Tag Archive | "Dan Duquette"

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Orioles go all in on rebuild by trading off Schoop, Gausman

Posted on 31 July 2018 by Luke Jones

Trading pending free agents such as Manny Machado and Zach Britton was a no-brainer task, but the Orioles went all in on their rebuilding effort in the final hour before Tuesday’s trade deadline.

Baltimore sent 2017 All-Star second baseman Jonathan Schoop to Milwaukee and pitchers Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to Atlanta in separate trades for a total of seven players and international signing bonus slot money. Those deals coupled with the trades of Machado, Britton, and Brad Brach earlier this month have netted the Orioles a total of 15 new players and a reported $2.75 million in international signing bonus slot money.

Schoop was originally in Tuesday’s starting lineup before a deal was struck in the final moments before the 4 p.m. deadline.

The Brewers sent major league infielder Jonathan Villar and Double-A pitcher Luis Ortiz and 18-year-old infielder Jean Carmona to the Orioles. The Braves traded international signing bonus slot money and four minor-league players to Baltimore: pitchers Evan Phillips and Bruce Zimmerman, catcher Brett Cumberland, and infielder Jean Carlos Encarnacion.

The moves were met with surprise as many remained skeptical that executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette would trade players under club control beyond the 2018 season before the deadline, especially since his contract expires this fall. Schoop will become a free agent after the 2019 season while Gausman won’t hit free agency until after the 2020 campaign. O’Day, out for the remainder of the season after undergoing hamstring surgery, has one year remaining on his current contract and is scheduled to make $9 million next season.

Of the 15 players acquired by the Orioles over the last two weeks, Villar is the only established major leaguer and has played in parts of six major league seasons with Houston and the Brewers. The 27-year-old has a career .256 average and .718 on-base plus slugging percentage in 2,052 major league plate appearances. In 87 games this season, the switch-hitting Villar is batting .261 with 17 extra-base hits, 22 runs batted in, 14 stolen bases, and a .693 OPS.

Villar is currently on the disabled list with a sprained thumb — he’s expected to be activated later this week — and led the majors with 62 stolen bases in 2016.

Ortiz, 22, was ranked as the Brewers’ seventh-best prospect by MLB.com and had pitched to a 3.71 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 68 innings for Double-A Biloxi. The 18-year-old Carmona was ranked the 14th-best Milwaukee prospect by MLB.com and was batting .239 with eight doubles, three triples, four home runs, 24 RBIs, and a .704 OPS in 39 games for rookie-level Helena.

The Braves trade was met with more scrutiny as the inclusion of O’Day’s bulky salary zapped some of the return value for Gausman, who hasn’t yet reached his ceiling as the fourth overall pick of the 2013 draft but is an average major league starter with two more years of club control. However, Atlanta including $2.5 million in international signing bonus slot money positions the Orioles more favorably in their efforts to sign Cuban outfielder Victor Victor Mesa.

Encarnacion, 20, is regarded by some as the most attractive player returning to the Orioles from Atlanta as he batted .288 with 23 doubles, five triples, 10 homers, 57 RBIs, and a .777 OPS in 97 games for Single-A Rome. He was ranked as the Braves’ 14th-best prospect by MLB.com and will report to Single-A Delmarva.

The 23-year-old Cumberland was batting .228 with 15 doubles, 11 homers, 39 RBIs, and a .746 OPS in 87 games between Single-A Florida and Double-A Mississippi. Atlanta’s 30th-best prospect in MLB.com’s rankings, Cumberland will report to Double-A Bowie.

The right-handed Phillips, 23, posted a 1.99 ERA with 59 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings for Triple-A Gwinnett this season and made his major league debut earlier this month.

A 23-year-old lefty, Zimmerman has gone a combined 9-4 with a 2.86 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 113 1/3 innings split between Rome and Mississippi.

According to MLB.com’s updated Orioles top 30 prospect list, Ortiz ranks seventh, Carmona 14th, Encarnacion 15th, and Cumberland 30th in the system.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts at non-waiver trade deadline

Posted on 30 July 2018 by Luke Jones

With the non-waiver trade deadline upon as and three pending free agents having already been dealt, I’ve offered a dozen Orioles thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Adam Jones has earned the right to refuse any trade and decide what’s best for him and his family, regardless of what anyone else thinks. He doesn’t owe the Orioles or fans anything after representing the organization and city with great pride for a decade. It’s that simple.

2. On the flip side, the Orioles aren’t obligated to re-sign Jones if they don’t feel he fits with a youth movement that does have several outfielders in the pipeline. The organization just needs to express that in a respectful way to a man who’s been so important to the franchise.

3. Any perceived tension between Jones and Dan Duquette isn’t necessary. Whatever middling prospect the Orioles might receive for Jones isn’t making or breaking the rebuild, and keeping the veteran outfielder for two more months isn’t going to ruin Cedric Mullins’ development. A bitter breakup would be a shame.

4. I do wonder if Jones might reconsider as the remainder of his $17.33 million salary makes him a good candidate to clear waivers for a trade in August. Passing on going to a contender is a missed opportunity from a baseball standpoint, but other factors are understandably important to him.

5. Understanding Manny Machado, Zach Britton, and Brad Brach should have been dealt months or even years ago, Duquette still received good value for rental commodities and has surprisingly done an effective job voicing the franchise’s new direction, but it would mean more if he were under contract beyond this season.

6. It’s a new day when the Orioles are the ones acquiring international signing bonus slots and the stated intentions are encouraging, but let’s see them sign Victor Victor Mesa and increase resources and international scouting in the coming months before offering too much praise. Organizational malpractice shouldn’t be easily forgiven.

7. Brach ultimately being nothing more than a salary dump should be a cautionary tale when the organization expresses reluctance in dealing Mychal Givens — or any other reliever for that matter. Of course, the 28-year-old’s 4.78 ERA doesn’t make him a sell-high candidate at the moment.

8. Jonathan Schoop is hitting .360 with nine home runs, seven doubles, and a 1.056 on-base plus slugging percentage in July, raising his average from .197 to .244. It would have been interesting to see what his trade value would have been if he’d started that hitting surge a month sooner.

9. Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy both have underwhelming ERAs hovering around 4.50 this season, but the Orioles are absolutely right to have a high asking price for two young, controllable starting pitchers, even if they’ve mostly been league-average types so far in their careers.

10. Short of signing a contract extension, Schoop shouldn’t be reporting to spring training in Sarasota next February if the Orioles have truly learned their lesson and are serious about rebuilding the right way. Waiting until this offseason to trade him is fine, but it needs to be done then.

11. I don’t think it’s impossible for the likes of Danny Valencia, Mark Trumbo, and Andrew Cashner to be on the move in August, especially with some cash accompanying the latter two. I could see Cashner drawing some interest from a contender trying to shore up the back of its rotation.

12. With trade talk about to calm, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Orioles play a little better the final two months as they’ll be adding youth. Of course, that’s an incredibly low bar as they need to go 31-25 just to avoid 100 losses. I said a little better.

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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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False alarm hopefully signals Machado saga nearing conclusion

Posted on 15 July 2018 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on 09 July 2018 by Luke Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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John Louis Angelos

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

Posted on 06 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

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

You can read my letter to Peter Angelos here.

 

Dear John and Louis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You waved me off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s because I care a lot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So many questions without question marks.

And never any answers.

The Oriole Way. The Angelos Way.

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

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

Posted on 02 July 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

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

You can read my #DearOrioles prologue here.

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

So are you…

 

Dear Pete:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe? Maybe not…

Time will tell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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buck

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Twelve Orioles thoughts ahead of nine-game homestand

Posted on 08 May 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles limping home with an appalling 8-26 record after a winless trip to the West Coast, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Baltimore needs to play like a 92-win club the rest of the way to finish at .500 and like a 97-win team just to get to 85 wins. Even the obligatory Dumb and Dumber reference rings hollow at this point.

2. If you’re seeking any semblance of a silver lining, there shouldn’t be any danger of the organization having delusions of a chance at the trade deadline as it did in 2015 and 2017. Hovering a few games below .500 in late July and not selling would be worse than this.

3. Firing anyone at this point isn’t saving the season and isn’t going to prompt more fans to come to the ballpark. At the same time, nothing should be off the table when an organization is in this kind of a position and there’s so much blame to pass around.

4. As has been discussed by numerous outlets for months, the Orioles communicating and executing a short-term and long-term direction would mean more than firing or trading any individual. Chris Davis remaining the biggest example of long-term stability speaks volumes.

5. Part of that direction is determining how dramatically to rebuild. Trading pending free agents is easy, but will fetch mostly-underwhelming returns. Dealing Kevin Gausman or even Dylan Bundy would be painful, but they’d fetch more talent. Are the Orioles going to contend again before either hits free agency?

6. The organization should be open to trading Manny Machado at any moment, but I’m not convinced the best offers automatically come now rather than a little later. Teams’ needs and their level of urgency aren’t in a vacuum — even if it would be smart to maximize the rental.

7. Jonathan Schoop returning from the disabled list is a welcome sight. The Orioles would be wise to put on the full press to try to extend him over the next two months. If unsuccessful, trading him at the deadline should be a major priority. They shouldn’t repeat the Machado saga.

8. How to proceed with Adam Jones is complicated on various levels, especially since he has a full no-trade clause. However, he’s not going to have any trade value if he continues to sport a .674 on-base plus slugging percentage. He has two walks in 144 plate appearances.

9. The numbers back up how awful the Orioles defense has been as they entered Tuesday ranked dead last in the majors at minus-28 defensive runs saved. Trey Mancini is at a club-worst minus-10 defensive runs saved while Jones sits at minus-seven.

10. Alex Cobb looking much more like Alex Cobb over his last two starts has been encouraging. As was feared a few weeks ago, however, it already appears too late to make a meaningful difference in 2018.

11. No matter who runs the organization in 2019, persuading the Angelos family to reconsider its long-held position on sitting out the international market is a must if the Orioles ever want to build a strong farm system.

12. Nick Markakis owns a .977 OPS and has struck out 13 times compared to 20 walks in the final season of his deal with Atlanta. The 34-year-old hasn’t been great the entire time, but the Orioles could have used his dependability and .362 on-base percentage over these last few years.

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machado

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Twelve Orioles thoughts ahead of West Coast road trip

Posted on 30 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles coming off just their second series win of the season, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Dan Duquette said Friday it was a little early” to be talking selling, which is fine considering potential contenders are still evaluating their own rosters. But what’s the Angelos family’s plan? Will Duquette — with his expiring contract — orchestrate trades? Brady Anderson? A new hire? The clock is ticking loudly now.

2. Manny Machado entered Monday leading the majors with a .361 average and his home run, walk, and strikeout rates are career highs thus far. An MVP-caliber start helps his trade value, but failing to re-sign him or secure the optimal return value has been organizational malpractice.

3. Many expected the final two or three years of the Chris Davis deal to be ugly, but Buck Showalter’s comments on Sunday spoke volumes about this nightmare. For context, he’ll remain under contract as long as the just-drafted Lamar Jackson — assuming the Ravens exercise his fifth-year option.

4. Pedro Alvarez being pushed into last-second duty Sunday and hitting two homers was impressive on Sunday. He leads the club in both homer rate (8.6 percent of plate appearances) and walk rate (15.7 percent). Give him credit after playing most of last season at Triple-A Norfolk.

5. Mark Trumbo’s activation in Anaheim will give the Orioles a fifth player on the roster — Davis, Alvarez, Trey Mancini, and Danny Valencia the others — whose best role would be as the designated hitter or first baseman. Trumbo playing right field certainly isn’t going to help a below-average defense.

6. The suggestion of Richard Bleier closing out Sunday’s win would have been crazy even at the beginning of the season, but the fact that some were clamoring for him reflects how terrific he’s been. He’s second on the club behind Machado in wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.

7. Orioles catchers have struck out in 36.7 percent of their plate appearances so far this season. I support Chance Sisco playing over Caleb Joseph at this point, but he’s striking out two out of every five times at the plate. That must improve sooner than later.

8. Zach Britton is moving closer to potentially returning in early June, a remarkable recovery from his torn Achilles tendon. Perhaps that’ll be enough time for the former All-Star closer to build enough trade value, but a two-year deal this winter could have made a lot of sense for both sides.

9. This was the first home series win since last August. The Orioles have gone 15-42 since then and are 61-97 since their 22-10 start last season. To recover enough to win 85 games, they’d have to play like a 93-win team the rest of the way. Cue Lloyd Christmas.

10. The Orioles and Kansas City are both in the basement of their respective divisions less than four years after meeting in the American League Championship Series. That feels like a really long time ago, but at least the Royals can take solace in having won a World Series.

11. I’m not sure how many were preparing to stay up late to watch a last-place team on the West Coast this week, but I was disappointed to see Shohei Ohtani’s scheduled Tuesday start pushed back to the weekend after last week’s ankle sprain. His story is incredible.

12. Sunday was the 30th anniversary of the Orioles snapping their historic 0-21 start to begin the 1988 season. I recommend this look back as well as this MLB Network package chronicling that incomprehensible record. The 2018 Orioles are five games better than that club through 28 games.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 6-1 loss to Houston

Posted on 02 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles losing their third straight game in a 6-1 final at Houston, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The starting pitching has allowed 14 earned runs in 13 innings since Dylan Bundy’s season-opening gem, but Baltimore could have pitched quite well over the last three games and still lost them all with the lineup remaining scoreless in 27 innings against opposing starters in 2018. Absurd.

2. Chris Tillman must start showing meaningful signs that he’s moving closer to being more like the pitcher he was prior to last season. He followed a poor statistical spring with a season debut that looked  like his 2017 body of work. A $3 million leash shouldn’t be very long.

3. His average fastball velocity was 89.7 miles per hour after averaging 90.7 last season. In the process of throwing 84 pitches, Tillman recorded two swinging strikes and not a single strikeout. Again, not good.

4. Pitchers can succeed with underwhelming stuff if they’re able to hit their spots on the edges of the strike zone. Tillman just wasn’t hitting Caleb Joseph’s target nearly enough to expect any prolonged periods of success.

5. Charlie Morton’s transformation over the last couple years has been nothing short of remarkable. The 34-year-old’s fastball velocity has spiked substantially from his Pittsburgh days to go along with a nasty curve that was on full display for the Astros last October.

6. Trey Mancini’s home run prevented the Orioles from being blanked for the second straight game. At least they’re swinging it fairly well in the ninth inning when there’s been next to no hope for a comeback?

7. Derek Fisher’s triple to center in the fourth was a good example supporting those opinions of Adam Jones needing to move to a corner spot sooner than later. He had to run a long way, but that’s one Jones runs down a few years ago.

8. Jonathan Schoop collected his second hit of the season to raise his average to .118. In case you needed a reminder of how meaningless spring numbers can be, Schoop posted a 1.081 on-base plus slugging percentage in the Grapefruit League. Of course, he’s not alone.

9. You can nitpick the location choice on an 0-2 count, but Jose Altuve flicking a 98 mph fastball from Miguel Castro that was seven inches off the outside corner for a run-scoring double was impressive. The Astros second baseman and 2017 AL MVP is fun to watch.

10. We’re clearly looking at very small sample sizes, but only one Orioles regular is currently above the Mendoza line. Six are hitting .118 or worse. Goodness.

11. Dan Duquette may need to start working the phones to trade international signing bonus slots for some runs if this continues much longer.

12. On a brighter and much more significant note, Orioles Hall of Famer and former Astros first base coach Rich Dauer throwing out the first pitch was quite a moment. His presence at Minute Maid Park after what he went through these last several months borders on the miraculous.

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