Tag Archive | "Dan Duquette"

Orioles pick up McFarland from Indians in Rule 5 draft

Tags: , , , , , ,

Orioles pick up McFarland from Indians in Rule 5 draft

Posted on 06 December 2012 by WNST Staff

The Orioles had some success last season with their Rule 5 pick in INF Ryan Flaherty, and in Nashville, Baltimore Executive Vice President Dan Duquette felt like there were players that could make the team better in 2013.

With the 23rd selection in the Rule 5 draft, the Orioles selected 23-year old left-hander T.J. McFarland from the Cleveland Indians organization.

McFarland, a sinkerball pitcher and fourth-round pick in 2007, went 16-8 with a 4.03 ERA in starts between Double-A and Triple-A Columbus.

At the Triple-A level, he was 8-6 with a 4.82 ERA.

McFarland will be given a chance to compete for a starting spot in the Orioles rotation, and like Flaherty, he must be kept on Buck Showalter’s 25-man roster for the entire length of the season or be offered back to the Indians.

Follow WNST on Twitter for your Orioles and Ravens news! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!

 

Comments (0)

Something’s not adding up in the Mark Reynolds saga

Tags: , ,

Something’s not adding up in the Mark Reynolds saga

Posted on 01 December 2012 by Drew Forrester

I always have to say this when the conversation comes around to Mark Reynolds.

I wouldn’t have him on MY team.  Even at first base, where he was acceptable with the glove, the holes in his offensive game were so gaping and costly that he wouldn’t be employed by me.

But I don’t run the Orioles.

And for the last two years, they’ve employed Reynolds.

For the last seven weeks or so, Dan Duquette could have negotiated a new deal with him.  He could have offered him arbitration.  Or he could have picked up an $11.5 million option for 2013 just to see what one more season would yield from Reynolds.

Instead, Duquette and the Orioles simply said, “we’ll pass”.

That makes Reynolds a free agent this morning.

And, despite the fact I wouldn’t have him on MY team, the Orioles are now in the market for a “real” first baseman after deciding to let their guy leave and test the market.

Here’s why it’s all wrong:  The Orioles have let Mark Reynolds go because of a few million dollars.  They could have given him $11.5 million and he’d be on their team, albeit perhaps at $4 million more than the team thinks he’s worth.  They could have signed him to a 2-year deal for roughly $20 million, but they probably only thought he was worth $16 million for two years.

Dan Duquette keeps talking about the Orioles “valuing” Reynolds, but they won’t sign him because they can’t fit him in their budget.

Or they simply don’t want him back and they’re lying about it.

Either way, Dan Duquette has publicly declared that Reynolds doesn’t “fit in our budget” for 2013.  What budget in baseball is so restricted in December that a GM can’t weasel a few more million bucks out of the owner to keep a player who has been a fixture in the team’s lineup for the last two years?

It’s one thing if Duquette says, “We wish Mark all the best but we’re going to go in a different direction at first base.”

Instead, he has constantly said, “We like the player, but not at that price.”

And yesterday, on the eve of letting Reynolds walk, Duquette again referenced the team’s budget and talked about “financial challenges”.

Something’s not adding up here.

(Please see next page)

Comments (8)

Deadline looming to offer contract to Reynolds

Tags: , , , , ,

Deadline looming to offer contract to Reynolds

Posted on 27 November 2012 by Luke Jones

Having until Friday to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players, the Orioles are appearing more and more unlikely to do so with first base Mark Reynolds, meaning he could hit the open market by the end of the week.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette already declined an $11 million club option last month — for which Reynolds was paid a $500,000 buyout — and the Orioles appear to be lukewarm to the idea of taking the 29-year-old to arbitration where he could command somewhere in the neighborhood of $9 million. Reynolds made $7.5 million in 2012 and would likely receive a raise in arbitration despite hitting only 23 home runs — his lowest total since his rookie season — and posting a career-low .429 slugging percentage this year.

According to a MASN report, the Orioles are attempting to sign Reynolds to a new deal prior to Friday’s deadline, which would pay him a lower salary than the projected figure he’d be awarded in arbitration but would likely offer the first baseman more security with an extra year or two on a deal while coming off arguably the worst season of his career. Reynolds batted .221 with 23 home runs, 69 runs batted in, and a .335 on-base percentage in 538 plate appearances.

After committing six errors in 15 games at third base early last season, Reynolds moved to first base where he showed improved defense, even if fielding metrics suggest many have overrated his work at the new position. Despite the defensive concerns being alleviated last season, Reynolds drop in power was a major concern after he slugged 37 home runs in his first season with the Orioles.

Few would dispute the premise of the Orioles trying to upgrade at first base, but the limited options on the free-agent market make it difficult to swallow the idea of simply allowing Reynolds to hit the open market, where he would be viewed as one of the better options at first base. Aside from veteran Adam LaRoche, who will command much more money than Reynolds’ arbitration projection, other options at first base include Mike Napoli, Lance Berkman, James Loney, and Carlos Pena.

Of course, the Orioles could elect to move Chris Davis to first base if they’re unable to work out an agreement with Reynolds, but they would then have to address the designated hitter spot in addition to left field, where they are still hoping to re-sign Nate McLouth to an affordable contract.

Despite his flaws, Reynolds still might be the best of the realistic options available as he likely would be motivated to prove his down year was an aberration if he were playing on a one-year deal. It’s also important to remember the former third baseman shed 20 pounds in order to improve his agility at the hot corner last offseason, which might be a factor in explaining his decreased power numbers in 2012. Knowing he’s now viewed as a first baseman, Reynolds could elect to add extra bulk to his frame to help revitalize his power numbers.

Looking beyond the low batting average and high strikeout numbers that give traditional fans fits, Reynolds holds more value than most realize if his power numbers were to return to the 2011 level in which he finished fourth in home runs in the American League. In 2012, he led the club in walks (73) and had the second-best on-base percentage on the club behind Nick Markakis despite playing in only 135 games.

Even at a projected $9 million price tag in arbitration, a third season of Reynolds with no commitment beyond 2013 would appear to make sense with a final chance to evaluate whether he’s part of the long-term plans at first base, but it’s looking like the Orioles appear content to let him hit the open market where it will be more difficult to retain his services. It’s a bold move considering the few options out there and the limited commodities in the farm system to offer in a trade, so it will be interesting to see if the club ultimately allows Reynolds to walk if contract talks are unsuccessful and Duquette is forced into making a decision on Friday.

The Orioles have a total of 14 arbitration-eligible players this offseason, which include:

INF Alexi Casilla
DH/OF Chris Davis
P Jason Hammel
P Tommy Hunter
P Jim Johnson
P Brian Matusz
P Darren O’Day
P Troy Patton
OF Steve Pearce
INF Omar Quintanilla
OF Nolan Reimold
1B Mark Reynolds
C Taylor Teagarden
C Matt Wieters

Third-base coach options

With former third-base coach DeMarlo Hale officially leaving the Orioles to become the new bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays, the club is now looking at several candidates to replace him on manager Buck Showalter’s staff.

Various outlets are reporting former Rockies third base coach and former Orioles second baseman Rich Dauer and former Indians and Rangers third base coach Steve Smith as the primary outside candidates to take Hale’s place. Dauer would be the sentimental favorite and has extensive coaching experience in the big leagues while Smith has familiarity with Showalter, serving as his third base coach in Texas.

Former Seattle Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu would also be an intriguing candidate after he nearly became the Orioles bench coach a couple seasons ago. He served as Showalter’s bench coach in Texas but also has experience as a third-base coach.

As for internal candidates, coordinator of minor league instruction Brian Graham and minor league infield coordinator Bobby Dickerson are reportedly on the short list.

Local product moves on

CONTINUE ON NEXT PAGE >>>

Comments (0)

Just Say No to Josh Hamilton

Tags: , , ,

Just Say No to Josh Hamilton

Posted on 08 November 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

It’s a bad pun, I know, and despite reports to the contrary there’s not an ounce of me that believes that the legendarily tight-fisted Orioles have any real intentions of bringing in Josh Hamilton through free agency, but it’s the first week in November, still months away from pitchers and catchers reporting and the suddenly “frustrating” Ravens are preparing for an anti-climactic match up against the Oakland Raiders. So just for a second let’s pretend that the Orioles rumored interest in Josh Hamilton is real.

If there’s any part of this “news” that Orioles fans can view as a positive, it’s that maybe the Orioles are (or will be at some point) genuinely interested in spending some money to bring in some veteran talent. The down side is that there’s little to be excited about at the top end of this year’s free agent class, and that those leading the talent parade, Josh Hamilton and Zach Greinke, both have enough question marks to make “Buyer Beware” the understatement of the off-season.

 

On the surface, this seems like little more than an Orioles effort to do what they’ve become really good at in recent off-seasons. It seems like another Orioles attempt to insult their fans’ intelligence by feigning just enough interest in a free agent superstar to grab a headline or two, but not enough interest (or money) to actually catch said superstar’s attention. There’s no better time than now to do that, as the market hasn’t begun to be set on Hamilton yet, so whatever the Orioles are wiling to offer today is better that any of the numbers we’ve heard so far. That’s because so far we haven’t heard any real numbers, from the Orioles or anyone.

 

This is the same Dan Duquette who claimed last off-season to be waiting for the sharks to finish feeding before venturing out to feed off of what was left. Why on Earth would we now believe that the Orioles have after one moderately successful season changed courses completely?

 

If they have, the timing couldn’t be worse. In this (what we hope is) the post steroid era of Major League Baseball, we’re quickly learning that players can no longer be expected to live up to the lofty contracts that take them well into their mid and late thirties. If the Orioles were compelled to pass on a 27-year old Prince Fielder with a bit of a weight problem last season, there’s no logical reason to consider a long-term alignment with a 31-year old Josh Hamilton with an array of baggage in tow.

 

The improbability of last year’s success was amusing to the fans that watched writers and analysts struggle to explain it, but as the team itself prepares for next year and beyond, the source of their amusement has left them in an awkward position. At every position other than second base (and a starting pitcher or two) there’s a guy from last year’s team who either projects well for next season or who at least merits another look in 2013. There have been plenty of years in which free agent bonanzas would have been both welcome and necessary, and in all of them the Orioles failed to pony up. Now, with legitimate and justifiable reasons to stand pat, the Orioles would like us to believe they’re ready to spend? And on Josh Hamilton no less?

 

I’m certainly not averse to the Orioles opening the purse strings if they feel inclined to do so, but there are plenty of reasons to be apprehensive if that spending begins with Josh Hamilton. Not only is Hamilton on the wrong side of 30 in the post steroid era and not only is he an all or nothing type of proposition; Hamilton is also a guy who’s sat out too many games for health related reasons when he was on the right side of 30; and how his indiscretions have lent themselves to the aging process is the subject of much speculation and debate.

Comments (5)

Duquette hoping lightning can strike same place twice

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Duquette hoping lightning can strike same place twice

Posted on 03 November 2012 by Glenn Clark

You are aware it isn’t true, right?

There is a well known idiom that says “lightning never strikes the same place twice.” The origins of the idiom are not fully known, although it has been attributed to writers like P.H. Myers and Mary Roberts Rinehart over the years.

Lightning can not only strike the same place twice, but could strike the same location an infinite number of times. There are no geographical laws for where lightning can strike, although we can certainly accept the notion that a lightning strike is more likely to hit a tall building than a sidewalk.

If for some reason you’re still REALLY interested in understanding this, here’s a little tutorial Accuweather put together to explain the phenomenon…

I went with this lede because I had to admit it was close to my initial response upon hearing the Baltimore Orioles believed the acquisition of 2B Alexi Casilla had solved their problems at second base.

In fact, I believe my quote was something like “does Dan Duquette really think lightning can strike the same place twice?”

If the Birds’ Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations had been in the room, he could have looked back at me calmly and said “well…it can.”

After claiming Casilla off waivers from the Minnesota Twins, Duquette declared second base to be addressed. He told team-owned entity MASN, ”I think we have enough people on our roster to man the position.”

The O’s second year man Ryan Flaherty at the position with Brian Roberts also perhaps a candidate to retain to the field after hip surgery. Veteran Robert Andino is also an option if the Orioles choose to tender him an offer. Omar Quintanilla is unlikely to return to the team after seeing very little time down the stretch and being left off the postseason roster. Touted prospect Jonathan Schoop may or may not be ready to come to Baltimore at some point in 2012.

Casilla comes to Charm City off a year in Minnesota where he hit .241 and got on base at a .282 clip over 106 games. He added 17 doubles and a home run, but his 21 stolen bases and .980 fielding position have been the saving grace for those applauding the acquisition.

I won’t mix words here. I don’t think much of the addition of Alexi Casilla. I would have preferred the Orioles acquire an actual legitimate major league second baseman this offseason, not another player to add into the mix with some hope it might actually work out. I’m aware the free agent market isn’t particularly deep at second base (Marco Scutaro, Kelly Johnson and Jeff Keppinger stand out), but I’d prefer someone from that group to a “by committee” scenario.

It’s further concerning because it reinforces the idea that the O’s aren’t going to suddenly become the “sleeping giants” of the offseason the way some (including ESPN’s Buster Olney) have suggested.

I instead believe it further reinforces what Dan Duquette said back in May during the press conference to announce OF Adam Jones’ six year contract extension. When our own Luke Jones asked if the $85.5 million deal was a sign that the team was more willing to spend money in free agency, Duquette declared “I don’t think the way to build a team is through free agency.”

(Continued on Page 2…)

Comments (4)

McLouth appreciative of opportunity and fans in ALDS run

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

McLouth appreciative of opportunity and fans in ALDS run

Posted on 18 October 2012 by Ryan Chell

Orioles outfielder Nate McLouth would have never imagined having people telling him “Thank You” at the end of the 2012 season after manager Buck Showalter and GM Dan Duquette gave the 30-year old cast-off another opportunity at the big leagues.

But it turns out, McLouth happened to be one of the reasons why the Baltimore Orioles were able to end their stretch of 15 consecutive losing seasons and a lack of baseball being played in October, and he saw that appreciation come his way in masses.

McLouth, who was signed by the Orioles to a minor league deal on June 5th and eventually found his way to the big league club on August 3rd, jumped right in to the Baltimore lineup and played at a high level and provided a spark for manager Buck Showalter in the stretch run of the regular season.

In 55 games in the regular season, McLouth hit .268 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs. He had a .342 OBP and his slugging percentage reached .435.

Those were numbers that McLouth had not really seen consistently since 2008 when he made the All-Star team as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

That presence was even more important after right fielder and leadoff man Nick Markakis broke his wrist in early September from a CC Sabathia pitch, and McLouth-who had already been written off by his two previous teams in Atlanta and Pittsburgh, was called upon by Showalter to stabilize the offense.

McLouth not only proved the doubters wrong, but was the Orioles hottest bat in their ALDS set with the New York Yankees and admitted to Glenn Clark on “The Reality Check” Monday the weekend after their playoff run ended-that he had a lot of fun along the way.

“That’s what you play for,” McLouth said. ”It was as fun of time as you can have playing baseball.   I know a lot of people-probably everybody-didn’t expect this team to be where we were coming down there in September.  That may have made it even more fun.  But once we got there, we expected to be there.  It was exciting; it was a lot of fun.”

McLouth had two RBIs in the Orioles 5-1 Wild Card win over the Texas Rangers, and in the ALDS against the New York Yankees, he went hit .318 with one home run and 3 RBIs from the leadoff spot.

It was just a continued sense of added confidence for McLouth to be playing at that high of a level again on that big of a stage.

“I knew that I still had some good baseball left in me, and I still do.  It was so nice to have that opportunity, and to be able to take advantage of it.”

McLouth said that the whole process was made much easier when his manager, Buck Showalter, trusted in his skills as gave him the green light to go out and make plays on his own.

“Buck let me do my thing on the bases, in the outfield, at the plate, it was great. After struggling for a couple years it was really, really difficult, but it was like a breath of fresh air.  I couldn’t have had a better time.”

Unfortunately, McLouth-who had playoff experience with the Braves in 2010 NLDS-had no control over the rest of his teammates’ bats going cold against the Yankees, and the season sadly came to an end.

But as McLouth can attest to-the game of baseball can be a roller coaster ride sometimes.

“In that series at Camden Yards in September, we swung the bats pretty well, facing a lot of the same pitchers,” McLouth said. “Unfortunately, that’s how baseball works sometimes. That also goes to show you how hard baseball is…they got a couple more hits than we did.”

McLouth said losing last Friday night stinks and that bad taste in his mouth still lingers, but ultimately he knows both he and his teammates will be able to look at it from a much broader perspective.

“I don’t think it has still hasn’t hit yet, but I think it will. I don’t care if you’re expected to be there or not, it stinks losing,” McLouth told Clark. “I’m sure once the sting wears off a little bit here, we will be able to be happy about what we accomplished this year.”

And ultimately, McLouth said he’s going to use days like Friday and Saturday to better motivate himself toward doing more in 2013 next season for the Baltimore Orioles should he be given that opportunity.

It’s something he hasn’t felt in quite some time.

“Usually the last day of the season, if you’re not going to the playoffs, it’s one of the best days of the year,” McLouth admitted. You know you have some time off coming ahead of you- some time to rest.”

“But after losing on Friday, it was an awful feeling, it was empty, and it was terrible. I think all of us wanted to keep going, and that’s going to drive me personally in the offseason going into next season.”

But that’s a situation that is again out of McLouth’s control.

The 30-year old McLouth had signed a one year, 1.75 million dollar contract to play this season for the Orioles, and with the healthy returns of outfielders Nolan Reimold and Nick Markakis, you have to wonder if there is a spot and at-bats for McLouth on this roster.

McLouth said he will focus on coming back strong in 2013, and hopes that it’s back in Orange and Black because Charm City really grew on him.

“I can tell you I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Baltimore- everything about it,” McLouth said with a little emotion. “The people in that organization are awesome, I love my teammates. I like living in there in Baltimore-living down in the Harbor area. I really enjoyed playing here and I would enjoy to be back.”

McLouth said that seeing Oriole Park in Camden Yards filled to the brink in August, September, and October was one of the most exciting things he’s experienced in his lifetime, and he said the fans deserved what they did more than ever.

“I played in Baltimore I think twice as a visiting player, once with Pittsburgh, once with Atlanta, I think in ’08 and ’09. It was obviously a beautiful stadium but didn’t have much of excitement, which is normal for a team that hasn’t won in a long time. To see the way that stadium coming down the stretch in September, but especially those two playoff games was incredible.”

“As the playoffs were more of a real possibility and a likely possibility, you could feel that building every series and even every game really. I am so happy the fans got to experience that, to get a taste of that.”

And as much as McLouth has said thank you to Peter Angelos, Dan Duquette, and Buck Showalter over the last several months for giving him another shot at being a big league ball player, the last several weeks he has received as many words of appreciation from the thousands of Orioles fans who paid to see him rebound.

“When we got back on Friday night after we lost, I think there was 500-600 fans in that parking lot waiting for us. I think the most common thing I heard, even walking around Baltimore, was ‘Thank You,’ thank you for bringing baseball back to Baltimore and giving us some excitement.”

“Those first two playoff games, it was like they let out 15 years of frustration. You could just feel it, it was insane; it was the atmosphere and those are two games I’ll never forget.”

WNST thanks Nate McLouth for joining us! To hear the entire interview, check the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault at WNST.net!

Comments (0)

Orioles view tough Game 5 loss as only beginning of bright future

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Orioles view tough Game 5 loss as only beginning of bright future

Posted on 13 October 2012 by Luke Jones

NEW YORK — It’s never easy reflecting in the immediate aftermath of a loss that ends any season, let alone one like the Orioles just provided to the city of Baltimore.

Disappointment and frustration are understandable following the 3-1 loss to the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the American League Division Series. The lineup remained silent against CC Sabathia to finish the five-game series with a .187 batting average despite the pitching staff posting a team earned run average of 2.52.

More difficult than anything is the finality of knowing such a fun and unforgettable season has no more chapters to follow and enjoy. The forgotten ritual of hurrying home or to Camden Yards to watch the Orioles play on a daily basis underwent a renaissance this season, as it was once again fun to follow every game, every out, and every pitch.

As he’s done all year, manager Buck Showalter placed the loss in proper perspective in expressing how proud he was of his team’s 24-game improvement that resulted in the Orioles’ first playoff appearance since 1997. But it’s clear he wasn’t viewing Friday’s loss as an end but rather a beginning.

The words echoed in meaning as a message to a fan base that finally had its thirst quenched for postseason baseball.

“It’s always real tough to talk to them after the season is over because there is always another game,” Showalter said. “It is not goodbye to this group, it is ‘see you later.’ They have a very well-deserved rest.”

The clubhouse was disappointed and subdued, but the overall message conveyed wasn’t one of despondence or regret beyond the shortcomings of the offense against an impressive New York pitching staff.

Numerous players offered a sense of not only recognizing what they’d accomplished by going toe-to-toe with the Yankees but an acceptance of the bar permanently being raised in Baltimore. With All-Star players such as catcher Matt Wieters and center field Adam Jones – who both struggled mightily in their first postseason appearance – there’s no reason for the Orioles to believe they can’t duplicate or exceed what they accomplished in 2012.

“It stings right now, but at the same time, this is the baseball the Baltimore Orioles want to play,” Wieters said. “This is a starting point for us. We can move into the offseason and try to improve and get even a better team out there next year.”

The questions will now be directed off the field as the Orioles not only look to make improvements to their 25-man roster but must also address the future of the man most responsible for changing the culture of losing that permeated throughout the organization for 14 seasons. Showalter enters the final year of his contract after emerging as a strong candidate for AL Manager of the Year in 2012.

Arriving in Baltimore in 2010 with a reputation for helping turn around franchises, Showalter’s on-field leadership and fingerprints on various facets of the organization have been vital. His partnership with executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette resulted in quirky – and, at times, head-scratching – personnel decisions that repeatedly worked out in the club’s favor in 2012.

Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos met players in the visitor clubhouse at Yankee Stadium following the defeat and addressed Showalter’s future when asked by reporters. He has not engaged in any extension talks with the Orioles manager, but Angelos offered the impression that it would be a priority to keep Showalter in the dugout beyond the 2013 season.

“That’s something that hasn’t come up, but if [he's] interested in staying, nobody’s more interested in keeping him than I am,” Angelos said. “And, certainly, I speak for everyone in the organization. They had Buck as the manger, Dan Duquette as the [general manager], and you certainly couldn’t ask for a better combination.”

In addition to Showalter’s future in Baltimore being secured for the long haul, time will reveal whether the front office capitalizes on the club’s newfound prosperity to attempt to lure more high-profile free agents to Baltimore. A 93-win season might be enough to eliminate the perception of the Orioles needing to overpay free agents as long as they’re willing to at least pay fair market value.

As has been documented countless times over the course of the 2012 season, many variables fell in the Orioles’ favor, including the demise of the Boston Red Sox and more vulnerability in New York and Tampa Bay that resulted in no one in the AL East running away with the division crown. The Yankees and Red Sox didn’t go crazy with free-agent spending last offseason, so it will be interesting to see how the two behemoths respond this winter knowing that the Orioles have become a substantial player in the division conversation.

“This is where we feel we belong. We can play in this division,” said Jones, who made no excuses for his anemic .087 batting average in the Division Series after a career year in 2012. “The East is going to get stronger. We feel we’re one of the teams in the East to beat now. We’re not just a pushover in the East. We’re going to come out next year ready to bust some heads.”

How the Orioles go about improving their club will be discussed in greater detail in the coming weeks. For now, we’ll remember a season in which the Orioles did something they hadn’t accomplished in a very long time.

It was an act more simplistic than winning a World Series but also more meaningful than the act of raising a trophy.

The Orioles made their fans believe once again. They restored a pride that had disappeared years ago and convinced us that it could still exist.

The challenge will now be keeping those feelings alive next year and in the seasons to follow.

“They were good teammates and people that our city and organization can be proud of,” Showalter said. “And we’ll see them again.”

Baltimore can only hope the Orioles and the exhilarating brand of baseball they brought back in 2012 are here to stay.

Comments (2)

Orioles embrace underdog role like few teams ever have

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Orioles embrace underdog role like few teams ever have

Posted on 06 October 2012 by Luke Jones

You’d think we would have learned our lesson after 162 games, but the Orioles opened our eyes once again on Friday night.

With few giving them a chance after a deflating series at Tampa Bay that forced them to go to Arlington for the first ever wild card play-in game, the Orioles knocked off the Texas Rangers to advance to the American League Division Series.

We assumed the task was too much for the Orioles to top the two-time defending American League champions after they went 2-5 against the Rangers and were outscored 56-24 in the season series. It didn’t matter that Texas had lost nine of its last 13 games or that Baltimore held the best road record in the American League. The epitaphs had already been written and recited by many over the last two days leading up to Friday’s first pitch.

Manager Buck Showalter’s decision to give the ball to left-hander Joe Saunders was met with more than a few raised eyebrows considering the soft-tossing veteran was 0-6 with a 9.38 earned run average in six career starts at Rangers Ballpark before Friday night. Even those defending the decision assumed a brief outing for Saunders before a 10-man bullpen would match up the rest of the way.

The middle-of-the-road starter couldn’t possibly contain the powerful Rangers bats, could he?

Saunders did just that, using effective off-speed stuff to pitch 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball before turning it over to the bullpen, the group most responsible for landing the Orioles in the postseason for the first time since 1997.

Arguably the player of the game, reliever Darren O’Day was brilliant over two innings of work to bridge the gap to the late innings. New lefty specialist Brian Matusz blew away Josh Hamilton on three pitches to end the eighth with the slugger representing the tying run. And, finally, Jim Johnson closed the door on the Rangers’ season and sent the Orioles back to Baltimore for the ALDS.

The Baltimore bats were far from fertile but did just enough against Texas starter Yu Darvish to give Saunders and the bullpen a slim lead.

Left fielder Nate McLouth drove in two runs and scored another to lead the offensive attack, J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones each knocked in one, and rookie Manny Machado tacked on an insurance run in the top of the ninth with a run-scoring single.

And as McLouth squeezed the final out in left to seal a 5-1 win, there was Showalter watching from the dugout as his players celebrated their unlikeliest feat to date in a season full of head-shaking wonder. At this point, you wonder just how unlikely the Orioles viewed it as they didn’t blink in a place that’s been a house of horror for them in recent years.

Why do we still doubt them?

The response was lukewarm in late August when executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette brought Saunders to Baltimore in exchange for reliever Matt Lindstrom. It wasn’t the impact move for a starting pitcher the Orioles desperately needed to push the Orioles over the hump in their playoff push.

Considered washed up and simply hoping for another chance in the big leagues while playing for Triple-A Norfolk only two months ago, McLouth was summoned to Baltimore as many laughed and rolled their eyes. Those same people then cringed when the thumb injury to Nick Markakis forced him to assume the leadoff spot duties.

Critics said 20-year-old Manny Machado wasn’t ready for the big leagues and certainly couldn’t handle playing third base after playing only two games at the position in his brief minor league career.

O’Day was a castoff from the Rangers who many thought didn’t even deserve a roster spot at the start of the season after being injured for much of spring training. Matusz endured one of the worst seasons in major league history a year ago and was demoted again earlier this season before ultimately being sent to the bullpen.

Yet, the moves worked and those individuals figured heavily into the Orioles’ first postseason win since 1997.

While I wondered if the Rangers could get off the mat after collapsing in the final two weeks of the regular season and losing their grasp on the AL West title, the Orioles emphatically delivered the knockout blow to their 2012 season. Perhaps the Rangers were the better team and would have prevailed in a longer season, but the Orioles were the better team on Friday and that’s all that matters.

Yes, this perfect group of imperfect players comprised of holdovers used to losing, career minor leaguers, has-beens, never-will-bes, and baby-faced rookies may look like a jumbled mess of individual parts, but the unconventional concoction made by Showalter and Duquette is now 11 wins away from a World Series title.

Suggesting that possibility still sounds preposterous, doesn’t it? I thought so.

They’ll undoubtedly be tabbed as the underdogs against the AL East champion Yankees, a team they tied 9-9 in the season series.

But that underdog label doesn’t bother the Orioles. They’ve heard it all year and they’ll just keep playing with their house money, proving more and more people wrong in the process.

We’ll keep waiting for that bankroll to expire while Showalter’s club continues one of the most remarkable baseball stories we’ve seen in a long time for at least another postseason series.

We don’t know when it will come to an end, but few teams have ever embraced the underdog role with such vigor.

And they’ll keep reminding you why you shouldn’t doubt them.

Comments (2)

Reynolds’ Bum Rap

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Reynolds’ Bum Rap

Posted on 04 September 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

There are no players on the Orioles, and few in Major League Baseball, perhaps few in the history of Major League Baseball as confounding or as difficult to assess as Mark Reynolds has been. In fact, when it comes to assessing Reynolds’ skill set and therefore his value, the discussion can be downright divisive.

Those who have no tolerance for Mark Reynolds will point to his battles with the Mendoza line and his annual assault on the 200-strikeout plateau as evidence of his not having much of a clue at the plate. The walk numbers that he routinely amasses however seem to tell a different story. Reynolds goes to the plate with an idea of the strike zone, and rarely seems willing to compromise that idea or to cater it to the game situation at hand. His inability to move runners with productive outs seems to stick in the crawls of his bashers, while the resultant lack of double plays provides plenty of fodder for his supporters.

 

It’s not easy these days to suggest that Buck Showalter is doing much, or anything wrong, when it comes to managing the Orioles. We seem to be in universal agreement (a rarity among baseball fans) that JJ Hardy is misplaced at best in the #2 spot in the order, but even that has given way to the “In Buck We Trust” mantra and mindset. So far though, throughout his Orioles career, Buck Showalter has handled “the Mark Reynolds situation” badly.

 

Reynolds is clearly not a good 3rd baseman, a reality Orioles fans were forced to face head on last season, and a reality seemingly corrected once Reynolds transitioned to first base last season. Still, for some inexplicable reason, Showalter and the Orioles sent Reynolds home last off-season with the idea (and intention) of sticking him back at 3rd base. They did so, unsuccessfully again, and how much of an impact that has had on the other elements of his game is, like everything else about Reynolds, debatable.

 

The Photo Shopped pictures of Reynolds eating sunflowers seeds in various comical locales fed the notion (and may have led some to believe) that Reynolds was indifferent to the game going on around him. Others believe Reynolds may care too much and that maybe having to make the throw from 3rd to 1st, across the diamond , had a mental impact on his game and caused him to be less than focused elsewhere. Whether that’s true or not, Reynolds at first base has been at the very least better than serviceable, and lately he’s arguably been pretty good there. And, coincidentally or not, he seems to have picked things up at the plate since being assigned to first as well.

 

For those who find themselves counting the days until Reynolds’ departure…beware. Reynolds’ contract situation is like all other Reynolds related subjects precarious. He has an $11 million club option at the end of the season, but will also finish 2012 short of the 6 years of MLB service time required to make him a free agent. That would seem to make the Orioles likely to buy out his option and offer either arbitration, or a longer-term compromise of a contract.

 

As things stand today, Reynolds’ .347 OBP ranks him 25th in the American League. In simpler terms there are only 24 guys in the entire AL this year who are more difficult to get out than Mark Reynolds. Of the 12 guys sitting above him in OBP, about half have anywhere near the power potential Reynolds possesses, in fact only 12 of the 24 players above him have more than the 16 homeruns that Reynolds has in this, a down year for power based on his career standards. Turning Reynolds walks into singles puts him in good company (OBP and power-wise) with guys like Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Josh Hamilton, all of whom are looking down the barrels of $20 million or so per season paydays while Reynolds (at $11 million) is being treated like a plague on the Orioles.

Comments (1)

Buck Buck

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Oriole Surprise

Posted on 03 September 2012 by Tom Federline

The Orioles just keep winning. How? Come on all you true Oriole fans, how many times have you asked yourself that question this year? And your answers? Does this sound familiar – “let’s see, last night  – it was the starting pitching, it was the relief pitching, just who was pitching………the offense must have stepped up, the defense finally came around, so-and-so was hot, etc. etc.” Then you say – who cares, put another one in the WIN column!  As of September 2nd, they are not going away. Yes, O’s fans it is September and the Baltimore Orioles are in a pennant/wild card race.

Back on July 18th, I wrote – The Orioles are Back to Normal……… and at that time they were. This isn’t normal. This is FUN! Buck-Buck is tough, he goes with his gut, he sticks with his players, he is running the team – Showalter style. Dan Duquette is making some fortuitous acquisitions. The organization is feeding off the Andy McPhail farm teams. And the Angelos family appears to have bought into the current approach. Players are going down, players are picking it up, guys you have never heard of before are contributing. They went 18 – 9 in August. The most wins in a single month since September 2004.

This was the best August in 15 years,  that didn’t involve the acquisition of a new manager, i.e. Buck-Buck 2 years ago. There was even a time during the middle of the month, where it looked like the umpires were attempting a little “fix” of their own. The O’s held it together and I believe it was at that point, they became a “team”. It was the Boston series and umpire Laz Diaz. Then the series immediately following in Detroit with umpire Tim Timmons. Both of those umpires should be suspended and/or fined – “Hold them accountable.” Buck-Buck usually remains pretty even keel. Actually, to even keel for my taste (I’m old school – Earl Weaver). But finally, enough was enough and Buck lost it in Detroit.

In Boston – Laz Diaz. A blown “out” call at first involving Adam Jones. It was potentially a turning point in the game and cost the O’s a run.. He clearly missed the call. The next night Jones gets intentionally hit in the back by Clay “Classless” Bucholz in retaliation for Jones plowing the catcher the night before. No warning from Diaz (he’s behind the plate now). Jim Palmer comments  - “Come on Laz………..you blew calls last night……….now this.” In Detroit – Tim Timmons (home plate). Another blown “out” call on Markakis in the first inning when he was safe at home. Then Timmons again, over turned a call later in the game at first base, with Reynolds making another nice saving grab. The first base ump called Detroit player out, Detroit complained, numbnut Timmons comes out and reversed it, ultimately making the wrong call. Buck Showalter wins Orioles Emmy for “Best Earl Weaver Impression – 2012.” Tough week. Orioles prevailed.

The nucleus of the team has remained intact: Markakis (did lose him in June), Jones, Weiters, Hardy, Chen, Johnson and believe it or not Reynolds. Thank you Mark Reynolds for beating the Spankmees this wet Labor Day weekend. The pitching, left field, 3B, 2B has been a revolving door and you have to credit Buck-Buck, Duquette and the numerous replacements that have stepped up. How about that Machado call up? With that surprising addition, they may have secured the corners for the run. It’s hard to keep up with the turnover rate. It’s kind of like Buck is saying – “With or Without You” – (U2), we are on a mission. Buck quote – “This is as good a club I’ve ever had about staying in the moment.” Well O’s – how about, Seize the Moment?

The Orioles are winning. They are a team. I like the “Outfielder Bump” after a win. I like Palmers nickname for the bullpen – “The Orange Curtain”. I like the self-imposed starting rotation competition. I like, that they do not give up. How about that bullpen? The Strop/Johnson combo is holding up. How about the best defense in the majors since the All-star break?  ”Playoffs? Don’t talk about playoffs. You kidding me? Playoffs?” Yeah, the Birds are perched ready for a run. Fifteen years………..it’s about time. It’s also going to be a long September. And I’m glad! Where did the summer go? Go O’s! O-R-I-O-L-E-S magic.

D.I.Y.

Fedman

Comments (2)