This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. As of last year, I cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver/Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.
1. Perhaps the most talented player in Baltimore Orioles history is departing. Manny Machado is off to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the result of a lack of foresight from the O’s.
It didn’t have to be this way. The Orioles did not approach Machado over the last few years in an attempt to sign him to a long-term contract. In fact, the O’s should be kicking themselves for also failing to trade Machado last summer when the return would’ve been much greater.
I’m not big on dwelling on the past (more on that later), so let’s try to quickly move past all of this. Obviously this was a move that the Orioles had to make at this point. Their record, paired with Machado’s pending free agency, made this a certainty. Five players came back to the Orioles in this trade. One looks like a potential All-Star in 21-year-old Cuban outfielder Yusniel Diaz. Three others are potential big leaguers. One is just simply filler.
Could the O’s have done better? Probably not in this market and at this moment. I think this is a good trade for the Orioles. They got decent return and can move on from here. It doesn’t make it sting any less, but at least there is now something to look ahead to. Evaluating a trade like this is much like picking apart a team’s draft in the days following. It’s nearly impossible to do. We don’t know what Diaz, Dean Kremer, Rylan Bannon, Zach Pop or Breyvic Valera will amount to in the long run. It could be that this trade works out great for both teams.
Aside from the fact that the Orioles are losing Machado in this deal, there’s really only one thing that irked me throughout the proces: fans that have the hot take opinion that they are glad Machado is gone because he “wasn’t that great of a teammate anyway” (yes, that’s an actual opinion you can find out there), are the absolute bottom of the intelligence meter in my mind.
Anyone that actually thinks the O’s are better off without Machado is simply ignorant and frankly unfit to even be reading this. I’m not entirely sure they’d understand the words. I’m also unsure as to why I’ve even devoted this much attention to it, but it needed to be said.
Machado was a generational player for the Orioles, and he will be greatly missed.
2. The Orioles are now prepared to barrel toward the non-waiver trade deadline on July 31 without Machado, and he won’t be the only one heading out of town. I’d expect closer Zach Britton to be traded in the very near future. There will be plenty of interest in Britton, just like there was for Machado. Another expiring contract, Britton will be able to join a contender this season and help them as either a closer or set-up man.
It could be that interested teams want to see Britton pitch a bit more before making a commitment. The Astros, Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs and Phillies are among the teams who have been linked to Britton. Houston of course had a deal in place with the O’s for Britton last summer, but the trade fell through. The difference between this year and last year is that the Orioles are now in a position where they must deal Britton or risk losing him for nothing as a free agent. The other big difference is that this year’s market is flooded with relievers. San Diego’s Brad Hand is one of the big relief arms on the market, as well as Joakim Soria of the White Sox and Jeurys Familia of the Mets.
Britton will find a new home, and could even set the market for the others. After his offseason Achilles injury, getting anything in return for him at this point would seem like a bonus.
3. I was very confused early yesterday morning when I woke up to buzz about former Orioles farmhand and Old Mill High School graduate Josh Hader. The Brewers hard-throwing reliever was caught up in a firestorm after old tweets from his teenage years surfaced. The tweets are absolutely despicable and cannot be defended in any way. There’s no way around them. Saying he was “too young” to know better doesn’t fly. Being a 17-year-old isn’t “too young” anyhow.
The overarching message here is that you shouldn’t say anything on the internet that you wouldn’t say to a group of people face to face. I’m not claiming to be a saint when it comes to this either. No one is. But I also don’t have the public profile of a major league pitcher.
All of that said, it’s important for everyone to take a step back and not completely condemn Hader for eternity. This can be used as a learning moment for him, and if he takes it as that, more power to him. MLB is forcing him into sensitivity training, which can be helpful. Just because something like this from his past is now out in the open, doesn’t mean you can’t root for him to improve as a human being. It doesn’t mean you can’t hope he succeeds going forward.
Instead of continually tearing people down when they make a mistake, lifting them up and teaching them should become part of our ways.
4. This week on the sports calendar is always a reminder that baseball has fallen pretty far down on the list of things everyday Americans pay attention to on a regular basis. It’s the only thing happening at this time of year, yet outside of the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game, there isn’t much excitement.
Part of that is because Major League Baseball has done a terrible job promoting itself. For me personally, I’m not incredibly concerned about it. I’m fine with baseball being more of a niche sport almost like soccer in this country.
Commissioner Rob Manfred can’t think that way, however. Speaking this week at the All-Star Game in D.C., Manfred decided to fire shots at the game’s best player (and perhaps the best player of all-time). According to “USA Today,” Manfred claimed Mike Trout must “make a decision to engage” when it comes to promoting himself and the game.
When I read this, I made one of those faces that tends to freeze if you hold it too long. I had to snap myself out of it because of the pure stupidity I had just encountered. It’s true that Trout is probably about as well-known nationally as the sixth man on the Oklahoma City Thunder, but that’s not really the Angels star’s fault. The fact that he doesn’t want to do every single commercial thrown his way isn’t what makes him who he is.
To their credit, the Angels stood behind their man yesterday with a statement that didn’t mention Manfred’s name.
The reason I bring this kind of thing up on an Orioles blog is because much of what was said about Trout could be said about Adam Jones. MLB doesn’t do a good enough job promoting its stars, and despite the fact that Manny Machado is no longer an Oriole, Jones still is for now. Jones is just the type of player, similar to Trout, that MLB should be promoting. In Jones’ case, it’s especially true if MLB has interest in attracting young black people to enjoy the game. He’s the perfect ambassador for this, and while it’s something folks in Baltimore are well aware of, nationally it’s not the case.
I applaud the Angels for firing back at Manfred. Hopefully it sends a message that baseball fans love players like Trout and Jones for who they are, not who some suit in the MLB offices thinks they should be.
I thought I was ready for this. Then I spent a good chunk of yesterday pulling together highlights for our So Long Manny piece, and man…I was suddenly NOT ready for this. Not at all. I’m going to miss that damn human highlight reel more than I realized.
Emotions aside for a moment…the good news is that it seems like the Birds, while certainly not fleecing LA, got a bit more for Manny than many analysts expected just a few short weeks ago. OF Yusniel Diaz is the centerpiece. He homered twice in the Futures Game on Sunday. The 21-year-old Cuban was ranked as the Dodgers’ #4 prospect by FanGraphs just the other day.
When Yasiel Puig finally departs LA, another Cuban may replace him. Just 21, Diaz is having a strong showing in double-A. Like Verdugo, he has an advanced approach for his age and controls the strike zone extremely well (BB-K of 41-39). Unlike his peer, he produces more in-game pop and could eventually hit 20+ homers in a full big league season. He has the ability to play all three outfield positions.
He was number 73 on the Baseball Prospectus Top 101 this Spring.
The others look to be very hit-or-miss. Unfortunately, all day long reporters were tossing around some bigger-name Dodger prospects, and now that those guys aren’t included, much of Birdland is even more upset than they had planned on being 24 hours ago or so.
By all means, be upset that Manny Machado is gone. I certainly am. Beyond that though? Let’s just wait and see.
The inevitable has finally come for the Orioles and Manny Machado. The man who is quite possibly the most talented player to ever come out of the O’s organization is off to L.A. to join the Dodgers. The “adjusted” feeling on this is that the Orioles should be pleased in getting a top 50 prospect (Yusniel Diaz) back in return. In fact, for a rental player, it’s a very good thing.
But I can’t help but wonder what the return would’ve been for Machado if the Birds had some kind of self-awareness and traded him at last year’s break. The team wasn’t in it, and decided to hold on to players like Machado and Zach Britton. It set the organization back a full season at least.
As for the Dodgers, I can’t help but wonder if they would’ve made this move had they been the team that went out and acquired Justin Verlander last year instead of Yu Darvish. Verlander went on to burn them in the World Series, and they weren’t about to be outbid this year in acquiring the top target at the deadline. This should vault them to the NL West title, though they still need more pitching as well.
Machado won’t stay in Los Angeles beyond this year. My guess is that he’s the shortstop for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2019, and if not, he likely ends up with the New York Yankees. Gulp.
The question for the Orioles when it came to the package for Machado was whether they wanted to get 2-3 solid prospects or one high ceiling prospect and potentially 1-2 players who could be productive. They chose to get the high ceiling prospect in outfielder Yusniel Diaz and hope one or two of the other four players will turn out to be solid Major Leaguers.
I don’t blame them as I would want a potential superstar when I’m trading a superstar. Diaz will be how we grade this trade. If he becomes an All-Star this is a win, if not, then there will be a lot more losing on the horizon.
The Orioles did a job today, trading arguably the best homegrown position player in franchise history for 5 minor league prospects. The centerpiece of the Manny Machado deal coming back to Baltimore is top outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz, who should turn into a solid player, if not a superstar. They got a big hitting 3B prospect in Rylan Bannon who hits for average and power and gets on base, a big armed reliever in Zach Pop, and a RHP starter in Dean Kremer who has pitched very well this year at two different stops in the minor leagues.
Breyvic Valera is fringe utility infielder who has had a cup of coffee in the majors. At 26, he would appear to be a thrown in. All-in-all, the Orioles seem to have gotten a solid haul for their All-Star shortstop, though most of these players could still be two to three years away.
The Orioles needed to come out looking like winners with this one, because the fan base seems to be pretty fed up with the front office. While that remains to be seen, on the surface it looks like Baltimore got some fine young players.
It’s a Greek Tragedy. Not because the Orioles moved Machado – they had to, and by all reports they did well on their return.
The tragedy lies in the end of an era of hope, one that was defined by missed opportunity. The O’s return to prominence in 2012 saw an awakening of talent, and a roster with Manny, Markakis, Jones, Wieters, Crush Davis (not his evil twin brother Whiff), Hardy, a dominant bullpen and the best defensive team in MLB…produced one playoff series win.
Machado’s trade (although a step in the right direction now) is the culminating centerpiece of a series of terrible organizational decisions over this span, from not replacing Markakis, to not re-signing Cruz, paying Davis, signing O’Day over Andrew Miller, etc etc.
Machado was such a rarity for this franchise: a home grown superstar with enough talent around him to make several runs at the elusive World Series title. The Orioles squandered this window, and now must begin the dreaded rebuild. Machado cannot be the only move made; Britton, Jones, Givens, Trumbo, Brach, the picture hanging in Buck’s office… all of it needs to be made available to hopefully right this ship and usher in a new era of hope.
In addition to Diaz, a consensus top 100 prospect who is already producing at the Double-A level, the Orioles are getting an impressive amount of depth from the Dodgers’ loaded system. They’re also getting guys who are excelling at their highest levels to date. Kremer and Pop have racked up the strikeouts and could be impact relievers down the road. Bannon jumped straight to High-A this season and is hitting a robust .296/.402/.559. And while Valera hasn’t done much in a couple of dozen big league games, he hit .314/.377/.437 on 950 plate appearances.
That’s not as overwhelming as when rumors we’re floating that Dustin May was going to be in the deal along with Diaz, and it might even be less than what they were offered for Manny over the winter, but it’s still a heck of a haul for a rental and the brain trust at the Warehouse deserves credit for how they handled this process. This is a good start to rebuilding the farm system and, depending on how bullish you are on Austin Hays and DJ. .Stewart at the moment, the Orioles might have 4 top 100 prospects with the addition of Diaz.
Now the focus turns to Zach Britton and, eventually, Adam Jones and Brad Brach. So far though, the Orioles are handling the difficult process of selling off major pieces as well as could be expected.
Fans knew the Orioles had to trade Manny Machado before the deadline, so the facts that he performed well offensively and also didn’t get hurt already were a win. The Orioles had Manny at his maximum value for the last few months of control. That helped them in creating a market for Manny and would secure them at least one top 100 prospect. The hope always was that some team would overpay and at least put that one prospect in the top 50. With Yusniel Diaz, they got that top 50 prospect. Diaz profiles to be a bat with great plate discipline, good range and a strong arm in the OF and could play any outfield position so that will give the Orioles options. Ultimately I see him settling in at right field and hitting somewhere in the top of the order. The Dodgers had to pay $15.5 million to sign him from Cuba and then because they exceeded their bonus money they had to pay a 100% penalty on his salary so a total cost of $31 million. That tells you how much potential the Dodgers thought he had to pay that price and he’s living up to it this season in AA.
As for the rest of the deal, no there aren’t any other top 100 prospects, but Rylan Bannon is having a tremendous year offensively in High A Rancho Cucamonga, just one year removed from being drafted in the 8th round. He’s going to have to find a position – similar to Ryan Mountcastle – but his bat definitely is something to watch. Dean Kremer is the first Israeli-American to be drafted by an MLB team. Dan Duquette, as some might remember, was a founding member of the Israel Baseball League. Kremer seems like he could profile as a middle of the rotation starter and currently has 114 strikeouts in 85 IP with a 3.30 ERA between High A and AA. Zach Pop is currently Rancho Cucamonga’s closer and has been groomed for a back end of the bullpen role since he was drafted one round ahead of Bannon last year. Valera is an organizational utility player that the Dodgers acquired from the Cardinals earlier this season that will likely ride the Baltimore to Norfolk shuttle as depth.
Overall there are lottery tickets after Diaz, but all of the players save for Valera have nice upside. Somebody in the organization did well to park themselves in Rancho Cucamonga.
As for Manny, while his bat seems to have reached its potential, his once renowned defense has slipped to be among the league’s worst at shortstop and even at third base last season he no longer had as much range as he did when he first came up with the team and earned a Platinum Glove. To become the hitter he is now, he sacrificed his defense, and although he thinks he can still play shortstop effectively, the fielding metrics don’t back him up. The Manny Machado fans will see from now on will do plenty of things with his bat, but it seems his Platinum Glove will be a memory. Orioles fans were able to see the best combination of offense and defense that Manny Machado had to offer and I think we’ll look back on this trade as a big success and be glad the Dodgers still bought into the hype.
Our expectations were too high coming into the trade. It’s a move that kicks off a rebuild (the dreaded R word). We immediately add an impact prospect and probably the best prospect in our system in Yusniel Diaz and some complementary pieces that add depth. Ownership seems finally willing to move veterans for prospects and that should give Orioles fans, in part, hope for the future of the franchise.
It’s time for the post I hoped to never have to write, but that, in the back of my mind, I was always preparing myself for. We’ve posted these types of “farewell” articles before – for Wei-Yin Chen, for Matt Wieters – and we will again – likely for Zach Britton in the coming days. I’ve also still got one saved in drafts that I put together for Chris Davis, but never got to post. Funny how things work out (or don’t work out, if you want to look at it that way).
But this one…man, this one. To say goodbye prematurely to perhaps the most talented player in the history of the Baltimore Orioles organization is quite a punch in the gut. Once Manny Machado wasn’t locked up to a long-term contract after about the 2015 season or so, most of Birdland made our peace with the fact that this day lay inevitably on the horizon. “Enjoy him while he’s here,” we told ourselves, “because after 2018, that’s all she wrote.” That day is here, Birdland, and we didn’t even get to watch him in an O’s uniform for those final 60+ games.
It’s not official yet, but by all accounts Manny has been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he’ll finish out his final days of pre-free agency service time before hitting the market this winter.
Where exactly we O’s fans should direct our ire for this unacceptable, yet sadly predictable, course of events is a topic for another day. We’ll have plenty of time to be angry with the Angelos family, Dan Duquette, Brady Anderson, and whoever else as the stories about the real reasons for the lack of contact between the Birds and Machado’s camp over the past handful of seasons leak out.
Today is a day to look back and celebrate the Orioles career of Manuel Arturo Machado. A guy who was must-see TV, a human highlight reel, a reason to tune in every night even when the Birds were scuffling, or – as they are in 2018 – when they were the worst team in baseball. Every night (especially when he was playing third base), Machado had the potential to do something to make fans gasp.
The corny saying goes like this: “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened at all.”
The playoff drought had reached 14 seasons. The Buckle-Up Birds were in contention in July and showed no signs of letting up. They needed help at third base. Talk radio lines were jammed with callers hoping that the team would trade for San Diego third baseman Chase Headley. The deadline came and went, with no help acquired at the hot corner.
The O’s had a young phenom down in Bowie, but he was a shortstop, and J.J. Hardy had that position on lockdown. Surely they wouldn’t ask Manny Machado to move to third base?
Of course, that’s exactly what the Orioles did. The rest, as they say, is history. He spent a few days learning third base down at AA, and was called up and inserted into the lineup on August 9 against Kansas City.
Just like Wieters before him, Manny’s first career hit was a three-bagger.
The next night, he hit his first – and second – major league home runs.
On September 12, he made what was, to that point, his signature defensive play, one that made O’s fans – and MLB observers in general – look up and say “hey, this guy might be something special.” The famous “Don’t throw it away, DON’T THROW IT AT ALL!” play.
In that doomed 2012 postseason series against the hated Yankees, Machado made his presence known, hitting a home run in that ill-fated Game 3.
2012 gave us just a taste of all the great things to come from number 13.
In his first full season, Manny introduced the term “MACHADOUBLE” into the O’s fan lexicon, smacking 51 of them.
While he had *mostly* doubles power though, he didn’t JUST have doubles power. He hit 14 home runs, including this memorable one in Boston on April 10, that helped kick off his rocky relationship with Red Sox fans.
With the glove, Manny continued to show us that his month-plus at third in 2012 was no fluke, putting together play after play just like this:
(MLB put together a list of his “Best Barehanded Plays from 2013″…in APRIL.)
On July 7, Manny made the play which remains atop his incredibly impressive career highlight reel, ranging into foul territory to recover and throw out New York’s Luis Cruz from well beyond the third base line.
Gary Thorne: “Whoa, mercy! Gonna see that one for a few years!” (He was right.)
Of course, when you win a Platinum Glove as the game’s best defender, there are plenty of highlights to choose from. Here are just a few more…
Unfortunately, 2013 ended on a sour note for both the Orioles and Manny. On September 23 in Tampa, Manny dislocated his kneecap while stepping awkwardly on first base. It ended his season, and was horrific to watch for O’s fans and baseball fans in general.
Manny had surgery in the offseason, and it was a tough one for Birdland, wondering if we’d see the same player when he took the field again in 2014…whenever that may have been.
82 games, .278/.324/.431, 14 2B, 12 HR, 32 RBI
GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld
As it turned out, Manny would miss the first month of 2014, making his debut on May 1, in the second game of a doubleheader against Pittsburgh. Would he be himself?
2014 was a magical season for the Orioles, as they captured their first AL East title since 1997, winning 96 games in the process. Manny’s season, though, was a bit uneven. It started a month late, as we’ve discussed, but he also earned himself a bit of a reputation as a hothead for the first time. He sparked two separate bench-clearings in the same series, as he first took exception to a Josh Donaldson tag, and later, appeared to throw his bat intentionally.
It was a very, very strange sequence of events, and was at odds with what we’d seen from Manny up to that point. It’s ancient news now, and there’s no sense re-litigating it, but I’d be remiss to not bring it up at all. It was weird, certainly, and an odd stain on that amazing season.
Just over a month later, the Birds played in Oakland, and Machado was, of course, welcomed with a cascade of boos and rude signs. He responded thusly:
Aside from that weirdness though, Manny just kept on being Manny.
In late July, he robbed Albert Pujols in similar fashion in back-to-back games, reminding many of his play on Luis Cruz from just over a year prior.
On July 29, he hit his first career walk-off home run.
He kept on being Manny right up until August 11 when…sigh. The other kneecap popped out.
It was revealed that Machado had a congenital condition in both knees, which required corrective surgery. Manny’s 2014 season was over. He wouldn’t be able to celebrate the division title with his teammates. More importantly, he (along with Matt Wieters and Chris Davis) would not be available for the postseason, a cruel practical joke from a universe that has just seemed to have it out for us Orioles fans since 1983.
Who knows if things could have been different against Kansas City? Ryan Flaherty certainly held his own that postseason, both in the field and at the plate as Machado’s replacement, but it’s still impossible to not look back and wonder.
Coming off his second consecutive offseason knee surgery and rehab, Manny looked to prove that he could stay healthy for a full season. He did just that, playing all 162 games. While he was smashing 50 doubles in 2013, many fans said to ourselves “man, once he grows up a little, these doubles are going to turn into home runs…then, watch out.” And ye verily, it came to pass. Manny had 66 extra-base-hits, two fewer than he managed in 2013, but 21 fewer doubles, and 21 more home runs. MACHADOUBLES had become MACHADONGS.
He was a bona fide superstar, routinely named with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper among the best young players in the game.
On June 16, the Orioles belted EIGHT home runs against Philadelphia. Manny contributed two of those.
Do you ever get tired of watching these? I certainly do not.
Manny participated in the Home Run Derby at the All-Star festivities in Cincinnati.
During his timeout, Adam Jones got him some of his signature salsa.
Of course, he was still doing this:
On August 14, he blasted a walk-off homer against Oakland.
On September 22 in D.C., he picked up career hit number 500.
Manny won his second Gold Glove award, but the O’s finished a disappointing 81-81.
Eager to prove his breakout 2015 was no fluke production or health-wise, Manny was as advertised, playing in 157 games, posting a new career high in home runs, and bashing a career-best 78 extra-base hits and 341 total bases.
After his first dong of the year, Manny danced:
The glove was on full display in an April game against Texas:
On April 28, he hit his first grand slam of the season.
Then on May 8, Mother’s Day, he did it again. With a pink bat.
On May 24, Manny hit one to the train tracks in Houston.
On June 7, Kansas City’s Yordano Ventura (sigh…RIP) came inside to Manny one too many times, and received a nice right haymaker and headlock for his transgressions.
As usual, Manny did what he does at the hot corner…(often against Evan Longoria, apparently.)
Thorne: “Manny, an impossible play…” Now, Gary, you know that’s not true.
During that same series in Los Angeles (grr…enjoy him, Dodgers fans), Manny hit one to the friggin’ moon.
The Orioles (and their past giveaways) celebrated Manny’s birthday with a new garden gnome.
Thanks to Manny’s incredible range and quickness at third, and their matching otherworldly strong arms, Machado and Schoop were perhaps MLB’s best 3B-2B double play duo for several years. In 2016, they seemed to be especially dialed in.
On August 7 in Chicago, Manny hit a home run in each of his first three at-bats, in the first three innings, his first career three-dong game.
On August 14, Schoop hit a clutch three-run, go-ahead, two-out home run in the ninth inning in San Francisco, and Manny was so excited that he knocked his buddy over in celebration.
On August 30, Manny belted career HR number 100.
On September 6…yet another Manny Slam.
The Birds snuck into the playoffs as the second Wild Card, only to lose in Toronto. On the bright side, at least we got this:
Manny played for the Dominican Republic, in honor of his grandfather, in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. As a result, we got a play that no O’s fan will ever forget. Manny, for once, found himself on the wrong end of a “web gem,” this time courtesy of Birds teammate Adam Jones, who was repping Team USA.
Back in MLB play, Manny had a rough first half, spawning a hundred “What’s wrong with Machado?” blogs, and a thousand “Manny is just going through some bad luck” response pieces. He did, however, manage this 470-foot blast in New York.
On May 1, just a couple weeks after going through some more pointless drama with Boston thanks to a perceived dirty slide (absolute nonsense, for the record), Manny stole another little piece of Red Sox fans’ souls on a game-ending line drive.
Oh, did I say AFTER the drama? That was a lie. It was DURING the drama, because those Boston fools made sure it carried over into the next time the teams met.
Manny responded with a 466-foot homer over the monstahhhhh.
Manny and Schoop? Yeah, they were still doing the damn thing around the horn.
(Oh hey…Longoria again!)
What, only 465 feet? Manny must have been tired on June 2, when he took Rick Porcello to the damn club level at OPACY.
Throwing from foul territory? Yup, he can still do that too.
How about starting a 5-4-3 triple play? On August 3, Manny did just that.
You want more Manny Slams? I got more Manny Slams.
Ho hum, you say? Alright, how about a walk-off Manny Slam to cap off a three-homer game? That float your boat?
That was Manny’s third grand slam between August 7 and 18, by the way.
There’s an extended highlight of it for some reason, so why not?
On August 23, I took my then five-month old son to the Yard for my birthday. Zach Britton – as he loves to do on my birthday – blew a save in the ninth inning. Nine innings was all a five-month old could handle, so I missed this:
Six days later, he had yet another multi-homer game.
Remember we talked about Manny’s slow start? Yeah, he was named AL Player of the Month for August. He hit .341 with 12 HR and 35 RBI in the month.
He wasn’t done just because the calendar flipped though. On September 5, the Birds were down to their last out against the Yankees. Dellin Betances was on the bump. There was a man on. Manny’s second home run of the game won it.
2017, of course, ended on quite a sour note for the O’s. That sour note has, unfortunately, carried on over into…
Heading into the season, Manny made it known that he wanted to move to shortstop. While this rubbed a lot of O’s fans the wrong way, the fact remains that Manny came up as a shortstop. He deferred to J.J. Hardy while the veteran was here, but once Hardy was gone, Machado saw the shortstop spot as his. Why would the game’s best (arguably) third baseman, a Gold Glover winner in two of his four full seasons, want to move?
It caused a lot of hand-wringing among fans. The results have been…uneven, to put it mildly. The defensive metrics are not kind. He’s going to play short in LA though, so they obviously don’t hate what they’ve seen.
Also on the minds of fans? All the rumors that Machado was perhaps going to be traded last winter. It all proved to be Mach-ado about nothing, as the Orioles ultimately decided to make one last go at it with their core group of players who had seen so much success since 2012.
We saw our new regular 6-4-3 combo during the first series of the year.
He showed some nice range in Houston on April 2.
On April 6, Manny continued to own CC Sabathia, homering twice for the first time in 2018.
I tell you what…when I watch plays like these, I have a hard time believing those defensive metrics that say Manny has been AWFUL at short.
On April 19, Manny homered twice…again.
April 22…yep, you guessed it. Two more dongs, these both coming off oh no big deal…Corey Kluber.
May 11, two more homers, including a Manny Slam.
Remember when I said I took my son to his first game in August of 2017, and Britton blew the save, and I missed Manny’s walk-off? Well, last month, I took Jr. to his first ROAD O’s game, in Atlanta. The Birds had a four-run lead headed into the bottom of the ninth. Britton blew it AGAIN. Nine innings was, again, all a one-year old could handle. So, thanks to Zach, Brooks and I both missed an O’s win in person, which came in the 15th inning courtesy of…
On July 10, Manny went yard twice yet again.
During all this Manny-Being-Awesome, the guys around him were, sadly, awful. The Birds are neck-and-neck with Kansas City in the battle for the 2019 first-overall draft pick, and they are on pace to challenge the 1988 O’s for worst record in team history.
And so then, on Sunday…Manny hit his final home run as an Oriole (barring a return some future day that none of us are banking on).
Perhaps Machado will move back to third base with whatever team he signs with as a free agent this winter. Maybe he’ll stay at short, and as the sample size grows, those defensive metrics will be more generous to him.
The sad part is it’s really no longer our concern as O’s fans.
All we can do is…keep looking back at these highlights, wistfully. And wish him luck. And curse endlessly the inept ownership/front office (take your pick; arguing who should get the lion’s share of the blame is a game for another day…or many more days) that allowed such an extremely talented home-grown player to ever put on another jersey.
So long, Manny. Thank you for everything. Go win a ring with Los Angeles. And then sign with some National League team this winter…just not the Yankees. Or Red Sox. Please?
The Norfolk Tides (47-44, 2nd place in the IL South through Sunday) stumbled to three losses in four games against the Gwinnett Stripers during the team’s first series since the AAA All-Star break. Center fielder Cedric Mullins, the No. 5 prospect in Baltimore’s minor league system, collected six hits in the series while extending his hitting streak to 15 games. Starting pitcher Asher Wojciechowski was another bright spot, tossing eight innings of one-run ball during Friday’s game.
Gwinnett 4, Norfolk 1
Gwinnett shortstop Luis Marte went 3-for-4 at the plate, helping the Stripers hold on to an early lead and take the first game of the second half by a score of 4-1. Tides starter Matt Wotherspoon took the loss after allowing three runs in four and two-thirds innings pitched.
D.J. Snelton, Joely Rodriguez, and Tim Melville yielded just one run over five and a third combined innings out of the Tides bullpen. Left fielder Mike Yastrzemski had two hits, including a double, to pace the Norfolk offense.
Tides 5, Gwinnett 4
The Tides fought off a ninth-inning Gwinnett rally with a rally of their own, ultimately needing ten innings to take game two of the series by a 5-4 score. Starter Wojciechowski yielded one run through eight strong innings while Yastrzemski went 3-for-3 at the plate.
Wojciechowski struck out eight hitters while walking none. With the game scoreless in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Tides’ offense used an RBI groundout from Ruben Tejada and a sacrifice fly from Mullins to stake their pitcher out to a 2-0 lead. Stripers catcher Jonathan Morales cut the lead in half in the top of the seventh after an RBI groundout of his own.
Things got dicey for Norfolk in the top of the ninth after manager Ron Johnson opted to bring in Tim Melville to try to close out the game with a 2-1 lead. After Austin Riley singled to lead off the inning, Dustin Peterson launched a two-run homer to give the Stripers a sudden 3-2 lead. Xavier Avery followed Peterson with a double, later coming around to score on an error by Garabez Rosa and pushing the lead to 4-2.
The Tides refused to go quietly in the bottom of the ninth. Drew Dosch led off the inning with a bunt single to beat the shift and advanced to third on a two-out double by Yastrzemski. With the Tides down to their final out, Tejada sliced a line drive into center field to tie the game at four.
Per the new minor league pace-of-play rules, each team starts extra innings with a runner on second base. Knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa was able to prevent Gwinnett from scoring in the top half of the tenth, while D.J. Stewart led off the bottom of the inning by grounding a ball into center field to score Luis Sardinas from second base and give the Tides the victory.
Gwinnett 4, Norfolk 3
Tides starter John Means threw six innings while giving up three runs, but it wasn’t enough as Norfolk dropped game three. Mullins and Tejada each had a pair of hits in the losing effort.
The Stripers opened the scoring in the third inning after Michael Reed lifted a sacrifice fly to plate Sean Kazmar. They pushed across two more runs in the following inning on an RBI groundout and another sacrifice fly to widen the lead to 3-0.
The Tides battled back in the bottom of the fifth, pushing across a run on Renato Nunez’s sacrifice fly. The bottom of the sixth produced two more Tides runs on an error by Kazmar and a Tejada double, knotting the score at three apiece.
Rio Ruiz’s RBI single in the top of the seventh gave the Stripers a 4-3 lead that they would hold on to for the win. Reliever Francisco Jimenez took the loss for Norfolk, though the run he allowed was unearned.
Gwinnett 9, Tides 2
Chris Tillman battled through five and a third innings of work in another rehab start and Tejada and Stuart Levy hit a pair of home runs, but Norfolk dropped the series finale after the bullpen struggled in the late innings.
Tillman struck out three hitters while giving up a pair of runs on eight hits and a walk. His fastball sat in the upper 80’s for the majority of his outing, though it briefly touched 92 in the sixth inning.
Gwinnett jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the third inning after Michael Reed hit a long home run into the visitor’s bullpen in left center field. The Stripers tacked on another run in the fourth on an RBI double.
Norfolk came roaring back to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth on a pair of solo homers by Ruben Tejada and Stuart Levy. Tillman returned to the mound in the top of the sixth but was relieved after allowing a double and reaching 100 pitches for the afternoon. Lefty D.J. Snelten recorded the final two outs to end the top of the sixth inning still tied at 2.
Four straight Gwinnett singles to open the seventh gave the Stripers the lead again. Gamboa entered the game with one run already in and two runners on base with no outs but managed to wiggle out of the jam with the score remaining 3-2. The Stripers added four runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth to push the score to 9-2.
This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. As of last year, I cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver/Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.
1. After a week away from this column, we’re getting back into action with plenty of rumors and speculation. Regular readers of this piece will notice there wasn’t one here last week. I took my own little All-Star break with a trip to Australia for a few days with my wife. While spending four days in Sydney, I spent exactly zero minutes watching baseball. This is a big departure for me, someone who watches every Orioles game I can. In a season like this, I needed a few days.
It was refreshing to get away and not think about the O’s for a minute. Many, I realize, have already done this on a more long-term basis this season. I’m back in after a few days away. What’s happening with the Orioles right now is painful, but it’s also fascinating. I’m interested to see where this thing goes the rest of the season. Not only are they on a losing pace that could set records, but there are a lot of things set to develop off the field.
It’s a different kind of “buckle up” this time around.
2. There’s going to be a lot of bluster about Manny Machado in the coming days and weeks, and you should pay attention to all of it. Just don’t believe everything you read. Much of what you’ve seen in the last few days is about the Yankees and how they have made a serious push to acquire Machado. You’ll also hear that the Red Sox are in on him, because if the Yankees are then Boston must be too.
I don’t quite get the fussing from fans about the possibility of Machado going to one of these two teams. There’s the obvious chance he could depart for one of them in just a few months, so being able to extract something of value from one of them would only be a positive.
Right now, it sounds like the Brewers, Diamondbacks and Dodgers are the other main players based on various reports from folks like Jon Heyman of MLB Network and FanCred, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. I was especially intrigued by a theory Crasnick floated on Twitter the other day about the potential timeline of a Machado trade.
Heard this theory today from a baseball person: The #Orioles won't trade Machado before the #AllStarGame because it's in DC, and they're in the middle of the MASN dispute with #Nationals. And there's no way they'd deal Manny and have him show up in a #Dodgers or #Brewers uniform.
This is absolutely something that smells like the Orioles. And while this seems absurd on the surface, I actually don’t think it’s a bad thing. At this point, the Orioles should be waiting out teams and trying to see if someone blinks. They owe it to themselves to see if they can pluck a top-100 prospect off one of these teams.
The Orioles have been playing the likes of Danny Valencia and Mark Trumbo in right field. That’s definitely part of it. They’ve also seen Trey Mancini drastically fall off from his below-average-but-still-passable rookie season in left field. Adam Jones is losing range as a center fielder with age and will likely have to move to the corners going forward in his career.
Then there’s the infield. It starts with Manny Machado’s move from third base to shortstop, where he has actually been quite terrible. He’ll make the occasional flashy play that will look good on a highlight reel, but Machado’s play at shortstop is a net negative defensively. It’s also forced the Orioles to mix and match at third base. I’ve written about Tim Beckham at third base previously. He’s not that great over there. But when Beckham was out, the O’s were forced to use players like Valencia, Pedro Alvarez and Steve Wilkerson at the hot corner.
As Kram points out in the piece, the Orioles are giving up about a run per game against an average defensive team, which represents most of the 1.5 runs per game they’re being outscored by this season. A run a game through 93 games would make their run differential an absolutely horrific -66 compared to the absolutely mind-blowing -159 that it’s at now. Not everyone wants to believe in advanced stats, but the eye test even proves that a big part of why the Orioles are historically bad is because of their historically bad defense.
4. I’ve come to the realization that when the Orioles begin their search for a new general manager – that is to say if they haven’t already – they’ll need to be looking for someone wiling to work under a boss who has never had such a role. If fans are looking for the O’s to hire a fresh young face for the job, they are likely out of luck. They are going to be looking for someone willing to get into to the game under the watchful eye of Brady Anderson.
There’s no question that as long as the same ownership group is around, Anderson will have a prominent role with the club. But it’s also quite clear that Anderson doesn’t want the actual GM role. Fans have been clamoring for direction more than anything else outside of winning this season.
The winning obviously isn’t coming. Direction is likely only possible after this trade deadline passes. I would still expect to see Dan Duquette finish out this season in the front office. There needs to be a clear chain of command in the front office, but the Orioles also have to be able to hire someone who is willing to be lower on that chain than Anderson. That drastically diminishes the pool of realistic candidates. Just another day in Birdland.
O, how I love thee, let me count the ways. By love, I mean hate, and by thee I mean the 2018 Baltimore Orioles. This year has been so lacking in enjoyable baseball that I have been unable to muster the courage to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) these last couple of months.
Alas I have returned to offer you some thoughts as we near the halfway point of 2018.
Manny and Co.
Someone explain to me why NO ONE has been traded yet? I want to hear no more about “it’s too early” or “the orioles are fielding several offers yet but haven’t had their asking price met.”
My favorite is, “you must not understand how trades work.”
I am not talking about Manny Machado, Zach Britton or even Adam Jones. The importance of successfully navigating those deals is obvious, and I understand (agree) with taking the time to make sure the deals are done right. However, there are numerous minor trade pieces that the Orioles should have long moved, such as Brad Brach, Mark Trumbo and Danny Valencia.
It’s particularly unfortunate that the O’s waited to move Valencia, as his slash line has dipped to .252/.314/.431, but he is still hitting LHP exceptionally well (.284/.363/.534), and would be valuable as a platoon option for any playoff team.
The Orioles should move him, and it’s inexplicable they haven’t’ done so already.
How is Chris Davis still in the big leagues? Seriously, I’m asking.
Davis’ BA is up to a gentleman’s .159, well-complemented by a .233 OBP and nine HR. Through 74 games he has 107 strikeouts, and if he continues to play regularly will most likely obliterate the single season K record set by Mark Reynolds in 2009.
Oh, and his defensive decline puts him into a potentially below-average first baseman category. Cut this man and eat the salary OR find an “injury” that leads to an extended rehab assignment. If the O’s refuse to break ties with him due to the financial investment that makes Enron look like Apple, then they must get him down in the minors and invest in fixing him.
GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld
I wrote a piece the day the Orioles signed Colby Rasmus, that examined the head-scratching decision to bring him in, so this is not a “hindsight is 20/20 situation.” Instead of Rasmus, the Orioles should/could have signed Jon Jay, who fit more of the team need (remember when the O’s were trying to win this year?) and has a line .287/.356/.361. His .356 OBP would put him second on the Orioles behind Manny, and possibly move Trey Mancini or (insert random out of position player name here) out of RF.
Would replacing Rasmus with Jay have changed the Orioles 2018 fate? Absolutely not, however it would have provided a cheap (savvy) move to acquire some additional prospects just as the Royals did when they flipped him to the Diamondbacks.
More and more information continues to leak out about the goings on inside the Warehouse, and none of it seems to answer the question of “who is in charge?”
Is it Dan Duquette, Buck Showalter, Angelos and Sons, or Hand of the King Brady Anderson? I surely don’t know, and despite the hard-hitting investigative efforts by the beat crew that covers this team, it doesn’t seem like we will be getting an in-depth look anytime soon.
One thing is clear, however: with the continued blurred lines of power that seemingly exist for the front office (that I can only assume includes The Oriole Bird and Richie Bancells in some bizarre capacity), this “rebuild” is going to be quite the process, and I fear I may see my two-year-old driving before the Orioles return to the playoffs.
While we continue to wait for the Orioles to tear down their roster and embrace a full rebuild, we still have to watch players like Joey Rickard play on a nightly basis. There are a lot of aspects of this season that are extremely frustrating, but the lack of change on any level may rank at the top. I really hope that the All-Star break and/or the trade deadline is when there is a mass exodus and we start seeing players who we all hope will have a future on the next wave of good teams in Baltimore.
Yankees Enter Manny Sweepstakes
This should come as no surprise, but the Yankees want Manny Machado for the stretch run, according to Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic.
Also no surprise, O’s fans aren’t happy about this. Taking off our orange-colored glasses, the Yankees may be the only team that can provide what the O’s organization needs: infield depth and major league-ready starting pitching. I also think they are the only team that would pull the trigger on a “fair” deal, as they only care about winning a World Series.
Do the Milwaukee Brewers? Arizona Diamondbacks? I’m not sure. Maybe the Los Angeles Dodgers, but they proved last year with Justin Verlander that they won’t do everything necessary to win a title. If the Yankees are willing to give up Miguel Andujar and/or Justus Sheffield, we have a starting point in discussions and one of those players alone is better than any prospect the other teams would be willing to part with.
If the rumors are true that the Orioles could package Zach Britton in a deal then that will only increase the talent level that comes back.
I know it would be extremely painful seeing Machado and/or Britton in pinstripes in October, but this is the exact team we need to be in trade discussions if we want this rebuild to be accelerated.
Other Trade Candidates
Since we really don’t know who is making decisions, we also don’t know how capable the organization is when it comes to multi-tasking. Machado is priority one so who knows if the front office is talking to other teams about Britton, Mark Trumbo, Adam Jones and Danny Valencia? I’m not even mentioning Brad Brach as I don’t see how a contender would want to acquire him.
Packaging Britton with Machado would at least knock off two of the big names, but it needs to happen sooner than later so they can focus on the other trade chips. Even though he has been in a slump, I still believe Valencia has value to a playoff contender as a guy off the bench or a starter against lefties. We know what Jones can mean to a playoff team and he is still an offensive contributor.
As for Trumbo, he ranks seventh in baseball in average exit velocity and is looking more like the player from 2016 than 2017. He is another player that can help a contender down the stretch.
Unless they have a postgame ritual that he gets mad about and puts the organization in a tailspin that they have to recover from…but I digress.
After getting swept out of Minnesota, the Orioles close out the first half of the season with an eight-game homestand beginning today with a doubleheader against the Yankees.
The Orioles (24-65) are hoping to snap yet another lengthy losing streak before the Al-Star break. Their current six-game skid marks the eighth time that they’ve lost five or more games in a row. To make matters worse, they’ve only won once in their last 14 contests.
The Yankees (58-29) are still rolling steady after taking two of three on the road from the Blue Jays and will look to stay right on Boston’s heels in the two-horse race for the division title. They’ve won five of their seven games in July and eight of their last 12 coming into Camden Yards.
The Orioles and Yankees will start the series by playing a classic day/night double-header. Jimmy Yacabonis (0-0, 8.53 ERA) will take on CC Sabathia (6-3, 3.02 ERA) in game one.
Yacabonis is making just his second start of the season. The converted closer received no decision after giving up two runs on six hits over four innings in his first start of the season against the Mariners, but he has the trust of Buck Showalter after a valiant display.
Sabathia picked up his sixth win of the season after holding the Braves to just two runs over six innings.
The Yankees long-time standout has been in sparkling form over his last six starts with a 4-2 record and
a superb 2.10 ERA over his last 38 2/3 innings.
Yefry Ramirez (0-2, 2.51 ERA) will get the nod against Luis Cessa (0-1, 5.00 ERA) in game two. Ramirez took the loss despite giving up just one run on one hit over five innings against the Phillies. The Orioles’ promising rookie has allowed just one run on four hits over 10 innings during his last two appearances.
Cessa is making just his second start of 2018 against the Orioles. He took the loss in his first start
against the Braves after allowing three runs on five hits over just three innings. Still just 25 years old, Cessa is trying to make his mark at the big-league level after a disappointing 2017 season.
Andrew Cashner (2-9, 4.39 ERA) will match-up against Masahiro Tanaka (7-2, 4.58 ERA) on Tuesday.
Cashner took the loss in his last start against the Twins despite allowing just two runs over six innings. He will try to stay in-form against the Yankees. Luck has not been on Cashner’s side. He’s posted a stout 3.18 ERA over his last six starts, but has gone 0-3 during that span because of little run support.
Tanaka will be making his return from the DL in this match-up. The Yankees hurler was in fine form before going down. He held the Mets to one run over five innings during his last start back in June. Tanaka remains undefeated over his last nine starts and hasn’t ended up in the loss column since April 17.
Dylan Bundy (6-8, 4.08 ERA) will go head-to-head with Sonny Gray (5-7, 5.85 ERA) in Wednesday’s
series finale. Bundy struggled in his first start off the DL and allowed five runs on nine hits over just 3 1/3 innings in Minneapolis en route to his eighth loss of the season. He still owns a 3-1 record and a 3.23 ERA over his last five outings.
Gray’s nightmare campaign continued in Toronto after he allowed five runs on six hits over just two innings in his last start. He must be wondering when the rough patch will end at this point. Over his last three starts, Gray has gone 0-3 with a woeful 12.27 ERA and has pitched just 11 innings combined during that span. A former All-Star in Oakland, Gray has yet to carry that form into the Bronx Bombers pinstripes.
He just tied a franchise record previously held by Orioles’ great, the Iron Man, Cal Ripken.
He tied the record with 8,027 FEWER at bats than Cal.
He tied the record with 2,029 FEWER games than Cal.
That’s the equivalent of 12 ½ FULL seasons.
He adds to his amazing feat at the rate of once every 2.7 plate appearances.
If he continues his torrid pace for the balance of his contract, he will rank 5th in Major League Baseball history, one notch ahead of Alex Rodriquez, who took 22 seasons to reach that level. This Oriole could reach such lofty numbers in just 15 seasons.
Last season he earned $885,000 per home run. This season he’s on pace to earn a whopping $1.64M per home run
Tonight… if he plays, he will set the Orioles club record.
Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve known him as The Crusher (thanks to Mike Bordick). Now you know him as the Orioles strikeout king. Let’s give a warm round of applause to Christopher Lyn Davis.
We always name this year’s award after the previous winner. With that in mind, your nominees are…
David Washington Memorial Forgotten Man Award
In a year that’s gone off the rails as far as this one, there should be no dearth of eligible candidates for this award. However, the Birds have seemed to be a bit less DFA-happy than they were in recent years. Still, the following players fit the bill nicely.
Corban Joseph – Caleb’s little brother was called up on June 15, had a neat/gimmicky little historical footnote when he and Caleb became the only non-Ripken siblings to appear in the same game for the Birds, was optioned on June 20, DFA’d on June 29, and cleared waivers and was sent back to Bowie July 1.
Andrew Susac – Speaking of Caleb, as he wasn’t really getting it done, the O’s gave Andrew Susac a chance. He was called up on May 17, hit .115/.115/.154 in nine games, then was sent back down on June 2. Seems doubtful, barring injury, we’ll see him on the big club again.
Engelb Vielma – The utility infielder hit .143/.250/.143 in six games (just seven plate appearances), then was optioned on May 8. Two days later, he had a very unfortunate crash chasing a ball in Durham then was scheduled for surgery to repair a fractured kneecap sustained in the fall. Twitter isn’t sure if he ever had the surgery though…this is the last update:
Engelb Vielma was scheduled to have knee surgery today but postponed to allow for more healing #orioles
Nestor Cortes – One of the Birds’ THREE Rule V picks on the Opening Day roster, Cortes pitched 4.2 innings out of the ‘pen, posting a 7.71 ERA (4 ER, 10 H) and looking quite overwhelmed before being DFA’d on April 10 and returned to the Yankees on April 13.
Which 2018 Oriole are you most likely to forget all about?
The Manny Machado “Why Are You Breaking My Heart Like This, Just Let Me Love You!” Award
Yup, Manny Machado actually won this award last year (remember his awful first half?), so it’s fitting that one of this season’s nominees is his bestie. This honor, remember, is for the player who is good (or who we think/hope is good, anyway – Chris Davis has won this award before, which doesn’t make him ineligible. Instead, he’s ineligible because we’ve given up all hope that he’s good any more), but who is having a dreadful first few months of the season. This year, the trouble was narrowing it down to just three or four. Good times.
Jonathan Schoop – What can you even say about Schoop? The 2017 MVO is following up his All-Star .293/.338/.503 32 HR/105 RBI 2017 campaign with a dreadful .202/.245/.350 effort so far, and just eight home runs. Not dope.
Trey Mancini – Boom Boom or Bust Bust? Trey put up 2.2 bWAR in 2017. So far this season? He’s at -1.2. He hasn’t looked the same at the dish since running into the wall at OPACY on April 20, and while his defense was passable last year, it’s been a bit rougher out in LF this season.
Alex Cobb – Ugh. The guy who was supposed to be the Birds’ missing piece, who would launch them into being a true wild-card contender instead looks like the second coming of Ubaldo Jimenez. At this rate, the Orioles will seriously never sign another free agent pitcher again. Cobb is just 2-10, but on this team we can’t really hold that against him. What we CAN hold against him is his 4.98 FIP, 12.0 H/9, and career-worst 6.1 K/9. Every time he looks to be turning the corner, he blows up the next time out.
Mychal Givens – “Untouchable” in trade talks a year ago, Givens has fallen back to earth in 2018. His FIP suggests some bad luck when compared to his ERA (2.89 vs. 4.81), but his career-high 4.8 BB/9 are getting him in trouble. Givens hasn’t been THAT awful, but he’s given up some runs on a team where a run or two is usually enough to result in a loss, as evidenced by his 0-6 record.
Which Oriole is breaking your heart the most in 2018?
Peter Angelos is said to be in failing health yet is reluctant to release the stranglehold he’s had on the team. Neither of his sons are capable of providing direction. The club is involved in a legal entanglement over MASN and the Washington Nationals that has them currently on icy terms with MLB and is the underlying reason why the All-Star Game has snubbed Baltimore, despite one of the most beautiful parks in the league.
There’s more …
Brady Anderson is rumored to be the primary influencer in “The Warehouse.” His resume suggests he should be anything but. Dan Duquette is a lame duck EVP of Baseball Operations. Buck Showalter, who according to a source, lost the team during their last playoff appearance when he opted to bring on Ubaldo Jimenez in relief instead of Zach Britton – he’s also a lame duck.
Showalter, a big proponent of the Chris Davis albatross contract, has essentially lost the team – one that is fundamentally bankrupt or doesn’t care enough about the game’s finer nuances that contribute to winning. Either way, the responsibility of the team’s cavalier approach to detail has to fall at least in part, at Showalter’s cleats. And the way he’s handled Manny Machado, who obviously is using the 2018 season as a campaign to riches, demanding a move to shortstop, is just flat-out embarrassing.
There’s STILL more …
The Orioles scouting staff is said to be among the thinnest in all of MLB and they’ve dedicated just two scouts to the burgeoning Latin American market. Comparatively speaking, a team that should be a benchmark in how to turn a floundering franchise around, the Houston Astros – they employ 15 such scouts. Instead of harvesting a talent crop that attracts the game’s best franchise, the Orioles pawn off their international positions for fringe prospects who regularly end up as minor league fodder.
Today, the big question surrounding the team is how they will leverage the MLB trade deadline to replenish their system with young, promising talent. Are they even capable of making good trades to provide hope for the future? Will the lame ducks Duquette and Showalter have any influence or will they rely upon the inexperienced Anderson to pull off a successful trade? And now that teams know that the Orioles need to be sellers, has that weakened their bargaining power?
How will fans respond if the Orioles are taken to the cleaners?
What will the fans say when players like Machado, Britton and Brad Brach don’t yield the talent crop that they could have produced a season ago when they were so much more valuable?
What if the Orioles do nothing?
Would it shock you?
Currently the Orioles are ranked 23rd in paid attendance with an average of 20,736 paying customers. Of course, that is NOT the turnstile count. Trust your eyeballs. Ask the concession vendors or Boog Powell.
What will the Orioles sell next season when Machado, Britton, Jones and Trumbo are all gone? Who could they attract in free agency? What worthy front office exec will willingly walk into that situation? And for that matter, what decent managerial prospect will want to deal with any of this mess when Showalter heads back to ESPN or MLB Network?
Seriously, could the Orioles possibly make this any worse? They’ve essentially created a blueprint for the demise of a franchise.
The good news for the Orioles, who have won just one of their last eight series, is that the schedule brings some reprieve with the Twins on tap next. The Twinkies have lost four straight series, themselves, to fall 13 games below .500.
The bad news for Baltimore is that they’ll be on the road, where they have an MLB-worst 12-31 record, and game-one starter Andrew Cashner has a career 1.013 opponent OPS against Twins batters. Even with rookie Aaron Slegers on the mound for the Twins, whose World Series odds have plummeted from 30/1 in May to 125/1 basically straight across the board. At least at most of these sports betting sites, the O’s will be sizable underdogs in not just game one, but the four-game series as a whole.
It’s a sad and disgusting situation for Orioles fans, rooting for a dysfunctional organization – a rudderless ship.
One that is sinking fast.
The Edmund Fitzgerald has got nothing on the SS Angelos.
This Orioles franchise is a pivotal point, with a lame duck GM and an uncertain future. They don’t spend internationally, so they bank on nailing the draft each and every year. That’s not the best practice in my opinion – or anyone’s opinion for that matter.
I’m here today to talk the O’s farm system as it sits now, before the trades that will – hopefully – be made in July to improve the franchise’s outlook. So let’s go level by level to evaluate.
Triple-A Norfolk Tides
GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld
Top 30 Prospects (according to mlb.com): Cedric Mullins #5, D.J. Stewart #10, Chris Lee #11, Yefry Ramirez (currently on Orioles) #15, Austin Wynns #20
Mullins is clearly the star of this group with the most tools overall. He has great speed and a tremendous outfield glove. Mullins could be Adam Jones’ replacement if the team chooses to go that route. Although he’s faced some struggles since being promoted to Triple-A, Mullins has rebounded nicely, hitting .393 in his last eight games. Mullins also has shown some pop with the ability to get on base (.338 OBP at Norfolk and .362 at Bowie). He should be up to the big-league club at some point this year.
The other outfielder to take note of on this roster is Stewart, the 1st-Round Pick from 2015. Stewart basically disappointed his first two professional years, but last year started to show some of that 1st Round promise. A 20-20 guy, Stewart began showing speed and power, with a .859 OPS. Since college, Stewart has amended his batting stance from an extreme crouch to a more upright stance, resulting in a fluid swinging motion. What I personally like about Stewart is his keen eye at the plate. Stewart can work counts, and once he gets on the base paths, has the ability to wreak havoc.
A few other notable names include: Chris Lee, Austin Wynns, Joely Rodriguez, Drew Dosch, Mike Yastrzemski, Jimmy Yacabonis, and John Means.
I like the squad as a whole, but there isn’t that one breakout prospect, or one with a super high ceiling.
Overall Grade: C+
Double-A Bowie Baysox
GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld
Top 30 Prospects (according to mlb.com): Ryan Mountcastle #1, Austin Hays #2, Hunter Harvey #3, Keegan Akin #6, Luis Gonzalez #21, Ademar Rifaela #22, Branden Kline #26, Ryan McKenna #27, Brian Gonzalez #28, Zach Muckenhirn #30
Bowie is clearly the most top-heavy team in the system with the Top 3 prospects in the organization. However, I’d like to focus on three prospects: Ryan Mountcastle, Keegan Akin, and Ryan McKenna.
Mountcastle has been highly touted since he was drafted as a 1st-Rounder. For the most part, he’s met expectations and is off to a great start with the Baysox. His hit tool is unquestionably his best, but he’s also shown power. Mountcastle hit 18 bombs last year, and seven so far on the 2018 campaign. Mountcastle’s biggest issue is his defense and specifically his arm. Currently at third, Mountcastle may have to be moved around the infield until he finds a suitable defensive position.
Keegan Akin, the highest quality arm on the team (until Hunter Harvey can prove that he can stay healthy), was the afterthought of the 2016 Orioles Draft Class. 1st Round Pick Cody Sedlock has yet to show he can get out hitters consistently, but Akin has done just that. What’s most encouraging is that hitters hit under the Mendoza line against Akin. In college, Akin set Western Michigan’s single-season strikeout record as he impressed scouts as a junior. Akin’s fastball sits 91-94, but along with a wipeout slider and changeup, he could continue to move through the ranks and conceivably be a serviceable big-league starter.
Ryan McKenna was the Orioles Player of the Month for June. McKenna’s breakout season is here after being drafted in the 4th Round of 2015. McKenna hit .337/.467/.556 at Frederick (that’s a 1.023 OPS, folks) before being moved up to Double-A. Scouts give McKenna a 60 speed on the 20-80 scale, and as most cold-weather players do (drafted out of New Hampshire) McKenna may have just needed some time to develop.
Some other Baysox noteworthy players: Austin Hays is underperforming this year, and has been hurt for the majority of the season. Luiz Gonzalez has quietly been one of the best Orioles minor league relievers. O’s Rule-5 pick Anthony Santander continues his development.
This Baysox team is really good and probably their best since 2015. They have a pretty decent balance of pitching and offense and we could see a few of these players on the Orioles this year or next.
Overall Grade: B+
Single-A Frederick Keys
Top 30 Prospects (according to mlb.com): Alex Wells #8, Cody Sedlock #9, Michael Baumann #12, Zac Lowther #14, Jomar Reyes #17, Matthias Dietz #24, Randolph Gassaway #25, Preston Palmeiro #29
Pitching, pitching, pitching. Frederick has a few names Orioles fans may want know, in Alex Wells, Michael Baumann, and Zac Lowther. Wells was awarded Orioles Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors in 2017 and both Baumann and Lowther have established that they can dominate the lower levels of the minors. Wells was known last year for his masterful control, but this year has been a slightly different story. He has issued 24 walks in 80 innings, which isn’t horrendous, but coupled with 93 hits and a .292 batting average against, he is definitely experiencing a sophomore slumps of sorts. The changeup is his best pitch, with his fastball only topping out at about 90.
The O’s went with a University of Jacksonville player in the 3rd Round in consecutive drafts in 2016 and 2017, and the latter was Michael Baumann. Baumann is said to have a durable frame with a fastball that has touched 97. Meeting just a few struggles since he’s hit High-A ball, Baumann should be just fine moving forward.
Zac Lowther may be the prospect that intrigues me most. Lowther has had strikingly similar numbers moving from Delmarva to Frederick. However, at Delmarva, Lowther held a 14.8 K/9, and at Frederick the strikeout numbers aren’t quite as dominant (8.4). Lowther, though, was a college pitcher and has a chance to not only move up the Orioles prospect rankings, but has a good chance to move through the system fairly quickly if he continues this dominance.
Frederick has some promise on the pitching side, but their offensive prospects aren’t near the cream of the crop of the organization.
Overall Grade: B-
Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds
Top 30 Prospects (according to mlb.com): DL Hall #4, Brenan Hanifee #7, Cameron Bishop #13, Mason McCoy #23, *Cadyn Greiner NR
Even more pitching….Delmarva has last year’s 1st Rounder DL Hall, who has impressed so far and other pitchers Brenan Hanifee and Cameron Bishop. Recent College World Series champion and elite defensive shortstop Cadyn Greiner will report directly to Delmarva, forgoing both the GCL and Aberdeen. The Shorebirds recently graduated Dietz, Baumann, Zac Lowther, or they would have gotten my first A grade.
The Shorebirds also have a few other notable names: Kirvin Moesquit, Ryan Ripken, and Zach Jarrett (son of NASCAR’s Dale). This squad is also coached by Zach Britton’s brother, Buck. Overall, this team has promise and reinforcements coming from this year’s draft.
Overall Grade: B-
Single-A Aberdeen Ironbirds
Top 30 Prospects (according to mlb.com): Adam Hall #16, Gray Fenter #19
ITCHY XU IS ON THIS TEAM! My apologies for my excitement, but I root for guys like him. Not too many names of note on this team besides those Top 30 prospects in Hall and Fenter. I fully expect 2018 1st Round Pick Grayson Rodriguez to be there in a couple of weeks, but not quite yet. Blaine Knight, their 3rd Rounder, may be there too once he signs. But as of right now, not a wealth of talent.
Overall Grade: D
Top 30 Prospects (according to mlb.com): Lamar Sparks #18, *Grayson Rodriguez NR
The GCL is the rookie ball affiliate, used for young players just drafted and for others requiring more development. O’s 1st Round Pick Grayson Rodriguez is on this team along with draft picks Drew Rom and Yeancarlos Lleras. Dariel Alvarez is rehabbing there as a pitcher…remember him?
Overall Grade: C (considering the talent level for Rookie Ball)
In general, I actually like the Orioles system more than the industry consensus. With that being said, I would not consider it even a Top 15 system. As the July trades trickle in, and if the Orioles decide to go full rebuild, that may change. The Orioles actually have a good amount of young arms, and like they say, “Have 10 good pitching prospects, produce two.” In Duquette….we trust?
*Neither Cadyn Greiner nor Grayson Rodriguez are ranked, but when the prospect rankings are updated, I fully expect them to be in the Orioles Top 30
(That’s one of my favorite pictures of Manny Machado, via our awesome photographer Craig Landefeld. It’s old, but I don’t know how many more chances I’ll get to use it. So enjoy it with me one last time.)
It’s July 3, and the Orioles haven’t lost a game yet this month. They’ve only played one, sure, but we’ll take literally any tiny victory we can get these days.
The international signing period began yesterday, and you won’t believe this, but…the Orioles are the only eligible* team that has yet to sign a single international prospect.
Let’s start there, shall we? Here’s the money quote from the above article, written by The Sun’s Eddie Encina: “The decision to pass on investing in the international market, specifically the robust Latin American market, has been a long-established decree from managing partner Peter G. Angelos, a decision made because past investments internationally didn’t bear fruit.”
Please remember that as you break out the pitchforks for Dan Duquette over the lack of international spending.
This piece, from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, is behind a paywall. However, you can read the first few paragraphs for a glimpse into the continuing dysfunction of the Baltimore Orioles.
“A team that reaches a tentative agreement with Dan Duquette…might be at only step one of the process. One industry person familiar with the Orioles’ operation says any club negotiating with Duquette will also need to be in contact with Brady Anderson…”
Mike Petriello of MLB.com says that the Arizona Diamondbacks should go all in and get Manny. That is, of course, if they can navigate the obstacle course that getting a deal done with the Orioles entails.
Here’s let’s try to end on somewhat of a high note. Kevin Gausman has been his second-half self in the first half this season. That’s a good thing! Matt Kremnitzer of Camden Depot explains how Gausman has seemingly especially picked things up since altering his windup in May.
On a blistering Sunday afternoon, the Baltimore Orioles’ bats were just as hot and snapped a seven-game losing streak with an 8-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
Mark Trumbo powered the offense, hitting two of the team’s four home runs. Manny Machado and Trey Mancini also homered for the Orioles, who won for just the second time in 19 games at Camden Yards.
Kevin Gausman continued to build on his last four outings where he had allowed 8 earned runs in 24.1 IP (2.96 ERA) to drop his season ERA to 4.20. He was stellar against the Angels, allowing two runs and six hits with two strikeouts and no walks over eight innings. Gausman threw 73 of 104 pitches for strikes in a dominating performance.
The Orioles knocked around former first round pick Deck McGuire, who was making his first start of the season in his seventh game (third with Angels), and just the third big league start of his career. McGuire allowed five runs and five hits with four strikeouts and two walks over just 3 1/3 innings.
McGuire found some success in the Cincinnati Red’s minor league system in 2017, going 9-9 with a 2.79 ERA in 28 appearances (27 starts). That success led the McGuire’s Major League debut, after which he put up solid numbers for the Reds, albeit a small sample size, going 1-1 with a 2.63 ERA in six games (two starts) covering 13.2 IP.
McGuire was granted free agency in the offseason and spent time in the organizations of both Texas and Toronto before catching on with the Angels in June.
The Angels started quickly against Gausman when Kole Calhoun led off the game with a double down the right field line. After Mike Trout popped to short, Calhoun advanced to third on a fly ball to centerfield off the bat of Justin Upton before scoring on a two-out single by Albert Pujols.
Gausman then settled down, throwing just seven pitches to get through the second inning.
The Orioles’ offense was quiet until the fourth inning. Adam Jones led the inning off with an infield single after Kinsler lost a pop-up in the sun. Machado then hit a 398-foot missile into the stands to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead.
Trumbo followed Machado to the plate and promptly homered to right, barely clearing the out-of-town scoreboard in the process after the ball caromed off the railing on top of the wall. McGuire, visibly shaken after allowing back-to-back home runs, fell behind Chris Davis 3-0 before Davis got the green light on a 94 MPH fastball and doubled off the wall in right.
After a wild pitch moved Davis over the third, Chance Sisco walked and Mike Scioscia came out of the dugout to make a pitching change in favor of Hansel Robles, who then allowed an RBI double to Steve Wilkerson and an two-run single to Tim Beckham. Adam Jones, the inning’s tenth batter, struck out to end the frame, but not before six runs had crossed to leave the Orioles with a 6-1 lead.
Gausman’s efficiency continued in the fifth inning as the righty needed just nine pitches to retire the Angels offense in order. Machado led off the bottom half of the inning with a ground ball into the five-hole that shortstop Simmons made a fine backhanded play and throw on to retire Machado by half a step.
Then the fireworks started back up.
Trumbo got ahead in the count 3-1 and then dropped an absolute bomb to left-centerfield for his second home run of the game, this one traveling an estimated 444 feet. Davis followed with a deep fly out to left which Upton caught up against the fence before Mancini hit his 11th home run of the season into left-center that provided an 8-1 margin.
Gausman allowed a two-out home run to Calhoun in the top of the 8th inning before striking out Mike Trout to end the inning.
Miguel Castro closed out the ninth and the Orioles salvages what otherwise would have been a winless home stand. The team starts a brief two-game series in Philadelphia on Monday before heading to Minnesota for a four-game series.
The Birds return home on July 9 to begin an eight-game home stand with a doubleheader against the Yankees that will take them into the All-Star break.
— INF Corbin Joseph cleared waivers and was outrighted to Double-A Bowie prior to the game.
— Machado’s and Trumbo’s back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning marked the fifth such occurrence on the season for the Orioles, and the first since Trumbo and Danny Valencia did it on June 17.
— When Trumbo homered in the fifth inning, it marked his 13 th career multi-homer game, and his first this season.
— The Oriole scored six runs in the fourth inning after scoring five runs in their previous three games. As MASN’s Steve Melewski noted on Twitter, the Orioles had scored six runs in a game just five times the previous 32 games.
–After going winless against the American League in June and 0-for-the-season against the AL West, the Orioles picked up a win in both categories on July 1.
The Orioles got swept by the Seattle Mariners. Their 4-2 loss on Thursday is their 57th to-date, and the Os have secured themselves a nice cozy spot at the very bottom of the well that is the AL East. Buck and the crew are laying at the bottom, looking up. But the well is so deep that they don’t even see a ring of light at the top, and there is no Lassie to alert rescuers of their plight.
A Disappointing Season
To say that the Orioles’ 2018 campaign has been disappointing is an understatement. I had high hopes for Baltimore this season. Not to win the pennant, but to fight for a playoff spot; to be in the mix. At this point in the season, it is safe to say that they might be the most disappointing team in the league.
And news abounds on Adam Jones potentially leaving. Manny Machado is on the trading block as well. Zach Britton could go, but his stock is plummeting, so how much can we get? Then, to keep in mind with all of this is that there is a silver lining. From here, especially if the Os have a Marlins-like fire-sale, the only place to go is up.
So What Can We Do?
For starters, Chris Davis needs to pull out of his slump. The Orioles organization is so heavily invested in him that they can’t just throw him out. How does this happen? The squad was projected to have one of the most powerful hitting seasons in history, yet we’ve only managed 94 ding-dongs. Is it Scott Coolbaugh’s fault? Do we fire him? I mean, it isn’t just Chris Davis who isn’t producing; it’s the entire team. We are at the bottom of the league in just about every offensive category that you don’t want to be bottom in.
Do we continue to pull our hair out at what seems to be poor management decisions? No, we turn lemons into lemonade and have a little fun … especially now that it is sweltering hot.
A Little Bit of Fun
When we check top sites like Heritage Sports, we see that the Os are +500,000 to win the AL. Ok, so that is 5000 to 1 and totally worth a 1 dollar bet that would pay you $5000 if the Orioles just happened to have the most glorious comeback in sports history.
And if the Orioles’ Slide continues, we can make a little bit of money at their expense. If we are going to be bummed out about our team, we might as well make a few bucks in the meantime. For example, the Angles are -140 to win the weekend series against the Orioles. Those are surprisingly good odds, considering the Orioles have not beaten an AL team in how long … over a month?
We can also make the Orioles games more interesting by picking Run Line spots to spice things up. Like, on Wednesday. The Orioles put forth a valiant 8-7 effort against the Mariners. If we had taken the Orioles on the Run Line, which is to keep the game within 1.5 runs, the Orioles would have been winners in our eyes on that day.
We’ll have plenty more to worry about during the trade deadline and the offseason, so for now, let’s just do whatever we can to make this bearable. And not let the Os’ woes get us down.
Manny Machado – Awesome but his value is completely tied up in what he can bring back in a trade. If the dysfunctional Front Office can figure that out. Otherwise he’s just leaving in free agency for nothing. I’m getting pissed off now.
Third base – Now I’m going to start getting really angry.
Corner OF – Trumbo? Mancini? I mean you know the Orioles are starting two DH’s who are not really good hitters at the corner OF spots? Right?
CF – Adam Jones has been a great representative of the team and the city. He isn’t a center fielder anymore. He’s still a productive major leaguer (though he’s having quite a power outage recently). He is playing hard. He’s trying. But here we are.
C – Yeah. A disaster.
SP – Dylan Bundy is actually good. Kevin Gausman? He could be good. Otherwise it’s a tire fire.
RP – Here’s the thing. Other than the freaks, relief pitchers have a short shelf life and the Orioles have sat too long on their assets.
It’s going to be a long cold lonely winter. The Orioles have no leadership and no assets. They are 23-57 which is historically bad.
A few months ago, I said that it’s really hard to only win 60 games.
Now I’m wondering how the Orioles even get to that level.
After getting swept by the Mariners for the first time in a four-game series, the Orioles will conclude their home stand by hosting the Angels for a three-game set over the weekend.
The Orioles (23-57) are trying to snap another five-game losing streak in tonight’s series opener. It’s the seventh time they’ve lost five in a row during the first half of 2018. With a 6-18 record during the month of June, the O’s will also be looking to avoid their second 20-loss month.
The Angels (41-41) come into town on a six-game losing streak after getting swept by the Red Sox at Fenway. As a result, Los Angeles will be looking to get their season back on track after hitting a lengthy rough patch. They’ve gone just 4-13 over their last 17 ball games and find themselves 10 games out of the wild card picture.
Hess took the loss after allowing five runs on seven hits over just four innings in his last start against the Braves, and he will be looking to find his rhythm against the Halos. He’s allowed 15 runs over his last 12 innings pitched and owns an 8.00 ERA through four starts in June.
Pena did not get a decision in his last start against Toronto after allowing three runs on eight hits over five innings. The former Cubs prospect will be looking for his first win of the season in just his third start on the year against the Orioles. Pena was thrust into the rotation after Garrett Richards went on the DL with a hamstring injury.
Cashner pitched well enough to win yet again after allowing three runs on four hits over six innings against the Mariners, but took the no-decision in the Orioles eventual loss. Cashner owns an impressive 3.68 ERA over 22 innings combined through his four starts in June, but doesn’t have a win to show for it.
Skaggs took a tough-luck loss during his last outing in Kansas City after allowing just a single run over seven innings, but will look to stay in red-hot form at Camden Yards. Over his last seven starts, he’s gone 3-3 with an outstanding 2.30 ERA over 43 innings. Through four starts in June, he’s went 3-1 with a microscopic 0.67 ERA over 27 innings combined.
Gausman took the no-decision despite allowing just one run over six innings in his last start against the Mariners, and has been steadily returning to form. He’s posted a sparkling 2.96 ERA over 24 1/3 innings combined during his last four outings, but doesn’t have a win to show for all of his hard work.
Acquired on June 19 from the Rangers, McGuire will be making his first start as an Angel on Sunday. The former Blue Jays prospect allowed three runs over four innings during his last appearance as a reliever in Boston on June 26, and will be hoping for a better result against the Orioles.
I dunno, guys. I keep saying there’s no bottom, and the Orioles just keep proving me right. Did you know that they have now lost 14 straight games against American League teams, and haven’t beaten an AL team since May 25, over a calendar month ago? Seems impossible right? I assure you, it’s not…not for these Birds.
These Birds, who have now managed to surpass even the 1988 Orioles in ineptitude!
The 2018 Orioles are now 23-56. The 1988 Orioles through as many games were 24-55. This team is bad.
Chris Davis was good in his first game back from his benching, walking and hitting a home run. The next game, he hit a bases-loaded double. After that, he was awful again. But last night, he hit the go-ahead three-run home run onto Eutaw Street in the bottom of the eighth inning. It was awesome!
Unfortunately, we’re not allowed to have ANY FUN this season, so Zach Britton got exactly zero outs before the Mariners tied the game in the ninth with a homer of their own.
Bob Nightengale says the Los Angeles Dodgers are the frontrunners for Manny Machado. Perhaps the Anaheim Angels will enter the bidding, as Zach Cozart just hit the DL for an extended period. The guess here is that Pete wants Manny representing the Birds at the All-Star Game, so nothing will happen until at least then, if not longer.
A trio of pitchers who normally pitch out of the Tides bullpen combined for 12 strong innings during a four-game series against the Gwinnett Stripers, helping Norfolk kick off what could be the most important homestand of the year by sweeping all four games. Pedro Alvarez had five RBIs in three games, including a walk-off two run double in the tenth inning of the series finale.
TIDES SEASON TO DATE
The Tides (40-35, 2nd in the IL South through Wednesday) returned home on Monday after stumbling their way through a six-game road trip with a record of 1-5. On Wednesday morning, three Tides – outfielder D.J. Stewart, third baseman Drew Dosch, and pitcher Jimmy Yacabonis – were selected for July 11th’s AAA All-Star Game in Columbus, OH.
The four-game set against the Stripers began a grueling homestand in which Norfolk will play ten games over nine days, including four against the division-leading Durham Bulls.
Wotherspoon, Rodriguez, and Love each threw four innings and allowed a total of two runs while striking out thirteen Stripers hitters. Wotherspoon and Rodriguez started the second and third games of the series, respectively, – even though both traditionally pitch out of Norfolk’s bullpen. Love, a 26-year-old lefty, recorded the win on Tuesday night in relief after being called up to AAA for the first time in his career.
INDIVIDUAL GAME RECAPS
Tides 4, Gwinnett 1 (7 innings, game 1 of a doubleheader)
Asher Wojciechowski battled through five innings – allowing baserunners in each frame but managing to hold the Stripers to just one run – as the Tides took game one of Monday’s doubleheader by a 4-1 score.
The Norfolk offense played small ball to push across the first run of the evening in the bottom of the third. Adrian Marin doubled to lead off the inning, slapping a ground ball down the third base line and into left field. Cedric Mullins then dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move him to third and Steve Wilkerson lifted a sacrifice fly to plate Marin.
Gwinnett tied the game in the top of the fourth when former mega-prospect Ronald Acuna (playing with the Stripers as part of his major-league rehab assignment) lined a two-out RBI single to left field. He has been sidelined from the major leagues since May 27 with a sprained ACL.
The Tides retook the lead in the bottom half of the inning after Joey Rickard’s one-out single sparked a rally. Garabez Rosa followed Rickard with a line drive double to put runners at second and third and Andrew Susac walked to load the bases. The next hitter, Ruben Tejada, hit a chopper back to the mound that pitcher Miguel Socolovich couldn’t handle, allowing Rickard to score.
A bases-loaded walk from Mullins and another sacrifice fly by Wilkerson added two important insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth, pushing the score to 4-1.
Ryan Meisenger pitched a scoreless sixth inning in relief of Wojciechowski and Jhan Marinez worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh for his ninth save.
Tides 7, Gwinnett 4 (7 innings, game 2 of a doubleheader)
A terrific start by Matt Wotherspoon and three first-inning runs helped propel the Tides to a doubleheader sweep on Monday night.
Mullins singled to left field to open the bottom of the first and eventually came around to score the game’s first run on a passed ball. Drew Dosch followed with a two-run double to give the Tides an early 3-0 lead.
The Tides added another run to their lead in the second inning after yet another sacrifice fly from Wilkerson and made it a 5-0 game in the fourth-inning on a home run by D.J. Stewart.
Wotherspoon, making just his third start of the season, struck out seven hitters and yielded one hit in four scoreless innings.
Andrew Faulkner threw a scoreless fifth inning in relief but ran into trouble in the sixth, allowing the first four hitters of the inning to reach while walking in a run. Paul Fry entered the game with the bases loaded and no outs and would surrender three runs, all credited to Faulkner, before tight roping out of danger with a one-run lead.
Interestingly, Gwinnett summoned catcher Rob Brantly to pitch the sixth inning with the score still 5-4 Tides. Brantley gave up two runs on RBI hits from Alvarez and Chance Sisco while throwing the majority of his pitches within the 55-60 mph range.
Lefty D.J. Snelten tossed a scoreless seventh to seal the win for Norfolk.
Tides 3, Gwinnett 2
For the second straight game, the Tides received a strong pitching performance from a spot starter and used it to squeak past Gwinnett by a 3-2 score on Tuesday night.
Joely Rodriguez – making his first start since 2015 on account of the Orioles’ promotion of the evening’s scheduled starter, Jimmy Yacabonis – tossed four innings of one run ball.
Wilkerson blasted a solo home run into the bullpen in right field in the bottom of the first to give the Tides a 1-0 lead.
Rodriguez allowed just one hit through the first three innings, but got into trouble in the top of the fourth after Rio Ruiz floated a bloop single into left field to score Michael Reed, who had doubled to lead off the inning. He finished the fourth inning having struck out three while walking none.
Reed came back to haunt the Tides again in the sixth when he lifted a fastball from newly-promoted lefty Reid Love that barely cleared the right field wall for a home run. Love managed to escape the inning without any further damage.
Wilkerson led off the bottom half of the sixth with a double and Stewart followed with a walk. With two outs, Alvarez hit a fly ball to right field that Gwinnett’s Dustin Peterson appeared to lose in the lights (though it was scored a double). Alvarez’s hit plated both Wilkerson and Stewart and allowed the Tides to retake the lead.
Love remained on to pitch the seventh and eighth innings and retired all six hitters he faced. He finished his AAA debut having thrown four innings out of the bullpen while striking out three and allowing only one run en route to earning the win. Meisenger pitched a scoreless ninth for his first save of the season.
GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld
Tides 6, Gwinnett 5 (10 innings)
Alvarez emerged as the hero of the series finale by belting a walk-off, two-run double with two outs in the tenth inning as the Tides swept Gwinnett on Wednesday afternoon.
Means retired the first six batters he faced in order, but the Stripers offense used four hits in the third inning to take a 3-0 lead. The Tides answered immediately in the bottom half of the third, using a pair of doubles by Ruben Tejada and Mullins as well as a seeing-eye single from Rickard to close the deficit to 3-2.
Means and Gwinnett’s Michael Mader each put up zeroes on the mound in the fourth and fifth innings before Alvarez lined a base hit to right field in the bottom of the sixth to score Mullins and tie the game at 3.
The game remained tied until the tenth inning, when the Stripers scored twice off Tides reliever D.J. Snelten on a walk and a wild pitch. Not to be outdone, however, the Tides’ Adrian Marin doubled home Renato Nunez to begin the inning (thanks to the new MiLB rule that starts every extra inning with a runner at second base). After Mullins and Rickard were retired, things began to look bleak with two outs and Marin, the would-be tying run, still stranded on second base.
A walk by Stewart extended the inning for Pedro Alvarez, who then smashed a line drive to center field for a double that scored both Marin and Stewart and somehow sent the Tides home with a wild 6-5 victory, a series sweep, and the club’s fourth straight win.
This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. As of last year, I cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver/Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.
1. When I woke up this past Sunday morning and heard about a weekend column by The Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck, my eyes glazed over. Schmuck took to writing about rumors that the Orioles could be relocated, and it made me very skeptical at first.
Let’s be clear that there is no validity to these rumors, and Schmuck does a good job of dispelling them throughout the piece. But anytime you talk about a team moving in the city of Baltimore, ears perk up. The largest issue surrounding these rumors, and I hesitate even giving them the validity to call them that, remains the ongoing MASN dispute with the Washington Nationals. No one knows how that is going to turn out. But if it turns out poorly for the Orioles, it really would reshape how the franchise looks and operates.
Many want to blame the Orioles for being cheap despite raking in a ton of money through their network, but the franchise has been far from frugal in recent years. This season, they rank 14th in MLB payroll and just over $5-million above the league average. While that’s down from the past few years, the O’s were up in the top-ten in spending just last season. They haven’t been cheap, they’ve just spent their money poorly.
The other slightly eyebrow-raising factor in all of this is the team’s lease at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which is up in a few years. The city is going to do everything it needs to keep the team in one of the most pristine ballparks in the game. But how long that next lease runs for will be something I pay attention to. Fans will probably want to hear something from Peter Angelos’ sons about these rumors, but that likely isn’t coming soon.
Schmuck’s piece cited a “no comment” from ownership, so right now, that’s all we have to go on.
2. Elsewhere on the non-Manny Machado rumor mill, we have managerial candidates galore. Remember that Buck Showalter is still in place as the O’s skipper, but there are still plenty of names being thrown out there as potential replacements. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports this week threw out a few names that got fans all twisted. The one that seems to have generated the most fervor is Bill Ripken. Heyman shot down the notion of Ripken leaving MLB Network to take the job, and also shut down speculation around Rick Dempsey and Mike Bordick as well. In fact, Bordick himself shot down the rumors in an interview with Glenn Clark Radio earlier this week.
I think one thing is pretty safe to say – Showalter is sticking around for now. If the Orioles are going to make a change in the dugout, or in the front office for that matter, they are going to wait until the offseason. That gives them a much wider pool of potential replacements to choose from. Fans will be uncomfortable with Dan Duquette being in charge of the front office leading up to the trade deadline in about a month, but truthfully Brady Anderson is going to be heavily involved there. In fact, in a separate interview with Pressbox’s Clark, Heyman noted that he wouldn’t rule out one of Showalter or Duquette coming back but it would be “up to Brady and the (Angelos) brothers.”
That’s very telling to me as to how much of an influence Anderson has, and how much he’ll have going forward. When it comes to Ripken, I don’t really know what to make of speculation that he could be in the mix. We’ve also heard rumors in the past that Showalter wants more of a front office role, so perhaps a Ripken/Showalter duo could work in some way.
Regardless, I don’t see any of this being resolved for a few months. Until then, it’s just a matter of getting through the trade deadline and getting as much return as possible on current assets.
3. Dylan Bundy is on the disabled list because of a sprained ankle he suffered running the bases last weekend in Atlanta. That’s right, running the bases in an interleague game. Buck Showalter isn’t happy about it, and I can’t imagine anyone wishing to watch Bundy pitch this week is either. In the long run, this doesn’t seem to be a big deal. Bundy is expected back next week at some point, missing only one start or so.
But make no mistake that the designated hitter is going to plow its way into the National League soon. In fact, ESPN’s Buster Olney said this week he believes it’ll happen within the next 3-5 years. Growing up watching the Orioles, I am obviously more keen to the idea of the DH. But I also like the strategy of the NL game. The double switch, pinch hitting, and even bunting in the right situation is and has always been part of the game. I don’t mind it. It evokes more strategy and even gets the ball put in play a bit more in this day and age of the three true outcomes.
But it’s also completely silly that MLB has two different leagues that play by two different sets of rules. Can you imagine if in the NFL, teams in the AFC got three points for a field goal while teams in the NFC only got two? Or if the rim was at a different height in the NBA’s Western Conference compared to the Eastern Conference? These examples may seem a bit extreme to some, but it really is a different game with a different set of rules.
Interleague play has been going on since 1997, and frankly, the idea of a pitcher hitting should’ve died at the same time. This isn’t even about Bundy, either. He wants to continue hitting in NL parks, and honestly he’ll have to until this rule is changed.
My best guess is that once MLB expands to 32 teams (another thing that is coming in the near future), they’ll adopt a universal DH as well. It’s time for the game to get a little more universal.
4. I feel like it has to be a part of one of these columns each year, so let’s do it here. Heck, it’ll probably be the last time I have to do it. Manny Machado isn’t a good baserunner, and that’s okay. Machado dogged it on Tuesday night on a double-play groundout, and eventually apologized for it. He got a wrist slap of a tongue-lashing in the media from his manager, and that’s that.
I’ve heard everything under the sun about Machado’s baserunning. I’ve actually had people tell me that they are happy he won’t be with the Orioles much longer because of it. They say they wouldn’t pay him a lot of money in a long-term contract because of it. Folks tell me it’s plays like the one Machado made (or didn’t make) the other night that is the reason the Orioles are so awful.
All of those folks are insane and should be checked on immediately.
Machado can be a great player and not a great baserunner. It’s possible. Whenever Machado departs (and if “USA Today’s” Bob Nightengale is right, it looks like that may be to the Dodgers, some Orioles fans are sure to boo him whenever he makes his way back to Baltimore. It’s the same thing they did when Mike Mussina left for a big contract with the Yankees. It’s all foolish.
People who think Machado won’t be a huge loss for the O’s are forgetting that this 23-56 team would likely have half that number of wins without him.