Author Archive

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.

Baltimore Orioles: How might a new regime handle Chris Davis?

I’m on record as saying that the Baltimore Orioles did the best they could with first baseman Chris Davis in 2018. Davis’ contract meant that they really couldn’t cut him. He spent some time on the bench, but DFAing him would have been a different story.

But what about next year? A new GM and a new manager will replace Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette. Showalter specifically we know is loyal to the bone, which many feel is why Davis was in the lineup as often as he was this past year. His contract certainly played a role also.

And the contract situation will continue regardless of who’s in charge. If the Orioles cut/DFA him, they’re still on the hook for his salary (unless they were able to trade him). Even if another team picks him up – the Orioles would be paying him to play for someone else. Also keep in mind that some of the payments are deferred until well after the contract ends.

Needless to say, a new regime isn’t going to be quite as loyal to a holdover from the old regime. And that’s in essence what Davis would be – a holdover. That isn’t to say that he would be cut. I’m not sure that the Angelos family would be happy wasting resources like that.

But would he play as often or as long? Tough to say. Just another in a long line of questions that will be posed to the new guys when they arrive.

Baltimore Orioles: Mark DeRosa for manager?

There are several names circulating as candidates for the Baltimore Orioles’ open managerial spot. There are several “recycled managers” out there, many of whom are relatively big names. I’m on record as saying that the O’s should go young and go with someone who’s probably on his first manager’s job.

I say that because someone like that is going to work for what the Orioles are going to want to spend. And I don’t say that meaning that the O’s aren’t willing to pay for a decent manager. They spent a lot on Showalter over the years. They’re willing to spend for a top-notch manager. But the team they’re going to have for the foreseeable future wouldn’t warrant someone like a Soscia. Just not in the cards.

So having said that, one name that’s been floated is former major league utility man and current MLB analyst Mark DeRosa. DeRosa was drafted in 1996 by Atlanta. He played for eight different teams over the course of his career, retiring after playing in Toronto for the 2013 season.

In many ways he does fit the bill. He’s a former player and he’s young. However I caution the Orioles and fans on one point: he’s never coached. And I don’t mean he’s never managed, I mean he’s never been a coach in MLB. After retiring he went straight to MLB Network and has been there ever since.

People will look at Boone in New York and say that worked out pretty well. Sure…when you have a championship-caliber team in place it’s probably pretty easy. However there are quite a few things about managing that you can only learn by being a coach on someone’s staff and watching what they do.

The flip side of the coin is that if the Orioles don’t take a shot on hi, someone else might. Then you’re on the clock to win a World Series before that team. Again, DeRosa may well be a great manager one day. But are the Orioles willing to take the risk that he will be right now – after no coaching experience?

Baltimore Orioles play an indirect role in the MLB playoffs

I’ve said previously that with all of the former 2018 Baltimore Orioles in the MLB playoffs, the Buck Showalter era is indirectly living on in absentia. I suppose that might come off as a bit of a stretch. But if you think about it, there’s some truth behind that statement.

New York fell to Boston last night, 4-3. That was an elimination game, so Boston now advances to play Houston in the ALCS. New York won 100 games in 2018, which in most seasons and in most divisions would have been enough to win the division. Not this year in the AL East.

New York of course had to play an elimination game at home last week against Oakland, and then jump head first into a best-of-five ALDS against their rivals (Boston). And as the Orioles and Oriole fans will tell you, those Wild Card Games will take a lot of out you. Obviously you’d rather play in the Wild Card Game as opposed to staying home. However they aren’t exactly pleasant experiences – win or lose.

The O’s won seven games and dropped 12 to New York this year. The only team in the American League against whom they won more games was Tampa (8). Granted going 7-12 against a division foe isn’t winning you any titles. However at the very least the Birds were slightly more competitive aainst New York than they were against most other teams.

You see where I’m going with this, I’m sure. New York finished eight games behind Boston in the standings. The O’s went 3-16 against Boston – had they ended up with a similar record against New York, the division is much tighter. And who knows how things play out at the end of the day?

New York still would have had some work to do given that circumstance in order to stay out of the Wild Card Game. But the fact is that you just don’t know how things end up playing out. So one way or the other, the influence of the Orioles was felt – directly or otherwise.

Baltimore Orioles: Manny Machado vs. Jonathan Schoop

As I said last week, the likes of Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop being in the post-season seemingly allow the best era in recent Baltimore Orioles’ history to live on. Albeit in absentia in a sense. So on that basis, Orioles fans are in for a treat.

Machado’s Los Angeles Dodgers and Schoop’s Milwaukee Brewers are set to square off in the National League Championship Series. One of those two will obviously get the opportunity to go into uncharted waters, and advance to the World Series. Will it be the Dodgers, who by default are always going to be a part of the national discussion of baseball? Or the blue collar Brew Crew, from the blue collar town of Milwaukee?

I use that term because Milwaukee is a lot like Baltimore in a sense. However that aside, Machado’s certainly had an easier time since leaving the O’s than Schoop has. Machado’s hit .273 with 13 homers as a Dodger. Schoop’s hit .202 with four homers. In some instances he’s been used in essence as a bench player and/or pinch hitter.

That aside, Schoop and Machado were very close friends with the Orioles. We all remember Schoop leaving his vacation and driving to Manny’s house to see him off after having been traded. So I’m sure that both will want to beat the other one, however both would be happy for the other if he wins.

My hope is that Orioles fans don’t follow this series thinking that it’s a shame the Orioles couldn’t keep those players. Be happy for them, and know that at the very least the O’s got something back for them. May the best former Oriole win!

Baltimore Orioles: Does Buck Showalter have a place in baseball moving forward?

I maintain that the Baltimore Orioles made a mistake in not retaining now former manager Buck Showalter. But what’s done is done. Having said that, maybe I shouldn’t include that former title just yet. Showalter’s contract doesn’t expire until the end of the month. So technically he’s still the manager of the Orioles. But I digress.

When Buck first got here he non-ceremoniously announced that this would be his final managing job. It wasn’t a comment that received a lot of fanfare, but I remember him saying something to that effect. One has to wonder if he feels differently now.

Let’s say that he does feel differently. Let’s say that at 62, he wants to manage – next year. Where could he possibly go? I’ll start with the most obvious: the Anaheim Angels. That’s a team that could in theory be a contender now with the right leadership. Furthermore it’s a team that’s used to a veteran manager and a steady hand. Overall, Showalter would very nicely fill a vacuum there.

Minnesota is also looking for a new skipper, and while that’s a team that might need just a bit more building, it’s also a possible fit. The same is true but moreso (in the building part) in Texas. Showalter lives in Dallas, and is a former Texas manager. So that would be a homecoming of sorts.

Ultimately I think it matters what Buck himself wants to do. His credentials as a manager are well-known. If he wanted to manage now I think there would be no shortage of suitors. But it wouldn’t surprise me if he took a year off. Maybe re-evaluate things after next season. But I don’t see Buck going the way of other former Oriole managers and either becoming a scout or a perpetual assistant. If he wants to be a manager moving onward, he will be.

%d bloggers like this: