Baltimore Orioles: Is there a need for more weekday matinee’s?

Baltimore Orioles fans are probably asking themselves, “…Domenic, what in the name of pearl are you writing?!” And I get it folks – I really do! I’m the first one to tell you that it’s sometimes called fluff. You know, a column for the sake of writing a column. But when you’re marketing a new column such as I’m doing with The Orange Crush, you do what you have to do.

In looking at the Orioles’ 2017 schedule at this point, we see no times for the most part listed on the games. Those haven’t been decided as of yet, although I presume that the Orioles will for the most part stick to what they’ve done in the recent past. Monday-Friday home games at 7 PM, Saturdays at 4 or 7 PM, and Sundays at 1:30 PM. But should they consider a change?

And by a change, I don’t mean anything overly drastic. However weekday matinee’s seem to be a rarity in Baltimore. The Orioles occasionally will play an afternoon game during the week, but generally on the road. They’re almost always on a Wednesday or Thursday, and usually during the 1 PM (local time) hour.

I’m kind of a throwback to previous generations in that I have so much love and respect for the fact that the roots of the game are in afternoon games. However I recognize why the majority of games can’t be matinee’s any longer – not unless teams want attendance to dip so far that the sport itself becomes obscure. However an afternoon game on a weekday is really a special treat for fans, and if you sprinkle a few throughout the schedule over the course of 81 home games you probably won’t see a huge attendance dip.

Most teams schedule matinee’s on getaway days, which of course are the final games of a series. One or in many cases both teams are on the move immediately following the game. Often times the home team will schedule an afternoon game so that they and/or their opponent can get out of the city and onto their next destination early. In fact, the rare occasions that the Orioles do schedule afternoon games during the week are generally when they’re headed out west immediately following the game.

But speaking for myself, I think it’s something they should consider. It gives fans the opportunity to perhaps take a vacation day mid-week and head out to see a ballgame. It gives them the impression that they’re playing hooky or getting away with something. But that aside it’s a simple change from the status quo. And while players are creatures of habit, sometimes a change in the status quo is needed in the monotony of a 162-game season.

I see little chance of this happening, but one can hope. Presumably the Orioles have done studies and thus have come to the conclusion that they get better gate revenues for night games. And that probably goes without saying. But here and there, it probably wouldn’t hurt. Incidentally, I think that the weekend game times should stay right where they are. Saturday night games are perfect for a community like Baltimore, and obviously most Sunday games will be in the afternoon anyways. I could see moving Sunday games back to 1 PM, but now we’re splitting hairs!

Baltimore Orioles release Spring Training schedule for 2017

Amid the excitement for last night’s World Series game one, the Baltimore Orioles released their Spring Training schedule for 2017 earlier this week. What exactly does that mean for the here and now? Well, nothing much, although you can view the schedule by clicking here.

If you’re one of the thousands of fans who makes an annual pilgrimage to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota to see the Orioles during Spring Training, you can now start making your plans. The Birds actually start playing games in February next year, which seems earlier than normal. However they’ll begin on February 24th with two consecutive road games, against Detroit in Lakeland and then the next day against Pittsburgh in Bradenton.

The home opener at Ed Smith Stadium is on Sunday February 26th against Pittsburgh once again. As is usually the case, most of the games are at 1 PM. However the Orioles will play four evening games at Ed Smith Stadium next year. And I’ve always thought that was a smart thing to do, especially towards the end of Grapefruit League play. It gets players acclimated to playing night games as they generally do during the regular season.

Ironically, the Orioles will only host the NY Yankees once during Spring Training, on February 27th. They’ll host Boston, Tampa, and Toronto twice.  Philadelphia will make three appearances at Ed Smith Stadium, as will Detroit.

Keep in mind that it’s always challenging for the Birds to get their Grapefruit League schedule finalized. Teams literally line up to come and play the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium due to the great facility that the Birds have created there. Whereas when they trained in Fort Lauderdale teams wouldn’t want to come play them, in Sarasota they have to beat them away with a stick!

This year’s slate also includes a game against the Dominican Republic on March 7th as they prepare for the World Baseball Classic. Presumably this would not in theory count towards the Grapefruit League standings, which in reality count only in a kangaroo court-type setting. But it’s on the schedule, needless to say.

The Birds finish up on Thursday, March 30th in Sarasota against Detroit, but don’t open the regular season until the following Monday at home against Toronto. In the past they’ve scheduled some additional exhibition games, either against local Sarasota-area colleges, or in some cases against the Norfolk Tides. If anything like that is in the works, it hasn’t been announced as of yet. So there you have it Birds’ fans…get your reservations set for spring!

Baltimore Orioles: Jake Arrieta isn’t a conviction on the Birds’ coaching or methodology

As was covered here previously, two former Baltimore Orioles will be in the World Series for Chicago tonight: Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. For this purposes of this article, I’m going to focus more on Arrieta, mainly because he’s a starting pitcher. However also keep in mind that the Orioles drafted him, brought him through their system, and he began his big league career with the Birds.

Arrieta of course was traded in 2013 to Chicago for veteran Scott Feldman, who of course finished out the year with the Birds and then moved on. Arrieta since then has seen his career take off – and big time at that. Not only has he thrown two no-hitters since then, however he’s just been plain outstanding on the north side of Chicago. A lot of fans point to this as a reason to say that the Orioles have a poor organizational direction, among other things.

But is this fair? Arrieta had basically accomplished everything that he was going to accomplish in Baltimore. In fact, his departure was widely applauded by a great many Orioles fans. In effect, he’s what you call a classic change of air type of guy.

Many folks try to argue that Arrieta wasn’t allowed to pitch the way he truly wanted to pitch in Baltimore. However that’s incorrect; why would the Orioles truly be opposed to him using his most effective pitches? In reality, Arrieta’s issues began well before the current regime was in Baltimore. He rode the “Norfolk shuttle” far too often, and would get sent down and called back up almost weekly for a time. That seemingly continued even when the likes of Showalter arrived, however with the urgency to win today that couldn’t be helped.

So I suspect that when he went to Chicago, he got the same message(s), but delivered in a different manner and by different people. However again, many people will point to the fact that Arrieta is on a World Series team and say that obviously the Orioles are doing something wrong. Unfortunately folks, that’s just how the game works sometimes – for better or for worse.

I throw in that line, for better or for worse, for a reason. Do you think that Texas would have traded Chris Davis had they known what he would turn into? Could you imagine Davis playing in a bandbox like Texas 81 games a year? Sometimes these trades work out, and sometimes they don’t. Yet do people complain that Texas’ philosophy had to have thus been flawed?

The same is true with Mark Trumbo. What was Seattle thinking when they basically gave him to the Orioles? (In return for what amounted to a triple-A catcher…who later ended up getting suspended for twitter comments.) Point here is that you really have to have a narrow view of things if you’re going to say that the Orioles have a poor organization squarely because of the Arrieta trade. Sometimes these things work out, and sometimes they don’t.

Baltimore Orioles: What should the Birds do about Matt Wieters?

One of the bigger issues facing the Baltimore Orioles this off season is what to do about catcher, Matt Wieters. As we all know, Wieters was a free agent last season, but he accepted the Orioles’ qualifying offer and returned to the team for the 2016 season. However the rumors are that if the Orioles even make Wieters a qualifying offer (which they may not), he might not accept it.

There are a lot of factors to consider here. First off, should the Orioles bring Wieters back at all? And I suspect that for most fans the answer to that is going to be yes. Wieters has a career .992 fielding percentage, is a career .256 hitter (which is good for a catcher), and above all of that he’s a team leader and a positive force in the clubhouse. So should the Orioles bring him back? I say yes to that question – but there are also other things to consider.

The qualifying offer this year is going to be in the $17 million range. That means that if any given player accepts that qualifying offer, he’s signing with you for that amount for one year. Is Wieters worth $17 million for one season? If you feel that he’s a missing piece you might need to put you over the top to win a world series, then yes he is. But in the Orioles’ case he’s in essence the status quo. They wouldn’t be gaining anything, although they’d be gaining by not losing something.

It’s tight line to toe for sure. While Caleb Joseph had a down year at the plate, most fans also know what he’s capable of doing. Would he not be a viable candidate to be a starting catcher on many teams – contenders at that? I suspect that he would. And I suspect that he’d be far from the bottom in terms of being a starting catcher.

The Orioles are fairly deep at the catcher position organizationally, which is in their favor. Make no mistake about the fact that Matt Wieters is an asset to any team on which he would play. The Orioles would be better with him throwing runners out at second base trying to steal, or blocking the plate (once the ball arrives of course) as a runner tries to score…

…the point is whether or not the position is “leveragable.” That aside, there should be no question that the Orioles will offer Wieters a contract. The question is whether or not Wieters and his agent, Scott Boras, will be willing to sign for what the Orioles offer. I suspect that what will happen is that the Orioles will make Wieters a competitive offer. And by that, I mean a very legitimate offer. However someone else will step up and in essence overpay for him.

That would of course leave the Orioles with Caleb Joseph as their starting catcher. Is he Matt Wieters? No. But Matt Wieters isn’t Caleb Joseph either. Having him as your starting catcher isn’t a horrible place in which to be.

I can’t stress enough that the Birds are a better team with Wieters than they are without. So if they can get a deal done, they need to do that. However it might also pay to save that money so that the likes of Machado, Schoop, and even Tillman can be re-signed. All of those things are factors.

Baltimore Orioles: Should Jose Bautista be on the free agent radar?

Jose Bautista is only the most recent opponent that Baltimore Orioles’ fans love to hate. And I would submit that’s with good reason – we all know who Bautista is, and what he’s done. Let’s start with who he is; he’s one of the best power hitters in baseball and he plays for the Toronto Blue Jays. Now, what has he done?…

…he’s hit the Orioles hard over the years. However more relevantly he’s done everything in his power to rub their noses in his success at every step of the way. Granted his most famous show-boating moment came last year in the ALDS against Texas, however that aside he seems to relish playing the villain to the Orioles’ general all-around “good guy.” He knows that sticks in the heads of guys like Adam Jones, and he uses that to his advantage.

And of course his running feud with reliever Darren O’Day is well documented. The Orioles and their fans see Bautista as a “heel,” in every sense of the term. In turn, Bautista sees the Orioles (and guys like Jones) as unnecessarily being the enforcers of unwritten codes that he sees as unheralded and outdated. And he’s used that hatred to his advantage over the years, although the Birds held him in check in his injury-riddled 2016 campaign.

Bautista is a free agent this off season. So with the Orioles presumably losing the services of a guy like Trumbo, the question begs to be asked: should the O’s go after Jose Bautista? It would be a total about-face in terms of the type of player the O’s usually target. They tend to like signing or trading for guys like Trumbo who are going to fit into their clubhouse. I’m not sure that Bautista would fit that mold. In fact I know he wouldn’t.

But the question at hand is whether or not the Orioles need to reconsider where they stand on things like this. Bautista’s a showboater without any question. So are the Orioles prepared to totally shut out consideration of adding his bat to the lineup? I would hope not – for their sake.

Don’t read too much into what I just said – I’m the master of misdirection! I’m not saying that the Orioles should go out and get him. I’m saying that they shouldn’t totally close the door without considering it for a period of time. Could the Orioles not use a career .255 hitter with a career OBP of .368, who’s capable of hitting everything that’s thrown at him a long way?

The answer is yes, they could. So it is something that should be considered, and given the fact that he’s coming off of a down year he might come cheaper than we think. However that right there is why the O’s need to exercise caution. Bautista only played in 116 games this season, hitting 22 home runs. Plus at 36, he’s certainly on the downside of his career. So he wouldn’t come without risks.

With that said, there’s also the bit about his attitude. Bautista WOULD NOT under any circumstance fit in the Orioles’ clubhouse. Some people want to totally disregard that type of thing and argue that the Orioles should sign someone who could impact them regardless of how that person conducts himself. I think that’s naïve. In some instances, yes you have to find a way to get along with others. However I’m not sure how fair it is to the current Orioles to expect them to embrace someone that was previously public enemy number one now as their own.

The last thing the Orioles need is for one of Bautista’s acts to wear thin on another team who starts plunking Orioles. Furthermore, Bautista’s an excuse maker. All week we heard about how the Cleveland Indians were getting favorable calls in the ALCS with regard to balls and strikes. I don’t buy into that type of mentality, and neither do the Orioles. You don’t make excuses when you fail; you use it as a learning experience and try to be better going forward.

This is not to say that “former enemies” can’t become friends. However in Bautista’s case I do think that the cons outweigh the potential pros. Furthermore there’s the statistical matter of the fact that he’s getting older. So whether you think they should or could put their differences aside or not, that’s only a matter of fact.

Baltimore Orioles: What is conventional wisdom and should it go out the door?

There was a lot of controversy surrounding the Baltimore Orioles’ loss in the MLB playoffs earlier this month, much of it to do with manager Buck Showalter. First off let’s be clear; Showalter is the best manager this franchise has had not named Earl Weaver. In fact, the Orioles might very well be puttering along in the 60-70 win range if not for him.

I throw that bit in because in the aftermath of that wild card game there were fans who actually said that Showalter should be fired – for not using Zach Britton. That’s ludicrous, and there can be no denying that. What, do people think that Dave Trembley or Sam Perlozzo should be back in that dugout?

All of that aside, last week we saw Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts do exactly what Showalter was unwilling to do. He brought his closer in much earlier than he otherwise would have in an elimination game in DC. Los Angeles went onto win the game and the series of course, and Roberts’ managerial moves were hailed as brilliant. How true that is might well be another story, however needless to say the move worked.

So did Roberts possibly see Showalter’s perceived mistake and do the opposite? Perhaps. However both incidents have left fans clamoring for managers to change their thinking on closers. With that said, I do firmly agree that you have to manager games differently in the post-season than you do in the regular season. However I’ve maintained both privately and publicly that it behooved Showalter to leave Britton until the end. What if he’s used too early and someone else blows a would-be lead?

Part of that has to do with playing at home and on the road. However keep in mind that at the end of the day anyone on the pitching staff should be able to come in and record outs. But again, the question isn’t so much about Showalter as it is about the game in general. Do teams need to change their thinking and maneuvering moving forward?

I use the phrase conventional wisdom says this or that quite often – both in the context of baseball and outside. I love the term common sense, but more and more people are saying that if it was common sense it would work. And yes, to me common sense is that you use your closer in the end of the game (barring an emergency) – so in that sense I agreed with what Showalter did.

But common sense, savoir faire, or intelligence is now judged by success or failure. And I do feel that’s sad. Dave Roberts obviously made the inverse decision that Showalter did – and it worked. However had it backfired, then where would that leave us? What would be considered common sense in this realm?

Baseball’s situational across the board. You don’t manage any run-of-the-mill regular season game in the first or second inning the way you do in the eighth or ninth. And yes, you don’t manager a post-season game in the same manner you do a regular season game. Granted that doesn’t mean that nothing is absolute, but things have to be done differently.

And coaching/strategizing at any level involves rolling the dice at times. You’re a genius if it works and a goat if it doesn’t. In Buck Showalter’s case, most of the buttons he pushes in games work out brilliantly. What Dave Wallace did in that moment did as well – but play that scenario back again and perhaps next time things are different.


Baltimore Orioles: Did New York’s rally end the Birds’ season?

My personal opinion is that the Baltimore Orioles had a season of which to be proud in 2016. They went to the post-season, and played Toronto to an effective draw until extra innings in the American League Wild Card game. Yet due to the abrupt manner in which it ended, many fans were unsatisfied.

However people should keep in mind that this Orioles’ team was picked by many to finish last in their division. Yeah you read that right – dead last. As much as Tampa (who did finish in the cellar) struggled and as far behind everyone else as they were, many of the so-called experts picked them to finish ahead of the Orioles. Makes no sense at the end of the day, right?

So regardless of how it ended, put into that context the season as a whole comes off as a success. Heck, last year they finished exactly at .500. So whether they went to the post-season or not, the Orioles had a much better season year-over-year. But the fact is that they did go to the post-season, regardless of how one looks at it.

However here’s an interesting point; did the Birds’ season end before the post-season even began? If you remember, the Birds at one point had the lead for the first wild card spot over the course of the final weekend of the regular season. That would have meant that they would have played host to the AL Wild Card game at Camden Yards. This of course as opposed to having to travel to Toronto and play it as the visitor at Rogers Centre.

The Orioles had a 3-0 lead on New York on the second-to-last day of the regular season. Had they gone onto win that day, all things being the same they would have ended up one game ahead of Toronto in the standings. The phrase that pays is all things being the same. That’s always a tough argument to make because it’s basically saying what if? But work with me here…

…because you all see where I’m going with this I’m sure. Instead, a four-run eighth inning by New York turned that into a loss for the O’s. Of course they later clinched a playoff spot the next day with a win, however they slid in as the second wild card team as opposed to the first.

If that game is played at Camden Yards, it’s throngs of screaming Orioles fans making it an obscene place to play for Toronto – instead of the reverse. (Not to mention that we probably aren’t having the conversation about someone throwing beer at Hyun-Soo Kim.) Furthermore, the Orioles have their last at-bat. Perhaps the game would have played out strikingly similarly to how it did in real life in this “alternate reality.” But at the very least the O’s would have had another shot at bat as opposed to being walked off.

My impression was that the Birds felt that New York was defeated in that game in the Bronx. They didn’t see them coming back, and they went into cruise control. Instead they clawed their way back into the game, and ended up winning it. That’s to their credit. It also may have indirectly ended the Orioles’ season.

This is all a tough argument to make given the nature of the whole all things being the same argument. But whereas in football or basketball home field advantage means something in terms of fans getting into the heads of opponents, in baseball it means something for teams having their last at-bat. And ultimately, that luxury being afforded to the home team is part of the game.

Baltimore Orioles: Can MLB and other sports become over-legislated?

I’m kind of easing back into reporting on the Baltimore Orioles – so bear with me! The fact is that most MLB teams don’t make too many waves this time of year. The league wants teams to lay low so as to keep the focus of the baseball world on the playoffs and the teams still in contention.

However I saw something over the weekend that’s somewhat relevant in MLB. This past Sunday when the Washington Redskins were playing the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL, a Redskins’ player celebrated a touchdown by pretending to do a jump-shot with the football over the goal post. The player was immediately flagged for taunting, and the Redskins penalized 15 yards.

Now first off any of you who have read me for some time know that I’m not huge on celebrations in sports. So I’m in favor of reigning some of this stuff in – regardless of what anyone might say or think, we don’t want to see endzone-style dances after home runs in baseball. However that’s not the point – in this case, the NFL has done something of which MLB has been guilty several times as well: over-legislation.

What the Redskins’ player did was not something that was on the “list” of banned celebrations. However there’s also a rule against using the ball as a prop in a celebration. So the official interpreted that as using the ball as a prop, which is why he threw a flag. When you leave things open to interpretation, sometimes rules get bent out of wack.

We’ve see this in MLB – and sometimes far too often and at far too important moments. Look at instant replay for instance; while the term irrefutable evidence to overturn the call on the field is a good intention, it’s also far too broad. It allows us to wonder what exactly constitutes irrefutable evidence? What’s irrefutable to one umpire might not be to another.

You get the idea. My point in saying all of this is that in many cases the calls in games are worse than they were prior to replay being a thing. I can’t say how many times this past season I tweeted something along the lines of if it’s taking this long the evidence is inconclusive, only to find out that the call had been reversed. And I suspect that part of that is due to the fact that the umpires are trying to figure out if the evidence is irrefutable. Was the ball moving in the first baseman’s mitt, or was it in the back of the glove? Did the catcher have the ball when he blocked home plate, or was it not in his mitt?

Every rule or policy has it’s downside. However when you start over-legislating things, it’s almost worse than having no rules at all. And the player doing the jump shot after a touchdown is a prime example. That act in and of itself isn’t against the rules. But if one official interprets it as using the ball as a prop, he has the option of throwing a flag. And the same could be true in baseball…remember the takeout slide rules at second base?

The point is that in many cases the more we legislate, the more we see unintended consequences. Again as an example, in baseball a tie goes to the runner. However that’s not an “official rule.” So on replay if a runner is shown to have been tied with the ball, the call is not supposed to be overturned. Because since a tie isn’t written into the rules, technically that’s not hard core evidence to overturn the call on the field. So as opposed to having all of these rules, why not just say if it’s a tie or the runner arrives to the base first he’s safe?

At the end of the day, I agree with instant replay. But leagues are muddying the waters across the board by having too many regulations. The more that’s written in the rules, the more can be misinterpreted, or interpreted in the opposite manner in which it was intended.

Baltimore Orioles: Welcome to The Orange Crush!

Greetings Baltimore Orioles fans! Do I really need to introduce myself? Many of you know me from various other sites – mainly Birds Watcher. I spent five years as the Senior Editor there, all for which I’m very grateful.

As I’ve said on numerous social media outlets, I’d like to thank each and every person who ever took the time to read my coverage of the Orioles and/or comment on it during that time period. And please know that I sincerely mean that. No column is anything without readers – otherwise it’s just empty space out in the cyber-world. So to my “longtime readers,” know that you’ve made a positive difference in my life.

If you’ve made it this far, I gather that you’re either a new reader or you’ve followed me over. Funny how that happens! So you might have a few questions, and I’m going to attempt to answer them. First off, the title; I have an admitted affinity for the Mid-Atlantic region’s “native summertime beverage.” So given that one of the Orioles’ primary colors is orange, I felt it was a nice play on words – you get the idea, I’m sure.

Secondly, what can you the fans expect from this new column? And the answer to that is very simple: I don’t attach my name to unprofessional writing – at least I try not to do so. That’s not to say that I don’t have an opinion on what’s going on with the Orioles at any given time, because that’s part of my job. But if you’re looking for a column that’s going to say rah rah, look at the Birds fly!, this isn’t for you.

In the same respect, if you’re looking for the type of crass and in your face type of negativity that you sometimes see on other columns and on the streets, this isn’t for you either. As an example, one of the big stories of the abrupt end to the Orioles’ season was whether or not Buck Showalter should have inserted Zach Britton in the AL Wild Card game. My personal opinion was that it was best to leave Britton until he was meant to pitch – at the end with a lead.

Many fans saw things differently – and that’s okay. But you won’t see the type of sensationalized coverage that you see in other spots here at The Orange Crush. That’s not how I fly. It’s always fair to ask questions, but I also try to call it down the middle. So had this column been up and running at the time, you wouldn’t have seen an article from me saying fire Showalter.

So what can fans expect in the immediate interim? Well, spring training is unfortunately a long ways away! But the Orioles have always been able to keep me busy throughout the off-season. So check back on a daily basis for news and updates as it comes. I anticipate a very active and interesting hot stove season this year, so stick with me!

Oh, one other thing; I’m not the most creative guy in the world when it comes to graphics, pictures, etc. But I’d like to think that I know a thing or two about baseball and I’d like to hope and believe that the coverage of the team that I’ve provided over time in print is accurate and fair. So you probably aren’t going to see fancy polls, pictures, graphics, etc. here at Orange Crush. But I stand behind the product I put out in print – to me that’s the most important part of any article. Is it possible that the look or feel to the site will change at some point? Sure. But the content is always more important than anything else in my mind.

Let me be frank; this isn’t Birds Watcher. I was privileged to write for the Fansided Network for so long, as their readership is vast. However I never felt that I “worked” for Fansided or anyone else – except for the people of Baltimore and Orioles fans. That’s who I’m here for, and that’s on who’s behalf I’ve always written. So once again to all who are reading this today, stick with me – it’s going to be a fun off-season! Every year I wonder how we’re going to make it through until spring training once again, but we always do. So in closing on this maiden post, I once again welcome one and all to this new site, The Orange Crush! And as goes my traditional conclusion to comment replies, THANKS FOR READING!