Tag Archive | "Dan Duquette"

Orioles lose out on Colon because they wouldn’t spend $20 million they already have

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Orioles lose out on Colon because they wouldn’t spend $20 million they already have

Posted on 12 December 2013 by Drew Forrester

Remember the ten million bucks the Orioles saved on Jim Johnson?

“We’re going to re-allocate those resources” was the quote from head honcho Dan Duquette when asked why the Birds would dump the American League’s most successful closer over the last two seasons for the equivalent of some weekday passes to the Baltimore Aquarium and a $500 gift card to Petit Louis.

OK, well follow along with me for a minute or two and let’s once again get a clear picture of just how the Orioles go about their business when it comes to spending (the fan’s) money and improving their roster.

So, they saved ten million by giving JJ the boot.  That’s math point #1.

Duquette openly admitted the club was heading to the winter meetings in search of more pitching.  Starting pitching.  Better pitching.

Depending on whether or not you believe the talking heads from Baltimore who are employees-in-law of the Orioles through MASN Sports, the Birds were more than just tire kickers on Bartolo Colon.

They evidently wanted him.  But, only for one year.

No pun intended, but the skinny on Colon is simple.  He’ll be 41 next season.  He has a recent history of PED use, a 50-game suspension, and, well…let’s just say, he probably hasn’t done a sit up this century.

He also gets hitters out.  With great regularity.

So, the Orioles – again, you have to decide if you believe the folks down in Florida covering the meetings – showed interest in Colon and essentially said, “If you’re willing to take a one-year deal, we can talk about the money.”

Colon and his agent were able to pry two years out of the Mets.  Two years, $20 million.  Colon will spend ’14 and ’15 in New York.

Now that we know the general parameters of the contract, it’s fair to say Colon was in the neighborhood of a $10 million a year pitcher.  He MIGHT have signed for $14 million for one year (not saying I would have done that, just saying that’s the reality) but the terms of the deal he signed in New York indicate he considers himself a $10 million-ish a year pitcher.

A quality starting pitcher in MLB — I mean, a real quality starter like Colon — is worth WELL above $10 million a year.  But, at 41, and with his testosterone levels always a concern, it appears $10 million is what Colon is worth these days.

The Orioles would have given him $10 million but NOT $20 million?

I’m not sure Colon would have taken a 2-year, $20 million offer from the Orioles, but for all we know, his directive to his agent might have been, “Take the first $20 million, 2-year deal you get. ”

Had that come from the Orioles on Tuesday instead of the Mets on Wednesday, he might very well be in Baltimore.

It appears the Orioles were interested when the asking price was $10 million, but no longer interested at $20 million.

Yet, they saved $10 million by giving Johnson the boot and had $10 million removed from the books when the Brian Roberts contract expired.

I went to Glen Burnie High School, but I think that’s $20 million.

So, if I’m reading it right, the Orioles passed on Bartolo Colon for ten million dollars.

Here’s what the apologists will say:  ”I wouldn’t give him a second year.  He’ll be 42 next season.”

Correct, he will be 42.

So, at age 41 you’ll take a chance on him, but at age 42, you won’t?

Cop. Out.

If you don’t think a 41 year old pitcher shouldn’t get $20 million over two years, fair enough.

But, when you wanted to give a 41 year old pitcher $10 million and you really think he can help you, what’s another $10 million?

After all, that’s your MAXIMUM exposure, right?  He might steal $10 million from you in 2015 if he falls apart, but that’s all you lose.  And, what if you give him $20 million for two years and his stat line looks like this:

2014 — 33 starts, 194.2 IP, 18-10, 3.29 ERA, 1.200 WHIP

2015 — 27 starts, 163.2 IP, 11-9, 4.17 ERA, 1.314 WHP

In today’s market, that’s not worth $20 million?

Of course it is.

The Orioles passed on Bartolo Colon because they MIGHT have been burned for $10 million in 2015.

What about the Markakis contract?  How exposed have the Orioles become on the back end of that thing?

What if — and I don’t think it’s happening — they were to sign Nelson Cruz for $50 million for four years?  Your exposure there would be MUCH greater than the $10 million you MIGHT lose on Colon.

So, for roughly ten million dollars (give or take $2-3 million), the Orioles removed themselves from the Bartolo Colon chase.

Ten million they have, by the way, after removing $20 million from the books.

Oh, and they’re getting $25 million in new TV money to play with in 2014.

They needed a quality starting pitcher.

And they passed on him because of ten million bucks.

That’s called:  cheap.

 

 

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The Sun gets the treatment I said they’d get from The Orioles

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The Sun gets the treatment I said they’d get from The Orioles

Posted on 06 December 2013 by Drew Forrester

If my Thursday edition of Drew’s Morning Dish here at WNST.net was a post-touchdown-celebration, this is what you’d be hearing from the referee.

“There are two penalties on the play, both occurring after the touchdown.  There’s a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration AND a 15-yard penalty for taunting.”

Did I call that one, or what?

As you can read RIGHT HERE, I opined on Thursday that the Orioles would reach out to Peter Schmuck of The Sun by nightfall to chastise him for his Wednesday column in which he wrote, essentially, that the Jim Johnson trade on Monday night “had the fingerprints of ownership all over it.”

Reach out they did.  They had the owner AND the general manager get a hold of Schmuck to “straighten him out”.  In fact, they straightened him out TWICE on Thursday.  His Thursday piece at The Sun was edited twice yesterday (and the headline changed, too) when Peter Angelos and Dan Duquette both contacted him to make sure he got their story right.

I’m a Peter Schmuck fan, by the way.  I think he’s very well sourced in town.  Actually, I know he’s very well sourced.  And, I think Peter knows sports and knows the way things work in this city when it comes to matters of the Orioles.

I also know – with all due respect to Brett Hollander who is doing a fine job as the host at WBAL – that Schmuck would be hosting a lot of WBAL’s nightly local sports coverage if the Orioles approved it a few years ago when the opening first existed.

Yesterday, though, was so “Orioles-ish” it’s remarkable.

I’ve certainly experienced it ten-fold over the years.  Greg Bader once told me in the Camden Yards press box “only one person listens to you”, but whenever they wanted my access restricted (twice, now, in the last six years) they simply took my media credential away and said, “You can’t come in and cover the team…”

Schmuck got different treatment yesterday.  Once he posted his piece on the The Sun website, the Orioles THEN reacted to it.

They’re as easy to read as a copy of Playboy in the men’s bathroom at your local athletic club.

You try to reach out to the Orioles to get some sort of comment from them on any matter and they don’t return your calls or your emails because…well, because they just don’t feel like wasting their time with you.

Until you write or say something they don’t like.

Then, suddenly, their phone or email works.

It’s reprehensible, really, that a “professional” organization operates in such a fashion, but the Orioles have showed over the years an amazing ability to do things completely on the other side of Planet Professional.

This, by the way, is just beginning.

What I mean by “this” is an uprising of sorts from a fan base that is starting to put pressure on the baseball team to step up to the next level and operate their franchise at a level commensurate with the revenue they’re generating from the community.

It’s not that different than what’s going on in the country these days with regard to President and the government in general.  Folks have grown tired of this charade that’s been going for five years and are starting to demand real answers and real accountability.

We, here, at WNST have been demanding answers and accountability from the baseball franchise for about seven years now.

Throughout that time, we were the subject of scorn from “real” baseball fans in town — those at Orioles Hangout, season ticket holders and die-hards alike — who criticized us for our supposed “agenda”.

Now, the worm has turned.

Orioles Hangout looks like it’s been set on fire with a huge number of their sheep having discovered what WNST knew and communicated all along.  There’s outrage over there as they now – in 2014, almost – are starting to hold the owner’s feet to the fire for the on-field product.

Peter Schmuck held the Orioles accountable this week and look what it got him.

Phone calls, revisions and, in general, an orange finger wagged in his face that said, “Don’t you be writing those things…”

I love it, personally.

If the Orioles were more honest from jump street – with the media, the fans and themselves – this sort of stuff wouldn’t happen.

But, they’re not.

And, so it now begins.

The Orioles vs. everyone else.

Only this time, there’s a lot more of “everyone else” than there has been in the past.

Weird how that works, huh?

 

 

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There’s a new three-word theme for Orioles 2014

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There’s a new three-word theme for Orioles 2014

Posted on 05 December 2013 by Drew Forrester

Seven years ago, the three-word theme for all things Orioles was “Free The Birds”.

On September 21, 2006, nearly 2,000 die-hards of the team strolled upstairs in Camden Yards and watched the first few innings of a meaningless Orioles-Tigers game from the upper deck to show the baseball team there are still people in town willing to put their money where the mouth (and feet) is, as the saying goes.

Later on that afternoon, the upper deck was empty when everyone walked out to show their protest for how things were going with our beloved Birds.

There will always be varying opinions on whether or not that one-day rally made any impact on Peter Angelos and his disciples at Camden Yards, but there will never be a doubt about the fact that it got pulled off in All-Star fashion and got folks both in Baltimore and across the country interested in a bubbling fan rebellion.

We’re all “big boy enough” to also acknowledge that the Orioles got their feelings hurt that day and essentially pulled the plug on any future professional treatment of most things WNST Radio.  Funny, though, WNST has survived that bush-league treatment from the Orioles and the Orioles have survived “Free The Birds”.

Well – we’re now coming up on 2014 and it’s time for a new three-word phrase to be the bumper sticker for those of you in Baltimore who still care about the team, buy the merchandise and go to the games.

Three new words — Open. The. Books.

It’s time for the Orioles to man-up and open their operating books and give the public a real glimpse into their day-to-day operational costs, revenue, expenses and financial obligations.

I am NOT saying to literally have a press conference and distribute a 9-page booklet with every single line item on the revenue and expense side exposed and explained.  I wouldn’t expect that.

What I am saying, though, is the club should provide a “general overview” of their revenue and expenses to give everyone in town an idea of their business approach and why, for example, the (insert team here) will be able to give Shin-Soo Choo $90 million for six years but the Orioles can’t afford to do that.

Tell everyone — the people in town who keep your business afloat — how much you’re spending on scouting.  Is it $8 million?  $15 million?  $22 million?  Tell everyone what your travel costs are.  $3.2 million?  $6.1 million?  Give us an idea of what you’re spending in the minor league system.  $11.5 million?  $14.2 million?

Give us a general update of the revenue:  Tickets, sponsorship sales, concessions.  We already know the TV money.  Those numbers ARE public, which I’m quite certain drives the Orioles completely bonkers.  They’ll be taking in somewhere around $85 million in 2014 just from television revenue alone when you combine their national “take” ($55 million) and local haul ($30 million).

And, for those of you who are going to say “no team in baseball would open their books” you better READ THIS RIGHT HERE  from the owner of the Colorado Rockies.

Why is “Open The Books” important?

That’s easy.

No one believes the Orioles when they say, “We don’t have the RESOURCES (that’s the word Dan Duquette uses these days when referring to money) to compete with these BIG MARKET franchises.”

I know I certainly don’t believe it.

Unless you’re from Old Mill High School or you’re naive or you’re a dummy or you’re an apologist, you don’t believe it either.

Some baseball fans in Denver didn’t think the Rockies were doing all they could do to win based on their financial formula, so their owner said, “Well, we’ll show you how our business works.  If you don’t believe us, we’ll prove it to you.”

I’ll remind everyone that about twelve or so years ago, Peter Schmuck of The Sun floated this idea about “opening the books” and the Orioles brass went completely ballistic.  They cold shouldered Schmuck, refused to do interviews with the Sun, tongue-kissed the Washington Post and, in general, did what they always do when things don’t go their way — treated him unprofessionally.

Speaking of Schmuck, the piece he wrote yesterday at The Sun will absolutely result in a phone call (already has, likely) from Greg Bader of the Orioles who will go to great lengths to point out where Schmuck was wrong in his opinion that the Orioles look like they don’t know what they’re doing.

If you think that’s just Drew being paranoid or picking on the Orioles, get a glass of wine with Schmuck one night and ask him how many times the Orioles PR folks have accosted him over the years about something he wrote in the newspaper.  I know the truth.

I implored the Orioles to put BALTIMORE on their road uniforms for the better part of two seasons (they angrily called it a “crusade” in-house) and they took my daily press credential from me in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

That’s what they do.

And yes, there’s a risk that being the self-called campaign crusade-manager for the new “Open The Books” request might get me mistreated even more than I already have been…but they stole my press credential in September and I didn’t even do anything wrong, so I’m not in danger of losing anything else of importance.

The Orioles should open their books and show the people who FUND THEIR BUSINESS where their money goes.

If they spent money on baseball players and tried to compete with the rest of the big boys, we wouldn’t need to peer in their closet.

The baseball team in Baltimore has gobs and gobs of money.  A lot of it comes from you and I.  We’d just like to know what they’re doing with it, that’s all.

Open the books, Orioles.

We’ll officially call it:  Open the books 2014.

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Johnson Trade Too Little, Too Late

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Johnson Trade Too Little, Too Late

Posted on 03 December 2013 by Brett Dickinson

Its official; no one will get that queezy feeling at Camden Yards in the 9th inning, when hearing “The Pretender” anymore.  Jim Johnson was moved to the Oakland Athletics for second baseman,  Jemile Weeks and a player to be named later.  What a difference a year makes.

Jim JohnsonIf the Orioles moved Johnson before last season (like I said here and here), they would have had a pick of the litter of players from several different contending teams.  What would have the Tigers or Dodgers or Cardinals have done to sure up their closing roles before 2013? It sure as hell would have been more than a 26 year old second baseman with “potential.”

The lack of proactive nature by the organization has cost the Orioles a great deal, in terms of on-field production.  Johnson has been a good relief pitcher for years, but his value was at his highest at the end of 2012 playoff season.  For a team that wants to build with youth, to sustain success for the future, making tough decisions, with generally likeable guys, is simply a must.

Jemile WeeksAs for the return, Baltimore receives a player, in Weeks, that could be the everyday second baseman (but confidence in that actually panning out has to pretty low at this point).  After being called up in 2011 (which he played 96), he posted a .303 average and .421 OPS, with 22 stolen bases. But following his stellar first MLB season, things went awfully wrong for the 12th overall pick in the 2008 draft.  Hitting just .211 in 2012, leading to a demotion by the A’s; playing in only nine games in the majors in 2013.  Though he had decent numbers in the minors last season (.271 avg, .376 OPS, 17 stolen bases), Weeks could not have foreseen his career path heading in this direction.

But what could Orioles really expect to recoup in a trade for a player everyone in the MLB knows they will not pay $10 million?  Johnson was one of the most inconsistent relief pitchers in baseball last year; leading the league in saves and blown saves. He never had dominating “stuff” to finish out games, did not have enough strikeouts as a closer and put too many runners on base.

Could Johnson have contributed for the Orioles in 2014? Absolutely.  If Buck Showalter would move him back into a less-volatile role, in the 7th or 8th inning (like he was pre-2012), there is a good chance he could regain his form.  But with the manager’s loyalty, Buck would probably be too tempted to throw Johnson into a game with a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth.  The team simply had to move on and got the only thing possible in return; potential.

Jim JohnsonThe same fans that wanted to DFA (designate for assignment), essentially releasing Johnson for nothing, halfway through last year, now are complaining about the balance of this trade.  As for the organization “saving” all that money, this is baseball, there is no salary cap, teams can pay players whatever they like. There is no cash limit in baseball that teams have to adhere to and the Orioles are no where near the luxury tax threshold. And with an organization that has a successful television network, cost-cutting on a contending team is inexcusable.

Did the Orioles clear some dead money off the books? Yes. Will they use that money to acquire much needed depth on the big league club? Only the next couple weeks will tell. Of course, Peter Angelos could just pocket that money and let his “baseball people” make the baseball decisions, with the roster as it stands.

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I’d say “the Orioles are no longer playing with their Johnson”…but we all know the truth.

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I’d say “the Orioles are no longer playing with their Johnson”…but we all know the truth.

Posted on 03 December 2013 by Drew Forrester

I literally LOL’d out loud (isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?) when word trickled out late Monday night that the Orioles got bent over by the Oakland A’s in their deal involving Jim Johnson.

How could you not snicker at Dan Duquette getting one-upped by the A’s of all people?

The Orioles got fleeced on Monday night for one reason:  Every single team in the major leagues knew they weren’t going to pay Jim Johnson the $10 million salary his one-year tender would have required.

You knew it.  I knew it.  And if dummies like you and I knew it, smart baseball people in St. Louis, Boston, Tampa Bay and Oakland certainly knew it.

How did we all “know it”?

Because it’s the Orioles.

I can hear the conversation now between DD and any other general manager in the big leagues last Tuesday.

“Hey…it’s Dan Duquette in Baltimore.  We have Jim Johnson available…and we’d like a really good player or decent AAA prospect for him.”

Other team’s GM — “Why would I give you anything in return for Jim Johnson?  He’s due to make $10 million next season.  We all know you’re not going to tender him a contract next week at the deadline.  Call us back when you’re ready to take a bag of balls for him.”

When it comes to matters involving money, they’re almost always going to throw up on themselves.

Meanwhile, they’ll be getting a new $27 million check this March as part of baseball’s mega-mother TV deal that gives each MLB team a total of $54 million in 2014 (last week I wrote it was $51 million but the number has officially been established by MLB at $54 mil).

I assume Tommy Hunter will be given the ball now and “groomed” to be the team’s new closer.

Good-freakin’-luck with that.

Or, maybe they’ll give 36-year old Grant Balfour – the now-ex Oakland closer – a two-year deal at $7.5 million per-year.  Wouldn’t that be so “O’s like”?  Let the incumbent go because you’re digging in and refusing to pay $10 million for one season, but give a guy six years older an additional five million on the books because he’s “cheaper” for one season.

Back to the deal constructed by Billy Beane and the A’s.

Like the rest of the country paying attention, Beane knew the Orioles weren’t going to pay $10 million for Johnson’s services.  They only have two players on the roster currently who make more than $10 million (Jones and Markakis) and, faced with the prospect of having to give Chris Davis $13 million or more in arbitration, they just couldn’t handle ONE more guy making upwards of ten mil per-season.  Right?  Right.

So, knowing the Orioles weren’t paying Johnson, the A’s bent them over, sending some guy named Jemile Weeks (yeah, I know you’ve never heard of him — neither has anyone else) and the always exciting “player to be named later” for one of the American League’s most productive closers over the last two seasons.

Wait, I know what you’re thinking…”But, Drew, Weeks has upside…”

“Upside”.  It’s a word that Duquette and the O’s cuddle up next to – naked – with the fireplace burning and a bottle of Boone’s Farm within arm’s reach.

“Upside”.  A word the Orioles are so intimately familiar with when it comes to taking a gamble on players, they’re buying stock in home pregnancy kits.

What a joke they’ve become.

Wait…did I write “become”?  This isn’t new.  The Orioles always choose “don’t pay the player” over “pay the player”.

Of course, because you ALWAYS have to mention this, the Orioles COULD be trying to stockpile a bunch of money for the big moment this winter when they fork over a Brinks Trick for one of the game’s talented free agents like Shin-Soo Choo.

Yeah — “and if you like your plan, you can keep your plan…”

I’d love to be wrong, and frankly, the Orioles SHOULD prove all of us wrong by spending some of that $54 million in TV money (plus the $35 mil or so they give themselves from MASN), but I won’t be wrong.

They dumped Jim Johnson on Monday night because they didn’t want to pay him $10 million in 2014.  The guy they got in exchange has four more career home runs as you, me, your neighbor’s boss and the guy who took your money at the Royal Farms register this morning.

And, because the whole world knows how frugal they are, no one was at the poker table to play with Duquette when he showed up at 11pm.

Except for Billy Beane.

Oh, and while the Orioles were busy getting exposed, their business partners in Washington D.C. who actually are trying to win picked up a nice starting pitcher on Monday night, acquiring Doug Fister from the Tigers for bucket of balls and a journeyman named Steve Lombardozzi.

The Nationals picked up Doug Fister on Monday night to bolster their rotation.

The Orioles dumped $10 million in salary.

 

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The Giants got Tim Hudson, the Orioles got a guy you’ve never heard of…ever.

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The Giants got Tim Hudson, the Orioles got a guy you’ve never heard of…ever.

Posted on 20 November 2013 by Drew Forrester

I’m the guy who has been telling callers and e-mailers over the last month that the Orioles aren’t going to sign any “real” free agents this off-season.

So, why would I be chirping about the Birds not having any interest in Tim Hudson?

Beats me.

Probably because I still have this wacky, bass-ackwards idea that one of these days, the Orioles just might actually spend some of that money they’ve been stacking up for the last seven years since they birthed MASN and started collecting money from everyone in the market via your monthly cable bill.

Here’s the funny addendum to that.  This March, the Orioles and the rest of the 29 other MLB teams get a NEW $27 million check as part of the league’s national TV package.

I have no idea if Tim Hudson would have come to Baltimore.

He was well situated in Atlanta, having grown up and gone to high school in nearby Alabama, so a move to San Francisco seems somewhat odd for a guy that you assume would be looking to stay closer to home as his career comes to an end.

I’m sure his $23 million/2-year deal in S.F. made him nearly untouchable in Baltimore, where the Orioles have signed only two free agents – EVER – for more than $10 million a year (Albert Belle and Miguel Tejada).

Way back when, as Peter Angelos discussed the unveiling of the MASN TV network, he authored one of the most telling quotes in his now 20 years of Orioles ownership.

Asked about the prospect of signing then-high profile pitcher Roy Oswalt, who was asking for $100 million for 7 years, Angelos quipped:  ”I just don’t see the logic in spending $14 million a year for someone who only works once every five days.”

Not surprisingly, the Orioles have never signed a quality free-agent starting pitcher.

Tim Hudson has enjoyed an outstanding major league career.  He’s not a Hall of Fame candidate, but he’s certainly going to make a speech someday at the Hall of Very Good.  He has 205 wins spread out over 15 seasons and his lifetime ERA of 3.44 is better than a lot of guys who ARE in the Hall of Fame.

Yes, he’s coming off a bad leg injury, but he doesn’t pitch with his leg.  He uses his shoulder, arm and hand to do that.

At age 38, he’s in the November of his career, for sure, but he’s better than Miguel Gonzalez, Scott Feldman and Bud Norris, although all three of those pitchers are admittedly younger and have less tread on their tires.

I’m not surprised the Birds didn’t have an interest in Hudson.  He’s the anti-Oriole signing, frankly.  He’s a player with a track record and a sparkling career resume who won’t come here and work for $37.00 an hour the way a guy like Kelvin Dela Cruz will, who signed in Baltimore earlier this week after eight so-so seasons with — you ready — a bunch of minor league teams scattered all over baseball.

There’s a lot of hot stove action to go and maybe the O’s will stun us all with a signing of Carlos Beltran or A.J. Burnett or perhaps they’ll pull off a trade for a Jose Bautista or Ian Kinsler.

I’d love to see some of that activity.

I want the Orioles to get better.

But, as I’ve been warning a lot of you over the next four weeks, don’t hold your breath for any kind of improvement that includes SPENDING MONEY ON OR PAYING FOR REALLY GOOD PLAYERS.

It’s just not in the cards, no matter how much money you and I continue to contribute to the Orioles organization via our monthly Verizon or Comcast payment.

The Giants got Tim Hudson.

The Orioles got some guy named Kelvin Dela Cruz who has as many career major league strikeouts as you, me and Chris Cornell, the lead singer of Soundgarden.

To borrow a phrase:  ”It’s the Oriole way”.

 

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Orioles: Now or Never or Not Yet?

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Orioles: Now or Never or Not Yet?

Posted on 30 July 2013 by Thyrl Nelson

 

Last year was a special one for Orioles fans but it’s over now and (hopefully) never to be duplicated. Devoid of any expectations, when the Orioles poked their heads up and into contention it became a season to remember, and for long suffering fans of the franchise it became impossible to not enjoy; it was impossible to not get swept away in the “just happy to be here” mentality.

When things were going well we pinched ourselves trying to make sure it was real. When things went badly we reminded ourselves that our frustration sure beat the indifference we’d grown accustomed to feeling through 14 futile seasons. When the media failed to buy in and attributed the team’s fortunes to luck we stood in defiance. And on top of all of that, we acknowledged that the Orioles appeared to be ahead of their “window”. In addition to the success we were enjoying in 2012, the future, built around names like Machado and Bundy and Schoop and Gausman gave the hint of being even brighter.

What a difference a year can make. As the trade deadline approaches for a team and a fan base now “accustomed” to winning, excitement has turned to expectation, hope has become hype and the future, it seems, is now.

Even however, while enjoying the fruits of this team’s success, it’s tough not to question exactly how they got here. After 14 years has the worm truly turned? Is this franchise now in capable hands to continue this success? Or have they simply stumbled into a window of likely fleeting success?

After all, to say that some of the Orioles’ on hand talent has exceeded reasonable expectations would be a gigantic understatement. The AL East is as eminently winnable is it’s been in recent memory and it won’t likely stay that way for long. And if the 14 years that led us to this point have taught is anything, it’s that once this window is closed, it may not open again for a very long time.

To their credit, the Orioles appear to be close to all in. For those still looking toward the future it may be as close to all in as we’d like to see them get. While we’ve spent the ten years at least clamoring for the team to spend more money, there’s a legitimate case to be made that outspending everyone else is no longer the path to MLB success. Some of baseball’s lowest salaried teams are not only enjoying success, but appear to be poised to sustain it. Meanwhile most of baseball’s upper class may be looking at years of paying out bad contracts with little or nothing to show in return. And, oh by the way, it’s impossible not to notice the number of bright, young MLB stars in the making that are the byproducts of other teams recent forays at going all in and are now playing elsewhere.

So far it seems that the Orioles have shown a willingness to trade away some prospects, as long as they don’t have to pay real money for the players they’re getting in return. It seems like a sound strategy, especially with a roster loaded with young players whom they’ll have to up the ante for this off-season and beyond.

You’d have to guess that if they’re really considering trading Dylan Bundy as some have suggested, it’ll likely to get a highly paid player, while also getting his team to pay a sizable portion of that high salary. Timing alone suggests that it’s not the optimal time to trade Bundy; that time was last year. In fairness, that time might be never; only time will truly tell.

The only thing that’s certain is that as fans we’ll always be able to rely on hindsight; and that any move that doesn’t end in a World Series win will be seen as the wrong one. It’s a tough standard to live up to. It’s the unfortunate part of success. Are the Orioles best served to open the “window” as wide as possible now, or pace themselves in an effort to keep it open for longer? There’s no wrong answer…yet.

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Orioles eyeing more with trade deadline approaching?

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Orioles eyeing more with trade deadline approaching?

Posted on 28 July 2013 by Luke Jones

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Already more active than most contending clubs with the non-waiver trade deadline just a few days away, the Orioles reportedly may not be finished dealing.

The additions of pitchers Scott Feldman and Francisco Rodriguez have helped bolster their starting rotation and bullpen respectively, but executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette could be eyeing even bigger names, according to several media reports. The Orioles are looking to add a front-end starting pitcher and are among the teams interested in White Sox right-hander Jake Peavy, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

The 32-year-old Peavy is 8-4 with a 4.28 earned run average in 13 starts this season and has a $13.5 million salaries in 2013 and 2014 and has a player option of $15 million for the 2015 season.

Other pitchers who are candidates to be traded include Houston’s Bud Norris — a starter the Orioles will see on Tuesday — and Kansas City’s Ervin Santana, but Heyman also discussed the possibility of Phillies starter Cliff Lee being dealt. However, Lee is making $25 million in 2013 and the two seasons that follow and a $27.5 million vesting option for the 2016 season, making it virtually impossible to think a team like the Orioles would have any real interest.

Lee would provide the most dramatic upgrade to any rotation as he is 10-4 with a 3.05 ERA in 20 starts this year, but it remains unclear whether the Phillies will actually trade him for the right offer.

The Orioles may also be in the market for another bat as Twins designated hitter Justin Morneau has been discussed as a possible acquisition, according to The Sun. The 2006 American League MVP is 32 and will see his contract expire at the end of the season, meaning the Orioles would only be on the hook for roughly $5 million or so of his $14 million salary in 2013.

Morneau is hitting .267 with eight home runs and 53 runs batted in this season.

Other DH options who could be potentially available include Raul Ibanez, Kendrys Morales, and even the currently-injured Michael Morse of Seattle. ESPN’s Buster Olney has also mentioned San Diego outfielder Carlos Quentin as a possibility, but he is owed a combined $17.5 million in 2014 and 2015 and has a long history of difficulty staying on the field due to injuries.

While the Orioles could stand to upgrade the DH spot that’s been an albatross all season and add a starting pitcher as Jason Hammel once again struggled on Sunday, it’s difficult to envision Duquette gaining the clearance from owner Peter Angelos to add much more payroll to what’s already an estimated $92 million club.

In addition to the money, the Orioles just traded infield prospect Nick Delmonico — not a can’t-miss talent, mind you — for Rodriguez and have given no indication that they’re willing to deal the likes of pitcher Kevin Gausman or infielder Jonathan Schoop in order to acquire premium — and expensive — talent. The commodities to acquire top talent just aren’t there unless the Orioles want to completely strip a farm system they’re trying to build through the draft and international scouting.

The lineup has struggled of late, but the Orioles entered Sunday ranked third in the majors in runs scored, fourth in batting average, and first in home runs. Paying the price in both prospects and money for a decent lineup upgrade in Morneau wouldn’t seem to be the best use of resources if it’s possible to find an improvement for the starting rotation as Hammel has struggled all season after taking the ball for manager Buck Showalter on Opening Day.

Of course, none of these reports mean the Orioles will pull the trigger on a blockbuster deal, but the names being tossed around certainly don’t seem to fit with the Orioles’ philosophy and payroll in recent years.

 

 

 

 

 

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Strop’s collapse exposes concerning truth about Orioles bullpen

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Strop’s collapse exposes concerning truth about Orioles bullpen

Posted on 12 June 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

BALTIMORE — It’s only getting worse for Orioles relief pitcher Pedro Strop.

Fresh off a stint on the 15-day disabled list with what was labeled a lower back strain — many have drawn their owns conclusions on the injury — Strop displayed the same form seen over the first two months of the season Wednesday as he allowed four earned runs and saw his ERA balloon to 7.58 while retiring just one batter in the seventh inning. The implosion turned what was a 4-2 Orioles lead into an eventual 9-5 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.

Despite a fastball that reaches the upper 90s and a slider with good movement that enabled him to serve as an elite member of the Baltimore bullpen through the first 4 1/2 months of the 2012 season, Strop is looking more and more like a pitcher whose time with the Orioles is running out.

“Not good,” Strop said in an interview with MASN before leaving the clubhouse as the rest of the media talked to manager Buck Showalter. “Only thing I can say. I couldn’t do the job.”

The Orioles aren’t hiding from Strop’s problems, evident by their decision to place him on the DL and circumvent the reality of the right-hander being out of options. Manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair used the 15-day period as a way for Strop to work on his mechanics in hopes of improving his command after he walked 14 batters in 17 2/3 innings through his first 22 appearances.

However, the organization decided not to send Strop on a minor-league rehab assignment that could have lasted up to 30 days and would have allowed him to continue working on adjustments to his mechanics while rebuilding his confidence against minor-league hitters. There was some thought of that possibility before last week’s oblique injury to Steve Johnson, which prompted the club to activate Strop instead of looking to Triple-A Norfolk for another option.

Even before Wednesday’s implosion, it was perplexing to see the Orioles forgo that strategy with nearly everyone concluding his DL stint was more about ineffectiveness than any legitimate health concern.

It’s understandable to not want to give up on a talented 28-year-old who only became a pitcher in 2006 after beginning his professional career as a shortstop. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette knows at least a few clubs would take a chance on Strop should he be placed on waivers in hopes of getting him to the minor leagues, but the Orioles are also a contending club in the American League East that needs production from every player on the 25-man roster.

“He’s just not getting results,” Showalter said. “He understands it. Nobody cares more about pitching well for this team than Pete.”

It’s easy to criticize Showalter for turning to the volatile Strop after starter Jason Hammel allowed a single to Alberto Callaspo and walked Brad Hawpe on four pitches to begin the seventh inning, but a quick inventory of the bullpen made it easy to see Showalter’s options were limited at best as he acknowledged “two or three” relievers were unavailable without revealing names. Closer Jim Johnson had pitched in three straight games and Tommy Hunter had thrown a total of 51 pitches on Sunday and Monday.

Showalter wouldn’t reveal his late-inning plans when asked, but that presumably left Darren O’Day available for the ninth inning and lefty Brian Matusz to pitch the eighth. As a result, Showalter faced the prospects of sending a tiring Hammel out for the seventh with 94 pitches under his belt and having Strop and lefty Troy Patton — who’s also struggled this season — as his options if the starter ran into trouble. Showalter was rolling the dice for a quick inning by Hammel, but the right-hander was obviously gassed before being replaced by Strop.

Perhaps the Orioles manager could have resisted the urge to use Hammel — who wasn’t exactly dominating hitters despite a statistically-effective outing through six innings — with the thought of a fresh inning with the bases empty being more conducive to Strop having success, but that’s looking with 20-20 hindsight. The reality is Showalter didn’t have great choices at his disposal in the seventh.

“I was hoping [Hammel] could get us through seven, but it wasn’t there,” Showalter said. “That’s kind of where we were. We keep a pretty good log on innings pitched and [pitchers warming up in the bullpen], and I’m not going to put anybody in harm’s way.”

The real issue with the Orioles bullpen is more concerning than the individual struggles of Strop. Beyond the reliable quartet of Johnson, O’Day, Matusz, and Hunter, the Orioles have three other pitchers in the bullpen — Strop, Patton, and Rule 5 selection T.J. McFarland — that they can’t really trust in important situations. All have long-term potential to varying degrees, but none can be moved off the 25-man roster without significant risk of losing them.

In fairness, McFarland has pitched respectably as a long reliever in blowout situations, but that’s a role typically held by a pitcher who can easily be moved on and off the roster to address a club’s needs at a given point in the season. It’s a major reason why we saw the one-and-done approach applied with several ineffective starting pitchers earlier in the season and it has further hamstrung the roster flexibility that Showalter and Duquette enjoy having.

The Orioles’ problems in middle relief have led to a heavier dependence on their best relievers, which jeopardizes the club’s long-term viability for the second half of the season. It’s not uncommon for even the best teams in baseball to have shaky options beyond the top three or four pitchers in the bullpen, but the keystone of the Orioles’ 2012 success included the effectiveness of middle relievers like Luis Ayala and Patton in the sixth and seventh innings that spared other late-inning options on occasion.

Baltimore needs improvement from its middle relievers or starting pitching — preferably both — to improve its chances in a tight division in which fourth-place Tampa Bay trailed first-place Boston by only four games entering play on Wednesday.

“We can’t pitch the same guys every night,” he said. “It just doesn’t work, and [Strop] was one of those guys for us last year and has been at times this year, and we hope that he will again. He pitched well and got physically fine and had a couple really good outings, as you saw. It just wasn’t there for him today.”

Bullpens are typically quite fluid over the course of a season, but the Orioles currently have just two pitchers (Matusz and O’Day) with remaining minor-league options and they obviously aren’t going anywhere. That means time is running out for Strop — you can say the same for Patton — to right himself after roughly four months of struggles going back to last year’s regular season.

The talent is there, but the Orioles need last year’s effectiveness to resurface.

They don’t have the flexibility to wait much longer.

 

 

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Right decision or not, Orioles were prepared to promote Gausman

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Right decision or not, Orioles were prepared to promote Gausman

Posted on 23 May 2013 by Luke Jones

(This blog brought to you by Atlantic Remodeling. Visit www.atlanticremodeling.com to learn about their Red Cent Guarantee!)

Less than 48 hours after news broke that the Orioles were promoting Kevin Gausman to the big leagues, it’s safe to say the hype machine has been in overdrive ever since.

Hours before his Thursday night debut in Toronto, fans and media continued to debate the merits of whether Gausman should be in the majors after making just eight starts for Double-A Bowie and 13 professional starts overall. The decision is viewed by some as an act of desperation as Gausman becomes the 11th starting pitcher the Orioles have sent to the hill before Memorial Day as part of a struggling rotation.

Some have even gone as far as debating how much money Gausman will command as a “Super Two” arbitration-eligible player — before he even threw his first pitch in the major leagues.

I even heard a rumor earlier Thursday that the powdered mini-donuts the 22-year-old right-hander likes to superstitiously eat between innings will be renamed “Gausmans” in tribute to the former LSU standout.

Truthfully, there’s no way of knowing whether executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette is making the right call in promoting the 2012 first-round pick less than a year after he was taken with the fourth overall selection of the amateur draft. His performance against the Blue Jays on Thursday night doesn’t change that, either.

The comparisons have already been made with last August’s promotion of 20-year-old third baseman Manny Machado, but no two players are the same. What that decision did tell you, however, was the Orioles’ willingness to take calculated risks with players in their farm system in order to win.

Conventional wisdom suggests even a college pitcher isn’t ready for the big leagues after 13 starts in the minors, but nothing about Gausman’s ability appears conventional. A mid-to-upper-90s fastball and superb changeup projected Gausman as a top draft pick last year, but the improvement of his slider as a real factor in his repertoire was exactly what the Orioles needed to see.

“I definitely improved,” said Gausman of his time with Double-A Bowie. “I think the biggest thing has probably been my slider improved more than anything, just being able to throw it in different situations. I’ve talked kind of all year about kind of learning different ways to throw it in different situations, so that’s definitely something I’ve learned how to do more than anything else.”

Even in spring training, the Orioles took an extra-long look at Gausman, which provided all the information you needed to know that he was a real option for the 2013 season and the club wanted to expose him to the major-league clubhouse. Appearing in seven Grapefruit League games and making two starts, Gausman pitched to a 3.94 earned run average in 16 innings of work before he was finally reassigned to minor-league camp on March 28. Some were already convinced he was one of their best five starting pitchers, but there were enough imperfections in addition to his lack of experience that made it clear Gausman would start the season in the minors.

Unlike fellow top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy last season, the older Gausman showed superb command (49 strikeouts to five walks) at Double-A Bowie and has a solid time to the plate, the latter being a major point of emphasis for the organization that augments All-Star catcher Matt Wieters’ ability to throw out so many runners on the bases. Gausman fields his position well and pitched in more pressure situations in the Southeastern Conference than the typical minor leaguer encounters at any level shy of the majors.

“We’ll see how it plays up here,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I’ve seen a lot of guys that had low walk totals not have them up here. I’ve seen guys have high walk totals down there, and with more aggressive hitters, they went down up here. It’s a different kind of hitter up here. They’re here because they can hit. So, we’ll see.”

Do any of those strengths mean Gausman is ready for prime time? Of course not, but you never really know if a prospect is ready until he advances to a higher level, regardless of how dramatic the jump. It’s the reason why so many “can’t-miss” prospects have missed over the years. It’s an inexact science and as Showalter likes to often remind us, these are human beings with emotions and games aren’t played on paper.

Would another four weeks or two months really do that much to help Gausman if he’s already the best option the Orioles have among their starters in the minor leagues? His ability to improve his slider in such a short span of time reflects the kind of learning curve that should allow Gausman to make adjustments quickly as major league hitters learn the book on him over his first handful of starts.

It’s impossible not to have at least the slightest concern of rushing Gausman too quickly and hurting his psyche, but Showalter took a pragmatic approach in addressing that very question on Wednesday. And everything about Gausman suggests he’s a confident young man who’s up to the challenge mentally.

“It’s like I’ve said many times, you can’t screw up the good ones,” Showalter said. “They’re going to seek their level. And we think Kevin sooner or later will seek his level. We hope it’s soon.”

Yes, his quick route to the majors raises eyebrows and goes against the norm, but the Orioles think they have someone extraordinary on their hands who breaks the mold of conventional.

Thursday night does nothing in determining whether Gausman is truly ready or not, but the right-hander did everything within his power to make a difficult decision as easy as possible for the organization. And they were willing to pull the trigger when it became apparent that Gausman was their best option from below.

“I’m trying not to think about it too much and just go out there and keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Gausman said prior to his first career start. “Throw strikes and just try to pitch my game.”

Perhaps not thinking about it too much is good advice for us all if his talent is as special as advertised.

 

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