Tag Archive | "Buck Showalter"

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Machado’s departure leaves behind numb feeling, concerning future for Orioles

Posted on 18 July 2018 by Luke Jones

The Orioles have finally traded Manny Machado, who became a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday.

It’s a sad day bidding farewell to one of the most talented players in franchise history, but this outcome had been clear for a long time. Even if the organization had shown the forward thinking and necessary aggressiveness a few seasons ago to sign the four-time All-Star infielder to an extension and buy out his first two or three years of free agency – along the lines of the six-year contract the Los Angeles Angels did with Mike Trout in 2014 – the last-place Orioles might still be in a position where dealing their most valuable player would have been the best move for the future. Only in that scenario, they would have fetched much more in a trade.

As two last-place seasons have now shown, having Machado alone doesn’t make up for other missteps, ranging from the annual refusal to play ball in the international market and the inability to develop impact starting pitching to the disastrous Chris Davis contract that runs through the 2022 season.

It’s ironic to note that the two best seasons of the Dan Duquette-Buck Showalter era occurred in 2012 and 2014 when Machado appeared in a total of just 133 games and accounted for only 3.9 wins above replacement. That speaks to how much else the Orioles had going for them at that point and how little they do now as they try to outrun their 115-loss pace over the final 2 ½ months of 2018.

Machado’s arrival in Baltimore on Aug. 9, 2012 helped fortify an unexpected contender in which many were still reluctant to believe at that advanced stage of the season. His superb defense at third base transformed a weakness into a strength as the Orioles went 33-18 the rest of the way to make the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. It’s a shame that his only playoff appearances with the Orioles came as a 20-year-old that October and in the infamous 2016 AL Wild Card Game in which Zach Britton is still waiting for the bullpen call from Showalter. We’ll never know if Baltimore’s fortunes would have been different in the 2014 postseason had Machado been healthy.

His departure comes at the franchise’s lowest point in 30 years – possibly ever – and only tightens the lock on the competitive window that slammed shut last September. Frankly, it brings more of a numb feeling than sadness with the Orioles an unthinkable 41 games below .500 in a season that was all but over in April. Many entered the year fearing the Orioles might be just mediocre enough to keep Machado past the deadline with unrealistic hopes of contending, but this club left no doubt that trading its best player for a quintet of prospects was the only play remaining with him set to hit the open market in a few months.

Perhaps trade centerpiece Yusniel Diaz eventually blossoms into an All-Star outfielder — maybe even taking part in an exhibition being held at Oriole Park at Camden Yards one day – or Dean Kremer develops into a top-half-of-the-rotation starter for Baltimore’s next contending club in a few years. Even so, Orioles fans will still reminisce about a 20-year-old Machado’s ninth-inning deke in a critical September tilt against Tampa Bay, his impossible throw from foul ground in the Bronx a year later, or any number of other defensive gems or heroics at the plate over these last six years.

Talents like him don’t come along often.

Of course, it wasn’t all perfect.

His knee injuries and subsequent surgeries in 2013 and 2014 likely killed any practical chance of an organization known for its rigorous medical reviews being as aggressive as it needed to be to extend him years ago. The bat-throwing incident against Oakland in 2014 was embarrassing, and his brawl with the late Yordano Ventura a couple years later didn’t help his reputation, which was likely a factor in Boston’s overreaction to his slide into Dustin Pedroia early last season. And he hasn’t always hustled as much as you’d want to see from a player of his magnitude.

To his credit, Machado has shown maturity and impressive patience answering questions about his future in numerous cities over the last several months, something that can’t be said about fellow free-agent-to-be Bryce Harper in Washington. And despite criticism he’s received about his desire to play shortstop this year and beyond, Machado was a professional deferring to veteran shortstop J.J. Hardy for years, even as the latter produced below-replacement-level offense in two of his final three seasons.

Whether Machado stuck around in the Charm City or not, no one should have ever expected him to be the next Brooks Robinson or Cal Ripken, who created Hall of Fame standards on the field and impossible ones off it in different times. Even the best players rarely spend their entire careers with one team now, making one hope Machado isn’t treated the same way Mike Mussina was by some – even if he too signs with the New York Yankees this offseason.

It’s a business.

Many nine-figure investments over the years have proven to be ill advised, but 26-year-olds aren’t typically hitting the open market to fetch those kinds of lucrative commitments either. Time will tell whether Machado continues on a Hall of Fame path and validates that kind of lucrative payment elsewhere as Orioles fans will instead see what happens with Davis’ .158 batting average that remains under contract for the next four years.

With Machado off to Hollywood to try to win a World Series with the Dodgers, what’s next for the Orioles?

Zach Britton is expected to go along with the possible trade of Adam Jones, whose exit will bring more pain after being the heart of the club for years and being such a pillar in this community. If the Orioles are going to get this rebuild right, the deals shouldn’t stop there as the likes of Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Jonathan Schoop, and Mychal Givens should all be on the table at the right price — now or in the near future.

Of course, there’s also the matter of determining what happens with Duquette and Showalter, whose contracts are set to expire at the end of the season.

Ownership establishing a clear vision and determining who will run baseball operations – while hopefully establishing a clear chain of command – are musts for a disgruntled fan base that just witnessed a generational talent being dealt away and will likely be watching losing baseball for quite some time. Wednesday’s trade was inevitable — even necessary at this broken stage — but that doesn’t make it less difficult with the future looking so bleak in Baltimore.

The Orioles have a mountain of work to do to create that same hope that accompanied Machado’s arrival in the midst of a surprising pennant race nearly six years ago. The last remnants of that feeling and one of the best players in baseball walked out the door Wednesday, leaving behind a last-place team and a fan base numb to the inevitable finally becoming reality.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts entering All-Star break

Posted on 16 July 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles hitting the All-Star break an unthinkable 39 1/2 games out of first place in the American League East, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Even with a victory in the final game before the All-Star break that featured contributions from Manny Machado and Adam Jones, the Orioles remain on pace to become the fifth major league team since 1901 to lose 115 games in a season. Infamy continues to chase them.

2. Baltimore hadn’t won on consecutive days at home since its season-best four-game winning streak from May 9-12, and it had also been three weeks since the club won consecutive games. Overshadowed by the frustration and anger of the season is how truly astonishing it’s all been.

3. Chris Tillman being bypassed in favor of a bullpen game Sunday should speak volumes about where he stands with his rehab assignment coming to an end. Not even a Jimmy Yacabonis illness could bring him back to the majors.

4. The question isn’t about whom to fire as much as determining who deserves to stick around for the pending rebuild. How do Buck Showalter and his coaching staff come back from such a historically poor season? What’s the justification for maintaining the status quo? It’s a tough sell.

5. Beyond trades involving pending free agents, a top second-half priority needs to be getting Jonathan Schoop and Trey Mancini on track. Both are too young and talented to have played like this. The Orioles need these two to be pillars around which to build or at least potential trade chips.

6. After being optioned to the minors for the second time in a month, Chance Sisco needs to be left alone for a while. I have doubts about what we’ve seen from him so far, but making him a regular on the Norfolk shuttle isn’t going to help matters.

7. I certainly wouldn’t give away Mychal Givens and his current 4.28 ERA, but the organization’s reluctance to trade him is too shortsighted. No one should be off the table when you’re facing a multiyear rebuild, especially factoring in the volatility of relievers.

8. In his first 23 games since returning from his benching, Chris Davis has batted .176 with five home runs, a .245 on-base percentage, and a .388 slugging percentage. That actually represents improvement, too. He sits at minus-2.5 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.

9. The Orioles entered the break last in the majors at minus-87 defensive runs saved, and the cause isn’t players being out of position as Showalter suggested this past week. Players with more speed and better defensive skills are needed rather than a surplus of designated hitters with gloves.

10. An addition to begin changing that narrative would be Cedric Mullins, who entered Monday sporting an .820 on-base plus slugging percentage for Triple-A Norfolk. It’s time to start seeing what the 23-year-old center fielder can do in the majors.

11. Brooks Robinson being hired as a special assistant is a great move, but I can’t stop thinking about how long overdue it is. This is something that should have happened from the moment “Mr. Oriole” left the broadcast booth 25 years ago. Better late than never though.

12. Now, is there any chance John and Lou Angelos can do something about THIS?

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False alarm hopefully signals Machado saga nearing conclusion

Posted on 15 July 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — For a few moments on Sunday, it looked like the end might finally be upon us.

Orioles utility man Jace Peterson standing in the on-deck circle to hit for Manny Machado in the bottom of the fourth inning naturally made one wonder if the All-Star shortstop had finally been traded after months of speculation and the ever-changing rumors of recent weeks. Upon seeing Tim Beckham slide over to shortstop and Peterson enter the game in the top of the fifth, reporters began scanning the Baltimore dugout to see if Machado was in the process of hugging his teammates and coaches goodbye.

It proved to be a false alarm as manager Buck Showalter removed the 26-year-old from the game due to the messy infield conditions that followed a 26-minute rain delay. Machado enjoyed the rest of the game from the dugout, wearing a hooded Orioles sweatshirt.

“We know what’s going on, the potential,” Showalter said. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that was all it. My thought on that is what are you telling the other eight people? Obviously, there’s a different situation going on with Manny. That’s just frankly. You all know that. That had a lot to do with it.”

The Orioles were smart to play it safe, but you hope his exit from the 6-5 victory over the Texas Rangers signals an imminent resolution to his immediate future. If Machado competing on an infield exposed to roughly 10 minutes of rain was too risky, the thought of him playing in as many as 10 more second-half games before the July 31 trade deadline sounds just as reckless.

With interview questions having already shifted from hypothetical to reflective without anything officially happening to this point, pulling the trigger on a deal as soon as possible — perhaps before the Orioles resume action in Toronto on Friday — would be what’s best for all parties. Showalter noted how proud he was of his club maintaining its focus with the saga now reaching the diamond, but it’s a band-aid that needs to be ripped away after slowly being peeled over the first 3 1/2 months of a nightmare season.

Showalter said he expects Machado to represent the Orioles in Tuesday’s All-Star Game, but Sunday brought into sharper focus the risk the organization is taking every time his name is written into the lineup. It’s enough to make you wonder how much further executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and the organization should go to try to maximize their trade return.

“A month ago, he wouldn’t have come out of the game,” Showalter said. “We know that. You know [that]. You’re smart. I think you know what’s going on.”

Yes, we all know what’s coming as Sunday provided a few moments of what that reality will be like.

Hopefully, it’s much sooner than later for everyone’s sake.

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Machado nostalgia tour in full effect as Orioles trade talks heat up

Posted on 09 July 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — It felt different this time as Manny Machado and the Orioles returned home 41 games below .500 on the heels of an 0-6 road trip.

Monday was one of numerous instances going back a couple of years that the four-time All-Star infielder was asked to discuss his future — or lack thereof — in Baltimore, but the finality is rapidly setting in as he began what could be his final homestand at Oriole Park at Camden Yards with the trade deadline just three weeks away. The 2018 season was all but mathematically over for the Orioles in late April, but the Machado nostalgia tour is now in full effect as trade discussions have turned from exploratory to intense in recent days.

The “when” may have replaced the “if” months ago, but the time is here to start saying the goodbyes.

Perhaps it was the presence of the New York Yankees — the club many believe to be the favorite to land Machado in free agency — to begin a four-game series, but the sight of Machado still wearing an Orioles uniform is now bordering on surreal with the end so close. He delivered one of his patented doubles in the first game of the twin bill and partook in his usual clowning with Jonathan Schoop between innings, but all focus is now on what the organization might fetch from the likes of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee, Arizona, or even the Yankees in a trade while the games themselves — losses more than 70 percent of the time — are inconsequential and the 2018 Orioles are on pace to be one of the worst clubs in major league history.

Machado is sounding more and more like part of the Orioles’ past with the only chapter left to be written being what prospects the front office gets in return to try to improve a bleak future. As each day passes, the Orioles and their fans simply hold their breath that he doesn’t get hurt before a deal is finalized.

His final notable act as an Oriole will be serving as the starting American League shortstop in next week’s All-Star Game if he isn’t traded before then. He described the news as “bittersweet” in the context of the club’s historic struggles and his anticipated departure.

“We’ve gone through some good times and some bad times, and it’s just made us better and brought us closer together,” said Machado as he reflected on his seven seasons with the Orioles. “This organization means a lot, and I’ll never be ungrateful for the opportunity and everything they’ve given to me.”

Hearing such nostalgia from a talent who just celebrated his 26th birthday stings, even if the prospects coming back in a deal prove to be fruitful. The current feeling of resignation shouldn’t forgive how poorly the Orioles handled this situation, beginning with not being more aggressive to try to extend Machado years ago and continuing with the decline of his once-massive trade value when it became apparent two winters ago that a long-term contract wasn’t going to happen.

One of the most talented players in club history getting so close to free agency is bad enough when you’re a contender, but allowing Machado to play his final two seasons in Baltimore on last-place clubs speaks to the organization’s lack of vision. That’s a bigger problem moving forward than the departure of any given player, and there’s no way to spin that truth until the Angelos family reveals some semblance of a long-term plan as executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter continue to work on expiring contracts.

The Orioles know what they need to do as the losses pile up in embarrassing fashion. Perhaps they’ll find a better-than-anticipated return for Machado, but being in this position with such a generational talent makes for a sobering trade deadline.

“I’d very much like to be adding, and we feel like, potentially, we will add really well [for the future],” Showalter said. “Either way, you’re just adding for a different purpose and subtracting for a different purpose. I think there’s a great opportunity here in a lot of ways.”

Great is hardly the word to describe it, but the Orioles now have no other choice.

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John Louis Angelos

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Dear John and Louis Angelos: Are you a Rocky – or a Bullwinkle?

Posted on 06 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

This is the second of many #DearOrioles letters I am writing in July 2018 to celebrate my 50th birthday and 20th year of owning Baltimore’s fiercely local and independent sports media company, WNST.net and AM 1570.

You can read my letter to Peter Angelos here.

 

Dear John and Louis:

I write to you to gentlemen with complete candor today because that’s what you deserve and that is my role as a journalist. You know who I am and I know who you are. I know (and care) very little about your backgrounds and your personal lives over the last quarter of a century other than being the somewhat semi-famous children surrounding the least popular local sportsman in recent Baltimore sports memory.

You have a lot on your plate, not the least of which is an 89-year old father who is ailing. I lost my Mom last year at 98. Aging is never pretty, never easy and never without incredible emotions and unique challenges. Yours is more unique because it’s playing out in the front of the community because your father chose that fate when he purchased the Baltimore Orioles 25 years ago and summarily wrecked the franchise.

He chose to be famous. You boys have now been drafted into it.

Your last names are Angelos – so as a community and fan base, we’re just assuming that whatever becomes of the Baltimore Orioles moving forward is going to fall to you. And your names are next on the corporate flow chart. Louis, I know you’ve been representing the team at MLB meetings, where you feel the heat of 29 very agitated and angered partners. John, I know you consider yourself an expert on the MASN deal and all things new media and the business side of the operation, so I know you guys don’t just fly in these days to make decisions from a pool somewhere.

I also understand your mother to be a very involved person within the organization and the decision-making process. Very quietly, she’s always been involved. So is her brother.

Like I said, you’ve got a lot going on.

I have very publicly been in Baltimore and discussing sports all my life. It’ll be the 20th anniversary on August 3rd that I founded WNST – the city’s first sports radio station at AM 1570 that was literally dedicated to promoting your family business around the clock. I’ve written books about the Orioles and Ravens. This is what I do. Baltimore sports is the story of my life. It’s all I’ve ever cared about. It’s all I’ve ever talked about. It’s what has fed my family since I was 15 years old with a pregnant girlfriend in Dundalk.

I get around. I’m from the east side and live downtown but my company is not limited to east or west or black or white or rich or poor and certainly not Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative. I have no bubble. I get all around Baltimore in all sorts of ways – music, politics, art, events, charity work, hospitals, networking, business, oh and sports – and I don’t think I’ve been in a room with either of you more than a handful of times over 25 years.

I know you don’t remember this, John, but I waved at you with an offer to come join me in the dugout in Fort Lauderdale one chilly morning in 2003 when WNST was broadcasting and promoting your family’s business for Baltimore sports fans – justifying over the airwaves why it was so important to be an Orioles fan and to care about baseball with your spare time on a cold day in February on the beltway.

You waved me off.

Other than that, we’ve never spoken. So, I guess we’ve still never spoken.

And, Louis, well other than a guy who I saw almost reluctantly dedicating statues on my television from Camden Yards a couple of years ago and maybe I’ve seen from afar once at a Living Classrooms event, I’m not sure I’d even know what you look like if I walked past you at Wit and Wisdom or on the streets of Harbor East.

Plenty of folks tell me I’d recognize you because you’d be the ones standing next to Brady Anderson trying to plot the next course of action for your family’s baseball franchise that has made you fabulously wealthy since your childhood.

Fellas, if the Peter G. Angelos era of Baltimore baseball ownership is not over, it’s certainly entering the last phase of dusk. I write to you today with many concerns about the future of the city and your role and that of the team you are apparently about to try to take control of and lead into whatever that next phase will be.

And if you don’t like my questions, wait’ll you hear from Rob Manfred and the old fellows up in New York once they get to pass the gavel on whether you guys are “fit” to be Major League Baseball owners. You can choose to ignore me. You can choose to hide in Baltimore. But I assure you they will have an even more stringent barometer of your worthiness for their club if they ever get that opportunity.

As I was inking this letter to you gentlemen, I saw that you hired a once-local guy named John Vidalin to “run some things.” I’ve seen his resume. Nice Canadian fellow. He’s been a lot of places. A friend of mine who once worked in The Warehouse and works in the industry sent me a text regarding his fate: “That poor bastard!”

I’ll be writing John Vidalin a #DearOrioles memo welcoming him to Baltimore very soon. He can rest assured that I’m a very available individual with delusions of grandeur. I’ll offer him what I’m offering you: a lot of valuable history and a little friendly advice.

It’s because I care a lot.

I hope you guys are better at this “running a baseball team” thing than your father but some of the early warning signs are less than encouraging. If Brady Anderson is the general manager, Buck Showalter is a special consultant to the president and Mike Bordick or Rick Dempsey are managing on Opening Day, I’m going to say there’s not a lot of hope for you guys making any significant “change” in the direction of the franchise.

Make no mistake: there will be a tomorrow for the Baltimore Orioles. And who will be running that show and taking on the enormous responsibility and challenge of repairing and rebuilding an enormously damaged legacy brand that is wayward ­– if not lost? – is now a daily part of my conversation all over town.

And if you just scoffed or bristled at that last sentence then you’re already in a state of denial that will be your continued demise.

Damaged. Wayward. Adrift. Last place. Historically bad.

Machado and Jones leaving. Brach and Britton about to go. Duquette and Showalter gone.

And the Red Sox and Yankees will be playing baseball in October and it looks like a trend.

And along with the Chris Davis contract, the one thing we’re certain is that you two gentlemen will be holding the decision bag.

So many questions without question marks.

And never any answers.

The Oriole Way. The Angelos Way.

“What’s going to happen to the Orioles?” has become a refrain as this eternal shitshow has hit rock bottom once again for a franchise that has experienced a crustacean-like grip on the ocean

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Dear Peter G. Angelos: Time will not dim the awfulness of your deeds

Posted on 02 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

This is the first in a long series of #DearOrioles letters to various members of the Baltimore Orioles. I will be writing them all summer in anticipation of the many changes and key decisions that are coming for the franchise’s ownership and leadership.

You can read my #DearOrioles prologue here.

On August 3, we’ll be celebrating 20 years of sports radio and media at WNST.net & AM 1570. I’m still waiting for the Orioles to win and to be kind.

So are you…

 

Dear Pete:

It’s been a while since you last ran from me. I know you didn’t like bumping into me – or most Baltimore Orioles fans, really – so much over the years but it’s not like I’ve really sought you out much lately.

The last time we exchanged a glance was back in the summer of 2014 – you were two blocks from my home. You were coming in the side door of the Hyatt Regency at the Inner Harbor and looking for any way possible to avoid me, along with my then-bald wife and Peter Schmuck. You caught a glimpse of the three of us and quickly disappeared behind a black curtain with a lot of security guys in suits with little earpieces.

Ninety minutes later, Rob Manfred emerged as the new Commissioner of Major League Baseball. And much like the rest of your tenure, you were nowhere to be found. Poof! Right in the middle of downtown Baltimore, you evaporated – like a vapor.

That’s been the eternal story of your ownership: plenty of questions, never any answers and a trail of smoke where the fans never find the fire until the team is 40 games under .500 again in a season of historic disgrace in a long trail of disgraces.

I know you’ve had some time down lately and there was a time when some in the family believed you were permanently moving away from the team and law firm but there’s been some rumblings from some mutual friends that you’ve been feeling better lately and might even be more involved than most think during this most tender of times in your long legacy of losing on the field and printing money behind the scenes.

Someone said recently that you were like “a Phoenix rising from the ashes!”

I hope someone in your department is up for this next challenge of building a baseball franchise all over again.

Most Orioles fans believe July 2018 is the most important of times because it will determine the future.

Oh, don’t worry: I’m not like Mark McGuire.

I AM DEFINITELY here to talk about the past – but only in how it relates to the future.

I know you’ve been trying to get rid of me for two decades – ever since that night in March 1997 when Frank Sliwka set up that lengthy chat over a few drinks at The Barn and you lied a lot about a little bit of everything – including being “a very available individual” – but I’m still here.

I’m still talking, researching, writing, opining, listening, learning and growing entering my 50th year on earth and 27th with the ears and eyes of Baltimore sports fans. And despite your pleas and the ignorance and insolence of your employees, who have been quite joyous in fulfilling your will and wish to punish me and treat me like another “very unimportant Baltimore baseball fan” – I still love baseball.

I still want to believe that one day – when you’re long gone and I’m still here – that I’ll feel welcomed at Camden Yards by the Baltimore Orioles franchise cheering for the team I loved as a kid and devoted my entire professional life to covering with accuracy, honesty and intelligent insights even when the truth didn’t serve your needs.

Maybe? Maybe not…

Time will tell.

I really have no idea how The Peter Principles are going to end. That’s why I’m writing to you today. And that’s why I’m not going anywhere. I’m still here watching Orioles baseball.

Despite all of the ridiculous awfulness you’ve presided over with your baseball team – and my life, my company and my credentials and fair access to do the job I’ve done since I was a 15-year old kid – I still care.

There are days when I’m ashamed to admit that, because it is shameful – the amount of time, money and thought I’ve put into the Baltimore Orioles during my first half century on the planet.

I would’ve loved to have been penning the 25th anniversary story in the summer of 2018 about your magnanimous tenure as a steward of the Baltimore Orioles. I would love to write tomes about you retaining Larry Lucchino back in 1993, hiring Pat Gillick and Davey Johnson for a generation that saw five World Series titles and parades down Pratt Street and two generations of great stars like Cal Ripken, Mike Mussina, Nick Markakis, Mark Teixeira, Adam Jones and Manny Machado we’ve had here in Baltimore. And about the way you welcomed legends like Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken into leadership positions with the organization and community. And how you cultivated and earned the Washington, D.C. market with a solid, burgeoning regional franchise like the ones in Boston and St. Louis that used their regional sports networks and media to dominate the baseball landscape in six states with a national footprint of a powerful and respected brand that competes annually with wise long-term organizational decisions, strong ownership and a clear and transparent communication with its fan base.

But that’s not going to be your legacy for anyone who has been paying attention.

I’ve written most of your story in The Peter Principles – at least through the time when you won your war with your MLB partners and got all of the free MASN money in 2006 that changed every part of accountability and profitability for your family. Every crazy story and word I wrote is true – even your many lies, deceptions and bizarre tales of power, money, ego, ineptitude, pettiness and a life lived with very little emotional intelligence in regard to the Orioles and what it represented in the hearts and spirit of the city and the region.

I really wish you had been the “very available individual” you said you were on that night at The Barn. I really don’t have much to judge you on personally beyond that night, your public words and all of the deeds of your organization toward the community and toward me. It all speaks for itself. There are many things said to me and done to me personally and

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Letting The Warehouse know via #DearOrioles letters that those empty seats are still out here

Posted on 25 June 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

I’VE THOUGHT LONG AND HARD about how I can best shine a light on the significance of the Baltimore Orioles to our city and community in this summer of baseball darkness.

In my hopes of one day becoming a “man of letters” – and in my old-fashioned newspaper columnist way and sans a legitimate press credential that was taken from me 12 years ago after 21 years of covering the baseball team – I’ve decided that the best thing I can do short of delivering a personal message to any of them face to face is write personal notes to all of them. So between now and whenever this mess is dismantled or disintegrates, they’ll all be getting very public and personal letters from me on the way out the door. And for those who are remaining – and most of those are named “Angelos” – I’ll continue to challenge them to answer to the fans, the stakeholders and the community in this tender time in Orioles history.

I’ll ask them all: “What does your future hold? What will your legacy be?”

It’s what John Steadman would do.

You can read them at the hashtag #DearOrioles. I’m hoping folks in the community will write their own #DearOrioles questions, concerns and memos.

This is the 25th summer Peter G. Angelos has owned the Orioles. It is my 27th year of doing sports radio and media in Baltimore. On August 3rd, WNST will celebrate its 20th year serving local sports fans the truth about the teams and the people who create, host and benefit from the games our community has supported with massive tax breaks, stadium erections and credit card insertions.

I was here doing this Baltimore sports media thing long before anyone outside of Bethlehem Steel ever knew the name of Peter G. Angelos – back in the spring and summer of 1993 when he created chaos and somehow usurped control of the franchise away from Bill DeWitt and Larry Lucchino. I wrote about that last summer in The Peter Principles. You can also find the audio read in the Buy A Toyota Audio Vault.

By my count, there have been five summers of relevance under his quarter of a century of involvement. In baseball parlance, that’s batting .200 ­–­ or 50 points higher than the guy they owe $130 million ill-fated dollars to over the next 20 years. By my count, he’s pocketed in excess of $1 billion in profit over the past 15 years, primarily due to a “get out of debt free” deal with Major League Baseball to bring a team to Washington, D.C. and allowing Angelos a spigot to print cable television money via MASN.

Peter G. Angelos and his heirs have been big winners in the Baltimore baseball game. Big with a capital “B” as in billions.

Meanwhile, fans of the Baltimore Orioles and vested community members have consistently been the losers in the baseball game. And the promises that William Donald Schaefer made with Edward Bennett Williams before his death about Camden Yards and a downtown stadium and the emotional and/or economic benefits it would provide for our city and community have all but evaporated.

I’m the guy who did Free The Birds back in September 2006 in an attempt to hold Angelos accountable and publicly discuss the issues surrounding a deserted downtown on game nights. It appears as though I’ve now lived long enough to arrive at holding the next “person of influence” with the Orioles accountable as well.

I pray that the next “caretaker” actually takes care of it because it’s in desperate need of some TLC. There are whispers that the franchise is in jeopardy of leaving Baltimore.

Can you imagine Peter G. Angelos being around to negotiate a long-term lease for Camden Yards and the threats that would come?

I’ve built my life and company and business and personal brand around local sports and the baseball franchise – for better or worse. My childhood love of the Baltimore Orioles is deep and well told. I’ve always loved the team. I live here. I moved downtown in 2003 to attend Orioles games. I wrote about it over 19 chapters of history in 2006 when I did the #FreeTheBirds walkout to shine a light on the horrific ownership and the lack of accountability. I’m no #Nestordamus, but I can say that I very clearly predicted the demise of the brand given the

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Sisco’s demotion latest head-scratching development for Orioles

Posted on 18 June 2018 by Luke Jones

Hours after Chance Sisco was originally penciled into Sunday’s lineup, the Orioles sent the 23-year-old catcher to Triple-A Norfolk.

It was a surprising announcement since manager Buck Showalter had just implied after the 10-4 win over Miami that Sisco was scratched due to being under the weather.

“I’m afraid he’s coming down with [something],” Showalter said. “He hasn’t slept in two or three days. … Just talking to him before the game, his energy level. He was ready to go. Just didn’t think it was in his best interest with the off-day tomorrow, but we’ll see. A lot of factors. That was the principal one. He just hadn’t slept any. It’s hard enough to play this game when you have.”

Sisco went from starting to being pulled from the lineup to being optioned to the minors in a little over six hours. Weird.

To be clear, the rookie isn’t exactly having a great season and has numbers that would definitely warrant a demotion if the club were even remotely in contention. He’s batting just .218 with a .328 slugging percentage and has struck out a whopping 35.5 percent of the time, a rate not far from Chris Davis territory (37.6 percent). However, his .340 on-base percentage is third on the club behind only Manny Machado and Danny Valencia, and a number of others on this roster deserve to be jettisoned before Sisco if we’re basing this solely on performance on a last-place club.

Sisco’s defense has been scrutinized throughout his professional career, and he had thrown out just one of the last 18 runners attempting to steal after surprisingly gunning down nine of the first 18 this season. His average pop time — the time from the moment the pitch hits the catcher’s mitt to the moment the ball reaches the fielder at the base a runner is attempting to steal — is still too slow and his arm strength lacking while his pitch-framing metrics also rank among the bottom catchers in the majors, according to Baseball Prospectus.

His defense undoubtedly remains a work in progress, but bench coach John Russell is also regarded as a superb catching instructor to continue to oversee Sisco’s development at this level.

The timing of this demotion doesn’t seem to make much sense for a club that is 30 games under .500 and going nowhere, but the Orioles are instead expected to summon the 32-year-old Caleb Joseph back to the majors. One could argue that Sisco might benefit from a mental break and a potential confidence boost playing for the Tides, but you won’t find a major league climate with less pressure from a competitive standpoint than Baltimore right now. He also spent his entire 2017 minor-league season with Norfolk, seemingly leaving little for him to prove at that level.

What does he need to work on that can’t be done while continuing to play in Baltimore?

The Orioles have used a catching carousel all season, going from the tandem of Joseph and Sisco to open the season to Sisco and Andrew Susac to Sisco and Austin Wynns to the current pair of Wynns and Joseph. Sisco’s demotion isn’t the end of the world nor does it mean the Orioles have soured on him to any great degree, but it does appear counterintuitive to what this season should be about the rest of the way.

Odds & ends

In an already-lost season from a competitive standpoint, you’re left to look for moments such as hard-throwing rookie Tanner Scott striking out Justin Bour with a nasty slider to leave the bases loaded in the seventh inning of a four-run game on Sunday. Scott is averaging an impressive 12.5 strikeouts compared to 3.1 walks per nine innings this season. … Trey Mancini had been 4-for-50 with runners in scoring position this season before his RBI single in the third inning of Sunday’s win. He batted .340 in that department as a rookie. … Jonathan Schoop drew four walks during the Miami series after registering only seven over his first 47 games. You hope that increased level of patience is a sign of better things to come as the 2017 All-Star second baseman is batting just .212 with a .626 on-base plus slugging percentage. … Brad Brach pitched a scoreless eighth inning, but he issued a walk and is averaging 5.2 free passes per nine innings. He needs to get on a roll and cut down on the walks to improve his trade value. … Sunday marked the first time the Orioles enjoyed a lead of four or more runs since May 24 in Chicago. … The Orioles scored a combined 27 runs on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. They scored a total of just 18 runs in 11 straight home losses between those holidays.

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Orioles continue to sit Davis with “no closed end to it”

Posted on 15 June 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — If it weren’t already becoming apparent after Chris Davis sat out four of the previous six games, Orioles manager Buck Showalter delivered the news prior to Friday’s game with Miami.

The veteran first baseman has been benched.

Showalter didn’t use the “b” word, of course, as he explained Davis is being given an extended stretch of time to work on adjustments to try to turn around a historically-disastrous season in which he’s batting .150 with a .454 on-base plus slugging percentage. Both marks rank last in the majors among qualified hitters by a wide margin as the 32-year-old has hit only four home runs and has been worth an appalling minus-2.2 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference. Davis hasn’t hit a homer since May 9, posting a .114 average with a .305 OPS, two extra-base hits, five walks, and 43 strikeouts over his last 95 plate appearances.

“Chris is continuing with some things that he’s working on,” Showalter said. “When they come to me and say they think he’s ready to get back in the lineup, we’ll put him back in there. But it’s nothing imminent.”

Asked exactly whom “they” was comprised of, Showalter would not specify. The manager does not expect Davis’ absence to be a long-term situation, but he added there is “no closed end to it.”

There have been no signs of improvement this season as Davis’ numbers have gotten worse each month since April when he batted an anemic .167 with a .513 OPS. It’s gotten so bad that the last-place Orioles promoted infielder and longtime minor leaguer Corban Joseph, the younger brother of Caleb Joseph, to start at first base against the Marlins on Friday.

Davis is only in the third season of a seven-year, $161 million contract and has now produced a slash line of .179/.266/.314 over his last 503 plate appearances dating back to the 2017 All-Star break, making it inappropriate to simply refer to this unprecedented decline as a slump. Davis had previously received a game or two off to use as a reset once or twice, but this current stretch represents the most meaningful public action taken to address what constitutes an organizational crisis.

“I’m hoping it’s sooner rather than later. I’d love to get back the Chris Davis that we all know he’s capable of [being],” Showalter said. “It hasn’t been there this year. With kind of a new approach and some new things you’re trying, this is not something that you’re going to do one day in a workout and then it’s all going to pop in one night. If that was the case, it would have happened a long time ago.

“This is something you’ve got to give a little time to and know that when you get into a game and you don’t hit a line drive over the center fielder’s head the first swing you take, you don’t throw everything out. If you’re looking for an instant return on stuff, this game doesn’t allow that.”

What those adjustments or alterations might look like remain to be seen as he hasn’t yet made any dramatic changes to his swing, stance, or positioning in the batter’s box for an extended period of time.

“We need a good Chris Davis. We do,” Showalter said. “He knows that, and that’s what’s frustrating for him. It’s like the chicken and the egg, what comes first confidence-wise?

“I’d love to see Chris get a good week under his belt and watch what happens.”

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Britton’s return, Machado’s absence bring Orioles’ expected sell-off into focus

Posted on 11 June 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Orioles cleared the final real hurdle for their anticipated sell-off with the activation of two-time All-Star closer Zach Britton from the disabled list on Monday.

There are no more excuses for waiting to dive into the trade market with the deadline now seven weeks away.

The Memorial Day checkpoint came and went two weeks ago with Baltimore hopelessly in last place. The amateur draft is in the books, removing that important task from the ledger. And now Britton has returned less than six months after tearing his right Achilles tendon, giving him several weeks to rebuild his trade value that’s taken a hit over the last 14 months because of injuries.

Opposing scouts were already watching the left-hander during his five-game minor-league rehab assignment, which concluded with a 1.69 ERA and six strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. The Orioles now hope Britton resembles the closer who recorded 120 saves and a 1.38 ERA from 2014-2016 to make him that much more attractive to contending clubs aiming to bolster their bullpen.

“Every time I get the ball, pitch well and help the team,” said Britton, who’s trying his best not to view his return as an audition for other teams. “Regardless of our standing or the trade discussions, the mindset’s just going to be to go out there and pitch well.”

Manager Buck Showalter said he’d prefer not throwing Britton into a save situation immediately, but the organization knows opposing teams will want to see how he handles high-leverage situations sooner than later. Pitching effectively in minor-league games was an important step, but there’s no simulating the pressure and adrenaline of the ninth inning of a major league game. Hopefully the reeling Orioles can scrounge together enough save chances to help him further prove his worth over the next few weeks.

Britton’s return coincided with the absence of shortstop Manny Machado, who was out for the series opener against Boston due to illness. Machado not being in the lineup for the first time all season initially sparked fan chatter about a potential trade before Showalter confirmed the star infielder was dealing with the same bug that sidelined third baseman Danny Valencia in Toronto on Sunday.

Not seeing Machado batting third and playing shortstop Monday previewed the reality the Orioles are facing at some point in the near future.

“I’d be less than frank if I said that I hadn’t already thought about that,” Showalter said. “You should’ve already thought about it. You should think about all guys. If somebody’s hurt, what’s your ‘what if?’ There’s not anybody on the horizon or maybe in baseball that’s a ‘what if’ that’s available like Manny. I don’t need a reminder of watching it tonight.”

Entering Monday 26 games below .500 and 24 1/2 games out of first place in the American League East, the Orioles imagining how much worse it could get without their best player isn’t pleasant to say the least.

But it will be their reality all too soon.

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