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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 embrace underdog role like few teams ever have

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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.

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In Orioles’ storybook season, a few stand out for me

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In Orioles’ storybook season, a few stand out for me

Posted on 05 October 2012 by Glenn Clark

It has certainly been a “storybook” season for the Baltimore Orioles in 2012. No matter how their postseason run ends, there will be memories that will last for a lifetime.

I had an itch this week to compile a list of the top ten storylines for the season. It wasn’t an easy task, but here goes.

10. The ultimate reclamation

It isn’t SO crazy to think a team would have given OF Nate McLouth another chance in 2012. The former Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star was at least playing Major League Baseball, even if he hadn’t had a particularly good season since 2009.

Lew Ford was another story altogether. Ford went a full five years between Major League at-bats before being called up to Baltimore after ripping the cover off the ball at AAA Norfolk.

McLouth has been a significant contributor since being called up in August, taking over the every day LF spot and batting leadoff since Nick Markakis got hurt. Ford hasn’t contributed quite as much, but has come up with three big home runs when inserted into the lineup against lefties.

It has also lead to Tweets like this throughout the season…

9. “Why Not Again?”

Perhaps not the most significant story of the year, the story of Steve Johnson has likely been the most heart warming for Charm City in 2012.

I pulled this picture from Steve’s Facebook page…it’s probably three or four years old. I’d be willing to bet that at this point in his life, he’s probably embarrassed by things like this.

A Kingsville native, former St. Paul’s star and son of a former Orioles pitcher (and current broadcast analyst) made some of the more significant starts of the 2012 season. It’s Hollywood quality stuff. Even more amazingly, Johnson picked up his first big league win on August 8, 23 years removed from the exact date his father picked up HIS first victory during the Birds’ incredible 1989 campaign.

The Johnson & Johnson connection wasn’t the only inevitable comparison between the ’89 and ’12 O’s, as the cartoon birds, no name players and general disbelief of the respective campaigns was impossible to ignore. It even had me singing along…

8. What a dumb great trade.

SB Nation compiled reactions to GM Dan Duquette’s decision to deal SP Jeremy Guthrie to Colorado for SP Jason Hammel & RP Matt Lindstrom before the season. Here are a sampling…

This from Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal was perhaps worse…

For what it’s worth, most of us would probably be forced to admit that we didn’t think much of the deal at the time. Guthrie had been the organization’s only quality pitcher for years and was very popular thanks to also being a stand up individual. How were we to know that Hammel was going to put together an All-Star season (when healthy) and Lindstrom would be a reliable option in the back of the bullpen before helping to land veteran Joe Saunders in a trade? And how were we to know that on the other end of the deal, Guthrie would implode in Denver before being sent to Kansas City?

Certainly the deal has turned out to be quite the feather in Duquette’s cap, as has the signing of SP Wei-Yin Chen-who has pitched to a 4.02 ERA and 1.261 WHIP over 32 starts? The only real question mark for Duquette has been Tsuyoshi Wada, who needed Tommy John surgery before he could make a pitch. The way things are going for this organization, you almost assume he’ll be Stephen Strasburg in 2013. (Okay…not really.)

7. I’m not so sure about this.

“Nick Markakis batting leadoff when he returns? I don’t know…”

I probably don’t need to show you August. Ah hell, I’ll show you August.

Markakis’ effort (before being sidelined in September) was especially crucial following the loss of OF Nolan Reimold, who hit .313 in 16 games to start the season in the role. Without Reimold, the Birds attempted to use a group of players including OF Endy Chavez and even briefly a return of 2B Brian Roberts, but none could hold down the role until Markakis. The Orioles are now hoping Markakis can somehow get back before the season ends.

6. These guys…of course!

While Hammel and Chen were obviously “hits” for the Orioles’ rotation, the other 60% didn’t pan out so well. Opening Day starter Jake Arrieta, former #1 overall pick Brian Matusz and veteran Tommy Hunter struggled mightily over the season’s first few months before ultimately finding their way back to the minors for seasoning (all have since returned and offered solid efforts out of the bullpen).

In their place, the Birds turned not only to the aforementioned Johnson, but more importantly gave the ball to two pitchers have provided a level of stability that could have been expected by absolutely no one, perhaps even themselves.

Chris Tillman was at least viewed recently as a significant prospect in the Orioles’ organization. After being acquired from the Seattle Mariners as part of the Birds’ haul (along with Adam Jones and George Sherrill) for Erik Bedard, there was a thought Tillman would ultimately prove to be part of the “cavalry” of young Orioles pitchers former VP of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail regularly spoke of.

But after 2009 (5.40 ERA 1.554 WHIP in 12 starts), 2010 (5.87 ERA 1.528 WHIP in 11 starts) and 2011 (5.52 ERA 1.645 WHIP in 13 starts), it appeared as though Tillman was all but done in Baltimore.

And then this happened.

Of course it did.

Perhaps even more improbable was Miguel Gonzalez, who was all but abandoned by the Boston Red Sox following 2009 Tommy John surgery. Executive Director of International Recruiting Fred Ferreira signed off on Gonzalez to the Birds after seeing him throw just nine pitches (according to SI’s Albert Chen). Perhaps we should have expected the man who discovered Vladimir Guerrero knew what he was doing.

And just like that, Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez saved a rotation and very likely a season.

I feel like there’s someone else we should thank…

Of all of the decisions made by Dan Duquette upon arrival, perhaps the decision to make Rick Peterson (a fixture of the “Moneyball” Oakland Athletics) the team’s Director of Pitching Development has immediately paid the most dividends.

(5-1 on Page 2…)

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Your Monday Reality Check: Aw hell, why not?

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Your Monday Reality Check: Aw hell, why not?

Posted on 13 August 2012 by Glenn Clark

If I understand the way the math works, the Baltimore Orioles’ magic number to clinch an American League Wild Card spot currently sits at 48.

I really felt the need to tell you that because for some goofy reason I sat and worked on it Sunday while I was supposed to be watching the Baltimore Ravens practice at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Congratulations Birds, you’ve successfully gotten me to take attention away from the Ravens and place it on the orange and black. The moment has actually occurred. I’m blown away.

The magic number is 48.

That means that if the total combination of O’s wins combined with losses (individually) from any other team in the Wild Card race reaches 48 before the end of the season the now 15 year playoff draught will officially be over.

It means the Birds will be playing on Friday, October 5 as part of Major League Baseball’s first ever Wild Card play-in games.

I honest to God can’t believe I’ve just typed all of this.

It’s time to cue the music.

I feel like it’s safe to say that I’ve been as reluctant (if not more reluctant) than anyone in town to accept this as an actual, realistic possibility. And if truth me told I would still say “no” if an assailant questioned my belief that the Orioles make the playoffs with a gun pointed to my temple.

It might seem like a four game split with the Kansas City Royals at home would be an odd time for me to suddenly stand and pledge allegiance to the “Why Not?” bandwagon, but…you know…Machado and all.

My original idea for my weekly “Reality Check” column was to write about the realities of 3B Manny Machado’s hot start (6-16, 3HR, 7RBI in four games). I had planned to say “I hate to be the bad guy, but let’s remember that the most likely scenario is that Machado won’t be able to continue this success for the rest of the season or likely even for the rest of August.”

I had intended to say something along the lines of “American League pitchers will likely end up catching up with Machado, who also won’t have the benefit of facing Kansas City Royals pitching every time out.” I was going to add thoughts along the lines of “let’s not forget that even OF Xavier Avery collected 10 hits in his first eight games after getting called up to Baltimore earlier in the season.”

I probably would have mentioned that in the coming week Machado would have to go up against veteran pitchers like Red Sox starters Josh Beckett (albeit a Beckett that has struggled mightily in 2012) and Clay Buchholz as well as reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. It’s a bit more legitimate than a group of KC starters that included Will Smith, Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen.

I also think I would have mentioned that Machado had not hit .300 in a single month while playing in the Eastern League this season, making a market correction from a very hot start to August seem likely at some point.

That’s what I WAS going to do. But for some reason, it just didn’t stick.

As we’ve repeated ad nauseum during the 2012 Orioles campaign, there is no statistical explanation for why the Birds have won 62 of their first 115 games. Those of us who have been watching understand that the team has benefitted from an incredible bullpen, a number of home runs, great success in close games and expert guidance from AL Manager of the Year candidate Buck Showalter.

That’s why I couldn’t write the Machado column. I didn’t have it in me.

Maybe there IS a chance Machado can continue to make significant contributions as a 20 year old in a lineup that has been seeking an additional spark. The Birds don’t have a full season .300 hitter in their lineup, but they’ve managed to get continued contributions from unexpected places.

Career journeyman INF Omar Quintanilla is batting .328 in just 20 games sense being acquired in a deal with the New York Mets. Veteran (and by “veteran” I mean “washed up”) OF Nate McClouth has eight hits in his first 24 AB’s since being called up from the Norfolk Tides. Even the miserable bat of Mark Reynolds (.211 and just nine home runs in 289 AB’s) provided what proved to be the game winning RBI in Sunday’s win over KC.

I don’t think it can be sustained. I didn’t think it could be sustained two months ago. I was wrong then. Maybe I’m wrong now. I don’t think I’m ever going to understand exactly how all of this has happened this way this season.

So can Manny Machado keep contributing to an Orioles team pushing towards an appearance in the postseason?

What the hell?

Or…why not?

-G

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Orioles option Steve Johnson to Norfolk to make room for Machado

Posted on 09 August 2012 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles Thursday announced that they have selected the contract of infielder Manny Machado from Double-A Bowie and optioned right-handed pitcher Steve Johnson to Triple-A Norfolk. To make room for Machado on the 40-man roster, second baseman Brian Roberts has been transferred to the 60-day DL.

Machado, 20, has batted .266/.352/.438 with 11 home runs and 59 RBI in 109 games with the Baysox this season, including a .275/.365/.505 line in 91 at-bats since the All-Star break. Machado will be the 31st player in franchise history to debut before his 21st birthday when he sees his first game action (he is 20 years, 34 days old today). The last player to debut for the O’s before turning 21 was Hayden Penn (June 7, 2005 at 20.237). The last position player to debut for the club before his 21st birthday was Eugene Kingsale (September 3, 1996 at 20.014).

The Orioles’ first round selection (#3 overall) in the 2010 First Year Player Draft out of Brito Miami Private School in Miami, FL, Machado came into 2012 rated as the #2 prospect in the Orioles organization and the #11 prospect overall by Baseball America. He played in the MLB Futures Game in Kansas City in July, going 1-for-3 with a double, two RBI and a run scored. Machado was a 2011 South Atlantic League All-Star. He will wear #13.

Johnson earned his first major league victory last night against Seattle, allowing two earned runs and striking out nine over 6.0 innings. He is 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA (8.0IP, 3ER) in two games (one start) with the Orioles this season.

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What’s the Rush?

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What’s the Rush?

Posted on 09 August 2012 by Brett Dickinson

The Orioles called up Manny Machado (a well-known name here in Baltimore), the #3 rated prospect in baseball, for Thursday’s game versus the Royals. But was the move in relation to his personal performance or a drastic measure by a desperate team. There is a list of reasons why Machado will be in Camden Yards this season, none of them relate to his bat or glove.

For a team in the pennant and wild card race in August, the fans simply still do not show up to the ballpark. There is a bevy of green seats every time you turn on the game; which is a testament of this fan-base’s trust of the organization as a whole. The Oriole faithful have been burned plenty in the past decade and a half; whether it was the Albert Belle “appearance” in the outfield, Miguel Tejada and Sammy Sosa’s post steroid stint in Baltimore or the return of Rafael Palmeiro (B12 and all).

Steve Johnson’s performance on Wednesday night (in his first career start, the same day that his father won his first game with the Orioles), will do little to excite fans that are waiting for a spiral down back to reality. For a team with such a terrible run differential, poor starting pitching and a make shift infield, it is improbable to think they can remain in the hunt. But the Orioles have gotten this far with basically the same roster as opening day.

Yet, the stands remain empty, but the powers that be hope this move will change the perspective at Camden Yards. Machado’s presence will put butts in the seats because he represents the future and it doesn’t hurt everyone witnessed 20 year old phenom, Mike Trout, here in Baltimore (and reminded of it weekly with his home run robbing catch of J.J. Hardy displayed on ESPN). Trout has proven that a kid Machado’s age can propel a team into the next level; a level that would involve the playoffs for these Orioles.

As ticket sales rise, so will the Machado merchandise in the greater part of Maryland. Expect his jersey sales to lead the team for the next couple months, while the team taking full advantage of his personal brand. You won’t be able to walk down the street without seeing a person in a T-shirt brandishing his name or likeness. And that’s all well and good for Peter Angelos but does it really benefit the team or the player to rush him to the bigs for matters involving finance.

Machado’s numbers are not staggering; he is not lighting up the minors the same way Trout and Harper were earlier this season. His numbers are respectable for a player his age (.266, 11 HR, 56 RBI), but is nothing to claim “He cannot learn anything else in the minors; he needs to see big league pitching.” And his bat is what he is known for; he has struggled for most of the season at short stop. Now the team plans to move him to third base, where he has no experience at all. This stint in the majors could be detrimental to his psyche, if he does not live up to his lofty expectations.

So please tell me, exactly what’s the rush?

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Bringing up Machado makes zero sense — which means it’s the right move for the 2012 Orioles

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Bringing up Machado makes zero sense — which means it’s the right move for the 2012 Orioles

Posted on 09 August 2012 by Drew Forrester

There will be lots of folks questioning the Orioles for their early August call-up of hotshot prospect Manny Machado.

Not me.

I’m firmly in the “what the hell, why not?” camp.

Machado’s promotion from AA Bowie to the big league club in time for tonight’s game against the Royals makes perfect sense when you consider the rest of the details of the 2012 season in Baltimore.

They’re somehow only five losses behind the Yankees with 50 games to go and yet, they’ve been borderline-horrible in several aspects of their on-field product throughout the season.

And that’s why bringing up Machado makes sense.

It seems like it’s the wrong thing to do.

But it also seems to me that a team with no real first baseman, third baseman or left fielder couldn’t possibly be in the pennant race after 110 games.

It’s also more than reasonable to assume that a team with starting pitching as woefully inconsistent as the Orioles have had this season would be battling for last place, not first place.

And when you have an offense that has been – at times – wretched knocking runners in, it’s safe to say the team should be 9 games UNDER .500, not 60-51.

But, somehow, the Orioles are 60-51, and to anyone who has watched the games this season – like me – it’s gone from “fun” to “I figured they’d go in the tank” to “they keep hanging around” to “there’s something weird going on”.

Bringing up Machado might be weird, but the whole season has been weird thus far.

It doesn’t matter that the kid has only played two games at third base in the minor leagues.  I’ll bet you a chinese lunch he’s better than Betemit and Reynolds at third — combined.

Go ahead and call Machado up…

That’s what I say.

It wouldn’t shock me at all if he goes 3-for-5 tonight and knocks in the game-winning run in the 10th inning.

If he does, that, too, fits perfectly with what we’ve seen from the 2012 Orioles.

None of it makes sense.

But we’re enjoying the hell out of it, that’s for sure.

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Machado up on night of first Ravens game? Ballsy move, Birds

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Machado up on night of first Ravens game? Ballsy move, Birds

Posted on 09 August 2012 by Glenn Clark

I hypothetically asked the question a few weeks ago on “The Reality Check” on AM1570 WNST.net.

“If the Baltimore Orioles are able to remain in the postseason hunt into September, will it have any impact at all on how you watch/support the Baltimore Ravens in September?”

I pointed out at the time that the two teams did not have games scheduled at the same time at all during September. (The Ravens’ Week 1 Monday night and Week 4 Thursday night primetime home games come on scheduled off days for the Birds. The Week 2 game at Philadelphia is scheduled for 1pm while the O’s are scheduled to play after 4 in Oakland. The Ravens’ Week 3 game also happens in primetime while the Birds take the field in Boston at 1pm.) There would be no direct conflict unless there is a weather related reschedule, or possibly if the Orioles were to make the postseason.

The truth is that there is no basis for comparison when it comes to how Charm City sports fans would treat this short crossover period. The Orioles’ last run to the postseason came in 1997, before the Ravens had captured the collective imaginations, hearts and back accounts of the Mid-Atlantic region’s sports fans. If we date back to the time when the Baltimore Colts and Orioles shared the city; mass media consumption, television coverage and big business of sports were incomparable to 2012.

Reaction to the question was quite varied. Some fans said they wouldn’t change any priorities related to the Ravens because football simply had become more significant to them. Other fans said they couldn’t imagine making any early season football game a priority while the Orioles were in pursuit of their first playoff appearance in a decade and a half. Still others thought it impossible to think that they would have to alter the way they paid attention to or supported either franchise, stating that other cities (namely Boston and New York) have never appeared to struggle with the same problem.

For many, the topic remains the elephant in the room. It might actually happen, they just don’t want to talk about it. They’d rather say things like “let’s just see if the Orioles can hold up their end of the bargain.” The Orioles however took the opportunity Wednesday to remind you that not only does the elephant exist, it’s an actual f*cking elephant.

Perhaps the Baltimore Orioles’ decision to purchase the contract of Bowie Baysox INF (and former first round pick) Manny Machado and allow him to make his MLB debut Thursday night has nothing to do with the fact that the Ravens are opening the preseason against the Falcons in Atlanta.

Of course, perhaps the correlation is absolutely purposeful.

Perhaps the Orioles wanted to take a strike against the pro sports team in town whose success has relegated them to “orange-headed stepchild” status 364 days a year (yes, I’m giving the Birds Opening Day. Nothing more.)

Perhaps members of the Orioles organization had a conversation this week about the lackluster attendance figures at Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the three games against the Seattle Mariners and said “this is probably going to be worse Thursday since fans will want to stay home and watch the football game. Let’s try to combat that somehow.”

Perhaps Peter Angelos (well…probably not Old Man Angelos but someone he allows to advise him and/or make decisions) is still pissed off about the Ravens’ Facebook jab from Opening Day and decided they wanted to put a dent in the football team’s television ratings-which will likely already be hurt by the fact that the game had to be moved from WBAL to WMAR and will be going up against the NBC affiliate’s continued Olympics coverage.

Perhaps there’s still bitterness for how the teams’ MASN-fueled relationship fell apart in 2010 and the Orioles wanted to flex their muscles a little bit to remind the Ravens they’re now working a network (Comcast SportsNet) that has clearly made the Washington Redskins a greater priority over the last two seasons.

Perhaps the Orioles are hoping they can play off the small bit of fan angst created when the Ravens ended their Westminster Training Camp tradition and win the hearts of young sports fans who are angry they can’t get autographs at McDaniel College. Perhaps they’re hoping to steal back part of an already small market that has partially abandoned the Orange and Black.

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Special night ends with bold decision by Orioles

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Special night ends with bold decision by Orioles

Posted on 09 August 2012 by Luke Jones

The story of Wednesday night was supposed to be local product Steve Johnson, who won his first major league start in front of numerous friends and family at Camden Yards in the Orioles’ 9-2 win over the Seattle Mariners.

Johnson earned his first big-league win exactly 23 years to the day his father Dave Johnson won his first major league game in the Orioles’ famed 1989 “Why Not?” season. It was a touching moment to see friends and family greet the 24-year-old pitcher in the hallway outside the clubhouse following the game as the Orioles completed a three-game sweep and won their fifth consecutive game.

However, the headline was short-lived with the shocking news that the Orioles will promote 20-year-old shortstop Manny Machado from Double-A Bowie to Baltimore for Thursday’s series opener against the Kansas City Royals. The announcement came shortly after 11 p.m. and just minutes after it was learned the organization would promote top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy to Bowie for his next start.

What a night.

Many will debate the merits of promoting a 20-year-old shortstop from Double A to play third base, a position at which he’s only played two games in 219 minor-league contests. Machado hit his 11th home run of the season on Wednesday night and was hitting .266 with 59 runs batted in 109 games for the Baysox this year.

The numbers aren’t overwhelming, but the potential is, as executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter are counting on Machado to contribute to a club in the midst of a pennant race this late in the season for the first time in 14 years.

His transition to third base might have its share of growing pains, but the defensive struggles of Mark Reynolds and Wilson Betemit have set a low bar at the hot corner. Some scouts have projected an eventual move to third for the 6-foot-3 infielder anyway, but that long-term decision doesn’t have to be made right now.

Unlike the announcement three years ago of the Orioles promoting catching phenom Matt Wieters, this wasn’t a decision made a couple days in advance to boost ticket sales on a Friday night in late May. The club will likely see more walk-up sales than usual on Thursday night, but the Ravens’ televised preseason opener in Atlanta will stunt the potential of more people showing up at Camden Yards.

Whether you agree with the promotion or not, this was a decision based solely on giving the Orioles a better chance to win now by promoting their most attractive positional asset in the farm system. Machado must play every day for this move to make any sense, and manager Buck Showalter has made no secret about his affection for the young infielder’s ability and mental makeup.

It may work, or it may not.

But it’s a bold strategy, one made with no regard for delaying the start of his service clock as the Orioles have done with other young players in recent seasons.

No one really knows if Machado is ready to handle third base for a contending major league club, but we’re about to find out. If he’s truly the special talent so many inside and outside the organization have tabbed him to be, early struggles will not ruin his psyche or potential for success in the future.

A fun and compelling season is about to get that much more interesting on Thursday night.

The promotion came out of left field, but, then again, so has everything else about this 2012 season in which nearly every statistic suggests the Orioles should be resting well below the .500 mark while they instead hold a 60-51 record and are tied with Detroit and Oakland for the American League wild card lead.

I’ll borrow a 23-year-old expression that’s been used over and over in this unlikeliest of seasons for the Orioles.

Why not?

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Orioles to bring up top prospect Machado Thursday night

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Orioles to bring up top prospect Machado Thursday night

Posted on 08 August 2012 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles announced after Wednesday’s game that they plan to select the contract of shortstop Manny Machado from Double-A Bowie before Thursday night’s game against Kansas City. He will be making his major league debut.

Machado, 20, has batted .266/.352/.438 with 11 home runs and 59 RBI in 109 games with the Baysox this season, including a .275/.365/.505 line in 91 at-bats since the All-Star break.

The Orioles’ first round selection (#3 overall) in the 2010 First Year Player Draft out of Brito Private School in Miami, FL, Machado came into 2012 rated as the #2 prospect in the Orioles organization and the #11 prospect overall by Baseball America. He played in the MLB Futures Game in Kansas City in July, going 1-for-3 with a double, two RBI and a run scored. Machado was a 2011 South Atlantic League All-Star.

Machado entered play on Wednesday a career .263/.343/.428 hitter in 218 minor league games over three seasons (2010-2012).

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