Baltimore Orioles: Hue on on the fall classic

The Buck Showalter era Baltimore Orioles will be represented in the 2018 World Series. Manny Machado plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers now – after being traded there in July by the O’s. And Steve Pearce plays for the Boston Red Sox.

Most Orioles fans aren’t thrilled that Boston’s back in the fall classic. However my hope is that they’d be happy for Steve Pearce. He was a key member of the 2014 AL East Champion team, as well as other teams before that. He’s a gamer, and he’s seemingly played on winning teams wherever he’s been.

Pearce will of course face off with Machado, his former teammate. Regardless of how things ended and the politics behind the ending, Orioles’ fans should look at the Showalter era with pride. And the fact that two former members of the team from that era are now competing for a world title pays homage to those times. Needless to say, they were special days in Baltimore.

Baltimore Orioles: Victor Victor Mesa to Miami

The Baltimore Orioles have reportedly lost out on prized Cuban player Victor Victor Mesa. And his brother, Victor Jr. The duo will instead take their talents to South Beach, where they’ll reportedly play in the Miami Marlins’ organization. An announcement is expected this week.

The Orioles direly wanted the Cuban duo to be the flagship of their rebuild. The Birds at one point were in the lead when it came to the potential to sign the two, as they led the league in international bonus slots. Former GM Dan Duquette had acquired approximately $6 million in international bonus money. However Miami made a few trades and inched ahead.

Victor Victor Mesa is expected to sign for $5 million, while Victor Jr. is expected to sign a deal for $1 million.

Baltimore Orioles: How active in free agency?

How active will the Baltimore Orioles be in free agency going into 2019? If ownership’s comments are to be believed, the answer is not very active. We know that the Orioles want to cut payroll by a country mile, which is mainly what would prevent Adam Jones from coming back.

If Jones has no suitors and the price drops, I suspect that the Orioles would be amenable to bringing him back. But that’s a big if. We all remember what happened last year.

But whether it’s Jones or anyone else, I don’t see the Orioles making classic Duquette-era signings as spring training closes. I take them at their word for the time being. The goal is to get younger.

However again, I wouldn’t be surprised if they made a move, provided that the player came cheap. And that could be for Adam Jones or anyone else. The fact is that even on a young team you still need someone to show young guys the way. That’s one of the reasons I thought it was a mistake to get rid of Jones.

But I digress. The Birds will probably be active in the Rule 5 draft again, where they could presumably acquire another young player. Does all of that mean that the 2019 Opening Day lineup might resemble that of the final game of 2018? Possibly. But time will tell.

Baltimore Orioles: Hands off the game

The Baltimore Orioles have gotten themselves caught up in various situations regarding unwritten rules over time. Every team has. But if you believe some people, those unwritten codes are part of what’s ruining baseball.

And that’s an issue with which I take issue. Let me preface this by saying that this column isn’t about unwritten codes. It’s about a wide array of things that tie into one main idea. Many people say that those unwritten codes are dragging the game downwards because the younger audience doesn’t care for them. Translated to me, that means they simply don’t understand them.

We also hear about how the games are too long, some rules too cumbersome, and about the sexiness of the game not being high enough. All with regard to a younger audience. We’re then reminded that of all the major sports, baseball fans’ average ages are creeping up. Which goes back to the point about the younger audiences – basically if the sport doesn’t modernize itself, it’ll die.

And I find that hard to believe. It’s always found a way to motor it’s way through tough times. Quite frankly it needs to start at the bottom; parents need to get their kids involved in baseball. Whether that means little league, going to big league (or minor league) games, or something else, just get them involved.

One of the more radicle ideas I’ve heard is that the game should be limited to seven innings. Uh…no. I’m sorry that the younger audience doesn’t see the value in the game the way it is, but baseball’s always been a nine inning sport. Just like four periods (quarters) in football, and three periods in hockey.

Whether we’re talking unwritten rules or length of games, the fabric of the game should always remain the same. I’m sorry, but that’s just a fact. You can disagree with me all you want – any many of you do, on twitter (when these issues come up). But changing the very fabric of the game, or re-writing it’s history, makes no sense. In fact, it’s borderline disrespectful to the die hard lifers out there. If you want to play seven inning games where guys can “pimp” their home runs as much as they’d like, you can call it anything you’d like. But it’s not baseball.

Baltimore Orioles: 1996 American League Champions!

Baltimore Orioles’ fans get asked often if they’re ever going to get over the 1996 ALCS game in which a young fan named Jeffrey Maier reached over the fence and in essence created a home run. And the answer is probably never. The Orioles had by far the best team in baseball that year. And that one moment changed the course of history.

I won’t go into details because odds are most people saw the play and are familiar with it  – but a similar situation occurred in last night’s ALCS when the umpiring crew ruled that fans (again in right field) in Houston interfered with Boston’s Mookie Betts as he tried to catch the ball. Was the fan’s glove over the wall? If it was, it certainly wasn’t as well-defined as over the wall as Maier’s was.

There’s no question that Betts’ progress in catching the ball was impeded by a fan. You can see a fan literally close Betts’ glove. The question is whether or not the fan’s arm was ever over the wall and in the field of play. I’ll let folks make that determination on their own.

Having said that, the big difference between the Maier case and this one is the fact that we now have instant replay. So one way or the other the umpire  (Joe West in this case) had the ability to see the play again in slow motion. Rich Garcia never had that ability. And for the record while I’m on the topic, Garcia admitted later that he botched the call. It should have been fan interference. I always gave him a lot of credit for that. Fans should understand that bad calls are going to happen, and as quickly as things can unfold one can understand how something could get overlooked. But an umpire admitting that he botched a call like that is rare. To his credit, Garcia did just that.

But needless to say, if the Mookie Betts play was ruled fan interference, then the Jeffrey Maier play certainly had to be fan interference. So…the league’s all but indirectly admitting that the Orioles rightfully won the 1996 ALCS! (I recognize that’s not the case folks…but work with me!)

Baltimore Orioles: Cheating Champs?

The Baltimore Orioles have had their share of issues defeating the Houston Astros over the years. Much of that has to do with pitching and getting on base. But what if the defending champions had additional help during games?

According to Metro Boston, a Houston Astros’ employee was in essence thrown out of a media credentialed area near the Boston dugout during last Saturday’s ALCS Game One. Apparently the man was working his phone over the course of a couple of innings among other “suspicious actions.” The man was allowed to stay in Fenway Park, but as not allowed back into the credentialed area.

Metro Boston goes on to state that Boston may have been warned by the Cleveland Indians of this sort of thing, who of course were defeated by Houston in the ALDS. The implication of course is that the man was potentially able to see and hear what was going on in the Boston dugout. In effect, a fairly complex sign-stealing operation.

None of the three teams mentioned above have commented. Having said that, IF this is true it does present a bit of a problem. It would call into question the legitimacy of what Houston’s done in the past few years, and this year. The irony would be however that it would be the Boston Red Sox, who did something similar with an apple watch last year, who were victims.

The bit about Cleveland in essence warning Boston is interesting also. Cleveland manager Francona of course managed the BoSox for many years. So there are ties between the franchises in that sense. Let’s be frank; sign-stealing and using any method possible to gain an advantage (a fancy way of saying cheating) is rampant across MLB and sports. Writers such as myself talk about the integrity of the game and so forth, and I think that’s fine and good – for writers. But between the lines, guys are willing to do whatever they deem necessary to win. Including cheat.

But it’s also rare that teams will call one another out. Kind of an unwritten rule inside of an unwritten rule. First off, tattling is unbecoming of grown men. Remember the old adage snitches get stiches? It’s bad enough to cheat, but you don’t want to be the guy to attach your name to manifesting the situation in public. Again, it’s unbecoming of a grown man.

But often times things such as Team A warning Team B about Team C will go on. And if this story is to be believed, that’s probably what happened. Ironically, Forbes later came out with a story saying that there was no wrong-doing by the Astros. Apparently the league was willing to acgknowledge that there was a Houston employee involved in something, but that he was apparently keeping an eye on the BoSox to ensure that THEY weren’t cheating. Again accoring to Forbes, the matter was closed according to MLB.

Believe what you wish one way or the other. I’ve seen several really strange things however when the Orioles have played Houston. The same is true in series’ not involving the O’s when Houston’s playing. A lot of funny things seem to happen in games in which they’re involved. And they usually seem to happen in Houston’s favor.

Understand, while it may not appear as such, I’m NOT accusing the Houston Astros of cheating. One side says one thing, and the other says something else. Unequivocally, we have a he said she said situation. But this is a story that’s out there, and will potentially have to be addressed further at some point. Something that’s certainly worthy of keeping an eye upon.

Baltimore Orioles: Ask Adam Jones about Boston fans

The Baltimore Orioles and Adam Jones will tell you about Boston fans. Now in general, Fenway Park has some of the best fans you’ll find in any sport. But there are exceptions to every rule. And many of those exceptions happen to come in Boston sports events.

On Sunday a Kansas City Chiefs player scored a touchdown in their game against the New England Patriots. The player ran out of the endzone and towards the stands, where he was flipped the bird. While vulgar, it’s probably not over-the-line for fans at a game. What is over-the-line however is what came with the flipping of the bird…

…the player had beer thrown on him. By a fan. Yes, you read that right (if you hadn’t already heard the story). A fan actually threw beer on a player. Maybe I’m cut from a different cloth than some people, but I’d never do that to someone. If someone did it to me I’d view it as akin to throwing a first punch.

There’s no circumstance in which this is EVER acceptable. But it’s not the first time Boston sports fans have shown this ugly side of themselves. As I said, for the most part the fans at Fenway Park are some of the best in the business. But we all remember the situation last year in which Adam Jones dealt with racial slurs in the outfield.

Again, there are lines you don’t cross. Telling an opposing player that they’re no good or have no business being on the field is one thing. Right or not, that’s part of what professional athletes sign up for. It’s part of the job. But racial slurs are well over the line. And again, that happened in the same city that threw beer at an opponent last night.

On top of that, Joel Ward (an African-American) of the Washington Capitals had a similar experience to Jones when he scored the series-winning goal to defeat the Boston Bruins in a playoff series a few years ago. As stand-alone incidents each one of these are unacceptable. But put them together, and it speaks to a louder problem. Whether anyone chooses to admit it or not, Boston may have a race problem.

So should opposing players fear playing there? The Orioles are about to have a lot of young players; what are they to think? The best and only way to address this is for the decent fans of Boston to police the situation. If they see something, they need to say something. And that goes for all cities – including Baltimore for that matter. Am I suggesting that people should rat out their own when it comes to these types of things? That’s exactly what I’m saying.

Baltimore Orioles: Speed or brawn?

The former Baltimore Orioles’ team was all about power. That is until said power was seemingly zapped this year. Or in reality it was zapped starting in September of 2017. But I digress.

The baseball industry has been trending towards small ball for some time. I personally may not be as big a fan of it as some, however it’s certainly “a thing.” People are quick to throw out the examples of the Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, and even this year’s Tampa Rays as examples,

However with that said, power-hitting is still “a thing” also. The Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, and Los Angeles Dodgers are all great examples of successful teams in the here and now – who are all about bashing their opponents to death. And notice that two of those are American League East teams.

So the question is where do the Orioles go as they rebuild? Do they focus on team speed and OBP? Take the get on base approach? Or do they look once again to power as a modus operandi to win games?

The answer has to lie smack in the middle. They do need to have more of a focus on just getting guys on base. The fact is that you never know what can happen when someone gets on base. He could swipe a bag, get to second on a wild pitch, etc. And yes, sometimes that additional pressure on the pitcher and defense is enough to cause a mistake that culminates in a run scoring.

However, the Orioles still compete in the American League East. There’s no division in which power has historically been more celebrated. And in reality it’s power whenever and in any manner possible or necessary. People point to Tampa’s success in 2018 as evidence for the fact that people like me are wrong. Maybe that’s true for al I know. However I just don’t see a team competing over a long period of time (let’s say five years plus) relying on next-to-no-power, along with freak plays. Again however, anything’s possible.

So perhaps the emphasis for the O’s moving forward should be on balance. If you commit yourself to balancing power and speed/OBP early in the rebuilding process, it’ll stick – PROVIDED that they have the right personnel in place. That’s the big part regardless of the strategy. But if you have balance, you’ll eventually be tough to stop.

Baltimore Orioles: Was Buck Showalter part of the problem?

I’m on record as believing that Buck Showalter should have been given a contract to manage the Baltimore Orioles in 2018. There isn’t much that’s going to sway me off of that opinion. However this past week we heard stories and rumors start to surface from very credible sources such as The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal that gave a lot of people some pause.

In short, the Orioles didn’t utilize analytics enough, which explains their quick malaise. And on top of that, it also explains why players many players who left the Orioles improved almost overnight. Is there something to that?

Buck Showalter isn’t the type of manager who’s going to embrace analytics the way that some of the younger managers and coaches do. That doesn’t make him right or wrong. It’s just a different approach – much more old school at that.

Buck believes that you win games by out-thinking, out-hustling, out-scoring, out-doing, and out-manuevering the other side. And it’s easy to see how a guy who’s played by that code his entire life would be adverse to allowing computer nerds to take over the game. And I don’t mean that to be disrespectful in the least. I mean that in the sense that the game’s won between the lines; not by crunching numbers.

This isn’t to say that some level of using analytics isn’t good. And I’m sure that Buck would tell you that. The Orioles used a defensive shift as much as anyone else during his time in Baltimore. That’s all based on what’s on guys’ spray charts in terms of where they place the ball in play.

However we’re also led to believe that at various times there was strife within the organization, with Buck not really wanting to embrace new ways of thinking, and other members of the organization wanting to do so. Sometimes including players. So…was Showalter actually holding the team back?

There are a million things you could say, but the fact is that we don’t know the whole story. And we won’t for awhile. Little by little these types of things always trickle out; it just takes time. Analytics has little to do with Showalter leaving Zach Britton in the bullpen in the AL Wild Card Game in 2016. If some reports are to be believed, that’s when some players lost faith in his ability to manage the team.

There can be no doubt that Buck Showalter led a resurgence of Orioles baseball that touched a generation of fans. Does that mean mistakes weren’t made? Of course not. Any professional should be willing to admit that s/he made mistakes. Buck’s no different. The question is whether or not Showalter himself hampered the organization with his old school tactics. My reponse to that would be that tactics as such worked forever and ever – which is why they’re old school. Why would they not work now?

Baltimore Orioles: What to make of Jonathan Schoop

Jonathan Schoop is only one of many former Baltimore Orioles appearing in the 2018 MLB playoffs. Schoop’s Milwaukee Brewers lead the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0 in the NLCS. However Schoop himself has been absent in the lineup of late, as he’s struggled mightily since leaving Baltimore.

In many cases it works in reverse; a player looks average at best with the O’s, and their career takes off when they go elsewhere. And often times that transition is immediate. Schoop finished the 2018 regular season hitting only .202 in a Brewers’ uniform.

Many naysayers over the years have tried to market things as the Orioles screwing the pooch in developing players and so forth. Then they go somewhere else and other coaches in another organization with another system straighten them out. But if you’re going to argue that point, you’d have no choice but to argue the opposite in this case. Or at least argue that the Orioles were obviously doing something right with Schoop.

My personal opinion is that this is in essence the inverse of a guy needing a change of air. The Orioles aren’t unique in that sometimes guys flourish when they go elsewhere. It happens across sports all the time. Sometimes just being in a different set-up can achieve better results. Sometimes it allows the player to be somewhat more relaxed, and it just falls into place.

But Schoop was a guy who seemed to like playing in Baltimore. And his departure came as somewhat of a surprise, given that the Orioles seemed intent on trading everyone. So is it possible that the exact opposite results of a change of air occurred with him?

That’s my theory. The more sinister version of that is that the O’s got rid of him just in time. I don’t believe that, for what it’s worth. I don’t think that someone as young as Schoop is going to just fall off a cliff and suddenly not be right. But either way, he didn’t have a good second half with his new team. For his sake and theirs, my hope is that he can get it together in whatever appearances he makes moving forward.

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