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 MLB.com 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 sign RHP Kohl Stewart

The Baltimore Orioles have signed a major league free agent. Yesterday they inked RHP Kohl Stewart to a contract. Now while it’s a major league deal, he can be optioned. Assuming he’s at the big league level, he’s set to make $800k in 2020.

Kohl was outrighted by the Minnesota Twins in November, and elected free agency. He was drafted with the fourth overall pick by Minnesota in 2013, but has mainly been a farm hand to this point. He did appear in nine games (with two starts) in 2019.

I would assume that Stewart’s being brought here to compete for a starting job. That’s the idea, at least. How he looks in spring training will largely dictate his future with the team and where he starts the season. However I’m sure that Mike Elias and company are hoping that he’s able to crack the starting rotation. It would certainly make for an easier start to the season if so.

Baltimore Orioles: The forgotten 2010’s Bird

As the Baltimore Orioles close out the decade of the 2010’s, there’s one player I would submit is being forgotten: J.J. Hardy. That might sound a bit strange to say, however for one reason or the other it seems that people remember the Machado’s, Jones, et al, of the world, but not the Hardy’s. Not that those other players shouldn’t be remembered, but you get my point.

J.J. Hardy was a quiet leader. He was a driving force in the clubhouse, and helped to tie things together. Furthermore his prowess with a glove could be unquestioned.

I suspect that Hardy gets forgotten on occasion because he wasn’t there at the end. His contract expired after the 2017 season, and it wasn’t renewed. Hardy’s been out of MLB since then. One also has to wonder if that’s part of why 2018 went as far south as it did.

As I said, Hardy was a clubhouse leader. When you remove an influence like that, things can come unraveled easier. It’s tough to say what would have or could have been. All that we know is what happened.

Personally I think J.J. Hardy would make a decent coach. If he’s willing, it would behoove the Orioles to bring him back in that type of capacity. However that’s up to the organization and up to Hardy.

Baltimore Orioles: Remembering the late Don Imus

With not much to say about the Baltimore Orioles here during the holiday season, I wanted to take a moment to remember the late Don Imus, who passed away yesterday. Imus was a radio pioneer, who while controversial was also one of the most philanthropic people on earth. We know his faults, specifically the remark about the Rutgers Women’s Basketball team years ago. But does that outweigh his merits? I don’t think so, and I hope not.

Imus has the interesting distinction of having the vast majority of his career on the same frequency in New York: 660-AM. However it was for two vastly different stations. 660 was home to the legendary WNBC forever and ever, also home to names such as Howard Stern, Soupy Sales, Alan Colmes, and “Cousin Brucie.” However in 1988 660-AM became WFAN radio, the nation’s first true sports station. Imus traveled with the frequency, and continued his program.

I listened to Don Imus on WTEM out of Washington DC (now an Orioles’ radio affiliate) for years. I was a fan. I also respected his career, especially his Imus Ranch for kids with cancer. Did he have faults? For sure. But Don Imus also gave back to society.

To tie this to baseball a bit, as I said Imus worked for the first sports station in America (which existed on another frequency previously). Obviously that was out of NY. Yet Imus wasn’t a Yankee fan if you followed him. He followed the Yankees because they were relevant to his job and the city in which he lived. But he wasn’t someone who took to rooting for the New York Yankees. For anyone other than Don Imus, that could be a death sentence in a market such as NYC!

Don Imus was a radio pioneer, and someone who made a huge impact on the radio industry over a long period of time. He was a true American original. His brother, Fred, was a frequent caller to the show. Fred passed away in 2011; I remember Don being devastated, and quite frankly he was never the same. So when I heard of Don Imus’ passing last night, I immediately thought to myself how happy I was for him that he was with his brother again. May Don Imus Rest In Peace.

Baltimore Orioles: Is New York powering down?

The Baltimore Orioles play in a division that had New York as it’s class in 2019. The question is whether or not that will continue to be the case in 2020 and onward. I only say that because New York has lost some powerful players thus far this off season. They lost Didi Gregorius to Philadelphia earlier this off season. And the other day Edwin Encarnacion signed with the ChiSox earlier this week.

Make no mistake that both of these players were role players. The Judge’s and Stanton’s of the world are still on the roster. New York in theory should be good for some time. But will they be as good?

Again, I want to be up front. Unequivocally, New York is the favorite to win the AL East. However between Gregorius and Encarnacion, that’s almost 30 homers that they’re going to be missing. Now knowing New York, they’ll replace that with guys of whom we’ve never heard who’ll produce 40 home runs. That’s generally how things work for New York. But you get my point.

Is it not possible that they feel the burn just a bit in losing those two? Between the two of them, they produced just shy of 100 RBI as well. So there’s a semi-decent amount of runs that are being lost by way of them no longer being there.

This is not to say that a team such as the Orioles will contend for the division crown. I just don’t see that happening, unfortunate as it is for most readers of this column. But it could make the division more competitive, and perhaps a team such as Boston could make a run at it. Whether they’re in a position to contend remains to be see, however anything’s possible.

Baltimore Orioles: Should Trey Mancini go?

The Baltimore Orioles have made it clear that they’re still somewhat in sell mode. Maybe that’s the wrong way of putting it, however they’re willing to sell pieces off if they’ll net a return. This seems to bother a lot of fans, but that’s the tactic that the Orioles are taking.

Trey Mancini, is a guy who people wonder is possibly for sale. The question is whether or not the Orioles would trade him. And the answer to that is that I think they would. But that doesn’t mean they’re actively trying to unload Mancini.

I suspect that they’re willing to listen to offers – as they should be. But are they actively shopping Mancini, who’s a budding star for the Orioles? One would hope not. He’s the type of player that can congeal a clubhouse together, and one for whom people should pay admission to see play.

Again, hopefully they’re willing to listen to offers. But the deal should be that a team would have to blow the Orioles away in order to pry Mancini away from their grasp. This front office has proven that they’re unwilling to leave any stone unturned in order to make the organization better – in the future.

Baltimore Orioles: Merry Christmas, Birdland!

Baltimore Orioles fans have better things to do than to read this column today. So let me just say wish everyone a Merry Christmas here on this Christmas morning. May there be lots of orange and black under the tree for you today, and may all of your wishes come true. There’ll be plenty of days to talk baseball in the future – but today isn’t that day!

Baltimore Orioles: Best utility man of the decade?

With the 2010’s ending next week, I wanted to take some time to look back on some of the best players and aspects of the decade for the Baltimore Orioles. These will be “quick hits” in a sense, but I digress. I thought I’d start off with utility players, because quite frankly they get next-to-no respect.

And with that, in my view the best utility player of the 2010’s for the Orioles was Ryan Flaherty. This distinction isn’t so much about statistics or anything along those lines, because utility players are always going to have slim stats. However Flaherty was an instant fan favorite in Baltimore, and I would bet that as time goes on he’ll be very well-remembered as an Oriole among fans.

Ironically, Flaherty was a Rule 5 draft pick. He made his big league debut as a defensive replacement at third base in the top of the ninth inning in game two of the 2012 season. He made something happen every time he was on the field, and he did everything that was ever asked of him.

I suspect that Flaherty is so well-remembered in Birdland mainly because he showed up right when the team started winning. So the fans equate him with good tidings. But again, he became an instant fan favorite. And I know that I speak on behalf of Orioles fans worldwide when I wish him the best as a San Diego Padres coach.

Baltimore Orioles: The day before the day before

The Baltimore Orioles, like the rest of society it seems, are nestling into a nice quiet spot as we move into Christmas week. So the question is whether or not there’s anything of note to report on a team, who’s primary season is summer, on the day before Christmas Eve. And the answer for the most part is a resounding NO.

This week may be the nadir of the year in terms of news about any Major League Baseball team. Just as is the case in most of your offices I presume, most of the front office staff is off until after the new year. That isn’t to say that news can’t break, because that could always happen. I just wouldn’t bet on it.

As we creep towards New Year’s Eve we’ll be taking a look back at some of the key moments on the field for the Birds this decade. After all, this isn’t just any New Year’s Eve coming up. It’s the end of one decade and the beginning of another!

Baltimore Orioles: Should the Birds be more aggressive?

We know that the Baltimore Orioles are committed to building their organization from the bottom up. GM Mike Elias has made that clear every time he speaks on the topic. The Chicago White Sox are in a similar position in terms of rebuilding. But they’re taking a different approach.

The ChiSox yesterday signed starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel to a three year, $55.5 million contract. So what they’re doing is still rebuilding, but they’re employing just a little bit of star power along the way. Similarly last year you may remember that they were in on the Manny Machado sweepstakes.

Should the O’s consider doing something along these lines? The idea behind what the Orioles are doing now is that perhaps some of the young players grow into stars. However that’s something that could happen down the line. What about the here and now?

Personally I think that you have to keep your eye on the future. When you commit to rebuilding you have to do it all the way. That’s what the O’s are trying to do. Am I suggesting that putting money into a star player would be a waste of resources right now? Perhaps.

Keuchel won’t be bad for the ChiSox. He’s a guy who can go deep into games and will make their pitching staff better. He’s also a guy for whom people will pay the price of admission to see. None of these points makes them right and the Orioles wrong – or vice-versa. It’s just a different manner of doing things.

Baltimore Orioles should host a college bowl game

For really one of the first times in history, the Baltimore Orioles hosted something at Camden Yards in 2019 other than a baseball game. No, I’m not talking about last week’s Winter Warm-up. I’m talking about Billy Joel performing there back in July. (Who also happens to be my favorite singer.)

Camden Yards was used for a Papal mass during Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1994, however in my recollection that’s the only other non-baseball game event that’s been held at the park. However it appears that they’re aiming to host more things at Oriole Park, which I feel is a good idea. It’s THE BALLPARK THAT FOREVER CHANGED BASEBALL; why not have events there? It showcases the ballpark and the city of Baltimore.

I’m the first one to say that there are too many college bowl games. To the point that we’re cheapening the college bowl “experience.” But would Camden Yards not be the perfect spot to play a bowl game? I’m not sure what you would call it, but perhaps the HERRS Potato Chip Crab Bowl?!

One might argue why they wouldn’t just play a prospective Baltimore-based bowl game at M & T Bank Stadium. Fair point. But why do they play a bowl game at Yankee Stadium instead of across the river at Met Life Stadium? Because first off that’s called the Pinstripe Bowl. But the fact is that it’s cool to play a bowl game in somewhat of a strange spot – like a baseball park.

On second thought, maybe you call it the Oriole Bowl, or something like that. I’m not suggesting that this is ever going to happen, however I think it would be a cool spot for a bowl game. Heck, they play plenty of them everywhere else; why not Camden Yards?!

Baltimore Orioles complete 2020 coaching staff

The Baltimore Orioles yesterday rounded out their 2020 coaching staff. According to a source, manager Brandon Hyde is hiring Darren Holmes as the Birds’ bullpen coach. He had previously held the same position with the Colorado Rockies.

The bullpen coach was the final piece of the coaching staff that needed to be filled for the coming season. It’ll be interesting to see how the relievers out in the pen react to Holmes as their new position leader. The bullpen’s obviously been a bit of an issue for a couple of years.

However here’s an interesting manner by which to look at the Holmes signing. As I said, he held the same position in Colorado…where the ball flies even more so than it does in Baltimore. So he’s used to training pitchers to pitch in tough environments. Time will tell what results we see.

Holmes has been in Baltimore before, albeit briefly. He appeared in five games as an Oriole in 2000, surrendering 13 runs. His ERA was north of 25 in those five games. Hopefully he’s learned a thing or two since then!

Baltimore Orioles: The importance of spring games

The Baltimore Orioles will take the field in Florida on February 22, 2020 as they visit the Atlanta Braves’ new spring training facility for game one of Grapefruit League play. The following day on February 23rd they’ll have their own home opener at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota against the Boston Red Sox. And on we’ll go in the schedule from there.

However make no mistake that those games are more important to this franchise than perhaps some of the final games in 2019. At that point the team was in essence just playing out a string. These spring games will mean something going forward.

It’s out of the spring training games that the 2020 roster will come. If a player just blows coaches away, he’ll be a big leaguer with the Orioles in 2020. We’re conditioned to believe that exhibition games don’t mean anything, and that they don’t count. They certainly don’t count towards the team’s final record in the regular season. But to suggest they don’t mean anything is misguided.

They allow a team to gel before things truly get started. They also can affect the makeup of the team, as I said above. In terms of the future of the franchise, the games played this past September really meant nothing. They had no true affect on the future. The coming spring games in a couple of months won’t be that way. They both can, and must affect the future of this franchise.

Baltimore Orioles: Is baseball over-legislated?

The Baltimore Orioles now play in an era with all kinds of new rules in baseball. This much we know. In fact, all sports are now at that point.

But is it too much? Are we taking it too far when catchers can no longer block home plate? Or to relate to other sports; are we taking it too far when we’re using instant replay to see if the ball’s moving before a wide receiver takes his two steps to complete a catch?

Speaking for myself, I’m in favor of instant replay in baseball (and across sports). I say that I’m a purist, but that’s one area that I do feel it’s worth using modern innovations. But all things in moderation. When taken to an extreme, all things can be corrupted.

Home run calls, out/safe, fair/foul, etc, should be able to be questioned by instant replay in baseball. But when we get into the nitty-gritty of transferring the ball on a double-play, catchers blocking the plate, that’s a bit much. In an era where people want games to be quicker, these aspects delay things.

And again, the same is true across sports. Reviewing pass interference in the NFL? Are you serious?! I’m the first one to tell you that pass interference is often botched, and botched horribly, in that sport. Ask the New Orleans Saints! But to suggest that the pace of the game should slow down to review something like that is insane.

We’re getting to the point to where lawyers are going to have to get involved in games. Is that really what we want? I say no.

Baltimore Orioles: What's the Birds' biggest need?

The Baltimore Orioles have many needs going into the 2020 season. However what stands out as their single biggest need? Is there even one thing that does stand out as the single biggest need?

Given the trade of Jonathan Villar, suddenly the O’s have a middle infield gap. There’s been talk of trying Ryan Mountcastle at second base, and you could see that in spring training. But is that the biggest necessity?

I would say no. In my personal view, it remains pitching. The Orioles as a staff gave up far too many home runs in 2019. And in fact, that was a trend that continued from the past. Part of that is the fact that they play at Camden Yards, and another part of it is due to the youth on the staff.

However yet another element is that Oriole pitchers pitch-to-contact. This as opposed to trying to strike guys out. In doing that, you’re begging them to put the ball in play. And home runs will happen. If you pitch to strike guys out instead, odds are you aren’t surrendering so many homers.

Easier said than done, I might add. And obviously if you miss your spot the ball can still end up traveling a long way. But this is something that the O’s should consider as they go into spring training in February.

Baltimore Orioles: Spring training and the rotation

If you were following closely with what was being said at last week’s winter meetings, it would appear that the Baltimore Orioles are expecting to have an open competition for the starting rotation in Sarasota next year. In saying that, I really mean in two months’ time. The first spring game is February 22nd.

If you were paying attention, you heard manager Brandon Hyde say that the Orioles were expecting to have up to eight candidates vying for starting jobs. And I’ll be honest, that’s more than I thought it would be. I was expecting Dylan Bundy to be a starter for this team in 2020. I’m not suggesting that moving him was a mistake, but until a couple of weeks ago I was assuming he’d be on the roster.

Alex Cobb and John Means are the two names on the active roster who jump out at you in terms of being starters going into spring training. There might be some guys currently on the roster such as a David Hess or Asher Wojciechowski who could work their way into being a starter. And I suspect that’s what the Orioles are hoping occurs. There are also various free agent pitchers out there who would presumably jettison to a starter role.

However as I said, it looks like the O’s are going to be having somewhat of an open competition in camp. That’s not necessarily a good or bad thing, it’s just what they appear to be doing. Don’t be surprised if as we get closer to spring training games beginning we don’t see them sign a veteran starter. But for now, there could be up to three slots that are up for grabs.

Baltimore Orioles reuniting with Caleb Joseph?

The Baltimore Orioles hosted their first ever Winter Warm-up yesterday at Camden Yards. And it poured. However about 1000 fans braved the elements and came out.

During a question/answer session as part of the event, GM Mike Elias was asked about the catcher position. And he gave a response which indicated that the Orioles might be looking to reunite with former draft pick, Caleb Joseph (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

“He’s on the radar screen for us. We’re looking at some catching depth options and we’ll see where it lands. But we’d love to have him back, for sure. He was great throughout his time here and a very welcomed member of the organization.”

Joseph was a fan favorite when he played for the Orioles before. He was drafted by the Orioles and came up through the Birds’ minor league system. It would be interesting to see him return.

Joseph’s also a veteran and he was noted for how he handled the Orioles’ pitching staff when he was here before. That’s a skill that could come in handy with a presumed young pitching staff in 2020. It’s unclear if Joseph would be coming in as a presumptive starter or as a backup catcher (which is what he was here the first time around). However as I said, he was always a fan favorite. Time will tell if he lands back here.

Baltimore Orioles hosting first ever Winter Warm-up

One of the big changes in terms of how the current Baltimore Orioles’ management is doing things is that Orioles’ FanFest is no more. FanFest was a treasured event, but for whatever reason Mike Elias and company feel that the team’s efforts in terms of PR and winter marketing are best served elsewhere.

And today we’ll see those labors come to pass, as the Orioles will be hosting their first “annual” Winter Warm-Up at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The event lasts from 11 AM – 2 PM, and will be held on Eutaw St. Rain or shine, apparently – yes, you read that right. Today’s forecast looks foreboding, however the event itself does look fairly well put together.

Parking is free in Lot A, and admission is $5 – or free for Birdland Members. (Non-Birdland Members can gain free admission with the donation of a coat.) Fans will have the opportunity to speak with GM Mike Elias, as well as with coaches. Complimentary coffee and hot chocolate will be served, Holiday music will be played, fans will be able to take a picture with “Santa Bird,” all among other things. All merchandise in the Orioles Team Store will also be discounted to 50% of listed value.

Unfortunately with the weather forecast being what it is, this event will probably be poorly attended. That means it won’t be a fair barometer of how popular the event could actually be in general. FanFest was a time-honored tradition in Baltimore. I do think however that this event will be a decent replacement. My hope is that Orioles fans turn out. See you at the yard!

Baltimore Orioles select Brandon Bailey in Rule 5 draft

As expected, the Baltimore Orioles were active in the annual Rule 5 Draft yesterday on the final day of the annual Winter Meetings. With the second pick in the draft, the O’s selected RHP Brandon Bailey, formerly of the Houston Astros’ organization. Bailey was drafted in 2016 out of Gonzaga University, by the Oakland Athletics.

Pitching mainly out of the bullpen, Bailey has a .500 record in the minor leagues. He also has an ERA of 3.07. It’ll be interesting to see how that translates at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which is considered a hitter’s paradise.

To show that they weren’t kidding about pitching, they used their second selection to pick Michael Rucker, formerly of the Chicago Cubs’ organization. In the minors with Chicago, Rucker is 17-14 with a 3.26 ERA. Both Rucker and Bailey are young arms who will be tasked with competing.

Keep in mind that in order to keep a Rule 5 player, he needs to be on the active major league roster in essence for an entire season’s worth of time. That’s why it’s difficult to keep Rule 5 players, as they can sometimes be raw. We’ve seen this nearly every year since 2012, although the Orioles have also gotten some really good Rule 5ers.

I would suspect that even in their rebuilding state, keeping two Rule 5 players on the roster will be next-to-impossible. So it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Orioles let both of these guys compete in Spring Training, and hand onto the best one they can keep. Time will tell.

Baltimore Orioles: Bird is the word in the Hall of Fame!

The Baltimore Orioles have a new Hall of Famer in their midst this morning. At a banquet last night, the Oriole Bird was announced as a new member of the Mascot Hall of Fame! His candidacy was covered on this column, and I know that he appreciates all of our readers who took the time to vote for him.

This is all a bit of a tongue-in-cheek joke, however the Mascot Hall of Fame is in fact a real place. It’s located in Whiting, IN, and while I’ve never been there I’d say it’s worth visiting if you’re in the area. When and if you do, you’ll see the Oriole Bird immortalized with other great mascots such as the Phillie Phanatic, Mr. Met, etc.

As for the Winter Meetings, the Rule 5 draft is this morning out in San Diego. That in essence means that for us here on the East Coast it’ll be early afternoon. Nevertheless, the Orioles are expected to take a player, and GM Mike Elias said yesterday that they’re carefully weighing their options:

Right now, our focus is on preparing for the Rule 5 draft tomorrow, which we’re still trying to make a decision on.

Quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports

It’ll be interesting to see to which position the Orioles turn in the Rule 5 Draft. Might they consider someone who could actually be in the rotation? Time will tell.

Baltimore Orioles: Adam Jones to Japan is symptomatic in society

Former Baltimore Orioles’ star Adam Jones is headed to Japan – this much we know. Jones announced via Instagram last night that he had signed with a Japanese league team. He won’t be a part of MLB any longer moving forward, at least for the time being.

As time’s going on, MLB and all sports appear to be valuing veterans less and less. It’s unimaginable to me that a player of Jones’ pedigree was going to be unable to find a big league team in 2020. Granted we don’t know what fully went into Jones’ decision, and the reasons could be personal as much as anything else. But many analysts have stated that this might be something that a lot of veteran players start doing.

And to be honest, it’s a trend that I’m seeing in society as a whole. When I was a kid I wanted to be older because I was of the impression that the older you were the smarter you were. I come from a generation and a time in which we valued experience and time spent. Meaning that novices had to work their way up the line.

But society appears to be changing – and not for the better in that regard, in my view. And keep in mind that sports (baseball, in this instance) often mimics life. I’ve literally been told that at 38 I’m too old to understand something. Uh excuse me, but whence I come age and experience is a virtue. I’m not going to lie, I deeply resent that mentality.

I’m nowhere near being a Baby Boomer, but the whole OK Boomer thing is an extension of this concept. And to be honest that’s something that I see as fairly offensive. You can’t possibly be more worldly at 25 (to pick a random age) than someone is in their 30’s and above. That’s just not a possibility. Furthermore not everything needs to be revolutionized.

But going back to baseball, that same emphasis on youth is translating to the diamond. This isn’t to say that young people don’t play a role, because they have to. World class athletes obviously don’t exist in their 50’s and so forth. But are we not going a bit to an extreme by suggesting that a 34-year old guy who’s had a great career to this point is too washed up to play in the big leagues?

And in fact it makes you wonder – with MLB trying to re-define it’s minor league system by cutting teams…is it not possible that they’re trying to get guys into the big leagues at younger ages? Again, youth has to play a role in sports by definition. There’s no question. But wiry veterans who’ve been around the block once or twice also have a place. While young people of today are told they can be or do anything, they still need to be shown the ropes. And by devaluing veteran players, baseball and society are doing youngsters no justice.

Baltimore Orioles: Adam Jones appears headed to Japan

Former Baltimore Orioles’ star Adam Jones‘ days stateside might be numbered. One of the morsels of news to come out of the Winter Meetings yesterday was that Jones is mulling an offer of a multi-year deal to play for the Orix Buffaloes of the Nippon Professional Baseball League. That’s Japan, for those keeping track at home.

I have to say, I’m shocked that it appears there’s no market for Jones in MLB. He’s an established big league player who’s had better than just a solid career. This is the type of move that a player would seemingly make if he’s fairly sure he isn’t going to get an offer back here in the states. It just seems so strange to think that Jones is going to be unable to find even one team who would want his services.

In 2019 he played for Arizona with a $3 million contract. He appeared in 137 games, hitting .260. That’s below what he hit in Baltimore of course, but that’s also Father Time’s doing. Not to mention that you have to figure in that Camden Yards is a hitter’s park. However it still surprises me that not even one big league team would be interested in his services. But this is the world in which we live now.

The Orioles did make a move yesterday, claiming RHP Marcos Diplan off of waivers from Detroit. Not really a high level move, although Diplan does have a minor league option.

Baltimore Orioles head to the winter meetings

GM Mike Elias and his team have arrived in San Diego for the MLB Winter Meetings this week. The Orioles aren’t expected to make many waves, but the fact is you never know. This will be Elias’ second Winter Meetings with the Orioles, although last year he had just been hired a couple of weeks prior.

However manager Brandon Hyde will be in his first Winter Meetings as manager of the Orioles. Actually, it’ll be his first Winter Meetings as a manager overall. This shows of course that the O’s are a young team and have a lot of promise moving into the future. Everyone’s young and/or new.

Again, I wouldn’t expect the O’s to be overly active this week. However the one moment to watch is Thursday morning (probably closer to afternoon here on the east coast) when the final piece of business is conducted during these Winter Meetings. That’s when the Rule V draft will take place. Traditionally the Birds are active in that, which is well-documented.

Perhaps might there be a middle infielder on their radar who could plug the hole left by Villar? Anything’s possible. More as we hear it.

Baltimore Orioles: You have to value your own players

If there’s one thing the Baltimore Orioles have learned over time it’s that you absolutely have to value your players. At various points over the last ten years when there’s been push to keep a player, they’ve found ways to do it. For the most part.

Down the road we see a team in the Washington Nationals who’s struggling with that as we speak. Washington of course are the World Series Champions. However two of their biggest stars, Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg are up for grabs. Publicly, Washington hasn’t even formally met with either player about an extension (both are represented by Scott Boras.) But plenty of other teams have.

For the sake of their fan base, I would hope that management and ownership isn’t just assuming that winning the World Series gives them carte blanche NOT to spend money. Especially when the guys in question are their guys. World Series or not, if both of those guys walk you could be looking at a fan revolt.

The point here is not to take shots at another team. (Although I suspect fans might accept one of those guys walking; but both?) However the question at hand is why teams overall don’t value their own players. One could argue that the Orioles did the same thing with Nick Markakis. However as you might remember, Markakis was injured at the time, and coming off of neck surgery. There was risk involved, which the Orioles weren’t willing to assume.

Teams such as NY (Yankees), Philadelphia, Boston, and LA (Dodgers) can’t really be blamed for swiping other people’s players. When the players are out there to be had and their former teams are making no effort to get them, you may as well go after them. Does that make for only a few teams being competitive? Possibly. But what exactly are teams who do value players supposed to do? Wait for someone else to swoop in?

Baltimore Orioles: A day that changed baseball

The Baltimore Orioles didn’t exist until 1954. However December 7th is a date that forever changed both baseball and America – in 1941. Today of course is the anniversary of the Japanese sneak attack at Pearl Harbor, which propelled the United States into WWII.

There was much talk about baseball shutting down during the war. And with good reason – many of the biggest names were part of the war effort. The DiMaggio’s, Williams’, etc. of the world were all overseas serving a higher purpose. However President Franklin Roosevelt wrote what became known as the Green Light Letter in 1942. In effect, he thought that having baseball continue would ease the fears of the American public. In essence, it would represent business as usual.

The league played on, but at a decidedly lower quality of play. With so many stars out fighting for their country, the league couldn’t help but be at a disadvantage. But as almost a motif of America and American life, baseball pressed on.

The Green Light Letter also had one other point of interest to me. President Roosevelt offered a friendly suggestion to the league to perhaps offer more night games in the schedule. Americans on the home front were having to work harder to support the war effort, and with games always being during the day, it was difficult for people to get to games. Night games made it easier.

Ironically, I’m of the mindset that baseball should schedule more day games now. I recognize that’s not about to happen for the most part, but it’s a personal preference – partly due in part to the fact that the roots of the game were games played under the sun. But nevertheless, it’s interesting to note that night games began getting phased in due to a an event that set in motion of series of events, 78 years ago today.

Baltimore Orioles: Trust the process

I’ve said this a few times this week to Baltimore Orioles fans: trust the process. Everyone knows the rebuilding process through which the Orioles are going. However there’s been a lot of angst regarding this week’s trades by some fans.

Sometimes sports management can be a line of work that isn’t for the faint of heart. This is one of those times. The likes of Bundy and Villar had a lot of fans in the fan base. And it’s easy to criticize Mike Elias for making those trades if one of those two were guys you really liked. But we have to trust the process.

Elias has gone through this before, mind you. He went through it as the Asst. GM in Houston. And Houston’s won a World Series in the last three years, and have played in two. And Elias has been clear with where he thinks this process could end:

I want to see a playoff team at Camden Yards, and we want to see a playoff team at Camden Yards. There’s only one way to get there, given where we’re at, where we’re starting from. We all know the strategy, the process. This is not easy. This is not something we want to happen again, but coming into the organization in late 2018, with the roster construction what it was, where the talent base was, where we were in the standings — this was the only path

Quote courtesy of Jon Meoli, Baltimore Sun

Elias isn’t coming in here trying to make the Orioles worse. He wants to win, and he understands how to get that done. And it’s not something through which he wants the Orioles to have to go through again anytime soon:

I don’t want to have to see a selloff process again. It’s something that we want to get through, build our organization and our base, and maintain a high-quality, competitive franchise, even in the American League East. We feel it can be done. We see franchises around the league that pull it off, and we want to build that here. This is part of the road to getting there.

Quote coutesy of Jon meoli, Baltimore sun

So we have to trust the process. It’s not a quick one, but history shows that it works. In all sincerity, is there any other way?

Baltimore Orioles: Return on the Dylan Bundy trade

The Baltimore Orioles received four minor league prospects in return for starter Dylan Bundy, who was traded to Anaheim. All four are pitchers: Kyle Bradish, Zach Peek, Kyle Brnovich, and Isaac Mattson (who I mentioned yesterday. All four are right handers.

To the group of fans who are enraged that the Orioles traded Bundy, I would remind you that while Bundy was fairly solid this past season. He also experienced a drop in velocity. Odds are that isn’t coming back. It also speaks as to why he gave up so many home runs on the year.

This isn’t to say that he wasn’t tough for the Orioles to give up. However they did get a decent return on their investment in Bundy, as was addressed by GM Mike Elias after he made the trade:

That said, it’s a bittersweet thing, parting with Dylan. He’s been in this organization since he was drafted in 2011, been nine years with the Orioles. He’s done a lot for the Orioles. He has laid it all on the line at all times for the Orioles and has always taken the ball and this dates well back beyond my short time here, but everything I’ve heard leading into that and his history and the respect that teams around the league have for him. And we’re going to miss him and we have a hole in our rotation to fill.

But as we’ve been doing with every move and every decision we’re making, we are eyeing the long-term benefit of the club and for us to get four pitchers back whom we view as real prospects was too good to pass up.

Quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports

Keep your eye on the prize; that’s what Elias is saying. Trust the process.

Baltimore Orioles: Dylan Bundy Traded to Anaheim

Another piece has fallen; the Baltimore Orioles have traded RHP Dylan Bundy to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The news was just broken within the hour by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Rosenthal also said that one of the pieces that the Orioles will be getting back will be RHP Isaac Mattson, who’s had a cup of coffee in the bigs.

The deal is expected to include more minor leaguers from Anaheim, so stay tuned. There had been rumors that the O’s would pull the trigger on trading Bundy, as he was going to be able to yield them a decent return based on the amount of years he’s under team control. However it still has to be tough to part with a top draft pick such as Bundy. But to Anaheim he goes.

While Bundy had a decent 2019, he also had been victim of the long ball over most of his time in Baltimore. Being more of a pitcher’s park, Anaheim might be a good place for him. However this move also brings another influx of young players into the organization. And while Mattson has primarily been a reliever to this point, it wouldn’t shock me to see them stretch him out and work him into a starter. More as we hear it.

Baltimore Orioles: Why Jonathan Villar was traded

There were a wide range of reactions from Baltimore Orioles’ fans regarding the trading of Jonathan Villar. Many are questioning why he was traded. Many are saying that the Angelos’ don’t want to pay him, all among other things.

And the fact is that the Angelos’, by way of GM Mike Elias, don’t want to pay in fact. If he isn’t going to help them win a World Series, he’s taking up a roster spot. So they got something in return for him, a player who wasn’t going to be here anyways when the Orioles were ready to contend again.

First and foremost, Elias was a part of this exact same process in Houston. And look where they’ve ended up. So I think you just have to keep trusting the process, no matter how much a move might raise your eyebrows. Maybe something doesn’t make sense at the moment. But it might in the future.

As an example, look down the road a couple of years. The Orioles are going to find themselves in a position whereby they’ll need to pony up to keep Trey Mancini. What would you say if I told you the money they’re saving on paying Villar was going directly towards that goal? I’m not saying that it is, but…as yourself, is Mancini not more valuable to the organization than Villar?

That isn’t to say that Villar didn’t represent any value to the organization. He most certainly did. But some players become more valuable on the trade market to a team than they are on the field. The move frees up salary for the Orioles, and it allows them to reallocate resources to players who are more going to be bedrocks for the future.

Ultimately, as I said, trust the process.

Baltimore Orioles: Jonathan Villar traded to Miami

The Baltimore Orioles have officially parted ways with infielder Jonathan Villar. We pretty much knew that was going to happen yesterday with Villar already having been waived, however the good news is that the Birds consummated a trade. Villar was traded to the Miami Marlins for LHP Easton Lucas.

Chalk this up to well at least they got something back for him. Lucas was drafted by Miami in the 2019 player draft (14th round), and was immediately assigned to the Batavia Muckdogs. He was later sent to the Gulf Coast League Marlins. Overall in the minors he was 1-2 with a 3.63 ERA.

For a team that’s rebuilding and is in need of as many young arms as they can get, I suppose this was a good move. Again, at least they didn’t give Villar away. It’s still going to be a tough pill to swallow not having him in the lineup, as he produced well last year. But sometimes these types of decisions have to be made.

Baltimore Orioles: Contract tender day

The Baltimore Orioles and the rest of MLB have arrived at Tender Day. What that means is that teams have until 8 PM Eastern Time this evening to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. Those who can’t come to an agreement will have arbitration scheduled, which is generally during or just before Spring Training.

The other option of course is to non-tender a player and to let him become a free agent. That’s precisely what the O’s did last week with Jonathan Villar, who appears destined for free agency. But that’s last week’s news.

Arbitration is one of the more ridiculous things in which players and teams engage. The player is of course arguing that he should be paid more based on his production, and the team is arguing against that. In effect it’s devaluing your own players. Why do that?

Incidentally, just because parties can’t come to an agreement today doesn’t mean that they’re slated for arbitration. A date with an arbitrator will go on the calendar, however teams can and often do reach deals with players before the date arrives. It’s just one of those procedural things front offices have to do.

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