Baltimore Orioles need to honor Buck Showalter in 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baltimore Orioles: Can Chris Davis regain his stroke?

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

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

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

Baltimore Orioles: Hindsight is 20/20 with Chris Davis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baltimore Orioles: Piano Man set to rock the yard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baltimore Orioles: April sets the tone

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baltimore Orioles: My fickle friend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baltimore Orioles trade Valera, Zach Britton to NY

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

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

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

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

Baltimore Orioles claim RHP Austin Brice

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

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

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

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

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

Baltimore Orioles: Where’s the line of justice?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baltimore Orioles: Can you call 100 losses a success?

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

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

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

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

Baltimore Orioles: How to attract younger fans?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baltimore Orioles: Welcome to 2019!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baltimore Orioles: Brandon Hyde begins hiring coaches

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

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

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

Baltimore Orioles: Is television hurting sports?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baltimore Orioles: The holly remains hung the day after

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

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

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

Baltimore Orioles: Holiday doldrums

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

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

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

Baltimore Orioles: The case against Manny Machado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baltimore Orioles: 2019 is Spring Training all year

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

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

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

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

Baltimore Orioles: Does greed really cause ruination?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baltimore Orioles introduce Brandon Hyde as new manager

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

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

Quote courtesy of Matt Kelly, mlb.com

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

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

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

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

Baltimore Orioles take home two Rule 5 players

The Baltimore Orioles selected shortstop Richie Martin from the Oakland Athletics’ organization with the first overall pick in yesterday’s Rule 5 draft. This is course is the traditional “final act” of the annual Winter Meetings, which broke up after the draft concluded. GM Mike Elias on Martin:


With Richie, we saw him as an above-average defender with plus range and a plus arm at short, somebody that can also move over and play second base. He had a resurgence offensively this year in Double-A. He hit .300, he posted an .807 OPS, so we think that the bat is trending up. He might be an option for us at the shortstop position coming into spring training and we’ll see what he can do.

Quote Courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports

Later in the day Elias also made a trade, acquiring a second Rule 5 player in Drew Jackson. Philadelphia had taken the infielder from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ system earlier in the draft, and the Orioles sent international bonus slot money to Philadelphia for his rights. In five seasons in the minors, Jackson’s a career .269 hitter. He’s also swiped 106 bases over time, and is a solid middle infield prospect.

No team has taken the Rule 5 draft as seriously as the Orioles over the years, although that was in an effort to win now. At this point the Orioles are trying to build a team, so in fact it is a bit different. Now they’re exactly the type of organization that should be drafting Rule 5 players, whereas before they probably should have focused on making higher level trades and free agent signings.

Just as a reminder, both Martin and Jackson will need to remain on the Orioles’ roster all season. Otherwise they’ll be offered back to the Athletics/Dodgers. I suspect that this year that won’t be a problem given the fact that the O’s are simply looking for talent to plug in for the future.

Baltimore Orioles: Chris Davis, Scott Boras, and Mike Elias

Chris Davis was a glaring and gaping hole in the lineup of the 2018 Baltimore Orioles. This much we know. Davis hit a career low .168 at the plate, with only 16 home runs. His presence on the 2019 team runs contrary to what the Orioles are trying to do. However his contract guarantees his presence on the roster.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I suppose it is if Davis can’t rekindle some of his previous form, however he’s also been known to this point as a clubhouse leader. Not to mention that he still has a very sure glove at first base. That’s not to say that he doesn’t commit errors here and there, but there are much worse first basemen out there than Chris Davis.

According to Davis’ agent Scott Boras, he met with Orioles’ GM Mike Elias on Tuesday evening to discuss Davis, and his hopeful resurrgence this coming year. That should come as welcome news for Orioles’ fans, as a Chris Davis getting back to form would help the team moving forward. Elias has already said that he would be involved in Davis’ off season training program, something that Davis apparently welcomed. However it’s unclear what Boras and Elias discussed – other than simply that they’re looking to get Davis’ production back up.

If we’re able to pencil Davis as a big bat back into the middle of the Orioles’ lineup, that’s only going to help the youngsters around him. The Mancini’s and Mullins’ of the world will benefit greatly. If Davis can raise his average and overall production back to semi-acceptable levels, the Orioles WILL win more than 46 games in 2019. That much I can all but guarantee.

Today’s the final day of the Winter Meetings, and all signs point to the franchise introducing a new manager at some point in the near future. Probably next week. However Elias will also choose the best player on the board at this morning’s Rule 5 draft. We know the routine by now – that player must be on the Orioles’ roster for the entire season or they’re sent back to their original organization. 

While it’s been somewhat of a running joke in terms of how much the Orioles have used the Rule 5 draft over the years under Dan Duquette, they’ve also potentially gotten more production out of Rule 5 players than any other franchise in history. Some of those players actually played for the O’s in postseason games. How unlikely is that to happen?! Needless to say, it’ll be interestin to see who they select.

Baltimore Orioles: Mike Elias making progress in manager search

The big elephant in the room for the Baltimore Orioles at this year’s Winter Meetings is the lack of a manager. GM Mike Elias admitted as much in saying that it’s always good to have your manager involved in the meetings. But that isn’t possible this year. Keep in mind that the organization is starting from the bottom.

The names are out there, and recently the name of former Washington manager Manny Acta was added to the list. A lot of folks will remember what he did with Washington and hope the Orioles take a pass. However I would urge fans to keep an open mind. One way or the other, a household name manager isn’t walking through the door.

Lots of sports figures have failed at coaching, only to go somewhere else and hit it big. Look no further than Bill Belichek in the NFL. However that aside I wouldn’t expect a hiring at the Winter Meetings this week. What happens after that however could be another story.

I wouldn’t expect the Orioles to make many waves at the meetings this week until Thursday’s Rule 5 draft. However this year it’s not the worst thing in the world that they’re going to participate. In the past it didn’t make much sense because they were trying to win now. That’s not the case now. So if they can get some talent that can possibly see the field right now, that isn’t a bad thing.

Baltimore Orioles: Jonathan Schoop to Minnesota

It appears that former Baltimore Orioles’ second Jonathan Schoop has found a new home. It was reported yesterday that he signed (or is about to agree to and sign) a one-year contract with the Minnesota Twins. The contract is reportedly worth $7.5 million.

Schoop is seen as a stop gap at second base for Minnesota, although I’m sure that if he found his stride once again they’d consider retaining him. Schoop’s production at the plate of course fell way off after he was traded to Milwaukee last year. While he was only hitting .244 at the time with the Orioles, his final average with Milwaukee ended up at .202.

Many folks wanted a reunion in Baltimore for Schoop after he was non-tendered. Now it’s obvious that’s only going to happen with him as an opposing player. When he was non-tendered I wrote that the Orioles should consider re-signing him only if they’d be able to trade him at the deadline. 

Either they didn’t want to the run the risk, or they didn’t think he’d be tradeable at that time. Nevertheless, he’s going to Minnesota. But you have to applaud the new Front Office, as the emotional move in a sense would have been to go after Schoop. But they excercised some self-control in not doing so, which is a good sign.

Baltimore Orioles hire Doug Brocail as pitching coach

The Baltimore Orioles appear poised to hire their next pitching coach. They’re expected to announce that Doug Brocail will be landing the job, replacing Roger McDowell. Brocail previously served in the same role for the Texas Rangers.

For what it’s worth, Brocail pitched in 15 major league seasons – primarily as a reliever. Two of those seasons were spent under Buck Showalter as his manager while in Texas. At this point I suppose that means very little, given that Showalter is no longer with the organization.

Personally I think that Brocail will come from a good position when preaching to his pitching staff. The fact that a 15-year big league veteran will be providing them direction should mean something. This is a guy who will have been there and done that. Let’s put it this way; Brocail is inheriting what was the league’s worst staff in 2018. Nowhere to go but up!

Baltimore Orioles: Would the Birds want Manny Machado?

Former Baltimore Orioles’ third baseman/SS Manny Machado has reportedly been offered a contract by the Chicago White Sox Worth $250 million. This over eight years. Give or take, that’s approximately $31 million per year for eight seasons. To a simpleton such as myself, that sounds like a no-brainer.

But as we all know, that’s far off from the 10 years, $350-$400 million contract that Machado craves. However here’s an interesting question: would the Orioles even want Machado? The reasons for having him on your team are obvious. But the argument against it…?

In looking at Manny’s actions and comments since leaving the Orioles, it strikes me what a great job Buck Showalter did in reigning him in. You never saw Manny say something along the lines of I’m not Johnny Hustle, or anything like that. That isn’t to say that he didn’t have his moments – because he most certainly did. But for the most part, he was fairly subdued in terms of some of his darker tendencies.

Whether or not that would continue to be the case or not would remain to be seen. Manny’s been gone from the Birds since July. And obviously when he went to L.A. he was allowed to express himself a bit more freely. Would he feel strange about coming back to a place where he might be expected to conform?

Obviously whether or not Brandon Hyde would want to reign Manny in the way Buck did is another story. Whether or not he would have the clout or presence to do so would remain to be seen. But there’s another angle to this as well. The Orioles be Orioles fans like their players to be members of the community, and in effect institutions. Is Manny, and his selling of his talents to the highest bidder, what they want?

End of the day, Manny isn’t on the Orioles’ radar. Not because of anything I said above. But because of the fact that the franchise is rebuilding. He doesn’t fit into their future. The Orioles are trying to find a new Manny Machado.

Baltimore Orioles: Should rules be bent?

The Baltimore Orioles and all of the other teams in MLB operate under the same rules. This much we know – in general. But there’s a player out there named Kyler Murray, who you might know as the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback from the University of Oklahoma. Or maybe I should call him a “potential player.”

Murray plays both football and baseball – and he could have a legit future in either sport. He was drafted by Oakland Athletics in last year’s draft. Both the A’s, and the league want Murray to pick baseball. He’s a great talent. It appears that he’s more inclined to pick football – because of the possibility of more up front money right away. (If it were me I’d look at the fact that baseball would potentially provide for a longer career and more money over a longer period of time. Plus baseball contracts are guaranteed while football contracts are not – but that’s just me.)

According to various reports, Murray is willing to pick baseball right now – at a price. Murray wants a big league contract worth $15 million. That’s more than is allowed under the rules of MLB’s collective bargaining agreement. But the question is whether or not MLB would consider bending that rule, or in essence waiving it – to keep a promising talent in the game.

I’m kind of a “rules guy.” The rules are there for a reason, in this case to ensure that there’s no wage disparity. But MLB also risks losing a talent to another sport. So what gives?

I’m not sure that there is a right answer. Baseball certainly has a stake in keeping Murray in the sport, and obviously the A’s do as well. But if I were the Angels, Mariners, or Rangers, what exactly would I think of this prospect? Baseball bending it’s own rul in favor of one of their division rivals? That might not sit well.

I suppose that at the end of the day my stance is that the rules are the rules. They’re there for a reason. An entity like MLB would probably not want to be bending it’s own rules – from the perspective of precedent. Because any team could then come and ask for a special accommodation, and reference that they did it for Oakland. Time will tell.

Baltimore Orioles: Is social media changing the dynamic?

For years and years fans complained that they didn’t know what was going on with the Baltimore Orioles. The ownership of Peter Angelos rarely seemed to communicate or.’a plans, leaving people in the dark in terms of the direction of the franchise. However much of that seems to be over, as sons John and Lou Angelos are running the show.

Whether or not the general public should know or has a right to know “what’s going on” is another story. Fans think they should have this right and/or privilege. And they aren’t shy about expressing that sentiment.

And a big part of this is social media. That’s a tool that I use myself quite often. However it also gives people a stake in what’s happening with any team that they follow. It allows them to speak directly to the team – via twitter and other manners.

And if fans don’t feel they.’really being heard, they seemingly have no issue packing up and in essence finding another team. Fans are mandating more access and more of an understanding on what’s going on with the team. And if they don’t get it, the team doesn’t get their money.

Years ago this wasn’t the case – and again, years ago there was no social media.

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