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Twelve Orioles thoughts with 2020 season training resuming

Posted on 01 July 2020 by Luke Jones

With players and coaches returning to Camden Yards this week to resume training for the 2020 season amidst the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve offered a dozen Orioles thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Mike Elias said the organization had been “remarkably lucky” not to have any positive COVID-19 tests (as of Monday) while acknowledging the Orioles are “going to have cases.” It’s a realistic assessment and a reminder of just how uncertain this all is from even the most optimistic viewpoints.

2. To this point, the Orioles aren’t expecting any players to opt out of the 2020 season, but you wonder if the likes of Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond choosing not to play coupled with additional positive tests this week could change minds. It’s a personal decision that should be respected.

3. The inevitable became official Tuesday with the minor leagues canceling their season. The minors are critical to the game’s long-term health in not only developing prospects but also cultivating young fans around the country. I’m concerned with MLB’s inability — or cold refusal — to recognize that.

4. The Heston Kjerstad signing is official with the second overall pick from Arkansas receiving a $5.2 million bonus, which was $2.59 million below slot. Of course, no one will remember that if Kjerstad becomes a mainstay in right field and shows the potent left-handed bat the Orioles like so much.

5. The organization is telling Kjerstad and other 2020 draft picks to stay ready in hopes of being able to gather for instructional work at some point. Everyone’s in the same boat, but Baltimore losing so much development time in a season so inconsequential at the major league level is tough.

6. The first 44 players announced for the Orioles’ 60-man pool list made clear we’ll wait at least a little longer to see Ryan Mountcastle as well as Keegan Akin, Bruce Zimmermann, and Dean Kremer. Especially with Trey Mancini out, there’s no excuse not to give Mountcastle extensive at-bats.

7. With the potential statistical noise of a 60-game sprint of a season, Elias was asked how he’d handle the Orioles being a surprise contender at the trade deadline and replied that he’d “look at that very seriously.” Yeah, I’m not buying it either.

8. If a roster without its two best position players from 2019 — Mancini and Jonathan Villar — weren’t enough, a daunting schedule now including the entire NL East in addition to the usual AL East nightmares should halt any talk of the Orioles being Cinderella. There are much better sleeper picks.

9. In addition to the aforementioned prospects we could see at some point, Austin Hays, Hunter Harvey, John Means, and Anthony Santander provide incentives to watch a club still too short on talent expected to be in Baltimore for the long run. Another Means-like story or two would help.

10. Asked about his biggest prospect-related concerns, Elias noted the obvious long-term health of pitchers not accumulating innings and mentioned young hitters missing “key at-bats in their life cycle” as players. How many fringe talents who could have made it will never get a real chance now?

11. The labor war is exhausting and the pandemic concerns omnipresent, but I’m otherwise embracing the weirdness of a 60-game season as well as rule changes and quirks. Some of the best innovation comes through unusual circumstances. There’s been nothing traditional about 2020, so why start now?

12. Current frustrations with MLB aside, I appreciated the following video and wish the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues could have been celebrated in ballparks around the country. From Rube Foster’s vision to baseball royalty like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Buck O’Neil, these men need to be remembered.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts as baseball’s shutdown continues

Posted on 13 April 2020 by Luke Jones

With baseball’s shutdown continuing indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve offered a dozen Orioles thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The family of Al Kaline took out a regular obituary in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press, reflecting how unassuming the Hall of Famer nicknamed “Mr. Tiger” was. The Southern High product never forgot his Baltimore roots and collected his 3,000th hit at Memorial Stadium in 1974. What a story and life.

2. If you’re yearning for some optimism regarding a 2020 season, watch this Newsday interview with Daniel Kim, who provided insight on what’s happening in South Korea with the KBO and its goal to open the season in early May. A former Mets interpreter, Kim is a good follow on Twitter.

3. ESPN has reportedly explored the possibility of securing KBO broadcasting rights. If you’re looking for a potential rooting interest, former Orioles Hyun Soo Kim and Tyler Wilson play for the LG Twins and had strong 2019 seasons.

4. So much needs to happen before even considering MLB’s return in any capacity, but the Grapefruit-Cactus league realignment idea sounds more plausible than the Arizona-only “quarantine” concept floated early last week. Going from the AL East to the Grapefruit South division sure wouldn’t offer the rebuilding Orioles any break.

5. As a pro wrestling fan who’s watched televised shows without fans in attendance for weeks, I’d say the experience is weird and far from ideal, but I’ve been entertained. If it can work for a product so dependent on crowd interaction, that particular condition for a return plan seems tolerable.

6. The retiring Mark Reynolds could be frustrating to watch, but his 2011 blast into the club level (3:35 mark) was one of the more impressive homers at Camden Yards. How frequently he’d leave his feet playing first base was amusing, but he was much better there than at third base.

7. Wednesday will mark the 73rd anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s major league debut, but this year also brings the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues, which is scheduled to be celebrated this summer. I highly recommend a visit to Kansas City’s Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to any fan.

8. Speaking of anniversaries, Cal Ripken registered his 3,000th career hit 20 years ago this Wednesday. Good for him to launch the Strike Out Hunger campaign in conjunction with his new Twitter account. His message to Whit Merrifield — the active streak leader at 247 consecutive games — was fun.

9. We’re all coping without baseball in different ways, but I just can’t get into the simulated 2020 seasons some websites are using to provide content. I did notice Austin Hays already having six home runs in Baseball-Reference.com’s simulation. That’d be fun.

10. Along those lines, it’s strange to think that the Orioles would have already been a tenth of the way through the scheduled 2020 season. They would have been starting their third interleague series of the season on Tuesday, which also would have been weird this early.

11. Having watched plenty of old baseball recently, I was reminded Rick Sutcliffe pitched his five-hit shutout in 2 hours, 2 minutes to open Camden Yards 28 years ago. That was quite the Orioles debut, but the 2-0 final didn’t exactly paint an accurate picture of the ballpark’s eventual reputation.

12. I’d be embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve watched the Ken Burns “Baseball” documentary in my life, but its original release coincided with the 1994 strike that canceled the World Series. My latest viewing of it has helped amidst uncertainty of when we’ll have live baseball again.

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