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Baltimore Orioles: Harold Baines and Lee Smith elected to the hall

Two former Baltimore Orioles are going to the MLB Hall of Fame as of yesterday: Harold Baines and Lee Smith. The duo were voted into the hall by the “Today’s Game Committee. They will be inducted in July.

Baines of course is a native of St. Michael’s, MD. While he spent most of his career with the ChiSox, he had some great years with the Orioles. And there was always a special relationship so to speak, because Baines loved playing in Baltimore since the Orioles were his hometown team. Baines of course was primarily a Designated Hitter, and retired in 2001 with a career average of .289, 2866 hits, and and 384 homers.

Smith played for eight teams in his career, most prominently the Chicago Cubs. He spent 1994 in Baltimore however, which of course was a truncated year due to a players strike. He finished his career with an ERA of 3.03.

Anyone of my generation is going to remember Harold Baines very well, and probably be incredibly happy and proud that he’s going to the hall. He only played for the Orioles for a few seasons, although he seemingly found himself back here several other times after playing in Baltimore for a few seasons in the mid-1990’s. He always loved playing for the Orioles as I said, because he never forgot his Maryland roots. 

Baines will undoubtedly go into the Hall as a member of the ChiSox, and rightfully so. But he’s also a Marylander who spent some years with his hometown team. He was always a positive force in the clubhouse, and he was always willing to share his wealth of knowledge with younger players as a veteran. End of the day, whether he’s an Oriole or a White Sox guy, he’s a Marylander. And he’s going to Cooperstown!

Baltimore Orioles: A ticket’s no longer enough

The Baltimore Orioles and GM Mike Elias are headin for the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. But as they do so I wanted to bring to light an article I read this week. Keegan Matheson of The Score published an interesting piece regarding the fact that teams around the league are being forced to re-think how they market tickets.

You can read the article for yourself, as I’ve linked it above. This is somewhat synonymous with the ongoing discussion between the Millennial Generation and those who came before them. Part of it centers around the fact that younger fans are seemingly wanting games to be more of a social event. 

The article states that many fans are turned off by sitting in stands which are designed for one to be able to socialize with people in their general area. I suppose I would rebut that with, how exactly would they like the seating bowl to look? Speaking for myself, I’m not opposed to ballparks having “party decks,” In fact I think it’s a good idea; it’s something we see at Camden Yards both on the outfield rooftop, and on top of the scoreboard in right field.

I suppose my issue is that everyone seems to now have to market tickets with other amenities. The article also states that many teams are now marketing food among other things with tickets. So…the message is that people only want to go to games now if there’s a freebie involved? Again, I’m not opposed to teams offering ticket packages that include a food credit. I just find it somewhat sad that it’s come to this.

But perhaps that’s the way society is going. Many movie theaters now offer a “discount day,” whereby all moves all day long are $5 or something along those lines. So I suppose that every area of the sports & entertainment industry is now having to re-think it’s marketing. 

Ironically the Orioles are fairly forward-thinking in this area. Last year of course the Angelos family started allowing fans to purchase tickets and bring their kids for free. And I thought that was a great idea because it gave people a reason to get their kids involved in the ballpark experience early. The Orioles also have always had great giveaway promotions, such as Floppy Hat night, hat day, jersey day, etc. 

I suppose however what people are saying is that all of that is no longer enough. To me, buying a ticket to a game and getting a free hat for walking through the gates is a great perk. Heck, you can also bring your kids in for free? Even better! However what it appears is that people would rather get free food and social engagement as opposed to all of that. 

So where does this leave the Orioles? Tough to say. Baltimore’s always been an old school type of baseball town. And I for one don’t think that should ever change. However with all of the changes in the organization and the youth movement on the field, 2019 looks to be a year in which the team might struggle at the box office. What comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Baltimore Orioles: Baseball mourns two of their own

The Baltimore Orioles and the rest of baseball were saddened yesterday when it was announced that former big leaguers Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo were killed in a car accident. Valbuena was 33. Castillo was 37. The duo were playing in the Venezuelan league, and the accident occurred after they left University Stadium in Caracas.

I feel as if everytime we turn around each off season, there’s another player being killed in a similar manner. That of course being car accidents. I suppose it just goes to show you that circumstances don’t discriminate between rich, poor, famous, or not famous. Our lives are very precarious, and they can be ended on a wham.

Any and all who knew and loved these two are in my thoughts. I know that I say that on behalf of the entire Orioles family – players, employees, and fans.

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: What’s the focus at the Winter Meetings?

Baltimore Orioles’ GM Mike Elias (and his team) will be heading to Las Vegas in the next few days. That of course is where the 2018 MLB Winter Meetings will take place. Elias will of course be representing a team as a General Manager for the first time. He’ll also be one of the youngest attendees.

Odds are there’ll be no trade rumors or anything along those lines involving the Orioles this time around. I would expect them to once again be active in the Rule 5 draft, but don’t expect any big ticket items coming back to Baltimore. So what exactly is Elias expected to do there?

Unfortunately he’s still growing into the job. So it might be an opportunity for him to just pay attention to what’s going on around him more so than anything else. I know that Orioles’ fans might not want to hear that given that most fans want their team front and center of what’s going on. But this will be a learning experience for Elias, and the fact is that the team still doesn’t have a manager.

On that front, it might be a decent place to continue the search. Maybe even hold an interview or two for all I know. The entire baseball world will be in Vegas – and if not actual candidates, odds are their agents will be there. Ideally I suspect that they would have liked to have a manager in place by now. But the search goes on.

Having said that, if any proposed rule changes are discussed, I would hope that Elias speaks up for whatever the good of the organization would be depending upon the issue. And the fact is that there are a million things which could at some point be tweaked. Replay, slide rules, etc. You never know. Again, I wouldn’t expect too much out of the Orioles in the way of big news at the 2018 Winter Meetings. However needless to say, their new GM will certainly be there representing them as a force moving towards the 2019 season.

Baltimore Orioles: No manager before the Winter Meetings

The Baltimore Orioles and GM Mike Elias are going through the process of finding a new manager. This much we know. But at this point it doesn’t appear that they’re going to have anyone in place before next week’s Winter Meetings. That could change, but at this point that’s what appears to be the case.

I said two weeks ago that it would behoove the Orioles to have a manager by then. I do stand by that statement, but in reality it’s also more important overall to get the right person. I suspect that it should be obvious where the organization is going, and odds are that won’t hamper the organization at the meetings.

I wouldn’t expect Elias to do much wheeling and dealing, because while the Orioles have said that they could be active in free agency, it won’t be big name free agents. Possibly role players who could help lead the younger guys along.

Baltimore Orioles: Managerial search

According to MLB Network’s Peter Gammons and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the Baltimore Orioles are starting to narrow their list of names regarding their managerial search. Or perhaps form their list is more the term I should use. One way or the other, GM Mike Elias has been busy.

The Orioles apparently have interest in bench coaches Chip Hale (Washington), Brandon Hyde (Chicago Cubs), Pedro Grifol (a coach in Kansas City), and AZ Director of Player Development Mike Bell. The Orioles are mum on any of these names – the search goes on. Hale is the only one of that aforementioned group who’s commented. At the Nationals’ Winter Fest he said that he hadn’t been contacted by the Orioles, but would be interested in managing anywhere.

Speaking for myself, I’d be apt to look at a bench coach or perhaps a base coach more than anyone else. I recognize that someone like Mike Bell is probably attractive in the new wave of thinking given that he’s in player development. But keep in mind that a manager still has to know X’s & O’s more than anything else.

Player development is something that the organization needs, and I suspect they are and will be focusing on it. I just think that whomever patrols the dugout should have a coaching background. Nevertheless, the search goes on. At the very least there are names attached to the search at this point.

Baltimore Orioles: Does fandom come with caveats?

Be it on twitter, a message board, radio, etc, I don’t think I can recall hearing one fan of the Baltimore Orioles say that Mike Elias was the wrong hire as the Birds’ General Manager. In fact, one theme I noticed was that plenty of fans seemed to indicate that because of the direction that the team appeared to be going, they were renewing their fandom. As in, they considered jumping ship.

So…is this “a thing?” For starters, I do think that much of that attitude is overblown. Meaning that people say that and perhaps they think they even believe it. But do people truly have to be in love with the direction of the franchise in order to remain a fan?

If you would have asked Orioles fans in 2011, many of them may well have thought that the direction of the franchise was the same as it had been previously. At that time, I don’t recall hearing anyone talking about jumping ship. Granted however, while it existed Twitter wasn’t as big as it is now.

But again, do people really consider jumping off the bandwagon if they don’t like where the franchise is headed, or what they’re doing? If people are to be taken at their word, I suppose that they do. Whether or not that’s a proper course of action is up to the individual.

People may well ask if they should be expected to be all in on the team when they don’t think the team’s going to win. Maybe that’s a fair point. But does that mean you “find another team?” I suppose the answer is not necessarily so. Maybe you watch from afar and so forth. But needless to say, I think most of Baltimore supports the course of action that the Orioles seem to be taking.

Baltimore Orioles: The President that opened Camden Yards

The Baltimore Orioles joined the rest of the American world in mourning former President George H.W. Bush. President Bush passed away late Friday evening, although most Americans probably didn’t get the news until yesterday morning. He was 94 years old.

All of the accolades that we’ve been hearing about President Bush this weekend are well deserved. Like most Presidents and politicians, you either agreed with his stances and actions or you didn’t. But he was a person who transcended politics. He treated everyone with respect, regardless of where they stood politically. He care me deeply about this country and about his fellow Americans. The fact is that we need more like him in America.

President Bush also played a special role in Orioles’ history. He was President when Orioles Park at Camden Yards opened in 1992. He was on hand for Opening Day that year, and threw out the ceremonial first pitch – literally the first pitch thrown in the history of the ballpark. Bush, a former first baseman at Yale, threw the pitch in the dirt. He later joked that he did exactly what he wanted to do with the pitch; he threw a slider inside.

President Bush threw out a couple of first pitches at Memorial Stadium as well. He also famously brought Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of England and her husband Prince Phillip to a game there while he was President. However it’s striking to me that he opened Camden Yards. Thus he has a special place in the history of the ballpark, and in Orioles’ history. May he Rest In Peace, and may we express thanks for his service to our country.

Baltimore Orioles: Jonathan Schoop non-tendered by Milwaukee

When the Baltimore Orioles began their sell off in July, second baseman Jonathan Schoop was one of the casualties. Then GM Dan Duquette traded him to Milwaukee for a fairly decent return. However Schoop struggled in Milwaukee; he never really found his sea legs.

Schoop was ultimately non-tenderer yesterday. In short, that means he was cut and has become a free agent. There are a couple of different angles on this. First off, the Orioles won the trade. I mean – they flat out embarrassed Milwaukee. Anytime you give up a group of players for one guy who is ultimately cut, you got out-jazzed big time.

However don’t forget that Schoop was sorrowful to leave Baltimore. He loved being an Oriole. So…could a reunion be in the cards?

That’s a really tough question to answer. Schoop was never the same player once he left the O’s. There’s no reason to think that he could reclaim his previous status. Although…it’s a new day in Baltimore with new players and ultimately new coaches. Perhaps they could make Schoop into a reclamation project…?

It’s an interesting idea for sure. But as I said, it’s a new day in Baltimore. If Schoop returned, certainly the park, fans, and a few teammates would be the same, but it’s mostly a different organization now. In short, you can never go home again.

If the Orioles decided that there was a potential fit and brought Schoop back, he could easily be a trade chip once again. In fact, that might be their best bet; sign him and let him play for half a season, dealing him at the deadline. As I said, they got a haul for him last year – no reason it couldn’t happen again.

Speaking of non-tenders, Tim Beckham and Caleb Joseph were non-tenderer by the O’s last night as well. Joseph specifically was a fan favorite for some time. It’s an unfortunate part of the business sometimes.

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