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Twelve Orioles thoughts following West Coast trip

Posted on 17 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles dropping their final two games in Seattle to finish a 4-6 trip on the West Coast, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. A losing road trip doesn’t cripple their playoffs chances, but the Orioles entered Thursday with six clubs ahead of them for the second wild card. They’ve played better since the All-Star break, but repeatedly falling to the back of the line among so many mediocre teams isn’t encouraging.

2. With a bullpen in good shape going into an off-day, Buck Showalter stayed with Ubaldo Jimenez entirely too long in the fifth inning Wednesday. The already-struggling veteran was facing the top of the order a third time, but Showalter instead saved his best relievers and lost the lead.

3. Showalter letting Chris Davis bat against lefty Marc Rzepczynski was a tougher call. He’s 8-for-24 over the last week after being lowered in the order, and Rzepczynski has been tough against righties, too. If you’re trying to get Davis going for the stretch, I understand not testing his confidence further.

4. Of their six losses on the road trip, the Orioles held a lead in five of those defeats. Whether it was shaky pitching or the offense going to sleep after scoring an early run or two, the trip should have been better. That’s just another sign of mediocrity.

5. Tim Beckham will cool off eventually, but it’s fun thinking about the possibility that there was more to the idea that he didn’t like hitting at Tropicana Field than anyone thought. In 16 games, he already ranks seventh on the 2017 Orioles in wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.

6. I’ve said this before, but Trey Mancini’s development has a left fielder continues to amaze after he only began learning the outfield this past offseason. I would never bet on him winning a Gold Glove, but he looks very capable, which is a nice bonus to accompany his dangerous bat.

7. Davis has fairly received plenty of heat in the midst of his worst season since 2014, but Mark Trumbo has been just as disappointing. Expecting him to match what he did in 2016 was unrealistic, but his .711 on-base plus slugging percentage is the second-worst mark of his career.

8. Since the All-Star break, the Orioles are 1-5 in games in which they’ve had an opportunity to move back to the .500 mark. Talk about beating your head against a brick wall as the second wild card sits there begging for someone to take control.

9. Kevin Gausman has allowed two or fewer runs in five of his last six starts and sports a 3.13 ERA when Caleb Joseph catches. Welington Castillo was behind the dish for that one non-quality start, and Gausman owns a 7.30 mark with him behind the dish. Stick with what’s working.

10. I don’t have a major problem with temporarily sending Joey Rickard to Triple-A Norfolk to make room for Anthony Santander, but Rule 5 players since 2012 have netted the Orioles a combined 2.4 WAR, per Baseball Reference. That’s a minimal return for so often playing with a shorthanded roster.

11. Speaking of questionable value, Jimenez and Chris Tillman have combined for a minus-2.4 WAR despite making a total of $23.55 million in 2017. That’s a heck of a price tag for below-replacement-level production.

12. The 25th anniversary celebration of Camden Yards will be a nice nod to the 1992 Orioles, who showed a 22-game improvement from the previous year. I’m a little bummed Randy Milligan — one of my favorites as a kid — won’t be there though. His .391 career on-base percentage was underappreciated.

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The Peter Principles (Ch. 10) – Syd Thrift, Confederate money and the new Oriole Way of 21st century

Posted on 08 August 2017 by Nestor Aparicio

(Author note: This is Chapter 10 of my book “The Peter Principles,” which I was working to finish in March 2014 when my wife was diagnosed with leukemia the first time. I will be releasing the entire book for free online this summer – chapter by chapter. These are the true chronicles of the history of Peter G. Angelos and his ownership of the Baltimore Orioles. If you enjoy the journey, please share the links with a friend.)

 

10. Syd Thrift, Confederate money and the new Oriole Way of 21st century

 

 

“Mr. Angelos feels the term general manager is obsolete and I agree with him. We’re going to keep working to turn this thing around and we’re all going to be working together.”

Syd Thrift

Orioles Director of Player Personnel

January 2000

 

 

BY NOW ONE OF THE biggest problems Peter G. Angelos was discovering was his inability to lie or buy his way out of the dilemma of the very public and ongoing accountability of running a Major League Baseball team. By all accounts, those around him would say that he had very little natural interest in baseball at all before he bought the Baltimore Orioles. He was a boxer as a kid and a bookish, nerdy, difficult, know-it-all political aspirant who was least likely to get a player autograph or spend a free day at a lowly baseball game on 33rd Street as a kid.

 

Mr. Angelos was far more interested in ruling the world than being a peasant local sports fan.

Angelos was much more serious and interested in law, government, politics and pontificating for anyone who would deem him significant enough to listen to him drone on about his expertise in the world and his world view. Buying the baseball franchise bought him an audience to listen, and an initially fawning media that hung on his every word. Angelos was once called a “windbag” by a rival politician during his City Hall-aspiring days and six years into his reign of terror with the sputtering Orioles, his many words and lack of success with people would lend some credence to that claim.

Now, with an evolving track record and many knee-jerk executive decisions, his fingerprints were all over every aspect of the Orioles and the fan experience. His check and report card was coming due in the media. There was no way to avoid the humiliation and daily soap opera of despair that the team generated – on and off the field.

Angelos wanted everything his way.

And, now, he had his wish.

And he couldn’t handle how miserably his strategy – if you could call it that – was failing. And how unpopular a guy who was wrecking baseball for lifelong Orioles fans could actually become and how quickly the “Marylander of The Year” accolades could be under siege from the fan base and a media that was simply reporting the bizarre nature of every unorthodox transaction, while watching competent baseball people come in the front door of The Warehouse and get pushed out the side door like yesterday’s rubbish.

The franchise was without a true leader, without a plan and without a clue. But the team still had a legion of disappointed and disillusioned fans. Tens of thousands of Orioles fans turned to the team on a daily basis as they’d done with their parents and in some cases their parents’ parents. Baseball in Baltimore felt like a birthright, like an appendage or a member of the family.

For local fans, the franchise was a “we” not a “them.”

That was the lure and allure that drew Peter G. Angelos to the team to begin with – the significance and royalty of the Baltimore Orioles. It wasn’t his love of a spring afternoon at a baseball stadium or a hot summer night in a pennant race. It wasn’t because he loved a well-pitched game or keeping score with a No. 2 pencil. It wasn’t because he had memories during his formative years with Brooks Robinson or Jim Palmer or even Jim Gentile and Gus Triandos. It wasn’t because he entered debates about Eddie vs. Cal or Frank vs. Brooks.

Angelos bought the team to be loved. He certainly didn’t need the money. He craved the power, the status it would bring. He sold the very concept that ONLY a local owner could make the franchise better and

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following series split with Detroit

Posted on 06 August 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles winning two straight to salvage a four-game split with Detroit, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. A series split is an underwhelming result on the heels of the five-game winning streak, but the Orioles bouncing back from Friday’s brutal defeat with two victories was encouraging. A 7-3 West Coast trip would sure make you start thinking differently about their wild-card chances.

2. Manny Machado had a five-RBI game Sunday and is hitting .352 since the All-Star break. With an improved approach and better luck, he’s raised his average from .215 on July 6 to .257 a month later. He’s so dangerous when he isn’t trying to pull the ball exclusively.

3. Despite allowing 12 batters to reach over 5 2/3 innings, Ubaldo Jimenez was serviceable and made big pitches when necessary to protect a sizable lead. That’s three straight respectable outings for the maddening right-hander.

4. The optics were cringeworthy, but the Orioles received competitive starts from Wade Miley and Jimenez over the final two games of the series. Yes, the bar is very low for both, but Buck Showalter’s club has a chance when they’re able to turn in results like that.

5. Tim Beckham continues to be a spark plug as he’s gone 14-for-24 with seven extra-base hits in six games with Baltimore. J.J. Hardy has deep respect within the organization, but Beckham would have to fall off a cliff — perhaps literally — to justify the former returning to the starting role.

6. Beckham hit the 10,000th regular-season home run in club history Saturday and the 2,505th for the Orioles in 26 seasons at Camden Yards. They hit only 2,490 long balls over 38 seasons at Memorial Stadium. Yes, the current park is a homer haven, but the game has sure changed.

7. Jonathan Schoop tied his career high with his 25th home run of the season Sunday, matching his total from 2016 in nearly 200 fewer plate appearances. He continues to amaze in a breakout 2017.

8. The bullpen let him down, but Kevin Gausman pitched another gem on Friday and has posted a 0.65 ERA over his last 27 2/3 innings since his disastrous July 14 start to begin the second half. This is the pitcher we saw over the final two months of 2016.

9. Caleb Joseph caught all four of those Gausman starts and the staff ERA is 4.12 when he catches compared to 5.75 with Welington Castillo this season. The improvement with the bat stands out, but his work behind the plate is why the playing time is virtually even since the break.

10. Sending Chris Tillman to the bullpen wasn’t an easy conversation, but the Orioles had no other choice. It will be interesting to see how often he pitches and how a relief role will impact his nightmarish 8.10 ERA in 66 2/3 innings.

11. With his fifth-inning blast Saturday, Adam Jones reached the 20-homer mark for the seventh straight season, a streak that ranks third in Orioles history behind only Cal Ripken (10) and Eddie Murray (nine). He won’t be a Hall of Famer, but few have been more important over this club’s history.

12. Thanks to Justin Upton’s grand slam off the typically-superb Mychal Givens, the Orioles suffered their ninth straight Friday loss with a few of those occurring in gut-wrenching fashion. Maybe it’s time to retire the Friday “O’s” cap that’s an inferior look to the regular home and away caps anyway.

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By not selling, Orioles continue course toward 2019 cliff

Posted on 31 July 2017 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Monday’s trade deadline came and went with the Orioles taking no detour from their path toward that 2019 cliff.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette offered few specifics about any potential deals that were on the table for two-time All-Star closer Zach Britton or 2016 All-Star setup man Brad Brach. He did allude to Britton’s market being depressed because of his two-month absence for a left forearm strain in the first half and referenced the lucrative returns that the New York Yankees received for relievers Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman at last year’s deadline.

“He’s one of the top relievers in the American League,” Duquette said. “There’s a steep price paid for the relievers that were traded last year, and that really wasn’t the market this year.”

Make no mistake, the Orioles were smart to aim high and not trade Britton if they couldn’t find a fair offer, especially with him being under club control through next season. He wasn’t just a rental for a contending club, but you’d certainly hope they plan to deal the talented — and increasingly expensive — closer this winter and not wait until a year from now when his hypothetical value would be considerably lower.

Keeping the likes of Britton, Brach, and third baseman Manny Machado for now isn’t necessarily the end of the world that many are making it out to be, but the Orioles remain on that ominous path when those three as well as veteran center fielder Adam Jones become free agents at the end of next season. You can’t help but feel that the longer they wait to deal such valuable pieces, the longer it will be until their next competitive window opens.

And just because the Orioles can still trade any of those individuals at some point over the next year doesn’t mean they will, which is an even scarier proposition.

Duquette talked at length about the organization not giving up on 2017, a notion that left many rolling their eyes as Baltimore entered Monday tied for the fifth-worst record in the American League. The acquisitions of veteran starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson — who’s only under contract through the end of the season — and 27-year-old infielder Tim Beckham are hardly the moves of a club that considers itself a serious contender.

At least Beckham, the first overall pick of the 2008 draft, is under control through the 2020 season and has developed into a useful major league piece after years of underwhelming results. The Hellickson deal reeks of pointlessness as even he admitted surprise when the fourth-place Orioles acquired him from Philadelphia late Friday night.

No, Duquette didn’t trade away the organization’s high-end minor-league pieces for a long-shot chance at a playoff berth, but middling activity such as these two deals once again left us wondering about the Orioles’ overall direction. Beckham could be the club’s starting shortstop for the next few years, but he’s not someone you’d point to as a difference maker, either.

“I still like this team. I like this team for this year; I like this team for next year,” said Duquette, whose contract expires at the end of next season. “You’ve seen fits and spurts of this team playing very, very good baseball. The consistency will come when we get a consistent, stable rotation.”

Duquette chuckled when asked how his and manager Buck Showalter’s contract status as well as the age of owner Peter Angelos — who turned 88 on July 4 — might impact the club’s overall plans, but those uncertain futures are even more problematic than what to do with the likes of Machado and Britton. It makes little sense to have a lame-duck general manager begin a rebuilding process, and he has little incentive to want to start such an arduous task without assurance of being able to see it through.

Angelos should have already decided what the future holds for Duquette and shouldn’t continue with him in charge if he isn’t going to be the architect after next season.

Instead, it appears to be all about the present, whether not selling at the deadline or continuing to move international signing bonus slots.

Are the Orioles committed to keeping the band together for a final run in 2018? If so, they’ll need to do a ton of heavy lifting to revive a starting rotation that’s been an utter disaster this season, and a veteran like Hellickson isn’t going to cut it. While they’re at it, the offense hasn’t been very good in 2017, either.

Will the Orioles start showing any regard for what happens beyond 2018 or stubbornly continue marching forward with a club that doesn’t appear to be good enough anymore?

Important questions, but no clear direction in sight.

Other than that cliff ahead.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 9-7 win over Houston

Posted on 23 July 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles salvaging the finale of a three-game set in a 9-7 win over Houston, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. It was a long time coming, but Zach Britton set a new American League record with his 55th consecutive save conversion and first since April 14. If he is indeed traded before the Orioles return home next Monday, it was a fitting final appearance for him at Camden Yards.

2. A balanced offensive attack was the difference as seven different Orioles collected an RBI. The offensive showing could have been even better if not for grounding into four double plays in the first six innings.

3. Dylan Bundy will continue receiving extra rest when off-days allow it, but he’s now posted a 7.85 ERA over his last seven starts after surrendering a career-high seven runs. He handled quite a workload over the first 2 1/2 months, and you wonder how much fatigue is factoring into his struggles.

4. Houston hitters were able to work their way back from multiple 0-2 counts as Bundy wasn’t able to finish them off. The walk to Alex Bregman preceding Nori Aoki’s game-tying three-run home run in the sixth was particularly frustrating for the young pitcher.

5. Mark Trumbo reminded us why he only plays sparingly in the outfield, but he made up for it with the game-tying home run in the last of the seventh. He was one of three Baltimore hitters to collect their 50th RBI of the season on Sunday.

6. Trey Mancini drove in two runs and improved his average with runners in scoring position to a whopping .431. You keep waiting for him to start looking more like a rookie at the plate, but it hasn’t happened.

7. Jonathan Schoop saw his streak of five straight games with multiple RBIs come to an end, but he’s had at least one in seven consecutive contests. His three-hit afternoon raised his season average to .307.

8. Jose Altuve’s greatness is hardly breaking news, but he collected four hits to finish off a .500 batting average for the series. He sure is something special to watch.

9. A move to the leadoff spot has sparked a recent surge for Adam Jones, who had four hits and passed former teammate Nick Markakis to move into sole possession of sixth place on the Orioles’ all-time hit list. He’s been in the middle of plenty of scoring rallies of late.

10. The sixth inning is a separator in today’s game as teams need starters capable of getting through six innings or an incredibly deep bullpen to survive. The Orioles gave up 11 runs in the sixth frame over this series.

11. Much was made about Dan Duquette’s trade deadline comments Saturday, but remember he was addressing season-ticket holders as players were within earshot. His actions, not his words, are what matter over the next week.

12. Had the Orioles gone 7-3 or better on this homestand to get back to .500, I could maybe understand not selling, but they have no more than six wins in any 10-game stretch since May 9. Winning five of seven isn’t enough to overlook 2 1/2 months of .379 baseball.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 12-1 win over Texas

Posted on 19 July 2017 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles winning their second straight game in a 12-1 final over the Texas Rangers, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. A starter giving up six runs before recording his first out sounds right out of the script of the 2017 Orioles, but Tyson Ross fell victim instead. It was good for Buck Showalter’s struggling club to have a laugher for once with its biggest margin of victory of the season.

2. For someone with more than one three-homer game in his career, Chris Davis setting a new career high with six RBIs in a contest was somewhat surprising. I would have guessed he’d done that at some point over the last five years.

3. Dylan Bundy hadn’t pitched in nearly two weeks, but he settled in nicely after a rocky beginning to record his club-leading 13th quality start of the season. His 13 swinging strikes were the most he’d had since June 14 as his slider induced five of those.

4. Having seen starters squander so many large leads this season, Bundy loading the bases in the second was an unsettling development, but he was able to escape unscathed when Shin-Soo Choo grounded out. The Rangers never threatened again.

5. Bundy finished strong with a 1-2-3 sixth that included his best average fastball velocity of the outing and culminated with a swinging strikeout of Mike Napoli. That was encouraging to see on the night he eclipsed his innings total from last year.

6. With the 24-year-old allowing one run in six frames, the Orioles registered back-to-back quality starts for the first time since June 1 and 2 when Wade Miley and Alec Asher did it against Boston. I realize how ugly the starting pitching has been, but that’s still remarkable.

7. The 12 runs were the most scored by the Orioles in a month. The starting pitching is the easiest — and most deserving — target for criticism, but it’s no secret that the offense has disappointed this season.

8. Seth Smith homered for the second straight night and now has 11 for the season. He’s hitting just .241 since mid-May, but he could be a fringe trade piece for a contending club looking for a left-handed platoon outfielder, especially if his bat stays hot over the next 10 days.

9. Showalter has been conservative in his use of Zach Britton since his return from the disabled list, but he struck out two and registered six swinging strikes in the ninth. He sure looks ready to return to the closer role with contenders eyeing him as a major trade target.

10. Jonathan Schoop drew his 20th walk of the season and is now one shy of his career high set last year in 273 fewer plate appearances in 2017. That improved plate discipline is a major reason for his breakout campaign that landed him in the All-Star Game.

11. Caleb Joseph made his second career appearance at third base in the ninth inning. That kind of novelty is much more enjoyable to watch when on the right side of a blowout.

12. The Rangers would like to fancy themselves as buyers at the deadline, but they sure haven’t looked like it over the last two nights. The 2016 AL West champions are now just a game ahead of the Orioles in the wild-card standings.

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Report: Angelos gives Duquette approval to shop certain Orioles

Posted on 18 July 2017 by Luke Jones

The Orioles are apparently open for business with the non-waiver trade deadline less than two weeks away.

According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, owner Peter Angelos has given his approval to executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette to pursue trades for Baltimore’s top bullpen arms as well as veteran outfielder Seth Smith. That list of relievers includes former All-Star selections Zach Britton, Darren O’Day, and Brad Brach.

The Orioles are not entertaining offers for three-time All-Star third baseman Manny Machado or five-time All-Star center fielder Adam Jones at this time.

Of the aforementioned names now on the trading block, Britton would provide the most value as long as he continues to show no lingering effects from the left forearm strain that cost him more than two months of action. Under club control through next season, the 2016 American League Reliever of the Year winner has allowed two earned runs and six hits in five innings of work since being activated from the disabled list on July 5.

Brach would also figure to bring a good return as he is making just $3.05 million in 2017 and will not hit free agency until after next season. He has done an adequate job filling in for Britton in the closer role this season, collecting a career-high 16 saves in 20 chances.

O’Day’s value would be more questionable as he is only in the second season of a four-year, $31 million contract signed two winters ago. The 34-year-old has dealt with right shoulder issues over the last calendar year and is still owed $9 million in both the 2018 and 2019 campaigns.

Smith will become a free agent at the end of this season and wouldn’t figure to fetch much more than a marginal piece in a trade. The Orioles would also be looking to move outfielder Hyun Soo Kim and catcher Welington Castillo, who both can become free agents at the end of 2017.

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Lost weekend sweeps away any glimmer of hope for 2017 Orioles

Posted on 17 July 2017 by Luke Jones

You may have talked yourself into there being hope for the Orioles coming out of the All-Star break after they’d defied logic so many times in the Buck Showalter-Dan Duquette era.

Then came the bucket of ice water to the face that was the weekend sweep at the hands of the Chicago Cubs. The reigning World Series champions may have entered Friday only a game ahead of Baltimore, but it was evident that these were two teams moving in opposite directions in 2017 and beyond.

Friday night felt like the final nail in the coffin for the 2017 Orioles, who impressively managed to erase an 8-0 deficit to tie the game in the eighth inning before Brad Brach surrendered the game-winning home run to Addison Russell in the ninth. In a season filled with painful losses, that one was the most deflating as the Orioles were outscored 18-3 the rest of the weekend to fall a season-worst seven games below .500.

Yes, it’s time for the Orioles to start thinking about improving their outlook for the future. It’s no secret that they’re set to fall off a cliff at the end of next season when the likes of Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Adam Jones, and Brach hit free agency, but going 20-39 since May 9 offers similar imagery.

Desperation has been there for a while now as we’ve seen Jonathan Schoop shift to shortstop to make room for journeyman second baseman Johnny Giavotella and Jones move back into the leadoff spot, a role not suited for someone with a .301 on-base percentage no matter what anyone tries to tell you about last year. The mere fact that Kevin Gausman, Wade Miley, and Ubaldo Jimenez started the first three games of the second half really says all you need to know about the state of the Orioles and their starting rotation. The four 20-game winners from 1971 aren’t magically walking through that clubhouse door.

The truth is that the Orioles haven’t played like contenders for a long time now despite qualifying for the postseason for the third time in five years last October. Dating back to the beginning of last July, they hold an 84-91 record. An offense once feared around baseball ranks an underwhelming 11th in the American League in runs scored over the last calendar year. Their minus-94 run differential for 2017 is the worst in the American League and indicates that the Orioles have actually been fortunate to be as good as 42-49.

Yes, there’s plenty of blame to go around, but the failure of the 2017 club begins and ends with a starting rotation on track to be the worst in club history — the 2008 Orioles currently own the worst starer ERA at 5.51 — and one of the worst in baseball in over 100 years. The Orioles entered Monday with an AL-worst 6.02 starter ERA that’s more than a full run worse than 14th-ranked Chicago and a staggering 1.3 runs worse than last year’s rotation that was already viewed as a major weakness.

The starting rotation has been astonishingly terrible.

Amazingly, Cincinnati owns an even worse starter ERA at 6.04. According to Baseball Reference, the Reds currently sport the seventh-worst starter ERA and the Orioles the 10th-worst in major league history going back to 1913.

Misery loves company, right?

It’s easy to view the Orioles as sellers at this point as FOX Sports insider Ken Rosenthal reported as much on Sunday, but will it happen to the degree that it needs to under owner Peter Angelos? The Orioles do not have to trade their biggest chips in the next two weeks if they don’t find the right deal, but the longer they wait, the more diminished the return will be — at least in theory. Everything should now be on the table, however, making the indication that the Orioles won’t even listen to offers for Machado disconcerting.

But there’s a bigger question that needs to be addressed, one that could shape the club’s outlook for the next decade.

Do the Orioles want to retain Duquette beyond 2018 and does he even want to stay? Allowing a lame-duck executive to begin a rebuilding process would be unwise, so you’d hope there’s some resolution — at least privately — in the coming weeks and months as we move toward the offseason. His successes and shortcomings have been discussed at length in recent years, but it’s certainly fair to question whether Duquette would be the right choice to undertake a rebuilding effort.

If he isn’t going to be around after next season, there’s no sense waiting to find his replacement at such a critical time for the organization. That’s also a potential argument for the Orioles to abstain from dealing their best pieces now and instead wait until a long-term general manager is in place.

Of course, we know how the Orioles typically proceed on matters such as these. It’s rarely conventional and can often be detrimental despite their overall success in recent years.

How they handle Duquette’s status would undoubtedly impact the future of Showalter, who will also see his contract expire at the end of next season.

With most attention shifting away from the ugly results on the field and toward what’s happening behind the scenes, the Orioles are at a crossroads full of uncertainty.

It became painfully obvious over the weekend that contention in 2017 isn’t in the cards.

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Orioles second baseman Schoop doubles, scores run in All-Star debut

Posted on 12 July 2017 by Luke Jones

MIAMI — Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop didn’t wait long to make an impact to help the American League to a 2-1 win in his first All-Star Game on Tuesday night.

After entering the game on defense in the previous half-inning, Schoop picked up the first extra-base hit of the contest with a double down the left-field line in the top of the fifth and scored the game’s first run on a bloop single from Minnesota’s Miguel Sano. The 25-year-old quickly fell behind 0-2 against Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Alex Wood before fouling off two tough pitches and working the count even.

It was the kind of at-bat that’s become more common for Schoop this season as he’s improved his plate discipline and has led the Orioles in doubles (23) as well as a number of other offensive categories.

“I want to be better every day. I want to be better than I was yesterday,” Schoop said. “I’ve faced [Wood] before, and I know what he’s got. I was just trying to put a good swing on it and hit the ball hard.”

Schoop became the third Oriole to double in an All-Star Game over the last five years, following Adam Jones in 2013 and Manny Machado in 2015. A Miami native, Machado attended the exhibition at Marlins Park and invited Schoop to stay at his home this week.

After watching countless teammates receive invitations to the All-Star Game in his first three major league seasons, Schoop enjoyed his moment in the spotlight.

“It was one of the best moments in my life so far,” Schoop said. “Having fun and playing in front of the crowd. The crowd was good. It was a good display for me.”

The Baltimore second baseman also handled four fielding chances flawlessly, including a quick tag on Colorado’s Nolan Arendo to complete Boston center fielder Mookie Betts’ assist in the bottom of the fourth. Manager Buck Showalter has often spoken about the young fielder’s skill in tagging after being tutored by veteran shortstop J.J. Hardy.

Schoop was replaced in the seventh inning by Robinson Cano, who hit the game-winning home run for the AL in the top of the 10th.

“He hit a ball at the right moment and the right time to get us a win,” said Schoop, who has long admired the Seattle second baseman making his eighth All-Star appearance. “He’s the best for a reason. Not for [just right] now, but for a long time already.”

Former Baltimore reliever Andrew Miller picked up the save for the AL, who has now won five consecutive All-Star Games to even the all-time series with the National League at 43-43-2.

Despite being a low-scoring affair that featured 23 strikeouts and just three extra-base hits, the 88th Midsummer Classic wasn’t without innovation as the FOX telecast included several on-field interviews with players while the action was taking place. The highlight of the night in the novelty department, however, came from ex-Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz, who brought a cell phone to home plate and had his picture taken with veteran umpire Joe West before flying out in the sixth.

“He told me about it,” said Schoop as he laughed about his former teammate’s plan. “I said, ‘You can’t. I bet you can’t do it.’ Then, he did it. It was nice — fun moment.”

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Schoop turning heads as Orioles’ lone All-Star representative

Posted on 10 July 2017 by Luke Jones

MIAMI — While getting on the American League team bus on Monday, Jonathan Schoop sounded like the young rookie that Nelson Cruz had mentored and remembered so fondly in their brief time together.

“We were joking around and he said, ‘I’m going to follow you around everywhere because I don’t know what to do,” said Cruz, a five-time All-Star selection who has spent the last three seasons in Seattle after playing for the Orioles in 2014. “He’s like a son for me. Age makes a difference. Now he has experience. He learned; he wants to learn. He’s always asking questions to get better.

“He’s finally got everything together.”

The quip signified how far the second baseman has come from playing in the shadow of several high-profile teammates over his first few seasons to being the lone Orioles representative at this year’s All-Star game. And while the exclusion of his teammates is viewed by many as a reflection of how difficult the last two months have been for the struggling Orioles, Schoop isn’t just a token inclusion from a club closer to the cellar than first place.

Tied for the team lead in home runs (18) and leading the Orioles in runs batted in (54), Schoop is on pace to shatter his career highs in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. His 1.9 wins above replacement lead all Orioles players while his .370 weighted on-base average — a stat holding significant prominence in the sabermetric community — is second behind only Houston’s Jose Altuve among qualified AL second basemen in 2017.

Schoop hitting for power isn’t surprising as we’ve watched him get stronger every season, but his improved plate discipline has turned heads and led to more consistency at the plate. His 19 walks in 352 plate appearances remain well below the league average, but he’s just two shy of the 21 he piled up in 647 trips to the dish in 2016.

It’s the product of a more confident and selective approach as he’s swinging at fewer pitches both inside and outside the strike zone.

“I trust myself more and know that I can do it,” Schoop said. “I work every day and trust what the scouting report [says]. You know what [pitchers] are trying to do. You just have to achieve it and make sure you get the right pitch to hit. That’s part of my game that’s grown up a little bit more. I’m more patient and more selective.

“It’s not necessarily the walks, but just patience. Get the pitch to hit. Don’t chase too many pitches. Don’t swing at a pitcher’s pitch. It’s tough. They’re good. They get paid to strike you out and get you out.”

The 25-year-old has plenty of support this week from both family and teammates — former and current. Manny Machado has opened up his home to his close friend and will attend All-Star festivities as Schoop hopes to have a strong showing in honor of the Miami native who didn’t receive an All-Star invitation in a down season.

Schoop is representing more than just the Orioles and his family this week. He is the fourth Curacao native to appear in an All-Star Game, something in which he takes great pride after playing for the Netherlands in each of the last two editions of the World Baseball Classic. This year’s Midsummer Classic is the first with multiple selections hailing from the Dutch Caribbean island as Schoop is joined by Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen on the National League side.

“He’s come a long way,” said Jansen, a two-time All-Star selection who played with Schoop’s older brother. “He was always very talented, one of the most talented guys I ever saw play in Curacao growing up. Now he’s put it all together. He’s going to be a superstar. We could have seen this coming.”

Having stepped out from the shadow of Machado and other former Orioles All-Star selections in previous years, Schoop is finally making the baseball world take notice.

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