Baltimore Orioles: Infield shuffle at FanFest

The Baltimore Orioles held their annual FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center yesterday. As I said yesterday, it’s a great event and it always plays well with the Baltimore community. Regardless of the outlook for the team that coming year, the fans always turn out. This year was no exception.

FanFest wasn’t without it’s drama, however. First off it was announced Friday evening that both Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop would not be attending the event. (Zach Britton and Chris Davis were also not in attendance, but those were excused absences – Britton for rehab and Davis due to his wife having birthed twins earlier in the week.) Buck Showalter offered a little bit of clarity on the situation during FanFest (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

I’ve communicated with both of them. Jon’s is tough. He goes through four or five (phones) in an offseason, so getting ahold of him is kind of tough. Usually we go through his mom. But I talked to his agent and he made me aware of the advice he gave Jon, so we’ll live with it and move on.

Manny has … it’s one of those things I’ve learned through the years, before you kneejerk with stuff, so I’ve gotten a feel for what Manny’s absence is about and I have a pretty good understanding of that. Jon’s I don’t. The reasons I’m being given, not very good.

So in short, Schoop’s agent advised that he not attend the event. Would this be a silent protest to the way that the Orioles’ off season has progressed? (And I’m not even going to delve into the bit about the four or five phones…that was just a strange thing to say in Showalter’s part.) But ultimately he was advised not to attend by his agent. And in fact, it seems out of character for Schoop, who’s become a fan favorite.

Whatever Machado’s reason was for not attending, Buck Showalter accepted it as legitimate. If there was a personal or family problem, I suspect that most people would understand that. The fact is that some things are just more important than flying into town and attending FanFest. Odds are we’ll never know the true reason why he wasn’t there, but if the likes of Buck Showalter are okay with it that should be good enough for fans.

Speaking of Machado, he made news in absentia during the event. Buck Showalter announced that Machado would be moving to shortstop, his natural position, this year, and Tim Beckham to third base. Machado made it clear earlier this off season that he wanted to move back to shortstop, and the Orioles apparently are making that happen. Beckham himself addressed this news at yesterday’s FanFest event, and for the record he said all of the right things (quote courtesy of Jon Meoli, Baltimore Sun):

I’m open to it, especially if it helps the team and it’s a better fit for the team. The end goal is to win ballgames and you don’t want to lose sight of that, and I don’t want to make this a big deal. I’m just going to transition over there and continue to make the plays and be consistent.

Whether or not it’s truly the best fit for the team is another story. I’m not sure that having a guy who’s played in exactly five big league games at third in his career guarding the hot corner on Opening Day is what’s best for the team. However regardless of the methodology in getting to this decision, it’s been made. The Orioles will go with it.

Incidentally, don’t sleep on Beckham’s future with this franchise. Obtaining him was a good move last summer, and one for which Dan Duquette doesn’t seem to get a lot of credit. His attitude’s been great from day one; he just wants to play, and is willing to do whatever he needs to do in order to help his team win. That’s a Buck Showalter type of guy if I’ve ever seen one.

Needless to say, Beckham will rely heavily on his time in Sarasota both in drills and in games so as to get accustomed to playing third. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in some road games from the very beginning of spring training, because the more reps he gets at third in spring games, the better. Incidentally, happy 28th birthday to Beckham, who opted to spend his special day (yesterday) with his teammates and the fans at Orioles FanFest. Again, he’s all about the team.


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