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. It was one of the most under-reported – or at least under-scrutinized – moves the Orioles made this offseason.
Frankly, no one really batted an eye at it, because it seemed so commonplace. The Orioles actually have three Rule 5 picks on their 25-man roster. They figured they could get away with it, and why wouldn’t they?
There hasn’t been nearly enough criticism of such a move, in my opinion.
To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about it in such a way until this past week. The Orioles have been good at “hiding” Rule 5 players in the past, but when you’ve got three of them, they are bound to play. That reared its ugly head on Tuesday when Nestor Cortes Jr. and Pedro Araujo were big parts in the 10-6 loss to the Astros.
How do you hide two bullpen arms among a relief staff that is already missing its closer? It can’t happen. The Kansas City Royals are the only other team in baseball that has multiple Rule 5 picks on their roster, and both of theirs are bullpen arms, too. The difference? The Royals aren’t pretending to be contenders this year. They know they are in re-build mode.
The O’s are supposed to be going for it. That’s what they’ve presented to the fanbase. The bottom line is that the Orioles have never been able to strike gold in the Rule 5 draft. It’s never been something that’s necessary. The roster spots are too valuable to just be given away to players who belong in Single-A.
Perhaps Anthony Santander will turn out to be something. Perhaps he won’t. When the best thing the O’s have ever gotten out of the Rule 5 draft is Ryan Flaherty, it’s probably time to find a new approach.
2. The experiment of placing Chris Davis in the leadoff spot has generated a ton of talk over the last week, and rightfully so. It’s an interesting conversation that would be going so much differently if Davis had done ANYTHING worth talking about in the first few games. The thing is, he hasn’t. He has looked abysmal at the dish and therefore the idea of having him in the leadoff spot looks foolish.
But in principal, it’s not the worst idea. The bigger issue surrounding the leadoff spot for the O’s is that they don’t have a true leadoff hitter, and are therefore forced to make these kinds of decisions. The Orioles didn’t go out and get a player that could improve their on-base percentage, just like they haven’t done in past years. That’s the biggest issue.
In the past it’s been Adam Jones or Manny Machado leading off. Yesterday, when Davis got an off day, it was Tim Beckham in that spot. If Davis is going to continue to struggle at the plate and strike out at the rate he has, he’ll be pushed down in the order quickly.
But the idea of having him at the top isn’t bad, as long as he’s getting on base. Right now, that’s a lot to ask.
3. When the Orioles signed outfielder Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal the other day, I thought to myself, “that’s a silly move.” Then, I realized, he’s probably better than Colby Rasmus. Saunders goes into the mix in the minors with Jaycob Brugman and Alex Presley as potential replacements for Rasmus, who appears lost after time away from the game.
GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld
Saunders is also a lefty, which helps in working his way into Baltimore’s right-handed heavy lineup. But truthfully, if the Orioles are going to run out of a bunch of re-treads in right field, why wouldn’t they just give the spot over to someone like Austin Hays and see what happens? At this point, what could it hurt? D.J. Stewart is also down in Norfolk along with Joey Rickard, but Hays is the player many in the organization believe has real potential as a corner outfielder.
4. Finally, in this week’s Thursday Thoughts, a quick word on unwritten rules. I have one real rule when it comes to unwritten rules: if you want your unwritten rule to be followed, get it to a point where it’s a “written” rule. What many members of the Twins tried to pull off earlier this week was embarrassing. It wasn’t just embarrassing for players like Brian Dozier and Jose Berrios, but it was a black eye for baseball. There should be no penalty, real or otherwise, for trying to win a game. I don’t care if it’s 7-0, 17-0 or 27-0.
Chance Sisco did the right thing, and everyone knows it. Everyone except a few members of the Twins. You’ll notice that Twins skipper Paul Molitor (one of my personal favorite ballplayers of all-time) even passed on really going in on Sisco. “Some of those unwritten rules of the game are not black and white,” Molitor told the Star Tribune. The manager added, “He did what he thought was right.”
Correct, Sisco thought trying to get on base in any way he could to help his team start a rally was “right” in that scenario, so he did. What was refreshing about the whole fiasco was that both the media and majority of Twins fans didn’t take the bait on this one. Both national and Minnesota media didn’t really see the beef the Twins had, and even their supporters found it a bit confusing.
The only way this becomes a real issue is if the Twins try to create fireworks when the O’s visit Target Field in early July. That’s when everyone will have to pay attention, and that’s also why baseball is both the most wonderful and dumbest game on the planet.