Baltimore Orioles: Fans at the Fall Classic

If fans of the Baltimore Orioles, or those of any other team for that matter, want to attend the 2020 World Series, they’ll be able to do so. The same is true of the League Championship Series’. These will be the first baseball games to admit fans since March when Spring Training was suspended.

I suppose the question is whether or not it’s a good idea. Seats will be sold in a manner that will allow fans to social distance and so forth, but it does call into question whether it’s truly safe. This year of course will also be the first time ever where a World Series (and the LCS’) will be played in a neutral park: the Texas Rangers’ new ballpark.

Coincidentally, the state of Florida yesterday approved the Miami Dolphins of the NFL to allow a capacity crowd of 65K plus at their games. The Dolphins aren’t going to do that, but they in theory could. We hear so much about super-spreader events and so forth, so you have to wonder if sporting events wouldn’t start to qualify as such if fans are starting to be allowed back in.

This week the NHL also announced that their intention is to begin their new season on January 1st. They also said that the intention is for fans to be admitted. That’s a big different because hockey’s played indoors. So who knows how good or bad an idea having fans at any of these games are. I think it goes without saying that everyone in attendance would need to wear a mask. But once people start drinking and so forth – is it truly reasonable to expect those masks to stay on?

Hopefully the Fall Classic goes off without a spike in Coronavirus cases. Aside from a rough start, MLB actually did a reasonably decent job of protecting players and coaches. Hopefully that extends to fans as well.

Baltimore Orioles: Are finances an issue?

The Baltimore Orioles let go of third base coach Jose Flores, and pitching coach Doug Brocail last week. While the team has yet to confirm these moves, they’ve been made. And with no apparent reason as to why.

Yet there have been reports the past few days that part of the reason these moves were made was due to financial constraints. This is a deep concern, if true. Are the Orioles having financial problems?

I think it’s understood that most teams are suffering through the current COVID-19 situation. Not only did they have a heavily reduced schedule of games, but the public wasn’t admitted. Meaning no tickets were sold.

Combine that with the fact that merchandise sales had to be down, and you have a real problem. You literally have money flying out the door for things such as payroll and other expenses, with very little coming in to replace it. That’s a huge problem for any business.

I suspect that merchandise sales weren’t totally zero, as people could still purchase online and visit the Orioles’ store at Camden Yards. Plus they still got their television revenue. So they did take some money in. Just not what they would have liked.

It’s important to note that Brocail and Flores’ contracts were up. The Orioles simply didn’t renew them. Keep in mind that if a team lets go of anyone (coach, player, executive, etc), they still have to pay out their contracts. So it’s entirely possible that the organization took the opportunity to get someone at less money starting next year. Is that fair? Not necessarily – although they did fulfill their obligations to Brocail and Flores. But 2020 itself hasn’t been fair.

Baltimore Orioles: Will bullpen management change in 2021?

My personal opinion is that Brandon Hyde is doing a great job in the Baltimore Orioles’ dugout. Furthermore he seems committed to the organization, which also seems committed to him. A lot of young managers take a job in a rebuild assuming he’ll be fired at some point. Hyde doesn’t seem overly concerned about that.

But there is one area this year which made me raise my eyebrows. I noticed that he had an incredibly quick hook on his starting pitchers. Now in some instances that’s necessary. You don’t want a pitcher out there embarrassing himself. Especially a young guy.

But I felt like there were other games where the O’s were losing games in the 2-0 range, only to have the starter lifted in the fourth inning. I’m not sure if that’s the way Hyde intends to manage in the future, or if that had more to do with the sixty-game season.

There are plenty of people, both analysts and fans alike, who would argue that short starts are where the game is headed. As in the future will be guys pitching maybe three innings in games. Basically a perpetual slate of bullpen games.

So in that sense Hyde may be riding the wave to the future. My personal opinion is that it would be overly-taxing on too many pitchers to have a system like that. But who knows.

I’ll be interested to see next year how he manages the bullpen. Does that trend continue, or are pitchers given the liberty to go deeper into games?

Baltimore Orioles: 2020 season in review

2020 was perhaps the strangest season in Baltimore Orioles’ history. Well, strike that – in MLB history. After a lengthy delay due to COVID-19, the league opened it’s season in late July. The Birds opened against Boston at Fenway Park – and were promptly blown out by Boston.

But we also saw shades of what the 2020 Orioles were truly all about that weekend at Fenway. The O’s took the other two games of the series. This was a team that bounced back quickly from bad losses, and who wasn’t about to hang their heads for long.

This team had it’s ups and downs. They were swept by Miami, but swept Washington and Philadelphia. And in the process, they found that they had some great pieces going forward.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the year was Anthony Santander, who ended up being the Most Valuable Oriole. This despite playing in only 37 games due to a late season injury. Santander hit only .261 on the year, however he was clutch. He always came through when the O’s needed a late hit or run-scoring play. That’s something we’ve seen in Baltimore previously in other players. However it’s a tough trait to find.

The Birds also found some pieces to take forward in the pitching department, such as Thomas Eshelman, Dean Kremer, and Keegan Akin. Where any of these players winds up next year in terms of on the roster, in the minors, and/or in the bullpen depends largely on their spring outings. But that’s also true of a lot of guys.

Again, the O’s had their ups and downs this year. They were streaky. Yet by virtue of the 60-game season, they stayed in mathematical playoff contention until the final week. And that’s due in large part to their never-say-die attitude. We saw it time and time again over the course of the sixty games. And given that the nucleus of the team is expected to at least be similar in 2021, I would expect to see that same trait next year.

For the record, my season prediction was that the O’s wouldn’t finish in the basement of the AL East. I was correct in that. They won 25 games, and Boston won 24. So I was correct by exactly one game. However more importantly, they did improve year-over-year. In 2019 the O’s had a win percentage of .317 (over 162 games). This year it raised to .417 (over sixty games).

Granted the number of games is different, but that translates to 67.5 wins in a 162 game season. This as opposed to last year’s 54 wins. So if you look at it from that perspective they’re trending in the right direction. Whether that progress goes into next season remains to be seen. But in certain senses, 2020 was a success for the O’s.

Baltimore Orioles: Changes on the coaching staff

It appears that there are two upcoming changes to the Baltimore Orioles’ coaching staff. Third base coach Jose Flores and pitching coach Doug Brocail will not be returning. The team hasn’t confirmed these moves, but it appears that both coaches were told their contracts weren’t being renewed.

It’s unclear why this is going to happen, or when their replacements will be named. It could just be an economic thing more than anything else. Or philosophical. Who knows. All we know is that Brocail and Flores appear to be out.

I would say this; the pitching coach position is one that the Orioles need to get right. Not only because of the youth and inexperience on their starting staff, but also because it’s been a long time since they’ve had stability and continuity in that position. Guys have come and gone over a great many years. So for the sake of their young starters, they need to find someone who has some staying power this time around.

Baltimore Orioles: How does 2021 look?

When I ask what 2021 looks like for the Baltimore Orioles, I don’t mean the roster, outlook, etc. I mean the season. And for all of MLB at that. Is it more normal? Is it a total return to normalcy?

Obviously right now we just don’t know. However that has to be something the powers that be in the league office are discussing now. Obviously like most other things, the answer lies with whether or not we have an approved vaccine available to all Americans for COVID-19. And obviously the timing of that vaccine.

While there were a few flare-ups at the beginning involving a couple of teams (not the Orioles), baseball largely proved that it was capable of being played even during this pandemic. So I suspect that there’d be no reason teams couldn’t have spring training as normal, perhaps with no fans or limited fans to start with. Same with the regular season.

What we do know is that things will eventually have to return to normal. No reason that process shouldn’t start next year. But ultimately the virus and the vaccine will decide that.

Baltimore Orioles: Coming attractions

Yesterday I wrote the final Baltimore Orioles game recap of the 2020 season. It’s kind of strange; the season itself was only sixty games, but I feel like I would normally feel at the end of the season. It’s been a long grind to get to the end, but now it’s almost like removing goggles from your eyes and seeing the world for what it really is after focusing on just one thing for so many months.

It’ll certainly go down as the strangest year on record. Spring Training was going along as normal, and then it was suspended. And we waited, and waited…and waited more. Through apparent labor strife among other things. But finally we ended up with a sixty-game regular season, which of course has now ended.

I’ll be honest; in retrospect things probably didn’t ever need to be put on hold. Granted, back in March we didn’t know what this pandemic was going to be, and we didn’t know how to stop the spread of it save for staying home. So baseball did the best it could with the information it had. However spring games could have probably continued and the regular season could have started – simply with no fans and with the safety measures that eventually went into place. There would have been more travel for teams of course, but I think they could have pulled it off. We just didn’t know that at the time.

Sometime this week I’ll release a season review for 2020. I always like to take a few days before doing that so as to fully “digest” the season. And from there maybe we’ll talk a bit about the playoffs, and into some off season coverage. And who knows you might even see a hiatus or two on my end. Time will tell.

Baltimore Orioles: A win at the end of the line

The Baltimore Orioles concluded their truncated 2020 season this afternoon. Perhaps it’s fitting that the strangest season in history came to an end in a Buffalo minor league park – the temporary home of the Toronto Blue Jays. Keegan Akin got the ball, but in essence acted as “the opener.” Akin’s line 3.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 4 K.

With Toronto leading 1-0, Renato Nunez‘s RBI-double in the third tied the score at one. However Toronto would put three additional runs on the board in the last of the third. Which in essence was consistent with the rest of this series, and perhaps the rest of the games that have been against Toronto this year.

But at some point the O’s decided to extend the summer just a little longer. They decided that they weren’t going into the night without a fight. Cedric Mullins‘ two-RBI triple cut the lead to 4-3, and out Toronto on notice that they weren’t going to end the season with a cakewalk. Mullins would later score on Austin Hays‘ sac fly-RBI which tied the game.

And that fourth inning was the final time the Orioles would trail in 2020. Rio Ruiz smacked an RBI-double in the fifth which have the O’s a 5-4 lead. The O’s would also get an RBI-groundout, and an RBI-single to run the lead to 7-4. Toronto would score on an error in the eighth, but the Birds pulled out a 7-5 lead.

And yes, that’s the end of the line. For 2020, at least! The season is now complete, and the O’s finished with 25 wins. But don’t underestimate the importance of winning this final game. That does mean something going into next year. Next season, which hopefully will are the return of normalcy to MLB.

As a tongue-in-cheek joke, the O’s will next take on the Atlanta Braves at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fl on February 27th – Opening Day of the Florida Grapefruit League season. Starters are TDB for both teams. Nothing set yet in stone, but I would think that game time would be sometime around 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: John Means strong in loss to Toronto

John Means, who presumably will be the Baltimore Orioles’ Opening Day starter next year, had a solid outing in his final game of 2020. Only problem was the O’s couldn’t support him enough to get him the win. Means’ line: 6.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 9 K.

The teams played to a scoreless tie through five innings. Means was mowing Toronto hitters down. This until the sixth inning when Biggio smacked a solo homer. That was the lone run that Means surrendered. They say solo homer runs don’t hurt you. In general they don’t; but yet that solo homer earned John Means the loss.

This game was almost a tale of two games. The first half or so of the game was a pitcher’s duel. However runs came fast and furious in the second part of the game. Mostly from Toronto.

Oriole-killer Grichuk had the night off. In theory at least. But he pinch hit in the last of the seventh with two runners on, and promptly hit a three-run homer. That was Grichuk’s twelfth homer on the year. And his seventh against the O’s.

It’s amazing how some guys are just zero’d in on a team. There’s really no explanation for how Grichuk could be so hot against the Orioles. It seems that no matter what they do, he’s a step ahead.

Jose Iglesias‘ RBI-double in the eight got they Birds on the board. Iglesias would later score on an RBI-single by Ryan Mountcastle. However Toronto would also add on a run in the eight, taking the game, 5-2.

The series and the season conclude this afternoon in Buffalo. Keegan Akin gets the call for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Tanner Roark. Game time is set for just after 3 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Jorge Lopez battered in Buffalo

The Baltimore Orioles went Jorge Lopez to the mound for his penultimate start in the 2020 season. Lopez ended up with the same fate as plenty of other Orioles’ starters against Toronto. They just seem to have the Birds’ number no matter what. Lopez’s line: 2.0 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 1 BB, 1 K.

Shocker, Toronto’s scoring started with Grichuk’s first at-bat. He smacked a solo homer in the second to give Toronto a 1-0 lead. Grichuk has hit eleven homers on the year (including this one). Six have come against the O’s. It’s uncanny.

Toronto kept the pressure on in the inning, putting base runner after base runner on base. And netting run after run. Before the second inning was over, they led the O’s 6-0.

The third inning brought a Toronto to 8-0, and Shaw’s fourth inning two-run homer put them ahead 10-0. Before the O’s could blink, they were that far behind. However the good news is that after that moment, the Orioles’ pen kept Toronto bats at bay. The damage had been done, but they were kept at bay from that moment forward.

And in fact, the O’s showed signs of wanting to get back into the game. Ramon Urias smacked a solo home run in the fifth. The O’s would get another homer that inning off the bat of Cedric Mullins. They’d also get one in the sixth from Jose Iglesias, and later an RBI-double from Hanser Alberto. That closed out Toronto’s 10-4 victory.

Before the game the Orioles announced that Anthony Santander had been voted the Most Valuable Oriole in 2020. He may have finished the season on the IL, but he made massive impacts on the team this year. Both on and off the field.

The series continues tomorrow in Buffalo. John Means gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Matt Shoemaker. Game time is set for just after 6:30 PM.

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