimore Orioles to come to a contract with Trey Mancini, Hanser Alberto, and Mychal Givens. If the sides are unable to agree, arbitration hearings will be scheduled for sometime between February 3-21st. The sides of course could still read an agreement before then (in which case the hearing would be canceled), but that’s where the sides are now.

I think that arbitration is one of the dumbest processes in MLB. Perhaps in sports. The team’s literally arguing that their own player’s not worth the money he claims he is. Now there are plenty of situations in which players are unreasonable about their salary requests. But in essence that’s the procedure – the player’s arguing his virtues, and the team’s arguing his faults.

What’s not in question is that any of the three aforementioned players are on the roster on Opening Day (pending any trades that could be made). They will be. It’s just a matter of how much they’ll be making.

Baltimore Orioles: Is Spring Training overly laid back?

Roughly 33 days until the Baltimore Orioles’ pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota for Spring Training. A couple of weeks later Florida Grapefruit league play begins in earnest. That means games.

One thing I hear a lot from fans is that they enjoy making the trek down to Spring Training because it’s much more laid back. Players are more approachable for autographs, many of the games are in the afternoon sun, and overall it’s just a more relaxed atmosphere. But should it be?

Please note, I’m in no way suggesting that players shouldn’t be approachable for autographs. In fact, I think that they should be MORE willing to sign autographs in ballparks while they’re on the field. Some players will come out and do it, but others will not. If fan engagement means something, give people what they want.

But players often say the same thing – that spring training is much more relaxed and laid back than the regular season. Well, veteran players say that at least. Guys who don’t have to necessarily work their way onto the team. I suspect if you’re playing for a job it isn’t quite as laid back as we’re led to believe.

However should it be as laid back as it apparently is? In saying that, I suppose I’m talking about the actual games. Players approach the games knowing they’re only playing a few innings. Heck, teams publish the rotation of pitchers that will pitch that day, for how long, and for which inning.

Spring Training is seen as a “destination,” while NFL Preseason is almost laughed off. However I know that many NFL coaches tell their starting players that they should prepare to play the entire game during preseason. And I think that’s prudent. While in the back of his mind the player might know he’s getting lifted at some point, it puts him in the mindset to be prepared.

When you tell guys how long they’re going to be in the game, or when they’ll be entering it, they might not take things quite as seriously. If I’m a manager I want my pitchers to have that bulldog mentality, just as they might in the regular season. If the team’s lost a couple of games in a row, I want my starting pitcher to think of himself as the team’s “stopper” that day – as he would in the regular season.

Instead players and coaches talk about getting their work in and so forth. And that’s important – don’t get me wrong. But if you prepare in a tough manner in the spring, you’ll prepare in a tough manner once the regular season rolls around. Just a thought.

Baltimore Orioles: More cheating

The Baltimore Orioles and the rest of Major Leauge Baseball now have a deeper cheating scandal with which to deal. The Houston situation is one we already knew. But apparently now the Boston Red Sox are in the mix as well.

Allegedly, the BoSox would utilize the instant replay room to steal signs and have them relayed to their players. Every team has a replay person, and every clubhouse has a “replay room.” The team’s replay person analyzes close plays and relays to the manager whether or not he should challenge the call on the field.

Again, allegedly team personnel would also be in the BoSox’s replay room using the monitors to see which pitches were coming. This is against all MLB rules. Both written and unwritten.

Here’s an interesting correlation. Alex Cora was the bench coach in Houston the year they were accused of cheating. He’s now the manager of the Boston Red Sox. That could certainly be a coincidence. But it would be a heck of one to accept.

MLB has moved slower on this issue than I would have liked. It seemed that all the signs pointed to Houston having committed the acts of cheating. Yet no discipline. One has to hope that it’s coming, and that an investigation is done into the Boston situation also. Both of these franchises also won World Series’ doing this. That shouldn’t be lost on anyone.

Baltimore Orioles sign Jose Iglesias

The Baltimore Orioles may have solidified their 2020 shortstop situation. The team appears to have signed veteran shortstop Jose Iglesias yesterday to a one-year contract. Iglesias will make $3 million this season. There’s also a $3 million club option for 2021. The Orioles have yet to confirm the deal.

Iglesias is a good defensive shortstop, who should add some stability to a middle infield that had it’s issues last year. He’s a career .273 hitter, and has a career OPS of .687. I’ll be interested to see what this means for Ritchie Martin, last year’s Rule 5 pick. I suspect he starts the season in Norfolk.

One would assume that Iglesias will jump to the top of the depth chart, and be the Opening Day starting shortstop. Iglesias should be a very viable replacement for Jonathan Villar, who the O’s traded to Miami earlier this off season. The difference is that it’s a lower years’ commitment, which makes the roster easier for the Orioles to manage moving forward.

Baltimore Orioles: Minicamp in Sarasota

The Baltimore Orioles are hosting their annual winter minicamp this week at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. Manager Brandon Hyde will oversee the camp, and the Orioles are expecting a large turnout. It’ll mainly be young pitchers, and players who live in the area (Gulf Coast of Florida).

This also gives Hyde a chance to get his coaching staff, which has seen some turnover, together in an official capacity for the first time and evaluate players. And Hyde knows that’s important for the future:

We’re going to have meetings and it’s pretty much getting together as a coaching staff, as well as our support staff with our advance guys and some analysts.

Quote Courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports

And the point about some of the coaches being new isn’t lost on Brandon Hyde:

It’s pretty much just getting together, talking about spring training, talking about goals. Everybody getting on the same page. We have a couple new staff members and it’s getting familiar with each other before we embark on this journey.

Quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports

Personally I think the idea of having this minicamp (which dates back to former manager Buck Showalter), is a good one. It allows pitchers and younger players to be on the same page before they even need to be. And when you’re attempting a rebuild the caliber of what the Orioles are doing, that’s a big deal.

Baltimore Orioles: Dynasties don’t die easily

Many Baltimore Orioles fans, who presumably are also Ravens fans, probably watched with glee last night as the New England Patriots lost to the Tennessee Titans in the first round of the NFL playoffs. I’m no different. Many say that this is the end of the Patriots’ reign as the creme de la creme of the NFL.

And it’s easy to see why. Quarterback Tom Brady’s old, and his contract’s up. Moving forward this is a franchise that could look vastly different.

But don’t be so sure that their dynasty is over. Look no further than the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. As the Orioles of the 2010’s we’re coming onto the national stage as a power, those two franchises appeared to have their stars dimming. But franchise like the Yankees, Red Sox, and yes the New England Patriots don’t necessarily go quietly into the night.

The New York Yankees quietly retooled. They had a few lackluster seasons, but nothing like what the Orioles have been in 2018 and 2019. The Boston Red Sox on the other hand did have some really poor seasons. However their success overall allowed them to in effect poke fun at themselves while going through that. My parents went to a game at Fenway in 2014, and they handed out “First to Worst” buttons. This while quietly getting their top prospects ready to come to the big leagues and retool the franchise.

Boston did it with their minor leagues. New York did it with trades. Either way my point is that these were two franchises who were used to being in the mix. And they took steps to ensure that they’d be back in the mix very quickly. Now the caveat to this is that this requires that they hit on every prospect and every trade, in order to be successful with their goal. And guess what? They did.

Point here is that regardless of what Tom Brady does moving forward, the New England Patriots are used to winning. I wouldn’t expect them to go quietly into the night. It’s possible that the “era” is over. But they created that era by making smart moves and building their football team. And very quietly, they could easily do so again.

Baltimore Orioles: The winter progresses

This is the last full month where the Baltimore Orioles won’t be playing games. Let that sink in for just a moment. Pitchers and catchers report two weeks or so after the Super Bowl, and the Florida Grapefruit League opens on February 22nd.

The O’s will travel to the Atlanta Braves’ new spring facility (in Sarasota County, no less) to play Atlanta at 1 PM that afternoon. That’ll obviously be a road game, which means that many of the Orioles’ “regulars” (whomever those might be at this point), probably won’t make the trip. Instead they’ll most probably make their spring debuts the next day at home against Boston.

January always strikes me because while it’s really only the beginning of the “winter doldrums,” it is in fact that last month without live baseball. That doesn’t mean we’re anywhere near Opening Day – because we aren’t! But it sure gives you more to which to look forward than say Thanksgiving Day!

Baltimore Orioles: Who becomes the next Birdland hero?

The Baltimore Orioles had Adam Jones as their “Birdland hero” for most of the last decade. In using that term I probably mean more the face of the franchise than anything else. And there’s no question that Jones filled that role admirably.

However one year plus into a rebuild, who’s going to be the new “Birdland hero” for the next generation? I suppose it’s kind of set up to be Trey Mancini. And he took steps to solidify that in a sense last year. Being voted Most Valuable Oriole is no joke. But is there or are there others who could also fill that role?

Rio Ruiz comes to mind. While he’s not a high impact player per se, I think he could develop into one. You might also look to Austin Hays. Or even John Means. Mentioning these guys shouldn’t take anything away from Mancini. If anything it compliments him.

Being the face of a franchise for an “era” has a lot to do with being a star player. So that goes without saying. Any of the aforementioned guys will have to be a superstar on the field if they’re going to get that distinction. We all know that Adam Jones was that and then some.

But it’s also about attitude. And again I’ll point back to Jones; the guy’s work ethic and his attitude towards the team, his coaches, and the city was unquestionable. That’s the type of attitude any of the guys I mentioned above will have to adopt if they’re going to be thought of as the face of the franchise, or Birdland’s hero. And again that’s why Trey Mancini’s name comes to mind right away, because he took steps to become the team leader off the field last year. Time will tell.

Baltimore Orioles: What does 2020 bring for the Birds?

Today is the first non-holiday day of 2020 for the Baltimore Orioles. And for the rest of the world. What will this year bring for the O’s?

For starters, I think that the Orioles will have to explore the pitchers out there on the free agent market. They need arms in spring training. Veteran arms to be precise. If they could find a veteran to anchor the starting rotation, that would go a long way towards a productive 2020 on the mound.

They also need to address their middle infield. With Villar having been dealt, the O’s are going to need someone to play short and second. Will that person come in free agency? Or from within the organization? That remains to be seen.

It’s worth mentioning that Mike Rosenbaum of recently named the Orioles’ farm system in the top five most improved in baseball. Last year they went from 22nd to 8th in terms of their farm system ranking according to Baseball America. There’s obviously no guarantee that translates to the big league level at some point. But it shows that the organization is going in the right direction. No matter how you spin it.

Baltimore Orioles: This is 2020!

2020 is officially “this year” for the Baltimore Orioles. And everyone, for that matter. Every year from the end of the season until the end of December I find myself using terms like “this past year or season.” But once the calendar flips the next year becomes “this year.”

And in this case, it’s the beginning of a new decade. And here I was thinking that I’d need Doc Brown’s DeLorean to have a shot at seeing “The Roaring 20’s!” Incidentally talk about a great era of baseball…the now 100 years ago 1920’s was pretty special.

But I digress. Happy New Year to all of Birdland. Enjoy the college bowl games today, and stay rested. Baseball’s coming.

Baltimore Orioles: Commissioner Manfred is miscarrying justice

The Baltimore Orioles and the rest of Major League Baseball is being set up to have big problems this season – set up by Commissioner Rob Manfred. The commissioner has come out in the past few days and said that it would be inappropriate for teams to target Houston Astros players in games due to the cheating scandal. Former Oriole Nick Markakis said it best:

I feel like every single guy over there (on the Astros) needs a beating.

Quote courtesy of AM-680 “The Fan,” Atlanta, GA.

At first I thought that the penalties handed down were appropriate. I’m now re-thinking that. I get why the league had to grant immunity to the players in order to hold the organization accountable. But all in all it does seem like a miscarriage of justice. And what’s more is that players across the league are expressing similar sentiments to what Markakis said above.

This truly is the perfect storm. Because Houston seems to feel that they’re being treated unfairly. If you listen to their players, there seems to be very little contrition. If anything, it’s the league and other players and teams who are having the audacity to target them. Baseball’s always policed itself in many instances. Odds are this will be no different.

The moment one Houston Astros’ player is hit by a pitch, their bench is going to be chirping and saying that the guy should be suspended. And eventually that’ll probably happen – but not before someone incites a bench-clearing brawl presumably. And is Commissioner Manfred okay with giving worse discipline for guys retaliating for a legitimate reason than he did for the group who committed the act to begin with?

It’s not only that. The commissioner also said that he wasn’t taking the trophy away from them because it’s only hardware. So you’ve just disrespected every other World Series champion in the history of the game. In the name of what? Protecting the Houston Astros and their flimsy ego’s?

The commissioner is miscarrying justice. There isn’t anything that can be done about it, but he’s miscarrying justice.

Baltimore Orioles: Houston’s embarrassing themselves

Along with the rest of the fans around the league, I have to imagine that Baltimore Orioles’ fans were appalled earlier this week when the Houston Astros offered their apologies for the cheating scandal. Various players spoke from the team’s spring training facility in West Palm Beach. As did ownership and manager Dusty Baker.

Baker came off as genuine. And why not? He’s the one guy who legitimately had nothing to do with this. All he can do is talk about the future, and how the organization’s going to move on.

But players and ownership sounded like they were reading from prepared texts. Odds are they were. I’ve said since the beginning that I thought the penalties were appropriate. However the situation’s only gotten worse since the news broke. More people were involved and knew about it. There was obviously an attempt to hoodwink every other team in the league. And they did, because they won the World Series.

Am I saying that the lack of remorse should make MLB dish out more discipline? No, I’m not a fan of doing that either. I firmly believe that you shouldn’t “re-discipline” people if it was unpopular the first time. But Houston’s really testing the limits of that point.

Another sentiment that’s circulating is that teams are going to target the Astros this year. And it wouldn’t shock me to see their players plunked more than often. And ultimately a guy could face more discipline for that than the Houston players did for the cheating to begin with. Where’s the justice there?

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