Tag Archive | "cubs"

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Lost weekend sweeps away any glimmer of hope for 2017 Orioles

Posted on 17 July 2017 by Luke Jones

You may have talked yourself into there being hope for the Orioles coming out of the All-Star break after they’d defied logic so many times in the Buck Showalter-Dan Duquette era.

Then came the bucket of ice water to the face that was the weekend sweep at the hands of the Chicago Cubs. The reigning World Series champions may have entered Friday only a game ahead of Baltimore, but it was evident that these were two teams moving in opposite directions in 2017 and beyond.

Friday night felt like the final nail in the coffin for the 2017 Orioles, who impressively managed to erase an 8-0 deficit to tie the game in the eighth inning before Brad Brach surrendered the game-winning home run to Addison Russell in the ninth. In a season filled with painful losses, that one was the most deflating as the Orioles were outscored 18-3 the rest of the weekend to fall a season-worst seven games below .500.

Yes, it’s time for the Orioles to start thinking about improving their outlook for the future. It’s no secret that they’re set to fall off a cliff at the end of next season when the likes of Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Adam Jones, and Brach hit free agency, but going 20-39 since May 9 offers similar imagery.

Desperation has been there for a while now as we’ve seen Jonathan Schoop shift to shortstop to make room for journeyman second baseman Johnny Giavotella and Jones move back into the leadoff spot, a role not suited for someone with a .301 on-base percentage no matter what anyone tries to tell you about last year. The mere fact that Kevin Gausman, Wade Miley, and Ubaldo Jimenez started the first three games of the second half really says all you need to know about the state of the Orioles and their starting rotation. The four 20-game winners from 1971 aren’t magically walking through that clubhouse door.

The truth is that the Orioles haven’t played like contenders for a long time now despite qualifying for the postseason for the third time in five years last October. Dating back to the beginning of last July, they hold an 84-91 record. An offense once feared around baseball ranks an underwhelming 11th in the American League in runs scored over the last calendar year. Their minus-94 run differential for 2017 is the worst in the American League and indicates that the Orioles have actually been fortunate to be as good as 42-49.

Yes, there’s plenty of blame to go around, but the failure of the 2017 club begins and ends with a starting rotation on track to be the worst in club history — the 2008 Orioles currently own the worst starer ERA at 5.51 — and one of the worst in baseball in over 100 years. The Orioles entered Monday with an AL-worst 6.02 starter ERA that’s more than a full run worse than 14th-ranked Chicago and a staggering 1.3 runs worse than last year’s rotation that was already viewed as a major weakness.

The starting rotation has been astonishingly terrible.

Amazingly, Cincinnati owns an even worse starter ERA at 6.04. According to Baseball Reference, the Reds currently sport the seventh-worst starter ERA and the Orioles the 10th-worst in major league history going back to 1913.

Misery loves company, right?

It’s easy to view the Orioles as sellers at this point as FOX Sports insider Ken Rosenthal reported as much on Sunday, but will it happen to the degree that it needs to under owner Peter Angelos? The Orioles do not have to trade their biggest chips in the next two weeks if they don’t find the right deal, but the longer they wait, the more diminished the return will be — at least in theory. Everything should now be on the table, however, making the indication that the Orioles won’t even listen to offers for Machado disconcerting.

But there’s a bigger question that needs to be addressed, one that could shape the club’s outlook for the next decade.

Do the Orioles want to retain Duquette beyond 2018 and does he even want to stay? Allowing a lame-duck executive to begin a rebuilding process would be unwise, so you’d hope there’s some resolution — at least privately — in the coming weeks and months as we move toward the offseason. His successes and shortcomings have been discussed at length in recent years, but it’s certainly fair to question whether Duquette would be the right choice to undertake a rebuilding effort.

If he isn’t going to be around after next season, there’s no sense waiting to find his replacement at such a critical time for the organization. That’s also a potential argument for the Orioles to abstain from dealing their best pieces now and instead wait until a long-term general manager is in place.

Of course, we know how the Orioles typically proceed on matters such as these. It’s rarely conventional and can often be detrimental despite their overall success in recent years.

How they handle Duquette’s status would undoubtedly impact the future of Showalter, who will also see his contract expire at the end of next season.

With most attention shifting away from the ugly results on the field and toward what’s happening behind the scenes, the Orioles are at a crossroads full of uncertainty.

It became painfully obvious over the weekend that contention in 2017 isn’t in the cards.

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Fowler spurns Orioles to re-sign with Cubs

Posted on 25 February 2016 by Luke Jones

Less than two days after the Orioles reportedly agreed to terms on a three-year contract with Dexter Fowler, the veteran outfielder surprisingly re-signed with the Chicago Cubs on Thursday.

It was believed that the Orioles had a $35 million agreement with the 29-year-old outfielder, but multiple outlets have reported that Fowler wanted an opt-out after the first year and the Orioles balked at giving up the 28th overall pick of the June draft for potentially only one season of service. The Cubs announced a one-year deal for a reported $8 million salary for 2016 with a $9 million mutual option for 2017 that includes a $5 million buyout, giving Fowler $13 million guaranteed for his return to Chicago.

Fowler told reporters in Arizona that he never agreed to a deal with Baltimore despite local and national reporters saying an agreement was in place on Tuesday night. Adam Jones was even quoted in Sarasota on Wednesday saying that he had communicated with Fowler and the switch-hitting outfielder had said he was excited to join the Orioles.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said in Sarasota that there was not an agreement due to Fowler insisting on an opt-out clause. On Thursday, Fowler said his heart was with Chicago and he is taking less guaranteed money to stay there.

Fowler’s agent, Casey Close, issued a statement Tuesday night in which he blasted both the Orioles and media for “recklessly spreading rumors” about an agreement. However, it remains unclear why Close elected to remain silent for such a long period of time and didn’t simply reach out to reporters or use social media to declare the reports as premature or completely false on Tuesday night.

Of course, the news of Fowler’s signing came less than 24 hours after the Orioles restructured a deal with starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo after concerns arose about his physical. That has understandably led some to believe the delay could have facilitated Fowler’s return to the Cubs, who won 97 games and advanced to the NL Championship Series last year.

While it’s understandable not being keen on the idea of forfeiting a pick for what could be a one-year deal, the Orioles are once again left with a shaky corner outfield situation and few options remaining this late in February. And they will not have Fowler’s .363 career on-base percentage at the top of the lineup.

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MLB 2015 Postseason

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Ken Belson on 2-0 Mets series lead over Cubs

Posted on 19 October 2015 by WNST Staff

MLB 2015 Postseason

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MLB 2015 Postseason

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Mike Harmon’s impression on the Cubs NLDS victory

Posted on 14 October 2015 by WNST Staff

MLB 2015 Postseason

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Apr 5, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Jake Arrieta (34) pitches in the third inning against the Minnesota Twins on Opening Day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

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Looking back at Arrieta’s Orioles departure

Posted on 31 August 2015 by Luke Jones

Hindsight is always crystal clear and it takes no baseball genius to see that the Orioles trading Jake Arrieta to the Chicago Cubs looks like a terrible decision two years later.

But as Orioles fans wondered what might have been Sunday night as Arrieta pitched a no-hitter in Chavez Ravine — his league-leading 17th win of the season — many of those same individuals screamed for the organization to give up on the right-hander in 2013 when he sported a 5.46 career ERA in parts of four seasons in Baltimore. In trading Arrieta and erratic relief pitcher Pedro Strop, the Orioles picked up starting pitcher Scott Feldman (and catcher Steve Clevenger) to help in a push for a second straight playoff appearance that ultimately fell short.

Though executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette fetched an underwhelming return for two flawed pitchers who still possessed plenty of upside and have gone on to have much success in Chicago, the big-picture concern is the Orioles’ longstanding inability to develop young pitching as Arrieta is just one in a long list of talented prospects not to pan out in Baltimore for a variety of reasons.

But that isn’t even the part of the equation that stings the most when you look back at the circumstances of the time. Despite electric stuff that Arrieta flashed on more than one occasion, the 27-year-old made just six career appearances with the Orioles out of the bullpen. There’s no disputing that he didn’t belong in the rotation with a 7.23 ERA in 2013, but why didn’t the Orioles move an arm such as his to the bullpen in a long relief role on at least a temporary basis?

Because the Orioles had Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland stuck there.

If McFarland would have at least developed into a solid No. 4 or No. 5 starter by this point, everyone would still second-guess the Arrieta deal, but at least you could say the Orioles had brought another viable starter into the picture. Instead, the 26-year-old lefty is plugging away in a very similar role two years later and hasn’t been a real difference-maker.

Many have questioned the Orioles’ strange obsession with the Rule 5 draft and you can’t help but wonder if maybe — just maybe — Arrieta would have eventually figured it out after some time in the bullpen to either become a successful starter or at least move into a meaningful bullpen role in a way similar to All-Star closer Zach Britton. Maybe such a strategy would have only been delaying an inevitable release or a different trade down the line, but it would have been another avenue to explore with an untapped talent.

Instead, the organization viewed McFarland as the preferable option moving forward, which makes you doubt its talent evaluation in addition to the ability to develop pitchers.

A change of scenery ultimately worked perfectly for Arrieta as he’s blossomed into one of the best pitchers in baseball this year. No one would have reasonably bet on him finding this dramatic level of success when he was traded, but it’s disappointing that the organization preferred to trade him in order to rent an average starting pitcher — Feldman was never going to substantially move the meter in a playoff race — and to keep a lesser Rule 5 arm in a bullpen role perfectly suited for Arrieta at the time.

It isn’t so terrible that the Orioles gave up on Arrieta after 358 major league innings consisting of more hair-pulling frustration than success. Already 27 at the time, Arrieta may have never figured it out in Baltimore.

But what stings is the organization trading him away for little upside in return and without exhausting every avenue to try to make it work.

 

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MLB #GiveASpit Ballpark Ranking: No. 13 Wrigley Field

Posted on 28 August 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

Wrigley Field – Sure, there’s the old world charm about the home of the Chicago Cubs. Yes, it was built a hundred years ago. But every time I think about going to a game at Wrigley Field it’s one giant pain in the ass. The parking. The people. The place is built about five times smaller than it should be. One bonus: it has troughs, which makes it legit. But, unless you buy a seat in the bleachers (and those seats are always premium priced) you can’t even visit to take a picture. The place really smacks of corporate greed and has for most of my lifetime. The team always sucks (except when Jake Arrieta is involved). The food and choices suck. The scoreboards are still so antiquated as to be confusing. Seriously, I put it even a little higher on this list than I thought it deserves to be because my wife likes it but I think the place mostly sucks. It’s a great throwback experience. They’ve done a nice job of keeping it clean but it’s such a tourist trap of a place for my tastes. Sure, you gotta go and I get that. But I’m glad my team doesn’t play there and that I don’t have to get scalped for a C-minus experience every time I visit. I’m not planning on going back anytime soon and I don’t feel like I’m missing much. It’s a far better place on TV.

But, you still gotta go and see it.

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Orioles agree to one-year deal with lefty reliever Wright

Posted on 16 December 2014 by Luke Jones

Searching to fill the void left behind by the departure of Andrew Miller, the Orioles agreed to terms on a one-year deal with left-handed relief pitcher Wesley Wright on Tuesday.

The 29-year-old went 0-3 with a 3.17 ERA in 48 1/3 innings with the Chicago Cubs last season. In seven major league seasons, Wright sports a 10-18 record with a 4.17 ERA, but the lefty has posted a 3.25 ERA in his last four seasons split among Chicago, Tampa Bay, and Houston.

In 2014, left-handed hitters posted a .273 batting average and a .594 on-base plus slugging percentage and didn’t record an extra-base hit while right-handed bats sported a .255 mark with a .719 OPS. Wright wasn’t tendered a contract with the Cubs and is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2015 season.

Wright’s addition gives manager Buck Showalter another left-hander to throw into the mix with closer Zach Britton, lefty specialist Brian Matusz, and long reliever T.J. McFarland. Matusz has been discussed in trade talks, but he remains with the organization for now.

A seventh-round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2003 draft, Wright made two appearances with the Rays in the 2013 American League Division Series, allowing a hit and a walk in two-thirds of an inning against Boston.

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Orioles drop another at Wrigley in rain

Posted on 23 August 2014 by WNST Staff

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Maryland pitcher Stinnett drafted in second round by Cubs

Posted on 06 June 2014 by WNST Staff

COLLEGE PARK, Md.  University of Maryland right hander Jake Stinnett has been selected in the second round (45th overall) of the 2014 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Chicago Cubs.

Stinnett is the 15th Terrapin to be drafted over the last four years and is the highest-selected Maryland player since Brett Cecil was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round (38th overall pick) of the 2007 draft.

A second team All-ACC selection as a senior, Stinnett has served as Maryland’s Friday night ace throughout the 2014 campaign leading the Terps to their first NCAA Super Regional appearance in program history this weekend against Virginia.

The Vista, Calif., native has compiled a 7-6 record in 15 starts (2.65 ERA), striking out a program-record and ACC-best 130 batters in 112.0 innings this season. Opponents are hitting just .192 against the righty hurler, which ranks third in the ACC.

This season, Stinnett accomplished a feat not seen in the ACC since 2006 winning weekly player of the week honors four times.

Stinnett was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 29th round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft, but chose to remain at Maryland for his senior season.

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Samardzija is the wrong fit for O’s needs

Posted on 31 May 2014 by WNST Staff

It’s not that he’s not good enough.

Jeff Samardzija is pitching as well as anyone in the Big Leagues.  His 1.68 ERA, along with his 1.06 WHIP are certainly stats to write home about.  By any estimation, the Cubs’ current ace is a bona fide number-one starter on the majority of the seven-plus teams who are currently coveting his services.

But, while his 2014 numbers have been stellar through the end of May, baseball has a way of making players turn into who they really are.  And, over the long haul, Samardzija isn’t an ace and probably isn’t worth the asking price of a king’s ransom, two first-borns, and nude pictures of the acquiring team’s GM’s wife.

The Orioles, sitting at a game below-.500 aren’t only “a player away” from being a true contender.  They’re at least a starter, a closer, a left fielder, and a fast table-setting leadoff hitter away from being the class of the AL East.  This, coupled with the hard-luck the club has faced with injuries thus far, makes it a no-brainer to pump the brakes on the idea of sending the likes of Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, or Eddy Rodriguez to the Cubs in exchange for a 29-year-old starter who has never won double-digit games in the Major Leagues.

Some will make the argument that Samardzija would be a perennial double-digit wins guy if he had any offensive support–but what pitcher wouldn’t?  The same argument could be made for the Bud Norris’, Miguel Gonzalez’s, and Wei-yin Chen’s of the world; each of whom are capable of 10-12 wins with some decent four-plus runs per game type of support.

Bringing a pitcher like Samardzija to Baltimore in exchange for two potential front-end starters isn’t the type of trade that creates long-term success.  It’s a stop-gap.  It’s a short-term “what have you done for me lately” type of move.

For what it’s worth, if you look at the Cubs rotation, Samardzija’s numbers aren’t even the best of the bunch.  In fact, Oriole castoff Jason Hammel, has five wins and a WHIP of 0.91.  And, if you want to argue that “wins” are an overblown statistic, please, go for it.  But keep in mind, at the end of the season, the teams that play in October play because of that very statistic.

Some guys are winner  and some aren’t.  There are intangibles that some pitchers have and others don’t.   Before falling in love with the idea that “wins” don’t matter, or “Samardzija would be great on another team,” I’ll toss out some names like the aforementioned Norris, C.J. Wilson, Edwin Jackson, and all of the other pitchers who have convinced fans and front office execs that their mediocrity is based on their surroundings.

When he gets traded, and there’s no doubt he will, Samardzija will help out wherever he goes.  He’ll bolster a contending team’s rotation.

But the Orioles don’t really need that.  They need to make the long-play, and he’s the wrong guy for anything like that.

 

 

 

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