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Baltimore Orioles: News on the regular season

Yesterday was tough for Baltimore Orioles fans, and fans across baseball. Yesterday should have been Opening Day. Fans should have congregated at Pickles & Sliders across from Camden Yards, and fans should have poured into the ballpark early for batting practice. Speaking for myself, I kind of took it personally in a way.

However yesterday also brought what could be deemed as some good news. It appears that the players and owners came to an agreement on the 2020 season. The deal isn’t yet official, but is expected to be ratified at noon today.

In effect, training camps will be resumed in mid-May, setting up a late May or early June start to the season. Each team will play somewhere in the neighborhood of 140 games, with the regular season lasting through October. The post-season would thus be in November.

The league will also schedule doubleheaders so as to get more games in. Perhaps in some cases two per week. Which would be an interesting dynamic.

Again this isn’t official, however my understanding is that camps would be resumed at individual ballparks as opposed to spring training facilities. However the schedule of games itself will have to be somewhat fluid. Some cities will become unplayable – such as New York at the moment. So games will have to be moved, played in front of no fans, etc. Everything would be on the table.

Presumably this means that the spring slate of games won’t be picked up. Teams will just have workouts and presumably intrasquad games. All of this of course is dependent upon the virus itself. If it starts to go away or is brought under control, the league will open up. If areas are still infested, they’ll remain closed.

Baltimore Orioles: Today would have been Opening Day

Today should have been Opening Day for the Baltimore Orioles. John Means should be on the bump this afternoon for the Birds against New York. The Inner Harbor should be buzzing, crowds should be gathering at Pickles & Sliders across the street, and people should be raring to get into Oriole Park at Camden Yards for batting practice.

But as we all know, none of that is happening today. First and foremost, I feel badly for the players and fans. Today should be a holiday with a carnival atmosphere. Instead it’s the reality with which we’ve all been living the past couple of weeks. It’s just – nothing. (Now in all honesty, just sitting here penning this column does give me a certain twinge of normalcy.)

However I feel very badly for the businesses around the ballpark who rely on the Orioles to be vibrant. Pickles and Sliders across the street are just the two most prominent examples. However there are countless street vendors, store owners, restaurant owners, hoteliers, etc., who rely on a boon from people attending Orioles games everyday. Heck, Opening Day on it’s own is a huge amount of revenue. It will be back; this much we know. But in the immediate interim that doesn’t help the business owners, all of whom are hurting.

However MLB’s indicated that perhaps there’s some light at the end of the tunnel in this. Please note the word perhaps. If the Coronavirus is still ravaging our shores, baseball obviously won’t be played. There have been a lot of scenarios discussed, including a “doomsday scenario” which has no games being played. Meaning that the season would be canceled.

However the one scenario that seems to be gaining steam (according to multiple reports yesterday) is starting the season in early June. The regular season would then go into October, and the post-season in November. That would probably include neutral site post-season games in warm weather cities or domes.

What’s unclear is whether or not 162 games would be played. The Player’s Association has indicated that they’d be willing to accept scenario’s where it’s members played up to two doubleheaders a week to beef up the number of games. That isn’t to say that it would still get teams to 162 games, however.

What’s also unclear is if they’re just going to keep the schedule as it is and move the dates back. However my own personal twist on this would be for the league to suspend interleague play for this season, which would trim several games off the schedule. Games which theoretically would have been unnecessary anyways – because when was the last time interleague play figured into who made the playoffs and who did not?

Either way, I think they’ll need to reshuffle the schedule. I think that’s a given. Especially if doubleheaders are going to be scheduled. And on that note I would submit that they should agree that perhaps Saturdays and one other floating day be deemed the doubleheader days. Perhaps make it so that Fridays and Sundays are never doubleheader days to avoid guys doing it on back-to-back days, however ultimately the more games that can be played the better.

All of that remains in limbo, however. If the Coronavirus remains in play as a factor in our society, baseball won’t start in June. On the flip side however, we might see it before then. Teams will have to resume spring training in some capacity. It’s unclear if that will include exhibition games or just workouts, but it’s possible May could bring us a truncated slate of exhibition games. Time will tell.

In the mean time there’s something that Orioles fans can do today to remind themselves of what should be taking place. First pitch was scheduled for just after 3 PM this afternoon. At that time, go on Facebook (assuming you have a Facebook feed) and check into Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Just as a reminder that today was to be Opening Day. And in hopes that it isn’t too far down the road.

Baltimore Orioles: Season won’t start April 9th (updated)

The Baltimore Orioles and the rest of MLB remain in a holding pattern as the nation and the world battles the Coronavirus. However USA Today’s Bob Nightengale is reporting that commissioner Rob Manfred has said that the season won’t begin by April 9th. So again, we remain in a holding pattern.

Nightengale (who’s article I linked above) also said that the league is looking at various options that still include playing a 162-game schedule. It’s unclear what those options are, however I have to assume that most of them would involve playing well past when the league’s been comfortable playing in the past. Meaning presumably into November.

Again, the situation is fluid. What’s also unclear is the status of the crowds at games. Whether or not fans would be allowed come whenever they start the season remains to be seen. It’s unfortunate that we find ourselves in this situation. But here we are.

Update: The league announced that the start of the season has been pushed back to at least mid-May:

It’s tough to imagine an April and early May without baseball. But we’re about to find out what that’s going to be like. And it’s still unclear whether or not fans would even be allowed at games come that point.

Baltimore Orioles: We WILL get through this

The fact that the Baltimore Orioles and everyone else is kind of in a holding pattern right now is secondary. For people such as myself who breath this sport and this team (for purposes of this column) 365 days a year, that’s a bitter pill. It isn’t the off season, it’s just…nothing.

But that’s the way it has to be, folks. It just is. Public health is something that’s too important to risk just for the sake of even America’s pastime. Or the NCAA Tournament, and so forth. Orioles’ PA rep Chris Davis spoke yesterday on what the players’ plans are with the start of the season delayed at least two weeks:

I think a lot of it is up in the air. Hopefully, in the next few days, there are going to be more answers to the questions that we’ve had, but right now we’re just in a holding pattern.

Quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports

Davis went onto say that some players would like to remain and work out at Ed Smith Stadium so as to get ready for the season (which eventually will begin). However it’s unclear if that will be possible or allowed. This truly is an unprecedented situation.

As you may have noticed, I find something to write everyday in the off season. Some days that’s not easy, but I find something – even if only fluff. It just keeps the site “tended to,” and up to date with fresh content. However it doesn’t come off as appropriate for me to do that given the current situation.

So in a sense similar to the league, this column is being put into a holding pattern. If there’s relevant news about the O’s or the league, I’ll report it. That might not come for a week or two, or it could come tomorrow. We just don’t know. Furthermore when things resume, we’ll still have daily coverage of the Orioles and the games – be they exhibition games or regular season.

However I want to leave you with a thought for the time being. We WILL get through this. And I don’t mean the O’s or the league, I mean the country as a whole. And of course the rest of the world. America’s made it through bad situations before, and we’ll do so again this time. If people listen to the authorities, stay home when ill, self-quarantine, etc, the numbers will go down. And before we know it, the screams of PLAY BALL! will be heard at Camden Yards.

Americans are resilient. We always have been. We’ll get through this. I say that as sure as hot dogs at a ballgame. My hope and prayer is that all readers stay safe and healthy during this uncertain period of time.

Baltimore Orioles: Trey Mancini recovering after colon surgery

When it rains it pours for the Baltimore Orioles. However the start of the season being pushed back pales in comparison to what Trey Mancini‘s been through this week. Mancini’s recovering this evening after having a malignant tumor removed from his colon.

Mancini of course left the team last weekend for an undisclosed medical procedure. We now know what that was for. The Orioles have said that at this time there’s no news on his rehabilitation, or when he’ll be ready. That might come next week. I don’t think that timetable should be a problem for anyone.

Join me in keeping Mancini in your prayers and wishing him well.

Baltimore Orioles: Season on hold

Major League Baseball has announced that the Baltimore Orioles’ season is on hold – along with the rest of the league. The statement by the league:

The Orioles themselves followed with a statement of their own:

This is obviously more serious than anyone would have ever thought it to be even a week ago. I’m not sure what else to say other than that. My hope and my prayer is that the situation improves substantially in the near future. This both for the sake of public health, and for the sake of the season. But mainly public health.

More as we hear it.

Baltimore Orioles: Season on the brink

As of right now, the Baltimore Orioles play Minnesota tonight in Ft. Myers. They play Toronto tomorrow in Sarasota. They open the regular season at home against New York on March 26th at 3 PM. That’s what the schedule says.

You know where this is going. In a very short span of time, the Coronavirus has ravaged American life. And as a “germophobe” myself, it’s not overly shocking. I guess what is shocking to me is that it’s gotten to the point to where the NBA is suspending it’s season, and the NCAA is no longer allowing fans at it’s post-season tournament games.

I shouldn’t say that it’s “shocking” to me. It’s just shocking in the sense that it’s come to this. When I think of pandemics, I think of the Spanish Flu circa 1918. Or the Black Death in Europe in the Middle Ages. I don’t think of 2020 and whether or not we’re going to play ball.

Look we all know the various options out there, and what the situation is. Some localities (Seattle and Oakland to name two) have banned mass events of more than 250 people. The Seattle Mariners have already said that they would be relocating home games to start the year.

Assuming the spread of the virus doesn’t severely curtail, my personal prediction is that the season will start similar to how the NCAA is doing things – games with no fans. The Orioles’ organization is obviously familiar with that concept, having had a fanless game in 2015 following civil unrest in Baltimore. And I suspect that’s a scenario they’d rather not have to repeat.

However here’s a much more grave prediction; the moment one player tests positive, MLB will follow the NBA’s example and suspend the season. Now when I say suspend, I mean suspend – not cancel. What happens once it’s safe to resume play is anyone’s guess.

This is a situation that’s changing on the fly. It seems like every hour yesterday there was something new. But any and all of these steps are probably necessary. Again, the O’s play tonight against Minnesota. All we can do is take things on a game-by-game basis.

Baltimore Orioles, Tom Eshelman blitzed by Toronto in Dunedin

The Baltimore Orioles ran into a buzz saw this afternoon in Dunedin against Toronto. Tom Eshelman struggled out of the gate. Or was it that Toronto’s bats were just hot? Probably a bit of both. Eshelman’s line: 2.0 IP, 9 H, 9 R, 1 BB, 3 K.

Eshelman’s trying to secure a spot in the back end of the Orioles’ rotation, meaning he picked a bad day to get roughed up like he did. However the fact that every other Oriole pitcher had similar results probably helps Eshelman’s case. After coming out of the game he didn’t seem to want to dwell on it:

Understand what I did and kind of move on from it. Not think about it too much. If you think about it a lot, then you screw yourself. Just take the negatives and turn them into a positive on my work days and get better for the next one

Quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports

Eshelman surrendered a solo homer to Bichette on the first pitch in the last of the first. That shouldn’t have been a huge issue, as solo home runs don’t beat you. But the game seemingly snowballed from there.

Gurriel smacked an RBI-double later in the inning. Grichuk added a two-run homer, and Jansen a solo shot. And before the crowd had seemingly settled in, the Birds trailed 5-0.

One positive for the O’s was Stevie Wilkerson‘s solo homer in the top of the second inning. But if anything that seemed to inspire Toronto hitters even more. They put four more on the board in the last of the second, all but ending the competitive phase of the game.

Grichuk would homer again in the fourth (this of the two-run variety), and Espinal would add a two-run homer of his own in the fifth. One inning later Burns’ solo shot ran the tally to 14-1. Needless to say, it wasn’t a good day to be an Oriole pitcher – that is unless you stayed back in Sarasota. Mason Williams would add a solo homer in the eighth to get the O’s to within 14-2.

The Orioles announced before the game that Alex Cobb is being scratched from his scheduled start tomorrow due to a blister on his hand. Cobb of course had knee surgery last year, ending his season. The Orioles did say that he would probably play if it were a regular season game, however in this case they’re holding out.

The Orioles head to Fort Myers tomorrow night to take on the Minnesota Twins. Bruce Zimmerman gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Minnesota’s Jhoulys Chacin. Game time is set for just after 6 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Three-run sixth lifts the Birds

Keegan Akin is making a case to be in the Baltimore Orioles’ starting rotation this year coming out of spring training. However his chances may have taken a bit of a hit this evening against Atlanta at Ed Smith Stadium. Akin’s line: 3.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 4 K.

The four strikeouts and one walk were certainly positives. However Akin surrendered a third inning three-run homer by Pache, giving Atlanta a 3-0 lead. Akin admitted after coming out that he made a bad pitch to Pache (quote courtesy of Steve Melewski, MASNsports):

I would say so (one pitch really hurt). Just kind of felt uncomfortable out of the stretch. That’s kind of been my whole spring training memo I guess. Yeah, one bad pitch and obviously leadoff walks don’t help to start the inning. Have to eliminate those. Other than that, I felt pretty good.

However the last of the fourth saw the O’s get on the board. Anthony Santander‘s solo homer cut the Atlanta lead to 3-1. Hanser Alberto smacked a solo homer of his own one inning later. But it was the sixth inning that decided the actual outcome of the game.

Jose Iglesias‘ RBI-double in the last of the sixth tied the game at three. The Birds would later load the bases, and they were able to take the lead when Renato Nunez reached on an error. Dwight Smith Jr. would later get hit by a pitch, giving the O’s a 5-3 lead. Yusniel Diaz would smack an RBI-triple in the seventh, to close out the scoring in the Birds’ 6-3 win.

Again, one of the good things here is that the O’s didn’t quit when they were down early. That’s a good sign, and indicative of the moxie that this team had last year. They didn’t win a lot, but they never quit. That.’s important.

The O’s head to Dunedin tomorrow to take on the Toronto Blue Jays. Tom Eshelman gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Chase Anderson. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: New announcers should look to the past

The Baltimore Orioles are revamping some of their broadcasters for the coming 2020 season. In all, there are 19 people who will serve as Oriole broadcasts this season, with different combinations going around throughout the season, and even some going between TV and radio. But there’s one guy to whom anyone calling Orioles games any year should look for guidance: Chuck Thompson.

I write a variation of this column during spring training every year; that being a tribute to the great Chuck Thompson. We all know who he is and his history with the Orioles. Not to mention national broadcasts. When he appeared nationally however, he was still uniquely Baltimore’s.

In mentioning the number of new people covering the team this year, I say that they should look to Thompson because of what he meant to the Baltimore community and to Orioles fans. As a hometown announcer, having the type of pull that he had is something that should be the goal.

That’s easier said than done. Back then every town and every team had it’s own Thompson. That voice of summer which represented good weather and good times. Philadelphia had Harry Kalas, New York Mel Allen, St. Louis Jack Buck, and Chicago Jack Brickhouse and later Haray Carey. Chuck Thompson was Baltimore’s “voice.”

While he did Colts games also, he’s synonymous with the O’s. When you would hear that smooth baritone of his, you knew it was time for Orioles baseball. I would argue that Orioles baseball wouldn’t be what it is today if not for Chuck Thompson. Until a certain point, the games weren’t televised. Fans’ only connection (unless they were at the game) was him broadcasting the games.

And that’s why that era of announcer was so important. Most people always remember their hometown voice as a result. Because if you wanted to follow the games, radio was the way to do it. So again, to the new voices of Orioles baseball, take a listen to Chuck Thompson. He was the best. The absolute best. Ain’t the beer cold?!

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