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.

Baltimore Orioles: Trey Mancini carrying one a Baltimore tradition

Trey Mancini of the Baltimore Orioles is hosting this year’s Purple Tailgate in anticipation of this afternoon’s Ravens/49ers game at M & T Bank Stadium. This of course is a tradition that was started by former Oriole Adam Jones, who would donate the proceeds to The Boys and Girls Club of Baltimore. Mancini is donating the proceeds to the MoStrong initiative and Kamryn Lambert Foundation.

Mancini befriended Orioles and Ravens fan Mo Gaba, who is battling cancer for the fourth time. He’s also 13 years old. Speaking for myself, I’m glad that Mancini is picking up the mantle that Jones left. You could see this process beginning back in February when Mancini took on an obvious leadership role in spring training.

People can question moves the Orioles make or the manner in which they do things all they want. But the footprint they have in the community is impeccable. While this event isn’t through OriolesReach (the team’s charity wing), they do a lot in the community and ensure that the team has a positive reputation in that regard. And having guys like Mancini (and Jones before him) be so visible in the community doesn’t hurt.

Baltimore Orioles: Dylan Bundy on the trade block?

It’s been reported that the Baltimore Orioles are interested into trading starting pitcher Dylan Bundy. While a deal hasn’t been done as of yet, multiple reports are that one could be “close.” It’s unclear how close or what that means. But “close” is the term being used.

I suppose it matters what the O’s could potentially get in return. While he’s had some injury issues, Bundy’s also an established major league starter. Point here being that if I were the Orioles I would hope to get back more than just a couple of low level prospects.

Obviously you wouldn’t expect to get someone’s top prospect either. But someone who could help the organization right away would be nice. And in fact I would submit that it would be somewhat of a mandate.

The issue then also becomes what do the Orioles do for pitching? I would submit that the O’s would be ill-advised to go into spring training looking to fill more than one starting pitching slot. I think you can get away with having one open slot that someone in theory would have to earn, but more than that makes things tough. More as we hear it.

Baltimore Orioles: Should the Birds keep Jonathan Villar?

As we know, Jonathan Villar has been placed on waivers by the Baltimore Orioles. The Birds had been trying to trade Villar, however have been unable to find a trade partner. Again, we know that Villar is an asset and that he had a decent season for the O’s last year. However I’m a bit surprised that there were no trade partners – it’s unclear if that was due to lack of interest or the O’s asking too much.

Is Villar better suited on the Orioles right now or not? Obviously you’d like to get someone back for him if in fact they aren’t going to keep him. But…again, is it better for him to stay or go. In general, I’d say they should keep him. But…should they?

I don’t believe that Villar is going to be a part of the solution when the team finally contends again. That’s why I say that it’s better for him not to be here. Some might say that it’s not worth cutting him loose unless they get something in return. However is there a benefit to the Orioles with him not being here?

And the answer to that is YES. They need to figure out what the long-term solution is going to be at second base. Not having Villar being a part of a log jam at that position means that they can try new guys at second base. And finding the second baseman of the long-term future should be the goal (at that position). And that appears to be where the Orioles are headed.

Baltimore Orioles waive Jonathan Villar

Here I thought the Baltimore Orioles wouldn’t be making any news this week, yet here we are. Late yesterday the Orioles placed infielder Jonathan Villar on waivers. The O’s had been trying to trade Villar prior to next week’s deadline to tender a contract to players (or non-tender them), but were unable to find a trade partner.

Villar is eligible for arbitration, and the Orioles didn’t want to absorb a dramatic increase in salary for a player who probably won’t be here when everything comes together. It’s a shame to be honest. Villar hit .274 with 24 homers last year. But ultimately baseball and all sports can come down to budgets, and that’s the driving force behind this move.

The Orioles will now look to replace Villar, primarily at second base. However he did at times play shortstop as well. And we’ll discuss where the O’s go from here in due course. Just not today. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in Birdland, and know that I’m thankful and eternally grateful for each and every one of you who read this column daily. Have a wonderful day with your family and/or friends!

Baltimore Orioles announce first annual Winter Warm-up

Baltimore Orioles fans and media found out yesterday what was going to replace Orioles’ FanFest. The O’s will be hosting the first “annual” Orioles’ Winter Warm-Up on December 14th on Eutaw St at Camden Yards. Birdland Members (season ticket holders) will get free admission, with non-members getting in for $5 or for free with a coat donation.

Orioles’ executives will be on hand to chat with fans, complimentary hot chocolate and coffee will be handed out, and Orioles’ gift shops will be open on Eutaw St. The Orioles will also provide live holiday music, photos with “Santa Bird,” among other amenities. Food trucks will also be on hand for food purchases. All merchandise at the Orioles’ team store will also be 50% off during the Winter Warm-Up. The event lasts from 11 AM – 2 PM.

Many folks are still understandably upset that FanFest is no more. It was a treasured Baltimore tradition that meant a lot to a lot of people. However I’m not going to lie – I like this concept. Granted it’s going to be outside in the elements, but I think that’s probably part of the charm of it. And keep in mind what I said above about the 50% discount in the team store. Christmas is coming, folks!

At the end of the day, this is simply a new regime trying something new. And you can’t fault them for that. I’m sure that fans will miss FanFest, but this sounds like a wonderful event that’s probably worth attending. Parking will also be free in Parking Lot A.

Baltimore Orioles poised to hire Anthony Sanders as first base coach

While no official announcement has been announced, it’s being reported that the Baltimore Orioles have reached a deal with Anthony Sanders to be their new first base coach. Sanders would replace Arnie Beyeler, who was informed at the end of the 2019 season that he wouldn’t be retained. Again, no official announcement has been made. I wouldn’t expect one before Thanksgiving.

Sanders has done a lot of work with USA Baseball, and was a member of the 2000 Gold Medal winning team. He’s spent the past few years as a coach in the Colorado Rockies’ system. He’ll now apparently be joining a coaching staff responsible for one of the youngest teams in the big leagues. So his experience at the minor league level is invaluable. Sanders will also be responsible for coaching the outfielders, as Beyeler was before him.

Baltimore Orioles: Ryan Flaherty coaching in San Diego

Former Baltimore Orioles’ utility infielder Ryan Flaherty has been hired as a member of the San Diego Padres’ coaching staff. According to multiple reports Flaherty was hired as the Quality Control Coach. I can’t say I’m sure what exactly that is or what the duties involve, but good on Ryan Flaherty.

Flaherty had a solid career, after being drafted by the Orioles in the 2011 Rule 5 draft. By far, he’s one of the most successful Rule 5 players in recent MLB history. Over the course of his time in Baltimore Flaherty did whatever was asked of him. He played every infield position at various times, and always gave his all in games. He should be remembered as a solid Oriole in the years to come.

I wouldn’t expect much news out of the Warehouse or the entire league this week. Thanksgiving is a traditionally slow period for baseball. But whatever’s out there will get covered here – that I can promise you!

Baltimore Orioles: Could changes in the NBA lead to changes in MLB?

The Baltimore Orioles and the rest of MLB play 162 games a year. Traditionally, NBA teams play 82 games. But is that about to change, and should baseball fans take notice?

There’s a report out there which says that NBA commissioner Adam Silver is considering some radical changes to the NBA season in the future. In short, the regular season would be shortened to 78 games, and to compensate owners for the lack of revenue there would be a mid-season tournament involving the entire league. They also want to reseed the playoff field at a certain point, and and institute play-in games for the postseason.

Baseball’s broached the topic of shortening the regular season in the past, but they’ve never done it. However if the NBA pulls the trigger on these initiatives, expect the topic to come up again. These leagues all copy one another to a certain degree. As an example, doesn’t a play-in game sound an awful lot like an automatic elimination game? Where did they get that idea?

The part that worries me the most is the in-season tournament. While not explicitly said, I suspect that this would in essence be an exhibition. Do we really think that’s a good idea? What if someone gets hurt? A marketing gimmick could cost a team their season. Do we really want to go there?

Whether we would ever see something like that in baseball is another story. But as I said, leagues will often copy one another. My hope is that they decide against making these changes.

Baltimore Orioles: What was the highlight of 2019?

Baltimore Orioles’ fans knew that the season was going to be void of too many highlights going in. And sure enough, the prognosticators were right. At times the O’s struggled to stay out of elongated losing streaks, much less make highlights to remember. But again, we knew that going in.

But out of the few that we did see, is there one that stands above the rest? Is there one that we can tap as the highlight of the season? That’s a very relative question, the answer to which is certainly up for debate.

However if I had to pick one, it would be Rio Ruiz hitting the walk off home run against the eventual American League Champion Houston Astros on August 11th. It was an emotionally draining game, that saw the O’s chase Houston starter Verlander earlier than Houston would have liked. It was a game in which the Birds had the lead in the ninth, and then lost it in the ninth.

This after the Birds had surrendered 23 runs the night before. Fans at Camden Yards appeared ready to go home after yet another loss, and this one in dramatic fashion. But it wasn’t to be – for Houston, that is. Ruiz came to bat with two on and the O’s trailing by two in the last of the ninth…

…and he smacked a 2-2 changeup onto the flag court in right field. GAME. OVER.

To me, it’s the sum of the parts which makes that the highlight of the season. The 23 runs the night before, losing the lead late in the game that day, and then – redemption! I’m open to other suggestions, but in my opinion that was the highlight of the season.

Baltimore Orioles: President Kennedy comes to Birdland

The Baltimore Orioles organization including players and coaches indubitably joined the rest of the nation in mourning the death of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The President was assassinated on this date in 1963, 56 years ago. But how many of you were aware that one of Kennedy’s final appearances in public was in the Baltimore area?

On November 14th of that year, just prior to leaving for Texas, President Kennedy came to Elkton, MD to dedicate I-95. When what’s now known as the Millard E. Tydings Memorial Bridge was completed between Havre de Grace and Perryville, the highway was ready to open and be dedicated. At the dedication ceremony, the President remarked about route 95:

It symbolizes, I believe, first of all the partnership between the federal government and the states, which is essential to the progress of all our people and secondly, it symbolizes the effort we have made to achieve the most modern interstate highway system in the world… and third it symbolizes the effort, which we are giving and must be giving to organizing an effective communication system here in the United States of America.

Courtesy of Erika Quesenbery Sturgill, Cecil Whig

When President Kennedy was assassinated 95 was renamed John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway. However it’s noteworthy for this region that one of his last public appearances before the Texas trip was in Maryland. My great-grandmother was apparently in the front row of spectators at the event and shook President Kennedy’s hand.

Incidentally, I have many fond memories of sitting under the aforementioned Tydings Bridge and eating lunch while fishing with my father and grandfather. And almost always in the background would be Chuck Thompson’s voice calling the O’s on the radio!

Baltimore Orioles hire Eve Rosenbaum

Earlier this week the Baltimore Orioles continued their “tradition” of poaching front office talent from the Houston Astros. While the O’s haven’t confirmed this, there’s a report out there saying that they hired former Houston Scouting Director Eve Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum worked under current Orioles’ VP of Operations Mike Elias in Houston, and is rumored to be heading into the newly-created position of Director of Baseball Development.

It’s unclear exactly what this position will do, however the team is still in the midst of restructuring it’s front office. Rosenbaum is a graduated of Harvard, but a native of Bethesda, MD. So in a sense this is a homecoming for her.

The only concern here is that you have to wonder if having too many Houston alumni might put the Orioles under the gun in terms of the investigation going on right now regarding stealing signs. Hopefully that’s not the case, however it could be a concern. More as we hear it.

Baltimore Orioles: Spring schedule update

Very quietly last week the Baltimore Orioles added a game to their spring training schedule in 2020. And a home game at Ed Smith Stadium at that. The O’s will take on the New York Mets at 1 PM on March 23, 2020 in Sarasota. Presumably, this will be the final game of the Grapefruit League season.

We’ve seen the O’s add games against local universities in the past at the tail end of spring training – games which incidentally didn’t count towards the “standings” for the Grapefruit League. Not that the standings matter, but just saying that for the sake of saying it. Nevertheless there’s an additional game that’s now on the schedule.

Why does this even matter? At the end of the day it certainly does matter to season ticket holders in Sarasota. But it’s also just an additional opportunity for guys to make an impression for the Orioles’ brass. And I suspect that most players would relish that chance.

For what it’s worth, the Orioles will also celebrate their 10th year at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota in 2020. It’s kind of hard to believe if you think about it. When the O’s arrived in town Ed Smith Stadium was a rag-tag facility with few creature comforts. Now that they’ve fully renovated the park, it’s the envy of almost every team in baseball.

The Orioles have also invested big time in the Sarasota community, and they have a year-around presence there. I’m not sure there’s another community (in either Florida or Arizona) which embraces a major league team in the manner that Sarasota does for the Orioles. When you invest in the community, the community pays you back in a big way. Needless to say, it’s truly been a mutually beneficial relationship for the Orioles and Sarasota.

Baltimore Orioles: How does free agency work for 2020?

The Baltimore Orioles and the rest of MLB are currently in the hot stove period, which in essence lasts until pitchers and catchers report in February. The Birds weren’t active in free agency last year, but in the past they have been. Whether they are this year or not remains to be seen.

However what we’ve seen the past two seasons is most of MLB waiting until the very end of the hot stove season to sign free agents. Presumably this was an agreement among GM’s with a wink-and-a-nod to keep costs down. The question is whether or not that will happen this year.

Incidentally, keeping costs down with a wink-and-a-nod is akin to collusion. However I would submit that we won’t see that this year. And not because the teams have suddenly stopped colluding.

The free agent pool this year is strong. The likes of Strasburg and Rendon are out there to be had. You could see a bidding war, if anything. Teams who are in a position to sign guys like that aren’t going to want to wait out of sheer principle to save money. They’d be afraid that those players would sign elsewhere.

Time will tell, but I predict an active hot stove period. And sooner rather than later.

Baltimore Orioles: Death penalty for Houston?

I try to write a column about the Baltimore Orioles that’s worthy of journalistic integrity. Thus I’m not a fan of the style of “reporting” done by organizations such as Barstool Sports. I feel it’s too in your face for my tastes. Readers don’t want edgy content when it comes to sports – they want informative content that merits a valid point.

However I did read this article on Barstool last week, and I have to say it’s fairly compelling. The author cites reporters who are saying that the penalty for the Houston Astros as a result of the sign-stealing scandal could be swift and sure. As in what Barstool is calling the “death penalty.”

That would in effect be stripping them of the 2017 World Series title. Now that would be a step, wouldn’t it?! There’s no precedent in baseball for that, and so far as I know it would be a first. But is it warranted?

I say that it is. The league needs to send a message that this type of thing WILL NOT under any circumstances be tolerated. Not only that, but it sends the message that this is what happens to people who cheat. Skirt the rules at your own risk.

And let’s take it a step further. The NCAA will ban programs from television and/or post season play if they pull stunts like this. It wouldn’t be feasible to ban a baseball team from post season play, as you have to qualify in accordance with the standings. However you could very easily ban them from television. In essence, whatever local television deal Houston has set up will be null and void for one year. Save for opposing team broadcasts, you won’t be allowed to see them on television.

Some will say that punishes the fans. And there’s no question about that; however losing television rights for an entire season takes a lot of money out of the franchise’s pockets. And again, it sends a message to the rest of the league.

Whether any of this happens remains to be seen. But time will tell.

Baltimore Orioles: Why is Houston’s sign stealing a big deal?

Have the Baltimore Orioles ever directly been hurt by Houston’s alleged sign-stealing? Odds are that they have. In 2016 they were 1-6 against Houston, 1-5 in 2017, and 1-6 again in 2018. There’s your answer as to why it’s such a big deal.

Mind you, save for 2018 the aforementioned seasons were during good times for the Orioles franchise. Yet they just couldn’t get over the hump against a Houston Astros team which now appears might have had an unfair advantage. A big time unfair advantage.

I said this the other day, but had the 2016 Orioles not been at a disadvantage against this Houston team, perhaps they host the 2016 Wild Card Game. And who knows how things play out. It sounds like a petty point, but…is it really?

Baseball needs to find a way to clean this up. The people who precipitated this need to be held accountable. Because otherwise the sport turns into he who’s willing to stoop the lowest to cheat, wins. Nobody wants that.

Again, this is a pretty big deal. And the argument is akin to the analytics vs. feel for the game discussion. My personal opinion is that baseball should not and cannot belong to computer nerds. People behind a screen thinking they know better than the powers that be.

And this is similar. If we’re going to allow teams to find inventive manners to cheat, we might as well just resign ourselves to the fact that whomever has the best equipment and the most inventive ideas is going to win. It’ll no longer be about who has better talent and out-thinks their opponent the best. And again, nobody wants that.

Baltimore Orioles: Delmarva named MiLB Team of the Year

Baltimore Orioles’ Class A affiliate Delmarva Shorebirds, led by manager Kyle Moore were named the MiLB Team of the Year for 2019 earlier this week. That’s one heck of an honor for a team that’s part of an organization that’s rebuilding, such as the Orioles. Moore on this past season:

I think it was just how hard the guys played and how we stuck with it, even after the All-Star break — it was such a young group of guys,. I think with a group in their first year of pro ball, the staff did a great job keeping these guys going all year because we started off hot. But the Washington Nationals will tell you it’s not how you start, and we ended up finishing good, too. We went through July and August and the kids got better.

Quote courtesy of Andrew Battifarano,

Delmarva won 65.2% of their games, and they did it with pitching. Excellent pitching, incidentally. Orioles’ fans like to say that they’d like to know when they’ll start to see the fruits of labor regarding the rebuild. If that’s any indication, it’s coming.

As has been stated ad hoc on this column, the Orioles’ system was ranked in the 20’s in 2018 by Baseball America. In 2019 they were ranked 8th. The Delmarva Shorebirds are a prime example of how the organization is up and coming. Congratulations to everyone involved in that stellar operation in Salisbury, and we hope for their sake that this trend continues.

Baltimore Orioles: Should snitches get stiches?

The Baltimore Orioles are watching, along with the rest of baseball, as the Houston Astros become engrossed in a cheating scandal. I touched on this yesterday, as former Astro Mike Fiers has told The Athletic that Houston (his now former team) used electronic devices to steal signs:

I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they’re going in there not knowing. Young guys getting hit around in the first couple of innings starting a game, and then they get sent down. It’s [B.S.] on that end. It’s ruining jobs for younger guys. The guys who know are more prepared. But most people don’t. That’s why I told my team. We had a lot of young guys with Detroit [in 2018] trying to make a name and establish themselves. I wanted to help them out and say, ‘Hey, this stuff really does go on. Just be prepared.’

Quote courtesy of Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich, The Athletic

However is there another angle to this that we aren’t seeing? Let me preface this by saying that using electronic devices to steal signs is against the rules. Explicitly. There’s no way around that. It’s indisputable.

However first off, Fiers was on the team when this was going on, and one way or the other he won a World Series as a result. What he said about young guys getting beaten around and getting sent down is a very fair point. However if he cared that much about them and/or about cleaning up the game, would he not have come out while it was going on and said it was wrong? As in, while it was directly benefiting him and his career?

Furthermore, I do firmly believe that there are some things which should stay in a clubhouse. That should be an unwritten code among players and coaches. So…did Fiers violate that unwritten code?

Maybe, maybe not. If you read Ken Rosenthal’s article and others on the topic, they all seem to indicate that Fiers was telling his new and current teammates about this – in the form of a warning. That in and of itself I don’t think violates any unwritten rule. I think that things as such get told all the time. When I played for these guys they used to do this – so be on the lookout.

When it turns into a problem is when it gets released into the public realm. Based on how the firsthand account of these stories are being worded, I suspect that someone to whom Fiers told this story leaked it. I don’t know for sure who that would be, however that’s how it comes across.

This doesn’t absolve Fiers of blame. As I said, he apparently didn’t have enough of a problem with this practice while it benefited him to say anything. But suddenly when they didn’t sign his paychecks anymore, he did have an issue with it.

This is a bit of a Catch-22 overall. Change never happens if whistleblowers aren’t out there. That’s probably a fact. However some things should stay in the clubhouse. Time will tell what punitive measures are taken against Houston.

Baltimore Orioles: Sign-stealing saga continues

The Baltimore Orioles have long struggled at Minute Maid Park in Houston. It was almost uncanny; for some time it’s almost been that no matter how good an Oriole pitcher was looking, Houston would always find a way to get to him. However now we have to wonder if that was more that the Orioles weren’t that good, or if Houston was getting help.

Houston has long been known as an organization that steals signs. We all heard the story during the post season of how they would bang on the top of the dugout or on a trashcan in the dugout to relay signs and signals to their hitters. But now…it seems that the story is gaining legs.

Former Houston Astro Mike Fiers has recently come forward and admitted that the team was using cameras in the outfield to steal signs. Those cameras would beam the signs to the dugout in real time, and then the smack on the dugout or trash can would relay the pitch to the hitter. Seems like there was always more than meets the eye.

Incidentally, this isn’t a foray into the typical unwritten codes argument. Stealing signs is against those unwritten codes. But it’s not against the rules. Using an electronic device to steal signs IS against the rules. There’s cheating, and then there’s cheating. This is a pretty big one.

Fiers specifically said that this would occur when he played in Houston in 2017. And as you’ll recall, Houston won the World Series that year. So…where does that leave us? MLB has said that they’re going to conduct an investigation. For the record, the Houston Astros said they support that effort.

How long had this been going on? Because as I said, the Orioles always seemed to struggle in that park. Had they not been at an apparent disadvantage, perhaps some of those years would have resulted in more wins. Yes, that sounds subjective. And it is. But consider this; had the 2016 Orioles had even one more victory, they would have finished statistically ahead of Toronto. That means they would have hosted the American League Wild Card Game. The O’s went 1-6 against Houston that year. As I said, consider that.

If you look at cheaters in the NCAA, teams literally are made to vacate victories. I don’t see MLB making Houston do that. Odds are they’ll end up getting fined or have to forfeit draft picks. But forcing them to vacate wins and vacate their World Series would certainly send a message.

Baltimore Orioles’ John Means finishes second for AL Rookie of the Year

John Means of the Baltimore Orioles finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting. Means had an impressive resume of course, but it wasn’t enough to get him past Houston’s Yordan Alvarez. The Orioles’ Rodrigo Lopez was also the runner up in 2002. The last Oriole to win the award was Greg Olson in 1989.

However just being one of the top three finishers is a feat for Means. And for the Orioles. The fact that an Oriole finished that high should tell us something about the direction of the rebuild. When you combine that with the fact that the Orioles’ minor league system went from being ranked in the 20’s to being top ten in one year, needless to say it bodes well for the future.

I’m sure that both Means and the organization would have loved to have gotten the award. Means certainly had the pedigree in terms of his numbers to win it. But again, even being in the running was pretty special. And combining that with his ASG selection says that the Orioles have a budding star on their hands.

Baltimore Orioles: Happy Veterans Day!

The Baltimore Orioles join the rest of baseball and the sports world in recognizing Veterans Day today. As do I. Thank you to all of our brave veterans and active service members. It’s cliche`, however we wouldn’t be able to watch baseball or any other sport.

America is truly a special place. And that’s due to our military and thus to our veterans. If you see one today, thank them.

Baltimore Orioles: Changes in store at the yard?

Interesting article in The Baltimore Sun this week regarding the home of the Baltimore Orioles (article here). The Orioles’ lease expires after the 2021 season, and as the article states it’s during lease renegotiations that teams often broach the topic of facility upgrades. And it sounds like that’s just what the O’s are doing.

I’ll be honest; I can’t see many upgrades that are necessary to what I tell people is the best facility for sports in the country. I’ve heard people suggest that the concourse should be opened up and so forth, which appears to be a feature in some of the more recent stadiums. However another topic (according to the article) appears to be removing seats. It’s unclear if the idea of removing seats goes hand-in-hand with opening the concourse.

I suppose that opening the concourse might not be a horrible thing. However I’d hate for there to be any more major cosmetic changes than that. Camden Yards has always been about the old world charm of baseball. The game is presented in an old fashioned manner, down to the venue itself.

I wouldn’t want Camden Yards to become a place where people “come to gather.” One criticism I have of more modern ballparks is that I feel the attitude is “you can watch the game if you wish, but there are also all of these other features about our park and places you can hang out.” Fans should come to the ballpark and hang out in the stands while watching the game. Maybe that sounds old school to some, but that’a baseball at Camden Yards.

Baltimore Orioles: Does style of play matter?

As we know, the Baltimore Orioles play in a market that’s saturated with teams from pretty much every sport. That includes various universities, such as Coppin State, Towson, and of course the University of Maryland. I read message boards from time to time, and I was on one the other day in which someone was vilifying Maryland fans for not showing up to the team’s first game earlier this week. Now in principle I kind of agree – but one of the responses stuck out at me.

Maryland’s outlook this season is excellent. They’re ranked very high, so it would have stood to reason that perhaps fans would have turned out. However one fan responded that lots of fans don’t like Turgeon’s style of play (referring of course to head coach Mark Turgeon). Now I’ll be honest; I much preferred Gary Williams’ style. However that’s not the issue at hand.

Is that now really a thing in a sense? Do fans opt not to come to games or follow their favorite teams because they don’t like the style of play? Apparently so.

I think something like this is much more predominant in sports such as basketball, football, or hockey. Baseball is baseball no matter how you spin it. Now having said that, some teams are station-to-station, some are slugging teams, etc. I suppose that someone could not like a certain style of play and similarly not come out to the park.

However this is concerning to me. I’ve always maintained that sports isn’t entertainment – per se. Movies are entertainment. Broadway plays are entertainment. Television shows are entertainment. Sports? Sports are just sports.

But more and more, sports aren’t just sports. Sports is being lumped in as entertainment as time is going on. And that’s a huge problem from where I stand. Because if a movie (which is entertainment) isn’t entertaining, you can just turn it off. If a show you’re attending isn’t as good as you thought it would be, you can leave. Or you can not go at all. Is that what we want sports to turn into?

What I’m saying is that the sports world needs to find ways to differentiate itself from entertainment. Because otherwise we’re going to see more and more of that – the style of play isn’t entertaining enough for me, so I’m not paying attention. And that would be a bad thing for all sports. Sports isn’t entertainment; it’s a game.

Baltimore Orioles: What new promotions could the Orioles offer?

The Baltimore Orioles and the rest of Major League Baseball have the best promotions and giveaways in professional sports. Hands-down. Granted baseball plays more home games than any other sport, however they’ve always had the best in the way of giveaways, be it t-shirts, caps, bobble heads, etc. And of course the new thing is the garden gnome’s.

Giveaway nights/days are always big draws at the box office. And while teams want to give off the impression that the giveaways are a way to thank their customers for their business, let’s face it in reality it’s about getting derriere’s in the seats. Giveaways and promotions do just that.

Having said all of this, what new things could the Orioles look to do in 202 and onward? The idea of letting people bring two kids to the game free starting a couple of years back was genius. Now I”ll be the first one to tell you that I don’t feel that enough fans are taking advantage of that, but the fact is that it’s out there. But is there anything earth-shattering like that which could be done?

Honestly, I’m not sure that there is. However there’s one area in which the Orioles might fall a little short in terms of the gameday experience. And that would be concessions. Now don’t get me wrong, if you’re in any part of the seating bowl, the quality and selection of food at Oriole Park at Camden Yards is excellent. However a lot of teams across sports are now offering minor discounts on non-alcoholic food and beverage items during the game (for season ticket holders). And when I say “minor discounts,” I mean generally between $1-$2 off.

Furthermore, lots of teams across sports also offer “happy hours” at their games. In fact, the Orioles used to do this; back when what’s now the Leinenkugel Louge on the lower level first base concourse was the “Natty Boh Bar,” they offered a happy hour. From the time the ballpark opened until the end of the first inning National Bohemian Beer was $5/cup. Why not bring that idea back? And it doesn’t have to be throughout the entire ballpark – pick one bar or concession stand and offer the happy hour there.

The drawback to that idea is that the Orioles already offer 12 oz Bud/Miller/Coors for $6.50. Furthermore fans can already bring their own food into the ballpark at will. So is offering a happy hour or discounted food for season ticket holders going to bring more people to games? Probably not.

But what it will do is enhance the gameday experience for the fans that are already coming. And that’s the whole idea. The more you enhance that experience, the more enjoyable it is, and the more people out to games you’ll get. And that’s the whole name of the game.

Baltimore Orioles: Stadium dimensions hurt Birds’ chances at signing pitching

The Baltimore Orioles Opened Oriole Park at Camden Yards in April of 1992, and defeated the Cleveland Indians 2-0 in a pitcher’s duel. Think about that for a moment; a pitcher’s duel. At hitter-friendly Camden Yards, the dimensions of which allegedly were crafted to Cal Ripken Jr.’s spray charts. A pitcher’s duel.

They’ve happened, but we haven’t seen too many other games quite like that one in the ballpark’s history. However I recall Chuck Thompson saying that afternoon that it appeared Camden Yards might favor pitchers. As great as Chuck Thompson was, he was obviously dead wrong about that. Granted, we have the benefit of 27 years of history in the park which he didn’t have that day.

Nevertheless, as we know Camden Yards favors hitters. Big time. And for an Orioles’ team which is trying to improve it’s pitching, that’s a huge problem.

We see the same “phenomenon” in Denver, but probably more exaggerated. Nevertheless, free agent pitchers always think twice about coming to Baltimore. There may be other reasons for that as well, however one of the big reasons is the dimensions of the park. Plenty of pitchers have come to the Orioles, had their numbers take a nosedive, and then gone onto bigger and better things. Wade Miley, for instance – who went onto contend with Houston.

And there’s no real remedy for this, other than the Orioles having to resign themselves to the realization that they’re going to have to overpay in order to get a legitimate arm on the free agent market. Everyone has a price. However the Orioles should also be looking out for pitchers who are looking to strike guys out. This as opposed to guys who make the majority of their outs by putting the ball in play. Strike outs remedy everything.

Baltimore Orioles: Can’t touch Chris Davis when it comes to charity

Chris Davis has become a favorite target among some Baltimore Orioles fans. It’s fair to criticize his performance on the field, and Davis himself would be the first one to tell you that. However there’s one area in which Davis stands above just about anyone else.

It was announced yesterday that Chris and his wife Jill were donating $3 million to the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. The gift is the largest that’s been received by the hospital by a Baltimore sports figure. The hospital intends to use the money to building state-of-the-art facilities that will help to treat children. Davis in a news release:

This is a cause that is close to our hearts. Everyone at the hospital has inspired our family — from the patients and families who show such courage in the face of overwhelming challenges, to the medical professionals and caregivers who dedicate their careers to saving and improving lives.

Quote courtesy of Nathan Ruiz, Baltimore Sun

Davis has consistently worked tirelessly in the Baltimore community since arriving here during the 2011 season. He’s always willing to lend his time and name to anything being done by Orioles Advocates, which is the charity wing of the team. He’s never been anything less than an outstanding example of being a part of a community.

So while it’s fair to question Davis’ grit on the field, he’s always a guy who’s given back. That should mean something to Orioles fans. And the fact is that it isn’t something we hear about enough.

John Means was also announced as a finalist for the American League rookie of the year. It’s an honor that’s well-deserved by Means. Time will tell if he wins.

Baltimore Orioles: Does the Chris Davis deal make the O’s gun shy?

Most people would agree that the Baltimore Orioles stepped in it with the contract they gave to Chris Davis. Let me say up front that I agreed with the Davis deal at the time. With the seasons he had been having, they had to bring him back. Sure there were a few muted voices who said it was a bad idea and that his numbers would taper off, but I thought it was something they had to do – at the time. And they were loudly applauded for keeping him.

That’s something that a lot of people conveniently forget about some of the contracts the Birds have given out – the Davis’ Jimenez’s, etc. of the world. These were deals that the national media lauded when they happened. But nobody’s about to say that now. Hindsight’s always 20/20.

Having said that, there can be no doubt that the Davis contract hasn’t exactly worked out as the Orioles wanted. But as we enter the off season with the World Series being over, does that contract hamper the Birds? And I say that from the sense that it makes me wonder if perhaps ownership might be wary of giving out big deals due to the Davis situation.

And I think that if Peter Angelos were still in charge of the team, that might be the case. While on paper he’s still the owner, Peter’s sons John and Lou appear to be running the show now. Will they be different in this sense than their father?

The answer really lies with GM Mike Elias. He’s the man that John and Lou Angelos have taxed with rebuilding the Orioles into a winner. While owenership obviously needs to sign off on big ticket items, we have to trust that the Angelos sons will defer to Elias. If a deal comes along, hopefully they trust that what Elias is doing is for the best interests of the team – as opposed to stepping in and meddling.

Baltimore Orioles: Should the O’s go after Steven Strasburg?

At some point in this rebuilding process the Baltimore Orioles are going to have to make a splash in free agency. Whether that’s a bat or an arm remains to be seen. However if you look down the pike at the World Series Champion Washington Nationals, it seems that the emphasis should be on pitching.

And it just so happens that the World Series MVP, Steven Strasburg, just opted out of his contract. Admittedly the optics aren’t great; Strasburg opted out only hours before the team’s championship parade. So technically he attended that parade as a free agent. However contractually that couldn’t be helped.

Is it ridiculous to think that the Orioles might consider making a major splash this offseason and go after a stud pitcher like Strasburg? Let’s back up for a moment; would a pitcher of Strasburg’s pedigree even consider signing with the Orioles, no matter what the terms of the deal were? Why would a World Series MVP sign with a franchise that’s nowhere near being ready to compete for a title?

Ask former National Jayson Werth. He signed with Washington for seven years in 2011. I thought the exact same thing at the time; why would someone like that (who had won a World Series and could have his pick on where to go) sign with a team like that? First off Washington overpaid him – in theory. But…did they?

Werth was a veteran and he made the guys around him better. Odds are Washington doesn’t win the title without Werth (now retired) having been there. So in that sense, did they really overpay?

I suspect that Strasburg opted out of his contract, and will sign a bigger one with Washington. However the Orioles would have to overpay well above what Washington overpaid for Werth. Both in terms of years and dollars.

I’d put the odds of the Orioles going after Strasburg at about 5%. The odds of him signing here even lower. But at some point the Orioles will need to go after a big ticket item on the free agent market. And personally I think pitching is a great place to start.

Baltimore Orioles: Is Buck Showalter heading home?

Former Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter was under consideration for several managerial jobs. He actually interviewed with Philadelphia, but was also being considered for the NY Mets and possibly even the Anaheim Angels. To this point, no soap in terms of finding a team.

Technically the Pittsburgh Pirates’ job is still open. However oddly enough, Dan Duquette is also under consideration for the GM job there. Duquette and Showalter reportedly didn’t always see eye-to-eye in Baltimore. So odds are if Duquette ends up being the guy they hire, I wouldn’t look for Buck to get the job in Pittsburgh – who incidentally appears to be going about their managerial search the right way in that they’re looking for a General Manager first.

So what does that mean for Buck? It probably means that he won’t be managing in 2020, as of right now. All of the aforementioned teams have hired someone or are on the verge of doing so. Thus I suspect that Buck Showalter, who brought the Orioles out of the depths of the doldrums, is heading home.

I have to say that I’m surprised. While there was certainly interest by several teams, I would have thought that a manager such as Buck Showalter would have been one of the first hired. So what exactly worked against him?

Odds are we’ll never know. However Showalter does have the reputation of doing things his own way. I always recall the story of when he managed the Arizona Diamondbacks and raised a hullabaloo about the fact that the red on the carpet in the home clubhouse didn’t precisely match the red on the jerseys. Buck’s a perfectionist; to a fault, as many might point out. To the point that he almost becomes a burden.

And it wouldn’t shock me to hear at some point that part of what moved the Orioles to move on from him was that type of attention to detail. And I say that with admiration – because I’m the exact same way. And I’ve seen it in my own life; I’m told that I get a little too in your face when it comes to attention to detail. And sometimes that drives people away. So while it sounds like I’m calling Showalter out, I’m actually not. Because I have a similar worldview in that regard.

Another knock on Buck is that he doesn’t really buy into any of the new-age analytics, which caused the majority of his downfall in Baltimore. However I would also say this; look at what happened to Houston the other night. They picked a heck of a time to have their computer analytics fail them – in game seven of the World Series. So while old school, can we really say that the game’s passed Buck by? Apparently many GM’s and owners feel that it has. But again, when you put all of your faith in computers as opposed to people…sometimes that’s going to happen.

I do think that if he wants to do so, Buck will manage again. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him called in as an interim manager when and if a team dismisses their manager early in the season. But for now, while not set in stone, it appears that he’s staying home.

Baltimore Orioles: Does Washington’s success hurt the O’s?

The Baltimore Orioles now find themselves in a situation in which several other teams have been – sharing a regional area or a market with the World Series Champions. The Washington Nationals defied all odds in winning the World Series, to their credit. But where does that leave the O’s?

First off as I alluded above, the Orioles aren’t the only team to whom this has ever happened. Both NY teams, both LA teams, both Chicago teams, and the two Bay Area teams have all dealt with this. As did incidentally…the Washington Senators. When the Orioles won their first World Series in 1966, here were the Senators right down the pike having to share their area with the World Series winners.

The question a lot of Orioles fans are asking is whether or not Washington being the world champs will negatively effect the Orioles. And my response to that question is and always has been the same (back when this scenario was only “in theory): unequivocally, the Orioles’ fan base will not be affected. Some people disagree, and that’s fine. But I just don’t see it happening.

And I say that on two fronts. First off is a semi-emotional one. Little Johnny from Dundalk isn’t going to grow up with a Washington Nationals pennant on his wall. Sure, anything’s possible. However regardless of geographic location, most people want to raise their kids to root for the same teams for whom they root. So if you’re from an Oriole family, odds are you’ll remain as such.

But does that argument apply to areas not quite as defined as BALTIMORE or WASHINGTON as Dundalk? In places such as Laurel, Davidsonville, Frederick, etc, you might have kids with Oriole fan parents who might rather pull for the world champs. But whether that lasts forever is another story. But regardless of who’s good and who isn’t, you aren’t going to have people in the Orioles’ primary area converting. Just like had the O’s won the World Series odds are people in Fairfax, VA wouldn’t become Orioles fans. (Or perhaps return to Orioles’ fandom is the better term.)

That’s the semi-emotional argument. The second one is purely logical. I mentioned teams above who have dealt with what now faces the Orioles. Did the NY Mets gain a better stronghold as opposed to the NY Yankees after 1969 or ’86? How about the Los Angeles teams? Most recently, did ChiSox fans become Cubs fans? Or vice-versa when the Sox won the World Series?

A friend of mine is a Chicago Cubs fan. I asked him about this when the ChiSox won the fall classic, and his response was over my dead body (would he ever root for the Sox). He’s always seen the Cubs as “Chicago’s team,” whereas the Sox were just another run-of-the-mill American League team. That may be a bit narcissistic, but that’s his view and I think it’s shared by a lot of people in the Cubs’ fan base.

There was a portion of the Orioles’ fan base that did pull for Washington – in this World Series. But will they remain on the bandwagon and abandon their childhood team? That I think is doubtful. And I say that based on the fact that other fan bases that have been through this didn’t seem to waver. But time will tell.

Baltimore Orioles: World Series vindicates old school baseball

The Baltimore Orioles hired GM Mike Elias from the Houston Astros, who of course just lost the World Series to the Washington Nationals. However Orioles fans should be encouraged given that Elias brought a lot of people over from Houston, and appears to be setting up the Orioles’ culture in the same manner.

However there’s also a cautionary tale in this. Part of what Elias is all about is bringing analytics to the Orioles. But Houston showed last night that it can’t all be about analytics. You still have to have a feel for the game itself, which is played by human beings.

With Houston leading 2-1 in the seventh inning, manager A.J. Hinch lifted started Zach Greinke, who’s pitch count was in the 80’s. That seemed odd to me given that Greinke had only just given up his second hit of the game. He seemed to be in a zone.

Hinch probably should have gone to Gerrit Cole, however instead opted to use reliever Will Harris – who allowed the base runner to steal second, and then surrendered a homer to Howie Kendrick. That gave Washington a 3-2 lead, which they never relinquished, winning their first World Series.

Why leave a Cy Young candidate in the bullpen? Furthermore, with first base open, why pitch to Kendrick? The hitter behind Kendrick was Astrubal Cabrera, who’s a switch hitter. Whether or not that was the most favorable matchup or not, with one out if you can set up a ground ball double-play you can get out of the inning. Why do these things? Then it hit me: computer analytics.

I’m not suggesting that analytics have no place in baseball. Because I don’t feel that way. And for the record, I don’t think that A.J. Hinch should lose his job for this. But allowing a computer program to decide the best course of action based on probability of success might well work in a lot of situations. But again, we’re talking about human beings here. Things don’t always work out the way the computer says they will.

As egregious as pulling Greinke and not going to Cole was, the act of leaving first base open to pitch to Kendrick is the worst decision in my view. You have an avenue by which you can get out of the inning. Use it.

So the hope is that Orioles’ manager Brandon Hyde watches that and that it helps to reiterate the fact that you have to keep your feel for the game. Because if you don’t, you might find yourself allowing the computer to think you out of a game. Unfortunately for A.J. Cole, it happened to him at the worst possible time.

Baltimore Orioles: MLB steps in it during their own moment

The Baltimore Orioles have seen their share of bad calls, both over the years and in 2019. We’ve also seen our share of that in the ongoing World Series, last night being no exception. I’m not going to explain what happened in the seventh inning, because I’m going to assume that most fans saw it or are aware of it at this point. If you aren’t, google it – you’ll find it!

Here’s my take; if you really want to go by the letter of the rule, the base runner’s foot was inside the first base line. So again by the true letter of the rule perhaps it was correct. However it was really borderline in the sense that it was close. Does MLB really want to make that close of a call in an elimination game in THE WORLD SERIES?

To make matters worse, it appeared that the umpires went to review the situation via instant replay. This on a play that isn’t reviewable to begin with. However according to the umpiring crew, they were never reviewing the play. They were looking for a rules clarification. Yet, once they got off the radios one of them signaled OUT.

And that might be the most incriminating part of this. If the play was never under review why would they need to reaffirm the call? End of the day, I think home plate umpire Sam Holbrooke knew that he made a mistake. And at the end of the day, it wasn’t one that could be covered up.

The Houston pitcher retired the first batter after this fiasco. He then proceeded to surrender a two-run homer. Pitchers are conditioned to be in the moment among other things. So when delays happen, it does affect them. That four to five minute delay in essence froze the Houston pitcher. Thus both teams should have a beef with the situation.

If I were either manager in tonight’s game seven, I’d make it clear in no uncertain terms that my expectation is that nothing shady will be occurring on behalf of the umpires in the game. And if it does, I’ll be pulling my team off the field. If that sounds draconian, keep in mind that you’d be daring MLB to declare a World Series Champion by forfeit. And it would serve them right.

Baltimore Orioles: Shake up start times?

Two years ago the Baltimore Orioles made a minor switch to their traditional start times, and changed Sunday games to 1 PM (instead of 1:30 PM) starts. It’s unclear why this switch was made, however I thought it was a good one. It gets people home earlier, among other things.

However should the Orioles consider changing start times more across the board moving forward? In effect, Monday-Saturday games start at 7 PM, and then the aforementioned Sunday afternoon starts. There are exceptions, as some Saturday games start at 4 PM due to national television, and on occasion the Birds will have a weekday matinee.

And let’s start there; the Orioles aren’t one of the teams who play a lot of day games during the week. Usually if the team is heading out to the west coast they’ll schedule a getaway day matinee or something along those lines. But it happens once or twice a season. The Orioles conclude home series midweek on April 1st, 15th, 30th, May 13th, June 11th, July 1st, 22nd, August 6th, and September 24th. July 1st against the Yankees is followed by a road game in Oakland the following day – I would expect that to be an afternoon game. But might they consider having a few others?

Teams have presumably done studies showing what game time maximizes potential attendance. However especially once schools let out, I think they would have a unique chance to schedule a few day games so as to perhaps get kids more involved. And the same might be true on Saturdays. I admittedly am not a fan of the 4 PM games when national television dictates that start time. So maybe perhaps do the Orioles consider making their Saturday start times 1 PM along with Sundays?

I suspect that Saturday nights are big revenue-generators in terms of the box office as well as concessions. But again, I think that you have a better shot at getting more kids in the stands. Why is that an issue? Because you’re paying your future forward. You want lifelong fans and customers coming out of attendance. The more often you make it easier for kids to come to the park, the more lifelong fans you’ll create moving forward.

Baltimore Orioles: Say no to robot umps

The Baltimore Orioles have seen their share of bad calls over the years. And the fact of the matter is that we all know balls and strikes are one of the toughest things to call in sports. As a home plate umpire, you have to keep your strike zone consistent for nine innings. The good ones make it look easy. The subpar ones struggle. And we all know who they are.

Anyone who watched last night’s World Series game knows that the Washington Nationals have a serious beef with the strike zone. While that wasn’t why they lost, it is incredibly frustrating when you can’t buy a call. Thus today we’re hearing a lot about robot umpires taking over balls and strikes.

Unfortunately for purists such as myself, that’s something which is probably coming. But I hope that ends up not being the case. Yes folks, there is and should always be a human element to the game. But there’s another reason as well.

MLB and all professional sports are about to jump into bed with the gaming industry. Legalized sports gambling is becoming a thing. While there will still be a home plate umpire to make safe/out calls and to operate the machines, the balls and strikes will be called by computers. In this age where sports gambling is becoming a thing, do we not think there’s a chance that people could abuse the system and find a way to hack into the systems?

In terms of fixing results, when there’s a will there’s a way. As long as someone stands to make or lose a lot of money, there’ll always be someone out there willing to cheat. And with the know-how to do so. And yes, robot umpires take away from the tradition and the human element of the game. That’s not something that should ever change.

Baltimore Orioles: President Trump to attend Fall Classic

When the Baltimore Orioles were in the World Series in 1979, President Jimmy Carter came to Memorial Stadium and threw out the first pitch in game one. Numerous other Presidents have thrown out first pitches at the Fall Classic, including Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. President Donald Trump will not be throwing out the first pitch at tonight’s World Series game in Washington – to my knowledge. But he will be attending the game.

The President announced that if the series required a game five he would attend – and here we are! While I’m not going to get into political debates here, whether you support his policies or not we’re all aware of the controversy surrounding President Trump. I recognize that he’s not just some run-of-the-mill President. Whether I support him or not is irrelevant. But I support him attending the game.

No sport has a relationship with the White House like baseball. Mainly that’s due to Presidential First Pitches. However Presidents have always taken an active role in America’s pastime. And I think the fact that the World Series is in our nation’s capital tonight almost mandates the presence of the sitting President. Again folks, this isn’t about politics. This is an act by the President very much rooted in tradition. As Americans, we should be all about that.

President Trump will become only the second President to watch a World Series game in our nation’s Capitol. President Calvin Coolidge attended World Series’ games in three different years at Griffith Stadium, original home of the Washington Senators. This happened most recently in 1925. My late grandfather, Dr. Anthony Launi (who later played semi-pro and had a tryout with the Senators), was three years old! So it’s been a long time since a sitting President has seen a World Series game in the seat of the nation’s power. My hope is that the Nationals and Astros put on a good show this evening for the Commander-In-Chief.

Baltimore Orioles’ minor league affiliates at risk?

The Baltimore Orioles are lucky in that with the exception of the Gulf Coast Orioles, all of their minor league affiliates are semi-local. The Frederick Keys, Bowie Baysox, Delmarva Shorebirds, Aberdeen Ironbirds, and Norfolk Tides are accessible by car from Baltimore. However there are rumblings that MLB might be proposing a new Professional Baseball Agreement for 2021, which would eliminate up to 42 minor league franchises.

On top of the four Orioles’ affiliates, Maryland has five minor league baseball franchises (affiliated with a big league team, that is) – the fifth being the Hagerstown Suns, the Washington Nationals’ low-A affiliate. According to an article written by Nathan Ruiz this week in the Baltimore Sun, Bowie and Aberdeen were well positioned to keep their team affiliation. However Frederick, Delmarva, and Hagerstown (which again is Washington’s affiliate) could be at risk.

In essence, those three teams could be among the 42 teams which COULD be slated for becoming unaffiliated. Mr. Ruiz’s article also went to great lengths to say that the process is only beginning, and that nothing was definitive as of yet. This process is just beginning. As written directly in Mr. Ruiz’s article:

The league also believes the proposal would allow for a better overall geographic layout for minor league baseball, generally eliminating lengthy bus rides and undesirable hotel stays for players while putting top affiliates closer to their parent clubs. The decrease in teams and players would also allow the major league teams to better compensate the minor leaguers.

Although the locations of Frederick, Delmarva and Hagerstown are favorable, MLB desires improvements to their facilities, per an MLB source.

Courtesy of Nathan Ruiz, Baltimore Sun

It’s unclear what the intended improvements to these stadiums would be. In my view both Delmarva and Frederick have beautiful parks. I’ve admittedly never been to the ballpark in Hagerstown, however I do know that it’s older. However in terms of fan amenities, site lines, food options, etc, Frederick and Delmarva are great places to watch a baseball game.

Regardless of anything, I am in favor of every team having a setup like the Orioles – with all of their affiliates being semi-local. Washington’s triple-A team is in Fresno, CA. That’s too far. However there’s another impact that this proposal could have, and one that’s a bit more sinister in a sense – an economic impact.

A state such as Maryland which has a big league team in the state, another which is technically out of state (but only about five miles from the state line – give or take), and yet another about an hour north of the state line may not feel a major negative economic impact if they lose three minor league franchise. At the state level, that is…

…but what about at the local level? I’ve had and still have various aunt’s and uncle’s who have lived in and around Frederick, and I know it’s a great place to live and a great place to raise a family. I also know that the Keys are a huge part of living there. The local community supports the Keys, and they support the local community. What would happen if the Keys suddenly ceased to be what they are?

And you could ask the same of Salisbury (Delmarva) and Hagerstown. Salisbury I think would be okay given the fact that Ocean City is so close. But you get my point in writing this…would these communities not suffer en masse in some manner if they ceased to have viable minor league teams? Because I know Frederick would given how embedded the Keys are in that community.

So…is it really fair to contract three minor league franchises from one state? That’s part of the problem when it comes to the business of sports. Especially at the minor league level, these sports are a public trust. And when the needs of the business start to outweigh the needs of the public, these things can clash. However if three of it’s five minor league franchises ceased to be affiliated with a big league team, make no mistake that the state of Maryland would feel an impact.

Baltimore Orioles: Benefit in hiring a novice?

Baltimore Orioles fans will see the Chicago Cubs and their new manager, David Ross, in April next year at Camden Yards. (The Orioles will also head to Chicago and play two games later in the season at Wrigley Field.) Yesterday I made my view known that while Ross is a good baseball guy, he shouldn’t be given a job as a manager. Plenty of good candidates have put in their time in the minors and are deserving of an opportunity, and instead Chicago picked someone who had never coached at any level.

While this tactic worked for the New York Yankees and Aaron Boone, it’s also worth mentioning that Boone inherited a championship-caliber roster. I not only think that it’s unfair to gift a position as such to someone with no experience, but it’s also a bad idea. Chicago fans should be prepared to witness a manager who’s never coached before. My prediction is that it’ll show on the field.

But is there a method to this madness? Is there an advantage to hiring someone like this, who has no professional coaching experience? Again, I say that there isn’t. But I’m just asking for the sake of asking.

I can’t imagine what that advantage could possibly be. Unless you want to argue that a guy hasn’t had the “norms” of the game cloud his vision for what his team could be – or something to that effect. What possible advantage could come from having an inexperienced hand at the top?

Baltimore Orioles: Youth movement is now the no experience movement

Last year the Baltimore Orioles tapped former Chicago Cubs’ assistant Brandon Hyde to be their new manager. Whatever you think of year one, Hyde is firmly planted as the Orioles’ skipper now. And he had experience in the sense that he had coached for some time at the big league level, and even managed at the minor league level.

This was the equivalent of an NFL team hiring an Offensive or Defensive Coordinator as their new head coach. It’s giving an opportunity to a young guy who’s worked his way up the food chain in the coaching fraternity, and who’s deserving of his first opportunity to be the head guy in the dugout. This is part of the food chain in the coaching ranks in any sport.

However news broke yesterday that the Chicago Cubs were planning on hiring former catcher David Ross as their next manager. (Expect a formal announcement sometime after the conclusion of the World Series.) This follows in the footsteps of the New York Yankees, who following the 2017 season hired Aaron Boone, who had never coached a day in his life following his big league career. The same is true of Ross. Both men worked for ESPN between the ends of their careers, and the beginning of their managerial careers.

I see this as a disturbing trend in baseball. Obviously Boone’s hiring worked out well for New York. Boone was also gifted with a championship-caliber team, but I digress. Both Boone and Ross are good baseball men. They’ve been involved in the game their entire lives, and odds are they know what they’re doing – to a degree. Or as much as a novice could know.

But whether they know what they’re doing or not, there’s a difference between knowing the sport and knowing how to manage. It takes a lot of charisma, and it takes knowing how to position a lot of moving parts. I would never say that I could walk into a dugout and know how to manage a big league game simply because I know a thing or two about baseball. Why, you ask? Because I would never walk into an office building and say that I know how to be the CEO of that company. In my world, you have to grow into the role.

Yet it appears that the new and fashionable thing is to give the reins over to someone who’s literally never coached in his life. That’s a scary proposition in my view. In my opinion it’s saying one of two things. Either the position of manager really isn’t that important, or that anyone can do it. Again, scary proposition.

Manager or Head Coach isn’t important in some sports. I would argue that in the NBA Head Coaches are simply figureheads. It means marginally more in the NHL, but nowhere near as much as it means in the NFL, college sports, or MLB. Are we really willing to start turning these jobs over to inexperienced people en masse?

Incidentally, this isn’t an indictment on David Ross (or Aaron Boone) in terms of being a baseball guy. The instincts and savoir faire of the game is certainly there. It’s just a matter of experience and having been in certain situations. Or seeing other people in certain situations from the perspective of a base coach or bench coach, and seeing how they handled it. That’s all part of managing.

I feel badly for people such as Ryne Sandberg. He gave his entire life as a player to the Chicago Cubs’ organization. After his playing days he started working his way up the coaching ranks – again in the Cubs’ organization. He coached at various levels, rode buses, stayed in garbage motels – the whole deal in the minors. In hopes of becoming a manager someday.

When the Cubs had that position open, they went in another direction. Sandberg later got an opportunity to manage the Philadelphia Phillies, but was fired a few years ago. It has to be a bitter pill to swallow to see someone who’s never coached at any level waltz in and get the gig, whereas you put in your time and appears will not be getting the opportunity that you felt was due to you at one point.

And that right there is becoming one of the problems in our society. When people are denied positions that they deserve or have worked to obtain, only to have a novice waltz in and take it…needless to say there’s just something intrinsically unfair about that. And it happens in almost every Fortune 500 corporation in America.

Baltimore Orioles: Help vote the Oriole Bird into the Mascot Hall of Fame!

It came to my attention last week that the Baltimore Orioles’ mascot, The Oriole Bird, is a finalist for the Mascot Hall of Fame. In fact, it came to my attention last week that there even was a Mascot Hall of Fame. Fans can vote for up to four finalists through October 26th by clicking here.

The Mascot Hall of Fame is located in Whiting, IN. In looking through the web page, there are already some fascinating characters in the hall. Well-known mascots such as Mr. Met, The Phillie Phanatic, Brutus (from THE Ohio State University) are already there. However there are others which have me scratching my head.

With all due respect to the University of Delaware, how is “YouDee” the Fighting Blue Hen already a hall of famer but the Oriole Bird is not?! Same with the University of Nebraska’s “Lil’ Red.” Not to mention Utah’s “Jazz Bear.”

All mascots are fun, and they all have their quirks. In the early days of the Orioles/Nationals head-to-head games each team would bring it’s mascot to the opposing ballpark. While many people would argue that allowing the opposing team to bring it’s mascot to your ballpark makes it more “friendly” than a rivalry, I always thought that was a cool thing for the fans. Regardless of which team for which you were rooting, everyone loves mascots.

But some mascots stand above the rest. Admittedly, I’ll say that the Phanatic is probably the best known and most celebrated mascot. But I would submit that the Oriole Bird is in the tier of mascots (along with the Phanatic and Mr. Met) that are best known across sports. So again…how can mascots such as YouDee already be in the mascot hall, while the Oriole Bird is scraping to get in?!

So go out and vote, folks! You can vote once a day until 10/26. As I said, you can vote four finalists. For what it’s worth, the four finalists that I’m supporting are: The Oriole Bird, “Youppi!” (Montreal Canadiens), “Globie” (Harlem Globetrotters), and “Bernie Brewer” (Milwaukee Brewers). Fans can also follow the Oriole Bird on twitter by clicking here.

Baltimore Orioles: Former Bird Gerardo Parra spearheads Washington’s title hopes

The Baltimore Orioles acquired Gerardo Parra at the trade deadline in 2015 from Milwaukee. The hope was that he would provide an additional bat in the lineup as the Orioles contended for the American League East pennant. Unfortunately for the O’s, Parra only hit .237 for the Orioles for the remainder of the year, with five home runs.

Parra’s numbers prior to coming to the Orioles were better. They were also better after he left Baltimore – which was the following season when he signed with Colorado. He ended up with the Washington Nationals in the middle of this season, and has helped to propel them into the Fall Classic.

Parra changed his at-bat song to “Baby Shark” earlier this year, and it caught on in the clubhouse and amongst the fans. Everyone knows the story by now. While Parra’s numbers in Baltimore could have been better (or more on par with the rest of his career at least), he is a former Oriole. And the only former Oriole in the World Series at that.

Anyone who noticed Washington’s rise in the standings had to notice Parra’s part in it. His Baby Shark routine acted as a spark – for both his teammates and the team’s fans. I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of grown men prancing around to Baby Shark, however you’d be hard pressed to argue it didn’t have an affect. Time will tell if it carries Parra’s current team to a world title.

Baltimore Orioles looking to end FanFest?

The news came out yesterday that the Baltimore Orioles we’re considering putting an end to their annual FanFest celebration. It’s usually held towards the end of January at the Baltimore Convention Center, and by my account it’s always been a beloved event by fans. Last year the Orioles said that approximately 8K people came through the turnstiles. There have been years where there’ve been more, and years where there’ve been less.

I think this is a very bad idea. I tell people all the time that FanFest is all of the excitement and amenities of an actual Orioles’ game, without the game. It’s always been a great event for families and kids, and I fail to see the logic in ending it.

Word is that GM Mike Elias and the Front Office is considering another way to engage fans during the off season. So I would reserve rendering final judgement on this until the formally announce that FanFest is officially ending, and then announce what replaces it. However in general, I think that playing with fan outreach events like this is playing with fire.

FanFest is a very old event. It dates back a long way, and it’s something that’s very traditional in Baltimore. Lots of other teams do similar events as well. So ending it would be cutting deep in terms of what’s important to this fanbase. But time will tell what happens. I seriously doubt that they’ll just end it and have nothing to replace it.

Baltimore Orioles: Looking at free agent pitchers

Yesterday I asked whether or not the Baltimore Orioles should consider signing a free agent pitcher. My deduction was that it was something they should consider. And here’s another point to that ends; the Orioles played musical pitchers all season last year. Wouldn’t it suit them better to have at least one or two guys who they know will be mainstays in the rotation?

So today I wanted to throw some names out there. While it’s attractive to look towards the Strasburg’s and Odorizzi’s of the world, do we really think that’s feasible? Those are pitchers who will look for big money deals with longevity. The Orioles probably aren’t in a position to hand out a contract of that nature to a pitcher right now.

But there are more veteran pitchers out there who might come cheaper and for shorter contracts. The Orioles obviously traded Andrew Cashner to Boston last year – might both sides consider a reunion? Whether or not the Orioles would want that is another story. Cashner’s ERA ballooned when he went to Boston last year. Whereas with the Orioles he had a .383 ERA, with Boston that went up to .620. But he would be an option if he were willing to sign a team-friendly contract.

And there are other guys out there, such as perhaps Marco Estrada, or Gio Gonzalez. Ultimately the goal wouldn’t be to sign a pitcher who would be a big name so as to put people in the seats. While that would be a great addition, it isn’t the idea behind getting someone on the free agent market.

The goal would be to get an innings eater, and someone who could anchor the Orioles’ rotation and help some of the younger guys along. They did this in 2010 when they signed veteran Kevin Millwood to the staff. And he served his purpose very well. That’s the type of move the Orioles might consider making in the form of a Gio Gonzalez (among others).

And there are other names out there as well. Clay Buchholz, who could be an option. Again, the idea isn’t to get someone who might be an automatic ace. The Orioles are trying to grow their own ace in a sense. But someone to eat innings and to help show some of the younger guys the ways and means of being a big league pitcher. Someone who can perhaps be an extension of the manager and pitching coach on the field. Guys who are willing to do that are the types of guys you need when you’re building a team from the ground up as the Orioles are.

Baltimore Orioles: Should the Birds go after a free agent pitcher?

There are lots of pitchers who will be on the open market in 2019, in theory all pitchers that could be available for the Baltimore Orioles. The question is whether or not the Birds would be in a position to sign a free agent pitcher. Would it make sense?

Tough to say. This isn’t so much about who they might look to sign or who might be available and in play. It’s more about whether or not they should delve into signing one.

First off we need to look at who the Orioles already have that might be penciled into the rotation. I would say that Dylan Bundy, John Means, and Alex Cobb are in line to be starters going into spring training. That’s right, Alex Cobb…remember him? He’s still under contract with the Orioles until 2022. Unless he retires or is traded, expect him to be in the starting rotation. (Although keep in mind that he’s also coming off of season-ending surgery in 2019.)

I think there’s also a legitimate chance that Asher Wojciechowski will get a shot to compete for a starting job also. If his second half from this year continues into spring training, he’ll be in line as a starter. But is there anyone else on the roster who jumps out as a potential starter?

To me, the closest other person on the roster now might be David Hess. He’s started before, obviously. But it’ll take a great spring for him to earn his way onto the roster. So with all of this in mind, there could very well be space for the Orioles to get themselves a free agent pitcher going into the season…

…but who? That’s another discussion for another day.

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