Baltimore Orioles: I don’t know who’s on third

Baltimore Orioles’ GM Mike Elias said that roster construction was going to be slow-going when he signed on and took the job. So Orioles fans shouldn’t be concerned that things are moving at a snail’s pace. However Orioles’ FanFest is in fact coming at the end of the month; it would be nice for a few things to be in place by then.

Let’s start here; who’s the starting third baseman? In the past this was never an issue, as the Orioles had a guy named Machado. But this year we’re going to see a new starting third baseman – or perhaps a platoon of them.

If there’s an incumbent, it’s probably Renato Nunez. However I’m not sure even he can get that distinction. He was taken by the Orioles off of waivers last year, as was Rio Ruiz, Nunez’s apparent competition for the role. Of the two, Nunez is probably the better one. The Orioles could let these two duke it out in spring training, or even look outside the organization.

There’s also another option, which I’ve suggested before. We talk a lot about Chris Davis and his offensive struggles. Davis has played third base in his career, including during his stint with the Orioles. He’s a solid first baseman, and a decent third baseman. Would the Orioles consider making Davis the full-time third baseman this year if no better option were out there?

The other hidden benefit of that arrangement is that it would open up competition for more younger players in the outfield. The Orioles could simply move Trey Mancini to his normal position at first base. The question is whether or not the Orioles would want to do that or need to. Time will tell.

End of the day, I think there needs to be more of a plan in place for that position than “we might look at several people.” Once the regular season starts, that is. The hot corner is a very important position, which is something that Orioles fans have probably taken for granted at times in the recent past.

Baltimore Orioles: April sets the tone

For years I’ve said that the Baltimore Orioles needed to get out to a good start in April. Last season really showed what can happen if you get down early in the season. I maintain that last year’s team was better than 46 wins. And while we don’t know what this year’s team will look like, I would hesitate to say the same.

Last year’s team just got down early in April and the season snowballed. And that was a team of veterans. This is going to be a very young team, with a young manager in Brandon Hyde. You just can.’this afford to get down big in the standings early.

But this year it’s for a different reason. In the past the idea was to compete for a post season spot. That’s not expected to be something that’s on the line and n 2019. So why would I still put an emphasis on April?

The answer is simple; because you want this year to be about guys getting comfortable playing together and for the Orioles. If the team gets too buried early on, guys will start going through the motions – which is part of what happened last year.

You want the games to be compelling, and for people to come away saying, “…win or lose, that team’s fun to watch.” Which incidentally is the exact opposite of what they said last season. But I digress.

You don’t want this young team starting to think that losing and losing big is the modus operandi around here. Not even in the midst of a rebuild. The expectation is to play hard and to get the basics correct. The rest will eventually fall into place.

Baltimore Orioles: My fickle friend

I admittedly thought it was ridiculous that a few Baltimore Orioles fans wanted to replace manager (at the time) Buck Showalter after the 2016 AL Wild Card game. Utimately those people got their wish after last year. However given Showalter’s record with the Orioles and his skills as a manager, I thought it was a bit ridiculous.

This morning I awaken to my twitter timeline full of tweets and re-tweets of Alabama Crimson Tide fans saying that the University should terminate head football coach Nick Saban. Let’s be frank; that’s an overly-emotional reaction to a situation that’s still very raw for those people – having lost the national title game last night. But…do you really want to suggest firing someone who’s considered not just Alabama royalty, but College Football royalty?

What this shows is the newly fickle nature of fans. Yes, I wrote that. We hear so much about how younger fans don’t consume sports the same ways that previous generations did. And we’re told that’s not necessarily a bad thing. And in fact it’s not. But the flip side of that is a lot of younger fans are simply going to tune out of the team isn’t meeting their goals or needs.

The Alabama case (and even the situation with Showalter) is really an extreme one. You made it to the title game, and since you lost fans want you booted? Again, that’s an emotional reaction to what’s still a very raw situation. However I’ll be honest; that type of fickleness bothers me. How can sports as an industry survive in that climate? Because let’s be honest; Alabama lost one game this year. It was obviously THE GAME, but in reality they lost one. Are we in essence saying that anything less than perfection is unacceptable?

Because if we are, sports as an industry are doomed. Heck, a lot of businesses are doomed. That’s not a standard that’s attainable. My hope is that this is simply young people shooting their mouths off. No way Nick Saban deserves to be fired for losing that game last night, especially coming off of multiple other titles – including last season. Just like there’s no way that Buck Showalter deserved to be fired after the 2016 AL Wild Card Game, especially coming off of returning the Orioles to glory, winning the AL East title in 2014, and multiple post-season appearances.

Baltimore Orioles: Why is Baltimore’s question always WHY?

The next professional game involving a Baltimore team will be the Baltimore Orioles on Opening Day. Unless you count Spring Training. But I digress. The Baltimore Ravens’ season ended yesterday when they lost to the Los Angeles Chargers.

However I harkened back to the 2016 AL Wild Card game in watching yesterday’s game. We all remember that, right? Buck Showalter holding Zach Britton in the bullpen while the Orioles gave up a walk off homer. Yesterday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh kept his starter (Lamar Jackson) in the game down big, as opposed to going to Joe Flacco. Many fans, myself included, thought it was worth a shot bringing Flacco in.

I’m not going to debate the savior fair of making or not making any of those moves. In fact, the game situations themselves were vastly different, never minding that they’re different sports. All of that said, why is it that it’s Baltimore fans consistently put in the position of having to ask questions like these? The question of…WHY?!

Obviously the difference with the Ravens and the Orioles is that the Ravens have a young quarterback with a good upside. The Orioles of 2012-2016 were always an injury, a bad call, or a bad decision away from ending up like the 2018 Orioles.

As soon as that wild card game was over, fans were calling for Buck Showalter’s head. Just as now they’re saying the same about John Harbaugh. And in reality that shows how fickle fans can be these days. You’re really only as good as your last win. In Showalter’s case, people had to know at that moment that he was in no danger of being replaced – at that moment. In Harbaugh’s case, time will tell.

Baltimore Orioles trade Valera, Zach Britton to NY

Former Baltimore Orioles’ closer Zach Britton is headed back to the Bronx. New York resigned him reportedly last night to a three-year deal worth (a reported) $39 million. Britton of course was traded from the O’s to New York last season. So in a sense he’s returning to the Bronx.

While Britton wasn’t as effective with New York as he was with the Orioles, this means that Orioles fans will be seeing a guy that they consider one of their own playing against them consistently in the division. Time will tell how that turns out.

There is one quirk about the reported deal for Britton. It’s a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth year. However the team has to pick up that club option after year two, otherwise Britton can opt out – after year three.

The Orioles also completes a trade. On Friday they DFA’d Breyvic Valera off the roster. Yesterday they traded him to the San Francisco Giants for cash considerations. Not much to see here, just a low-level trade from one team to another. Obviously Valera didn’t figure into GM Mike Elias’ plans moving forward.

Baltimore Orioles claim RHP Austin Brice

The Baltimore Orioles made an interesting personnel move yesterday – they claimed right-handed reliever Austin Brice off of waivers. Brice, formerly of the Anaheim Angels, has been a big league reliever for three years. He spent 2016 with Miami, and the past two seasons with Cincinnati.

Brice has an ERA of 5.68 and a record of 2-4 over 70 appearances in three years as a reliever. That’s hardly the type of production for which the Orioles are looking or that they need. However he does have an upside in that he’s young. And he’s coming to an organization in the Orioles which has a lot of young pieces and a young coaching staff.

I suppose part of what I’m saying is that this could be a classic “change of air” type of situation. The other interesting thing about this is who the Orioles had to DFA to make room for Brice on the roster. That would be Breyvic Valera, who was acquired in the Machado trade last year.

Valera was expected to compete for a possible platoon role in the infield. However for now, he’s been DFA’d off the roster. It’s certainly possible that he clears waivers and opts to accept a minor league assignment, remaining in the organization. However one thing to keep in mind is that Valera was acquired in a trade consummated by Dan Duquette.

Mike Elias, the current GM, has no ties to that move. So…is Elias more inclined to see the parts in that trade as moving pieces as opposed to bedrocks? Interesting question for sure.

Baltimore Orioles: Where’s the line of justice?

One of the teams with whom the Baltimore Orioles share the mid-Atlantic region is the NFL’s Washington Redskins. As a disclaimer, the Redskins are “my team.” My NFL team that is. I’m certainly pulling for the Ravens moving into the post-season, as I pull for them if they aren’t playing the Skins. But I digress.

The San Francisco 49ers cut linebacker Reuben Foster in November after he was charged with domestic violence. The Redskins submitted a waiver claim on him, and he’s now under contract in Washington. Foster was cleared of all charges yesterday. So in essence this was a good move by the Redskins, although the NFL could still suspend Foster for conduct detrimental to the league going into next season.

This column isn’t about Reuben Foster. But it is about how leagues handle player conduct off the field. We see discipline for off-field conduct in MLB much more often than we do in other sports. The other leagues are starting to follow suit now, and we’ve seen a crackdown on domestic violence in the NFL. The league has no want for players who beat women. And I support that.

But the idea of “conduct detrimental to the league” casts a very wide net. Domestic violence in and of itself is fairly cut-and-dry. Again, I support disciplinary action against someone in any league who beats women. That’a unequivocal. But what about someone like Foster? You know, someone who in essence is innocent. Are we now holding people accountable for even being charged with a crime?

I would simply say this; while not perfect, our criminal justice system is based on the pillar of innocent until proven guilty. So a guy who.’a ether found innocent of a crime or as in this case if charges are dropped – is that someone who should pay a price to the league? Would it not behoove the leagues to take their cues from the criminal justice system?

Before you come back with the fact that the number of false accusations made are few and far between (and that’s a fact), let me share something with you. I’ve been falsely accused of something in my life. It wasn’t anywhere near as serious as domestic violence; but it was still very damaging and it was 100% untrue.

So I suppose my stance on some of this stuff is that while I agree the number of false accusations are few and far between, I would wait for evidence beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law to convict someone. And if a player is convicted of a crime, it goes without saying that he should be held accountable by MLB (or whichever league he represents). However the next time a baseball player or any athlete is accused of something of this sort, maybe we should offer the benefit of the doubt before the entire story comes out in the public domain.

Baltimore Orioles: Can you call 100 losses a success?

If you’re looking at wins and losses, 2019 won’t be too far off from 2018 for the Baltimore Orioles. Remember all of those frustrating nights where everything that could go wrong would go wrong? Yeah, we’re probably looking at that again for 2019.

However I am on record and I do believe that come the end of the season the Orioles will have an improved record. And I say that for one reason; all of their starters will presumably have a full slate of spring games and training sessions. That wasn’t the case last year. In my view it affected some early season games. Furthermore, the current team will build chemistry from day one and get stronger.

Even still, it’s not shaping up to be a season in which the Orioles contend. They could still lose 100 games plus. But keep in mind that if they improve by 14 wins, they’d still have 100 losses.

In general if you win 14 additional games year-over-year, that’s a good improvement. But regardless of the overall number, could fans consider a 100-loss season a success?

Baltimore Orioles: How to attract younger fans?

With today being January 2nd, the Baltimore Orioles will begin their march back towards normalcy. I’ve always seen the end of the holiday season as January 6th, but needless to say the portion of the season whereby people are off is basically done. That means it’s time to get to work.

This is a big month for the Orioles, as it culminates with Orioles’ FanFest, one of Birdland’s most celebrated annual events. The O’s are going to want to have more of a vision and a plan carved out by the end of the month if that’s going to be a well-attended event. The same is true of games once the season gets closer.

I’ve read a lot of late about how various teams in various sports and cities are having to look outside the box to draw fans to games. Mainly, to draw younger fans. I’m not talking about kids, but more so perhaps recent college graduates. Your 22-30 age bracket.

According to most “experts,” this age group rejects conventional marketing ploys. I’m not exactly sure what that means; does it mean that they aren’t swayed by seeing an advertisement paid for by the team on television or hearing it on the radio? But…how is that even possible? Does this age group not watch television?

They do…they just don’t do it as you and I are used to consuming these media. But many people are now moving away from cable and satellite dishes, and getting their television service through other means, such as AT&T. Many kids don’t listen to the radio like you and I do, as they’re listening to their favorite podcasts.

Keep in mind that this is the generation that grew up playing video games as opposed to playing outside. So where as I played in the backyard and pretended to be Cal or Eddie as a child, people ten years younger than I were busy playing video games. Recreational play wasn’t necessarily tied to sports for them as it was for people older than them.

The Orioles’ program instituted last year of allowing parents to bring two kids to the games for free is a great example of outside-the-box marketing. Because this generation is also shaping up to be incredibly civically-minded. They see everything as a “product” into which they’re buying. And if part of the return on their investment is that their kids get a free experience, they’re on board with that.

I wish it were as easy as throwing together a few discount days, offering free food, or even free tickets. That’s how it used to be, and that’s what I’m quite frankly used to. But in some instances that’s actually backfiring. Some younger fans actually take that as an insult because they feel like the team is trying to in essence buy them.

Whether we like it or not, the Orioles have to pay attention to these trends – whatever they are. And the fact that they share a region with another big league team only makes it tougher. Not only that, but there’s also competition from several minor league teams (most of which are Oriole farm teams), AND other sports. The mid-Atlantic region is home to franchises literally in every professional sport. And if that’s not enough, there are other entertainment venues that compete as well.

Baltimore Orioles: Welcome to 2019!

It’s New Year’s Day, Baltimore Orioles fans! That means that 2019 is officially “this year.” Or perhaps more specifically “this year coming.” Tomorrow the team offices will re-open for business, thus ringing in the new year.

What will 2019 hold for the Birds? We know it’s going to be a big rebuilding campaign, in effect a continuation of the end of last season. However time will tell in the long run. If the Orioles can somehow find their way just a bit, 2019 will be a successful year.

And by find their way, I mean improve their record. So what I’m saying is that the goal for this year should be to win more than 46 games. If the Orioles can do that, the organization will have taken a step forward. I’m not going to split hairs over how many more games than 46 they should win, but you get the idea.

The team needs to make progress on it’s promise to rebuild. And thus far, there’s nothing that would indicate they aren’t planning on doing just that. With that in mind, I wish all of Birdland a very happy New Year!

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