2012-05-13T10:58:45ZAs the Orioles prepare to open the 2011 season against the Rays tonight in Tampa, I've decided to resume blogging here after a few years of inactivity. Yes, I'm still an Orioles fan after all these years. I still follow... As the Orioles prepare to open the 2011 season against the Rays tonight in Tampa, I've decided to resume blogging here after a few years of inactivity. Yes, I'm still an Orioles fan after all these years. I still follow the outcome of every O's game, if not with the same obsessiveness that I did before, and I still hope (against my better judgment) that this will be the year they finally turn it around and return to contention. I plan to get some commentary and analysis here on a more or less weekly basis.
2010-12-15T20:05:51ZOn Opening Day, I find new reasons for optimism in Birdland. For most people the year begins in January, but for me there's nothing like the sense of renewal that baseball's Opening Day brings. The combination of the early signs of spring—flowers blooming, birds chirping—and the return of baseball fills me with optimism and the expectation of better days to come. For me, as for Thomas Boswell and baseball devotees everywhere, time begins on Opening Day. However, in the last few years my optimism began to fade as I realized that the Orioles were not getting better. Names and faces changed, but the team had become the epitome of baseball mediocrity, and I saw no signs of marked improvement on the horizon. My interest in the O's began to erode, and baseball fell behind in the competition for my attention. Damaging matters further were the revelations about steroid and human growth hormone use that disproportionately implicated current and former Orioles. Bottoms up This year, however, is different. True, on the field will be another losing team. Most rational observers think that the Orioles are going to be worse than last year, or even the last seven, with the betting market placing the over/under on the Orioles' 2008 win count at 65.5, the lowest of any MLB team. What's changed is that there's actually some reason for optimism with the new regime led by Andy MacPhail. Having hit rock bottom after a decade of losing, the Orioles have given up trying to field even a mediocre squad this year at the big-league level. With MacPhail in charge, they have aggressively begun to prune the roster to a core of talented youngsters from which to build an eventual contender. MacPhail has finally committed the club to all-out rebuilding, something his predecessor, Mike Flanagan, could not do in the last two years because doing so would have essentially confirmed that his work (with and without Jim Beattie) since 2003 had fallen short of the mark. MacPhail's first offseason was telling. Instead of signing mediocre free agents to plug gaps, MacPhail traded two of the team's best players, Erik Bedard and Miguel Tejada, receiving bundles of legitimate prospects and youngish spare parts in return. He also took steps toward improving the club's international scouting efforts, long an organizational weakness. Brian Roberts, arguably the team's best and most popular remaining player, reportedly is next in line to be shipped from the Warehouse if a suitable package of prospects comes along. Gibbons: the decline and fall The latest evidence that the organization has turned the page on its mediocrity-coddling ways is Sunday's release of Jay Gibbons and the $11.9 million remaining on his contract. Gibbons, a decent power hitter when healthy, was a popular player who wanted to stay in Baltimore at a time when top-tier free agents were shunning the O's. That, combined with the gaping lack of power hitters in the farm system, convinced the Orioles' brass that he was worth the risk of a contract extension in January 2006, the offseason before he was to become a free agent. But they were overly generous with the years (four) and the money ($21.1 million), and Gibbons smartly accepted the offer, which the Orioles now regret in light of his last two years, which were punctuated by injuries, poor performance, and his admitting to the use of human growth hormone. Unfortunately, the Gibbons contract was not an isolated case. Melvin Mora's extension (3 years, $24 million with a no-trade clause), signed in May 2006, had much in common with Gibbons's. Mora was a soon-to-be free agent, a local favorite with some good years behind him who wanted to stay in Baltimore, and there were no viable replacements for him ready to be promoted from the minors. But given his age (34 then), the Orioles should have anticipated a decline in his productivity and been a bit less generous or just allowed him to leave as a free agent. Also in the term of Flanagan and Jim Duquette were the free-agent signings of past-their-prime Kev[...]
2008-03-23T23:33:50ZHe's in. The announcement was so long expected that it came as no surprise, but yesterday, the word came that Cal Ripken Jr. was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility. The kudos are coming in from all over, so why not from here, too? Congratulations, Cal. You deserve it. Discussion of Ripken's voting results follows, along with some personal memories of Ripken's career. He's in. The announcement was so long expected that it came as no surprise, but yesterday, the word came that Cal Ripken Jr. was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility. The kudos are coming in from all over, so why not from here, too? Congratulations, Cal. You deserve it. In the headlines Close to home, the Baltimore Sun has given its local boy made good the special-edition treatment in its newspaper and on its web site. The Washington Post has a story by Dave Sheinin, who covered the late years of Ripken's career. And of course, with the annual Hall election results being a major national event, there are articles all over the Internet on the topic, but I'll leave you (and your search engine of choice) to find the ones that suit you. According to the voting results posted on the Hall's official site, Ripken was named on 537 of the 545 ballots cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). His total was five more than the 532 earned by the other enshrinee in this year's class, Tony Gwynn, and Ripken's vote percentage of 98.53% was the third highest in the history of the voting, narrowly trailing Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan's near-unanimous totals in 1992 and 1999, respectively. Ripken put up lots of impressive numbers in his playing career, and the Orioles' #8 is still putting them up even in retirement. Blankfaced Something about those vote totals makes me wonder, though, about another eight — I mean, the eight writers who submitted ballots without voting for Ripken. What were their reasons for not voting for him? And if they voted for anyone else, then who deserved to be in more than him? When, if ever, were they going to vote for him? (No, I'm not trying to channel Hillel's questions; it just turned out that way.) According to the Hall's news release, there were two blank ballots submitted this year. Apparently both were meant to draw attention to the so-called steroid era of the 1990s that has placed many players' accomplishments under a cloud of suspicion. One of the blank-ballot protesters was kind enough to reveal himself in his column: Paul Ladewski of the Daily Southtown in the Chicago area. In the face of uncertainty, Ladewski decided to do nothing. That is, not knowing who took performance-enhancing drugs and who didn't, he erred on the side of extreme caution by voting for no one, effectively making his the ballot to be named later: But tell me, except for the players themselves, who can say what they put into their bodies over the years with any degree of certainty? I mean, Hall of Fame hopeful Rafael Palmeiro swore under oath that he was innocent, right? The same Rafael Palmeiro who played with Ripken for five seasons, by the way. Palmeiro tested positive for steroid use during the 2005 season. Now let's suppose a player is voted into the Hall of Fame, then a short time later, a former teammate steps forward to Canseco him. And another. What to do then? Keep him there? Take him out? Drape black crepe over his plaque?.... Better one year too late than one year too soon, I say. I suppose that kind of logic is fine in ideal circumstances, but the world we live in often requires us to make decisions using imperfect information, and this is one of those cases. To date there has been no evidence that Ripken (or Gwynn, for that matter) did anything improper to enhance his playing ability — certainly no evidence that would challenge (let alone invalidate) his Hall-worthiness. That's not to say the next fifteen years (the maximum amount of time a pl[...]
2008-10-22T08:34:23ZHappened to see that the Texas Rangers designated ex-O Jerry Hairston Jr. for assignment today to make room on their forty-man roster. The Orioles' long recent stretch of futility has made it seem as if every personnel decision they have... Happened to see that the Texas Rangers designated ex-O Jerry Hairston Jr. for assignment today to make room on their forty-man roster. The Orioles' long recent stretch of futility has made it seem as if every personnel decision they have made has been wrong; whether it be a prospect or veteran, when they keep him he falls apart, when they let him go he blossoms. That's of course an exaggeration born of pessimism, but it's not far off. It's hard to be a losing team for nine straight seasons without making a lot of bad decisions. But Hairston? He's one of the few symbols of good (or lucky) decisionmaking by the Orioles. Hairston, of course, was one-half of the two second base prospects the Orioles had a few years ago, Brian Roberts being the other one. Hairston got a cup of coffee in 1998, played part time through the Delino DeShields "era," and became a regular in 2001, the same year Roberts appeared on the scene. And for four years, the Orioles couldn't make a decision. Finally they did last year, and they chose Roberts. And a good decision it was: Hairston was a part time player for the Cubs last year, was dumped early this year on the Rangers, and has now been shown the door after batting .206 for the season; his career is in serious jeopardy. Meanwhile, Roberts was an all-star and MVP candidate in 2005, and recovered from a horrific season-ending injury in 2005 to have a solid 2006. (Plus, he's bluish! (No relation to recently-acquired Adam Stern, who's Jewish.)) (The Orioles being the Orioles, and me being me, I can't let the above moment of praise pass without noting the caveat that if the Orioles had made a decision a year or two sooner on Hairston, they wouldn't have had to play this second baseman in the outfield and they might have been able to get more for him than the washed-up remains of Sammy Sosa's career. But that's water under the bridge; the important point is that they did make the right choice in keeping Brian Roberts.)
2007-11-28T19:12:40ZThe tide finally came in for the Orioles in their search for a new Triple-A affiliate. Or rather, the Tides came in, as in the Norfolk Tides of the International League. Yesterday, the Orioles agreed to a four-year player development... The tide finally came in for the Orioles in their search for a new Triple-A affiliate. Or rather, the Tides came in, as in the Norfolk Tides of the International League. Yesterday, the Orioles agreed to a four-year player development contract with the Tides, who replace the Ottawa Lynx atop Baltimore's farm system. The Lynx, as reported earlier, will switch their parent to the Philadelphia Phillies for next season before moving to Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 2008. Meanwhile, the Orioles' most advanced minor-leaguers will reside at the foot of the Chesapeake Bay from 2007 until at least 2010. Best for both worlds The Baltimore-Norfolk pact makes winners out of both teams financially and logistically, yet the pairing came as a surprise to many (including me). The Tides had been the Triple-A squad of the New York Mets since 1969, making for the second-longest affiliation in professional baseball, and little evidence of a rift emerged until the last few weeks. Norfolk officials recently said they had become disenchanted with the lack of attention shown them by the Mets' management, namely General Manager Omar Minaya and assistant general manager Tony Bernazard. But they had a far more compelling reason to end the relationship: namely, the ripe opportunity to associate with a geographically closer club, such as in Baltimore or Washington, that would offer better cross-marketing possibilities. The Mets' games once were viewable nationwide on cable TV superstation WWOR, but that has not been the case since 1995. So for Tides followers, keeping up with the parent club in New York had become difficult without a subscription to MLB Extra Innings. (The Mets also had a tendency to treat prospects as trade bait for more established players.) Meanwhile, the Orioles have had a media presence in the Norfolk area for years—this season, many Orioles games can be seen there on Comcast SportsNet and over the air on WSKY, and for the upcoming season, the Orioles are expected to make their MASN channel, with a full slate of Orioles and Nationals games, available on Cox, the main cable provider in the region. A key development came in July, when the Tides' president and part-owner, Ken Young, formed a partnership that purchased the three Oriole minor-league affiliates in Maryland—Low-A Delmarva, High-A Frederick, and Double-A Bowie—from Comcast-Spectacor. Consequently, it seemed to make business sense to align Triple-A Norfolk with Baltimore as well, although contractual rules prevented negotiations or public speculation from the two parties until this month. (Young has a lot on his plate. He is also president and partner of the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Florida Marlins' Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League; and of the Norfolk Admirals, a minor-league hockey team. Young's background is primarily in the recreational food business; currently he is president and part-owner of Ovations Food Services, which supplies concessions for entertainment venues across the country.) The Orioles, for their part, saw the many potential benefits of partnering with the Tides. For starters, the southern Virginia weather promises to be more hospitable to players and coaches than Ottawa's often snowy springs, and the elimination of Canadian border crossings should minimize customs and immigration holdups. Another big plus for the players is Norfolk's Harbor Park, which overlooks the Elizabeth River and has been called one of baseball's top minor-league stadiums since it opened in 1993. It was designed by HOK Sport not long after that company revolutionized the stadium business with Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and the brick facades of the two ballparks have a more than superficial rese[...]
2007-12-17T07:43:53ZSo, aside from Erik Bedard pitching yet another stellar game on Wednesday, the big news for the Orioles is that manager Sam Perlozzo is officially coming back in 2007, according to assistant general manager Jim Duquette. (Well, it's relatively big...
So, aside from Erik Bedard pitching yet another stellar game on Wednesday, the big news for the Orioles is that manager Sam Perlozzo is officially coming back in 2007, according to assistant general manager Jim Duquette. (Well, it's relatively big news. How much can you expect to get out of a team that's 20 games under .500 and 25 games out of first?)
I guess it's hard to blame Perlozzo too much for the team's poor performance this year; it's not as if this roster was projected (at least not by me) to be any better than this. And I guess there's something to be said for stability and continuity; shuffling managers every year is just a recipe for chaos and confusion, and without fixing the roster, what's the point? Still, a day after the Orioles clinched their ninth straight losing season, extending the worst streak since the St. Louis Browns moved east, it's not exactly a decision designed to fire up the fan base, now is it? And no matter what his excuses are, so far Perlozzo is hardly distinguishing himself in the annals of Orioles managerdom:
Manager W - L Pct Luman Harris 17 - 10 .630 Earl Weaver 1480 - 1060 .583 Davey Johnson 186 - 138 .574 Hank Bauer 407 - 318 .561 Joe Altobelli 213 - 168 .559 Johnny Oates 291 - 270 .519 Billy Hitchcock 163 - 161 .503 Phil Regan 71 - 73 .493 Paul Richards 517 - 539 .490 Ray Miller 157 - 167 .485 Lee Mazzilli 129 - 140 .480 Frank Robinson 230 - 285 .447 SAM PERLOZZO 86 - 114 .430 (Through Wednesday's game) Mike Hargrove 275 - 372 .425 Cal Ripken Sr. 67 - 101 .399 Jimmy Dykes 54 - 100 .351
Yes, that's right: for all the talk of Oriole improvement and a promising future, the team's record under Perlozzo is significantly worse than it was with his recent predecessors Lee Mazzilli and Ray Miller, and on par with Mike Hargrove's. (Gee, wouldn't it be nice if Peter Angelos hadn't run Davey Johnson out of town?) And if we're not going to blame Perlozzo, then I think it's time to start pointing fingers at the other culprits: Angelos, Duquette, and pitching-coach-turned-broadcaster-turned-pitching-coach-turned-broadcaster-turned co-general manager Mike Flanagan.
(Finally, for all you nitpickers, let me note that I know that the line "Play it again, Sam," was never actually said in Casablanca. Ask me if I care.)
2007-01-22T07:33:21ZOn January 21, the Orioles traded Jorge Julio and John Maine to the Mets for veteran pitcher and Jim Duquette pet Kris Benson. I disliked the trade at the time, feeling that it was yet another example of the Orioles... On January 21, the Orioles traded Jorge Julio and John Maine to the Mets for veteran pitcher and Jim Duquette pet Kris Benson. I disliked the trade at the time, feeling that it was yet another example of the Orioles knee-jerkedly seeking guaranteed mediocrity rather than taking a chance on actually developing talent, and I've been following the various players in the trade ever since Maine was called up by the Mets in mid-season. I had intended to blog on this point anyway, but this Question and Answer session in the Baltimore Sun today prompted me to do so now:Karl, Georgetown, Del.: Now that John Maine is a starting pitcher with the Mets, and considering his recent scoreless inning streak, do the O's have any second thoughts about having traded him away? Jeff Zrebiec: I don't think so Karl. I certainly haven't heard anybody from the organization express second thoughts.If I were the sort of person who were snarky, I'd note that having second thoughts require that a team have first thoughts, but since I'm not snarky, I won't say that.Kris Benson, who they got for Maine and Jorge Julio, has had his moments, and everybody from Leo Mazzone to Sam Perlozzo to Jim Duquette feel like the Orioles starter should probably have about 14 or 15 wins by now if not for some bad luck and bullpen mishaps. They also give him some of the credit for helping out with Erik Bedard.That's the sort of spin I expect from the front office; it's also the sort of lack of analytical thinking I expect from the local media, which so often uncritically parrots what the team tells it. Before I break that quotedown, though, I want to continue quoting, the part that really raised my blood pressure: Team officials projected Maine as a No.5 starter No.4 at best. He's obviously improved dramatically. I haven't seen that much of him, but he seems to have improved his velocity and is getting more movement on his fastball. I watched him in his starts with the club last year and he was extremely hittable. Obviously, you have to give him a lot of credit, but I can't imagine that he would have the same numbers if he were pitching in the American League, specifically in the A.L. East.Yes, and that's the whole point of having young players. They "improve dramatically." Not always, of course. But when you've got a 25-year old (Maine), he's a lot more likely to do so than a 31-year old (Benson). The Orioles never seem to realize that point, and what's worse, they never seem to care. Anyway, on to the numbers. First, let's just directly compare the players involved: Pitcher IP W-L-Sv ERA OAVG K/9 BB/9 WHIP9 K/BB IP/GSMaine 68.0 5-3-0 3.44 .206 6.75 2.51 9.26 2.68 6.18Benson 156.1 10-10-0 4.78 .281 4.14 2.82 12.43 1.47 6.01 Clear advantage: Maine. But wait a minute... the Orioles didn't just trade Maine; they traded Jorge Julio, too (who the Mets sent on to Arizona in mid-season). Julio hasn't been great, to be sure. But let's face it: when a team has the worst bullpen in the universe, does it matter? The Orioles have given a remarkable 364 innings to ten different pitchers whose ERAs this season are all over 6.00. Their collective ERA? 7.36. (Yes, some of those were starts, but really, is there any reason to quibble? Is there any doubt the Orioles could have used Jorge Julio in their bullpen?) Oh, and one final statistic here: 5,481,333. That -- five and a half million -- is the difference in salary between Benson's $8,333,333 and Maine and Julio's combined $2,852,000. But what about that excuse that Maine wouldn't be pitching as well in the AL East? Presumably, the argument is that the Orioles' AL East opponents a[...]
2010-07-12T00:37:22ZFor obvious reasons, I've been tracking the progress of Nick Markakis this year. And with the new month, it seemed like a good time to take a look back at his season so far. At the end of July --... For obvious reasons, I've been tracking the progress of Nick Markakis this year. And with the new month, it seemed like a good time to take a look back at his season so far. At the end of July -- a month in which Markakis had hit a stellar .403 to lead the majors for the month -- I noted how much he had brought up his seasonal totals after a lousy start. Well, shockingly, he managed to improve on that month, and bring up his numbers even more. There's no way to slice the numbers such that he doesn't look great, but here are a few interesting tidbits: His monthly OPS, April-August: 558, 667, 803, 999, 1140 (!) Breaking down his numbers, makes it really clear how much he improved every month. This chart shows his performance in April, and then his performance since April, allowing us to salivate at the thought of what would happen if he hadn't started off so slowly: April 2006 - 182/270/288 (558 OPS) May 1 - Aug. 31 - 340/394/531 (925 OPS) June 1 - Aug. 31 - 366/414/588 (1002 OPS) July 1 - Aug. 31 - 376/418/659 (1077 OPS) Aug. 1 - Aug. 31 - 354/400/740 (1140 OPS) Add it all up, and his seasonal totals are: 312/372/488. (What does the above chart mean? Essentially, he had a miserable April, and a mediocre May, which bring down his early numbers. As the season went on, he got better and better. Of course, those months count, but they illustrate that since he became acclimated to the majors -- remember, he had never played above AA ball before April of this year -- he has been on a complete tear.) At the end of July, I noted that while his month was great, I didn't think he was really a .400 hitter [way to go out on a limb, right?], so he needed to start walking and hitting for power in order to show that he was the real deal. Well, I was right: he isn't a .400 hitter; he hit "only" .354 in August. But he made up for this 50 point decline by doing exactly what I said he needed to do: start hitting for power. After having just 4 home runs all year, he hit 10 in August. Icing on the cake: it was his best month for doubles (he hit 7) also, so he was really driving the ball a lot more, not just converting a few doubles into homers. (Anybody who has been watching him this past month knows this, but it's sometimes easier to see concretely when you put it down in numbers.) Also nice: he didn't sacrifice walks for power; although he's hitting everything he sees, he still tied his best monthly walk total, with 8. (I'd still like to see a few more walks from him -- he's only on pace for about 40 for the year -- but if he continues to hit like he has, it won't matter.) For those who still care about archaic things like RBI, he practically doubled his seasonal total in August (29 before August, 26 in August alone), although moving up from 9th to 2nd (and now 3rd) in the lineup certainly didn't hurt in that respect. If he hadn't had that miserable April, he'd be one of the top, if not the top, rookie of the year candidates. Given how ridiculously hot he has been, he still has a chance, but it appears to me that many sportswriters form their impressions early in the year and don't rethink them, so we'll have to see. Of course, he still needs to keep it up in September. (Once the season is over, we'll take a look back and see where his rookie season stands among all-time Oriole rookie seasons.) As for where he stands on the Orioles: he's now second on the team in batting average, on base percentage, and slugging, all to Miguel Tejada. He's third in home runs with 14, behind Tejada (22) and Ramon Hernandez (16). There's a lesson here somewhere for the Orioles about having patience with younger players, I think[...]
2007-08-15T06:05:34ZAs some of you may have noticed, this site just upgraded its blog software, Movable Type, to version 3.31. We had been using 2.661. The new version has features that should improve your experience with the site and make things... As some of you may have noticed, this site just upgraded its blog software, Movable Type, to version 3.31. We had been using 2.661. The new version has features that should improve your experience with the site and make things easier for us to manage as well. Thanks to the people at Six Apart for making the latest version of Movable Type free for personal bloggers. We've also spiffed up the appearance of The Orioles Warehouse a little — and I stress a little. We have not demolished the old site and rebuilt it brick by brick. Consider it more like a new paint job. Inevitably, a few problems have cropped up amidst the changes. For example, many internal links to old entries do not work. Also, if you subscribe to the RSS feed, note that the feed address has changed (it's now index.xml, not index.rdf). We're fixing these issues as we encounter them, so if you notice something awry, let us know. Update (Aug. 27): The internal links problem has been solved, for the most part, by redirecting requests for old entries to their new locations.
2007-08-14T19:58:06ZIn the past two seasons, I've used the All-Star break as an opportunity to pause and take account of the Orioles' first half in statistical terms. This year, I've browsed through most of the pertinent numbers, and there isn't much to report that isn't already obvious to a casual observer. Nevertheless, I'll recap a few first-half team statistics and then add a few notes on individual players. In the past two seasons, I've used the All-Star break as an opportunity to pause and take account of the Orioles' first half in statistical terms. This year, I've browsed through most of the pertinent numbers, and there isn't much to report that isn't already obvious to a casual observer. Nevertheless, I'll recap a few first-half team statistics and then add a few notes on individual players. Stat recap That 41–49 won-lost record ain't lyin': the O's truly have been one of the worst teams in the American League this year. Indeed, the only AL team that played significantly beneath the Orioles' pre-ASB level was the comically hapless K.C. Royals. According to the Adjusted Standings at baseballprospectus.com, Baltimore's performance actually has been a bit worse than its won-lost record, after accounting for factors such as run differential, league- and park-adjusted offensive and defensive stats, and quality of competition. Here, the statistical evidence supports the standings. There is a clear dividing line in the AL East this year: Boston, Toronto, and New York are in a legitimate fight for the division crown, while several rungs below them, Baltimore and Tampa Bay are trying to avoid the ignominious odor of the cellar. The bats have been mediocre. At the break, the Orioles' rate of 4.84 runs scored per game was a smidgen below the league average of 5.05. (Home park adjustments didn't make much of a difference in the rankings.) In every significant offensive statistic, the O's fell in the middle of the pack or worse. The only positions on the O's that hit markedly better than the league average for their position were shortstop (Miguel Tejada) and catcher (Ramón Hernández); most of the others were in the lower third of the rankings in OPS. And the saddest thing is that none of the members of the starting lineup figures to improve much in the second half, except perhaps Nick Markakis. The pitching, supposedly the organization's long suit, has been appalling, and both the starting rotation and bullpen have blame to claim. The team ERA of 5.29 and RA/G of 5.57 (source: The Hardball Times) were both next to last in the AL, ahead of just the Royals. The staff currently leads the league in free passes issued (3.9 BB/G as calculated by THT) and has struck out batters at a below-average rate (5.9 K/G according to THT, compared to a league rate of 6.3). Add in a high rate of home runs allowed (1.3 HR/G; league mean: 1.14) and you have a group of arms that has lived up (or down) to its low ranking in nearly every way. The defense has been suspect. The team defensive efficiency of .688 was third-worst in the AL at the All-Star break, and most of the other fielding stats I've seen also indicate that Oriole glovework has been subpar, though not to an extreme. Individual highlights Tejada has continued to produce at the plate (.315 BA/.362 OBP/.510 SLG) and has played in every game despite several apparently minor ailments that shunted him to DH for a few games. New catcher Hernández has wielded a potent bat and lethal throwing arm (49% of opponents caught stealing). Corey Patterson, acquired for a relative pittance over the winter, showed off his tools in center field and on the basepaths and held his own on offense. Erik Bedard stayed healthy and was the team's best starter overall. After a rough patch from late April to early June, he pitched well in seven stra[...]
2007-06-15T12:18:01ZWhither the Lynx? To update a previous story: As was reported last year, the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate, the Ottawa Lynx, will move to Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 2008. But it appears that the Lynx will no longer be an Orioles farm... Whither the Lynx? To update a previous story: As was reported last year, the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate, the Ottawa Lynx, will move to Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 2008. But it appears that the Lynx will no longer be an Orioles farm team by then. Recent reports have confirmed that Ottawa's owners-in-waiting have decided to switch the Lynx's major-league parent to the Philadelphia Phillies as soon as this September. So in all probability the club will be a Phillies affiliate when it ultimately arrives in Allentown. Southern cross That means the Orioles must find a new franchise to be their Triple-A extension in 2007 and beyond. The most likely candidate to replace Ottawa is the Phillies' current Triple-A outpost, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons. The Red Barons are an International League club in northeastern Pennsylvania, about a four-hour drive from Baltimore. Lackawanna County, which owns the Barons, retains a Triple-A license and plans to keep a team in Lackawanna County Stadium for the foreseeable future. But the Orioles likely will face competition for the Red Barons from other major-league teams seeking a Triple-A club closer to home. Rival suitors for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre may include the Washington Nationals, whose AAA affiliate is in New Orleans; the New York Mets (AAA team in Norfolk, VA); and the Yankees (Columbus, OH). The Chicago White Sox (Charlotte, NC) also are a possibility. Out of the running for the Red Barons are the Pittsburgh Pirates, who recently renewed the contract with their Triple-A club in Indianapolis through 2008. Ditto for the Cleveland Indians (Buffalo, NY), Detroit Tigers (Toledo, OH), and Cincinnati Reds (Louisville, KY), all of whom have player development agreements through 2008. The Toronto Blue Jays (Syracuse, NY) and Boston Red Sox (Pawtucket, RI) already have Triple-A squads nearby, so they are unlikely to be in the hunt when their contracts come due at the end of the summer. (Player development contracts between a major-league franchise and a minor-league affiliate are signed in even-numbered years and typically last two or four years. For more information, see the list at Mike McCann's Minor League Baseball Page.) News from upriver Here are links to stories about the Lynx's impending change in affiliation and relocation to Allentown, and the uncertain future affiliation of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons. I've added some relevant excerpts as well. From The Express-Times, Lehigh Valley, PA: “New Allentown stadium brings Phils' affiliate” (June 10) “‘The Lehigh Valley will be home to the AAA Philadelphia Phillies,’ [Lackawanna] County Executive Don Cunningham said.... “‘The Red Barons would still in all likelihood be called the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons,’ Finley said. ‘You're guaranteed an affiliation. It's just that the Phillies would no longer be there. They could have the Orioles.’” From The Morning Call in Allentown, PA: “Home Run: Valley Scores Phillies' top farm team for '08” (June 10) “[Joseph] Finley and [Craig] Stein are buying the Ottawa Lynx franchise, which is affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles. A shuffling of franchises could put the Baltimore affiliate in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and will bring the Philadelphia affiliate to Allentown, Finley said.” “Planning unit gives thumbs up to Allentown stadium” (June 14) “Plans for a $34 million minor league ballpark in east Allentown got the go-ahead from the city Planning Commissio[...]
2010-06-08T16:23:57ZToday the Orioles will gather their best scouts and prepare for what has become known as baseball's annual crapshoot, the First-Year Player Draft. Some quick facts: By virtue of their lousy 74-88 finish last year, the Birds will pick ninth... Today the Orioles will gather their best scouts and prepare for what has become known as baseball's annual crapshoot, the First-Year Player Draft. Some quick facts: By virtue of their lousy 74-88 finish last year, the Birds will pick ninth in every round except the second — they lost that pick (53rd overall) to the San Diego Padres for signing free agent Ramón Hernández last winter. As compensation for losing B.J. Ryan to free agency last offseason, the O's received the second pick in the supplemental first round (32nd overall) plus the Toronto Blue Jays' fourteenth pick in the second round (58th overall). The full 2006 draft order is at MLB.com's Draft Central, which will provide real-time updates throughout the draft. MLB Radio will broadcast live Internet audio of the proceedings starting around 12 p.m. Eastern today for rounds 1-18 and Wednesday for rounds 19-50. For the bandwidth-stingy, Baseball America's web site has a summary list of Oriole draftees. The Birds' new world The first day of the amateur draft has become perhaps the most crucial day of the year for the Orioles, primarily because of the new economic reality they now face with the Washington Nationals in the region. No longer do the O's have one of the nation's largest audiences for baseball all to themselves. Now they must face the long-term possibility of becoming a mid-market team with a diminished fan base and a concomitant loss of revenue. The last two winters have shown that Baltimore no longer spends as liberally on free agents as it once did, as the club's white-collar leadership has increasingly turned its focus towards scouting and player development. That new focus is personified in Joe Jordan, hired as director of amateur scouting in fall 2004, who had by all accounts a superb first draft in 2005. Roundup of media coverage Some articles related to the Orioles and this year's draft: “Hoping for draft repeat,” by Jeff Zrebiec in today's Sun, recaps the encouraging early results from last year's top draftees and previews the strategy Baltimore will take this year. As the Orioles prepare for this year's draft, which starts today, they will adhere in the early rounds to the same game plan from last year. Regardless of need or position, the club will select the player who it feels has the most ability. “Best player available” is always a sensible draft method, but especially so this year because many scouts and analysts have described this June's draft-eligible crop as one of the weakest and thinnest ever. (Scouts and analysts aren't always right, of course, but when they agree so uniformly, they're usually in the ballpark.) Apparently, the pool of position players is particularly shallow. Regarding whom the Orioles will select in the first round, Jordan says that if the “right position player is there, you probably have to go try and get it and then get pitching later.” But doesn't that go against the logic of selecting the best player available? Seems to me that if pitching is the strength of the draft, you should aim for that strength if you want to maximize your chances of getting a quality player. But I'm thinking in general terms. Perhaps there may be scenarios in which a position player is indeed the best player available, and so taking him would be the right thing to do. Follow-up: A recap of the first day, “Slugging 3rd baseman tops O's draftees,” appeared in Wednesday's paper. In “Tuesday Morning Mock Draft,&rd[...]
2008-03-23T23:28:02ZI remember Jeffrey Maier. Not fondly, I'm afraid. On October 9, 1996, I was watching Game 1 of the ALCS on TV with a bunch of Yankee-rooting friends (don't ask) and was struck with disbelief, then rage, when the long... I remember Jeffrey Maier. Not fondly, I'm afraid. On October 9, 1996, I was watching Game 1 of the ALCS on TV with a bunch of Yankee-rooting friends (don't ask) and was struck with disbelief, then rage, when the long arm of Maier reached over the right-field wall at Yankee Stadium, turning a deep fly ball by Derek Jeter from a possible out into a home run. When the replays showed Maier's glove extending over the wall into the field of play and pulling the ball into the stands — clearly a case of fan interference — none of the Yankee fans in the room denied that the umpire, Rich García, had made the wrong call in crediting Jeter with a game-tying homer. One of them said, "Well, too bad. That's the way the ball bounces." And then Bernie Williams hit a home run in the 11th to give the Yankees the win, making for a lot of smug faces in the room — and one glum one. Yesterday, Washington Post baseball writer Dave Sheinin served up an underhanded story about Maier, the kid who helped steal a World Series appearance from the Orioles ten years back. In the article, Sheinin catches up with Maier, now 22 and a recent graduate of Wesleyan University with a degree in government and economics, and gets reflections on the incident from Maier and members of both teams who were at the scene of the crime ten years ago. Ordinarily that's where the story would end. But it turns out that Maier had a standout career as an outfielder and third baseman on Wesleyan's Division III baseball team. So Sheinin can't help but suggest the outrageously ironic possibility that Maier could be drafted by the Orioles in the upcoming amateur draft and wind up playing for the very team he once robbed of a crucial playoff win. Or, he could be selected by the Yankees, his hometown team (he's from north Jersey), and continue to torment the O's with his glove and his bat. Never mind that few Division III players get drafted, and almost none advance to the majors. Talk about journalistic license — the lengths to which writers will go for a good story! Maybe Sheinin should write sports-themed novels instead. Despite such absurd suppositions and the unusual length (over 2,000 words), the story is an engaging read. Sheinin interviewed all sorts of people, including: scouts assessing Maier's baseball abilities ("there is a 50-50 chance Maier ... could be selected during next week's draft"); Orioles Hangout founder Tony Pente ("... for some people, there's almost a hatred of [Maier] — to this day"); players who were at the 1996 game such as Williams, Andy Pettitte, Scott Erickson, and Cal Ripken ("I don't blame the kid.... It was a reaction. It was not premeditated. Why harbor any resentment?"); then-Oriole manager Davey Johnson ("I could still be in Baltimore if that didn't happen"); and then (and current) Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos. The most curious part of the story involves Angelos. Sheinin reports that when Maier phoned Angelos out of the blue a few weeks ago and advertised his collegiate baseball accomplishments, the owner's response was not bitter, but conciliatory: "To forgive is divine." Well, well, full of surprises, isn't he? But what Angelos tells Sheinin next is either uproariously funny or profoundly disturbing — I'm not sure which: "I wouldn't be at all opposed to [drafting Maier]. In fact, I'd say it's a very interesting development," Angelos said. "You can say the Orioles are very seriously considering him. I know this much: I was at that game, and [...]
2008-03-23T23:27:12ZFor Orioles fans, this was the instant, take-home message of Friday night's 5-1 win over the host Nationals: "We may suck, but at least we suck less than you [the Nats]." Honestly, though, it was a beautiful night in the... For Orioles fans, this was the instant, take-home message of Friday night's 5-1 win over the host Nationals: "We may suck, but at least we suck less than you [the Nats]." Honestly, though, it was a beautiful night in the neighborhood, and even more so if you were an O's fan. Although Nationals supporters clearly had the edge in numbers at RFK yesterday, a sizeable contingent cheered the Orioles as if Baltimore was the home team and not the visitors. (Nats fans now understand how it feels when throngs of Yankee and Red Sox followers invade Camden Yards every year.) These Baltimoreans (or Baltimorons, depending on your point of view) came to Washington with a chip on their shoulder, as if they wanted to prove that their loyalty to the Birds was not the Johnny-come-lately kind, that it was not a love "like a red, red rose / That's newly sprung in June," but a diehard devotion forged by season after season of ups and (more recently) downs. In other words, these faithful followers of the Orioles weren't the kind to change their feathers just because another baseball team set up camp in D.C. with a bigger bird as its mascot. (Have you seen the Nationals' mascot, Screech? Eech!) Proudly wearing their orange-and-black gear, Oriole fans made sure the "O" was accentuated in the last couplet of the national anthem. They filled the stadium with persistent cries of "Let's go, O's" throughout the game. They roared enthusiastically whenever the Orioles scored. They made sure they were seen as well as heard. Sometimes it seemed like they were trying a little too hard to be noticed, like a neglected middle child. Meanwhile, the genteel Nats fans, seemingly unaccustomed to such an intrusion, failed to garner much of a response—their attempts at a "Let's go, Nats" riposte were generally overpowered by the visiting fans' cries. And the home team gave them little to cheer for on this evening, as the Orioles' Kris Benson quieted the Nats' bats in a complete-game five-hitter. Only a late upper-deck smash by Alfonso Soriano kept Washington from being blanked in the runs column. A once and future rivalry Earlier Friday, Jason Brennan of the Frederick News-Post had an insightful and prophetic commentary about the first regular-season meeting between the Orioles and the Nationals, predicting rightly that "Orioles fans will be just as loud at RFK as Nationals fans are this weekend" and that "the 'Oh' in ... the National Anthem will sound like you're in Baltimore." He quoted the wrong line for the "Oh"—it's not the one from "O say can you see" but the one in "O say does that star-spangled..."—but anyway, we know what he meant. (Apparently the "O" has been shouted in the anthem at RFK even when the Orioles haven't been in town. Chalk that up to fans who grew up learning baseball—and the Star-Spangled Banner—the Oriole way. To twist a MacArthurism: old habits never die; they just fade away.) Towards the end of his column, Brennan takes a sanguine stance on the long-term health of the Orioles and Nationals; he implies that time will eventually add fuel to the rivalry. To me, it seems likely that someday the Nationals will gain the upper hand in the so-called Battle of the Beltways, at least economically; Washington's population demographics are just too strong to ignore, and the new stadium that is being built will undoubtedly help attract a new generation of fans. But Baltimore has its own large and fervent baseball following built on a tradi[...]
2008-03-23T23:26:48ZA few thoughts as the Orioles' regular season begins with today's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Most prognosticators (human and computer-assisted) have the Orioles pegged for yet another fourth-place finish this year. Given the nearly static nature of... A few thoughts as the Orioles' regular season begins with today's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Most prognosticators (human and computer-assisted) have the Orioles pegged for yet another fourth-place finish this year. Given the nearly static nature of the AL East's order of finish in the last eight seasons, it is only sensible of them to expect more of the same. But it would be nice to see someone show a little creativity every once in a while. Virtually everyone has New York and Boston maintaining their lock on the top two positions in the division, though they disagree on which will finish first. Toronto usually ends up in a respectable third, while Baltimore and Tampa Bay (usually in that order) pull up the rear. Some links to preseason predictions: ESPN.com - 2006 Predicted Standings: on average, ESPN's writers predicted Baltimore to finish fourth with a 72–90 record. Baseball Prospectus - Preseason Predictions: a poll of BP's numerate writers gave the Orioles a mean rank within the division of 4.08 with a standard deviation of 0.64. Baseball Prospectus - Lies, Damned Lies: PECOTA Breaks Hearts (paid subscription required to view complete article, but the free preview portion shows the predicted AL East standings): Nate Silver's well-regarded PECOTA prediction system put the Orioles in fourth place at 77–85. Baseball Prospectus - Probability and Possibility (again, article preview shows AL East standings): Clay Davenport's computer simulations, which built on Silver's PECOTA data, gave Baltimore a 12.4 percent (about one in eight) chance of making the postseason. Diamond Mind Baseball - Projected Standings for the 2006 Season: Another well-regarded baseball sim gave the Orioles another fourth-place finish, a record of 77–85, and a 2 percent chance of getting the wild card. Nine.com Online Sports Betting - Orioles Turnaround in 2006?: Professional oddsmakers, according to this article, "have Baltimore's OVER/UNDER line set at 74.5 wins this season." I'm not the gambling type, so if anyone knows of a better source for Vegas odds, feel free to suggest one. The season-opening roster contains no major surprises for those who followed the team during spring training. Still, there are several new faces this year, including a few who may be relatively unknown to most O's fans, such as relievers Jim Brower and Sendy Rleal and backup catcher Raúl Chávez. The most talked-about decision, although it was not totally unexpected, was allowing the team's top prospect, outfielder Nick Markakis, to begin the season on the big-league club. Perhaps this may be an astute move, but in my view it was premature. I'll go into more detail when I do a deeper roster analysis in a later post. Rodrigo López is today's starting pitcher for the O's. He's a safe choice, but more because of his experience and consistency than his likelihood to dominate the opposition. In the last four seasons, he's shown that he is a durable big-league starter of average to slightly above-average ability who seems to do well in even-numbered years. But if he's the staff ace, then the Orioles are probably destined for another sub-.500 season. The Orioles' hopes for improvement in the starting pitching department rest on whether their two most talented young arms, Erik Bedard and Daniel Cabrera, can take their games to the next level. By the end of the year, one of tho[...]