Tag Archive | "Nick Markakis"

Cruz among 12 MLB free agents to reject qualifying offers

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Cruz among 12 MLB free agents to reject qualifying offers

Posted on 10 November 2014 by Luke Jones

Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline came and went with slugger Nelson Cruz rejecting the Orioles’ $15.3 million qualifying offer as expected.

In fact, all 12 free agents given qualifying offers by their respective 2014 clubs last week declined the one-year, $15.3 million contract. In the three offseasons since the concept was added to the current collective bargaining agreement, none of 34 qualifying offers have been accepted.

Cruz was expected to reject the offer all along as he seeks a multi-year deal after signing a one-year, $8 million contract with the Orioles last spring. The 34-year-old is reportedly looking for at least a four-year contract while executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and the Orioles would prefer a shorter deal for Cruz, who is coming off a career season.

Should Cruz sign a contract with another team, the Orioles would receive a compensatory pick at the conclusion of the first round of June’s amateur draft. Any club signing a free agent who received a qualifying offer from his previous team must forfeit its first-round pick unless the team is picking in the top 10. In those cases, a team would then surrender its next-highest pick.

Representatives for Cruz and fellow free-agent outfielder Nick Markakis are expected to hold discussions with other clubs at this week’s Major League Baseball general managers’ meetings in Phoenix. The Orioles and Markakis have been discussing terms for what’s believed to be a four-year extension but have been unable to finalize a deal to this point.

The other free agents to reject qualifying offers were Michael Cuddyer (Colorado), Pablo Sandoval (San Francisco), Max Scherzer (Detroit), Victor Martinez (Detroit), Francisco Liriano (Pittsburgh), Russell Martin (Pittsburgh), Hanley Ramirez (Los Angeles Dodgers), James Shields (Kansas City), David Robertson (New York Yankees), Melky Cabrera (Toronto), and Ervin Santana (Atlanta).

Cuddyer became the first significant free agent to change teams Monday when he agreed to a two-year, $21 million contract with the New York Mets.

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Hardy, Jones, Markakis take home 2014 Gold Glove awards

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Hardy, Jones, Markakis take home 2014 Gold Glove awards

Posted on 04 November 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles were further recognized for their run of excellent defense over the last three years with shortstop J.J. Hardy and outfielders Adam Jones and Nick Markakis winning 2014 American League Gold Glove awards on Tuesday.

Hardy and Jones each won their third consecutive Rawlings fielding honors while Markakis won the second of his career and first since the 2011 season.

The Orioles and Kansas City Royals led the major leagues with three winners each in the 2014 season. Jones and Hardy are the first pair of teammates to win three consecutive Gold Gloves since Brett Boone and Ichiro Suzuki did it for the Seattle Mariners from 2002 through 2004.

Hardy joined Mark Belanger as only the second Orioles shortstop to win three straight Gold Gloves, but Belanger won six straight from 1973 through 1978. In 2014, the 32-year-old ranked seventh among all AL fielders in defensive wins above replacement (2.1) and ranked third among AL shortstops in fielding percentage (.978).

His three Gold Glove awards are second among active shortstops as only Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins (four) has more.

“This is a special award for me because of the fact that the opposing managers and coaches are the voters,” Hardy said in a statement released by the club. “Obviously, I have a lot of respect for them and their knowledge of the game. A lot of credit goes to [third-base coach] Bobby Dickerson, who puts in a lot of time and effort with us and puts us in a position to be successful.”

Jones led AL center fielders in games played (155) and ranked fourth in assists (seven) while posting a 0.8 dWAR. The 29-year-old won his first Gold Glove in 2009 and joins Paul Blair as the only Orioles outfielders to win at least four Gold Glove awards. Blair won seven straight from 1969 through 1975.

In 2014, Markakis led AL right fielders in games (147), putouts (295), and fielding percentage (1.000) while ranking second in assists (11). However, the veteran outfielder posted a -0.5 dWAR, which isn’t a great endorsement from a metric standpoint and could reflect his declining range.

Both Jones and Markakis offered credit to first-base coach Wayne Kirby for his work with the outfield.

“It is an individual award, but a lot of people contribute to it,” Markakis said. “Wayne Kirby is a great influence on the outfielders and does a great job preparing us and putting us in the right position to make plays.”

The Orioles have now won at least three Gold Gloves in three consecutive seasons for the third time in franchise history (1969-71 and 1973-76). All other major league clubs have combined for a total of three such streaks (St. Louis 2002-04, Philadelphia 1976-79, and Cincinnati 1974-77).

This year marks the 20th time the Orioles have had multiple Gold Glove winners in the same year and the 11th time in which the Orioles have had at least three Gold Glove winners in the same season. Seventeen different Orioles players have earned a total of 70 Gold Gloves since the award was created in 1957, the second-highest total for any team behind the St. Louis Cardinals (85).

The selection process is 75 percent votes submitted by managers and coaches and 25 percent defensive metrics. Manager and coaches may not vote for their own players and can only vote for the awards in their own league.

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Cruz receives qualifying offer from Orioles as expected

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Cruz receives qualifying offer from Orioles as expected

Posted on 03 November 2014 by Luke Jones

With Monday’s deadline upon them, the Orioles made a qualifying offer to free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz hours before other teams are free to negotiate with the slugger.

The move was expected even though the 34-year-old will decline the $15.3 million offer that now allows the Orioles to receive a compensatory draft pick at the end of the first round should Cruz sign with another club. The veteran is reportedly seeking a four- or five-year contract while executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette would prefer signing him to a shorter deal since he’ll turn 35 next season.

Cruz officially has until Nov. 10 to decide whether to accept the qualifying offer.

The Orioles signed Cruz to a one-year, $8 million deal last spring after he rejected a $14.1 million qualifying offer to remain with the Texas Rangers last winter. The draft-pick caveat cooled the market for the right-handed hitter considerably, but the Orioles felt inclined to sign him after they had already surrendered their first-round pick to sign free-agent starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez.

Cruz viewed the 2014 season as a platform to boost his value, and that’s exactly what he did by hitting 40 home runs to lead the majors while also setting a career high with 108 runs batted in. The Orioles have negotiated with Cruz’s agent, Diego Bentz, but the sides are reportedly far apart in discussions.

Baltimore declined to make a qualifying offer to right fielder Nick Markakis as the sides continue to work on a multi-year extension.

The five-day window clubs had to negotiate with their own free agents concludes at midnight on Tuesday morning. From that point, free agents may negotiate with any of the 30 major league clubs.

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Orioles pick up options on Chen, O’Day as expected

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Orioles pick up options on Chen, O’Day as expected

Posted on 30 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The Orioles offered no surprises in their decisions to exercise 2015 contract options for pitchers Wei-Yin Chen and Darren O’Day on Thursday.

And as expected, the Orioles declined options for right fielder Nick Markakis and catcher Nick Hundley, making both free agents. Of course, the organization continues to negotiate in hopes of reaching a long-term extension with the longtime outfielder, but Markakis will now receive a $2 million buyout. Hundley’s $5 million club option did not include a buyout.

After going 16-6 with a 3.54 ERA, Chen will make $4.75 million in 2015 as he’s been one of the Orioles’ most dependable starting pitchers with a 3.86 ERA in 86 starts over the last three seasons. The Taiwanese lefty originally signed a three-year, $11 million contract on Jan. 10, 2012.

The backbone of a strong Orioles bullpen over the last three years, O’Day — who will make $4.25 million next season — may have had the best season of his career in 2014 despite September struggles that crept into the postseason when he allowed four earned runs and two home runs in 2 2/3 innings. In the regular season, O’Day pitched to a 1.70 ERA in 68 appearances, but his 7.00 ERA in the month of September was concerning as he gave up three home runs to left-handed hitters.

The decision to pass on a mutual $17.5 million option for Markakis was expected, but assessing the 2003 first-round pick’s value is a tricky proposition with his offensive decline in recent years. The 30-year-old hit .276 with 14 home runs and 50 RBIs in 642 at-bats this season, but he’s posted slugging percentages below .400 in each of the last two years.

Acquired from the San Diego Padres in exchange for relief pitcher Troy Patton in late May, Hundley hit .233 with five home runs and 19 RBIs. It was always considered highly unlikely that the Orioles would pick up his option with starting catcher Matt Wieters expected back from Tommy John surgery next season.

With Chen and O’Day officially in the fold for the 2015 season, the Orioles have 32 players on their current 40-man roster.

The following members of the 2014 40-man roster are now free agents: Markakis, Hundley, Alexi Casilla, Nelson Cruz, Kelly Johnson, Andrew Miller, Johan Santana, Joe Saunders, and Delmon Young.

Clubs have five days of exclusive negotiating rights with their own free agents before other teams are allowed to make offers beginning on Nov. 4.

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How far should Orioles go to re-sign Markakis?

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How far should Orioles go to re-sign Markakis?

Posted on 28 October 2014 by Luke Jones

It’s no secret that the Orioles want to keep Nick Markakis.

The organization’s first-round pick in 2003 and the regular right fielder since 2006, Markakis is the longest-tenured Oriole and offers some value that can’t be easily measured as a longtime leader in the clubhouse. But even as executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette engages in contract talks to keep the soon-to-be 31-year-old in Baltimore for the 2015 season and beyond, everyone has a price and determining Markakis’ overall value is a tricky proposition.

It was apparent a couple years ago that the Orioles weren’t going to exercise Markakis’ $17.5 million mutual option for 2015. Even as a favorite of manager Buck Showalter and his teammates, the right fielder’s numbers have declined in recent years as 2013 was his worst season and he still only produced a .729 on-base plus slugging percentage this year. He’s hit below .280 in each of his last two seasons and his slugging percentage has fallen below the .400 mark in back-to-back years as he doesn’t provide the same gap power he did as a hitter who once averaged 45 doubles or so.

A simple look at his numbers over the last four years — save a productive 2012 that was limited to 102 games due to injuries — suggests the Orioles should attempt to find an upgrade in right field, but it isn’t quite that simple with a player like Markakis. This winter’s crop of free-agent outfielders offers few options as good as Markakis, let alone better.

That reality not only means it would be challenging to find a player of his caliber, but demand could be substantial in the open market, further driving up his price. The Orioles could make the $15.3 million qualifying offer that would drive down demand from other teams who would then forfeit a draft pick to sign him, but Markakis could simply accept the qualifying offer — in addition to his $2 million buyout — and essentially be back where he was with the original mutual option.

Internal options to replace Markakis in right field include Steve Pearce and a variety of fourth-outfielder types such as David Lough, Alejandro De Aza, and 25-year-old outfield prospect Dariel Alvarez unless you’re going all in to re-sign slugger Nelson Cruz to a long-term contract.

So, how much is Markakis really worth?

The general consensus is that a win costs approximately $6 million on the open market and Markakis has averaged just over two wins above replacement (WAR) per season over the last five years if you eliminate a very productive 2012 cut short by injuries and a horrendous 2013, the two clear outliers in that period of time. If we’re to assume Markakis continues to be a 2.0 WAR player over the next few years — optimistic, but not unreasonable for a player in his early 30s — that would put him in the neighborhood of earning $12 million per year in a vacuum.

Of course, that’s a statistically-driven monetary value that doesn’t consider the intangibles that Markakis brings that can’t be easily quantified or the supply and demand of the open market in any given offseason.

What does each side expect from the other? Do the Orioles want Markakis to take a hometown discount after signing shortstop J.J. Hardy — who’s been a 3.65 WAR player per year since 2011 and is only slightly older — to a reasonable three-year, $40 million contract with a vesting option? Does Markakis expect the Orioles to split the difference between what the numbers suggest he’s worth per year and the $17.5 million option for 2015 that they declined? Does he expect to be paid as much as or more than Hardy even though the latter has been more valuable over the last four seasons?

Even though he’s one of the few Orioles to make Baltimore his year-round home in recent years, Markakis has never had the opportunity to test the free-agent market and perhaps he’s curious to see what other teams might offer.

If you’re the Orioles, a three-year contract worth somewhere between $34 million and $38 million would be acceptable if you can’t reap the benefits of a hometown discount. Perhaps a vesting fourth-year option similar to the one Hardy received — which is reportedly based on plate appearances — would be an attractive addition, but there has been too much decline in Markakis’ production in recent years to go much higher than that in terms of years or money unless you’re perfectly fine with overpaying.

Entering the 2015 season at age 31, Markakis should have plenty of solid baseball ahead of him, but the last five years suggest the best you’re reasonably going to get from him is worth roughly $12 million per year on the open market and that’s assuming he doesn’t decline further. Of course, his value isn’t based solely on the numbers, but you have to be careful not to overpay for intangibles and sentimentality.

Replacing Markakis wouldn’t be easy in terms of finding a leadoff hitter and replacing his leadership in the clubhouse, but the Orioles shouldn’t overpay for those qualities, either, with other players and other needs to address this offseason and in the coming years.

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Markakis, Jones, Hardy named Gold Glove finalists

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Markakis, Jones, Hardy named Gold Glove finalists

Posted on 23 October 2014 by Luke Jones

In what’s become an annual occurrence, the Orioles have multiple players vying for this year’s Rawlings Gold Glove awards.

Center fielder Adam Jones, right fielder Nick Markakis, and shortstop J.J. Hardy were all named finalists at their respective positions Thursday as the awards will be announced on Nov. 4 on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. with the ceremony to follow in New York on Nov. 7. The Orioles had six finalists last year, but the long-term absences of Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis in 2014 led to their names being taken out of consideration.

The selection process is roughly 75 percent votes submitted by managers and coaches and 25 percent defensive metrics. Manager and coaches may not vote for their own players and can only vote for the awards in their own league.

A three-time Gold Glove winner, Jones was named a finalist along with Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr. and Chicago’s Adam Eaton in the American League. The 29-year-old made six errors and had seven assists while accumulating 0.8 defensive wins above replacement (dWAR) this season. In contrast, Bradley committed one error and had 13 assists while posting a 2.0 dWAR, and Eaton committed four errors and had nine assists with a 1.8 dWAR.

The 2011 Gold Glove winner, Markakis will compete with fellow right field finalists Kole Calhoun of Los Angeles and Kevin Kiermaier of Tampa Bay. Markakis did not commit an error all season while collecting 11 outfield assists. However, he posted a -0.5 dWAR, which isn’t a great endorsement from a metric standpoint and could reflect his declining range.

Calhoun had one error and nine assists with a -0.1 dWAR while Kiermaier committed six errors and had five assists while posting a 1.6 dWAR.

The two-time defending Gold Glove winner at shortstop, Hardy will compete with Kansas City’s Alcides Escobar and Chicago’s Alexei Ramirez for the honor. The 32-year-old committed 13 errors while posting a 2.2 dWAR. Escobar made 16 errors and had a 0.7 dWAR while Ramirez had 15 miscues and a 0.7 dWAR.

Seventeen different Orioles players have earned a total of 67 Gold Gloves since the award was created in 1957, the highest total of any AL team and second most behind the St. Louis Cardinals’ 84.

Here is the full list of AL Gold Glove finalists:

C: Alex Avila, Yan Gomes, Salvador Perez
1B: Miguel Cabrera, Eric Hosmer, Albert Pujols
2B: Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia
SS: Alcides Escobar, J.J. Hardy, Alexei Ramirez
3B: Adrian Beltre, Josh Donaldson, Kyle Seager
LF: Michael Brantley, Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon
CF: Jackie Bradley Jr., Adam Eaton, Adam Jones
RF: Kole Calhoun, Kevin Kiermaier, Nick Markakis,

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Duquette noncommittal on plans for free agent Cruz

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Duquette noncommittal on plans for free agent Cruz

Posted on 17 October 2014 by Luke Jones

At a quiet Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Friday, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette was asked to not only reflect on the Orioles’ 96-win season that resulted in their first division title in 17 years but also how he planned to attack the offseason in hopes of returning to the playoffs for the third time in four years in 2015.

One of the most prominent items to address will be the pending free agency of slugger Nelson Cruz, who was voted the club’s most valuable player after signing a one-year, $8 million contract last spring. Though several teams are expected to be interesting in his services should he hit the free-agent market, the Orioles are expected to at least make a $15.3 million qualifying offer to Cruz, which would mean they’d receive a draft pick if he’d sign elsewhere.

Asked about his plans for Cruz in the coming weeks, the Orioles executive was noncommittal.

“The important thing for our fans to know is that we’ve increased our payroll over the last couple years,” Duquette said. “I expect we have the foundation for an additional increase, and however we invest that, we’re going to give them the most competitive and compelling and entertaining team we can to support.”

With the sheer number of young players in line to receive raises through arbitration, an increase in payroll was all but guaranteed, but what does that mean for Cruz? After hitting a career-high 40 home runs in his first season with the Orioles, the slugger has expressed several times that he’d like to remain in Baltimore if possible.

The Orioles have engaged in some preliminary contract talks with Cruz’s representation since the All-Star break, but the 34-year-old recently changed agents and is now represented by Diego Bentz of Relativity Sports, according to a FOX Sports report from earlier in the month.

“It’s good to know that Nelson likes it here,” Duquette said. “I can tell just by watching him, he’s the leader of the ball club, and the young players look up to him, especially the young Latin players. He’s an excellent leader, he’s a very good role model, he led the league in home runs, and he had a great year. I really appreciate the veteran leadership that he gave the team.

“Having said that, he came here to have a platform year to get himself reestablished so he could get a long-term deal, and that’s something that we’ll have to consider.”

While Cruz is expected to garner plenty of attention, trying to assess the market for right fielder Nick Markakis will be more complicated as the Orioles are not expected to pick up the $17.5 million mutual option on his contract. The option includes a $2 million buyout should the club not use it.

Markakis has been one of the more productive players in franchise history, but his on-base plus slugging percentage was only .685 in 2013 and only .729 this season, which aren’t eye-popping numbers for a corner outfielder who lacks speed. A cornerstone of the organization for nearly a decade, Markakis is adored by manager Buck Showalter and ownership and has made his home in Maryland, making it likely the sides will eventually agree on a reasonable extension.

Duquette said it was “always a possibility” that the Orioles would negotiate a long-term contract with Markakis, who will turn 31 next month, during the World Series.

The Orioles are less optimistic that they’ll be able to retain the services of left-handed reliever Andrew Miller, who only made himself look more attractive to potential suitors by pitching 7 1/3 scoreless innings in the postseason. The 6-foot-7 southpaw is expected to be courted as a closer and receive lucrative money from another team this offseason.

“There’s a lot of interest in Andrew Miller,” Duquette said. “We knew that when we traded for him. He pitched well for us. Good for us that we had him because I think he was the difference in the Tigers series that allowed us to advance. Obviously, we like Andrew and we like to have pitchers of that ilk on our ball club.”

NOTES: Even though Chris Davis has one game remaining on the 25-game suspension he received for amphetamine use, the first baseman will be allowed to be a full participant during spring training and in Grapefruit League games. According to Showalter, the Orioles will benefit from not having to keep Davis on the 40-man roster during the winter, which is an advantage for an organization that manipulates its roster as much as any team in the majors. … Pitchers and catchers will report to spring training in Sarasota on Feb. 18 with the first day of workouts the following morning. Position players will participate in their first official workout on Feb. 24. … Asked his thoughts on the remainder of the postseason, Showalter offered a reply that many Orioles fans can appreciate as well as relate to. “Watching it makes me ill. I’m not one of those guys that likes watching other people do what we wanted to do.”

 

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Future’s uncertainty always most painful as Orioles bow out of postseason

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Future’s uncertainty always most painful as Orioles bow out of postseason

Posted on 16 October 2014 by Luke Jones

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A sweep was a bitter way for a season to end after the Orioles won 96 games to secure their first American League East title in 17 years.

Overcoming season-ending injuries to Matt Wieters and Manny Machado as well as enduring the 25-game suspension and poor performance of slugger Chris Davis, the Orioles arguably had their most rewarding year since their last World Series title in 1983. But that magic and mojo finally expired against the Kansas City Royals, who didn’t embarrass Baltimore but was just a little bit better across the board as they won their first AL pennant since 1985.

Even if 2014 ultimately proves to be the Royals’ year — and an 8-0 postseason mark certainly suggests it is — the end still hurts.

“There’s a lot of positive things there. But it’s kind of shallow,” manager Buck Showalter said. “There’s so many things that during the year, it’s just an unspoken word, a look at each other, there’s a real respect for each other. And like I just told them, the game’s not always fair. Someone’s going to be extremely disappointed.”

The Orioles have quite a juxtaposition of half-full and half-empty outlooks as they conclude 2014, but the uncertainty of navigating another offseason and another 162-game marathon to try to get back to this same point next year — with a different outcome, of course — always makes you wonder if they’ll make it back. The AL East doesn’t figure to feature underwhelming versions of both the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox for a second straight year, so that alone forces you to take pregnant pause.

Even as disappointment wanes and fans begin to reflect on the Orioles’ third straight winning season and first division title since 1997, expectations have only soared for executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, Showalter, and the current club. But as is the case with any offseason, some change will be inevitable.

“You know, [2012] was unexpected, in ’13 we had expectations, and here we were doing something that hasn’t been done in a long time,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “I think expectations have risen a little bit in Baltimore and that’s good. I don’t mind expectations being risen, because I’m going to come back to spring training ready to get back to this position. It’s a great position to be in the ALCS.”

With those heightened expectations in mind, how do the Orioles improve for next season? As always, the quest will continue to improve their pitching depth while hoping 23-year-old Kevin Gausman takes another step forward, but do Duquette and Showalter tinker dramatically with an offense that relied too much on the home run?

The addition of some speed would benefit, but the Orioles also expect to have Wieters, Machado, and Davis back in the picture, which should provide significant overall improvement to the offense. But the lineup could look different without Nelson Cruz anchoring the cleanup spot.

After signing a one-year, $8 million deal during spring training to come to Baltimore, Cruz will be seeking a long-term deal for lucrative money, but he is 34 years old and coming off a career season in which he hit 40 homers. As we saw with Davis’ disastrous 2014 campaign a year after he hit a franchise-record 53 home runs, you don’t want to make a snap reaction based on a career season and set your price based on that.

Cruz acknowledged he may have played his last game with the Orioles after Wednesday’s 2-1 loss in Kansas City.

“It’s there, but I want to come back,” Cruz said. “We’ll just wait and see what happens. I love the clubhouse. I love all my teammates. The whole organization is great — even the guys you don’t see every day. I appreciate that.”

The Orioles also face difficult decisions with right fielder Nick Markakis and lefty reliever Andrew Miller, who will also become free agents. Miller was the club’s best pitcher in the postseason, but he is expected to receive an enormous amount of attention on the open market and could be paid lucratively to become a closer elsewhere.

Though they were able to re-sign shortstop J.J. Hardy to a contract extension last week, the Orioles know that Wieters and Davis will be free agents after 2015. Duquette was more aggressive this year than he was over his first two offseasons running the club as he signed Cruz and starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, so will we see the Orioles once again be bold to set up for another run next season or take a more conservative approach even though they face the loss of two more key players next winter?

It’s tough to say as even the career-long Oriole Markakis doesn’t know for sure if he’ll be back or if the organization will elect to go in a different direction as his power has declined over the last few seasons.

“I don’t know; you never know,” Markakis said. “Baseball is a funny game and anything can happen. Take some time off and see where that ball goes.”

It’s that unknown that makes Wednesday’s loss and the abrupt end of a terrific season that much more frustrating.

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Orioles-Tigers Game 1 lineups and pre-game notes

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Orioles-Tigers Game 1 lineups and pre-game notes

Posted on 02 October 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — October has arrived as the Orioles welcomed the Detroit Tigers to Oriole Park at Camden Yards for Game 1 of the American League Division Series.

There were no real surprises for Baltimore’s Game 1 lineup as Ryan Flaherty was slotted to hit seventh at third base as most assumed after manager Buck Showalter used a carousel of candidates at third base over the final two weeks of the regular season. Showalter was noncommittal when asked how reserves and fellow third-base candidates Kelly Johnson and Jimmy Paredes would be used in the series, leaving the door open to either receiving a start at the hot corner.

The Orioles will send Wei-Yin Chen to the hill in Game 2 against right-hander Justin Verlander. Chen pitched Game 2 of the 2012 ALDS against the New York Yankees, earning the win after allowing just one earned run in 6 1/3 innings.

Asked why he elected to keep right-handed pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez in his bullpen, Showalter pointed to his experience against the Tigers as well as the Detroit lineup’s strong .285 average against left-handed pitching this year. Left-handers Brian Matusz and T.J. McFarland were left off the ALDS roster earlier in the day, but both will remain with the club in the event of an injury and would be options if the Orioles advance to the AL Championship Series.

Right fielder Nick Markakis will make his postseason debut Thursday night after nine seasons with the Orioles. He was sidelined with a broken thumb when Baltimore advanced to the 2012 playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Tigers had center fielder Rajai Davis in the Game 1 lineup despite the fact that he’s been dealing with a groin injury recently. His 36 stolen bases were only eight fewer than the Orioles stole collectively during the 2014 regular season.

Here are Thursday night’s lineups:

DETROIT
2B Ian Kinsler
RF Torii Hunter
1B Miguel Cabrera
DH Victor Martinez
LF J.D. Martinez
C Alex Avila
3B Nick Castellanos
SS Andrew Romine
CF Rajai Davis

SP Max Scherzer (18-5, 3.15 ERA)

BALTIMORE
RF Nick Markakis
LF Alejandro De Aza
CF Adam Jones
DH Nelson Cruz
1B Steve Pearce
SS J.J. Hardy
3B Ryan Flaherty
C Nick Hundley
2B Jonathan Schoop

SP Chris Tillman (13-6, 3.34 ERA)

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Pearce HR 9-16

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SEVENTEEN YEARS IN THE WAITING

Posted on 17 September 2014 by Tom Federline

“Sweeeeeeeeet Emoooootion” – Aerosmith. Just keep playing that song in your head. How ’bout ‘dem O’s hun? WOW! 8 – 2 win over the whining, scum beaning Blow Jays. The Division East Title and then………. the celebration. If you were there, nice pull. If you watched it, baseball entertainment at its’ finest (and no Gary Thorne – in our side). If you heard it, someone should put a tape of it in a time capsule. If you are an Orioles fan……………it’s been a long time comin’. “O” what a feeling.

People keep saying it’s been 17 years since the last division title. And they are right – in 1997 the O’s went wire-to-wire in first place. The teams of 1996 and ’97 were a reflection of Angelos’ attempt to buy a World Series.  They were expected to win and they did. But the World Series appearance – didn’t happen. In ’96, they beat the Indians for the ALDS and lost to the Yankees in the ALCS. Yes, that was the year of  Jeffrey Maier/Rich Garcia incident. In ’97 they went 98 – 64 and beat the Seattle Mariners in the ALDS, then lost to the Indians in the ALCS (Armando Benitez blown game in 11 innings after the O’s had 10 hits to Clevelands 3). But this year, is different. It’s a different feeling, a different team chemistry, a different era. It feels like ………..brace yourself……….the “Oriole Way”!

Back in ’96 and ’97, there were names like Alomar, Palmeiro, Davis (Eric), Bonilla, Erickson, Key, Meyers, Wells, Davey Johnson and yes – Ripken, Murray. All great players. All with hefty paychecks.  All with hefty egos. Most of them brought in to simply take the dreaded “evil empire down”. And they did. They just didn’t make it to the big dance. The 2014 Division title winners has names like Pearce, Schoop, Flaherty, Caleb Joseph, Chen, Tilman, Britton, Buck-Buck and yes, Jones, Markakis and Hardy. All with a story, all without such egos, all with their own nuances of how this cast of characters combined to take the AL East by storm since July.

Three big reasons why they are where they are. Markakis, Cruz, Pearce. Pearces’ blast last night to clearly send the message to the Blow Jays – Not Tonight! “The Answer – in the first inning.”

This year is unique. They won when they weren’t expected to. Yeah, we all HOPED and thought they had a chance. But come on, Weiters going down, Manny on DL to start and to finish, the big Ubaldomore bust, Hunter blowin’ it in the closer role, Davis not hitting for any type of average and then pulling a numbnut move……….come on, our hopes were stretching it. But the O’s never gave up. Yes, I’ll say it………they “Grind it out” and it’s true…..it’s what they do. Very few blow-outs. Even up against tough pitching and unless that guy had enough in the tank to complete the game……….it always seemed they had a chance. They playing through adversity, have perseverance and faith that they have what it takes. You go O’s or should that be “Let’s Go O’s”!

How about that crowd last night? The Yard/pot was a brewin’ since the Friday afternoon game vs. the Yankees. There was an explosion of cheers after that 11th inning win, that rivaled the Blue Angels fly byes, that day. And last night, whether on the radio or television, you could feel the adrenaline pumping from Camden Yards. Pearces’ blast in the first inning set the tone. Jimenez working out of trouble was refreshing. Then the solidifier – De Aza’s triple. So cool. They were not going to be denied. Even with the whining scum Blow Jays attempting some sort of retaliation from the night before and for what it still baffles me. Toronto Blow Jays organization = Classless. You go Darren O’day – O’day! You earned a vote for Oriole MVP.

Speaking of which, who is your Oriole MVP of 2014? If they win the World Series, it’s hands down, Buck-Buck. As far as players, I’ll go with,  hmmmm, “I wonder who Fedman would pick?” Yes, the best right fielder in baseball – Markakis. “Nicky” stepping up and taking on the lead-off roll, being the longest tenured Oriole and a stellar example of how the game should be played – It’s Markakis! With Steve Pearce a close 2nd.

They have put themselves in the position to excel. They have a shot. They have Buck-Buck. It would be nice if the O’s can make it into October intact as they are right now. It would be extremely undesirable to lose a key player now. Duquette has been playing a nice poker game so far. He’s brought in some nice “gold nuggets”, as Buck-Buck would say. They have been surprising. Now it’s time to hunker down, stay fresh and minimize potential injury. What a run. So cool. I would rather not see Detroit in the playoffs. But you know what? Hopefully, these Birds are going to continue to surprise us. What a Wednesday. What a celebration of Sweeeeeet Emoootion.

D.I.Y.

Fedman

 

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