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Baltimore Orioles: Signature moment of the Buck Showalter era?

The Buck Showalter era will always be special to Baltimore Orioles’ fans. This much we all know, and can probably agree. There were lots of moments during that time period which were special. But is there one to which we can point as the “signature moment” of the entire era?

That’s all a matter of opinion. And as I said, there are quite a few from which to choose. Buck loading the bases to match up in game three of the ALDS in 2014 might be up there. So might the numerous Machado gold glove-caliber plays at third base. Again, this is all a matter of opinion.

But I’ll give you mine. If I had to pick one singular moment that personified the Buck Showalter era in Baltimore, it would be Delmon Young‘s bases-clearing double in the 2014 ALDS. The O’s of course had taken game one against Detroit the previous night in fairly easy fashion. Fast-forward to game two the following afternoon. The Birds trailed Detroit 6-3 in the middle innings…

…but they slowly chipped away at the lead. Before anyone realized what was going on, the O’s had cut the lead to 6-4 in the last of the eighth with the bases loaded. Buck summoned Delmon Young to pinch hit, in hopes of continuing the rally.

But it wasn’t a rally that was occurring. It was a donnybrook. Young swung at the first pitch, sending a line drive into the left field corner. From the outset you could see that at least two runs would score, tying the game. But as J.J. Hardy rounded third and headed for home, you knew there was a chance that the O’s could take the lead.

And as Hardy slid into home plate (kicking up a cloud of dust), he was immediately ruled safe, giving the Orioles a 7-6 lead. Twenty minutes later the game was over, and the O’s went to Detroit with a 2-0 series lead. That turned into a 3-0 series sweep.

I’ve always felt that moment got overlooked just a bit because the O’s were swept in the subsequent ALCS. However the sheer drama of the moment itself isn’t why I put it forward as “the moment” of the Buck Showalter era. I suppose that’s a part of it, however to me it was all about the crowd reaction. Believe me when I say that I’ve NEVER heard ANY stadium that loud. And I attend a lot of games – both as a writer covering the O’s, and as a fan in other sports. That was the most electrifying moment I’ve ever experienced in a stadium.

And that in and of itself personifies the Showalter era. While his was a name that was well-known and so forth, most Orioles fans probably just assumed that he’d end up another failed manager in Baltimore. But when it became obvious that wasn’t going to be the case, people bought all in.

And that moment was the fans buying all in. You would have been hard-pressed to argue that the O’s weren’t going to go all the way that year when that occurred. Again, that didn’t happen. But I digress; in my view it’s “the moment” of the Showalter era. I’d love to hear about other moments about which you all feel similarly.

Baltimore Orioles: Entertainment negatively impacts sports

The Baltimore Orioles and the rest of the sports world actually has an amicable relationship with Hollywood for the most part. Sports movies get made all the time. In fact, baseball movies as we know are probably some of the best. Personally, I know that my favorite movie is Field of Dreams.

But should sports be so chummy with the rest of the entertainment world? We hear the term sports & entertainment all the time; the two are often lumped together. Many people argue that sports IS entertainment, or at least a part of it. But does that utimately hurt the sports world?

I ask this question because I had some free time yesterday and like any good Italian kid I went to see the latest movie in the Rocky franchise, which is currently in theaters – Creed II, to be specific. First off I do recommend it and I thought it was a great movie. But take my view with a grain of salt, because I’m going to always tell you that any film involving Rocky Balboa is worth my time and money!

That aside, the “movie experience” is much different today than it was when I was a kid. I went on a special discount day, so my ticket was only $6. But the normal ticket price is $15. Then you saunter up to the concession stand and purchase designer popcorn for $8, high end candy for $5, all among other selections. Nowadays theaters serve hot dogs, nachos, icees – heck, and some even have a full bar.

I never thought I’d see the day where you could get a glass of the local craft swill or a mixed drink during a feature picture. Incidentally, many theaters now even have arcades or virtual reality centers. Now while it may sound like I saw my first movie since 1988 yesterday, I can guarantee you that’s not the case! However I suppose I never left the mindset where the movies are all about the movie, and perhaps a popcorn and soda.

Like the movie experience, the sports experience has changed also. Now it’s all about which designer foods you have in your park, and the game day experience. And it’s that word which draws all of this together – “experience,” Nowadays everything’s an experience.

What I’m saying is this; perhaps the Orioles compete lightly with the Ravens, University of Maryland, and to a lesser degree Washington’s teams for people’s money. There are people out there who do have to sit down and decide if they want to invest in an Orioles’ ticket plan, Ravens’ etc. Heck, sometimes the Orioles even have to compete against their own minor league affiliates for ticket sales.

But the Orioles, and sports in general also have to compete with the entertainment industry. Everyone’s stepping up their game, because sports & entertainment are lumped into one category. now. It’s probably cheaper for a family of four to go to the movies as opposed to a night at the ballpark. And it’s a shorter day, which is now taken into account as well.

And in this region there’s also more to it than just that. We have shows, concerts, and museums which compete with the sports industry for money as well. This is not to say that it’s either or, because for the most part I don’t think that’s the case. However as a society we’re billing sports and entertainment as one. So people perhaps are being conditioned to think it’s either or.

In my view if you have a Saturday with your family, perhaps you take them to a museum, head to the movies, and then perhaps an evening at the ballpark sucking down hot dogs. Nowadays however, people’s attitudes are that they have $150-$200 to spend on their family of four. What’s the best bang for their buck in terms of entertainment? And it’s up to each individual sport or team to ensure that the money comes their way. Not only that, but they’re competing against every other entertainment outlet in the region.

Baltimore Orioles need a manager in the next two weeks

The first step to the future for the Baltimore Orioles was hiring a GM. They got their man last week in Mike Elias. He’s now obviously taxed with finding a new direction for the franchise. The next step in that entire process is finding a new field manager.

And Elias has pretty much said that’s the priority. However there is an hourglass filled with sand that’s rapidly running. The MLB Winter Meetings are in two weeks in Las Vegas.

The Orioles aren’t expected to be a massive force in free agency. However odds are they’ll need to sign a couple of players along the way. So it would be preferable for them to have a structure in place before then.

It wouldn’t look good for prospective free agents to wonder where they would fit into the Orioles’ plans given that there’s no manager in place. Mind you, hiring Elias was a major part of shaping the future in Birdland. But Elias won’t be involved in on-field decisions, strategy, etc. That’s up to the manager.

So I would submit that the O’s need to have a manager in place or at least an announcement made prior to the Winter Meetings. Otherwise they risk hampering whatever progress could be made at the meetings. All part of the process.

Baltimore Orioles: What’s MLB’s Thanksgiving?

The Baltimore Orioles took pause with the rest of us last week as our nation celebrated Thanksgiving. I’m not going to lie; it’s my favorite holiday. Food, family…and football.

As we know, when it comes to sports Thanksgiving Day belongs to the NFL. I say Thanksgiving Day because in reality it’s one of the busier sports weeks overall on the calendar. There are numerous College Basketball tournaments (such as the Maui Invitational) that are played, and HUGE college football games which occur on Friday and Saturday of that week. But Thanksgiving Day itself is the NFL’s.

And I suppose that the only parallel that can be drawn is the NBA’s grasp on Christmas Day. I believe it’s either five or six games spanning from noon until well after midnight. You could also throw New Year’s Day in there for College Football bowl games. Does MLB have anything remotely like that?

I suppose I would throw out two holidays; Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. However I’m not sure those get the billing in baseball that Thanksgiving gets in the NFL or Christmas in the NBA. And in reality it’s all about marketing. You can schedule games for those days, but if you as the league don’t market it as “special” (in terms of playing on a holiday and so forth), it’s not going to feel special. The NBA literally goes out of it’s way to talk about how much of an honor it is to play on Christmas Day.

The difference is that baseball is played everyday. Memorial Day is special for sure, however you played yesterday and you’ll play tomorrow. The same with the Fourth of July. So it would be a tough sell for the league to argue that it’s anything on par with the NFL’s Thanksgiving or the NBA’s Christmas. The one difference is that there’s usually a plethora of games on national television. But the comparisons end there.

Baltimore Orioles: What if things go south?

I suppose that due to the Thanksgiving holiday this past week the Baltimore Orioles’ hiring of Mike Elias feels like it was ages ago. We should keep in mind that Elias was only formally introduced one week ago tomorrow! One week should have been enough time to hire a new manager and get the roster square (even with a holiday), right?!

Here’s s sobering question, however. What if the effort goes south? First off, that’s a bit of a misleading question. Because things will go south – for a period. I’m on record as stating that I believe that the Orioles will improve on their tally of 46 wins from 2018. (For reasons I’ll continue to discuss as time goes on.) However what if…they don’t stop “going south?”

The basic question is what if the rebuild fails? Some folks will argue that it failed after the great Oriole teams of the late 1990’s. However ask yourselves; did the roster really turn over. New players came and went, so by definition I suppose you could say it did. However the O’s never truly committed themselves to a full rebuild.

At that time, they tried to warm the roster over in a sense. And that was an effort that was ongoing until 2007 or so, when Andy MacPhail came to town and in essence committed to a smaller-scale rebuild. However they still in name never announced that they were rebuilding – until now.

The difference between what happened in 2007 and at the end of the 1990’s was that the “slight rebuild” actually worked. The results certainly weren’t immediate, however from 2012-2016 the O’s were one of the most dominant forces in the game. That was due to Andy MacPhail.

But what if what the organization is attempting now flat out doesn’t work? By that, I mean what happens if the team in essence fails to launch? Or…is that even possible?

Of course it’s possible. But that question also illustrates why it’s so important to have a good scouting department, strong minor league system, and a good plan for drafting players. (The Orioles will have the top pick in next June’s draft.) And if you take into account the organization from which Elias is coming, there’s nothing that would indicate that they won’t have a keen eye on those departments.

But again, what if despite the best efforts of the powers-that-be, somehow in five years this is still an organization flailing in the wind? Then where do the Angelos’ turn? For now at least, it beats the heck out of me.

Baltimore Orioles: Patience is a virtue

Baltimore Orioles fans appear to understand that a rebuild is a process. And no necessarily a short one at that. New General Manager Mike Elias is the man taxed with overseeing that process. This much we know.

Patience isn’t my strong point. I admit that, and quite frankly I see that as a good thing. In my view it means that I know what I want and I’m not willing to wait for it. But what I’m selling to Orioles fans is to do as I say, not as I do.

Most people understand that a rebuild is a processes. Furthermore the majority of folks understand that the O’s are in the very beginning of that process. However are people truly prepared for the truth of that reality?

From 2012 until 2016 the Oriole were one of the winningest franchises in baseball. Granted the end of 2017 and all of 2018 ended that, it’s a tough thing for fans to accept to go from that to basically being told that they’re going to be rooting for the worst team in the sport.

Again, folks say they understand that. However are they really prepared for how bad the team is going to be next year and in the immediate interim? One has to hope so.

I say this because we live in such a fast-paced world. If you aren’t winning, you’re nothing. Teams such as Boston and New York are going to be winning while the new-look Orioles are flailing in the wind. And once the next generation of stars becomes apparent, are people going to accept being told that the future is bright while division foes get fat off of the O’s?

My hope is that folks do in fact understand and accept that the franchise is going to struggle for awhile. My hope is that the fans continue to turn out to Camden Yards, because that sends a message to the young players that this is a place that they’re going to want to play. Because otherwise…it’ll be a long, cold winter.

Baltimore Orioles: Manny Machado is hurting his case

Former Baltimore Orioles’ third baseman/shortstop Manny Machado has decided to clarify some of the comments he made last month during the MLB playoffs (all quotes courtesy of ESPN):

When I was asked that question, I was definitely on the defensive, and I was wrong to answer it the way that I did, because looking back, it doesn’t come across how I meant it,” Machado told MLB.com, which published the interview Wednesday. “For me, I was trying to talk about how I’m not the guy who is eye wash. There’s a difference between fake hustle for show and being someone who tries hard to win. I’ve always been the guy who does whatever he can to win for his team.

Machado went on and furthered his commentary:

But I know how I said it and how that came across, and it’s something I take responsibility for. I look forward to talking with each GM and owner that we meet with about that, or any other questions they have.

These quotes of course refer to Machado admitting that he’s “not Johnny Hustle” during the playoffs last month. That was something that came up from time to time when he was with the Orioles. However it’s a topic that Machado himself brought up last month. And he’s now personally re-opened the discussion.

Here’s one thing that people across the board (Manny Machado or otherwise) don’t get; we have a 24-hour news cycle now. We look at that perhaps not necessarily as a bad thing, but certainly as a factor that’s usually negative. But people such as Manny Machado need to use it to their advantage.

He said something that was fairly stupid last month. But the fact is that regardless of how stupid of an act you commit or comment you make, just wait it out and someone else will screw up worse and suddenly they’re the topic at hand. In general I feel that it’s really a shame that we live in a society where people are literally held accountable for every gaffe or slip-up they make. I know I’ve had moments where I’ve felt bitter about having my feet held to the coals because of something I’ve said or written that felt minor but which blew up.

That’s unfortunately the society in which we live now. Again, I feel it’s unfortunate; and I say that because human beings are flawed. We make mistakes by nature. Sure if there’s a largesse pattern of verbal abuse or mishaps perhaps someone should think twice about what they’re doing. But people are going to make mistakes; society shouldn’t be waiting in the wings at all times to “hold them accountable.”

But again, Machado and others need to use that to their advantage. He didn’t make a mistake that offended a group or a person. He made a mistake which could cost him money – and certainly reputation. But by bringing it up again, he’s re-opening the wound. And again, we live in a society that’s waiting to pounce on people. The story of him admitting he didn’t hustle was old news. It was over and done.

Instead, now people are talkin about it again. And just in time for the winter meetings at that. When you say or do something that starts to snowball as such, ride it out – seriously. There’s no need to further clarify or to try to explain your point. Just ride it out, because at some point in the near future someone else will screw up worse. And then they’ll be in the spotlight.

Manny Machado potentially cost himself money by making that comment to begin with. But by re-opening the wound, he may have done so again. And as I said, the winter meetings aren’t far off.

Baltimore Orioles hire Sid Mejdal as Asst. General Manager

Mike Elias has made his first hire with the Baltimore Orioles. Yesterday he announced that he was bringing Sid Mejdal aboard as his Asst. General Manager. It’s a move that had been anticipated since news leaked of Elias’ hiring.

Mejdal will oversee all analytics efforts, and assist Elias in all baseball operations decisions. Like Elias, he comes to the Orioles from the Houston Astros’ organization, where he was the special assistant to the GM. He also worked for NASS for a period. A unique set of skills for sure.

That said, a very Happy Thanksgiving goes out to all Orioles fans across the country today. Enjoy your family, friends, foods, and all of the football games today!

Baltimore Orioles: What to do about Chris Davis?

Chris Davis (along with Mark Trumbo) finds himself in the strange position of being a holdover from the Baltimore Orioles’ former administration. This in the new era of Mike Elias. Davis, like him or hate him, will be one of the lone familiar faces to fans on the roster.

In his introductory remarks on Monday, GM Mike Elias said that he felt the Orioles would be best served by having a resurgent Chris Davis in the middle of the lineup. Most fans, along with myself, couldn’t agree more. However 2018 wouldn’t have been the disaster that it was had the Birds gotten that. Does Elias believe it’s possible for Davis to have a bounceback year?

Without going into detail we’ve already been over, Chris Davis had a historically bad season in 2018. So by the definition of the term, he should have a bounceback year next season. It would be hard to replicate or outdo the poor performance of 2018. However what would it take for that to happen?

The answer for now is that I really don’t know. Elias said that he wanted to be involved in Davis’ off season regiment of workouts which he’ll indubitably be doing as time goes on, but in reality the best Davis can do is to simply try to get better. That means seeing the ball better more than anything else. And that’s just something at which one has to consistently work.

With the rebuild the Orioles are attempting however, a powerful Davis will go along way. If he’s hitting under the Mendoza Line and constantly being scrutinized in the media, younger players might stay away from him. However if he’s pulling his weight at the plate, they will look to him, and see him a the leader that we all know he can be.

Point being, it’s not just production on the field. Davis (and Trumbo) are going to be called upon to show young players what it means to be an Oriole, and a major league player. Their performances on the field will go a long way towards easing that process.

Baltimore Orioles: Mike Elias introduced to local media

The Baltimore Orioles introduced Mike Elias as their new General Manager yesterday. As has been stated, Elias comes to Baltimore from the Houston Astros’ organization, where he was the Asst. General Manager. Elias will lay out the future course of the team as we move forward.

And as I said yesterday, it starts now. Elias’ first task will be to find a new manager for the Orioles, which one has to hope will happen soon. Elias told the media yesterday that John and Louis Angelos have given him full autonomy to make whatever decisions are necessary for the organization to build a winner (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

We had a lot of very extensive conversations throughout this process and we sat down and we talked a ton of baseball and we all came into those conversations with very specific plans and ideas and visions in mind for what this should look like, how we should go about these things. And we were on exactly the same page with what the approach should be. For me, that is something that is necessary for them to want to hire me for this position, but also for me to want to jump on board.

Presumably, that includes the decision of who manages the club moving forward, However it should be reassuring to Orioles fans to hear that the owners are on the same page as the man they’re tasking with doing the job. As I said yesterday, this is a moment that will be remembered by fans in the future – whe the O’s are either sinking or swimming. And again, it starts…now.

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