Tag Archive | "andy macphail"

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Orioles owe Jeremy Guthrie the ultimate reward: a new team

Posted on 25 July 2011 by Drew Forrester

Rarely, if ever, does a professional athlete actually DESERVE to be traded.

Most times when a player is dealt, particularly in-season, it’s met with bitterness and frustration at the turn of events that led up to the deal.

In the case of Jeremy Guthrie, the Orioles owe it to him to move him on this week as the trade deadline fast approaches.  I’ve been around long enough to know the basic concepts of pro sports – the players are the employees and the team employs them, so in that regard the team doesn’t have any moral obligation to do anything except pay the man every other Friday.

I get it.

But this is a special circumstance, because the Birds have – as has become their summer custom – flatlined and wilted just as the race in the AL East started to heat up.  They’re not going anywhere.  And with their farm system relatively bare and devoid of any true major-league-ready talent, now is the time to take advantage of someone else’s desire to upgrade their team for the stretch run.

That means now is the best time to move Jeremy Guthrie to a new team and actually get something decent in return.

Depending on which national talking head you believe (and, frankly, they ALL could be wrong), as many as six teams are reportedly interested in Guthrie — Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, Reds, Cardinals and Tigers.

I don’t know the merits of what each team is offering in exchange for the right handed pitcher, but I do know this:  Guthrie deserves a fresh start somewhere.

As the late, great Lowell George of Little Feat sings in “Mercenary Territory” – “I did my time in your rodeo, it’s been so long and I’ve got nothing to show…”

Jeremy Guthrie has been here since 2007.  And he has nothing to show for it.

Guthrie has been one of the team’s most reliable performers over the last five years, which probably doesn’t say a whole lot when you consider the Orioles have stunk in each of those seasons.  With the exception of the 2009 campaign, when he staggered through a dismal 10-17 campaign with a 5.04 ERA and 1.420 WHIP, Guthrie hasn’t ever embarrassed himself.   That was also the occasion that Andy MacPhail provided Guthrie with an interesting gift just prior to the start of the season: MacPhail cut the pitcher’s salary by $120k.  Yep, two weeks before the season started, MacPhail trimmed Guthrie’s pay by $120k after a pro-rated signing bonus from Guthrie’s days in Cleveland expired and MacPhail took advantage of a clause in the contract that enabled him to reduce Guthrie’s salary by 15%.

Yes, the same guy – MacPhail – who gave Justin Duchscherer $700k just for showing up in Sarasota this past February and letting the team doctor feel his jewels was responsible for telling Guthrie he was going to reduce his salary by $120k.

In 2007, 2008 and 2010, Jeremy Guthrie posted a sub 4.00 ERA.  Check the records to see how many starters in the AL East have posted sub 4.00 ERAs three times in the last five years.  It’s a fairly short list.

Yes, Guthrie gives up a lot of home runs.  Yes, he’s lost more games in his career than he’s won.  But he’s also never pitched AGAINST the Orioles, either.  Unlike the Sabathia’s, Burnett’s, Price’s, Beckett’s, Shields’ and Halladay’s (when he was with Toronto) who have feasted on the Orioles over the years and beefed up their stats at the expense of our orange feathered friends, Guthrie hasn’t ever had that luxury.  Instead, he’s made 12 starts a year, at least, against the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Rays.  And in 3 of the last 5 years, his ERA has always been a half-run or so below the league average.

That brings us to the now.

Rumors are swirling that a bunch of teams are hot and heavy for Guthrie.

The ball is in Andy MacPhail’s court.

What should he do?

Well, if he has any heart at all, even a morsel of appreciation for what Guthrie has done in Baltimore, MacPhail will move him on this week and let him experience a pennant race for the first time in his career.

The club owes that much to him.

Along with Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis, Guthrie has sewn himself into the fabric of the Baltimore community, all the while waiting for the club to do him a solid by actually trying to win.

As we’ve seen over the last 40 games, there’s not going to be any winnin’ in Baltimore this season…that is, unless you’re the Yankees or Red Sox, who routinely win here when they make Camden Yards their home-away-from-home.

Guthrie has seen it all in Baltimore.

He watched Freddie Bynum try to play shortstop.

He was here while Ramon Hernandez was going through the motions behind the plate.

He watched the Yankees get Mark Teixeira.

He saw the ever-so-brief Garrett Atkins era up close and personal.

Like most of us, he’s marveled at the five tools of Felix Pie.

Perlozzo, Trembley, Samuel, Showalter.

He’s played for all of them.

Since 2007, Guthrie has hung around and fought like a champion, even though he knew in his heart-of-hearts it was a losing battle.  And when the Orioles cut his salary in 2009, he also figured out they weren’t good people too.

Jeremy Guthrie deserves better.

He deserves to go to a winning organization.

He’s not going to be anyone’s #1 or #2 starter, mind you.  He’s a decent pitcher, but certainly not a Cy Young candidate.   Sometimes he borders on being very good, in fact.  And in the right situation, with a team trying to win and a team that can spot him 3-4 runs, Guthrie could turn out to be a valuable asset for someone.

For sure, though, Guthrie’s no longer all that valuable here in Baltimore.  With him, the team stinks.  Without him?  They’ll probably still stink, I assume.

As I watch and listen to him after games, it seems like Guthrie is ripe for a trade.

He’s tired of the losing.

He’s sick of seeing pitchers forget to cover first base, balls squeeze through the 3rd baseman’s glove and hitter after hitter ground into a double play when just a seeing-eye single would change the whole game.

It’s the Oriole way…and, as Guthrie knows, the Orioles aren’t very good.

And Jeremy Guthrie has been part of “not very good” since 2007.

Yet he’s never really griped or bitched or stormed the office of the GM and demanded a trade, even though he had every right to do that on numerous occasions.

Guthrie is a class act.

Honestly?

He dresses too nice and smells too good to be in Baltimore anymore.

He’s better than this.

He’s better than what the Orioles have done for him.

He deserves to be traded this week.

For once, Jeremy  Guthrie would be happy.

And after five years in Baltimore, one moment of happiness is a fair trade, isn’t it?

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Picking up the pieces for the Orioles’ second half

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Picking up the pieces for the Orioles’ second half

Posted on 13 July 2011 by Luke Jones

Despite rumors to the contrary and the wishes of many, the Orioles will play the remaining 74 games of the 2011 season.

Over the Orioles’ current stretch of losing 21 of their last 27 games that’s left them 18 games behind first-place Boston, I’ve constantly thought back to the spring of 2009. Former manager Dave Trembley made proclamations of the cavalry being on its way, labeling Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, and Jake Arrieta as “three legitimate top-of-the-rotation talents.” He gushed over the development of wunderkind catching prospect Matt Wieters, coming off a historically-great minor league season in 2008.

The Orioles were coming off their first last-place finish since 1988, but with young pitching and the club’s best prospect since Ben McDonald, fans finally had hope that didn’t center around aging veterans, middle-of-the-road starters, or reclamation projects. The fortunes of 2011 or 2012 looked more promising than at any other point since the Orioles’ last winning season in 1997.

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Questions remained, but there was real hope.

Light at the end of the tunnel.

Over two years later, Matusz and Tillman find themselves languishing in the minor leagues — along with Zach Britton as a result of a service-time decision — and Arrieta tries to fight off elbow inflammation while posting a mediocre 4.90 earned run average. The group has more closely resembled the Mets’ failed “Generation K” of the mid-1990s than the Atlanta Braves’ staff of the early 1990s.

Matusz, Tillman, Arrieta, Britton, and Brad Bergesen have pitched to a combined 5.05 ERA in 340 2/3 major league innings this season.

Wieters was just named to his first All-Star Game and has displayed excellent defense, but anyone in the organization would be lying if they weren’t disappointed with the catcher’s slow development offensively. Though far from a draft bust, the Orioles didn’t give Wieters a $6 million signing bonus in 2007 for great defense and slightly above-average offense.

Instead of getting better after a 34-23 finish under Buck Showalter in 2010, the Orioles entered the All-Star break with the second-worst record they’ve had over the last 14 seasons. Only last year’s team — on a historically-terrible pace over the season’s first four months — was worse.

As many have pointed out, morale is at an all-time low, which is no simple feat for a fan base seemingly hitting rock bottom as often as a basketball dribbled against a hardwood floor.

Dreams of a .500 season and avoiding a 14th straight losing season are all but dead, but the Orioles have issues to resolve and questions to answer in the second half. Much will hinge on the ability of the young pitching to get up off the mat and start fighting back to salvage the remains of this season — and beyond.

None of these will turn around a lost season, but here’s my list of what needs to happen in the second half:

1. Decide what to do with Hardy

Shortstop J.J. Hardy has clearly been one of the bright spots in a very deflating season. Emerging as the leadoff hitter in the absence of Brian Roberts, Hardy (13 home runs, .836 OPS) has provided the Orioles with their best all-around play at shortstop since the early stages of Miguel Tejada’s first tenure in Baltimore.

However, Hardy is set to become a free agent after the season and represents the Orioles’ most valuable trade chip. Despite his stated desire to remain in Baltimore, it’s hard to envision the 28-year-old signing a reasonable two- or three-year contract when he can simply wait until the off-season when several teams will be after his services.

On the other hand, the oft-injured Hardy may find it too big a risk to play out the rest of the season and has cooled considerably in July (6-for-40) after a blistering June. Hardy’s injury history has to weigh on the mind of Andy MacPhail or any other general manager looking to lock up the shortstop long-term.

One factor that shouldn’t be overemphasized is 19-year-old prospect Manny Machado. As the Orioles have painfully learned with the collapse of their young pitching, you can’t look too far ahead in lieu of helpful short-term options. The youngest player in the Carolina League at Single-A Frederick, Machado should have two more years of development before becoming a realistic option in Baltimore.

If the Orioles are unable to extend Hardy prior to the July 31 deadline, they could simply elect to have him play out the season and take the risk that he might leave as a free agent, which would then bring draft compensation. With that in mind, if Hardy’s interest in signing an extension is lukewarm, the club shouldn’t be willing to just give him away for spare parts at the deadline, either.

2. Clear out the dead weight

Despite a brilliant career, Vladimir Guerrero’s time as a middle-of-the-order hitter has come to an end. Showing little power since the first half of last season with Texas, Guerrero ranks seventh (.700) in OPS among Baltimore regulars and has been little more than a singles hitter despite manning the cleanup spot all season.

Showalter said he would consider dropping Guerrero in the order following the All-Star break — Mark Reynolds would be my choice in the cleanup spot — but the club must look to move Guerrero as soon as possible in a dignified way. Considering his pedigree and how admired he is in the clubhouse, it’s a delicate situation for the organization to handle.

Paying a large portion of his remaining salary may allow the Orioles to fetch a long reliever for the future Hall of Famer, but a 36-year-old who can’t run, play the field, or hit for power isn’t exactly an attractive option for even the most desperate contenders.

Assuming he returns from the disabled list, Luke Scott would become the regular designated hitter after Guerrero’s departure, completely freeing up left field and protecting Scott’s injured shoulder.

The same argument about Guerrero can be made for Derrek Lee (.666 OPS), but the veteran has at least provided good defense at first base. If Lee is able to be moved — in a similar Aug. 31 waiver deadline deal — the Orioles could elect to give Scott extended time at first or give a starting audition to Brandon Snyder to see if he can stick as a bench player in the future.

Continued on next page >>>

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Apologists are taking gas, but Orioles swoon still isn’t funny

Posted on 12 July 2011 by Drew Forrester

It seems like we’ve been down this road before.

The Orioles stumble through a woeful first half and then, following an embarrassing loss or series – or perhaps a lengthy losing streak – the usually-apologetic fan base goes into meltdown mode.

It would be funny if not for the fact that the meltdown is always connected to a woeful period of Orioles baseball.

This week, following a horrible 1-9 road trip that saw them get b-slapped three straight in Texas and four more times in Boston, the orange kool aid drinkers have spiraled out of control.

Some of the media have finally figured it out — they’ve finally discovered that it’s actually OK to question the team’s inability to win and their methods of operation that have contributed to this 14-years of suffering.  A few folks in town still won’t opine critically on the team, but they’re now being exposed for what they are:  afraid to speak the truth.  I stumbled upon a “baseball pre-game show” on Tuesday night and one of the experts offered this outstanding analysis about Derrek Lee:  ”He might not be doing it on the field, but he’s SUCH a good guy.  You have no idea how good of a guy he is.  I mean, the players in that locker room just love him.  That means something.  It really does.”

What it means is that he’s not playing well enough to help the team win.

Nothing else about Derrek Lee really matters, no matter what that “expert” offered as analysis.

So there are still some folks in town afraid to speak the truth.  Or, perhaps, they just haven’t been around long enough to actually know the truth.  Either way, they’re not worth listening to, reading or watching.

Even Steve Melewski over at MASN.com – which makes him an employee-in-law of the Orioles, frankly – has been forced to face reality and question Andy MacPhail recently.  The area’s number one source for orange apology, the Oriole Hangout, has gone hogwild this week as well, spewing criticism and angry messages about MacPhail and the players who aren’t doing the job on the field.  Talk about a reversal in theory…it’s akin to cross dressing, I suppose, when the Hangouters are forced to swallow the vitamin-of-reality and question the very man and the very team they’ve spent so much time defending over the last 13 years.

I’ve received a bunch of emails from people this week practically begging me to LOL (laugh out loud) at the apologists in town, since they’re the ones for years who have painted WNST in a bad light as “haters” of the team.

I’m not going to laugh at the people at Orioles Hangout who have chastised me over the years for being “too negative”.  I’m not going to laugh for a couple of reasons, but the main one is simple enough:  Because it’s not funny.

None of it.

The 14 years of this junk isn’t funny.

The team’s June Swoon, which carried over into July just long enough to saddle the team with a 7-game losing skid heading to the All-Star break, is simply NOT a laughing matter.

I know the players are trying.  I’m certainly not questioning their professional and ethical approach to the games.  I can’t say I’ve seen anyone give up, per-se, although some of the stupid stuff last weekend, like throwing baseballs at players on the other team because they’re beating you, smells of disguised give-up.  You throw at guys and create controversy like that when you’re trying to take the spotlight off the real issue – and the real issue is LOSING.

A caller chimed in on Monday and said, “Even if we blow it up – again – where do we start?”

That was the question of the day.

I don’t know where you would start.  The farm system isn’t good enough to just “go young” and take our lumps for a year or two until everyone is game ready.  The O’s tried that with their young pitching – the so called “cavalry” – and look what that got them so far.  Maybe those arms came up too early, maybe they weren’t quite ready for prime time, maybe they’d be better if the team around them were better…maybe, maybe, maybe.  The only real, quality players under contract past this year worthy of trading — Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Nick Markakis to name the only three, are guys you’d rather hang on to if possible. But how do you “blow it up” and stand pat at the same time?  You don’t.

I look at the Phillies pitching and it strikes me they have a unique blend of guys who were acquired in various forms. Halladay was a winter trade acquisition two years ago, Cliff Lee was signed as a free agent in the 2010-2011 off-season, Roy Oswalt was a trade deadline pick-up last July and Cole Hamels was the team’s first pick in the 2002 draft.

The Phillies grew ONE arm.  They went about getting the other ones in whatever way they could.  They did that for one reason:  They wanted to win.

As Malcom X said:  ”By any means necessary”.

While the Phillies were busy complementing their staff by adding Cliff Lee last winter, the Orioles were busy filling their need for a veteran starting pitcher by inking Justin Duchscherer to a contract.

Enough said about who wants to win and who just wants to fill out the roster.

For the Orioles to turn this around – and that means, most likely, NEXT season (and we’ve heard that over and over for the last 13 years) – they MUST be free-spenders in the off-season this winter.  That will certainly go against the grain of everything the organization has stood for over the last decade, but it’s the ONLY way the team will have a chance at some sort of semi-massive improvement in 2012.  You’ve seen the minor league call-ups who have played this season, the likes of Blake Davis and Ryan Adams, and you’re probably aware of the young players waiting in the wings at Frederick and Bowie and even Norfolk.  Do you think this team can throw 4-5 of them to the wolves in 2012 and compete?  Right, I agree with you on that.  They can’t.

Spending money is so foreign to the Orioles, they have to look up the exchange rate to see what it all adds up to.

But that’s what they’re faced with this winter.

That is, if they want to try and win.

Prince Fielder, Michael Cuddyer…those are two names you’ll be hearing a lot about in November.  There are others, but one of those two would fill the Orioles need for a first baseman who can both field the position and offer production at the plate.

They won’t be cheap.

But they’re both better than any other option we currently have on the radar.

In the meantime, the malady lingers on, as Morrissey once sang, and the dog days of July, August and September will once again remind all of us – even the apologists who hate to admit it – that this losing will only stop when the organization makes that it’s NUMBER ONE priority.

When winning is all that matters, and I mean ALL that matters, the Orioles will start to see a change in their fortune.

In the past few years, the number one priority has ranged from stuff like “fiscal responsibility” to “growing the arms” to “buying the bats” (which still hasn’t happened) to “stocking the farm system” to “remaining patient”…but none of that has added up to a deep, soul-searching commitment to winning from the Orioles organization.

Last year when the Ravens gagged away a 3rd quarter two touchdown lead in Pittsburgh and once again became the Steelers au pair for the AFC Championship Game, I offered THIS opinion about our football team:  ”The only thing they should concern themselves with in 2011 is this:  How do we beat the Steelers?  Every player signing, draft pick and personnel decision has to be made with that question in mind.”

As for the Orioles, the ONLY question they should entertain going forward is this:  What can we do to win?  What players can we sign that will help us win now?  What can we do to get better than the Red Sox and the Yankees? (You’ll notice there wasn’t any mention of money in there…)

No more garbage from guys like Kevin Gregg about the Red Sox and their $180 million payroll.  Let’s get rid of the TV commercials with Buck in the spotlight where he basically tries to make fun of the Yankees.

Let’s just focus on one thing:  winning.

It’s all that should matter.

And that’s the summary of this whole missive.  The losing isn’t funny.

No matter what the cost, it’s time to win.

By any means necessary.

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Orioles Demoted to Double-A Bowie

Posted on 10 July 2011 by Jay Trucker

On Friday, the Orioles demoted pitcher Zach Britton to Double-A Bowie. Today, the rest of the Orioles have also been demoted to Double A Bowie.

“We just think the Orioles have a few things to work on,” said President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail. “Like pitching and hitting. And also fielding.”

Sources say the Orioles were nearly sent to AAA Norfolk, but there were concerns about their ability to compete in the difficult International League South division.  “I’ll be honest.  Given the nature of the current salary structure, it’s difficult to compete against big markets like Gwinnett and Durham,” stated MacPhail.

The Orioles are disappointed in the move, but they understand that this is not necessarily a permanent demotion. “We learned a lot from our time in the bigs,” said the Orioles. “It was a wonderful experience to have spent some time with big league clubs, like the Red Sox, Yankees, and Pirates. We will definitely take what we picked up from them and continue to develop.”

Buck Showalter has announced that Vlad Guerrero will bat cleanup when the Orioles resume play against the Richmond Flying Squirrels after the Northeast Delta Dental Eastern League All-Star break.

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Nearly a year later, are the Orioles starting to break Showalter?

Posted on 06 July 2011 by Rex Snider

In just a month’s time, Buck Showalter will be celebrating his one year anniversary as skipper of the Baltimore Orioles.

That’s right, if you fast forward 28 days on the calendar, you’ll arrive at August 3rd – which marks the day Buck first appeared in his black and orange garb, while sternly staring at the field from the Camden Yards dugout.

We recall that 6-3 win and ultimate sweep of the Angels to usher in Buck’s first series, right?

It seems like a long time ago.

Thus, I’m obliged to ask how much positive reflecting Showalter will be doing exactly four weeks from today?

He obviously doesn’t strike us as a guy who relishes significant dates on his respective resume’. Indeed, he seems a little more modest …. and a bit more focused on the project of his toils.

However, I do wonder if Buck Showalter, in one of his most private moments, has begun to question the wisdom and ultimate decision that led him back to managing a Major League team, and most specifically, the challenge known as the ORIOLES …..

Following last night’s collapse, is there a remote chance he savored a cold beer and revisited last year’s formed union with Andy MacPhail and Peter Angelos?

Is he begrudgingly awaiting tonight’s late night flight from his HOME to Logan Airport, in Boston?

Will he wakeup this morning, look in the mirror and simply say to himself “I’m 55 years old …. what in the hell was I thinking?”

These are all fair considerations, right?

After all, Buck Showalter finds himself managing a team that is now a season-low 11 games below .500 and 14.5 games off the AL East pace.

So much for changing the culture …..

So much for demanding better results …..

And, herein lies the question …..

As the title of the blog suggests, have the Orioles finally changed the man who supposedly had the character, toughness and no nonsense demeanor to remold them into the image of a contender?

Perhaps, the MacPhail and Angelos tandem are not living up to their end of the bargain. That wouldn’t be a surprise to any of us. And, at the same time, we’ll likely never no such a truth, because Showalter is not a “dirty laundry airing” kinda guy.

Yet, the blunt reality is the Orioles really are no better today, as opposed to the team that finished the 2010 season on a 34-23 run, under the watchful Showalter eye of accountability.

Professionalism and a commitment to fundamentals are part of the good talk that exists when a managerial change takes place. But, in the end, results are deemed by TALENT and the Orioles simply don’t have it.

There is no room for excuses. Injuries are part of the game. Slumps and inconsistent production are part of the game. Evaluating prospects beyond their true worth will always be part of the game.

You can probably attribute a mixture of the 3 components, listed above, as primary reasoning for what appears to be another failed season for the Baltimore Orioles franchise. At least they’re consistently inconsistent, huh?

I can’t imagine Buck Showalter didn’t examine the true lack of depth within the organization’s minor league system. He had to know about the stripped down scouting department. He had to gauge the MacPhail and Angelos track record of penny pinching.

So, he shouldn’t be surprised that he finds himself managing a last place team.

The optimism that brimmed with a new baseball season was dependent upon everything going right. And, well, that’s hardly been the case …..

Derrek Lee and Vlad Guerrero have not lived up to expectations.

Brian Roberts is hurt, again.

Brian Matusz has lost IT.

For every bright spot, there are equally bad spots to void any hope of a resurgence. That’s what happens when you gamble …..

In the end, even the best managers are HUMAN. They’re only capable of reaching the heights posed by the quality of their roster.

A year ago, Buck Showalter inherited a bad baseball team. A year later, he’s still managing a bad baseball team.

And, it’s beginning to appear they’ll break him before he changes them.

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Why would JJ Hardy EVER sign an extension with the Orioles?

Posted on 01 July 2011 by Rex Snider

Imagine you’re standing in the shoes of JJ Hardy’s representatives/agents at LSW Baseball & Associates …..

Better yet, just pretend you’re JJ Hardy, himself …..

As he’s approaching his 29th birthday and his first shot at free agency, rumors persist the Orioles are discussing a possible contract extension with Hardy’s legal team.  Smart move on Andy MacPhail’s part, huh?

If you think a mutual interest might exist on Hardy’s side, given his agent’s willingness to enter such conversations with the Orioles, you might want to consider the potential reasoning for their participation.

What does Hardy’s side have to lose?  The Orioles become the first team to show a distinct interest in his future services, and they probably lay the groundwork for the first bid on the shortstop.

Hey, the bidding has to start somewhere …..

But, if you take a look at JJ Hardy’s age – on the south side of 30 years, and the numbers he’s compiling on this 2011 season, there is little reason to suggest the player and his handlers will be inspired not to test the open market.

In the world of “what have you done for me lately”, Hardy has posted an offensive line of .307, with 11 homeruns and 12 doubles, in just 192 at bats.  And, he’s committed just a single error in 258 chances.

I know, I know …. lock him up, Andy !!!!

But, it’s not that simple.

Does Hardy mandate a contract offer similar to Brian Roberts’ deal of 4 years/$40 million?  Regardless of whether MacPhail’s intentions are to make such overtures, there’s a good chance the shortstop could exceed such a threshold when free agency commences.

The upcoming class of available players will be highlighted by Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes.  And, there’s always the potential of JJ Hardy being a consolation prize for the clubs missing out on landing Reyes.

Thus, Hardy could benefit from being a subsequent alternative to the behemoth deal Reyes is expected to garner from a prospective suitor, weeks prior to Christmas.  Such dominos have fallen in past off-seasons.

Translation: signing JJ Hardy to an extension is probably a difficult task for the Orioles.

And, if he doesn’t agree to a deal before July comes to an end, does MacPhail resort to trading his shortstop?

Such a consideration opens up an entirely different discussion and blog.  But, the hard to swallow answer is probably “YES”.

Let the speculation begin …..

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For Orioles, Vladimir Guerrero has been a tremendous disappointment

Posted on 29 June 2011 by Peter Dilutis

Over the winter, there was an abundance of buzz surrounding the Orioles when they were talking about signing Vladimir Guerrero. This guy was the bonafide, legitimate, middle of the order hitter that the O’s have been lacking for quite some time. Vlad was someone who was a threat to hit a 400 foot bomb each and every time he stepped up to the plate.

Sure, Guerrero had declined a bit during the second half of 2010, but he still would have been one of the best hitters on the O’s along with Luke Scott. All Vlad had to do was come close to his 2010 production and he would have been a great acquisition for Andy MacPhail and company.

Fast forward to June of 2011, and Vladimir Guerrero has been a huge disappointment in Baltimore. He is on pace for 12 home runs and only 60 RBI’s.

Once again, the Orioles signed a guy who was completely on his last legs.

I’ll admit that I didn’t see this one coming. I didn’t expect Vlad to repeat the season that he had in 2010, but I felt he would be productive in Camden Yards. I expected him to make everyone around him better, and to serve as the cleanup presence that this team has sorely lacked since the Palmeiro years.

Instead, Vladimir Guerrero has become a singles hitter who is too unathletic to play the field or run the bases. He is too high-maintenance, either in reality or in the eyes of Buck Showalter, to be moved down in the order where he clearly belongs. And the guy certainly didn’t come cheap, with the O’s on the hook for his $8 million unless he is traded before the end of August.

Why does this always happen to the O’s?

Aubrey Huff comes to the Orioles, has one good season out of three, and then signs in San Francisco and not only does he become one of their best hitters, but he also goes out in the outfield and plays full time out there! Really, Aubrey Huff?

Yet the Orioles bring a future Hall of Famer to Baltimore just months after he put up a MVP-like first half in 2010 and the guy just can’t get his feet off the ground.

At this point, what do you do with Vlad? Do you move him down a few spots in the lineup and risk the media storm that it will cause? Do you release him and give up on getting anything for him before the end of August? Should Buck keep riding him out in the #4 hole and hope that he goes on a hot streak?

It really is a shame that the Orioles always find themselves in these types of situations. Again, I’m not even blaming them for the signing. I thought it was a great move to sign Vladimir Guerrero. I really did.

Sometimes bad luck just can’t be avoided. One of these years Guerrero was going to decline. It just happened to be his first year in an Orioles uniform.

At this point, I think you have to trot him out there for the next 20-25 games and hope he catches fire, contributes a bit to the current team, and then is dealt for some prospects with solid ceilings.

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MacPhail speaks to fans at State of the Orioles address

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MacPhail speaks to fans at State of the Orioles address

Posted on 25 June 2011 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Prior to the start of the second of a three-game between the Orioles and Cincinnati Reds, president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail and manager Buck Showalter addressed season ticket holders in a question and answer forum on the state of the organization.

While many questions were of the run-of-the-mill variety on topics such as the Yankees and the health of Brian Roberts, MacPhail addressed his overall assessment of the Orioles since taking charge of the front office in the summer of 2007.

“We’re better. We’re gradually getting better, better, better,” said MacPhail. “We’re not where we want to be yet. It’s coming in some respects, truthfully, not as quickly as I hoped it would, but we’re trying to build this thing from within with an emphasis on young arms. But we’re better.

“We’re literally months ahead of the curve of where we were a year ago, and we’ve done that despite some setbacks in terms of health that really every team has to endure. We’re no different than them.”

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MacPhail quipped that the Orioles could lose their next 33 games and still be ahead of where the team was last season at that same point (a hypothetical 34-72 compared to 2010′s 33-73 record through 106 games). However, he emphasized the astonishing factoid was not something in which to take any real sense of pride.

The architect discussed how the Orioles held a .500-or-better record against the AL Central (11-9), AL West (8-7), and National League during interleague play (5-5), but needed to improve their 10-18 mark against the American League East.

He was also asked about the Orioles’ hesitancy to spend on international talent and reiterated the position he gave this past off-season:

“Part of this is my philosophy. We did spend more last year [internationally] than we did the year before, and we’ll probably spend more this year than we did last year. We’re actually making progress in that market based on what Buck and I see in terms of velocities coming out of our Dominican Summer League, our Gulf Coast League. We’re actually having some success developing some arms there.

“I am not a big believer in spending a huge amount on a signing bonus on a player that’s only worked out in a not-a-game-type environment. First, to commit millions of dollars, which some teams are willing to do and frankly I’m not, on just workouts and tryouts in a complex-type environment, I’m not there. The guy has to play. There are a lot of guys that come out here at 5:30 [for batting practice] and a lot of guys hitting home runs that don’t hit them during the game.

“To me, it’s a different thing. If I’m going to put my money down on a player and bet on his future, I want to see him in a competitive environment. Like Buck was saying, it’s those that can compete at the end. It’s not who just can run the fastest time and who can hit the ball the furthest in batting practice. A lot of the signing bonuses that you’re reading about — no doubt talented players — that are signing with these other clubs for millions out of the Dominican, they’re doing that without the benefit of playing in games. And that’s not a risk I’m willing to go ahead and take.”

Unsurprisingly, MacPhail was asked to address his expiring contract and where his future lies with the club. He restated his preference to address his status at the end of the season with majority owner Peter Angelos.

“I’ve always just taken the position — unlike one of my good friends in the game Jim Riggleman – let’s just see how we do. Let’s get to the end of the year, see how we do, see how we feel, and take it from there.

“A lot of places I’ve worked, I haven’t had a contract. I’m not a big contract guy. Let’s just see how we feel, see whether we’re helping move the ball forward and take it from there. I’m very fortunate; the owner has done everything he said he was going to do with me. We have a good relationship and we’ll just see how we feel and see how the record is at the end.”

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Big stretch coming up for O’s…or is it?

Posted on 24 June 2011 by Peter Dilutis

About a week ago, I wrote a piece in which I wondered how long the Orioles could stay relevant.

They were five games below .500 at the time, and now they are six below. Only a one game difference…not so bad.

However, this upcoming stretch against the Reds, Cardinals, and Braves looks to be brutal. Nine consecutive games against legitimate National League contenders are on the horizon.

Brian Roberts is out. Guthrie is coming off a very poor outing. Matusz isn’t close to being in gear yet, and his health is still a huge question mark.

This season could spiral out of control in a hurry. It’s one thing to be a homestand away from getting back to .500. It is another to fall 10, 11, 12 below .500. At that point, the Birds would lose all relevance in this town.

But the question needs to be asked…are they really relevant now?

A week ago, I thought they were. I really did. Maybe I’m a glass half-full guy, but I feel like there is talent on this Orioles team. I like some of the pieces. In my eyes, some of them are winning pieces.

I was convinced that this team was a good week to 10 days of winning away from getting back in the race.

I believed that the 2011 Birds were still relevant. When I decided to write about the Orioles tonight, I really felt this upcoming stretch was critical. Either the wheels were going to come off or they weren’t. I was betting on the “were going to come off” option.

But seriously, do people even care anymore?

Is anyone else out there even rooting for the Orioles to go on a 6-10 game win streak to get back into the thick of the AL East?

Are there still people in this town living and dying with the O’s?

Would winning six in a row or seven out of nine against the National League really do anything for the fans? Would fans swarm back to Camden Yards on July 14th against Cleveland if the O’s are sitting within two games of .500 in either direction?

This isn’t a “trash the Orioles” piece. Anyone who has read my writing over the years can attest to me being a pretty consistent optimist regarding Andy MacPhail and the Orioles. Ask Drew, he’ll tell you.

I really just want to know if it even matters anymore. Do people still care, or have the O’s lost their fans the same way managers sometimes lose their respective clubhouses?

People still go to the games. There might even be 75k out there against the Cardinals next week.

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Hardy and Reynolds are key pieces of Orioles’ future

Posted on 20 June 2011 by Peter Dilutis

Andy MacPhail’s 2010-2011 offseason has been criticized by many. MacPhail went out and overpaid for Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee, two veterans on the downside of their respective careers who were unlikely to play on a contending team in Baltimore, unless of course that contending was going to occur in 2011.

He acquired an average pitcher in Kevin Gregg who happened to rack up a bunch of saves the previous four seasons, thus making him a $5 million man.

MacPhail also traded for J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds. Hardy was set to become a free agent after the 2011 season, while Reynolds could be under team control through 2013 if the Orioles exercise their club option for ’13.

Throughout the early stages of the season, Reynolds and Hardy weren’t looking so great. Hardy was injured again, a problem that has overshadowed his production the past few seasons. Reynolds was striking out way too much, while homering at a career low clip.

However, both of these players have really gone on a tear throughout the month of June. Hardy is arguably the team’s best player right now, and has produced with the best SS’s in baseball. In fact, Hardy’s numbers are better than they were in 2007 when he hit 26 HR’s and drove in 86 with Milwaukee. His defense has also been better than advertised. In short, he has been the best outside acquisition for the Orioles since Miguel Tejada in 2004.

Reynolds has picked up his offense of late, hitting 6 HR’s in June, while raising his average from .186 to .217 in just one month. He also has an on-base percentage of .335, which while not wonderful, it isn’t awful either, and it is actually extremely impressive for a guy who is hitting just .217. Reynolds, despite his strikeouts, has a very good eye at the plate, and at the very least is someone who Jim Presley can count on to work the count and make the pitcher work a bit.

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