Baltimore Orioles need to find a way to honor Chuck Thompson

I thought it was a great gesture for the Baltimore Orioles to honor their MLB Hall of Famers with statues in the outfield picnic area in 2012. All of the ceremonies were very well done, and I feel like the fans really got a kick out of them. And it didn’t hurt that it coincided with the re-birth of the Orioles as a winning franchise. However there’s still one Oriole Hall of Fame member who doesn’t have the recognition he deserves at Camden Yards.

I write a column on this topic every year towards the end of spring training, and quite honestly it’s one of my favorite ones to write. The great Chuck Thompson was the voice of the Orioles on both television and radio for years and years. While he also did some play-by-play work for the Washington Senators in the 1950’s, he was a voice and a persona that belonged uniquely to Baltimore. Granted he did some national work, but he was always Baltimore’s voice.

Thompson of course called Orioles games, as well as Baltimore Colts’ games. Odds are that any big time Baltimore sports moment until the 1980’s featured Thompson behind the mic. He retired in 1983, but returned to the radio both part-time a few years later before retiring in 2000 for good. And it’s in those latter years of his career that I remember him in my own youth. However as great of an announcer as he was even then, he really came to life for me from the stories told by my Dad and my Uncles of him from years before.

We all know the catchphrases…ain’t the beer cold, and go to war, Ms. Agnes! Those were vintage Chuck Thompson phrases, which represented summertime, BBQ’s, the beach, and Orioles baseball to us all. Speaking for myself, I always loved how at times Thompson would reverse his words in terms of how one might have otherwise said something. “…bats from the left side, does Eddie Murray,” as opposed to “Eddie Murray bats from the left side.” It’s little things like that which make hometown announcers in baseball the best. And Thompson was no exception.

So my issue is that short of his name being in the Orioles’ hall of fame, there’s no recognition of Thompson or his role in the organization at the ballpark. And I think that’s a shame. The Washington Nationals aptly dedicated their press box in honor of the great writer, Shirley Povich. That’s exactly the type of thing I’d like to see the Orioles consider doing. Because Chuck Thompson was an institution in and of himself. He was as much a part of the great Oriole teams of yesteryear as any of the players or coaches. It was through his voice, that fans followed the team. And to those of us who didn’t grow up watching games on our iPads or phones, that still means a lot.

So I would love to see the Orioles do something along the lines of what the Nationals did for Shirley Povich. Or perhaps simply name the radio booth in honor of Thompson. As the 1993 winner of the Ford C. Frick award, he is an MLB Hall of Famer. And thus he should be viewed as such.

The O’s will take on Minnesota in Fort Myers this evening. Mike Wright will be on the mound for the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by Minnesota’s Ervin Santana. Game time is set for just after 7 PM

Baltimore Orioles leave the game to Chance

The Baltimore Orioles left the game outcome to chance last night, as Chance Sisco’s three-run homer in the eighth won it for the Birds.

If the Baltimore Orioles were counting wins and losses at this stage, they sure would be lucky that they inserted minor league catcher Chance Sisco into the lineup late in last night’s game. But that’s only if they were counting wins and losses. And as we know, at this stage they aren’t.

Starter Chris Lee struggled in his two innings of work, and at times almost came off as if he was overthrowing. Lee’s line: 2.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K. Now in fairness Lee only gave up two runs. However his pitch count was in the fifties after two innings; that’s not where he needs to be. However after the game Showalter expressed that he felt Lee would get to where he needs to be. It’s unclear if that means the Orioles intend to break camp with Lee on the roster or not, however it was somewhat of a vote of confidence after a lackluster outing.

Tampa put those two runs up on Lee in the first inning off of two RBI-singles. However the O’s rebounded an inning later with a Kim RBI-single to cut the lead to 2-1. Chris Johnson came up with one on in the last of the fourth and smacked a two-run homer to put the Orioles in the lead.

However in typical Tampa fashion, one inning later Rasmus smacked a two-run shot of his own that gave Tampa the lead back at 4-3. I say typical Tampa fashion because their attitude has always been anything you can do, I can do better. Tampa’s a very loose team, and while the intensity of win now seems to affect everyone else, it’s never really bothered them. Such is life at times.

The Birds were able to tie the game at four on a Davis RBI-groundout in the last of the fifth. As the game wore on, regular players started rotating out in the seventh and eighth innings. You know that you’re getting later and later in the spring when everyday players are stickin around that long in these games!

However I suppose it was a pre-determined fact that the game itself would be decided by reserves. That’s normally the case in these spring games. So with two on in the last of the eighth, Chance Sisco came up to bat. And he sent a deep shot towards left field, which you knew was gone if it only stayed fair…it drifted towards the foul line as it headed towards the wall, giving the impression that it was going foul. But then it smacked clean into the foul pole, giving Sisco a three-run homer and the Orioles an eventual 7-4 victory.

At the end of the day, wins and losses don’t matter. But it’s always nice to win if you’re the Orioles, especially when the “catcher of the future” is the guy who turned in the winning runs. Going back to the pitching for just a moment, while Lee had some shaky moments, both Zach Britton and Tyler Wilson got into the middle innings of this game. And both looked incredibly solid. That’s a good sign.

The Orioles weren’t the only ones making news last night; Team USA blanked Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic final game, 8-0. Anyone who wasn’t already familiar with Adam Jones‘ body of work as a big league player, knows who he is now. And now as a world champion, Jones is headed back to Orioles’ camp in Sarasota.

Today is the second of two off days for the Orioles in camp. So with no game this afternoon and this evening, there’s not much left to say other than enjoy the Sweet 16 games tonight!

Baltimore Orioles: Ubaldo Jimenez deserved better in loss to Toronto

There are few members of the Baltimore Orioles who have been as maligned as Ubaldo Jimenez the past few years. This is of course the fourth and final year of his contract, and most O’s fans would argue that to this point he hasn’t lived up to expectations. Fans looking at his line score from this afternoon probably would assume that he’s continuing to struggle. However look deeper and you might be surprised. Jimenez’s line: 4.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 5 K.

Jimenez gave up four runs with two outs, many of which coming off of balls that weren’t hit too hard. And that’s been a defect of the Orioles overall the past few years; teams can sometimes bleed them to death by a thousand cuts. Toroto got a two-RBI single and a two-RBI double in the fourth inning to take a 4-0 lead. In that sequence, only the two-RBI double (by Pillar) was a solidly hit ball. It also included a ball that was ruled a hit, but misplayed by catcher Caleb Joseph. The ball went almost straight up in the air, and fell near the mound as Joseph lost it in the sun.

And those are the breaks that you get when you’re bleeding someone to death by a thousand cuts. For his part, Jimenez felt that this outing was better than his last (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports):

Today was even better. After the first inning I was able to throw all my pitches. I was cruising along. I was attacking the hitters. The split, the slider, the changeup, every pitch was working to both sides until the last inning. We got in trouble a little bit.

The Orioles also got a solo home run out of Chris Davis in the last of the fourth, as well as an additional run on a passed ball. Toronto would add a sac fly-RBI in the eighth. Davis’ home run was his first of the spring, although his walks are way up – which is a good thing.

As I said above, Jimenez is a guy who’s been maligned frequently. He’s had his struggle for sure, however sometimes I do believe that some of the criticism is a bit over-the-top. He’s also had stretches were he’s been good. Look no further than last September, when he was the Orioles’ most consistent pitcher down the stretch in a playoff chase. He was also the winning pitcher in what amounted to a spot start on September 16, 2014 – the night the Orioles clinched the AL East pennant.

However up to this point I’ve also said that the Orioles couldn’t DFA Jimenez on occasions when fans have commented that they should. That would have entailed continuing to pay him, while he potentially pitched for another team. And that’s just poor business if you ask me. However as he enters the final year of his contract, I suspect that the Orioles have a bit more flexibility. If he struggles or becomes a liability, they might consider doing something like that. Granted he would still be collecting his salary from the Orioles and could in essence sign anywhere, but it would only be for the duration of this season. That’s a lot different than doing it with 2-3 years left on his contract.

The Orioles will remain in Sarasota, but won’t play again until tomorrow evening when Tampa comes to town. Chris Lee will get the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Chris Archer. Game time is set for just after 6 PM.

 

Baltimore Orioles: How does camp translate to Opening Day?

Buck Showalter‘s Baltimore Orioles have approximately a week-and-a-half left in Grapefruit League play. So use this as your now almost weekly reminder that wins and losses still don’t mean anything at this point. The O’s will finish up Grapefruit League play next Thursday against Detroit at Ed Smith Stadium, head to Norfolk, VA on Friday to take on the Tides (what amounts to an intersquad scrimmage in a sense), and then head home to Baltimore for Opening Day on April 3rd.

But if wins and losses don’t mean anything, why am I writing game recaps and giving analysis? It’s spring training for me as well, folks! In fact, every year about this time I read my game recaps and I wonder if I’ve “lost it” in a sense. It always seems like last year’s game recaps and analysis were so much better. But the fact is that there’s nary any ebb or flow to these articles, just as there’s nary any ebb or flow to these games. It all goes hand-in-hand.

Individual game performances are more important at this stage than wins and losses, and we’ve seen quite a few good ones. And a few lackluster as well. And the final roster will reflect that, as will the minor league rosters. But how does what the Orioles are doing now translate once the lights come on for real?

It all boils back down to fundamentals. Are cut off men hit, are throws going back into the correct base, that type of thing. We know that this team is going to hit for some power, so that’s all but a given. But it’s the intangibles that win or lose games. Intangibles like I listed above.

While Oriole pitching got beaten around yesterday in Fort Myers, Now whether or not anyone who saw action in that game ends up on the 25-man roster is another story. Wade Miley was supposed to start, but he was scratched due to an illness.

And that can be a problem as well this time of year. There’s always one or two teams who seem to have a flu virus ravage their clubhouse. Chris Davis had something last week, and now Miley was scratched with an illness as well. So fundamentals are great to preach, but meaningless if guys aren’t on the field.

Nevertheless, if results are any indication I suspect that fundamentals have translated over in the regular season through most of Buck Showalter’s camps. The line between winning and losing is so thin in baseball, and it’s fundamentals that put certain teams over the top. So while the players need to remain relaxed in the spring training atosphere for the next week-and-a-half or so, they also want to ensure that they’re playing the game fundamentally correct. Because in less than two weeks wins and losses will in fact matter.

The Orioles will return to Sarasota this afternoon to take on the Toronto Blue Jays. Ubaldo Jimenez will get the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: Kevin Gausman strong in loss

As long as we’re still talking about games that don’t count, yesterday should count as a good day for Kevin Gausman and the Baltimore Orioles. Gausman pitched five incredibly solid innings against Detroit, putting the Birds in a spot to win the game. Gausman’s line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K.

The eight strikeouts really stick out to me. While that will eventually make your pitch count tick up, it also means that Gausman was greasing the strike zone with his pitches. And that’s a good sign for the Orioles’ presumed Opening Day starter.

The O’s took a 1-0 lead in the last of the second on Trey Mancini‘s RBI-double. However that’s all that they were able to muster on the day. And in terms of winning the game, that’s never a good sign.

Detroit tied the game in the sixth with a McCann RBI-single, and later took a 2-1 lead when they netted a run on a double-play. and while Detroit is actually a power-hitting club, that’s very indicative of AL Central baseball. Any run scored in any manner is a small victory. And it drives power-hitting teams like the Orioles crazy.

Detroit would put five more runs on the board in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings. This included a two-run home run in the top of the ninth. This came on the heels of a hit batsman, which as we know gives your opponent a free base runner. And the Orioles ended up paying for it.

In terms of wins and losses, the good news is that the “regulars” were already out of the game when Detroit made their run. I put that in quotes because the Orioles haven’t had a full slate of regulars since the beginning of the WBC. The likes of Machado and Castillo will return to camp at some point this week. However Jones and Givens are still playing for Team USA.

All Oriole players have been told to take their time returning to the club once their team’s run is over. It’s not as if guys haven’t been getting their reps in the WBC, so there’s no need to rush them back to get in one extra game or so. In a way, you want to stockpile your rest at this point to prepare for the long season ahead.

The Orioles will head down to Ft. Myers this afternoon for an additional engagement against the BoSox. Wade Miley will get the start for the Birdsand he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Kyle Kendrick. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

Baltimore Orioles: The Oriole Way is the American Way

In Adam Jones, the Baltimore Orioles have the best centerfielder in America. Now some of you are going to say that’s incorrect, or you’ll disagree. And that’s okay. But the fact is that Jones is the starting centerfielder for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Out of every centerfielder in baseball, he was chosen.

And in Jones, Team USA has found a leader much in the same way that the Orioles did as soon as he came to Baltimore. Along with his American teammates, Jones will play in the semi-finals of the WBC on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium against Japan. If the US wins that game, they’ll advance to the final game on Wednesday night.

Jones has been a part of several very memorable moments thus far in the WBC, mostly at the plate. However in last night’s 6-3 win over the Dominican Republic, he made a play for the ages. If you haven’t already seen it, click here.

Ironically, the man on the other side of this play is also an Oriole: Manny Machado. He sent a deep shot to right centerfield…any other centerfielder, and it’s probably a home run. However somehow, Jones ran it down and made a catch that may well be long remembered in international baseball circles. He climbed the wall and brought a sure home run back into the ballpark.

However the majesty and ambiance of the moment didn’t end there. As he saw what happened while rounding the bases, Machado paused and raised his batting helmet in the air towards his Orioles teammate in recognition for what he had done, before heading back to his team’s dugout. While it was and always will be “Jones’ moment,” the fact that it was Machado on the other end and the fact that he doffed his cap towards his teammate and friend made it a uniquely “Baltimore moment” as well.

What we saw in that moment was a guy hustling faster perhaps than he had ever hustled before to get to the ball. Then using the wall as his support, he lept skyward and brought it back into the ballpark, negating a home run. And then on the flip side, we see the guy on the other end of that great play recognizing it – and recognizing that it was his (Orioles’) teammate who made it.

“The Oriole Way” has always been a fundamental approach to the game. But in the same tradition as “Dodger Blue,” it’s also a level of par in terms of how the game is played and the respect that it should be shown. Part of that of course is respecting one’s opponents. Too often we’re seeing sports figures who literally have only respect for one thing besides money: themselves.

And we see it all over; the NFL, NBA, and even in events such as cage fighting (which I don’t consider a sport). Taunting isn’t just accepted, it’s encouraged. And yes, we’ve seen it far too often in baseball of late as well; Jose Bautista‘s bat flip in the 2015 MLB playoffs ranks up there as a prime example. While I do agree that the name of the game is to win, all of us involved in baseball and in sports (players, coaches, writers, and fans) owe it to the very institution of the game to treat it right. And respect for the opponent has always been a big part of baseball.

So in that one moment we saw everything that The Oriole Way is about. And you see the sportsmanship that these guys have been taught, namely from Buck Showalter. As opposed to wallowing in the fact that he simply made a fly ball out, Machado paid homage to his teammate. And Jones deserved every bit of it by the way he hustled to the ball and never gave up.

But this goes deeper than just symbolizing The Oriole Way. It goes deeper than Orioles fans being proud of how their guys have performed in the WBC. It’s not just “The Oriole Way;” it’s truly “The American Way.”

Baltimore Orioles: Bronx Bombers can’t outslug the Birds

The Baltimore Orioles made their lone visit to George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa to play New York yesterday in the spring, and they ended up beating NY at their own game. While New York hasn’t exactly been the Bronx Bombers in a few years, they’re certainly making an effort to return themselves to that status. But it didn’t exactly work out that way yesterday afternoon with the O’s in town.

Dylan Bundy got the start for the Birds, and ended up getting beat around just a bit. Bundy’s line: 4 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 1 K. Bundy struggled with his control at times, but that’s also what these spring games are about in a sense. He gave up an RBI-single and a two-RBI double in the last of the third, and New York got out to a 3-0 lead. However one inning later the Birds showed that they came to play, as Pedro Alvarez smacked a solo homer.

Chris Johnson would add a two-run shot later in the inning, and suddenly the O’s were tied with the noveau Bronx Bombers. However Alvarez wasn’t done quite yet. In the top of the seventh he added an additional solo home run, giving the O’s a 4-3 lead.

New York would tie the game in the eighth with a solo shot of their own – off the bat of McKinney. But Rule 5 pick Aneury Tavarez was having none of that per se. His solo home run in the top of the ninth gave the O’s a 5-4 lead, which turned into a 5-4 win.

After the game Alvarez revealed to the media that he’s been working on his cutter this spring, and used it a lot in yesterday’s game (quote courtesy of Steve Melewski, MASNsports):

I think I bounced a couple, but that’s better than leaving them up. It’s getting better slowly. I plan on using it during the season. We haven’t talked too much about how much and if we’re going to limit using it.

And that really illustrates why we need to take these spring results and stats with a grain of salt. Often times guys go into games with an idea to work on a certain pitch or even location. So while the results weren’t what Bundy and the Orioles probably would have liked, odds are he used that cutter and some off speed pitches at a much higher rate than he would have in a regular season game.

And that type of thing is often the game within the game during spring training. Yes Bundy gave up four hits, three runs, and three walks. But he worked on his cutter a bit, and in that sense it was a successful outing from his standpoint. Obviously he hopes to use it much more effectively come the regular season, but that’s why he’s working on it now.

The Orioles will return to Sarasota and the home crowd this afternoon when Detroit comes to town. Kevin Gausman will get the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Detroit’s Matt Boyd. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.