Tag Archive | "Buck Showalter"

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Twelve Orioles thoughts on record-setting 2018 club

Posted on 19 September 2018 by Luke Jones

With the 2018 Orioles officially having suffered the most losses in 65 seasons in Baltimore, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. “Inconsistent” is a euphemism frequently used to describe a player or team that’s bad. There’s nothing inconsistent about a club that’s won three or more in a row just three times all season. The 2018 Orioles are as consistent as any team I’ve ever seen.

2. I’d like to think somewhere the 1988 Orioles cracked open skunked beers to celebrate on Tuesday night. Move over, Jay Tibbs and Pete Stanicek.

3. Some say the Orioles could be worse next year, but I doubt it. Ten teams have lost 110 or more in a season since 1900. The Orioles will become the 11th, but the probability of losing that many again is ridiculously small. That said, avoiding triple-digit losses will be difficult.

4. I’m glad common sense prevailed with Adam Jones playing the final six games of the homestand. The few still coming to games know they’re likely watching Jones’ final days as an Oriole and have responded with appropriate ovations. Non-prospect outfielders shouldn’t be starting over him, especially at home.

5. Caleb Joseph’s comments about the state of the Orioles had to be cathartic for both him and fans, but it’d sure be nice to hear something — anything — from ownership along these lines, even if worded more delicately. What about the status of Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter? Hello?

6. Dylan Bundy has alleviated some concerns with his last two starts, but a 5.37 ERA in late September says all you need to know about how his last three months have gone. It’s fair to wonder if he’ll ever be much more than a league-average starter at this point.

7. Since raising his average to .180 on Sept. 5, Chris Davis has one hit in his last 30 plate appearances. He is batting .171 and owns a .548 on-base plus slugging percentage. I hope there’s a better plan than hoping for the best when he arrives in Sarasota next February.

8. With Hunter Harvey shut down again, it’s probably time for the organization to write him out of their long-term vision. That’s not to say you give up on him, but the 2013 first-round pick has only 63 2/3 professional innings to his name since his health problems began in 2014.

9. Nearly two months later, I still believe the Orioles sold too low on Jonathan Schoop and especially Kevin Gausman. Wouldn’t those two have been attractive trade chips for a new general manager to use this offseason to start remaking the roster with his own vision?

10. We’re still months away, but I can’t imagine how the organization is going to sell the 2019 team at FanFest this winter. The Orioles at least had the likes of Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Nick Markakis to hype when they were bad a decade ago.

11. If nothing else is accomplished this winter, can the Orioles and MASN at least start offering in-market streaming of games next season? They’re begging fans under the age of 30 to turn their backs on them by continuing this antiquated policy. It’s not 2005 anymore.

12. Sunday marked the four-year anniversary of the Orioles clinching the AL East title. It’s a reminder of how much can change in four years, but this organization will need to make far better decisions in the next four years than it did these last four to get back on top.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts entering second half of August

Posted on 15 August 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles wrapping a 1-5 homestand and one loss away from falling 50 games below .500, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The quest to outrun club history isn’t looking promising. The Orioles must go 27-14 the rest of the way just to avoid 100 losses and would need a 20-21 finish to have fewer losses than the 1988 club. At least they appear safe from the 1962 Mets and 2003 Tigers?

2. Dylan Bundy’s regression has made a miserable season in the win-loss department that much worse. He’s allowed five or more earned runs in five of his last seven outings and owns an 8.33 ERA since the start of July. His stuff and command look mediocre and the results even worse.

3. Cedric Mullins needs more time to get comfortable roaming major league ballparks and his arm remains a question, but I like the energy he brings to the plate and teammates and coaches have been impressed with his poise.

4. Adam Jones didn’t have much to say Tuesday when asked about his early impressions of playing right field beyond there being “less running” for him. It’ll be interesting to see what his market looks like this winter, but easing his defensive burden should only help his bat.

5. Trey Mancini was one of several young players to struggle in the first half of the season, but he entered Wednesday sporting a .303/.344/.517 slash line with five home runs and 13 runs batted in since the All-Star break. His surge has been encouraging to see.

6. Paul Fry wasn’t exactly on anyone’s radar after being acquired from Seattle early last season, but the 26-year-old lefty has a solid 3.15 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 20 major league innings. He might be the Orioles’ best reliever at this point, which I know isn’t saying much.

7. One of the questions entering the winter will be whether Tim Beckham is tendered a contract. The 28-year-old is under club control through 2020, but he’s making $3.35 million this year and will be in line for another raise in arbitration. His defense at shortstop isn’t cutting it.

8. As time passes, the less I like the Kevin Gausman deal. Seeing what Tampa Bay got for Chris Archer — who’s actually been fairly comparable statistically the last three years — confirms that. Average starters with two more years of control are valuable, but the Orioles were more interested in shedding salary.

9. Chance Sisco has a .217/.301/.337 slash line in 93 plate appearances at Triple-A Norfolk. Buck Showalter said recent reports about his defense have been positive, but the loss of confidence with the bat – his strength entering 2018 — is one of the season’s more undersold disappointments.

10. Many grouped Mullins and DJ Stewart together earlier this summer when discussing which prospects might be the next ones promoted, but the 2015 first-round outfielder is hitting .236 with 12 home runs, a .338 on-base percentage, and a .402 slugging percentage at Norfolk. That’s not exactly screaming for a promotion.

11. Austin Hays playing again for Double-A Bowie is encouraging and he’s had some decent games since returning, but I’d like to see the Orioles refrain from a September call-up. Let him finish out the Baysox season and then send him to the Arizona Fall League before starting fresh next spring.

12. The current version of the 2018 Orioles took the team photo Wednesday, prompting some giggles and press-box discussion. If Manny Machado and others no longer with the organization are ineligible, who is this year’s Most Valuable Oriole? I’d assume Jones wins, but maybe we just sit this year out?

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Orioles continue new era as Jones moves over for Mullins

Posted on 10 August 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Watching Adam Jones trot out to right field for the Orioles was strange on Friday night.

It was the first time the longtime center fielder had started a game there since Sept. 25, 2007 when he was a 22-year-old still establishing himself in the major leagues with the Seattle Mariners. The last player to roam center field for the Orioles before Jones was acquired ahead of the 2008 season was Tike Redman, who filled in for injured veteran Corey Patterson over the final weeks of 2007.

A long time ago.

Of course, making room for rookie center fielder Cedric Mullins was the right move. If Cal Ripken once shifted to third base for Manny Alexander — albeit briefly — Jones could certainly make room for the talented 23-year-old, who was 3-for-4 with two doubles and two runs batted in in his major league debut. It’s a credit to Jones for the manner in which he’s handled himself over these last few tumultuous weeks. After invoking his 10-and-5 right to decline a trade to Philadelphia last month, the 33-year-old not only moved off his longtime position with grace, but he’s serving as a mentor to the former 13th-round pick from Campbell University.

Those who had criticized Jones’ decision in fear of his presence hindering Mullins’ development were reminded of the team player he’s always been.

The move could also help prolong Jones’ time as a productive player, either in Baltimore or elsewhere at the end of the season. It’s no secret the four-time Gold Glove center fielder’s range had diminished in recent years as he entered Friday ranking next to last among major league center fielders in defensive runs saved (minus-18). No longer facing the physical demands of covering so much ground in center — especially with so many inferior corner outfielders flanking him in recent years — Jones could look to former All-Star center fielder Torii Hunter for inspiration as the latter played five more seasons and made another All-Star team after permanently moving to right field at age 35.

“Adam’s a smart guy. He’s a really good self-evaluator and calls it the way it is,” manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s a real tribute to him. He’s been talking to Cedric for a while — he knew. The thing that players don’t like is they just don’t like something thrown at them last second. He and I have been talking about it. It was a matter of when, not if.”

The start of the transition was fun to watch before Dylan Bundy and the Orioles bullpen imploded, turning an 8-3 lead into an ugly 19-12 loss to the Boston Red Sox.

Not only did the switch-hitting Mullins become the first Oriole ever to collect three hits in his major league debut, but Jones added three hits and two RBIs himself. After Mullins doubled in a run in his first at-bat in the second inning, Jones drove home the rookie with a two-run single to give Baltimore a 4-3 lead. Upon the completion of the inning with Jones stranded at first base, Mullins brought out his cap and glove from the dugout as the two bumped fists and the veteran gave the rookie a pat on the backside as they jogged to their new spots in the Camden Yards outfield.

It was a special moment in a season so few of them.

“He’s been very supportive of me playing center field,” Mullins said before Friday’s game. “We’ve had a lot of contact about it, and he’s kind of guiding me through that process. It’s huge. Coming from a guy with 10 years under his belt, he’s been a huge veteran and a huge team leader for all these years. Being in direct contact with him for a huge moment in both of our careers is amazing.”

Despite the ugly finish, Friday brought some hope as the Orioles continue their rebuilding process and Mullins became the first homegrown prospect to be promoted since last month’s sell-off.

His presence didn’t prevent the Orioles from losing their 81st game and officially being eliminated from American League East contention with just over seven weeks remaining in the season. But losing with Mullins gaining experience in center and Jones playing right sure beats the alternative of the seven other players the Orioles had trotted out to right field at various times this season.

That’s why it still felt like a good night as Mullins flashed the ability that’s made him a rapid climber in the Baltimore system these last couple years. The Orioles wouldn’t have moved Jones off the position he’d manned for more than a decade for just anyone.

“It’s fun to watch it through their eyes, and I’m so happy he’s got someone like Adam to be there for him,” said Showalter, who compared Mullins’ skill set to former Orioles great Al Bumbry the first time he watched him play in the minors. “It had to be the right guy. We think Cedric might be the right guy.”

For one night at least, he looked like it.

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Jones, Orioles weighing complicated question of whether to stay together

Posted on 26 July 2018 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Longtime center fielder Adam Jones and the Orioles could be nearing a break over the next few days.

The next few months will determine whether they break up after more than a decade together.

It’s more complicated than the last-place Orioles beginning their rebuilding process and Jones wanting to win a World Series, but the soon-to-be 33-year-old admits he’s intrigued by contending clubs’ interest in his services for the stretch run. Whether a potential deal compels him to waive his no-trade clause remains to be seen.

“It’s like the first day of school when you wear that outfit and you see what kind of interest everybody has in you — who’s flirting with you and what not,” Jones said. “It’s cool. It’s flattering. It’s uncommon territory.”

Assuming that he’s so desperate to escape a historically-poor 2018 club that he’ll blindly accept a trade anywhere shows a lack of understanding of the man. Jones will weigh all variables, starting with the comfort of his family, before making his own decision — not the one others think he should make. He sounds open to the possibility of moving to a corner outfield position for a contending club, but it must be the right fit and Jones isn’t one to delve into hypothetical talk about where that could be, leaving much uncertainty in the meantime.

This is a delicate situation for the Orioles, who have been clobbered on the diamond in 2018 and are desperately in need of some positive vibes with their fan base as the next couple seasons appear bleak. Putting aside the missteps that led to the current state of affairs, the trades of four-time All-Star infielder Manny Machado and two-time All-Star closer Zach Britton were obvious decisions to make, but that doesn’t mean fans are happy with the end result. Jones is the closest thing to a true face of the franchise the Orioles have had since Hall of Famer Cal Ripken nearly 20 years ago, something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. His play on the field and unparalleled work in the community should be celebrated now and for many years to come, making him more valuable to the Orioles than any other club.

If we’re being honest, Jones is unlikely to fetch all that much of a return in a trade with the potential holdup of where he would play and the remainder of his $17.33 million salary owed being the biggest obstacles. It doesn’t appear that trading him would alienate Jones, but that’s assuming he’s treated with the proper respect and courtesy in the process. He hasn’t indicated that a deadline trade to a contender would preclude him from re-signing with the Orioles in the offseason, but there’s the distinct possibility that he finds the grass to be greener elsewhere and a new team falls in love with him in a way like Baltimore has, diminishing the possibility of a reunion.

If that’s indeed what the Orioles want.

“Is the door open?” said Jones about possibly re-signing with Baltimore if he’s traded at the deadline. “You can want all you want. A lot of people want things, but if that door is not open, you’re just going to be sitting outside knocking. Who knows?”

The report of Jones meeting with executive vice president John Angelos, son of owner Peter Angelos, indicates the Orioles being interested in continuing their relationship beyond 2018, but re-signing an outfielder entering his mid-30s may not be the best baseball decision for a rebuilding club whose deepest minor-league depth resides in the outfield with the likes of Cedric Mullins, Yusniel Diaz, Austin Hays, DJ Stewart, and Ryan McKenna all at advanced levels of the farm system.

Jones entered Thursday batting .277 with 10 home runs, 38 runs batted in, and a .727 on-base plus slugging percentage. He’s had a solid season, but his homer pace and current OPS would represent his lowest marks since 2008, his first season with the Orioles. His .304 on-base percentage would be the lowest of his career.

According to Baseball Reference, his 0.3 wins above replacement also puts him on pace for a career low, but that underwhelming WAR is primarily a reflection of his minus-15 defensive runs saved in center field, a position he knows he’s unlikely to be playing next season. It’s reasonable to think a move to a corner spot would ease the burden on his body and allow him to maintain his production at the plate for a few more years, but baseball players have varying expiration dates, no matter how much teams try to anticipate them.

Re-signing Jones to a reasonable deal for the next few seasons to be a right fielder, a leader and mentor for younger players, and the continued face of the franchise looks great on paper and would bring value off the field, but what if his numbers decline further, creating an awkward logjam with other younger options? The storybook ending would be the Orioles once again rising to prominence with Jones still contributing in the twilight in his career, but what if the losing continues longer than the organization hopes and he grows disenchanted after a year or two?

Perhaps both sides will ultimately decide to part amicably with no hard feelings and an understanding that Jones will always be an Oriole and have a home in Baltimore and that the organization will forever be indebted to him and the long-term commitment he made six years ago.

His legacy is important to him and extends far beyond the home runs and diving catches. Jones’ commitment to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore and other charitable endeavors is another factor that could keep him an Oriole beyond 2018. And it speaks to how fortunate this community has been to have him pass this way.

“My thing is what would happen to all the things I’ve done here?” Jones said. “It would be hard. Who would pick up the slack? All the community involvement. A lot of that stuff needs to continue. Those kids are counting on the funding to continue the programs they are striving and grinding their way through. There are a lot of dynamics to me here in Baltimore. It’s not just me between the lines.”

His decision is bigger than baseball, but the thought of a player with such a desire to win being saddled with a losing club in the final years of his career is difficult to take for even the biggest Orioles fans.

Jones is on a ride with an unclear destination. But unlike Machado and Britton, he has a say in the matter, and he’s earned that much for everything he’s done over the last decade.

“It’s interesting. We shall see what happens,” Jones said. “I don’t know what the plan is here for the future or if I’m even part of it, so let’s see what interest can be generated and see how my representation and my family feel about something that could happen.”

Whether it’s just a break, a breakup, or merely the latest chapter in a terrific relationship remains to be seen.

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Dear Zach Britton: We’ll forever salute you as Mister ‘What If?’ in Baltimore

Posted on 25 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

Dear Zach:

Your time has come to leave Angelos Island and trade in the orange and black for your most unlikely second MLB franchise – the Evil Empire and the pinstripes of the dreaded New York Yankees.

Instead of back in black, you’ll be back in blue next week.

Start spreading the news, you’re leaving today! And much like Manny Machado, this is very likely the road to City Y on the way to City X.

On the grandest stage and pitching into October – well, we think they’ll actually put you in the game in The Bronx – you’ll have a chance to throw your way back into something that looks like the contract you probably deserved after what you did here from 2014 through 2016.

I remember Don Stanhouse from my youth. I saw Gregg Olson drop deuces on 33rd Street into his prime. And I watched all of the rent-a-hats from Don Aase to Lee Smith to crazy-ass Randy Myers around here and you are the king of the firemen in the Charm City.

The closest thing I ever saw to Eckersley – and that’s high praise even if you’re not on the Red Sox charter!

No one ever did it better than you, Zach!

And I’m not holding my breathe to think we’ve ever going to see it again, late into summer nights, as Orioles fans with games on the line in money spots. The first thing we’ll need to see to ever replicate anything resembling you will be late-inning leads. And methinks there won’t be a lot of those in the pipeline in the coming years in Baltimore.

There are so many “what ifs?” around your dozen years with the Baltimore Orioles organization. I’m sure you were taking that all in – out in the bullpen for the final time on Tuesday night. Like Machado and Markakis and a few others of the modern era who “made it out” with big-time productivity and contracts with lots of zeroes, you remember the slums of Fort Lauderdale every spring and that time long ago when all the organization that drafted you did was finish in last place.

We do, too!

You were a part of changing that around here and we’ll forever salute you!

I remember your youth and promise. The whole Arrieta, Matusz, Tillman class of “growing the arms.” And now a decade later, we start to see the history of buying the bats.

Those of us who have been paying attention can easily piece together who is where, and why?

As much as the folks who watched you dazzle and become the most automatic finisher this side of the best of Eckersley in his prime, you will always be remembered – and tied to – Buck Showalter’s epic fail in Toronto in October 2016. It will forever be the black hole of modern day Orioles baseball – how a baseball genius left Ubaldo Jimenez on the hill and you in your prime on the pine at Skydome with the season on the line in extra innings.

As you kinda pointed out last week on your media exit tour, it’s still inexplicable and irreversible. It always will be, even for Buck.

It took the Baltimore Orioles 14 years to solve the Armando Benitez-Tony Fernandez bomb in 1997.

Who knows how long this current back in (the) black hole era will last? And who made who?

We’re just getting started around here with the coronation of Dillon Tate, Josh Rogers and Cody Carroll and the eight new baby Birds on the farm from this July haul and heist of the Dodgers and Yankees.

In the future, the Orioles will need dirty deeds done dirt cheap in the late innings.

Buck will fairly get his chunky and complex #DearOrioles letter later – and it certainly would be unfair to judge him solely on a pitch you never threw in Canada – but his story and yours are forever tied to Toronto and that fateful night. It’ll be the last time the Baltimore Orioles will have a chance to win a postseason MLB game for a long

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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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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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