Posted on 24 May 2014 by WNST Audio
Posted on 23 May 2014 by WNST Staff
The week in Orioles baseball has been a memorable one, for better and for worse. After last week’s difficult 1-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals in which Adam Jones and Chris Davis stranded the tying run at third, questions surrounded manager Buck Showalter’s stubbornness with his everyday lineup. With Manny Machado playing every day and batting second, the Orioles most consistent hitter, Nelson Cruz, has now been moved down to the fifth spot.
After a week in which the Orioles have actually put runs on the board with Showalter’s “stubborn” lineup, the team has won just once. Cruz continues to impress, while it appears that Jones has settled in to the three hole with 8 hits in his last 4 games. Which begs the question: Should the Orioles make major changes to their lineup?
FOR By: Brett Dickinson
Though the Orioles had a decent week at the plate, that does not change the long-term reality for some “stars” in this current lineup. At the top, Nick Markasis has been steady getting on base as needed with some many run producers batting behind him. Manny Machado has struggled through his first several weeks, coming off a serious knee injury and missing out on the entire off season. It may be hindering the team now, but getting the young superstar comfortable is much more important for this team’s success later on. Hopes are he can start to turn things around and be the same type of player that filled the two hole for the Orioles last season.
But the heart of the lineup is where I see Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter really struggling with his inner demons. He is consistently not putting his best hitters in the best situations to succeed at their highest level. Nelson Cruz is certainly an extremely early MVP candidate, yet is left batting in the fifth spot. Showalter has been loyal to a fault in his tenure with the organization; clearly evident with his handling of Jim Johnson and the closer role last season. The same can be said with the team’s highest paid player (and supposed team leader) center fielder Adam Jones.
When everyone watching the game knows the scouting report on a player (including my own wife, who knows baseball, but doesn’t follow it as intently as most fans), then there is a problem. Just the other night Adam Jones came to the plate; her exact quote as a slider was thrown to the outside corner, into the dirt:
“I’m surprised he didn’t swing at that one…”
Jones plate discipline this season has been down right despicable. Yet he still bats third in a lineup that has struggled to consistently score runs all season. Buck needs to stop worrying about hurting his feelings and tell the young man he is moving down a couple spots. It should not matter that he is the “face of the franchise;” if that were true, he should do what’s best for the team without hesitation. Ideally, Chris Davis should move into his slot, because though he does not have the massive power numbers of 2013, he is getting on base at an alarmingly high rate, taking an massive amount of walks in the process.
This would lead to Nelson Cruz batting cleanup, where he has the potential to come to the plate with runners on base each and every time. Doesn’t that seem like the smart decision for a guy that among the tops in the entire MLB in home runs and RBI? Moving the free swinging Jones down to the fifth spot should not hurt his approach either, because he really doesn’t have one at this point. Whether he bats third, fifth or ninth, he is going to swing and swing a lot.
Time to stop being loyal to a player’s past performance and looking at his current contributions Buck!
AGAINST By: Barry Kamen
In the month of May, it is very easy to overreact to things that happen during the course of an entire baseball season. Sure, no Oriole fan likes to see the middle of the order fall flat in a close game. But every fan LOVES it when 3 Orange Crushes leave PNC Park. There are ebbs and flows to every season. The goal of the Orioles in May is consistency, ensuring that the peaks and the valleys are not drastically far away from each other.
One way to ensure is consistency is with the lineup. The criticism surrounding Adam Jones is largely unwarranted. The free-swinger is what he is; a .280 hitter with above-average home run and RBI numbers for his position. Jones doesn’t walk, and he is going to strike out more than he should. Fan frustration should not be with Jones, but with the injuries that have plagued the team all season. With Manny Machado’s bat starting to come around after joining the team at the beginning of May, the entire lineup has produced as a result. Assuming no other injuries occur, the Orioles have one of the best 1-5 lineups in all of Major League Baseball. Not only is the top and middle of the order talented, but there are very few mysteries associated with each player. The biggest question mark could very well be Chris Davis, as he works to ensure that last year’s production was not a fluke.
Rather than tinker with the lineup, depth becomes the next issue for Showalter to deal with. David Lough has played himself out of the lineup, and the end might be nearing for the former Royal. With Delmon Young and Steve Pearce in the fold, there is very little reason to keep Lough. It will not be long before Steve Lombardozzi returns to the majors, and could make a significant impact at the bottom of the order. Until then, tread water in May, and prepare for the high tide in September.
Posted on 21 May 2014 by Brandon Sacks
This season has just seemed off for Chris Davis. We have not seen the same power from him that he has shown the past two seasons. In 2012, he hit 33 home runs in 515 at bats, averaging a home run every 15.6 at bats. In 2013, he posted career numbers, blasting 53 round trippers in 584 at bats, which averages to be one homer about every 11 at bats. This year, he has only hit three home runs in 104 at bats. A quarter of the way through the season, this is not what the fans had expected from the silver slugger.
Apparently Davis got the memo that he led the league in home runs last year and wasn’t anywhere close this year. Davis teed up on the Pirates in the first game of the series, blasting three home runs on three consecutive at bats. Just in case that was impressive enough, he did it on three different pitchers. Davis is the first Oriole to have a 3 HR game since…himself. His last three homer day came back on August 24, 2012 against the Blue Jays. In one night, he was able to double the number of home runs he had on the year. He drove in five of the Orioles runs on the way to the 9-2 thrashing of the Pirates.
Another bright side to the game is that Nelson Cruz drove in his 13th homer of the year. The entire lineup contributed to the win, which included a Caleb Joseph bases loaded walk to break the 1-1 tie in the fourth inning to give the birds the lead that would stand for the rest of the game. The birds have now scored 15 runs in their past two games. Hopefully this is the sign that the team’s bats have finally started coming alive. With strong bats combined with the recent success of the starting pitching, which has dramatically improved as of late. Combined with the Masahiro Tanaka’s first loss as a major leaguer, the Orioles are now back on top of the AL East.
If the bats come alive with how well our pitchers have been doing, then there is no saying what this team is capable of doing. Let’s hope this keeps up.
Posted on 19 May 2014 by WNST Staff
If you missed the beginning of the “60 Greatest Members of the Orioles”, it covered the Honorable Mentions–the fellas who were worthy of being in the conversation, but ultimately failed to make the cut. At last, here is the beginning of the list:
60. Dennis Martinez, Pitcher
During his 11-year career in Baltimore, “El Presidente” recorded double-digit wins in six of those seasons. An upper-echelon starter in the late 70s, Martinez was a large piece to the ’79 AL Championship team.
59. Nick Markakis, Right Fielder
A pitching prospect out of college, Markakis quickly moved through the Orioles system and served as the lone bright spot several historically bad O’s teams. While his power has diminished from the projections back in the mid-2000s, Markakis is a lock for the Orioles Hall of Fame for the simple fact of tenure and consistency during a time of turmoil and failure.
58. Matt Wieters, Catcher
The Georgia Tech alum has never quite become “Mauer with power,” at least not to the degree that many expected when he was taken fifth overall in 2007. With that being said, Wieters has been a mainstay in Baltimore since 2009 and a proven home-grown commodity–something the Orioles had previously struggled with in the 2000s. Should Wieters sign a contract extension and remain in Baltimore, he’ll go down as the greatest catcher in club history.
57. Frank Cashen, General Manager
As the Director of Baseball Operations, Cashen played a major role in bringing Oriole-great Frank Robinson to town, despite the fact that Harry Dalton–who was GM at the time–routinely receives the notoriety. Cashen’s best days were in New York, as the GM of the Mets, however, his Baltimore roots and contribution to multiple Orioles’ World Series makes him a lock for this list.
56. Rich Dauer, Second Baseman
Dauer, a projected big-time hitter coming through the O’s system in the mid-70s, never panned out in terms of being much of a threat at the dish; however, he was a fan-fave and his presence through the late 70s and early 80s was a big part of the team’s chemistry and its ability to rebound after losing the 1979 World Series to the Pirates. He currently manages the AA affiliate of the San Diego Padres.
Posted on 18 May 2014 by WNST Staff
4,886 wins. 11 playoff appearances. Six American League Pennants. Three World Series Championships.
That’s the Baltimore Orioles in a nutshell since 1954.
The list–which will be comprised of players, managers, and other members of the organization–will attempt to pay homage to the most impactful and influential individuals in the 60-year history of Baltimore’s ballclub.
The Honorable Mentions:
Coaches, Front Office, Media
60 Greatest Members of the Orioles (60-56)
Posted on 16 May 2014 by WNST Staff
By: Brett Dickinson and Barry Kamen
BD: Barry after a disappointing week from the Orioles, there have been some interesting developments at Camden Yards. The first one involves the handling of the pitching staff, as players have been consistently sent down and brought up for the past couple weeks for fresh arms. Most importantly the team’s top prospect found himself in the big leagues for just one start on Wednesday, May 14, against the Detroit Tigers at home. After an underwhelming performance (five earned runs in four innings), he was immediately sent back down to the Norfolk Tides to make room for relief pitcher Evan Meek. So I ask you Barry, what do you make of the Orioles handling of Gausman and are they on the fast track of ruining another highly touted pitching prospect?
BK: The Baltimore Orioles have not had a good track record when it comes to the development of young pitchers, and Wednesday’s performance from Gausman was more of the same. With the Orioles in the midst of thirteen consecutive games, Chris Tillman nursing a minor hamstring injury, and a possible suspension for Bud Norris it made sense for the Orioles to call up a starting pitcher from Triple-A Norfolk for Wednesday’s game. However, the decision for it to be Gausman was puzzling for many reasons. Gausman started the month on the minor league disabled list, and he was not on full rest. Combine that with the 12:35 pm start and Justin Verlander taking the mound for the Tigers, the odds were not in Gausman’s favor.
Kevin Gausman is one of the best pitching prospects in the major leagues, and the Orioles should focus on maximizing his potential rather than risking his development for an early May game against the best team in the American League. While Gausman has had some success at the major league level out of the bullpen, the ultimate goal is for him to become a member of the starting rotation as early as this summer, and as late as Opening Day of 2015.
If the Orioles continue to be at or near the top of the American League East, the team could be faced with a predicament come September. In the thick of a playoff race, is it worth calling up Gausman to pitch important innings out of the bullpen, even though he is being groomed as a starter? Only time will tell. But if it means the Orioles are competitive, then it is a good problem to have.
Injuries have become far too common this season. While the Orioles have been fortunate enough to avoid injuries the starting pitchers, the same cannot be said for the infielders. Catcher Matt Wieters is the latest Oriole to head to the disabled list. Brett, can the Orioles win without Wieters’ steady presence, and are you concerned that the catcher can maintain his longevity?
BD: Well the good news only comes with more bad for the Orioles, as they finally got Chris Davis back on the field, only to lose Matt Wieters. This team has not had its starting lineup together all season, but still are hanging on towards the top of the AL East. But the major issue here is Wieters long term health. It only figures that he would get off to his hottest start of any season during his career, batting .308 with 7 HRs and 18 RBIs, to be shut down in mid-May. This shoulder strain certainly reiterates the idea that he may not last as a full-time catcher for much longer in his career.
Defensively, his real strength is the ability to control runners on the base paths with his strong arm. Without that, he is nothing more than average backstop, without great movement to block balls in the dirt. His value for the team and future free agency drastically drops if he cannot throw out runners.
Though a visit with noted sports physician, Dr. James Andrews, brought positive news that Wieters should not need surgery that would have ended his season. Concerns do arise if this strain will linger and hinder his performance for the rest of 2014. The team has already reportedly been on the market for a catcher to platoon with Steve Clevenger. Which is never a good sign for the near future at the position and the team’s confidence that Wieters will make his way back to full strength.
It is a shame that this has happened after he has finally turned things around at the plate, but I’m pretty I have warned about this in the past. Buck Showalter’s overuse of his catcher may be catching up to him and Wieters may never be the same.
Posted on 12 May 2014 by WNST Audio
Posted on 05 May 2014 by Brandon Sacks
The Baltimore Orioles lost two out of three games to the Minnesota Twins after coming off a strong double header against the Pirates. The Orioles scored six runs during the entire Twins series and used a very depleted bullpen that was coming off short rest from the double header. As the Orioles head to Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay, fans should think about one thing – there is no real problem yet with the Orioles.
You may ask how scoring six runs during a three game series is not actually a problem or how using too many pitchers each game is not a problem. While there were some problems with the series just played, there haven’t been any serious problems as of yet. Here’s why.
Ubaldo Jimenez, the $50 million free agent signed in the off season, might finally be coming to mid-season form. While his performance was sub-par during his first few starts, he finally notched his first win as a Baltimore pitcher. In his outing in Minnesota, he went 7.1IP and fanned 10 in the Orioles 3-0 shutout of the Twins. Jimenez, often criticized as being a massive bust by the Orioles organization, looks to be trying to prove his haters wrong. This last outing may just be a glimpse of why the Orioles signed him for the next four years to be one of our starting pitchers.
Manny Machado is back and ready to play every inning. Back in September, we did not know how long it would take for Manny to come back and be ready to play again. After starting in his first game of the season with the Orioles in the second game of the double header against the Pirates, he has shown that he is absolutely ready to get back into the swing of things. Since coming back, he has made plays that fans would not have expected Schoop or Flaherty to make in the same position. Once he finds his swing and starts hitting again like he did last year before the injury, Manny will once again become one of the premiere players in the league.
The Orioles currently sport a 15-14 record and are second place in the AL East. There is no team in sole possession of last place at the moment because three are tied at 15-17. Toronto, Boston, and Tampa Bay are all two games back from the division leader New York Yankees. The Yankees currently have a 16-14 record, which is a half game up on the Orioles. What’s the point here? The Orioles are in the toughest and closest division in baseball. While losing one or two games may swing them out of second place, picking up a game or two on the division leader would put the birds in first place. One game is all it will take to thrust the Orioles into first place in the division.
The bottom line here is that the Orioles are not in as bad of shape as they could be considering the outcomes of some of the recent games. If fans really want to worry about the team, that should wait until the middle of the season. With Chris Davis coming along with his oblique strain, it isn’t long before the Orioles have a completely healthy starting lineup, which could be one of the most dangerous lineups in all of baseball once the bats come alive. The Orioles are still in a pretty good spot, and until the middle of June, we won’t really be able to tell what to expect from the O’s as the season continues to progress. Until then, we can keep cheering for the birds as they look to win every series from here on out.
Posted on 28 April 2014 by Glenn Clark
Posted on 25 April 2014 by WNST Audio