Tag Archive | "Dan Duquette"

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

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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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Orioles have no choice but to circle back patiently with starting options

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Orioles have no choice but to circle back patiently with starting options

Posted on 19 May 2013 by Luke Jones

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

It’s never a good idea to definitively assess any team in the midst of its worst stretch of the season in the same way that you shouldn’t ignore weaknesses while enjoying the prosperous times.

With the Orioles suffering their first four-game losing streak of the season and surrendering a staggering 30 runs and 45 hits over their last three games, it’s easy to panic over such an ugly stretch of baseball. Early questions over starting pitching have transformed into serious concerns as the club has endured the losses of Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez to the disabled list and the recent struggles of Opening Day starter Jason Hammel while attempting to piece together the back end of the rotation.

The poor starting pitching has placed even more reliance on the bullpen as the Orioles have seen All-Star closer Jim Johnson blow consecutive saves this week. Showalter insists the bullpen hasn’t been overworked and is very meticulous with everything from innings pitched down to the number of times a reliever even gets up to throw during games, but that won’t remain the case if the poor performance of the starting pitching continues into the summer.

Chen is sidelined indefinitely with the always-unpredictable strained oblique injury, meaning Chris Tillman is the only starter on which manager Buck Showalter can currently rely as Orioles starting pitching has allowed 32 earned runs in 39 1/3 innings — a 7.32 earned run average — over the last eight games. The club hopes the 2012 version of Gonzalez will surface beginning with his scheduled return on Tuesday and that Hammel will find the proper release point to improve his fastball command after a miserable recent stretch.

Beyond those concerns, the picture becomes even more frightening with the final two spots in the rotation. Yes, it’s easy to look back at the offseason and criticize executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette for not acquiring any impact starters — I shared that very sentiment at the start of spring training and again at the beginning of the season — but Duquette and Showalter also expressed great faith in their internal options.

Now, one time through a lineup of “second-tier” starters that includes Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Steve Johnson, Freddy Garcia, Jair Jurrjens, and Josh Stinson, only Arrieta and Garcia have received more than one start to this point. Arrieta doesn’t really fall into the same category as the others after beginning the season as the fifth starter, and a strong debut in Anaheim bought the 36-year-old Garcia two more starts that have been underwhelming at best.

Understanding that even the brightest pitchers in the game will have a handful of less-than-stellar outings over the course of a season, is a one-start audition really the best way to determine if a pitcher can be an asset for the major league rotation?

Make no mistake, gone are the days when a young prospect such as Brian Matusz will be afforded the opportunity to accumulate a 10.69 ERA in 12 starts as he did over two different stints in the 2011 season. Higher expectations are here to stay and competition is paramount with Duquette and Showalter as they look beyond the 25-man roster while viewing Triple-A Norfolk and Double-A Bowie as essential partners in fielding a competitive club in the American League East.

However, the problem with higher expectations is the emphasis it places on smaller sample sizes when trying to evaluate. And you wonder if the possibility of such a short audition for the likes of Britton and Johnson creates too much of a mindset of looking over your shoulder and trying to be too perfect. It also devalues their minor-league performances that earn them their chance in the first place.

Showalter acknowledged this weekend most of these immediate demotions couldn’t have been avoided due to the strain placed on the bullpen as a direct result of the short outings. There is plenty of merit to that explanation, but at some point, the Orioles need to find the proper balance between having higher expectations and exercising the faith expressed this offseason in their internal options by showing just a bit more — brace yourself for that all-too-familiar word — patience.

No one is endorsing that Britton or Johnson or whichever pitcher sitting at the top of the totem pole for the next chance automatically receives six weeks’ worth of starts in the big leagues, but a reasonable opportunity of three or four starts might be more conducive to the potentially fragile psyche of a young pitcher. Fringe pitchers such as these certainly need to feel urgency playing for a contending club, but trying to be too perfect in fear of being sent down isn’t setting them up with the mindset for success, either.

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Dan’s Plan & the Rule-5 Dilemma

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Dan’s Plan & the Rule-5 Dilemma

Posted on 01 May 2013 by Thyrl Nelson

 

He took the job that no one else wanted.

For those that are still shedding tears or pointing fingers over the way the Orioles handled this most recent off-season, just try and recall what the one that preceded it was like.

 

There are only 32 Major League GM jobs in the world, and arguably hundreds of pseudo qualified and hungry executives envisioning the opportunity to get one. Still, as the Orioles were searching for someone to take that opportunity with their club prior to the 2012 season they were rebuked, rebuffed, leveraged and otherwise used but never, it seems, seriously considered by a serious candidate. Enter Dan Duquette.

Duquette’s credentials were actually better than his 9-year hiatus/exile from Major League Baseball would have suggested but he had somehow slipped through the cracks for nearly a decade. To the Orioles’ credit, they found him. And to Duquette’s credit he not only accepted the job, but he arguably approached it like none of the other candidates would have, he approached it like none of his immediate predecessors had; Duquette approached the Orioles job like a winner, like a guy who expected to make the Orioles winners; and Duquette has made the Orioles just that.

If nothing else, Duquette should have earned our trust; he deserves our confidence. His reputation still isn’t quite in the stratosphere of Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome and no one is ready to utter “In Dan We Trust” just yet, but he’s getting close.

It hasn’t all been Dan’s doing. The situation that Duquette inherited was probably better than most were ready to understand, but that shouldn’t diminish the job that he’s done. Through a series of moves and machinations, decisions and deliberations, Duquette teamed with Buck Showalter to create magic in the 2012 Orioles. Not all of his decisions have been good ones, but no one’s are. Duquette has at the very least been more hit than miss; more right than wrong, and more successful than anyone could have reasonably thought possible.

Now that we’re fully immersed in the Duquette era Orioles however, a couple of sad realizations have come to light. Foremost among them is that the Orioles are, and seemingly will be for as long as Peter Angelos is running the show, committed to winning on a budget; and it would seem that the budget part holds unquestionable precedence over the winning part. This doesn’t preclude them from winning, but does make it substantially more difficult.

The decisions where monetary considerations have trumped on-field considerations have already become evident. And last year Duquette not only proved that he could win despite them, but perhaps also began to develop and refine the blueprint by which he intended to get it done.

Throughout last season, the flexibility of the roster and the options available on players (particularly pitchers) allowed Duquette to creatively overcome a problem that had been at the heart of the Orioles biggest issues over the 14 futile years that preceded 2012. The inability of Orioles pitchers to work deep into games and the absence of a true innings eater at the back of the rotation has been a running theme for the Orioles for over a decade. More often than not it was just one in a long list ailments that the team had to overcome, but even in the seasons where the Orioles offense was high level and even in the seasons where they began the year competitively, the inability of starters to get deep into games and the resultant taxing of the bullpen has been an ongoing issue. Last year the Orioles used an active revolving door to overcome that.

This year, with fewer options available, and less opportunity to shuffle the deck day-by-day, that issue seems to be back. And while the Orioles are off to another encouraging start, it seems only a matter of time before the bullpen collapses, run differential begins trending the other way and the Orioles begin sliding down the AL East standings. This makes the presence of TJ McFarland difficult to fathom.

 

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Your Monday Reality Check: Arrieta’s struggles make second guessing easy

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Your Monday Reality Check: Arrieta’s struggles make second guessing easy

Posted on 22 April 2013 by Glenn Clark

When you see a meme or GIF image posted @WNST on Twitter, it was regularly posted by me. I often know the source of the meme/gif or sometimes make them on my own, but regularly see one being passed around via Facebook or Twitter (I admittedly haven’t gotten involved in Reddit just yet but know it makes me a dinosaur) where the source cannot be identified.

So when I post them on our account, I’ll often say something like “take credit if yours.” It’s my little way of saying “I don’t know the origin of this, but if I find out soon I’ll be sure to offer credit where the credit is deserved.” Many times that leads to a direct response from the creator of said image which allows me to send out another message offering credit to the person who is deserving. It’s an imperfect science as we all continue to learn about social media etiquette, but it has proved effective thus far.

Sadly, there’s a well known idiom that dates back perhaps as much as a century whose creator seems unknown. I can’t imagine social media will be of any help this time.

The idiom is “hindsight is 20/20.”

It’s a very simply concept. 20/20 is nominal vision, as a person standing 20 feet from someone reads it as if they were standing 20 feet from the object. “Hindsight is 20/20″ reflects the notion that when you look back on something that already occurred, it can always be seen in ideal vision. I’m not certain what level of vision someone would be described as having in foresight, but I would tend to doubt it would even be as good as 20/40.

The idiom was fresh in my mind while watching Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Jake Arrieta crumble in the fifth inning of Sunday’s 7-4 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Arrieta walked OF Skip Schumaker and OF Carl Crawford on four pitches each, sandwiching a plunking of SS Justin Sellers between. The passes brought Arrieta’s BB total to five for the day (while recording only 12 outs). A Mark Ellis two run single would end Arrieta’s outing, his line would show five earned runs after being handed four runs over the first four innings by his own offense.

For Arrieta, the story has been all too familiar this season. In four starts, he has allowed 16 BB and 14 earned runs. The lack of control and elevated pitch counts have lead to the starter pitching an average of just under five innings per start (19 total innings pitched), however remarkably the Birds have gone 3-1 in the span.

Following Sunday’s start, O’s manager Buck Showalter described the pitcher’s issues as being emotional. “Emotions effect mechanics” the skipper noted, comparing Arrieta’s emotional state to putters in golf who struggle when overwhelmed. Arrieta described his lack of control Sunday as “frustrating”, “unacceptable” and flat out “bad”. He noted “this isn’t me…this really isn’t something I’ve ever done at this rate” in terms of free passes.

To his credit, he’s right. To his discredit, it doesn’t matter.

Showalter and GM Dan Duquette now have a difficult decision to make regarding their struggling starter. Arrieta still has options left, meaning they could make a move in the coming days to bring up a starter from Norfolk (they have a decision to make Wednesday already following their doubleheader Saturday). Such a move would perhaps allow Arrieta to get back to the AAA level and work on his control, but it would seem obvious that the starter would likely dominate a lower level of hitting.

(Continued on Page 2…)

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Orioles reportedly make long-term offer to Wieters

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Orioles reportedly make long-term offer to Wieters

Posted on 03 April 2013 by Luke Jones

All-Star catcher Matt Wieters won’t become a free agent until after the 2015 season, but the Orioles don’t appear to be wasting time in addressing his long-term status.

According to a CBSSports.com report, the club recently offered Wieters a long-term contract in hopes of securing his future in Baltimore long before he would become a free agent at age 29. However, the sides aren’t believed to be anywhere close to an agreement.

That reality comes as no surprise considering Wieters is represented by super agent Scott Boras, a factor that led many to believe the Orioles would avoid drafting the star catcher from Georgia Tech altogether in the 2007 draft. Instead, the club selected Wieters with the fifth overall pick and signed him minutes before the deadline on August 15 of that year. Historically, Boras discourages young clients from signing extensions with their original clubs that would prevent them from hitting the open market.

The report says the offer was believed to be at least five years, but the exact terms were unknown. San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey recently signed a nine-year, $167 million deal, and the 2008 first-round pick was four years away from free agency. However, Posey has been more accomplished in the big leagues after being voted 2012 National League MVP and helping the Giants to World Series titles in two of the last three years.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette provided a cryptic answer when asked to describe how talks were going.

“We’ll enjoy him as long as he’s here,” Duquette told CBSSports.com before declining further comment.

It’s typical for the Orioles executive to be sly in describing matters of this nature, so trying to read too much into his words doesn’t serve much purpose. Signing the 26-year-old anytime soon will be a tall order, but the fact that the Orioles are already exploring an extension with nearly three full seasons of control remaining before he becomes a free agent shows how serious the organization is about keeping the two-time Gold Glove winner in Baltimore.

The sides settled on a $5.5 million salary for the 2013 season, avoiding arbitration over the winter.

Wieters hit a two-run home run off David Price in the Orioles 7-4 season-opening win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday.

 

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Orioles don’t stand out in “ifs, coulds, and maybes” AL East division

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Orioles don’t stand out in “ifs, coulds, and maybes” AL East division

Posted on 01 April 2013 by Luke Jones

From the moment catcher Matt Wieters grounded out to end Game 5 of the American League Division Series and the Orioles began setting their sights toward the 2013 season, the same question has been asked over and over.

Will they build upon the surprising success that resulted in their first postseason appearance in 15 years?

Regardless of what executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter try to tell you, it wasn’t a successful offseason. The stated goals of acquiring a middle-of-the-order bat and an established starting pitcher were never realized unless you count the minor-league signings of Jair Jurrjens and 36-year-old Freddy Garcia, who will each begin the year at Triple-A Norfolk.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the Orioles can’t and won’t compete in the AL East this season. Critics arguing that the Orioles won’t repeat their 29-9 record in one-run games and 16-2 mark in extra-inning affairs overlook the fact that the club was built to excel in late-and-close situations with a stellar bullpen and arguably the best tactician in the game with Showalter in the dugout.

That success rate will be very difficult to repeat, but the Orioles will point to last year’s injuries to Nick Markakis, Nolan Reimold, Jason Hammel, and Brian Roberts and the overall lack of progress by their young starting pitchers last year as evidence that they didn’t need a perfect set of circumstances to win a year ago. Better overall health for the aforementioned group as well as the emergence of just an arm or two from the likes of Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Dylan Bundy, and Kevin Gausman would do wonders in overcoming a more realistic record in games decided by one run.

“I like our guys” has been Showalter’s battle cry since the end of last season, and the Orioles will need to validate that feeling if they’re to break the 90-win mark for the second straight year. It’s difficult not to trust the Baltimore skipper after orchestrating a 24-game improvement from 2011 to 2012.

A core group of position players including Adam Jones, Wieters, Manny Machado, and Markakis as well as top pitching prospects Bundy and Gausman paint a very bright future in Baltimore in the years to come. The ceiling for the 2013 Orioles — and even more so in the next few years — is substantially higher than it’s been in a very long time.

This year’s AL East lacks Yankees and Red Sox teams — or even one of them — that will inevitably run away with the division crown. The parity existing top to bottom has made this race more difficult to forecast than any in recent memory.

Toronto appears to be the best on paper, but will a plethora of new additions mesh quickly or experience growing pains as many revamped teams often do?

Tampa Bay has more than enough starting pitching to offset the departure of James Shields, but will the Rays have enough offense to separate themselves?

The Yankees are old and banged up and the Red Sox are coming off their worst season in 47 years, but both clubs still have enough talent to hang in the division race with enough good fortune.

It’s a division full of ifs, coulds, and maybes everywhere you look, but there aren’t enough answers present to place the Orioles a cut above the rest.

The lineup has quality but not enough depth to overcome an injury or two, whereas the starting rotation has plenty of options but lacks the necessary quality to give you great confidence in the Orioles getting what they’ll need on the mound for 162 games.

Baltimore’s Opening Day order top to bottom is good enough to compete, but there’s little help waiting in the minors if the injury bug strikes virtually any position on the field. The club will depend on the return of Reimold and the continued development of Machado to offset the loss of power hitter Mark Reynolds for a club that finished ninth in the AL in runs score last season.

The starting rotation was in flux most of last season but was able to depend on Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, and a revamped Chris Tillman in the second half of the season. You have to wonder if Chen and Gonzalez can duplicate their rookie success with the book now out on how they work and it’s difficult to trust any other young pitchers to simply put it together after the underwhelming results of the past few years. Even Hammel, the de facto ace, doesn’t have a track record you’d like to see in a No. 1 starter. Any combination of hurlers put together by Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair feels too much like a group of third, fourth, and fifth starters.

The late-season arrival of Gausman or Bundy would spark plenty of excitement, but expecting either young pitcher to thrive in the thick of a pennant race is — again — asking a lot.

Lots of promise, but more questions than answers at this point.

A bullpen that competes with Tampa Bay to be the best in the division will again be asked to shoulder an extremely heavy load, but it’s difficult to demand Jim Johnson and his mates to do what they did last year in throwing more innings than all but two bullpends (Minnesota and Kansas City) in the American League. Johnson’s club-record 51 saves sent the 29-year-old to his first All-Star Game, but an underwhelming rate of 5.4 strikeouts per nine innings pitched strongly suggests the sinkerballer is in line to come back to the pack when pitching to contact so frequently as a closer.

The performance of relief pitchers is more difficult to project than any other position, with peaks and valleys consuming most careers like unpredictable investments on Wall Street.

The Orioles don’t have the lineup or starting rotation of the Blue Jays, but Toronto’s bullpen has plenty of uncertainty.

Baltimore’s lineup tops the Rays’ order, but the starting five doesn’t stack up to Tampa Bay’s rotation.

Ironically enough, the Orioles appear to match up well against the traditional heavyweights that beat the rest of the division like a drum for the better part of 15 years, but New York and Boston are no longer the class of the AL East.

The outlook of the division appears murky, with the Orioles having enough going for them to envision them at the top if all goes well but not enough to feel strongly about that possibility.

These questions have answers that are tough to predict as the Orioles aren’t terribly different from the rest of the division in that regard.

It could mean an AL East title or even a last-place finish if most of their questions fetch negative answers this season.

You could even draw the order of finish out of a hat if you’d like, which might be as accurate as any expert trying to look into a crystal ball.

My guess is the Orioles will fall somewhere in the middle, but that doesn’t mean anything as Showalter’s Orioles are used to hearing their critics doubt them.

And they know ifs, coulds, and maybes will only be answered on the diamond.

To view The D&L Window Tinting Morning Reaction 2013 MLB Predictions, click HERE.

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Orioles promote Anderson to vice president of baseball operations

Posted on 19 February 2013 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles announced Tuesday the following promotions to their baseball operations staff:

Brady Anderson, previously the team’s Special Assistant to the Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations, is now the club’s Vice President of Baseball Operations.

Ned Rice, previously Assistant Director of Major League Operations, is now Director of Major League Administration.

Mike Snyder, formerly Assistant Director of Scouting and Player Development, is now Assistant Director of Player Personnel.

Bill Wilkes, formerly Coordinator of Baseball Operations, is now Manager of Baseball Operations.

“These promotions reflect the significant contributions and commitments Brady, Ned, Mike and Bill have already made to the Orioles organization,” said Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette. “They are valuable members of the baseball operations department, and I feel confident they will continue to excel in their new and expanded roles.”

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Key word for the Orioles in 2013?  Same one as 2012…”luck”

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Key word for the Orioles in 2013? Same one as 2012…”luck”

Posted on 13 February 2013 by Drew Forrester

My first baseball blog of 2013.

And it’s February 13.

Then again, there’s not really been any legitimate reason to write about the Orioles since January 1.  First, the football team kept us all in constant contact with Purple Fever, which made writing and opining about anything BUT the Ravens a waste of time.  And, obviously, the Orioles haven’t done anything worth commenting on…unless you count the signing of a broken-down Jair Jurrjens as a move deserving of evaluation.  I didn’t.

But, with pitchers and catchers reporting on Tuesday and the rest of the players showing up by Friday, it’s clearly time to start discussing our orange-feathered-friends with an eye towards the 2013 campaign.

As our very own Luke Jones assessed RIGHT HERE on Tuesday at WNST.net, it’s been a listless off-season for the Birds.  They commenced the hot stove period with question marks and issues worth considering at first base, second base, left field and starting pitching.

The team convenes in Sarasota with none of those problems either completely addressed or improved upon, truth be told.  Rather than go out and get a real first baseman, they simply promoted a formerly-failed glove with a decent bat in Chris Davis.  Not knowing whether or not Brian Roberts will ever return to form, the club elected to add a half-player in Alexi Casilla rather than create a sea change by sending Roberts on his way and giving the job to an everyday major-leaguer.  Left field was rescued in large part by Nate McLouth in 2012, but anyone willing to bet that he will duplicate his form of a year ago is just hoping for the sake of hope.  Oh, right, the team still believes Nolan Reimold can stay healthy and be a threat at the plate and share the left field position with McLouth.  The team likely believes in the Tooth Fairy, too.

In fairness, if the Orioles can get the same yield from guys like Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez, the 2013 starting rotation might not be all that bad.  Would it have been good to see the Orioles make a play for Zack Greinke or Dan Haren or, like Toronto, make a trade to bring in the likes of Josh Johnson and/or Mark Buerhle?  Sure.  But those players all cost money.

While the Birds clearly didn’t do anything in the off-season to improve their team, it’s accurate to note that the Blue Jays wound up being the only A.L. East club to appear as if winning was going to be important to them in ’13.  Boston’s going to stink again, the Yankees appear to be hard-pressed to be an 85-win team and Tampa Bay traded away some of their good young arms to Kansas City for high-level prospect types.  Sadly, had the Orioles actually added a handful of quality players over the last four months, they might legitimately be the favorite in the division.

My guess on 2013?  Pretty simple.  As The Killers showed with their first album, it’s awfully hard to catch lightning in a bottle two times in a row.  I’m going to assume the luck that guided the Orioles through 2012 ran its course a year ago and that same good fortunate bestowed upon the Birds by the baseball gods will instead go to the Royals or Mariners or Brewers or (insert team here) in the upcoming season.

2012 was a fluke season for the Orioles.

I said before the first game a year ago they’d go 79-83 and everyone in town thought I was nuts.  Obviously, I had no idea how lucky things would turn out for them.

I think they’re an 85-win team in ’13, but that won’t be nearly enough to get them into post-season play.  After 14 years of horrible baseball, I suppose we should be happy with back-to-back seasons of plus .500 play, but the Birds turned 95 wins into 85 wins in the off-season by dumpster diving for guys that no other team in the big leagues cared to take.  That philosophy worked a year ago but I can’t see lightning striking twice in the same place twelve months apart.

I’m hoping for the best, because I enjoyed the hell out of 2012, but you can’t count on luck to take you places.  At some point, you have to try to win.  And you do that by adding quality, not gambling on also-rans who swallowed the pill-of-good-fortune and put together a few good months of baseball.

I’d love to be wrong about this group.

I hope like hell they get as lucky this year as they did last season.

But I’m not counting on it.

 

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Orioles’ listless offseason leaves sour taste instead of excitement

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Orioles’ listless offseason leaves sour taste instead of excitement

Posted on 12 February 2013 by Luke Jones

This was supposed to be the most exciting start to spring training of the last 15 years as Orioles pitchers and catchers reported to Sarasota on Tuesday.

To be fair, it still is as the Orioles come off their first playoff appearance since 1997, but that wasn’t exactly a daunting standard to top after a string of 14 consecutive losing seasons was snapped last year. However, that positive feeling isn’t nearly as overwhelming as it should be as we hear the predictable reports this week of players being in the best shape of their lives and others eyeing career seasons after making adjustments over the winter.

Even with the memory of the Ravens winning the Super Bowl fresh in our minds, the city should be abuzz over the Orioles after one of the most exciting seasons in the 59-year history of the franchise in which a club expected to finish fifth in the American League East won 93 games and prevailed in the inaugural AL Wild Card game to advance to the AL Division Series. But instead of using the success of 2012 to springboard the Orioles to new heights and capitalizing on their karma with a productive offseason, the Orioles and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette largely stood pat.

The Orioles appeared dormant to put it mildly while harsher critics believe Duquette and the front office rested on the laurels of the unlikeliest of seasons instead of striking while the iron was hot to add talent to a roster that overcame countless flaws last season. No matter how you want to describe or justify it, the Orioles didn’t do enough to make improvements to a club that deserved better after one of the most remarkable seasons in team history. They didn’t spend money or even pull the trigger on a notable trade like they did last year when they sent veteran starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie to Colorado for pitchers Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom, a move that worked beautifully for the Orioles.

This winter, Baltimore parted ways with first baseman Mark Reynolds and pitcher Joe Saunders, re-signed left fielder Nate McLouth, traded second baseman Robert Andino, and acquired infielders Alexi Casilla, Danny Valencia, and Travis Ishikawa. That essentially brings you up to speed if you were hibernating all winter and aren’t concerned with a few other waiver-wire additions and minor-league signings, which — in fairness to Duquette — could bring this year’s version of Miguel Gonzalez or McLouth to light at some point.

The idea of parting ways with Reynolds would have been acceptable had the Orioles found an upgrade such as signing veteran first baseman Adam LaRoche or trading for Kansas City’s Billy Butler, but they elected to solve the problem from within by sliding Chris Davis to the position. In turn, that’s created a question mark at designated hitter as a platoon of Wilson Betemit and a right-handed bat to be named later will be counted on to hold down that spot in the order.

Instead of looking to the free-agent market to find an established bat such as veteran Torii Hunter — who signed a two-year, $26 million deal with Detroit — to man left field, the Orioles will pray for the health of Nolan Reimold and hope McLouth can build on two strong months of play last season that resurrected his big-league career from life support.

Few expected the Orioles to be players for the top commodities on the market — outfielder Josh Hamilton and starting pitcher Zack Greinke — but “kicking the tires” was as far as the organization was willing to go on any free agent of even modest note. Avoiding a $150 million contract is understandable and even prudent, but avoiding the open market like the bubonic plague is disappointing.

Duquette vowed that the Orioles would look to acquire a middle-of-the-order bat and another veteran starting pitcher but has done neither to this point. While it’s true the free-agent market was lukewarm in terms of talent, take a look at the number of trades that went down around the big leagues this winter and you’ll find plenty that didn’t involve an organization parting with its top prospect, dispelling the notion that the Orioles would have needed to part with top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy to fetch anything of value.

Their payroll did climb as the Orioles dealt with a number of arbitration-eligible players in line for raises, but that’s simply the price of doing business and not a real reflection of trying to improve your club. The payroll increased from an estimated $84 million in 2012 to closer to the $90 million range at the start of spring training.

All those excuses sound too familiar for an organization that appeared to turn the corner last season. Instead of building on their success, the Orioles didn’t spend money or make a single addition — and, no, re-signing McLouth wasn’t an addition since he was already in Baltimore — that appears primed to help move the meter in the AL East.

It’s disappointing after such an enjoyable year.

In truth, there are still plenty of reasons for optimism as All-Star players Adam Jones and Matt Wieters are in their respective primes, talented 20-year-old third baseman Manny Machado will play his first full season in the majors, and Bundy and 2012 first-round pick Kevin Gausman could make an impact before the season is over.

A rotation including Hammel, Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, and Chris Tillman appears promising, but all four are also coming off career seasons that will need to be built upon. The names vying for the fifth spot in the rotation haven’t changed as Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, and Steve Johnson are all in the mix.

One of the best bullpens in baseball from last season remains intact, but relievers are also as unpredictable as the stock market from year to year.

Maybe the Orioles will be poised to finish 29-9 in one-run games and win 16 straight extra-inning games as they did last season, but both figures were historically remarkable and more anomalies than standards you could possibly expect to repeat, even with a shrewd manager such as Showalter.

Instead of a offseason that included a couple impact acquisitions to augment the progress made last year, we’re once again left with too many ifs and maybes, a familiar story for a organization with a group of players that deserved much better after the work they put in last season.

To truly feel confident in the Orioles’ ability to build upon the magic of last season — or even maintain it — Duquette, the front office, and ownership needed to take advantage of that fortune and simply didn’t. Finally poised with an opportunity to sell Baltimore as one of the most desirable destinations in all of baseball and Showalter as a manager players would love to play for, the Orioles instead stood pat with the hope that lightning would strike twice this season.

The Orioles may still compete this season, but a listless offseason did nothing to build confidence that they will do it again.

We’ll still look forward to spring training more than we have in a long time, but it could have been that much more exciting.

And I suppose the Orioles will once again need to prove us all wrong.

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Reaction to the passing of Orioles manager Earl Weaver

Posted on 19 January 2013 by WNST Staff

“Earl Weaver stands alone as the greatest manager in the history of the Orioles organization and one of the greatest in the history of baseball. This is a sad day for everyone who knew him and for all Orioles fans.

Earl made his passion for the Orioles known both on and off the field. On behalf of the Orioles, I extend my condolences to his wife, Marianna, and to his family.”-Orioles owner Peter Angelos, via a team release.

“Every time I look at an Oriole, it’s going to be missing a feather now without Earl.“-Orioles manager Buck Showalter 

“Earl was such a big part of Orioles baseball and personally he was a very important part of my life and career…and a great friend to our family. His passion for the game and the fire with which he managed will always be remembered by baseball fans everywhere and certainly by all of us who had the great opportunity to play for him. Earl will be missed but he can’t and won’t be forgotten.”-Cal Ripken Jr. 

“I would say that Earl Weaver had the greatest impact on me as a baseball player-more than anyone else. He was tough to get along with and only cared about winning, but he is the reason why Oriole baseball is what is today. Earl was a genius and a Hall of Fame manager, and the closest that’s ever got to that is the man we have right now in Buck Showalter.”-Former Orioles catcher and MASN broadcaster Rick Dempsey.

“It’s a sad day for Orioles fans and all of baseball. Earl certainly was one of the greatest managers. To me, his greatest strength was his ability to get his players to focus on playing the game on a daily basis. The results were many wins, and a Hall of Fame career.”-Former Orioles OF Ken Singleton, who played for Earl Weaver from 1975-1982.

“O’s and MLB family lost a great leader yesterday. Earl Weaver wasn’t blessed with height but if u measured his HEART he was a 7 footer.

The man lived a great life. I think it should be a celebration. 82 years is a remarkable feat.”-Orioles OF Adam Jones

“[Earl] was a strange, intense but unforgettable man…a big part of my youth.”-Broadcaster and longtime Oriole fan Roy Firestone.

“It’s a sad day, obviously. Earl was a terrific manager and I have to be grateful that Earl was with us for the Legends Series and we got a chance to spend time with him for every single statue ceremony unveiling. He is terrific. His simplicity and clarity of his leadership and his passion for baseball are unmatched. He’s a treasure for the Orioles and we are so grateful we had the opportunity to work with him this year.” -Orioles Executive VP of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette

“Really sad to hear about that today.  He meant a lot to this city and to this organization.  You wouldn’t want to be anywhere else for today to spend all day with Oriole players and thousands of Orioles fans just to remember everything about him.” -Steve Johnson, Orioles Pitcher

“It was the perfect relationship. We won, he was tough, we got our World Series checks. It worked…you don’t ever forget an Earl Weaver. And not just if you were an umpire. Fans, players, everyone…Earl was about winning and that was what he did.

It’s a sad day for any of us that knew Earl but it’s also a sad day, I think, for anybody that has been involved with Orioles baseball. We were lucky to have him here because he did end up in the Hall of Fame. He managed some marvelous teams. But I think now we all share the pain of him being gone.

Earl never wanted to be your friend because I think he thought it would detract from his ability to be a manager.  But the one thing he did want to do — he let you know that he was loyal to you by putting your name in the lineup. You can’t really ask for much more than that.

One of the great stories is Mike Flanagan came up to me and said ‘One year you had pitched 5 innings. It was your second or third time out at spring training and you were running foul line to foul line. He (Earl Weaver) called me over to the bench and said you see that guy out there? And Mike said you mean Jim Palmer? He said yes, just do what he does and you will be fine here in the big leagues’. Mike would always tell me that and I almost wanted to call Flanny to tell him that Earl had passed away. But he (Earl Weaver) said if you do what he does things are going to take care of themselves. Couple of years ago up at the Hall of Fame, the night before the induction I told him that story and said one of the biggest compliments you ever paid me, not directly to me, was what you told Mike Flanagan.  He looked at me and said I just didn’t tell Flanagan, I told everybody…” -Former Orioles Pitcher Jim Palmer

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