Baltimore Orioles: Matt Wieters finally in the LCS

The Baltimore Orioles drafted catcher Matt Wieters. They developed him as a homegrown player, and he made his MLB debut in 2009. He left the Orioles after the 2016 season, which of course culminated with the Orioles falling in the Wild Card Game.

However he was a member of the 2012 team which went to the ALDS. He was also a member of the 2014 team which went to the ALCS. However Wieters’ season was cut short due to having to undergo Tommy John’s surgery. After leaving the O’s Wieters spent two seasons as a member of the Washington Nationals, and this year signed with the St. Louis Cardinals.

And Wieters has now finally made it to the LCS round as a result. St. Louis is playing Washington in the National League Championship series (which Washington now leads 1-0). Wieters has primarily been a backup this year, but he’s on the roster.

It’s always good to see a former Oriole having success. Wieters was never the same after the aforementioned surgery, but he’s still a solid major league catcher. And I suspect he’s thrilled to finally have the opportunity to compete for a championship given that he had to watch it from afar the last time around.

Baltimore Orioles: How rampant is sign stealing?

Baltimore Orioles fans want to believe that their guys don’t steal signs. And in fact, the Orioles have rarely been mentioned as a team that engages in that sort of thing. This as opposed to other teams such as the ChiSox, who used lights on the scoreboard to relay signs to hitters. Or the famed “man in white” in Toronto who would supposedly tip pitches.

Last night via twitter, former MLB pitcher Seth McClung delved into sign stealing while watching the ALDS between Tampa and Houston:

For the record, if in fact a camera was in use to steal signs, that’s blatantly against MLB rules. We have no way of knowing if signs were truly being stolen or not. However as a former big league pitcher, McClung’s in a position to know what he’s talking about.

Unfortunately I think there’s more sign stealing that goes on in baseball than what people want to believe. It is against the unwritten codes of the game, but we’re kidding ourselves if we think it doesn’t go on. And in every major league game, on both sides.

I’ll take it a step further; I would bet guys are even trying to steal signs in spring training. You play like you practice. If you can steal signs in spring games you aren’t doing it because you so direly want to win that game. You’re doing it so that when and if you face that team in the regular season you know what to look for.

I’d like to believe that if I were a big league player or coach I wouldn’t do that. However I’d also suggest that there’s a vast difference between a runner at second tipping off the hitter on pitches, and what McClung is alleging above. Using a foreign device to tip pitches is particularly wrong. However in today’s world if you get away with it that means it didn’t happen.

Baltimore Orioles: Is MLB trolling the O’s?

Yesterday was a day of infamy in the history of the Baltimore Orioles. On October 9, 1996 Derek Jeter hit what went down as a homer in game one of the ALCS. According to the box score, that is. As all Orioles fans know, it was only a home run because a young fan named Jeffrey Maier reached over the wall and took the ball out of the reach of Orioles’ right fielder Tony Tarasco.

For the record, modern instant replay would have overturned that very quickly. It wasn’t even a close call. It’s a moment that lives on, as I said in infamy. While Orioles fans have never forgotten, they yesterday received a stark reminder of it in the form of a tweet from MLB:

People often tease Baltimore because there’s a school of thought out there which says that the city has an inferiority complex. Well things such as this could be one of the reasons why. This didn’t have to happen.

First off, why would MLB be so ready to celebrate a moment which is based on a call that they got wrong? I mean this seriously – is there anyone out there who thought this was the appropriate call? Secondly, why was NBC’s Jim Gray on the scene interviewing the kid, thus raising him up as a cult hero, only minutes after the incident happened?

Similarly, why exactly did George Steinbrenner give the kid tickets to Game Two in a suite? There’s not one person who saw that play that didn’t think it was fan interference. That moment changed the course of both franchises involved for the next 15 years or so. And you can imagine who got the short end.

You can’t change history. This moment happened, and it’s set in stone. But what exactly does tweeting it out in a celebratory manner achieve for MLB? The Jeffrey Maier incident is memorable for all of the wrong reasons. Sure if you’re a Yankees fan perhaps you take the well nobody really got a great look at the play attitude. But again ask yourself, if that play happened today in the exact same manner, would replay not overturn it?

One more thing on this; the umpire on the spot who made the call that day was Rich Garcia. Obviously neither he nor the rest of the crew had the benefit of instant replay as umpires do today. After the game he saw a television replay of the home run, and immediately said that he had blown the call. He publicly admitted it in the news media.

It has to make Rich Garcia cringe everytime this replay is shown. However very little blame should fall on him in this. Sure he made the bad call, but keep in mind that these plays happen very quickly, and it’s easy to not see something along those lines. However to his credit, he admitted the mistake (much like umpire Jim Joyce, who a few years ago cost someone a perfect game with a bad call at first base).

To my knowledge, he’s the only person affiliated with MLB who’s every admitted that the call was incorrect. And he’s certainly not tweeting the play out to celebrate it on it’s anniversary. Rich Garcia is a stand-up guy. Can the powers that be in the league today say the same?

Baltimore Orioles: Should Buck Showalter return to baseball?

It’s been just over a year since we came to find out that Buck Showalter would not be returning to the Baltimore Orioles. Just a point of semantics, Showalter wasn’t fired. His contract was up, and the Orioles decided to move on. There is a difference.

Respected Orioles’ beat writer Rich Dubroff of http://baltimorebaseball.com wrote this piece this morning surrounding Showalter and the various job openings around the league. First off, I agree with Dubroff’s main theme in that baseball is a better game with Buck Showalter in it. And by in it, I mean in the dugout managing. As you may remember Showalter did some in-studio work for the YES Network on New York Yankees games in the second half of the season. But I’m talking in the dugout – baseball’s a better game with Buck in the dugout.

There are a wide array of jobs open as Dubroff lays out in his article. He seems to believe that Philadelphia’s job may be in play, which is of course possible. It would be interesting to see how Buck would fit into that environment. With a rabid fan base and a tough media; how would his “Buckisms” faire?

Obviously the Chicago Cubs would be a job he might consider, if only for the fact that it might offer him the best chance at winning a World Series. What would really be interesting is if he ended up signing with a team who comes through Oriole Park at Camden Yards next year – which Chicago does. I suspect that Orioles fans would love the opportunity to have Buck come back into Camden Yards as a visitor.

I think it boils down to what Buck wants to do. He became a grandfather for the first time in 2017, and my personal opinion is that something along those lines is probably a game changer. Once you’re into “the grind” of grandparenting, maybe some of the other things in your life aren’t quite as important. However if Buck wants to manager again, I suspect that there would be no shortage of teams who would be interested.

Baltimore Orioles: How will spring training 2020 be different from 2019?

Next year’s spring training should have a slightly different vibe for the Baltimore Orioles. 2019 was all about finding out what the Orioles had. Next season will be different.

In some instances the Orioles now know what they have. This past season brought a new manager in Brandon Hyde, and a slew of new players. Nobody really knew what to expect of anyone – including the fans. This time around we’ll have a better idea. We know the ebbs and flows of how Hyde manages a game. We know who the leaders are.

The question will be will this team be able to take a greater step next year. They took a good step this past year by winning more games than they did in 2018. But they need to build on that in 2020. And that process starts in spring training.

Actually it starts before spring training. Hyde told each player what he needed to continually work on in the off season. Regardless of what that was for each individual player, the message was loud and clear. You shouldn’t begin working on these things in the Florida Grapefruit League. That process needs to begin in the off season.

In effect, if your assignment was to cut down on your swing, that should be perfected by the time you report to camp. That right there should tell folks that the Orioles intend to be more competitive in 2020. That doesn’t mean that the playoff race is a reasonable goal, because it isn’t. But they intend to be more competitive. And that starts in spring training.

Baltimore Orioles: The passing of Andy Etchebarren

Another Baltimore Orioles’ legend passed away over the weekend. Former catcher Andy Etchebarren, passed away on Saturday evening. Etchebarren was drafted by the Orioles, and made his debut in 1962. He played 15 full major league seasons, 12 of which were with the Orioles.

Etchebarren was only a career .235 hitter, but keep in mind as I said that he was a catcher. 1975 was one of his best year at the plate, a season in which he hit .280. Defensively he fielded at a career .987 clip behind the dish. Not too shabby.

Etchebarren loved being an Oriole, and he was a part of two World Series championship teams. He was often overshadowed in a sense because he played with Frank, Brooks, Palmer, et al. But make no mistake that he was a huge part of all of those great Orioles teams. And he’ll be missed.

Baltimore Orioles: Tips happen

Over the course of the 2019 season I often questioned whether Baltimore Orioles’ pitchers were tipping their pitches. In fact, at times during various seasons I’ve thought that. Obviously it wouldn’t have been happening purposely or consciously, but it could have happened over the course of time. Perhaps various pitchers in various games.

After defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday and evening the ALDS at 1-1, Washington third baseman Anthony Rendon at the very least insinuated that LAD starter Clayton Kerrhaw was tipping his pitches. There’s some discrepancy as to whether or not it was actually Kershaw tipping pitches or another pitcher. But that’s irrelevant to the purpose of this discussion in a sense.

The point is that teams do very much have to be careful. Because opponents are always watching. If in fact you do something which indicates what you’re going to throw, opposing teams are going to find it.

Many might suggest that it’s immoral in relation to the rules of baseball to look and see if someone’s tipping their pitches. I would disagree – and nobody cares about the unwritten codes of the game like I do. Stealing signs – THAT’S against the unwritten rules. But there’s nothing wrong with studying your opponents to see if they’re doing something to tip their pitches.

This just means that players need to study themselves. And coaches need to study their players. Because if things are going on which indicate what’s coming, someone’s going to find it.

Baltimore Orioles part ways with Josh Wasdin

The Baltimore Orioles made one further change to their coaching staff yesterday. Bullpen coach Josh Wasdin was informed that he would not be retained for 2020. Wasdin has been working on a one-year contract.

The rhyme or reason behind the changes that have been made to the coaching staff are unclear. But the fact is that the Orioles are making them. They’ll begin interviewing for replacements next week.

Baltimore Orioles: Coaching changes

The Baltimore Orioles will not re retaining first base coach Arnie Beyeler or hitting coach Howie Clark next year. Both coaches were working on one-year deals, which expire at the end of October. These moves were announced yesterday, however more are expected.

It’s unknown whether these are mutual decisions or if the Orioles just wanted to move on. Whether or not the positions are filled immediately or after the World Series also remains unknown. However both positions will probably be filled sooner rather than later. More as it comes.

Baltimore Orioles: Too many statistics is hurting the game

While recently they’ve embraced analytics more, the Baltimore Orioles are a fairly traditional team. You hit the ball, you run to first base, etc. That’s how the game has always been played – until now. Recently there’s been a push to embrace every available stat and every available trend to use it to one’s advantage. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But purists aren’t fans.

During a twitter exchange with a fan once I was told that purists are ruining baseball. That somehow doesn’t exactly make much sense given that purists do things the way they’ve always been done. It’s the new age analytical thinking which is in fact new. These people’s idea is that the new age thinking is keeping younger viewers into the sport.

ESPN encompassed this last night in their coverage of the AL Wild Card Game. They had a traditional broadcast, which is where I found myself watching. on ESPN2 they also had a Statcast Broadcast with three different announcers. Those who care about things such as launch angle and exit velo were presumably watching there.

Unequivocally, no it’s not purists such as I who are hurting baseball. In my view it’s the over-abundance of stats such as what I wrote above. There are some teams who go way over-and-above what’s necessary. If there’s a stat which says that a specific batter hits at a steeper launch angle against a specific pitcher while he’s wearing a pink tutu on the mound, teams would consider bringing him in wearing just that. (Steeper launch angle meaning that the ball would have a better shot at being caught in the outfield as opposed to a home run.)

I suppose my point is that you can’t leave these things up to stats – totally. Stats and trends are important for sure, and they don’t lie. But they also remove the human element from the game. They remove the manager or players having a feel for what’s going on. And there’s no substitute for that.

This is spreading to other sports as well. When I heard that John Harbaugh of the Ravens was going for two-point conversions because the analytics said that was better, I hit the roof. Again, there’s no substitute for a coach or athlete having a feel for the game. As a purist, that’s not something that we should let die.

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