Tag Archive | "Buck Showalter"

Buck pose

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O’s END YEAR WITH RECOGNITION

Posted on 16 November 2014 by Tom Federline

Ok, so it’s not a World Series appearance. At least a few of the Orioles were rewarded with accolades due them. Being recognized with four major personal awards cannot compare with the ultimate team award, but hey, not a bad take home. The O’s had three key players out for the stretch run and playoffs. Against the odds, the boys almost made it. There was Orange fever in October and that alone felt pretty good.

The bad news……The Orioles fell short. They collapsed against a team on a roll. So, what’s another year? We’ve only been waiting 31 years to reclaim the title of World Series Champs. We’re O’s fans, we’re used to it. Actually, I’m tired of waiting. At least we haven’t waited as long as Chicago Cub fans.

The good news…….recognition. For me, it saved the season. Three O’s taking home Gold Glove awards and finally Buck-Buck getting his due with Manager of the Year. I wasn’t expecting Hardy. Thought he made to many errors. Jones is a “voters” favorite. And Markakis, the best fielder in the bunch, simply rocked the league with a 1.000 fielding percentage. I thought they were going to go with the Royals manager, banking it on their one month run and WS appearance. I was pleasantly surprised when they actually gave the award to the manager who deserved it.

As you could have guessed, I watched and errupted when they announced Markakis as the Gold Glove winner for right field. Not there should have been any doubt, but he has been “denied” before. They actually got it right this year. You play in 90%-plus of the games and are charged with NO errors – you deserve the Gold Glove. This was his second. He should have five (5) of them. He is and has been the best right fielder in baseball over the past 8 years. Read my past November blogs for support data. SIGN MARKAKIS!

“J….J….Hardy!”, deserved it. You think the announcement of his name by the fans, will continue like that into next year? It was cool. But, we should do it for the entire line-up. That would be cooler. Annnnnd only during the playoffs. Hardy has one of the best guns in the league. His relay to home from the outfield is unmatched. There is a sense of security when the ball is hit his way. Kind of like when the ball was hit to Cal – more than likely there is going to be an out. It did appear his back problems were worse than divulged to the public. Hopefully he can get that under control, without surgery. J….J…Hardy, signed.

“Jonesy”, is the glue in center. 155 games this year. He shows up, he’s in the line-up, he rarely takes a play off. I believe he was rewarded for those qualities versus having the best fielding percentage and projecting “flashy” efforts. That double play he turned, taking away that home run then nailing the guy at second, was a Top 5 “Web Gem” of the year. His arm is deceivingly strong. Team captain – Adam Jones, signed.

Buck-Buck, the consummate team leader. Steadfast in his approach. Has the respect of his players and his peers. He just needs a couple more “gold nuggets”. He was rewarded his third Manager of the Year Award. With three different teams, each one 10 years apart. “I know I won’t be around for another one in 10 years.” The Orioles and Baltimore appear to be Buck’s swan song. The Orioles organization and fan base is fortunate that we have him. It appears that Buck-Buck is happy here. He is quite the fit with this town. Buck appreciates the fan base and opportunities the front office has afforded him. He has something to work with. He is a fundamentalist.

The O’s either do it with this guy or I feel we may be waiting in a time frame more in the line with those Chicago Cubs fans.

The O’s covet 2 of the best outfielders in baseball, arguably the best shortstop and hands-down, the best Manager. Those four Orioles are solid, “Solid as a Rock” – Ashford and Simpson. Hopefully the rock is not chiseled away before we can get one more World Series Championship in my lifetime. We should count our blessings. True Oriole fans have always known the amount of talent showcased on field these past few years. Finally, the baseball world has woken up and threw some recognition the Orioles Way. Get a starter. Sign Andrew Miller. Dump Cruz. Congrats to the backbone of the Birds (minus Weiters). If Weiters had been playing, the O’s would have had 4 Gold Glove winners. Sarasota can’t come soon enough. Let’s Go O’s!

D.I.Y.
Fedman

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Showalter named 2014 AL Manager of the Year

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Showalter named 2014 AL Manager of the Year

Posted on 11 November 2014 by Luke Jones

After guiding the Orioles to 96 wins and their first American League East division title in 17 years, Buck Showalter was officially named 2014 AL Manager of the Year Tuesday night.

Receiving 25 of 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, Showalter finished ahead of fellow finalists Mike Scioscia and Ned Yost to win the third Manager of the Year award of his career. The 58-year-old also won in 1994 with the New York Yankees and 2004 while managing the Texas Rangers, but some regarded 2014 as possibly Showalter’s finest managerial job.

Losing All-Star catcher Matt Wieters and All-Star third baseman Manny Machado to season-ending injuries and 2013 home run king Chris Davis to a 25-game suspension for amphetamine use, Showalter and the Orioles didn’t blink as they pulled away from the rest of the division in August to win the AL East by 12 games. An expert at manipulating his roster, Showalter received meaningful contributions from career journeymen such as Steve Pearce as well as longtime minor leaguers like rookie catcher Caleb Joseph.

Though voting was completed at the end of the regular season, Showalter also guided the Orioles to their first postseason series win since 1997 before they were swept by the Kansas City Royals in the AL Championship Series. This was the fourth different club he’d taken to the playoffs and second time he’d made it with the Orioles.

Showalter has 1,259 career wins in 16 seasons as a major league manager, third on the active list. He is 377-328 in five seasons as the Baltimore skipper since being named the 19th manager in club history on Aug. 2, 2010. From the day he arrived in Baltimore, Showalter began changing a losing culture that had persisted for more than a decade and led the 2012 Orioles to the AL wild card, ending a stretch of 14 consecutive losing seasons. The Orioles have now posted three consecutive winning season for the first time since 1992 through 1994.

He becomes the third manager in franchise history to be named AL Manager of the Year, joining Frank Robinson in 1989 and Davey Johnson in 1997.

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Showalter named finalist for AL Manager of the Year

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Showalter named finalist for AL Manager of the Year

Posted on 04 November 2014 by Luke Jones

After guiding the Orioles to their first division championship since 1997, Buck Showalter was named one of three finalists for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s American League Manager of the Year award.

The winner will be announced on Nov. 11 as Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia and Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost were named the other finalists on Tuesday. Voting was completed at the end of the regular season, meaning the playoffs do not factor into the decision.

The Orioles won 96 games in 2014 and advanced to the AL Championship Series for the first time since 1997 before they were swept by Kansas City. Baltimore swept the Detroit Tigers in the AL Division Series.

Showalter was named a finalist two years ago when the BBWAA named Oakland’s Bob Melvin as the winner. The Orioles manager previously received the honor in 1994 when he managed the New York Yankees and in 2004 when he was the skipper of the Texas Rangers.

Last month, Showalter finished second to Scioscia in this year’s Sporting News AL Manager of the Year award by one vote.

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How far should Orioles go to re-sign Markakis?

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How far should Orioles go to re-sign Markakis?

Posted on 28 October 2014 by Luke Jones

It’s no secret that the Orioles want to keep Nick Markakis.

The organization’s first-round pick in 2003 and the regular right fielder since 2006, Markakis is the longest-tenured Oriole and offers some value that can’t be easily measured as a longtime leader in the clubhouse. But even as executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette engages in contract talks to keep the soon-to-be 31-year-old in Baltimore for the 2015 season and beyond, everyone has a price and determining Markakis’ overall value is a tricky proposition.

It was apparent a couple years ago that the Orioles weren’t going to exercise Markakis’ $17.5 million mutual option for 2015. Even as a favorite of manager Buck Showalter and his teammates, the right fielder’s numbers have declined in recent years as 2013 was his worst season and he still only produced a .729 on-base plus slugging percentage this year. He’s hit below .280 in each of his last two seasons and his slugging percentage has fallen below the .400 mark in back-to-back years as he doesn’t provide the same gap power he did as a hitter who once averaged 45 doubles or so.

A simple look at his numbers over the last four years — save a productive 2012 that was limited to 102 games due to injuries — suggests the Orioles should attempt to find an upgrade in right field, but it isn’t quite that simple with a player like Markakis. This winter’s crop of free-agent outfielders offers few options as good as Markakis, let alone better.

That reality not only means it would be challenging to find a player of his caliber, but demand could be substantial in the open market, further driving up his price. The Orioles could make the $15.3 million qualifying offer that would drive down demand from other teams who would then forfeit a draft pick to sign him, but Markakis could simply accept the qualifying offer — in addition to his $2 million buyout — and essentially be back where he was with the original mutual option.

Internal options to replace Markakis in right field include Steve Pearce and a variety of fourth-outfielder types such as David Lough, Alejandro De Aza, and 25-year-old outfield prospect Dariel Alvarez unless you’re going all in to re-sign slugger Nelson Cruz to a long-term contract.

So, how much is Markakis really worth?

The general consensus is that a win costs approximately $6 million on the open market and Markakis has averaged just over two wins above replacement (WAR) per season over the last five years if you eliminate a very productive 2012 cut short by injuries and a horrendous 2013, the two clear outliers in that period of time. If we’re to assume Markakis continues to be a 2.0 WAR player over the next few years — optimistic, but not unreasonable for a player in his early 30s — that would put him in the neighborhood of earning $12 million per year in a vacuum.

Of course, that’s a statistically-driven monetary value that doesn’t consider the intangibles that Markakis brings that can’t be easily quantified or the supply and demand of the open market in any given offseason.

What does each side expect from the other? Do the Orioles want Markakis to take a hometown discount after signing shortstop J.J. Hardy — who’s been a 3.65 WAR player per year since 2011 and is only slightly older — to a reasonable three-year, $40 million contract with a vesting option? Does Markakis expect the Orioles to split the difference between what the numbers suggest he’s worth per year and the $17.5 million option for 2015 that they declined? Does he expect to be paid as much as or more than Hardy even though the latter has been more valuable over the last four seasons?

Even though he’s one of the few Orioles to make Baltimore his year-round home in recent years, Markakis has never had the opportunity to test the free-agent market and perhaps he’s curious to see what other teams might offer.

If you’re the Orioles, a three-year contract worth somewhere between $34 million and $38 million would be acceptable if you can’t reap the benefits of a hometown discount. Perhaps a vesting fourth-year option similar to the one Hardy received — which is reportedly based on plate appearances — would be an attractive addition, but there has been too much decline in Markakis’ production in recent years to go much higher than that in terms of years or money unless you’re perfectly fine with overpaying.

Entering the 2015 season at age 31, Markakis should have plenty of solid baseball ahead of him, but the last five years suggest the best you’re reasonably going to get from him is worth roughly $12 million per year on the open market and that’s assuming he doesn’t decline further. Of course, his value isn’t based solely on the numbers, but you have to be careful not to overpay for intangibles and sentimentality.

Replacing Markakis wouldn’t be easy in terms of finding a leadoff hitter and replacing his leadership in the clubhouse, but the Orioles shouldn’t overpay for those qualities, either, with other players and other needs to address this offseason and in the coming years.

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Showalter finishes second in Sporting News AL honor

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Showalter finishes second in Sporting News AL honor

Posted on 21 October 2014 by Luke Jones

After guiding the Orioles to their first American League East title and AL Championship Series appearance since 1997, manager Buck Showalter finished second for the Sporting News’ AL Manager of the Year award on Tuesday.

Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia won the award after guiding his club to the best record in baseball with 98 wins. Voting was done by major league managers prior to the start of the postseason with Scioscia receiving six votes and Showalter getting five. Seattle Mariners skipper Lloyd McClendon finished third with three votes.

Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams won the NL honor after guiding his club to the best record in the Senior Circuit.

“You know what those [awards] are? That’s which team surprised the most,” said Showalter last week when asked about the possibility of winning. “If you had a vote from managers and coaches, you’d see a whole different guy get it every year. That’s all a reflection on your players and how good they played and how much they surprised people. Sometimes, the best jobs are done when you’re supposed to win. That’s why I have so much respect for those guys.

“I’d like to have that next year. I’d like to have us expected to win.”

Showalter won the publication’s AL honor in 2012 after guiding the Orioles to a 93-69 record and their first postseason appearance in 15 years. However, he lost out to Oakland manager Bob Melvin that year in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s vote, which is typically recognized as the most prestigious award.

The BWAA will announce its Managers of the Year on Nov. 11.

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Where does 2014 rank among Orioles’ most exciting seasons since 1983?

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Where does 2014 rank among Orioles’ most exciting seasons since 1983?

Posted on 18 October 2014 by Luke Jones

Though only a couple days have passed since the Orioles’ disappointing elimination from the American League Championship Series at the hands of the Kansas City Royals, we begin to reflect on what was an exceptional season that netted the franchise’s first AL East championship in 17 years.

The Orioles still have a long way to go to approach their glory days of 1966 through 1983, but two postseason appearances in the last three years represent a good start that fans hope will culminate with the franchise’s first World Series title in over 30 years before the current run is over. However, it’s difficult to argue you how special the 2014 season was in what’s been an underwhelming 31 years since Cal Ripken caught the final out of Game 5 of the 1983 Fall Classic.

Where does 2014 rank among the greatest Orioles seasons since 1983?

Below is a brief look at five candidates before you vote for your favorite in the poll. If you have a different season in mind, feel free to make your case in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Which is your favorite season of Orioles baseball since 1983?

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1. 1989 “Why Not?” season
Skinny: After losing a major league record 21 straight games to begin the season and finishing a woeful 54-107 a year earlier, the 1989 Orioles spent a remarkable 119 days in first place and owned a 7 1/2 game lead in late July. The season was highlighted by a number of comeback wins and contributions from the unlikeliest of players. Though they fell short in their quest for the division title in the final weekend of the season in Toronto, the new-look Orioles of 1989 went down as one of the most surprising and exciting clubs in franchise history after having no expectations at the start of the season. 

2. 1996 Wild Card team
Skinny: After underachieving for much of the season under new manager Davey Johnson, the veteran-laden Orioles got hot down the stretch and went 37-22 over the final two months of the 1996 season to clinch their first wild card berth. Breaking the all-time record for most home runs by a team in a single year, four Orioles scored at least 100 runs, four drove in at least 100, and seven hit at least 20 homers. The 88-74 Orioles upset the heavily-favored defending AL champion Cleveland Indians in the Division Series before bowing out in the ALCS to the eventual World Series champion New York Yankees in six games.

3. 1997 wire-to-wire AL East champions
Skinny: Unlike the previous year, the 1997 Orioles started fast and never looked back on the way to becoming the sixth team in major league history to stay in first place from Opening Day through the end of the regular season. Their 98 wins were their most since winning the World Series in 1983 and the Orioles appeared on their way to their first pennant in 14 years before Cleveland exacted revenge for the previous year by stunning Baltimore in the ALCS in six games. As if the defeat weren’t painful enough, the following season would begin a dubious streak of 14 consecutive losing seasons. 

4. 2012 Wild Card team
Skinny: Manager Buck Showalter had begun changing the losing culture of the organization from the time he arrived two years earlier, but the results on the field didn’t match it until 2012 when the underdog Orioles won 93 games and hung tough with the first-place Yankees throughout the month of September. Settling for a wild card berth, the Orioles bested the Texas Rangers in the first Wild Card Game to advance to the Division Series where Camden Yards witnessed its first postseason games in 15 years. In a very competitive and entertaining series, the Orioles fell in five games to the Yankees, but the season signaled the end of Baltimore’s extended stay in the baseball doldrums.

5. 2014 AL East champions
Skinny: Despite losing All-Star players Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, and Chris Davis for extended periods of the season, the Orioles ran away with the AL East by a staggering 12 games. Baltimore clinched and celebrated its first division title in 17 years at Camden Yards before sweeping the Division Series against the Detroit Tigers and besting the last three Cy Young Award winners to do it. The series also brought arguably the most exciting in-game moment in the history of Camden Yards when pinch-hitter Delmon Young smacked a go-ahead three-run double in the eighth inning to win Game 2. The sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS was painful, but the disappointment didn’t erase the memory of a remarkable run.

 

 

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Duquette noncommittal on plans for free agent Cruz

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Duquette noncommittal on plans for free agent Cruz

Posted on 17 October 2014 by Luke Jones

At a quiet Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Friday, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette was asked to not only reflect on the Orioles’ 96-win season that resulted in their first division title in 17 years but also how he planned to attack the offseason in hopes of returning to the playoffs for the third time in four years in 2015.

One of the most prominent items to address will be the pending free agency of slugger Nelson Cruz, who was voted the club’s most valuable player after signing a one-year, $8 million contract last spring. Though several teams are expected to be interesting in his services should he hit the free-agent market, the Orioles are expected to at least make a $15.3 million qualifying offer to Cruz, which would mean they’d receive a draft pick if he’d sign elsewhere.

Asked about his plans for Cruz in the coming weeks, the Orioles executive was noncommittal.

“The important thing for our fans to know is that we’ve increased our payroll over the last couple years,” Duquette said. “I expect we have the foundation for an additional increase, and however we invest that, we’re going to give them the most competitive and compelling and entertaining team we can to support.”

With the sheer number of young players in line to receive raises through arbitration, an increase in payroll was all but guaranteed, but what does that mean for Cruz? After hitting a career-high 40 home runs in his first season with the Orioles, the slugger has expressed several times that he’d like to remain in Baltimore if possible.

The Orioles have engaged in some preliminary contract talks with Cruz’s representation since the All-Star break, but the 34-year-old recently changed agents and is now represented by Diego Bentz of Relativity Sports, according to a FOX Sports report from earlier in the month.

“It’s good to know that Nelson likes it here,” Duquette said. “I can tell just by watching him, he’s the leader of the ball club, and the young players look up to him, especially the young Latin players. He’s an excellent leader, he’s a very good role model, he led the league in home runs, and he had a great year. I really appreciate the veteran leadership that he gave the team.

“Having said that, he came here to have a platform year to get himself reestablished so he could get a long-term deal, and that’s something that we’ll have to consider.”

While Cruz is expected to garner plenty of attention, trying to assess the market for right fielder Nick Markakis will be more complicated as the Orioles are not expected to pick up the $17.5 million mutual option on his contract. The option includes a $2 million buyout should the club not use it.

Markakis has been one of the more productive players in franchise history, but his on-base plus slugging percentage was only .685 in 2013 and only .729 this season, which aren’t eye-popping numbers for a corner outfielder who lacks speed. A cornerstone of the organization for nearly a decade, Markakis is adored by manager Buck Showalter and ownership and has made his home in Maryland, making it likely the sides will eventually agree on a reasonable extension.

Duquette said it was “always a possibility” that the Orioles would negotiate a long-term contract with Markakis, who will turn 31 next month, during the World Series.

The Orioles are less optimistic that they’ll be able to retain the services of left-handed reliever Andrew Miller, who only made himself look more attractive to potential suitors by pitching 7 1/3 scoreless innings in the postseason. The 6-foot-7 southpaw is expected to be courted as a closer and receive lucrative money from another team this offseason.

“There’s a lot of interest in Andrew Miller,” Duquette said. “We knew that when we traded for him. He pitched well for us. Good for us that we had him because I think he was the difference in the Tigers series that allowed us to advance. Obviously, we like Andrew and we like to have pitchers of that ilk on our ball club.”

NOTES: Even though Chris Davis has one game remaining on the 25-game suspension he received for amphetamine use, the first baseman will be allowed to be a full participant during spring training and in Grapefruit League games. According to Showalter, the Orioles will benefit from not having to keep Davis on the 40-man roster during the winter, which is an advantage for an organization that manipulates its roster as much as any team in the majors. … Pitchers and catchers will report to spring training in Sarasota on Feb. 18 with the first day of workouts the following morning. Position players will participate in their first official workout on Feb. 24. … Asked his thoughts on the remainder of the postseason, Showalter offered a reply that many Orioles fans can appreciate as well as relate to. “Watching it makes me ill. I’m not one of those guys that likes watching other people do what we wanted to do.”

 

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Future’s uncertainty always most painful as Orioles bow out of postseason

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Future’s uncertainty always most painful as Orioles bow out of postseason

Posted on 16 October 2014 by Luke Jones

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A sweep was a bitter way for a season to end after the Orioles won 96 games to secure their first American League East title in 17 years.

Overcoming season-ending injuries to Matt Wieters and Manny Machado as well as enduring the 25-game suspension and poor performance of slugger Chris Davis, the Orioles arguably had their most rewarding year since their last World Series title in 1983. But that magic and mojo finally expired against the Kansas City Royals, who didn’t embarrass Baltimore but was just a little bit better across the board as they won their first AL pennant since 1985.

Even if 2014 ultimately proves to be the Royals’ year — and an 8-0 postseason mark certainly suggests it is — the end still hurts.

“There’s a lot of positive things there. But it’s kind of shallow,” manager Buck Showalter said. “There’s so many things that during the year, it’s just an unspoken word, a look at each other, there’s a real respect for each other. And like I just told them, the game’s not always fair. Someone’s going to be extremely disappointed.”

The Orioles have quite a juxtaposition of half-full and half-empty outlooks as they conclude 2014, but the uncertainty of navigating another offseason and another 162-game marathon to try to get back to this same point next year — with a different outcome, of course — always makes you wonder if they’ll make it back. The AL East doesn’t figure to feature underwhelming versions of both the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox for a second straight year, so that alone forces you to take pregnant pause.

Even as disappointment wanes and fans begin to reflect on the Orioles’ third straight winning season and first division title since 1997, expectations have only soared for executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, Showalter, and the current club. But as is the case with any offseason, some change will be inevitable.

“You know, [2012] was unexpected, in ’13 we had expectations, and here we were doing something that hasn’t been done in a long time,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “I think expectations have risen a little bit in Baltimore and that’s good. I don’t mind expectations being risen, because I’m going to come back to spring training ready to get back to this position. It’s a great position to be in the ALCS.”

With those heightened expectations in mind, how do the Orioles improve for next season? As always, the quest will continue to improve their pitching depth while hoping 23-year-old Kevin Gausman takes another step forward, but do Duquette and Showalter tinker dramatically with an offense that relied too much on the home run?

The addition of some speed would benefit, but the Orioles also expect to have Wieters, Machado, and Davis back in the picture, which should provide significant overall improvement to the offense. But the lineup could look different without Nelson Cruz anchoring the cleanup spot.

After signing a one-year, $8 million deal during spring training to come to Baltimore, Cruz will be seeking a long-term deal for lucrative money, but he is 34 years old and coming off a career season in which he hit 40 homers. As we saw with Davis’ disastrous 2014 campaign a year after he hit a franchise-record 53 home runs, you don’t want to make a snap reaction based on a career season and set your price based on that.

Cruz acknowledged he may have played his last game with the Orioles after Wednesday’s 2-1 loss in Kansas City.

“It’s there, but I want to come back,” Cruz said. “We’ll just wait and see what happens. I love the clubhouse. I love all my teammates. The whole organization is great — even the guys you don’t see every day. I appreciate that.”

The Orioles also face difficult decisions with right fielder Nick Markakis and lefty reliever Andrew Miller, who will also become free agents. Miller was the club’s best pitcher in the postseason, but he is expected to receive an enormous amount of attention on the open market and could be paid lucratively to become a closer elsewhere.

Though they were able to re-sign shortstop J.J. Hardy to a contract extension last week, the Orioles know that Wieters and Davis will be free agents after 2015. Duquette was more aggressive this year than he was over his first two offseasons running the club as he signed Cruz and starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, so will we see the Orioles once again be bold to set up for another run next season or take a more conservative approach even though they face the loss of two more key players next winter?

It’s tough to say as even the career-long Oriole Markakis doesn’t know for sure if he’ll be back or if the organization will elect to go in a different direction as his power has declined over the last few seasons.

“I don’t know; you never know,” Markakis said. “Baseball is a funny game and anything can happen. Take some time off and see where that ball goes.”

It’s that unknown that makes Wednesday’s loss and the abrupt end of a terrific season that much more frustrating.

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Orioles can only look forward in trying to erase ALCS deficit

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Orioles can only look forward in trying to erase ALCS deficit

Posted on 12 October 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — It felt as though the momentum was finally shifting in the Orioles’ direction.

Tied 4-4 with the Kansas City Royals in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, the Orioles had just gunned down pinch runner Jarrod Dyson trying to steal on a perfect throw from catcher Caleb Joseph and retired the side a moment later when Eric Hosmer flied out to center. A sold-out crowd at Oriole Park at Camden Yards that balanced enthusiasm with concern for much of the evening could sense the Orioles were on the verge of finally breaking through for their first in-game lead of the series.

Those cheers only grew louder as Nick Markakis reached on an error by reliever Kelvin Herrera and Alejandro De Aza walked to start the inning, bringing the heart of the order to the plate. Even after Adam Jones swung through three straight pitches, spirits were once again elevated when Nelson Cruz singled to left to load the bases with one out for Steve Pearce and J.J. Hardy.

But instead of the Orioles pushing runs across the plate, Kansas City delivered a body blow as Pearce popped to shallow left and Hardy flied out to right. The threat was over with no damage done.

Two innings later, an infield dribbler, a sacrifice bunt, and Escobar’s sharp grounder inside the first-base bag gave Kansas City the lead and a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series as they went on to win 6-4 on Saturday.

The saying goes that you’d rather be lucky than good, but the Royals have been lucky and good in putting the Orioles on the ropes as the teams now travel to Kansas City for the next three games of the series. Sure, the upstart Royals have benefited from a number of broken-bat hits, bloopers, and dribblers in the first two games of the series, but they’ve also homered four times, pitched tremendously in relief, and put at least one runner on base in 18 of their 19 innings at the plate in the ALCS.

“The hot team makes things go their way,” said closer Zach Britton, who surrendered Escobar’s game-winning double in the top of the ninth. “They are hot, they beat [the Los Angeles Angels], and they are continuing that right now. We scored some runs, and we’re not able to shut them down. The big key — if we want to win this series — is when we get that momentum, keeping it on our side.”

No, the Orioles haven’t been firing on all cylinders as their starting pitching has been poor and normally-reliable relievers Darren O’Day and Britton have struggled, but they’ve lost two games by a combined four runs with Kansas City scoring the winning runs in the final inning each time. It isn’t a case of the Royals being dramatically better, but Ned Yost’s club has endured every shot from the Orioles and returned one just a little bit stronger.

Baltimore now faces a steep climb to get back in the series as no team has ever won an LCS after dropping Games 1 and 2 at home. But there have been teams to bounce back from that same scenario in the World Series as the 1996 New York Yankees were embarrassed by the Atlanta Braves in the first two games in the Bronx before they won four straight for their first championship in 18 years. The 1985 Royals and 1986 Mets also won titles after dropping World Series Games 1 and 2 at home, so the chore isn’t impossible, even if unlikely.

The Orioles can either roll over for the red-hot Royals, who’ve won all six postseason games they’ve played, or they can focus on a simple task. Facing former Oriole Jeremy Guthrie in Game 3, the Orioles need an early lead to lift their in-game spirits and a win on Monday. That’s all they can try to control at this point.

“You’ve got to earn everything, every inning, every at‑bat,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Like I said last night, you can’t bottle the concentration level and everything that goes into these games. Humanly, you couldn’t do it for the 200 games we play a year. You see at this time of year guys are firing, and you’re getting the best from everybody.”

While many are now counting out the Orioles more because of Kansas City’s current play and karma than anything else, one of Baltimore’s biggest strengths under Showalter has been an ability to compartmentalize every game and every series over the course of a 162-game schedule. Rarely have we witnessed the Orioles too high after an important win or too low after a significant loss.

The atmosphere in the clubhouse following Saturday’s defeat was predictably quiet, but center fielder Adam Jones wasn’t about to concede anything to the Royals after they handed the Orioles consecutive defeats at Camden Yards for the first time since June 28-29.

“The series ain’t over. If you guys are thinking it’s over, why are we going to show up on Monday?” Jones said. “We’ve got a lot of baseball to play in this series. Let’s get back after it. We’re going to go to [Kansas City]. We’ve been a very good team on the road, so let’s go there and have some fun. Eat some barbecue.”

For a club that’s endured season-ending injuries and suspensions to All-Star players while still winning 99 games counting the playoffs, a 2-0 deficit in the ALCS is the latest trial to overcome. It won’t be easy as Kansas City holds a whirlwind of momentum that started with an improbable win over Oakland in the AL Wild Card Game.

Ultimately, it could just be the Royals’ year when we look back at the 2014 postseason.

But the first challenge for the Orioles moving forward is to win on Monday to make it a 2-1 deficit and put a little pressure on the Royals as they play in front of their home crowd. Kansas City has embraced the role of being the underdog this month, so it will be interesting to see how Yost’s players respond to being the favorite for at least the next couple games.

If the Orioles needed it, the speedy outfielder Dyson even offered some bulletin board material when asked by the Kansas City Star whether he expected the series to return to Baltimore.

“I don’t. And I don’t think they think that, either.”

Baltimore went 46-35 on the road, so maybe a day off and the opportunity to play away from the home crowd will allow the Orioles to reset mentally. The prospects of winning two of three in Kansas City — where the Royals were only 42-39 this year — aren’t impossible if the Orioles stay true to themselves in their style of play, which is pretty darn good despite the results of Games 1 and 2 that can’t be changed.

A 2-0 deficit can’t be erased entirely in one contest, but a win in Game 3 would sure make things far more interesting.

“We had chances and we just didn’t get it done,” Jones said. “Plain and simple. Ain’t no excuses in here. Take it to K.C. and get back after it.”

That’s been the mindset under Showalter for the last three winning seasons, and it’s the reason not to throw in the towel on the 2014 season just yet.

Perhaps the Orioles have a few body blows of their own to stun the Royals with before this series is over.

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Chen, Guthrie scheduled to start Game 3 of ALCS

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Chen, Guthrie scheduled to start Game 3 of ALCS

Posted on 11 October 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Trying to bounce back from their disappointing extra-inning loss in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, the Orioles named tentative starters for Games 3 and 4 of the series to be played in Kansas City.

Manager Buck Showalter told reporters that lefty Wei-Yin Chen is scheduled to make the first start of the series at Kaufman Stadium where he’ll be opposed by former Orioles starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. Chen was roughed up in his only start of the postseason when he allowed five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings in his Game 2 start against the Detroit Tigers in the Division Series, a game the Orioles eventually won.

The Taiwanese lefty is 1-1 with a 4.17 ERA in six career starts covering 36 2/3 innings against Kansas City.

Guthrie will be making his postseason debut on Monday and hasn’t pitched since Sept. 26 when he tossed seven shutout innings against the Chicago White Sox. The 35-year-old went 13-111 with a 4.13 ERA in 32 starats this season and is 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA in four career starts spanning 27 innings against Baltimore.

In Game 4, Miguel Gonzalez is currently slated to take the ball for the Orioles against Kansas City lefty Jason Vargas as Royals lefty Danny Duffy will continue to work out of the bullpen after concerns with his mechanics during the month of September. Showalter confirmed Chen and Gonzalez would both be available in the bullpen for Game 2 as Bud Norris was making his second start of the playoffs.

Gonzalez threw a simulated game earlier this week, but the right-hander hasn’t pitched in a game since the regular-season finale on Sept. 28.

The Orioles entered Game 2 having not lost consecutive home games since June 28-29. They were 31-10 in their final 41 regular-season games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards this year. Of course, they fell to 2-1 in postseason home games after the 8-6 loss to the Royals on Friday night.

Here are the Game 2 lineups:

KANSAS CITY
SS Alcides Escobar
RF Nori Aoki
CF Lorenzo Cain
1B Eric Hosmer
DH Billy Butler
LF Alex Gordon
C Salvador Perez
2B Omar Infante
3B Mike Moustakas

SP Yordano Ventura (14-10, 3.20 ERA)

BALTIMORE
RF Nick Markakis
LF Alejandro De Aza
CF Adam Jones
DH Nelson Cruz
1B Steve Pearce
SS J.J. Hardy
3B Ryan Flaherty
C Caleb Joseph
2B Jonathan Schoop

SP Bud Norris (15-8, 3.65 ERA)

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