Have the Baltimore Orioles ever directly been hurt by Houston’s alleged sign-stealing? Odds are that they have. In 2016 they were 1-6 against Houston, 1-5 in 2017, and 1-6 again in 2018. There’s your answer as to why it’s such a big deal.
Mind you, save for 2018 the aforementioned seasons were during good times for the Orioles franchise. Yet they just couldn’t get over the hump against a Houston Astros team which now appears might have had an unfair advantage. A big time unfair advantage.
I said this the other day, but had the 2016 Orioles not been at a disadvantage against this Houston team, perhaps they host the 2016 Wild Card Game. And who knows how things play out. It sounds like a petty point, but…is it really?
Baseball needs to find a way to clean this up. The people who precipitated this need to be held accountable. Because otherwise the sport turns into he who’s willing to stoop the lowest to cheat, wins. Nobody wants that.
Again, this is a pretty big deal. And the argument is akin to the analytics vs. feel for the game discussion. My personal opinion is that baseball should not and cannot belong to computer nerds. People behind a screen thinking they know better than the powers that be.
And this is similar. If we’re going to allow teams to find inventive manners to cheat, we might as well just resign ourselves to the fact that whomever has the best equipment and the most inventive ideas is going to win. It’ll no longer be about who has better talent and out-thinks their opponent the best. And again, nobody wants that.
Baltimore Orioles’ Class A affiliate Delmarva Shorebirds, led by manager Kyle Moore were named the MiLB Team of the Year for 2019 earlier this week. That’s one heck of an honor for a team that’s part of an organization that’s rebuilding, such as the Orioles. Moore on this past season:
I think it was just how hard the guys played and how we stuck with it, even after the All-Star break — it was such a young group of guys,. I think with a group in their first year of pro ball, the staff did a great job keeping these guys going all year because we started off hot. But the Washington Nationals will tell you it’s not how you start, and we ended up finishing good, too. We went through July and August and the kids got better.Quote courtesy of Andrew Battifarano, MiLB.com
Delmarva won 65.2% of their games, and they did it with pitching. Excellent pitching, incidentally. Orioles’ fans like to say that they’d like to know when they’ll start to see the fruits of labor regarding the rebuild. If that’s any indication, it’s coming.
As has been stated ad hoc on this column, the Orioles’ system was ranked in the 20’s in 2018 by Baseball America. In 2019 they were ranked 8th. The Delmarva Shorebirds are a prime example of how the organization is up and coming. Congratulations to everyone involved in that stellar operation in Salisbury, and we hope for their sake that this trend continues.
The Baltimore Orioles are watching, along with the rest of baseball, as the Houston Astros become engrossed in a cheating scandal. I touched on this yesterday, as former Astro Mike Fiers has told The Athletic that Houston (his now former team) used electronic devices to steal signs:
I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they’re going in there not knowing. Young guys getting hit around in the first couple of innings starting a game, and then they get sent down. It’s [B.S.] on that end. It’s ruining jobs for younger guys. The guys who know are more prepared. But most people don’t. That’s why I told my team. We had a lot of young guys with Detroit [in 2018] trying to make a name and establish themselves. I wanted to help them out and say, ‘Hey, this stuff really does go on. Just be prepared.’Quote courtesy of Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich, The Athletic
However is there another angle to this that we aren’t seeing? Let me preface this by saying that using electronic devices to steal signs is against the rules. Explicitly. There’s no way around that. It’s indisputable.
However first off, Fiers was on the team when this was going on, and one way or the other he won a World Series as a result. What he said about young guys getting beaten around and getting sent down is a very fair point. However if he cared that much about them and/or about cleaning up the game, would he not have come out while it was going on and said it was wrong? As in, while it was directly benefiting him and his career?
Furthermore, I do firmly believe that there are some things which should stay in a clubhouse. That should be an unwritten code among players and coaches. So…did Fiers violate that unwritten code?
Maybe, maybe not. If you read Ken Rosenthal’s article and others on the topic, they all seem to indicate that Fiers was telling his new and current teammates about this – in the form of a warning. That in and of itself I don’t think violates any unwritten rule. I think that things as such get told all the time. When I played for these guys they used to do this – so be on the lookout.
When it turns into a problem is when it gets released into the public realm. Based on how the firsthand account of these stories are being worded, I suspect that someone to whom Fiers told this story leaked it. I don’t know for sure who that would be, however that’s how it comes across.
This doesn’t absolve Fiers of blame. As I said, he apparently didn’t have enough of a problem with this practice while it benefited him to say anything. But suddenly when they didn’t sign his paychecks anymore, he did have an issue with it.
This is a bit of a Catch-22 overall. Change never happens if whistleblowers aren’t out there. That’s probably a fact. However some things should stay in the clubhouse. Time will tell what punitive measures are taken against Houston.
The Baltimore Orioles have long struggled at Minute Maid Park in Houston. It was almost uncanny; for some time it’s almost been that no matter how good an Oriole pitcher was looking, Houston would always find a way to get to him. However now we have to wonder if that was more that the Orioles weren’t that good, or if Houston was getting help.
Houston has long been known as an organization that steals signs. We all heard the story during the post season of how they would bang on the top of the dugout or on a trashcan in the dugout to relay signs and signals to their hitters. But now…it seems that the story is gaining legs.
Former Houston Astro Mike Fiers has recently come forward and admitted that the team was using cameras in the outfield to steal signs. Those cameras would beam the signs to the dugout in real time, and then the smack on the dugout or trash can would relay the pitch to the hitter. Seems like there was always more than meets the eye.
Incidentally, this isn’t a foray into the typical unwritten codes argument. Stealing signs is against those unwritten codes. But it’s not against the rules. Using an electronic device to steal signs IS against the rules. There’s cheating, and then there’s cheating. This is a pretty big one.
Fiers specifically said that this would occur when he played in Houston in 2017. And as you’ll recall, Houston won the World Series that year. So…where does that leave us? MLB has said that they’re going to conduct an investigation. For the record, the Houston Astros said they support that effort.
How long had this been going on? Because as I said, the Orioles always seemed to struggle in that park. Had they not been at an apparent disadvantage, perhaps some of those years would have resulted in more wins. Yes, that sounds subjective. And it is. But consider this; had the 2016 Orioles had even one more victory, they would have finished statistically ahead of Toronto. That means they would have hosted the American League Wild Card Game. The O’s went 1-6 against Houston that year. As I said, consider that.
If you look at cheaters in the NCAA, teams literally are made to vacate victories. I don’t see MLB making Houston do that. Odds are they’ll end up getting fined or have to forfeit draft picks. But forcing them to vacate wins and vacate their World Series would certainly send a message.
John Means of the Baltimore Orioles finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting. Means had an impressive resume of course, but it wasn’t enough to get him past Houston’s Yordan Alvarez. The Orioles’ Rodrigo Lopez was also the runner up in 2002. The last Oriole to win the award was Greg Olson in 1989.
However just being one of the top three finishers is a feat for Means. And for the Orioles. The fact that an Oriole finished that high should tell us something about the direction of the rebuild. When you combine that with the fact that the Orioles’ minor league system went from being ranked in the 20’s to being top ten in one year, needless to say it bodes well for the future.
I’m sure that both Means and the organization would have loved to have gotten the award. Means certainly had the pedigree in terms of his numbers to win it. But again, even being in the running was pretty special. And combining that with his ASG selection says that the Orioles have a budding star on their hands.
The Baltimore Orioles join the rest of baseball and the sports world in recognizing Veterans Day today. As do I. Thank you to all of our brave veterans and active service members. It’s cliche`, however we wouldn’t be able to watch baseball or any other sport.
America is truly a special place. And that’s due to our military and thus to our veterans. If you see one today, thank them.
Baltimore Orioles’ GM Mike Elias appeared on WJZ-FM’s Orioles Hot Stove Show late last week. A wide array of topics were covered, including the outlook for Orioles’ starter Alex Cobb. In short, Cobb is expected to be ready to go for spring training.
Cobb of course had hip surgery this past season, which ended his year. Elias on Cobb (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):
I think you saw this year how much it hurt us not having him. After we lost him, we were really just scrambling for any semblance of innings, starting pitching, and certainly the vacancy that a veteran like Alex Cobb leaves when he’s hurt, especially with the investment that we have in him, it stings. And so the fact that his (hip) surgery went well.
He had a procedure that kind of shaves off some bone in his hip and it was impinging on soft tissue in his hip. He feels great. It’s a pretty simple procedure. We expect that he’ll be fully healthy in that regard. It’s just going to be a matter of how built up his arm is and how many innings he’s going to be able to provide us. But having him back for a number of reasons will be good.
He had that great first outing against the Yankees at home and I think that’s what he’s capable of when he’s healthy, and hopefully we get that version next year. We expect to.
I would say that if there’s a default guy to be the Opening Day starter, it’s Alex Cobb. I say that based solely on Elias’ comments detailed above. If Cobb can be solid for the Orioles out of the gate, he could easily be a candidate for a trade at the deadline, which could net the O’s a young prospect or two.
But that’s a big IF. Cobb has had his share of injury issues over the years. It’s also contingent on him starting well out out of the gate. Which means that Spring Training will be very important for Cobb. A Spring Training in which he should be a full go.
Interesting article in The Baltimore Sun this week regarding the home of the Baltimore Orioles (article here). The Orioles’ lease expires after the 2021 season, and as the article states it’s during lease renegotiations that teams often broach the topic of facility upgrades. And it sounds like that’s just what the O’s are doing.
I’ll be honest; I can’t see many upgrades that are necessary to what I tell people is the best facility for sports in the country. I’ve heard people suggest that the concourse should be opened up and so forth, which appears to be a feature in some of the more recent stadiums. However another topic (according to the article) appears to be removing seats. It’s unclear if the idea of removing seats goes hand-in-hand with opening the concourse.
I suppose that opening the concourse might not be a horrible thing. However I’d hate for there to be any more major cosmetic changes than that. Camden Yards has always been about the old world charm of baseball. The game is presented in an old fashioned manner, down to the venue itself.
I wouldn’t want Camden Yards to become a place where people “come to gather.” One criticism I have of more modern ballparks is that I feel the attitude is “you can watch the game if you wish, but there are also all of these other features about our park and places you can hang out.” Fans should come to the ballpark and hang out in the stands while watching the game. Maybe that sounds old school to some, but that’a baseball at Camden Yards.
As we know, the Baltimore Orioles play in a market that’s saturated with teams from pretty much every sport. That includes various universities, such as Coppin State, Towson, and of course the University of Maryland. I read message boards from time to time, and I was on one the other day in which someone was vilifying Maryland fans for not showing up to the team’s first game earlier this week. Now in principle I kind of agree – but one of the responses stuck out at me.
Maryland’s outlook this season is excellent. They’re ranked very high, so it would have stood to reason that perhaps fans would have turned out. However one fan responded that lots of fans don’t like Turgeon’s style of play (referring of course to head coach Mark Turgeon). Now I’ll be honest; I much preferred Gary Williams’ style. However that’s not the issue at hand.
Is that now really a thing in a sense? Do fans opt not to come to games or follow their favorite teams because they don’t like the style of play? Apparently so.
I think something like this is much more predominant in sports such as basketball, football, or hockey. Baseball is baseball no matter how you spin it. Now having said that, some teams are station-to-station, some are slugging teams, etc. I suppose that someone could not like a certain style of play and similarly not come out to the park.
However this is concerning to me. I’ve always maintained that sports isn’t entertainment – per se. Movies are entertainment. Broadway plays are entertainment. Television shows are entertainment. Sports? Sports are just sports.
But more and more, sports aren’t just sports. Sports is being lumped in as entertainment as time is going on. And that’s a huge problem from where I stand. Because if a movie (which is entertainment) isn’t entertaining, you can just turn it off. If a show you’re attending isn’t as good as you thought it would be, you can leave. Or you can not go at all. Is that what we want sports to turn into?
What I’m saying is that the sports world needs to find ways to differentiate itself from entertainment. Because otherwise we’re going to see more and more of that – the style of play isn’t entertaining enough for me, so I’m not paying attention. And that would be a bad thing for all sports. Sports isn’t entertainment; it’s a game.
The Baltimore Orioles and the rest of Major League Baseball have the best promotions and giveaways in professional sports. Hands-down. Granted baseball plays more home games than any other sport, however they’ve always had the best in the way of giveaways, be it t-shirts, caps, bobble heads, etc. And of course the new thing is the garden gnome’s.
Giveaway nights/days are always big draws at the box office. And while teams want to give off the impression that the giveaways are a way to thank their customers for their business, let’s face it in reality it’s about getting derriere’s in the seats. Giveaways and promotions do just that.
Having said all of this, what new things could the Orioles look to do in 202 and onward? The idea of letting people bring two kids to the game free starting a couple of years back was genius. Now I”ll be the first one to tell you that I don’t feel that enough fans are taking advantage of that, but the fact is that it’s out there. But is there anything earth-shattering like that which could be done?
Honestly, I’m not sure that there is. However there’s one area in which the Orioles might fall a little short in terms of the gameday experience. And that would be concessions. Now don’t get me wrong, if you’re in any part of the seating bowl, the quality and selection of food at Oriole Park at Camden Yards is excellent. However a lot of teams across sports are now offering minor discounts on non-alcoholic food and beverage items during the game (for season ticket holders). And when I say “minor discounts,” I mean generally between $1-$2 off.
Furthermore, lots of teams across sports also offer “happy hours” at their games. In fact, the Orioles used to do this; back when what’s now the Leinenkugel Louge on the lower level first base concourse was the “Natty Boh Bar,” they offered a happy hour. From the time the ballpark opened until the end of the first inning National Bohemian Beer was $5/cup. Why not bring that idea back? And it doesn’t have to be throughout the entire ballpark – pick one bar or concession stand and offer the happy hour there.
The drawback to that idea is that the Orioles already offer 12 oz Bud/Miller/Coors for $6.50. Furthermore fans can already bring their own food into the ballpark at will. So is offering a happy hour or discounted food for season ticket holders going to bring more people to games? Probably not.
But what it will do is enhance the gameday experience for the fans that are already coming. And that’s the whole idea. The more you enhance that experience, the more enjoyable it is, and the more people out to games you’ll get. And that’s the whole name of the game.