Author Archive

Baltimore Orioles: Manny Machado to San Diego

Yesterday word finally came that former Baltimore Orioles’ third baseman Manny Machado has found a landing spot. Machado signed a ten-year deal worth $300 million with…the San Diego Padres. Nobody saw that coming – Manny to not only a west coast team, but a small market team. And one who’s probably not in a spot to win now at that.

But this is good news for Orioles fans. First and foremost, he’s out of the AL East. The Orioles were always wary (some would say too wary) that he’d end up in the Bronx. Furthermore he’s in the National League. The only way Manny signing with a team would have worked out better for the Birds is had he signed back here again.

For what it’s worth, San Diego does visit Camden Yards this year. They come in for a two-game series on June 25-26th. There’ll be an interesting dynamic in that series because while Manny will be returning to the park where his career began and where he undoubtedly has lots of memories, the Orioles team he’ll be facing certainly looks much different than what he knew before.

However needless to say, those two games should be fun for Manny and the Orioles fans. My hope is that they welcome him back with a standing ovation. You can also catch Manny and the Padres in Washington over the last weekend in April. The Orioles will make a return engagement to San Diego in July.

Baltimore Orioles: How will Brandon Hyde handle his bullpen?

With the beginning of Florida Grapefruit League play coming up this weekend, Baltimore Orioles fans are about to get their first look at Brandon Hyde in the dugout. However keep in mind that spring training in effect is a controlled environment. While the game outcomes certainly aren’t scripted, the pitchers certainly are – in terms of when they pitch and how many innings.

However with that said, I’ll be interested to see how exactly Hyde plans on managing his bullpen. We might get a sneak peak at that in the final week of spring training, when at times the rotations aren’t quite as scripted as they were in the beginning. But the biggest concern with a rookie manager is how he handles the bullpen.

Does he blow through relievers left and right like there’s no tomorrow? Does he leave a pitcher on the mound too long? Or…is he potentially really good at managing the bullpen?

Fact is that it’s not as easy as it looks. Not that I would know – because I don’t. But I would liken it to clock management in the NFL. We all sit there and complain when coaches birch clock management in the end of halves. We all think we could do better because it’s such an easy thing. But obviously it’s not that easy if so many people struggle with it.

There’s no doubt how important the bullpen is. Especially in the modern game. So how Hyde manages it is something worth watching from the beginning. He’ll make mistakes, and fans will have to accept that at first. But as things play out, hopefully those mistakes are fewer and further between.

Baltimore Orioles: Kennebunkport slider on Opening Day

There are several recurring Baltimore Orioles’ columns that I write every year. This one that I’ve made a point of penning every President’s Day is by far my favorite. Please note folks, there’s nothing that I’m writing here which is meant to be political. This column is about America’s Chief Executives playing a special role in her favorite sport – and nothing else.

President William Howard Taft began the tradition on Opening Day in 1910 at National Park in Washington DC. Since then, every sitting President (through Obama) and quite a few former Presidents have partaken in the event. It’s usually on Opening Day, however Presidents have also thrown out the first pitch in other games as well – such as President Jimmy Carter doing the honors at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore during the 1979 World Series.

Make no mistake, there’s no other tradition in sports like this. And I would submit that having President throw out the first pitch on Opening Day is about as special as anything. This past year America lost perhaps one of her most beloved former Presidents in George H.W. Bush. President Bush of course was a war hero turned politician, and a former first baseman at Yale to boot!

President Bush’s first turn at throwing out the first pitch was the year he entered office, 1989. He made the trek up the pike to do the honors at Memorial Stadium that April. He would return to Baltimore for Opening Day in 1992, when of course the Orioles opened Oriole Park at Camden Yards. President Bush’s first pitch wound up in the dirt, and he later said that he meant to throw a low-and-away slider.

President Bush also became the first and only sitting U.S. President (to date) to toss out the first pitch on foreign soil. He threw out the first pitch at Toronto’s Skydome in 1990. He had also traveled to Arlington, TX to do the honors for the Texas Rangers the following year. President Bush reprieved his duties of throwing out the first ball in 2003 in Cincinnati, and in 2015 in the ALDS in Houston.

So President George H.W. Bush is the answer to a trivia question. Who threw out the first pitch on Opening Day at Camden Yards in 1992? President Bill Clinton also did the honors a few times in Baltimore, but the 1990’s was the last time that a sitting President threw out the first ball in Baltimore. Presumably, that has a lot to do with MLB returning to Washington in 2005.

Which brings me to my final point. I always close this column in the same manner. Regardless of politics, popularity, or anything else, I think that the President should open the baseball season every year by throwing out the first pitch on Opening Day in Washington, D.C. Every President, every year. I hope you’re listening, President Trump!

Baltimore Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

The Baltimore Orioles have added a veteran infielder in Alcides Escobar. They dined him yesterday to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. If he makes the O’s he would be in line to make $700,000.

You can look at this as a low-level signing, although Escobar could compete for the shortstop position. Escobar is an 11-year big league veteran, most recently with the Kansas City Royals. He’s a career .258 hitter, it doesn’t have much power. GM Mike Elias on Escobar (Quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

Alcides Escobar will add a great veteran option to the middle infield competition we have brought into this camp. We are looking forward to having him join us here in Sarasota and enter the mix.

This could be viewed as a curious move by a team that’s in full rebuild mode. However as I’ve said before, you have to have some sort of veteran presence. The O’s will look to Escobar to assist in this department.

Position players are due to report today – many are already in Sarasota. The first full team workout is tomorrow.

Baltimore Orioles: Say it ain’t so, Joe!

This year is all about change for the Baltimore Orioles. That now includes in the radio booth. The Orioles announced last this week that longtime play-by-play man Joe Angel is retiring. Angel, 71, leaves after 19 years (in three different stints) with the O’s.

It sounds as if this has been in the works for some time, with the Orioles having told Angel that they’d work to accommodate whatever schedule he wanted to work this year. If he wanted to work a reduced schedule in some manner, they wanted to make that happen. However Angel felt that the time was right to step away entirely, and called it a career.

So no longer will the Orioles be IN THE WIN COLUMN! Home runs will no longer be waved bye-bye. Angel had several catchphrases that became beloved by fans. Speaking for myself, I’ve never heard anyone offer a cross word about the guy professionally. That should mean something.

Keep in mind that no sport is as tied to radio as baseball. So replacing Angel is no short order. Orioles fans have always been spoiled in the booth, as they had Chuck Thompson, John Miller, and then later on Joe Angel. Plans to replace Angel have not yet been announced, although the first radio broadcast of the year is next Ssturday’s Grapefruit League opener against Minnesota. So an announcement might have to come in very short order.

Baltimore Orioles: Might Brandon Hyde use an opener?

We know that with Brandon Hyde in control of camp and of the franichse on the field, there are going to be differences in style among other things from what Orioles fans are used to seeing. However there’s one idea that’s been floated about which I hope doesn’t come to pass: the use of an opener. Tampa began the practice last season, and a few other teams followed suit as the season went on.

Just as a refresher, in essence an opener is simply the opposite of a closer. A team opens the game with what would have normally been a relief pitcher, who’s lifted after recording 2-4 outs. Then the guy who was traditionally the starter comes in, in essence in long relief.

Admittedly, I’m not a fan of the practice. There’s the obvious argument of that’s just not how the game is played that one could make, and I do believe in that point. However I would submit that it would also induce the propensity to blow through one’s bullpen as well. Managing a bullpen – knowing when to make changes and when not to – is much tougher than it appears. If you blow through bullpen relievers like candy, someone’s arm’s going to fall off. GM Mike Elias on openers:

The opener strategy doesn’t make sense for every team, every rotation or every bullpen. But I can see a scenario or two this year where we might use it this year

Courtesy of Joe Trezza,

Given what I said above about using bullpen relievers, it just seems to me that it wouldn’t mesh with a rookie manager’s outlook to use this strategy. But then again, if you’re going to try something on a trial & error basis, this might be the year to do it. However my personal opinion is that this is simply a gimmichy thing in MLB which will eventually run course.

Baltimore Orioles: Does Dylan Bundy start the Florida opener?

Last year Dylan Bundy was in effect named the Baltimore Orioles’ staff ace when he drew the Opening Day assignment. So even with this being a new day in Baltimore and so forth, does that translate into a start next Saturday afternoon against Minnesota in the Florida Grapefruit League? Here’s a follow-up; does it really matter?

My prediction is that new manager Brandon Hyde named Bundy the starter for Opening Day in New York. But again, would that mean he’d get the start in game one of spring training? Furthermore once again, does it matter?

Even the best teams don’t really use a rotation in spring training. Pitchers’ innings are actually scheduled ahead of time. Not only that, but the guys who start games may well be relievers. It could be more about seeing how a prospective reliever stacks up against the top of someone’s lineup than anything else. But again, let’s not forget that these spring games are in essence scripted.

I suppose that if Bundy gets the start in the Grapefruit League opener that does actually mean something. However again, there’s no real rotation at this stage. As teams go into the final week or so of spring training managers might start to line pitchers up in a rotation of sorts. If you’re Bundy, you’d love to get the ball in game one. But you’re probably not losing sleep if you don’t get it.

Baltimore Orioles: The buck stops with Brandon Hyde

Things are going to be different this spring for the Baltimore Orioles and their fans. This much we know. But they’ll also be different for manager Brandon Hyde, who’s going from being an assistant to now running the show.

Hyde of course has managed before, but at the minor league level. There’s a vast difference between the two roles. As the title suggests, the buck stops with him now.

The good news for Hyde is that the fact is there aren’t too many holdovers on the roster. That means fewer players who could possibly say, but we’ve always done it this way. And the players who do remain from the Showalter era (the Davis’ of the world as an example) probably aren’t the types to say that. These guys all understand that regardless of how things were done in the past, they’re now going to be done a different way.

But I would also remind fans to be patient with Brandon Hyde. We’ve all started new jobs before, and we know the butterflies that comes with that at first. There’s nobody who’s more aware of the fact that he’s the new guy than Brandon Hyde. Mistakes will be made – especially at first. The good news is that the first 30+ games or so (Florida Grapefruit League schedule) don’t count!

Baltimore Orioles: Pitchers and catchers report today!

Today’s the day to which Baltimore Orioles fans have looked forward for some time. Pitchers and catchers report to the Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota today. Their first workouts will take place tomorrow. The first full squad workout will take place on February 18th.

This is merely the first step in a series of events that will take place, culminating in Opening Day. The Orioles yesterday signed outfielder Eric Young to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. It’s unclear where Young will fit in, if at all. But an invite to spring training means he’ll get an opportunity to compete for a job. That’s all anyone can ask.

This will be an interesting camp in the sense that it’ll be Brandon Hyde‘s first as a manager. Not just his first as manager of the O’s, but his first as a manager overall. It’ll be interesting to see how he runs his camp, and gets the team into game shape.

Fans will have their first opportunity to find out the answer to those questions in a week-and-a-half. Opening Day in the Florida Grapefruit League is Saturday, February 23rd against Minnesota!

Baltimore Orioles: Will free agents sign this week?

Baltimore Orioles’ pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota on Wednesday. Those who haven’t already reported, that is. All position players are to have reported by next week, and Opening Day for the Florida Grapefruit League is one week from this coming Saturday.

This off season has been all but void of big free agent signings. The likes of Adam Jones are the least of the free agents still out there (obviously Machado and Harper are the big ones). However this week is the final opportunity for players to sign with a team and still have a semi-normal spring training. I say semi-normal because any guy who signs this week is going to have to make travel arrangements to either Florida or Arizona, lodging arrangements for the next 5-6 weeks, etc. That normally happens over the course of the off season – assuming that guys know where they’re going.

However keep in mind also that these spring games aren’t just a dog and pony show. They don’t count towards the season standings, however they do mean something. Players need them to get into game shape. I’m talking timing at the plate, routes to get to balls on defense, and in some cases guys literally having to “get in shape.” In sum, there’s more of an emphasis on fundamentals as opposed to during the regular season.

I’ll point out the likes of Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner, who both signed during spring training last year with the O’s. Between the two of them, they had one spring start. And that was Cashner’s, which came late in spring training. Both pitchers struggled in the first month of the season. So arguing that these games don’t have meaning isn’t really fair, because that in and of itself should prove that they do. What players will do in spring training in the next few weeks will make a difference when the season starts.

So to me it stands to reason that we’ll see some signings this week. Will any of those be by the Orioles? That remains to be seen.

%d bloggers like this: