Baltimore Orioles: Don’t look to Pittsburgh as an example

The Baltimore Orioles would do well not to look to the Pittsburgh Pirates as an example of how to rebuild. Many folks want to see the Orioles do what Pittsburgh did with Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. However look closely at those trades – please.

Pittsburgh in essence allowed themselves to get fleeced. They traded Cole and McCutchen to Houston and San Francisco respectively. And in return for the two of them they received six players. All are either young minor league prospects, or young major leaguers with little experience.

This reaks of a team that desperately wanted to just rid themselves of players who may or may not be a part of their future. Having said that, McCutchen was the face of that franchise – very much in the tradition of Adam Jones with the Orioles. On top of that, he’s a Pittsburgh native. It’s not often that a player of his caliber comes along who’s literally from your city. And they traded him away.

Again, that’s what they felt like they needed to do to make their team better in the long run. And perhaps time and consequence will prove them to be right. However outwardly, it appears that they simply took whatever Houston and San Francisco were willing to offer them.

So…do fans really want the Orioles to take that route? Sure they wouldn’t have to worry about the Machado saga anymore, and sure some would argue that getting something (anything) is better than getting nothing. But is it really worth getting pennies on the dollar? Because from my standpoint right now at this moment, that’s what Pittsburgh got for a perennial all-star center fielder and an ace pitcher.

I suppose the point here is that the Orioles are steadfast in what they want and expect in return for their players. Former GM Andy MacPhail once said that he wouldn’t allow other teams to undervalue their players. It appears that’s what Pittsburgh’s brass allowed Houston and San Francisco to do. And go figure, McCutchen will now return to PNC Park, in his hometown of Pittsburgh, to play against his former team as a member of the Giants.

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Baltimore Orioles: Line of equilibrium on a potential Manny Machado trade

The Baltimore Orioles have gotten numerous offers on Manny Machado. That’s nothing new. Neither is the fact that the Birds haven’t gotten an offer for anything that was remotely in the range of what they want in return for Machado. It’s no secret that the Orioles want pitching. It’s also no secret that nobody’s offering pitching.

So the O’s remain at an impasse. Arizona has remained engaged and interested in trading for Machado – but like everyone else, they haven’t been able to put together a pitching-centric package of players. However the question is where the line of justice and equilibrium lies.

There are people out there who will tell you that the Orioles are asking for too much. Maybe they are, for all I know. Backing up that point I suppose would be the fact that nobody’s offering what the Orioles want. But is that the truth, or is the truth more in the inverse view: that perhaps other teams are simply being stingy?

That’s what the Orioles need to figure out. Ideally, you want a trade to be somewhat mutually beneficial. Some may suggest that’s not necessarily the case given that you want to ensure that you win the trade. And yes, in fact you want to perhaps get somewhat the better end. However look at the trade which brought the likes of Jones and Tillman to Baltimore. It was incredibly one-sided.

That puts teams on notice that if they trade with you they might end up getting screwed over. But you also don’t want the opposite to be true; if you give up the farm for peanuts, everyone and their brother will be after your players. So when talking trades, you want to stay in that equilibrium zone. But where that is could be anyone’s guess.

Baltimore Orioles: Does the east coast media fail the fans?

Most of the Baltimore Orioles’ media tries to call things down the middle – I’m no exception. And unbiased reporting is really a trademark of the east coast in a sense. Now that’s not to say that there isn’t a slant in a sense, because there is. Speaking for myself, I do call things down the middle – but from the Orioles’ perspective.

As an example, I’ll always use the term ORIOLES when referring to the team. However when I refer to the opposing team, I usually use the city name. Now there are exceptions – sometimes using the city name too much at once sounds odd, so in that instance I might throw in the team name here and there. But in old school baseball that’s kind of how it was down. And it’s the same concept of having the team name plastered on the front of the white home jerseys, and the city name on the gray away jerseys.

But for the most part, most of us try to call things down the center. That isn’t necessarily the case in other places. Former ChiSox announcer Hawk Harrelson was well-noted for referring to the Chicago players as us, we, our team, etc. Big no-no in my book. I’ve heard the Palmers, Dempseys, and Bordicks of the world do that on occasion also – but they actually played for the Orioles. There’s a difference.

Over the weekend I was listening to the New Orleans radio call of that team’s NFC Playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings. I noticed that concept of referring to the team in the first person, and it was blatant. It wasn’t just once or twice – it was across the board. And I’ve noticed similar things on local radio or television calls in other cities.

So…as writers, announcers, etc, do we fail the fans in this region by sticking to what I would consider to be good journalistic ethics? There’s a certain joie de vivre that seems to come with following a team in certain areas of the country. Certainly one can point to the Chicago Cubs, the aforementioned Saints, and others. Here on the east coast there’s almost a misery that comes with it, as we take it so seriously we even critique how the people who cover the team operate.

One thing I say a lot and that we hear a lot here on the east coast is that sports is a business. And that’s part of this same narrative. Is it a wonder that attendance and ratings are down in many places for many teams? The loss the Saints suffered on Sunday was devastating. However odds are the fans went right back to partying on Bourbon Street. The Ravens were eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago in similar fashion…and people are still grousing about it.

I’m not sure what the answer is. However I know that a writer or announcer playing like he’s on the team isn’t it – perhaps contrary to what I said above.

Baltimore Orioles: MLK Day and MLB

Along with the rest of the nation, the Baltimore Orioles celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. day today. It’s a federal holiday – for those lucky enough to have it off. And we should never treat this as just a three-day weekend. Dr. King dedicated his entire life to achieving civil rights for African-Americans, and in reality all Americans.

And at the end of the day, that fight cost him his life. However all Americans owe him a debt of gratitude, because America could never truly be America until all of her citizenry were seen as equal under the law. In this fight for civil rights, baseball of course plays a special role. Before Dr. King, Rosa Parks, et al, there was Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in 1947. That started the ball rolling.

However well before that, baseball had the old old Negro Leagues. And Baltimore had a franchise which played from 1916-1933 – the Baltimore Black Sox. The Black Sox won the 1929 Negro League Championship, and the Orioles have honored their tradition twice (2007 and 2014) by wearing their uniforms as throwbacks.

The team disbanded after 1933, however they had quite a run during their tenure in Baltimore. Down the road Washington D.C. also had a Negro League team, referred to as the (Washington) Homestead Grays. This team was in essence shared between D.C. and Pittsburgh, which I find somewhat odd. But nevertheless, the tradition of the Negro Leagues in the mid-Atlantic region is very strong.

On this MLK Day, we should honor the tradition of ALL African-Americans who made both our league and our country great. And that includes the likes of Adam Jones, who’s helped to rejuvenate baseball in the inner city through his work with the Boys and Girls Club of Baltimore. But none of that would be possible if not for the work done by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who we as a nation honor today.

Baltimore Orioles: How does Donaldson affect Manny Machado?

The Baltimore Orioles will be paying Manny Machado $16 million this upcoming year. Or someone will be – this much we know. However another AL East third baseman signed a record contract for an arbitration-eligible player on Friday. Toronto signed Josh Donaldson to a one-year $23 million deal. Again, that’s a league record.

So how does this affect Machado, if at all? Well in the interim it doesn’t. Machado will making his $16 million, and Donaldson his $23 million. But it might come 2019. Notice I said might.

Machado is the best third baseman in baseball. He has been for a few seasons. Donaldson’s a darn good player, however. For his career, Machado’s hitting .279; Donaldson chimes in at .277. However in the field is where the two separate a bit. Machado’s fielding at a .967 clip for his career, with Donaldson at .956. Now with that said, while Donaldson’s a great third baseman who’s capable of amazing plays in his own right, neither he nor anyone else has Machado’s range. FACT.

So next season when Machado’s contract is up and he’s looking for a new deal (in Baltimore or elsewhere), don’t think that his agent won’t bring up the fact that a lesser third baseman made $7 million less than Machado in base salary in 2018. (I wouldn’t expect that Machado would feel slighted in his salary this year, because the fact is that he agreed to it in conjunction with the Orioles. If he thinks he’s underpaid, he has himself and his agent to blame for not negotiating a higher one.) From his agent’s perspective, my client is a better player than Mr. Donaldson, and he should be making a higher salary.

Incidentally, Donaldson also did himself a favor because when his deal is up after this season his agent will be negotiating from a position of strength. My client won’t accept a year-over-year salary that’s lower than what he made last season. That’s how the business of sports works, folks. Some might question what the difference is between $16 and $23 million. For regular people, that’s a valid point. But an agent’s response would be $7 million. And that’s a lot.

But remember that above I said that Donaldson’s situation could impact Machado. That indicates that it isn’t set in stone. Machado wants to play shortstop  this year, whether it’s with the Orioles or someone else. If in fact he moves back to his natural position, he’ll cease to be the best third baseman in baseball. Not because his skills would have diminished, but because he won’t be playing third base anymore.

If that ends up happening, then using Donaldson’s deal as leverage is going to be much tougher. Negotiating parties will argue you can’t compare these two players and/or their salaries because one’s a third baseman and one’s a shortstop. And that’s a very valid point. But let’s put it this way; both Donaldson and Machado are going to be paid handsomely in 2019 and beyond.

Baltimore Orioles: Five of seven arbitration-eligible players sign

The Baltimore Orioles were very busy yesterday. Ironically, the deadline to sign arbitration-eligible players before a hearing would have in theory been scheduled was 1 PM. However that’s almost a funny-dud type of deadline. Because players and teams often don’t make it to the hearing since they usually come to an agreement well before. Or sometimes the day of the hearing.

All players that the Orioles signed were after that 1 PM deadline. But again, big deal. The first was Manny Machado, who agreed to a salary of $16 million plus incentives. Caleb Joseph signed for $1.25 million, and Tim Beckham for $3.35 million. The big name was obviously Machado…as if the situation involving him wasn’t complicated enough already.

Brad Brach agreed to a $5.165 million deal later in the afternoon. Brach you’ll remember became only the second player in Peter Angelos’ stewardship of the Orioles to beat the team in an arbitration hearing last year. It made him a folk hero of sorts in the Orioles’ clubhouse. The Birds also reached a deal with closer Zach Britton, for $12 million. However keep in mind that he may miss half the season – at least.

That leaves Jonathan Schoop, and Kevin Gausman. So they’ll have arbitration hearings scheduled, but again the sides can reach an agreement before the hearings. I’ve long said that arbitration in MLB is the stupidest process in sports. If you actually go to arbitration the team’s in essence arguing that you, their player, aren’t worth the money that you think you are. Nevertheless, five out of seven players isn’t bad. And my prediction is that neither Gausman nor Schoop ends up going to arbitration.

Baltimore Orioles: 2018 MLB game times announced

You know it’s a slow news day when I’m writing about what time the Baltimore Orioles are going to be playing. But nevertheless MLB released it’s entire schedule earlier this week in terms of game times. The Orioles had released the times for their home games some time ago, but now we know exactly what time they’ll be playing for all games.

There’s really nothing strange per se of which to note. Thursday April 5th they play at the NY Yankees in a game that’s to start at 6:35 as opposed to the normal 7 PM. Similarly, they play at 6:40 PM later in the month for two games at Detroit. Are teams starting to move back their start times just a bit? One day prior to that in fact the Orioles get to play the traditional Patriot’s Day game at Fenway Park in Boston. That’s an 11 AM start.

Both home and away, there are a few mid-week day games sprinkled into the schedule – including May 16th at home vs. Philadelphia. That’s a 12:35 start. I’m a proponent of mid-week day games, and I think they’re something that more teams should do more often. Obviously studies have been done so as to see when games should start so as to maximize attendance. And in most cities on the eastern seaboard I suspect that the 7 PM hour works best.

There’ll be a few games (home and away) at 4 PM on Saturdays here and there, but of course all of that depends on when the FOX window is for that given week. In fact, they’ll have a 4 PM late afternoon matinee on the Fourth of July in Philadelphia – but that’s mid-week. Get your fireworks ready.

One thing that will be just a bit different for home games this year (as has been reported in the past) is that Sunday games at Camden Yards will begin at 1 PM as opposed to 1:30 this year. It’s unclear why the Orioles made this change, but I’m all for it. Anything that moves up my arrival time at home after games is a good thing!