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Baltimore Orioles: Hope springs eternal

Let’s try this again; the Baltimore Orioles report to Spring Training today. Let that sink in. I’m not sure if we’re calling this Spring Training, or Spring Training 2.0. I’ve also heard the term Summer Camp thrown around. But ultimately you know what I’m talking about!

Camp will be held at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and potentially at one of the Orioles’ minor league facilities as well. I’m thinking either Bowie or Frederick. Needlesss to say, it all starts today.

We’ve been over much of this, but the Orioles will be able to schedule up to three formal exhibition games between now and Opening Day on July 23rd or 24th. I would assume that those will be scheduled against Philadelphia and Washington. The regular season schedule hasn’t been released yet.

But here’s some connecting of the dots; don’t be shocked if the second series of the year (Presumably starting Monday, June 27th) is against the New York Yankees at Camden Yards. I say that with no prior knowledge, but just a suspicion. MLB has already announced that New York will open the season at Washington that first weekend. So it makes sense that they would just come up the pike to Baltimore for a series while already in the mid-Atlantic region.

The Orioles, the State of Maryland, and the City of Baltimore are all looking into whether or not there’s a way they can admit fans this year. I would suspect that at least for starters that won’t be possible. But nothing has been announced.

We know what many of the rule changes are this year already, such as a universal DH. But another thing that the league is doing is mandating no fraternizing of players on opposing teams before games inside of six feet. No handshaking, spitting, or fighting. And apparently they’re serious about this, because it’s under a penalty of ejection. Players and coaches who confront umpires on the field will also be ejected if they come within six feet of the umpire. This might make arguments look strange, but it’s a new world in which we live.

Regarding coverage on this site, we’ll slowly rev back up to daily columns. Back in March when everything closed down I said that while I wouldn’t write daily columns because I felt it was inappropriate (given the circumstances), I’d cover news as it came in. I’ll certainly do the same as Spring Training 2.0 revs up, just maybe not daily. Until games start, of course.

Baltimore Orioles: Exhibition games

According to MLB on FOX and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Major League Baseball informed the Baltimore Orioles and the rest of the league’s teams today that exhibition games would be permitted in Spring Training 2.0. The league will allow teams to schedule up to three (3) games before the end of Spring Training 2.0. Or summer training; however you want to call it.

In short, if teams don’t have other teams close in their vicinity, they can schedule those games against their Opening Day opponent. In the Orioles’ case, those two elements could well be the same. It would stand to reason that the Birds’ exhibition opponents would include (and perhaps be limited to) Philadelphia and Washington. But those are also two National League teams that will feature prominently on the Orioles’ regular season schedule. Perhaps even on Opening Day.

Both of those cities are within driving distance of Camden Yards. The Orioles could bus to either one, and either team could bus to Camden Yards. Again, it’s unclear if fans would be admitted to these events. What’s also unclear is whether or not these games would be fully covered by the local media the way that Grapefruit League games are done. As I said in an earlier column, baseball 2020 is just a fluid situation. As is the entire world right now.

Baltimore Orioles: Details on the 2020 season

The Baltimore Orioles sent out a release yesterday to the general public with a few details of the 2020 season. Much of it we already knew, but now it’s on paper. Keep in mind however that as is the case with society, baseball’s in a fairly precarious state in 2020. All things are fluid and subject to change at the drop of a dime.

Training camp will begin on July 1st, which if you’re keeping score at home is next Wednesday. It will be held at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It will probably consist of mostly workouts, drills, and scrimmages. However the team might schedule an informal exhibition game or two against another team. Presumably that other team would be either Washington or Philadelphia.

The formal season schedule needs to be agreed upon by the league and the player’s association. That should be done within the next week. One thing we do know is who the Orioles will be playing. Of the sixty games, forty will be against the regular AL East opponents. The remaining 20 will be against the NL East – Miami, Atlanta, Washington, Philadelphia, and the New York Mets.

When the season begins teams will be allowed to have a 30-man roster. Two weeks in that’ll go down to 28, and two weeks after that (the “midpoint” of the season) it’ll go down to 26. It’s expected that there’ll be a 10-day DL, but also a separate list for players who are ineligible due to Coronavirus.

What’s not addressed is the admission of fans. I don’t know this for a fact, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see MLB do something similar to what the NFL is planning on doing, which is to leave it up to the teams and local governments. Again to be clear, I don’t know that. It’s just a prediction.

The Orioles have been mum on this issue as well. However Maryland is seeing daily drops in it’s infection rate. So if there’s a team who might be in a position to admit fans to home games, the Orioles would be a candidate. This isn’t to say that every seat would be available for sale, as I suspect social distancing measures would have to be in place. But I do think there’s a way it could be done safely. How many people are willing to come to games given the health situation is another story. But time will tell.

Baltimore Orioles: Welcome to the 2020 season

Despite the cumbersome process to get there and the less-than-satisfactory situation, it appears that Baltimore Orioles baseball might be on the verge of coming back. Last night MLB released the following statement:

“Today, the Major League Baseball Players Association informed us that they have rejected the agreement framework developed by Commissioner Manfred and Tony Clark. Needless to say, we are disappointed by this development.

“The framework provided an opportunity for MLB and its players to work together to confront the difficulties and challenges presented by the pandemic. It gave our fans the chance to see an exciting new Postseason format. And, it offered players significant benefits including:

1) The universal DH for two years
2) A guaranteed $25 million in playoff pools in 2020
3) $33 million in forgiven salary advances that would increase the take home pay of 61% of Major League players
4) Overall earnings for players of 104 percent of prorated salary
5) Over the last two days, MLB agreed to remove expanded Postseason in 2021 in order to address player concerns

“In view of this rejection, the MLB Clubs have unanimously voted to proceed with the 2020 season under the terms of the March 26th Agreement. The provisions listed above will not be operative.

“In order to produce a schedule with a specific number of games, we are asking that the Players Association provide to us by 5:00 p.m. (ET) tomorrow with two pieces of information. The first is whether players will be able to report to camp within seven days (by July 1st). The second is whether the Players Association will agree on the Operating Manual which contains the health and safety protocols necessary to give us the best opportunity to conduct and complete our regular season and Postseason.”

Courtesy of

In short, the agreement between the player’s association and the league on March 26th gives the commissioner the right to effective impose the season. It’s believed that Commissioner Manfred will impose a season of approximately 60 games (as opposed to the previous number of 50), and that it could begin over the weekend of July 24-26th. Spring training 2.0 would in theory begin July 1st.

This is all far from ideal. Obviously baseball deciding to have labor strife in the middle of a global pandemic rubs a lot of people the wrong way – including me. With people out of work and countless other sick and suffering (or deceased), it really hasn’t been a great look for the league. And now on top of that we’re going to see a 60-game season.

Someone asked me last week if I thought there should be an asterisk by this year in terms of whomever wins the World Series. Should they be considered legitimate champions and so forth? And my answer is that there should be no asterisk, and yes they’ll be legitimate champions. Everyone’s playing by the same rules and parameters. As long as that’s the case, whomever wins this year should be considered legit.

The presumption is that home parks will be used for this year, although MLB has reportedly revisited the bubble idea as well given recent Coronavirus spikes in various parts of the country. However those spikes include both Florida and Arizona – the two places that were being considered to host the bubbles.

What’s also unclear is whether fans will be admitted. It wouldn’t shock me to see some teams allow fans and implement some sort of system whereby fans can social distance themselves. But that remains to be seen, and probably has a lot more to do with each individual area than it does the league.

But one way or the other, for better or for worse, it appears that baseball is on it’s way to returning in some form. More as we hear it.

Baltimore Orioles: Trust the process

If you read the twitterverse, you know that numerous Baltimore Orioles’ fans were shocked and many were dismayed at the team picking Heston Kjerstad second overall out of Arkansas last night. I’m not going to suggest that I saw them going in that direction. Is it possible and perhaps probable that it was done for financial reasons? Yes. However GM Mike Elias made it very clear that they’re really big on Kjerstad’s bat.

When I looked at his power stats, it was evident to me that part of why they liked him was because he hit from the left side. The short porch in right field at Camden Yards came to mind immediately. And in fact, Elias indicated that Kjerstad’s hitting style would fit well in Camden Yards. He was considered the second best power option in the entire draft.

However again, there seems to be angst among the fan base with this pick. Many folks wanted Elias to select third baseman Austin Martin out of Vanderbilt. However he fell to fifth and was selected by Toronto. Sometimes drafts have surprises. Martin may well have been the right guy to select. Kjerstad could end up a bust. Or he might not.

I would simply say that Mike Elias and his team have researched all of these players for a long time. They know what the needs of the team are, and they obviously felt after a large amount of research that Kjerstad was the guy to select. I think that fans have to trust that research. It’s all part of trusting the process.

The story of this draft won’t be written now. Or this year, or the year after. It won’t be written for another 3-5 years, when the players who were selected last night are starting to come onto the league’s stage. If Kjerstad’s a perennial all-star, we’ll know they made the right decision. If not, then it’s fair to question what went into picking him.

The Orioles also selected shortstop Jordan Westburg from Mississippi State with the 30th pick. Again, trust the process.

Baltimore Orioles draft OF Heston Kjerstad from Arkansas

The Baltimore Orioles kind of shocked the experts this evening in drafting OF Heston Kjerstad out of the University of Arkansas. Over three years at Arkansas, Kjerstad’s hit .343. He also has an OBP of .421, and he’s hit 37 homers with 121 RBI.

Again, this was a surprise pick. The Orioles went with an underslot selection, presumably because he’ll sign for cheaper. That gives them more money to spread over their other picks.

Kjerstad is considered the second best power hitter in the draft. So he does have a tremendous upside. He also hits from the left side, which is good with Camden Yards’ short porch in right field.

One concern is his 129 strikeouts, which means he swings for the fences. However the understanding is that he’s worked on cutting down his swing. Hopefully for the Orioles’ sake some of the minor league coaches can work with him on that.

This is a selection that will be scrutinized a bit both nationally and locally. Mainly because it was unexpected. But Kjerstad appears to have a bright future in baseball. Just because it was an unexpected pick doesn’t mean it’s running a terrible risk.

Baltimore Orioles: Draft Day

The Baltimore Orioles may not be playing on the field, but they’ll be participating in this evening’s annual MLB Draft. The Birds will pick second overall, meaning that only one top player will be off the board when they choose. With the status of the season itself very much in flux, the draft adds just a bit of normalcy.

My personal opinion is that the Orioles need to pick the best player available on the board. But who might that be? That’s the question that will be answered, however Orioles’ GM Mike Elias has said that they’ve narrowed their list down to five names or so.

Detroit is rumored to be taking first baseman Spencer Tokelson with the first selection overall. However Elias and company are familiar with the full range of candidates on the board:

We put a lot of work into it. We had met with the candidates in person this winter. I did personally and there are others that we did to that we met over Zoom and it worked pretty well. There’s a lot of background that goes into it other than meetings. The scouts do a ton of background work, we talk with people around the program – the coaches, the strength coaches, the guy in our minor league system who used to play there. Just everyone.

Quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports

Stay tuned here to Birdland Crush for details on who the Orioles pick. The draft begins at 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Some gave all

The Baltimore Orioles should be playing the Chicago White Sox right now in a Memorial Day matinee at Camden Yards. Of course we all know why that isn’t the case, but we go onward. And we hope that baseball returns to us soon.

However one thing that isn’t different is that today is Memorial Day. Today our nation pauses to remember our war dead and to give honor to both they and the families they left behind. And I want to make something clear; this isn’t the moment to throw Coronavirus victims and first responders into a place of honor. I’ve heard several folks suggest it would be an opportune moment to recognize them as well.

And the answer is no – today is about our war dead. It’s not even about vets or active service members. It’s about those who never came home. We owe it to those people and their families to always make it about them. I have no issue with a day honoring those people, it just can’t be today. Today’s about those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country in war.

And again, we can’t ever forget that. We can’t ever forget that there are Gold Star families out there who were altered forever when their loved one died in war. And that’s why we have the ability to watch baseball. Which hopefully returns to us soon. As the title states, SOME GAVE ALL.

Baltimore Orioles: Return-to-play proposal coming

Baltimore Orioles fans might not have to wait much longer for news about the 2020 season. Multiple reports came out yesterday suggesting that within the next week the league will submit a return-to-play proposal to the player’s association. It’s unclear what that proposal will entail, however the word on the street is that the league wants to start the season in late June or early July.

First off keep in mind that the players will have to come to terms with the league on some major things, including salary. There are virtually no scenario’s out there which involve fans being able to be admitted to games – at least at first. If situations in certain cities improve over the course of the season, perhaps that could cease to be the case. So the owners are presumably going to want the players to agree to further pro-rated salaries given the loss of gate revenues.

Again, word on the street is that the league will look to start “Spring Training 2.0” sometime during the second week of June or so. It also appears that will be occurring in teams’ home ballparks. So the O’s would be training at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

What’s unclear is whether or not a slate of exhibition games would be included in this “Spring Training 2.0.” If teams are training in their home parks, I would assume that might not necessarily be the case. You might have some teams such as the O’s and Washington, the NY teams, Chicago teams, etc, who might consider setting up joint practices or perhaps the equivalent of NFL scrimmages of yesteryear, however I wouldn’t think teams would be traveling to other teams’ parks to play formal exhibition games. But I could be wrong.

There are all kinds of rumors in terms of how the season will unfold in terms of the divisions, but the most feasible idea I’ve seen is putting the O’s in a division (only for this year) with Miami, Tampa, Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, the NY teams, Boston, and Toronto. Those teams would make up the entire 2020 schedule. But time will tell how that turns out.

And that’s another reason why this is taking longer than it probably should. Baseball can’t just start games up where teams would be have been in their schedule otherwise. They’re going to have to release an entirely new schedule with new dates and new games. It takes awhile to postulate how that’s going to work, and presumably that will be part of what’s rolled out to the players in the next week.

Baltimore Orioles: MLB drops the ball on Boston cheating scandal

As the Baltimore Orioles and the rest of the league await news about the beginning/resumption of the 2020 season, MLB came down with their discipline of the Boston Red Sox for their cheating in 2018. And unless you’re a Boston fan, I think you’ll be sorely disappointed:

  • T.J. Watkins, formerly the BoSox’s video replay system technician operator, is suspended for the entirety of the 2020 regular season and postseason. The league found that he at times utilized game feeds to steal signs.
  • Boston forfeits their second round pick in the 2020 first year player draft
  • Now former manager Alex Cora is suspended for the entirety of the 2020 season. Cora of course has already been deposed of his duties, so all this means is that he couldn’t sign with another team or play a role in this season – whatever this season ends up being. (For the record, this discipline is the result of his actions with the 2017 Houston Astros, and not the 2018 Boston Red Sox.)

The Boston Red Sox issued a statement in response:

As an organization, we strive for 100% compliance with the rules. MLB’s investigation concluded that in isolated instances during the 2018 regular season, sign sequences were decoded through the use of live game video rather than through permissible means.

MLB acknowledged the front office’s extensive efforts to communicate and enforce the rules and concluded that Alex Cora, the coaching staff, and most of the players did not engage in, nor were they aware of, any violations. Regardless, these rule violations are unacceptable. We apologize to our fans and Major League Baseball, and accept the Commissioner’s ruling


I’ll put it like this – these “penalties are flat out INSULTING to any non-Boston fan. I might accept that their level of cheating might not have been as hands-on as that of Houston in 2017. But this is seriously less than a slap-on-the-wrist. Again, in my view it’s flat out insulting.

And I’ll be honest; if there was something that could have made the Houston Astros look sympathetic, it was this. Because if I’m Houston I’m pretty ticked off at the penalty that my team got, compared with the Boston Red Sox. This utterly wreaks of the rich just get richer.

Losing a second round pick might be serious for a team, but again if I’m Houston I’m questioning how they only lost a second round pick and I list a first and a second in two different drafts. Nevertheless, this is what the league and commissioner Rob Manfred have decided. So the matter is now closed.

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