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Twelve Orioles thoughts on quiet trade deadline

Posted on 01 August 2019 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles making only a minor-league trade before Wednesday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. I had no problem with Mike Elias standing pat after the Andrew Cashner deal. He had little urgency to force any trades with a roster lacking any pending free agents aside from Mark Trumbo. These guys can be dealt this winter with minimal consequence to their value in a vacuum.

2. Teams are valuing young prospects more and more and simply aren’t giving up anything real for middle-of-the-road talent, even those with years of control remaining. The truth is the Orioles just didn’t have much to give up that really moves the meter for a contender.

3. Last year’s return of mostly minor-league filler reminded that making trades for the sake of doing it — the Kevin Gausman and Jonathan Schoop deals come to mind — isn’t wise. As Elias said, a trade offers “a quick high,” but it’s wrong if you don’t believe in the names you’re getting.

4. Trey Mancini is a good player with three more years of control, but think back to the many productive first base or designated hitter types the Orioles have acquired cheaply over the last eight or nine years. Right now, I believe he has more value in Baltimore than anywhere else.

5. However, I don’t understand the persistent chatter about a Mancini extension considering he’ll hit free agency before his age 31 season. I literally typed this thought as Chris Davis struck out to lower his average to .187. Let’s see where Mancini and the club are in another year or two.

6. Some pointed to the many available relievers to explain Mychal Givens remaining, but teams looking for help are focused on the present before the future. Two more years of control is nice, but Givens owns a 4.54 ERA and has allowed 10 homers. Not attractive for a pennant race.

7. Jonathan Villar not being traded was mildly surprising since he has only one more year of control, but he’s the kind of player likely lost in the wash with the elimination of the August waiver deadline. A good finish probably keeps his offseason value similar to where it was Wednesday.

8. Hanser Alberto has been one of the better stories of 2019 and is fun to watch, but did anyone really expect a team to trade anything of interest for a guy who’s had a few nice months on the heels of being waived four times this past winter? Come on.

9. Even if only giving up cash, Philadelphia must have really liked Dan Straily’s 2.38 ERA in six Norfolk starts to even consider acquiring him. He’s still tied for 12th in the AL in homers allowed despite last pitching for the Orioles on June 18.

10. In dealing All-Star closer Shane Greene and outfielder Nick Castellanos, Detroit probably became the favorite to secure the 2020 first overall pick. If you want to be upset about the Orioles not making any trades, that’s probably the appropriate lens through which to look.

11. The lack of trades didn’t fuel any outrage about the Orioles “tanking.” They’re clearly not doing everything possible to win at the major league level after a 115-loss season in which they were actually trying, but Elias could have made trades solely to dump salary and make the club worse.

12. Elias just watched his old boss, Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow, complete a deadline trade for a former Cy Young Award winner and legitimate ace for the second time in three years. It sure will be fun if he’s in that position with the Orioles in four or five years.

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Ejection call on Hammel possibly avoidable but understandable

Posted on 01 June 2013 by Luke Jones

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BALTIMORE — Needless to say, the main topic of conversation following the Orioles’ 10-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers was the fourth-inning ejection of starting pitcher Jason Hammel.

The right-hander had just surrendered three consecutive home runs before plunking left fielder Matt Tuiasosopo in the left shoulder on the first pitch of the at-bat. Home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt immediately tossed Hammel — the first ejection of his career — despite objections from the pitcher, manager Buck Showalter, and catcher Matt Wieters arguing that he had thrown a slider.

Many fans were infuriated by the decision with it commonly accepted that pitchers will use their fastball to drill hitters intentionally, but allowing three straight homers eliminates most benefit of the doubt in that instance. The Orioles’ position was predictable, acknowledging where the umpire was coming from but maintaining Hammel’s innocence as the pitcher expressed there was “zero intent” to drill the Tigers outfielder after the game.

Truthfully, I don’t believe Hammel was throwing at him intentionally and a warning probably would have been as effective considereing it was a breaking pitch, but the starter’s own ineffectiveness eliminated most benefit of the doubt and put Wendelstedt in a difficult position that can escalate quickly and become very emotional if not treated with assertiveness.

“I understand his position; I still don’t understand why he threw me out,” Hammel said. “That was the quickest toss I’ve ever seen. It was almost immediate, so, he didn’t have time to asses the situation.”

Unless you talked to the Tigers fan base, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who is 100-percent convinced that Hammel was intentionally throwing at the batter in frustration. His command was poor throughout the short outing and both he and Showalter mentioned that several sliders had slipped out of the pitcher’s hand on a 90-degree day in Baltimore.

But, ultimately, no one knows for sure whether Hammel was trying to hit Tuiasosopo on purpose other than the pitcher himself, so it’s a tough call to make with almost two-thirds of the game remaining. In most situations like these, umpires are instructed to err on the side of order before an altercation can potentially take place later on.

“It’s tough on umpires trying to judge intent, but they get a lot of pressure from the major league offices,” Showalter said. “But obviously we’re biased, very biased. I understand what the umpire’s trying to do, but it’s very tough for them to judge intent.”

The decision in this case was more about taking a preventative measure than it was about disciplining Hammel. And in the heat of an emotional moment, the umpire threw him out even though Tigers manager Jim Leyland told reporters after the game his club didn’t feel Hammel hit Tuiasosopo on purpose.

The Orioles were understandably unhappy, but there’s no way of proving the general rule of using the fastball to hit someone intentionally as an absolute. And it’s likely the hometown fans would have been calling for the same outcome if opposing starter Justin Verlander had done the same exact thing.

“I know you’ve seen guys trying to get by with doing that with a breaking ball,” Showalter said, “but most guys that I’ve ever seen do it want to make sure everyone knows. If you’re doing that, you’re going to throw a fastball — not a breaking ball.”

As for the impact of Hammel’s ejection on the game, it didn’t really matter as the right-hander was clearly unable to command his fastball like he had in each of his last two starts — both victories — and T.J. McFarland, Troy Patton, and Tommy Hunter went the rest of the way for the Orioles.

Showalter said after the game he felt the bullpen should be in decent shape for Sunday’s series finale in which rookie Kevin Gausman goes against the Tigers’ powerful lineup. Steve Johnson only threw four pitches on Friday night and should be available in a long-relief role while Hunter was appearing in his first game since Wednesday and threw only 12 pitches in a scoreless ninth.

A day off on Monday should do the trick in providing the necessary rest to get the bullpen back on track, regardless of how Gausman fares.

After the game, Hammel was angriest about the position his ejection put on the bullpen — telling Showalter after the game he could pitch in relief on Sunday if needed — but he put himself in position to be judged harshly.

“You can issue a warning there,” Showalter said. “Obviously, three balls left the park and then a breaking ball hits the guy. You put yourself in their shoes and put yourself in our shoes. That’s what I try to do. I can’t speak for the umpire. I understand the intent of what they were trying to do.”

And maintaining control of the game was more important than giving Hammel a break in that situation.

Even if it might have been the wrong call.

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