Results tagged ‘ Buck Showalter ’

Baltimore Orioles: Listless against Toronto

In a season where the Baltimore Orioles have struggled seemingly against everyone, it seems that’s been especially true against Toronto. And that’s been the case for a couple of years – really, since 2015 in a sense. The Birds defeated Toronto in September of 2014 to win the AL East, but since then it’s really been downhill.

And the ironic part is that it doesn’t seem to matter who the personnel is on each side. Both rosters have undergone massive changes since 2014. Yet the results seem to be the same. It’s a bit uncanny.

The Orioles turned to the Tampa and Oakland methodology last night in terms of starting pitching. Evan Phillips got the start, but in reality he was used as an “opener.” Phillips’ line: 2.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 2 K.

Phillips gave up an RBI-single to Tellez in the second which gave Toronto a 1-0 lead. Later in the inning Jansen smacked a two-run home run, and suddenly it was 3-0. Toronto also got solo homers from Pillar in the seventh, and Diaz in the ninth to round out their 5-0 victory over the Orioles, who only mustered three hits on the night. The Orioles are 4-13 this year against Toronto, with two games left to go (tonight and Wednesday).

The Orioles used the “opener” concept last night most probably out of necessity given the number of injuries in their starting rotation. When Tampa started the concept of the opener earlier this year, I thought it was nuts. I still think it’s nuts – and that’s not going to change.

You might ask why I think it’s a crazy idea. You might sit there and say, why not? It’s a valid question. And one I intend to tackle in the off season a bit. But for now, needless to say it’s a little too against the grain, outside-the-box, and against tradition for the ultimate sport steeped in tradition.

With the loss, the Orioles tied a club record for losses in a season at 107. That’s not the type of history you want to make, and after the game Buck Showalter was asked to wrap his head around that fact (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

I’ve got too many things and people depending on me to do certain things between now and the end of the season. I think because it’s unpleasant to wrap around, probably I’m as guilty as anybody of staying tunnel vision about what we’re doing every day trying to do what’s best. So, if that’s an answer to your question.

The series continues this evening at Camden Yards. Dylan Bundy gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Status of Buck Showalter needs to be addressed

The white elephant in the room regarding the Baltimore Orioles is manager Buck Showalter. Or one of them, at least. Everyone knows he’s now in the final month of his contract. As tough as this season’s been, everyone also knows his track record in Baltimore and what he’s meant to the franchise.

I would argue that what he could mean for the franchise in the future should also be evident. If you’re asking whether or not I think Buck Showalter should be the manager moving forward, the answer is yes. Or at the very least I think it should be his job if he wants it. And obviously it goes without saying that my personal view is that the Orioles should offer him a legitimate contract that he would accept if in fact he wants to continue managing. Basically, the decision should be his.

And here’s another opinion of mine; I suspect that there are in fact negotiations going on behind the scenes. Because I do believe that if there weren’t, it would be announced that Buck wasn’t going to be back. However I do believe that something needs to be said, addressed, etc. on this. And soon.

The players on the roster right now do have a right to know in which direction the organization is looking to go. That goes without saying. I do feel that changes in some form are coming, whether that’s Showalter, Dan Duquette, both, or perhaps someone else.

However I also believe that some sort of announcement should be made for another reason…FOR THE FANSIf the organization wants to go in a different direction from Showalter, the fans are going to want to know. Not just for the sake of the direction of the organization, but for the immediate interim as well.

Buck Showalter’s meant a lot to this city since his arrival in 2010. He jumped right in as manager, and immediately engrossed himself in the organization and the city. He spent two weeks prior to being hired scouting the farm system to know what he had to work with. He immediately formed bonds with local charities, and began almost immediately in restoring pride to the organization. It was quite a spectacle…

…and a funny thing happened. They started winning. Not right away, but within two years. That all of course recently came to a crashing halt. However again if Buck’s not going to be back, I think that the Angelos family owes it to the fans to give them an opportunity to show their appreciation to Buck Showalter and his family. That means the possibility of a packed Camden Yards on the final weekend among other things.

Nobody does nostalgia like the Orioles. We saw it when they closed Memorial Stadium, we saw it during the Ripken streak, and we saw it again for the 60th anniversary of the team coming here. Again if Showalter won’t be back, I suspect that the fans would like to see a similar display. However to be clear, my personal opinion is that he should be offered the chance to stay.

The Orioles travel to Tampa tonight to open up a three-game set. Dylan Bundy gets the call for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Blake Snell. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles’ future should be up to Buck Showalter

One of the biggest questions that lingers for the Baltimore Orioles is the status of manager Buck Showalter. We all know what’s going on; Showalter, along with GM Dan Duquette, is in the final year of his contract. The team as it stands now is vastly different than the one he set out coaching at the beginning of the season. And the immediate future looks different as well.

The hope however certainly is that the not-so-distant future looks bright with the plethora of young talent that’s come into the organization. But the question burns, what will become of Buck? He’s said on numerous occasions that Baltimore will be his final managing job. I suppose you never say never, but I suspect that the odds of him going to another team are very slim.

We’ve heard numerous rumblings out of ownership that the manager’s office will remain Buck’s if he wants to be there. We’ve also heard that owner Peter Angelos is increasingly detached from team operations, and that his sons John and Lou are in essence the de facto “owners.” Do they buy into the philosophy that the job is Buck’s if he wants it?

That’s actually another conversation for another day. What I’m saying is that the job should be Buck’s if he want’s it. Detractors will point at this year and this year only as evidence that he shouldn’t return. However I would invite fans to take a look back further than just to April. Buck Showalter helped to revamp this franchise from 2010-2012, on from which they were a perennial contender – until now.

Not only that, but he restored pride to an organization, fan base, and city that direly needed it. Orioles fans were sick and tired of managers who really shouldn’t be managers coming being shipped in and then shipped out. So a change was made, and in 2010 Showalter (who had been working for ESPN) was brought in.

The results were almost immediate, and almost all positive. The difference was that Buck Showalter had been around the game a long time, and fans in essence already knew him. But that aside, he brought the Orioles to where fans questioned if they could actually go again. That should never be lost on Orioles fans.

Again, the decision should be Showalter’s. That means his decision could also be to walk away. I don’t think he would do so on account of having to rebuild, because he seems like a guy who understands that process and who doesn’t mind it. But he, like all of us, has to weigh his options. As an example, he became a grandfather for the first time awhile back; that’s kind of a game-changer.

Point obviously being that for all anyone knows he might feel that it’s time for him to not be managing anymore. Now with that said I do think that if that was going to be his decision, he’d announce his intention to step down after the season – so as to give him some time to say goodbye to the fans, and vice-versa. But at this point we don’t know.

There are plenty of people who will disagree with this – and that’s okay. All I’m saying is that with his track record and with what he’s meant to this city, the decision should belong to Buck Showalter. Many people argue that the Orioles need a fresh face in the dugout. But with someone as accomplished and tenured as Buck, you don’t just shove him out the door.

The Orioles will tonight open a short two-game set with the New York Mets at Camden Yards. Andrew Cashner gets the call for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by NY’s Jason Vargas. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Did Buck Showalter over-manage the Birds out of a win?

Baltimore Orioles’ starter Andrew Cashner pitched a strong start this afternoon at Rogers Centre. Cashner’s line: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K. When Cashner was lifted he was visibly angry. He seemed to challenge manager Buck Showalter in terms of making the change.

The O’s fell behind 1-0 in the fourth on Solarte’s RBI-single, which scored a runner from first base. However it seemed that the Orioles are forever going to be haunted by the absence of Manny, as the cut off man wasn’t in position to receive the ball from Jace Peterson in left (who made a diving attempt to catch it). That alone probably allowed the run to score.

However Peterson himself would tie the game an inning later with an RBI-single, and Jonathan Schoop‘s sixth inning solo homer put them in the lead at 2-1. It was shaping up to be the Orioles’ day – or so it seemed. It was later in that sixth inning that Showalter went out to get Cashner. Now while Cashner was pitching well, just recorded his second out in the inning, and was only 79 pitches in, he had also just come off the DL to make the start. And Showalter confirmed after the game that he only wanted Cashner to throw 70-80 pitches for that exact reason.

Regardless of the reason, I can’t defend Cashner’s outward response to being pulled. Pitchers should never show up a manager in that situation, especially one of Showalter’s stature. Showalter shrugged that point off after the game in saying that he wants guys to want to stay in. But while that’s a valid point, it’s also incredibly unprofessional to yap at the manager like that when you’re being pulled.

Newbie Renato Nunez smacked an RBI-double in the eighth which gave the Orioles some breathing room in the top of the eighth. To top it off, breaks that normally work against the Orioles went in their favor. The Toronto infield fumbled what appeared to be a routine ground ball out off the bat of Trey Mancini – on a collision. That allowed a fourth run to score, giving the Orioles an additional insurance run and a 4-1 lead.

But the strange and bizarre plays are supposed to break against the Orioles, not for them. In case anyone had forgotten that, the Birds played an infield shift against Gurriel to lead off the last of the eighth. With the left side of the infield wide open, he sent a swinging bunt down the third base line and over the bag. He had no intention of doing that, as it appeared to be a defensive swing more than anything else. But it got him on base.

And following the Orioles’ inability to turn two due to a softly-hit ball in the infield, Grichuk haunted the Orioles for the upteenth time this weekend with a two-run homer. Later in the inning with two outs and a runner on second, Showalter opted to go to the bullpen once again to bring in Tanner Scott. However he promptly gave up a two-run homer to Solarte, which ended up equaling a 5-4 win for Toronto.

Brad Brach had given up the two-run shot to Grichuk (following the hard-luck single by Gurriel), but he had worked to get the two outs in the inning. Scott ended up hanging a fastball middle in, which wound up in the seats. Now keep in mind that the manager can’t execute the plays, he can only decide who’s going to be in there to make them. But did Showalter over-think things today? And if so, did it cost the Orioles a win?

There are people reading this (perhaps you!) who’ll say that part of the issue is that Showalter had all but scripted Cashner’s start in that “the plan” was for him to only throw a certain number of pitches. And in general that might not be an invalid point. But you can’t discount the fact that the guy, while pitching fairly well, had just come off the DL. The last thing you want to do is overuse him, and risk further injury.

Then you have the situation with Brach and Tanner Scott. I can’t say for sure what the logic was in bringing in Scott in that situation, however Showalter had his reasons. I think it’s incredibly easy to suggest that a manager overthought things so much that he managed himself out of a win. Maybe he did for all I know. We can’t reverse time and see what would have happened had Brach stayed in the game. Needless to say, had anything other than a home run occurred on the next at-bat, the Birds wouldn’t have lost the lead at that moment.

Whether or not Buck himself is to blame in either the Cashner or Brach situations is really up to the beholder. However we know his reasons for pulling Cashner – and they’re fairly legitimate. And I think you have to give the benefit of the doubt to a guy like Buck who’s been in ALL of these situations as a manager over the course of his career. Point being, he had his reasons for pulling Brach also. And I suspect that they’re sound baseball reasons.

The Orioles now head home to open a three-game set with Boston. Kevin Gausman gets the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Rock Porcello. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Is instant replay going too far?

Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter is a proponent of instant replay. When it really got cranking a few seasons ago, he admitted it would need to be tweaked and so forth, but ultimately that it was good for the game (quote courtesy of Eduardo Encina, Baltimore Sun):

I know it’s not going to be perfect. I think we all need to be patient with it. I think when it’s all said and done, it will not slow the games down in its finished product. There are some unknowns there. I was for all they were willing to put in.

There’s one tweak I would make. As opposed to giving teams challenges as the system currently does, I’d make it more like College Football’s “eye in the sky” routine. If there’s a play that the umpire in the booth or in New York thinks should get looked at further, he buzzes down to the crew chief and they review it. In essence, every play is reviewed.

But one thing in which I’m not in favor is reviewing judgement calls. Between covering the Orioles and Team USA not being involved, I’m not paying much attention the the World Cup. However I did happen to glance at a game yesterday morning (France vs. Australia), and I noticed the referee stopping play to review whether or not a penalty kick should be awarded.

The play wasn’t even whistled as a foul, and the game went on. After awhile the ref I presume got word from someone to stop play, and they reviewed it. And the official ruled that in fact an infraction had taken place, and in the penalty area at that. France was awarded a penalty kick.

To me, that’s a judgement call. And quite honestly, that makes this proponent or replay question whether or not the system might be starting to go too far. I’ve never been in favor of reviewing judgement calls, which in baseball would be balls and strikes, check swings, etc. Not only would that slow the game down too much, but in my view it makes it so that the human element is further removed.

Again, to me it’s like reviewing balls and strikes. Or in football it would be like being able to review holding or pass interference. Or heck…could you imagine if basketball allowed for such reviews?! Yeah hey ref, I’d like to challenge on the basis that Player X was in the lane for longer than three seconds. That’s ludicrous. As would be reviewing balls and strikes in baseball, or even balks. Could you imagine that? – All balks are seemingly controversial; so every one of them would end up getting reviewed.

Again, I’m in favor of some form of instant replay. In a sport like soccer obviously you should be able to review potential goals to see if the ball crossed the line and so forth. But to stop play after the fact to determine if a penalty kick is necessary? That’s a bit over the line for me.

And  my concern is that in some manner, this type of thing will catch on in other sports if it growingly becomes popular. All it might take would be for a game to have a roving strike zone, and baseball fans starting grousing about why that can’t be reviewed like they do things in the World Cup. Or a team loses a game on a controversial pass interference call (or non-call), and NFL fans say the same. Ultimately I’m in favor of instant replay – for non-judgement calls.

Baltimore Orioles: Is Buck Showalter a dead man walking?

Buck Showalter‘s Baltimore Orioles once again couldn’t get anything going last night as they opened a three-game set with the Miami Marlins. Kevin Gausman almost gave the O’s a quality start – and once again came away with nothing to show for it. Gausman’s line: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 7 K.

And once again, Gausman’s real issue was that Oriole bats couldn’t get going. Miami starter Urena pitched eight solid innings, keeping the Birds off the board. Urena threw a hard sinker that was nearly unhittable. But once again the Orioles decided to prove me wrong. How many times have I said if you put the ball in play good things will happen? The Orioles only struck out four times as a team last night. Urena’s sinker induced a lot of ground balls, which of course ended up being outs.

In saying that, Urena seemed to in effect disallow the Birds to hit the ball in the air. That’s a problem for a home run-hitting team. Miami’s Dietrich induced an RBI-groundout in the fifth to give them a 1-0 lead. In the sixth Brinson’s RBI-triple would run it to 2-0, and the rest was pitching that shut the Orioles down.

Reports have surfaced in the past couple of days that perhaps Showalter and GM Dan Duquette could be on the hot seat in Baltimore with the team struggling so badly. Mind you, both men’s contracts are up at the end of the year. And many, myself included, see it as a foregone conclusion that Duquette won’t be brought back. But…Buck?

I suppose it’s fair to question a manager who’s 19-49. However one can also argue what exactly is he supposed to do? Certainly he can only play the roster that he has, and the core of that roster isn’t changing anytime soon. And the fact is that the roster as it currently stands seems stubbornly unwilling to get on base.

There are a couple of things that are worth mentioning; first off, Duquette hasn’t been the same since the Toronto Blue Jays aggressively pursued him during the winter meetings in 2014. Toronto aimed to throw a monkey wrench into the Orioles’ camp, and the fact is that they succeeded. Duquette was hot on Toronto’s deal, and the Orioles weren’t about to let him go without compensation, to which Toronto didn’t agree.

At the time, I supported the Orioles standing their ground. However instead they were left with a GM who in a way didn’t want to be here. Perhaps that was predictable, but nevertheless I didn’t think it would have been fair to have a division rival strong arm someone away from a team. That’s why I thought they were right to stand their ground. But again, you end up with a GM who’s heart is elsewhere.

And people love to go back to the 2016 AL Wild Card game in which Showalter left Zach Britton in the bullpen in extra innings. There have been reports that several players lost some confidence in Buck after that. Personally I think that’s a weak argument, however apparently those sentiments were there. Are they still?

I can’t tell you what’s going to happen, although it seems likely that the Orioles’ roster is going to be vastly different very soon. However I’ll give you a prediction; either Duquette’s replacement is signed or chosen within the next month or so, or Showalter’s named as Duquette’s replacement. Odds are that means that Duquette gets the ax before the season’s end. It stands to reason that whomever’s going to oversee the future as the General Manager should get to be the one to pull the trigger.

Now the question given the second part of that scenario is whether or not Buck remains in the dugout while being the GM, or if he departs from those duties. Many coaches in sports also act as a General Manager, and many do it very successfully. It doesn’t normally happen in baseball, but why couldn’t it? It does take a special type of person to pull it off, but if there’s anyone who could do it I’d say it would be Showalter.

So I don’t foresee a situation where Buck Showalter leaves the organization overall. Mind you, that’s still very much in play, however. He himself might decide he’s done, or the Angelos family might decide to go in another direction. I just don’t see that being the case. But my predictions have a way of fizzling.

The series with Miami continues this afternoon. Alex Cobb gets the start for the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by former Oriole Wei-Yin Chen. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Sometimes you have to take up for the home team

As a Baltimore Orioles writer, I try my very best to NOT be a blind homer. Yes the articles written here are from the Orioles’ perspective, but I try to call things down the middle. And I try to do the same while tweeting game highlights.

However there are some instances when you’re called to use your bully pulpit to in effect defend the home team. One of those instances came this morning for me. Overall, I like and appreciate the work of The Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell. He’s a great baseball writer, and a great sports writer overall – much in the tradition of Tony Kornheiser. (I’d throw Shirley Povich or John Steadman in there also, but I truly believe that those guys are in a league of their own.) But he wrote something this morning that came as a bit “off.”

In Boswell’s column today, he writes about how after yesterday’s game the Washington Nationals are now getting the best of the Orioles. (Chelsea Janes, also of The Post, wrote a very similar article as well.) Overall since the series started in 2006, the Orioles have won 38 games, and including yesterday Washington’s won 27. So…because of that one win, Washington is suddenly in command?

Boswell and Janes point out that there were lots of Washington fans in the stands at Camden Yards yesterday. And that might be a fair assessment. From my perspective perched above home plate, I’d say that approximately 30% of the announced crowd of 36K+ were “rocking the red,” or rooting for Washington. That’s maybe 12K fans or so.

Now if you read Boswell’s or Janes’ columns today, you get a vastly different view point. One would think that it was a total take over of Camden Yards by Washington’s fan base. That’s just simply not true. The biggest cheers of the day did in fact come from Orioles’ fans, on the off occasion that they did something good in the game.

Boswell mentions the LET’S GO CAPS cheers in his piece; the assumption is that everyone yelling that was rooting for Washington. The Capitals are given home team status with regard to the NHL in Baltimore as well. I saw quite a few people with Caps’ jerseys and Orioles’ hats at the game yesterday. And again by Boswell’s logic, both Buck Showalter (who conducted his pre-game presser in a Capitals jersey) and Mike Bordick (who wore a Capitals hat during the MASN telecast) must have had a rooting interest on Washington’s behalf.

And again, let’s not allow facts to get in the way of a good story. Yesterday was Memorial Day, and as a result it was an afternoon game. That was great scheduling on MLB’s part, because yes in fact it allowed BOTH fan bases to be a part of the game. The rest of the series will probably see the crowds slanted much more heavily in the Orioles’ favor because they’re two night games during the week.

And on that note, the Orioles will head down to DC in the third week of June, for all night games (Tuesday June 19 – Thursday June 21). In the past when the DC-based games have been weeknights, the Orioles’ fan base has ALWAYS turned out. Were there more Orioles fans in DC (and in fact more Washington fans at Camden Yards) when the series would be held over a weekend? Absolutely. But you’ll see a similar phenomenon in reverse when the O’s head down there. Heck, Showalter’s commented on the number of Orioles’ fans in attendance before.

But apparently all of that means nothing, if you read Boswell’s article. Neither does the head-to-head record of the team’s against one another to this point. If you read Boswell’s article with tunnel vision and without knowing anything else, one would think that yesterday’s game was the first the teams had ever played against one another. Not only that, but that first ever game between the two teams (because the others either didn’t happen or didn’t count) was held in Baltimore in front of nothing but Washington fans. And again as someone who covered the game in the ballpark, I can tell you that’s just not true.

I wouldn’t expect The Washington Post to make mention of the orange hue that will indubitably be in the stands at Nationals Park next month. And if they or anyone else does mention it, the commentary will be well those people live in the DC area and for some reason didn’t want to root for the Nationals so they really don’t count. No joke folks, I’ve heard arguments like that in the past.

In fairness to Thomas Boswell, that article didn’t really sound like his body of work. It almost sounded like he was told to write about a certain angle. Boswell’s still a great writer, and make no mistake that he’s one of the best of this generation. I just disagree with him here, and I think he published a piece of what’s called yellow journalism. But again, it wouldn’t surprise me if he was prompted to do so.

So your question might now be, why do you care? If you have no rooting interest per se and you’re “just a writer,” does it really matter? That might be a fair question. But as I said, I write “from the Orioles’ perspective.” I try to call things down the middle – but sometimes you do have to in effect take up for the home team. If the home team is correct or as in this case is being made the fool or the butt end of a joke, setting the record straight IS calling it down the middle. Lest you risk a false narrative such as this one becoming the unofficial truth. In D.C. they have a much simpler way of putting it: FAKE NEWS.

Baltimore Orioles: Is there a serious problem in Birdland?

Alex Cobb pitched a quality start for the Baltimore Orioles today against Washington. That’s both literally and statistically. Cobb’s line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 3 K.

Cobb was fairly dominant of Washington’s lineup this afternoon, as evidenced by manager Buck Showalter‘s post-game comments about him (all quotes courtesy of Steve Melewski, MASNsports):

Good, huh? I thought he was good. One pitch, so to speak. He will probably lament a walk there in that inning, but Alex gave us a great chance to win. That was fun to watch for him. That’s more like the guy we know is capable of pitching like that. We’ll take that type of outing against a good club any day. We’re just not scoring any runs. He had a feel for his changeup today, got some outs there. That’s one of the ingredients he’s capable of bringing that he hasn’t had every time. When he’s got three of them, he will have a solid outing like he had today

Cobb was the first one to admit however that one of the few mistakes he made was allowing two Washington hitters to reach with two outs in the third. That allowed Rendon to smack a three-run homer, giving them a 3-0 lead. Washington would also get RBI-singles from Adams, Taylor, and Difo in the eighth inning, and they took the first game of three from the O’s at 6-0.

As I said, Showalter was very complimentary of Alex Cobb after the game. That wasn’t all that he said, however. Later in that same press conference Showalter was asked about his team struggling at the plate, and being dominated by Washington’s Gonzalez:

Well, I think you’re being nice when you say a little (struggling). It’s been a challenge for us and I’m gonna always give credit to them. He certainly has … he’s got an ERA under 3.00 and he’s having a solid year. So to answer your original question, I’ll give him credit, but we all know it’s a little bit more than that. We’ve had some success against good pitchers before, but there’s a good situation for other pitchers right now. They’re really good and we’re not swinging the bats well – that’s a bad combination.

That’s an answer loaded with riddles, from a manager that’s well aware of how to use words to his advantage. When he says, there’s a little bit more than that, what exactly does that mean? Consequently, he went onto say at the end of the quote that in effect opposing pitchers are getting fat off of Oriole bats.

That leads me to wonder if these struggles aren’t so much physical, philosophical, etc. What if they’re mental? And in saying that, what if they amount to more than just a lack of confidence?

The Orioles’ clubhouse has always been a tight group since Showalter’s arrival. Has something changed? The answer there is a resounding YES. But all teams change a few pieces year-over-year. Are players frustrated with the franchise’s philosophy? Or direction?

I can’t really answer that, because if they are frustrated by those things players generally won’t admit it. However here’s some food for thought; the organization seems hell bent on using the Rule 5 draft, which I might understand guys questioning. One player here or there is one thing, but it’s every season (under Duquette). But it could well go further than that.

Don’t underestimate the potential affect on guys’ psyche’s of having the highest paid player in franchise history struggling the way that Chris Davis is struggling. This isn’t to say that Davis isn’t trying to get out of his funk, because I do believe that he is. But the fact is that he has four years’ worth of guaranteed money regardless of how he performs. If I were a guy who had to battle to be on the roster and perhaps is having to battle to stay there and to feed his family, I might look at that situation with a slight bit of resentment. Not to mention the perennial all-star third baseman insisting that he play SS – and the organization acquiescing.

And then there’s the direction of the franchise. Showalter and Dan Duquette are both free agents at the end of the year. As are Adam Jones and Manny MachadoJonathan Schoop comes up after next season. I think it goes without saying that if he wants to be back with the organization in any capacity, Showalter will be here. But players know what’s going on; they know that it’s tough for Duquette to work on a trade for Machado right now, because the fact is that the Orioles don’t know what their way forward is. And part of that starts in the GM’s chair. If it’s going to be Buck moving into that seat, fine. If Buck stays in the dugout, no problem. But they need to figure out what the plan is moving forward. And that falls on John and Lou Angelos.

Players are all aware of the tension in the air in these various situations. Does it affect play on the field? That I don’t know. But players also need to compartmentalize their concerns and just go out and play. If they’re worried about who the next GM is or why they have to scrap while Davis eases by, that’s really on that individual player – NOT Duquette, Davis, or anyone else. So if any of these things among others are issues in that clubhouse, players need to force themselves to stop making these things issues. Because to borrow a line from the business world, all of it is above their pay grade.

The series with Washington continues tomorrow night at Camden Yards. Dylan Bundy gets the start for the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by Washington’s Jeremy Hellickson. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Sour grapes?

Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter didn’t hold back on his opinion of home plate umpire Tony Randazzo’s strike zone after last night’s game (all quotes courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

Kevin’s got a bubblegum card, too. Those pitches, I’m very biased, but I didn’t think he got a fair shake tonight.

It’s rare that you hear a big league manager be quite that clandestine about his displeasure with the strike zone after a game. And in fact, during the course of the game Showalter appeared to be woofing about the strike zone fairly vehemently. And after one pitch, Kevin Gausman stood on the mound with his hands in the air as if to say how is that not a strike?!

Gausman also had some interesting comments himself with regard to the stolen bases that occurred against him:

I thought it was weird that two of the three times they stole on me, I was picking,” Gausman said. “It kind of raises some eyebrows as to how they knew and those types of things, but that’s all on me. It’s one of the things that we can control.

These comments are spot on by both Showalter and Gausman. The strike zone did appear to differentiate between Gausman and Boston’s David Price. I don’t question Randazzo’s integrity, not do I think Showalter is. I think he was just inconsistent. And it was noticeable.

However comments such as these are also tough sells. They come off as sour grapes, correct as they might be. In Gausman’s case, he passive-aggressively accused Boston of stealing signs. And it kind of makes sense that they would do that – nobody had stolen on Gausman all year. That and he had a rookie catcher behind the plate with him.

However it also boils down to much of what I said last night. Boston’s not the type of team that’s going to sit back and let the game come to them. They reach out and take not only what’s theirs, but what’s yours. So in Gausman’s case if he’s picking and doesn’t step off, Boston’s going to take that and thus take second base.

This is not to say that the Orioles should start stealing signs. However when an opportunity presents itself, they need to take advantage of it. When guys get on base, they need to find a way to get them home – among other things. Were Showalter and Gausman’s comments spot on last night? Yes. Should they have been made? I suppose it just matters how you want to come off.

Baltimore Orioles: Are changes coming in Birdland?

As we wait for the Baltimore Orioles’ lineup in Oakland, it’s dawned on me that tomorrow is an off day for the Birds. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised – the schedule came out in September! Plus they’ll be going cross country to get home, so it’s only fair I suppose.

Given the way the season has started, it also provides a chance for the O’s to make changes if they want to. And no, I’m not talking about the lineup. (Although a roster move will have to be made at some point, as it’s expected that Jonathan Schoop will come off the DL on Tuesday.) I’m talking within the organization – perhaps even in the dugout.

Buck Showalter is the second-best manager in franchise history. (I’ll let you figure out who gets the top nod.) However more importantly, he presided over a re-birth in the franchise from top-to-bottom, and restored the civic pride in the team that had been lacking for awhile. Yet if I’m to believe the legions of people who tweet at me on a daily basis along with some of the commenters on this site (incidentally, many of who’s comments don’t get published due to their vulgar or mean-spirited nature), that goodwill has been rolled back in an instant.

Unequivocally, there’s NOBODY better to manage the Orioles than Buck Showalter. Take yourself back to circa 2006 or 2007. If I told you that Buck would one day manage the Orioles, would you not take that? It’s not just a matter of X’s and O’s, or on-field decisions. As he’s said many times, Buck “gets Baltimore.” And Baltimore truly is a place that you have to “get” in order to have success here. Ask John Harbaugh. Heck, on the flip side of that as Robert Irsay.

Yet, there’s a percentage of you who want Buck gone – and NOW. I remain on the record as saying that I think that would be a huge mistake. Is it something that could happen? Yes, for sure. But I think it would be a mistake. It’s one thing to punt out a manager who in essence had no credentials when he walked in the door – like the Orioles did with the likes of Mazzilli, Perlozzo, and Trembley. Or like Washington did with Matt Williams. But a manager as accomplished and tenured as Buck Showalter, who has the rapport with many of the current players that he does? That’s a stretch.

But yes folks, that could happen. I think much more realistically however you might see someone such as Scott Coolbaugh become the sacrificial lamb and get the ax. But even that might be a stretch, as Buck Showalter has a reputation for being intensely loyal, both to players and the coaches underneath him.

Obviously Dan Duquette is a guy who could be on the chopping block also. And it wouldn’t cost the Orioles much in the way or money to relieve him of his duties. Like Showalter, his contract’s up at the end of the year. Incidentally, Brady Anderson could fill either Duquette’s or Coolbaugh’s role for the rest of the season if need be. Perhaps even long term.

But going back to Showalter for a moment, as I said I think relieving him of his duties would be a huge mistake. But anytime a coach is on the hot seat in sports, my response is always what’s your plan to replace him? It might be one thing to fire a coach/manager towards the end of the season and let an assistant fill in for the rest of the way. But we’re still early in the season…

…the last time this situation came up in Baltimore was 2010. And I said the same thing; what’s the plan going forward to replace him? In that case it turned out that the Orioles had a plan: Buck Showalter. They had an interim manager for most of the summer while the T’s were crossed and I’s dotted with Buck, but he was the plan. So again to appease all of the folks who want a change in the manager’s office, what’s your plan?

Disregarding the fact that I personally believe Buck’s still the best guy to guide this franchise, there are three names out there who might be considered to be on par with him: John Farrell, Joe Girardi, and Dusty Baker. Two of those guys have won World Series’, and the other is very accomplished as a big league manager. Now many of you are going to say that the Orioles should start fresh and pick a young manager that’s up and coming. But…that sounds great until it doesn’t work. Ultimately it’s a roll of the dice.

When you hire a manager you want someone who’s going to walk into the clubhouse and have immediate street cred. That’s why Showalter was such a great hire in 2010. Any of the three names I mentioned above would also have that. But would someone’s bench coach, who while deserving of an opportunity in the big leagues, bring that type of attitude to a team? Probably not.

Changes may well come to this franchise, and it might be tomorrow. I just wouldn’t expect it to be in the form of a new manager. But if it were, Orioles fans should hope for someone with a resume similar to Buck’s. Anything less would be a downgrade. However I suspect that if change comes, it’ll come somewhere other than the manager’s office.

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