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.