Posted on 08 July 2014 by WNST Audio
Posted on 03 July 2014 by Brandon Sacks
From June 6-8, the Orioles played the Oakland A’s in their first head to head series of the year. On the sixth, Manny Machado had a bit of a meltdown and threw his helmet after an incident where he felt he was tagged too hard. Two days later, he “accidentally” threw his bat at A’s pitcher Fernando Abad. For these two incidents, Manny received a five game suspension from MLB, which was upheld after being appealed.
It seemed like this was going to be the most inopportune time for Machado to be forced out of the lineup, especially with his bat heating up. The Orioles offense was not explosive as fans know it to be in the games leading up to the suspension. He also is one of the best defensive players on the Orioles’ roster. While he has not played to the same quality as when he won the platinum glove award last year, he has still been very dominant at third base this season. When others were playing at third while Machado was coming back from his knee injury, it was evident that the birds missed number 13.
Not so much anymore. Three games into the five game suspension, the Orioles are 3-0, outscoring the Rangers by a combined 21-8. Chris Davis and Ryan Flaherty have both played well above average defense at third. The offensive output from the position, while minimal, has included the go-ahead home run by Flaherty last night.
Is the Machado suspension really the worst thing that has happened to the Orioles this season? It seems like this season, more than any, the birds have done really well in the face of adversity, from the Machado injury to the Wieters injury to the suspension and more. No matter what has happened, they have found a way to continue winning, and they have been able to stay in the race for the AL East. As long as the Orioles continue to connect on offense like they have over the past three games, they will be on the verge of becoming the AL East powerhouse that has been mysteriously absent throughout this entire season.
Now if only we could work on our starting pitching…
Posted on 21 June 2014 by WNST Audio
Posted on 14 June 2014 by WNST Staff
By: Brett Dickinson and Barry Kamen
BK: Another week of Orioles baseball means another set of highs and lows for a team that finds itself fighting for second place in the American League East. The starting pitching has been the team’s bright spot, with Bud Norris, Wei-Yin Chen, and Chris Tillman combining for just 1 run allowed in 21 innings during the rain-filled series with the Boston Red Sox. Kevin Gausman also had his best week as professional, going 2-0 and out-pitching Sonny Gray and Mark Buehrle against the Oakland Athletics and the Toronto Blue Jays respectively.
Despite the great starting pitching, the week was marred by another poor outing from Ubaldo Jimenez and the antics of 3B Manny Machado during the series with the Athletics. If the Orioles are going to compete for a playoff spot in a very winnable division, the team will need both Jimenez and Machado to regain their 2013 form rather than continuing at the pace that they are on.
The news of Manny Machado’s 5 game suspension (which he has appealed) shocks no one who follows the Orioles. Machado’s helmet-slamming and bat-throwing actions were both immature and inexcusable, providing an already potent Athletics team with more motivating to win a series during a difficult road trip. So Brett, I ask you this: if you were the Orioles, how would you go about handling the Manny Machado incident? Was appealing the suspension the right call?
BD: Barry, knowing this organization, I already knew this would be a PR nightmare; and they didn’t disappoint. First off, having a MASN exclusive interview with him after the incident is simply a joke. We all know who is signing those checks for the TV network and we have seen this many times in the past. Then nobody in the organization has the balls to sit the young man down. The players had to take action, since it was clear nobody else was. Embarrassing.
There was no reason at all he should have played that game on June 7th, after his actions the night before with Oakland A’s 3B Josh Donaldson. Buck should have realized that he was out of control then and benched him on the spot. As a 21 year old, sometimes you need to be knocked down a peg or two, before things really get out of hand…like they did two days later. And by having Chen hit Donaldson that same night, it was just a terrible sign of how this team thinks. “We like OUR guys” does not mean you have to back them even if they were egregiously wrong.
Now after the episode on June 9th, everyone now sees Machado as a spoiled brat and dirty player. The organization should have been proactive in this situation and made a point throughout their dugout. Allowing him to play the night after not only is an embarrassment to the Orioles, but is a sign that Buck Showalter may not be the man for the job. He proved that he does not have the where with all to stand up to a star player and put him in his place.
Now the appeal is just common practice in the MLB, as their is no repercussions for trying, so why not appeal and hope for a lesser sentence. As a legal move it makes a lot of sense. As a personal move, if Machado really wanted to prove his sincerity, he just lets this one slide, accepts his punishment as a man and comes back ready to play in five days.
Now on to some good news for the O’s, as they have seen top prospect at least fulfill his expectations for his past two starts, after being called back up to the big leagues. Thirteen innings, two earned runs and nine strikeouts may be the best two game stretch for any Baltimore pitcher this season (oh by the way the team won both games). If you were the Orioles, what do you do with Kevin Gausman and the starting rotation when Miguel Gonzalez returns from injury? Is a 6-man rotation still a possibility?
BK: I had the privilege of getting a Manny Machado bobblehead (insert joke here) and watching Kevin Gausman in person last Saturday. Prior to the game, I had my doubts about how the evening would play out. Gausman’s first start of the year was against a division leader, with the opponent’s ace taking the mound. Under eerily similar circumstances Gausman rose to the occasion. What made the former LSU product so impressive was the velocity on his fastball (consistently hitting 96-97 mph) and the ability to ramp it up when needed. In the 6th inning, with runners on second and third and one out, Gausman struck out Athletics’ third baseman Josh Donaldson with a phenomenal off-speed pitch, followed by a 99 mph heater to ring up cleanup hitter Brandon Moss that reminded me of Justin Verlander. By getting out of a jam by striking out the heart of the Athletics’ order, Kevin Gausman had arrived.
After another impressive start from Gausman on Thursday against yet another first place team, it is time for him to become a full-time member of the rotation. Of all of the Orioles starting pitchers, Gausman has already drawn three of the most difficult matchups on the season. By challenging him early, the team is preparing Gausman well for tough division games in August and September. With two straight quality starts, sending the 23-year old back to Norfolk or placing him in the bullpen would be misguided.
The idea of a six-man rotation was first brought up when Johan Santana was added to the roster. The idea was short lived, as Santana tore his Achilles during a start at extended spring training, ending his season. Although Buck Showalter has said that he does not want to go to a six-man rotation to sacrifice an arm in the bullpen, the team has the arms to do so. The extra day of rest for starting pitchers would benefit Chen and Gausman the most, while also giving the team more time to work with Chris Tillman and Ubaldo Jimenez on their early inning struggles. The Orioles also have four bullpen members who have starting experience (Tommy Hunter, T.J. McFarland, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz) that are capable of throwing two-plus innings if needed. This would require the team to make Darren O’ Day the closer, or a by committee approach.
The most likely scenario is for Gausman to stay in the rotation, while Miguel Gonzalez moves to the bullpen. Prior to the oblique injury, Gonzalez had put together a string of nice starts in May. The Orioles have a need for a right-handed reliever to work the 6th and 7th innings when starters like Jimenez and Chen produce high pitch counts, and Gonzalez has experience coming out the bullpen. There is room for both pitchers in a six-man rotation, but the Orioles don’t value the risk-reward as much as others.
Posted on 12 June 2014 by Brandon Sacks
Last night, the Orioles finished up their series against the Boston Red Sox on national television. Wei-Yin Chen pitched seven innings of shutout baseball on the way to a 6-0 victory over the Sox. The entire country got to watch the pitchers shut down the defending champions for the second time in three days. The Orioles allowed one run in the series and, had the birds been able to hit during the second game, could have easily swept the Sox.
After this past game, the question rises about how often the birds play on national television. It seems like every time the Orioles make an appearance on ESPN or FOX that they are playing either the Red Sox or the Yankees, which is slightly ridiculous. The Orioles are scheduled to make 12 national appearances over the course of the 2014 season, five of which will not be against Boston or New York. Three of these five games will be against the division opponent Rays, who were expected to be much better than they are showing to be. In other words, the Orioles will appear nationally in two games they do not play divisional foes. Only the FOX corporation (once against Oakland on FOX, once against St. Louis on Fox Sports 1.
It seems like the national media, especially ESPN, does not respect the Orioles as much as they should. It’s nice to see the birds once again playing in the national spotlight, but it would be nice to see them playing games outside the AL East. Over the past two years, the Orioles have a winning record against Boston and have played very well against New York. If this is the case, then why do the Orioles continue to play these two teams almost exclusively? It doesn’t make sense at all.
Over the past two and a half seasons, the birds have worked to throw away all memories of the terrible play that lasted over a decade. The birds have done their jobs, so why is the national media not responding by giving them playing time to the rest of the country? The Orioles finally have made appearances on ESPN, even hosting games in the national spotlight, but this little reintroduction is not enough. The national media does not respect the Orioles. That seems like the only logical explanation. Why else would the Orioles play the majority of their nationally televised games within their division?
The Orioles have proven time and time again that they are able to play outside of their own division and do it well. While the respect seems to be returning slowly, it isn’t coming back fast enough. It’s a shame to see this, especially from a team that just allowed one run over an entire series against the defending World Series champions.
Posted on 07 June 2014 by WNST Audio
Posted on 06 June 2014 by WNST Audio
Posted on 04 June 2014 by Brandon Sacks
The third of June was the day that was probably circled on the calendar of Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz. This was the day that he finally returned to his former team, the Texas Rangers, to play for his new team. Many wondered if the Rangers fans would give him a warm welcome back or if they would boo him.
That question was answered in the first inning, as Cruz was batting third in the lineup. When he walked up to the plate for his first appearance of the night, the fans all applauded. After the game, Cruz told reporters that it felt good that everyone was happy to see him.
They probably weren’t happy to see that he has not changed at all. Cruz drove in his league leading 21st home run in the top of the 8th inning to put the Orioles out of reach. His 3-run homer was part of a six run inning that led to the Orioles’ eventual 8-3 victory in the series opener against the Rangers. Even though Cruz went 1-4 at the plate, his three run bomb made the game quite the homecoming for Cruz.
Let’s hope that his run production continues. The birds will need two more high scoring performances if they want to keep beating the Rangers in Texas.
Posted on 31 May 2014 by Brandon Sacks
The Orioles have finally gotten a bit of good news to the club. Amid a four game losing streak and some borderline atrocious play, there is finally something to smile about. Matt Wieters, who has been on the DL since May 11, has finally picked up a baseball again. He had his first throwing session down in Houston before the second game of the series against the Astros.
As you’ll probably remember, Wieters has had a problem with his throwing elbow, which led to some speculation about his ulnar collateral ligament and whether he would need Tommy John surgery to repair it. There was word that he was receiving platelet rich plasma injections, which is what many pitchers receive in order to avoid the surgery.
It sounds like good news to have Wieters back to throwing. He estimated that he threw about 25 pitches during the session and felt fine, which bodes well for his future. It looks like he will be able to avoid Tommy John surgery, and he probably will be back to the Orioles sooner rather than later.
Right now, the birds could use anything to gain some momentum. Since the second game against the Brewers, their bats have gone cold, putting up only five runs in the next three games. Both of Wieters’ replacements, Nick Hundley and Caleb Joseph, have limited experience in the orange and black, but neither have done incredibly well at the plate. Hundley is batting .214/.313/.214 in 16 plate appearances and Joseph is batting .040/.172/.040 in 30 plate appearances. As a comparison, before being placed on the DL, Wieters was batting .308/.339/.500 in 112 plate appearances. In other words, the Orioles are missing a solid bat in the lineup right now.
Hopefully, the return of Wieters will be exactly what the Orioles need to finally return to the offensive powerhouse that they should be. Barring any future injuries, the Orioles would finally have the entire starting lineup together for the first time all year, which could be just what they need to push back to the top of the AL East.
Posted on 24 May 2014 by Brandon Sacks
It was fairly well known that the Orioles were in the market for another catcher. It was pretty much expected that this catcher was going to replace Caleb Joseph in the depth chart. Most people believed that this new catcher would be backing up Steve Clevenger. However, this was not exactly the case.
Before the third game in the series against the Indians, the birds announced a trade with the San Diego Padres. In exchange for Troy Patton, the Orioles received catcher Nick Hundley and cash considerations. That’s right. The Orioles just traded for a starting catcher.
Troy Patton served a 25 game suspension at the beginning of the season for testing positive for amphetamines. Since coming off his suspension, he made 9 appearances in the orange and black. He allowed four walks and picked up five strikeouts while only pitching 6.2 innings to an ERA of 8.10 and a WHIP of 1.950.
In exchange for Patton, the Orioles picked up Nick Hundley. In his seven years with the Padres, he has caught 27.7% of runners trying to steal a base, which is around the league average. As a comparison, Wieters has caught 32.5% of runners in his seven years with the Orioles. Hundley has only committed five more errors than Wieters during that span.
Here is the problem. Wieters is scheduled to come off the 15-day DL on May 26, but does not look like he is ready to come off immediately. That would be fine, but the Orioles already had two catchers on their roster. If they had signed another catcher to simply replace Joseph, that would have just been seen as a simple transaction. The issue is that the birds traded for a starter in the last year of his contract. This might signal that there is a serious problem with Wieters’ elbow that could keep him out of the game much longer.
Wieters has been resting his elbow for the past two weeks in order to try and avoid surgery. A few days ago, Wieters received a platelet rich plasma injection, which is normally given to pitchers that are trying to avoid Tommy John surgery. Putting these two parts together, Wieters could very well be heading to getting the surgery, which would end his season. If he were to get this surgery, it would be a huge loss for the Orioles. Wieters has hit over 20 home runs in each of the past three seasons. The birds will lose a serious power threat if he ends up getting season ending surgery.
While the Orioles will once again have a starting catcher behind the plate, it seems like there are some more serious problems at hand. Hopefully this trade is just to unload a pitcher that could not do his job rather than to pick up someone for damage control.