Tag Archive | "MLB"

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Frank Robinson named senior advisor and AL honorary president

Posted on 02 February 2015 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. announced today that he has named Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, currently Major League Baseball’s Executive Vice President for Baseball Development, as Senior Advisor and the new Honorary President of the American League.

As Senior Advisor, Robinson will be available to assist Manfred on issues related to on-field operations, MLB’s annual Civil Rights Game, youth participation and diversity. Robinson succeeds Jackie Autry, a longtime member of the Angels franchise, as Honorary A.L. President. Autry had served as Honorary A.L. President since its inception in 2001 until recently stepping down. Robinson joins Philadelphia Phillies Chairman Emeritus Bill Giles, the Honorary President of the National League. As Honorary A.L. President, Robinson will represent the League at the All-Star Game, during the Postseason and for other special events and baseball milestones.

Robinson served as MLB’s EVP, Baseball Development since June 2012. In that role, Robinson led the management and construction of the league’s network of Urban Youth Academies as well as overseeing the Civil Rights Game, the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game and other youth-focused efforts.

Robinson assembled a Hall of Fame playing career with the Cincinnati Reds, the Baltimore Orioles, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the California Angels and the Cleveland Indians, amassing 586 career home runs, which rank ninth on the all-time list. The Oakland native batted a lifetime .294 with a .389 on-base percentage and a .537 slugging percentage. He remains the only player in history to win Most Valuable Player honors in both the American and National Leagues (1961 w/ CIN, 1966 w/ BAL). He was a part of two World Series Championship teams with the Orioles (1966 and 1970), and his memorable ’66 season (.316, 49 HR, 122 RBI) included both the A.L. Triple Crown and World Series MVP.

Robinson has served as field manager of the Indians, the San Francisco Giants, the Orioles, the Montreal Expos and the Washington Nationals. In 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. The Xavier University product also was the Orioles’ assistant general manager for five years. Robinson, 79, has worked for the Commissioner’s Office in several capacities. He was Vice President of On-Field Operations from 2000 to 2002; Special Advisor to the Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations from 2007-2009; Special Assistant to the Commissioner from 2009-2010 and again from 2011-2012; and Senior Vice President for Major League Operations from 2010-2011.

Commissioner Manfred said: “Frank Robinson’s many accomplishments as a player and as a groundbreaking manager and executive are well known to baseball fans. I am glad that this dual role will allow him to continue to contribute to a game that he has served well throughout his Hall of Fame career.”

Robinson said: “I am looking forward to supporting Rob’s vision as Commissioner and becoming Honorary American League President. We have the best game in the world and a particularly promising future. I appreciate the chance to represent the American League, in which I gained some of my fondest memories as a player and a manager.”

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Hardy thankful for health, long-term stability going into 2015

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Hardy thankful for health, long-term stability going into 2015

Posted on 02 February 2015 by Luke Jones

With the departures of Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz, and Andrew Miller, it’s easy to forget the one who didn’t get away from the Orioles this winter.

On the eve of Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, shortstop J.J. Hardy signed a three-year, $40 million contract extension to remain in Baltimore where he’s won three Gold Gloves and been one of the best offensive players at his position in the majors. The 32-year-old acknowledged Saturday that he was relieved not having to go through what his former teammates experienced this offseason before signing elsewhere.

“It’s nice to know that I’m going to be here for a few more years,” said Hardy, whose three-year, $21 million signed in 2011 expired at the end of the 2014 campaign. “It’s just nice having it over with. It really wasn’t a great or fun process to do it, but once it was done, I’m happy it’s over with.”

The biggest question for Hardy will now be how well he bounces back from a down year offensively in which he hit only nine home runs — his lowest total since 2010 — and posted a .372 slugging percentage. Much of Hardy’s lack of power has been attributed to a lingering back injury that initially surfaced during the first week of the regular season.

The 2013 All-Star selection missed a week of action in early April and managed the injury for much of the season before it again flared up in September. Magnetic resonance imaging exams revealed no structural damage at either point, but Hardy received a cortisone shot to help with the pain as the Orioles narrowed in on the American League East title in mid-September.

Back issues are always concerning — especially for a middle infielder on the wrong side of 30 — but Hardy took advantage of the offseason to rest and put in the necessary work in hopes of avoiding problems this coming season. After posting a .436 OPS with no homers in the month of September, the veteran batted .240 with one home run and three runs batted in in 25 postseason at-bats.

“It happened so early last year that it was just a constant battle to get my core strong enough to where I didn’t feel it,” Hardy said. “I felt like maybe two months out of the year I actually felt normal. The rest of the time was a grind. I’ve been able to strengthen my core pretty good this offseason with my workouts. Hopefully, that holds up.”

The Orioles will certainly hope for more from Hardy offensively than a year ago, but his biggest value lies with his defense as he’s collected three consecutive Gold Glove awards, becoming the second shortstop in club history to win three in a row. The late Mark Belanger won six straight from 1973 through 1978.

 

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Machado, Wieters aiming to be in Opening Day lineup

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Machado, Wieters aiming to be in Opening Day lineup

Posted on 01 February 2015 by Luke Jones

An offseason filled with front-office uncertainty, key departures, and few additions hasn’t been easy for the Orioles.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette spent much of Saturday’s FanFest reiterating that his “singular focus” has always been on improving the defending American League East champions, but that doesn’t change the reality of losing outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis and key reliever Andrew Miller. Coincidence or not, the acquisition of outfielder Travis Snider — the club’s biggest addition of the winter — came two days after Toronto ended its pursuit of Duquette to become the Blue Jays’ new chief executive officer and team president.

But the executive reminded everyone Saturday of the best “additions” to help the Orioles in 2015. The returns of All-Star third baseman Manny Machado and All-Star catcher Matt Wieters would go a long way in helping Baltimore advance to the postseason for the third time in four years.

“The biggest and most powerful improvement we have for our ball club this year is Machado’s coming back and Wieters is coming back,” Duquette said. “Those are two Gold Glove, power-hitting core players that can return to our lineup. That’s the most important component and addition that we can make to the team is to get those guys back healthy and doing what they do.”

The pair missed a combined 216 games last season, but both eye a return to the lineup for Opening Day. Many have pointed to the uncertainty in the outfield as a primary reason why the Orioles will slip from their 96-win mark reached a year ago, but the club continued to thrive last season with the combination of veteran Nick Hundley and rookie Caleb Joseph behind the plate for five months and utility man Ryan Flaherty spending much of the time at the hot corner in the final two months.

After suffering a season-ending knee injury for the second straight year last August, Machado has already been fully cleared for baseball activity and appears on track to not only be ready for the start of the regular season but to benefit from a full slate of Grapefruit League action, something he didn’t have last season when he missed all of spring training and the first month of action while working his way back from his first knee injury. With two healthy and surgically-repaired knees, the 22-year-old is hoping to build on what’s already been an impressive major league résumé.

“I’m ready to roll, ready to play some baseball. Running, hitting, whatever I’ve got to do to get ready,” Machado said. “I’ve had a lot of time. That’s been the key. I’ve had a lot of time to get ready and have an offseason. I was doing my rehab in Sarasota and then went down to Miami to do my usual weightlifting and get ready for baseball. It’s been exciting. It’s been four or five months that I haven’t been on a baseball field, so I’m really looking forward to spring training and being back on the field. People take spring training for granted, and it’s a very big key for success in the year.”

Wieters’ status for the beginning of the season is less certain as he continues to rehab his right elbow after undergoing Tommy John surgery last June. His throwing progression has increased to 150 feet and he has been swinging the bat for roughly a month, but the three-time All-Star selection doesn’t anticipate being able to play games early in spring training.

Even if Wieters isn’t ready to get behind the plate at the beginning of the season, the Orioles could use him as a designated hitter as he continues to strengthen his elbow.

“We’re still in a phase where a lot could happen in the next couple months,” Wieters said. “It could get a lot better [and] it could slow down, but we won’t know until we go through the throwing program. But I’m preparing every part of my body to be ready for Opening Day, and that’s all I can do right now.”

Because of Wieters’ ability to hit free agency next winter, it will be interesting to see how much he tries to push his surgically-repaired elbow in returning to live-game action. Wieters and agent Scott Boras will undoubtedly want to grow his value and prove to potential suitors that he’s entirely healthy, but it can’t come at the expense of experiencing a setback.

Acknowledging how difficult it was watching his teammates compete in the 2014 postseason, Wieters has been itching for the start of spring training since last year ended, but he will be smart in continuing to follow his throwing program. A two-time Gold Glove winner, the 28-year-old catcher threw out at least 35 percent of runners attempting to steal in three straight seasons before his elbow problems came to the forefront last year when he threw out just one of 12 trying to steal.

“The main thing is we have to get the arm healthy enough to play the rest of my career,” Wieters said. “That’s the main goal — whenever that is. As soon as we feel like it is there, it’s time to strap it on and go. We don’t want to be feeling like we are babying it through the season. We want to get it healthy and ready to go.”

The Orioles hope Machado and Wieters can pick up where they left off prior to their 2014 surgeries, but it’s clear that the front office, coaching staff, and players aren’t sweating the offseason losses they’ve experienced nearly as much as the outside world. Replacing Cruz’s power, Markakis’ leadership, and Miller’s late-inning contributions won’t be easy, but there are too many remaining ingredients for the Orioles not to remain a favorite in a division they won by 12 games last year.

A pitching staff that has only lost one key bullpen member and returns every starter as well as one of the game’s best defenses should ease the concerns about a frustrating winter.

“While it’s important to improve your club in the offseason, we’re not really trying to win the offseason,” Duquette said. “We’re trying to put together a team that can compete and get to the postseason and prevail. That’s different than making headlines in the wintertime.”

The headlines have primarily been for the wrong reasons this offseason, but healthy returns from Machado and Wieters would be crucial cogs for the Orioles’ vision of returning to the playoffs.

 

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Orioles acquire outfielder Snider from Pittsburgh

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Orioles acquire outfielder Snider from Pittsburgh

Posted on 28 January 2015 by WNST Staff

PRESS RELEASE

The Orioles announced Tuesday that they have acquired outfielder Travis Snider from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for minor league left-handed pitcher Stephen Tarpley and a player to be named later. To make room on the 40-man roster, catcher Michael Ohlman has been designated for assignment.

Snider, 26, hit .264/.338/.438 with 13 home runs and a career-high 38 RBI in 140 games with the Pirates in 2014. He saw action at both left and right field last season. Originally selected in the first round of the 2006 First Year Player Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, Snider is a career .246/.310/.406 hitter with 50 home runs and 184 RBI in 543 career major league games with the Pirates and Blue Jays.

Tarpley, 21, was 3-5 with a 3.68 ERA (66.0IP, 27ER) in 13 games (12 starts) with Class-A Aberdeen in 2014. Originally selected by the Orioles in the third round of the 2013 First Year Player Draft, he is 3-6 with a 3.31 ERA (87.0IP, 32ER) in 20 games (19 starts) in two minor league seasons.

Ohlman, 24, hit .236/.310/.318 with two home runs and 33 RBI in 113 games with Double-A Bowie in 2014.

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Is Duquette now a lame duck for 2015 season?

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Is Duquette now a lame duck for 2015 season?

Posted on 27 January 2015 by Luke Jones

The story has apparently ended with both sides pretending there’s nothing to see here.

The Toronto Blue Jays announced they’re keeping president and chief executive officer Paul Beeston before he retires at the end of the 2015 season while Dan Duquette remains under contract with the Orioles through 2018. We’re to believe everything is fine after a seven-week saga of rumors, reports, and deafening silence involving both American League East foes.

Blue Jays chairman Edward Rogers broke his silence Monday without addressing why he reportedly pursued Beeston’s replacement without alerting the longtime executive of his intentions. Meanwhile, we’ve yet to hear from Duquette or Orioles owner Peter Angelos since Toronto announced a one-year contract extension for their current president.

“We have been in discussions with Paul about his future with the team since his contract expired in October,” Rogers said in a release. “There were many rumors flying about, but it would have been inappropriate to comment on such matters publicly. Make no mistake — we are elated to have Paul continue to lead the team for this season.”

In the coming days, we’ll hear Duquette state his commitment to the Orioles — perhaps at Saturday’s FanFest in front of thousands of fans — and how he’s dedicated to bringing another winner to Baltimore, but will anyone believe him after weeks of declining comment on the Toronto situation? Yes, Angelos and the Orioles dug their heels in when it came to compensation and won, but you wonder if it still results in a losing outcome with a man in charge who doesn’t have his heart in Baltimore.

Make no mistake, the Blue Jays handled this poorly in not only disrespecting Beeston — a man who became the first employee of the expansion team in 1976 — but also ignoring the decorum of how to pursue another club’s employee, which doesn’t include trying to poach the executive vice president of baseball operations in the middle of an offseason.

Toronto put the Orioles in a terrible spot and expecting compensation was more than understandable, but asking for a package of three top prospects — an absurd return in relation to similar front office transactions in recent years — with the thought that it would prompt the Blue Jays to back off was shortsighted as it relates to Duquette’s future in Baltimore. His contract suggests he’ll remain with the Orioles for the next four seasons, but the events of the last two months make it look like Duquette could be a lame duck for the 2015 season, especially if the Blue Jays come calling again after the season.

Is the 56-year-old really invested in the Orioles after seeing a sparkling promotion dangled in front of him for weeks?

Are the reports of some in the organization preferring that Duquette be allowed to leave simply forgotten?

Have Duquette’s relationships with Angelos, manager Buck Showalter, and other front office members suffered irreparable harm?

Those questions don’t even address how little the Orioles have done this offseason after losing outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis and top reliever Andrew Miller in free agency. Duquette’s approach hasn’t exactly been a high-profile or aggressive one in his four-year tenure with the club except for the signings of pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez and Cruz during last year’s spring training, but his lack of activity casts doubt as the Orioles try to build on last season’s AL Championship Series appearance.

One of the reasons why the Orioles have experienced three straight winning seasons has been Angelos’ trust in Duquette and Showalter in recent years. With the 85-year-old owner mentioning Duquette’s contract and commitment on more than one occasion over the last two months, you wonder how much Angelos now trusts the man he rescued out of baseball purgatory a few years ago.

Even with the losses suffered this offseason, the Orioles remain serious contenders in the AL East and are led by one of the best managers in baseball.

But it’s difficult not to feel like Duquette has one foot out the door — even if his current title and contract suggests otherwise.

And that’s not a good place to be for a club and a fan base with championship aspirations.

 

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Orioles, starting pitcher Norris reach agreement to avoid arbitration

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Orioles, starting pitcher Norris reach agreement to avoid arbitration

Posted on 26 January 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles continued to chip away at their list of pending arbitration cases Monday by agreeing to a one-year contract with starting pitcher Bud Norris.

The right-hander will reportedly make $8.8 million this season after he originally submitted a $10.25 million salary figure and the Orioles countered at $7.5 million. Norris, 29, is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2015 season.

Norris was in line for a substantial raise after a career year that included a 15-8 record with a 3.65 ERA in 28 starts spanning 165 1/3 innings. He pitched 6 1/3 shutout innings in Game 3 of the American League Division Series as the Orioles beat Detroit 1-0 to advance to the AL Championship Series.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette will now turn his attention toward pitchers Miguel Gonzalez and Zach Britton and outfielders Steve Pearce and Alejandro De Aza as the club’s only remaining arbitration-eligible players yet to be signed.

The Orioles also officially announced the one-year agreement with infielder Ryan Flaherty reached Sunday night as well as minor-league deals with pitchers Steve Johnson and Dane De La Rosa and outfielder Chris Parmelee. Johnson, De La Rosa, and Parmelee will also receive invitations to major league spring training.

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Flaherty comes to agreement with Orioles

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Flaherty comes to agreement with Orioles

Posted on 26 January 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles have come to an agreement on a one-year contract with infielder Ryan Flaherty.

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the sides agreed to a deal worth $1.075 million that includes a $25,000 bonus for reaching 400 plate appearances. The Orioles have five remaining arbitration cases to address: starting pitchers Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez, closer Zach Britton, and outfielders Steve Pearce and Alejandro De Aza.

Serving as the primary replacement for Manny Machado after the Gold Glove third baseman suffered a season-ending knee injury in August, Flaherty hit .221 with seven home runs and 32 runs batted in in a career-high 312 plate appearances in 2014. The 28-year-old hit .286 with a home run and four RBIs in the postseason.

When the Orioles and arbitration-eligible players exchanged figures earlier this month, Flaherty was asking for a $1.5 million salary while the organization came back with a $900,000 offer.

Serving as the primary utility infielder over the last couple years, Flaherty played six positions for the Orioles during the 2014 season.

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Toronto reportedly ends pursuit of Duquette

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Toronto reportedly ends pursuit of Duquette

Posted on 25 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Has the Dan Duquette saga finally reached its end?

According to a report from Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, the Toronto Blue Jays have ended their pursuit of the executive vice president of baseball operations after the Orioles wouldn’t budge on their demand for 2014 first-round pitcher Jeff Hoffman and two other top prospects as compensation in a deal. News first broke of Toronto’s interest in Duquette becoming their chief executive officer and president seven weeks ago, but owner Peter Angelos had repeatedly stated that he expected his top front office man to fulfill his contractual obligation with the Orioles.

There had been conflicting reports in recent days that the sides were moving closer to an agreement, but the Orioles’ demands were quite lucrative in comparison to the modest deals involving executives in recent history. Of course, the organization didn’t take too kindly to a division rival attempting to poach Duquette in the middle of a critical offseason in which the Orioles are attempting to build on their 2014 American League East title.

Duquette remains under contract with the Orioles through the 2018 season, but his silence over the last several weeks made it clear that he was interested in accepting the promotion with the Blue Jays. With the story having stretched out for so long, it’s fair to question if Duquette remaining with the Orioles is really what’s best for the organization at this point if his heart is in another job.

Of course, nothing would appear to be stopping the Blue Jays from re-engaging in talks, at least until we hear from any of the involved parties publicly.

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Ripken issues statement on passing of Hall of Famer Ernie Banks

Posted on 24 January 2015 by WNST Staff

Hall of Fame shortstop and third baseman Cal Ripken issued the following statement Saturday on the death of Hall of Famer Ernie Banks:

“He was Mr. Cub and that spoke to both his play on the field and how beloved he was to the people of Chicago. Ernie was the first to make people view shortstop as a position of power and he was one of the all-time greats but what I will remember is his happiness and his love of the game. He will be missed by baseball fans everywhere.”

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Duquette story moving closer to its conclusion?

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Duquette story moving closer to its conclusion?

Posted on 24 January 2015 by Luke Jones

Opinions and reports vary on the future of Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, but this much has become abundantly clear about the story that’s now seven weeks old.

It needs to end.

There appears to be growing optimism about a deal being consummated with the Toronto Blue Jays that would allow Duquette to become their new president and chief executive officer. But we’ve heard this before and reports in recent days have painted different pictures of how imminent an agreement might be.

Of course, a deal won’t be official until we see Duquette formally introduced as the new boss in Toronto as compensation continues to be the biggest obstacle. According to ESPN, Toronto’s 2014 first-round pick and right-handed pitcher Jeff Hoffman has been discussed and would be a lucrative return in exchange for an executive compared to similar transactions completed in recent years.

But would one top prospect be enough for the Orioles and owner Peter Angelos? And are the Blue Jays willing to part with premium talent simply to hire a front office man, albeit a successful one?

There is some speculation that the Blue Jays could — and should — walk away from Duquette, but you wonder if that would be the best outcome for the Orioles at this point as the 56-year-old’s silence on the situation speaks volumes about his desire to go to Toronto. Trust will undoubtedly be a concern should Duquette remain with the Orioles.

Whatever the outcome, the Orioles would be wise to have a resolution in time for next Saturday’s FanFest in which Duquette has annually participated in fan forums. The saga has been disruptive for an organization trying to build on its 2014 American League East title this offseason, but it would be embarrassing for Duquette’s uncertain future to be out in the open for fans to see — and question.

It isn’t over until it’s over, but the developments of the last few days create hope that this matter will be closed sooner rather than later.

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