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.
— Angels (@Angels) July 18, 2018
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.