Baltimore Orioles: Are the minor leagues as bad as people say?

Many people would argue that the Baltimore Orioles have left the cubbard bare with regard to the minor leagues. That may or may not be true. However another common criticism is that they can’t bring players along into the big leagues. Is that really true?

Perhaps it is with pitchers. Although I would submit that’s a bit overstated. However, the Orioles at one time thought that the likes of Ponson, Cabrera, Bergesen, Matusz, Arrieta, and others would be the future aces of the organization. That didn’t happen. However it appears that they’re hitting on the likes of Gausman, Bundy, and hopefully at some point Harvey.

But there’s another side to this; did Manny Machado not come through the Orioles’ farm system? Did Jonathan Schoop not do the same? How about Trey Mancini? Or Matt Wieters, who’s of course now down in D.C.?

Three of the aforementioned four are current starters on the Orioles right now. You can also add Caleb Joseph and even Chance Sisco to that list as well. (We don’t quite know what Sisco is or what he’s going to be, however at some point he’ll be a starter if he isn’t already.) So that’s somewhere between four and five out of six players who are expecting to see considerable playing time, and who are considered great players – all of whom came through the Orioles’ minor league system. And again, you can throw Gausman and Bundy in there as well.

So my point is this; is it really fair to say that the O’s can’t bring players through their system? Regardless of where he ends up and when, Manny Machado will always be a veteran of the Orioles’ farm system. So will the rest of them. That should speak volumes to people about the quality of coaches and instructors in the organization.

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Baltimore Orioles: Revisiting why you don’t trade in the division

I’m on record as saying that if the Baltimore Orioles are going to trade Manny Machado, it absolutely can’t be within the AL East. To me, the reasoning for this is obvious. However I’m seeing a lot of progressive-type thinking, which leads me to believe that people aren’t necessarily against the idea.

Teams don’t make trades for no reason. They make them to better themselves. In the Orioles’ case, trading Machado wouldn’t make them better…for now. But it could make them better in the future. A team trading FOR Machado is going to be better right now. Get that? RIGHT NOW. Still think trading in the division is a good idea?

Now on the flip side, you’re taking prospects away from your division rivals. And ultimately, it might well be a fair point to ask why you wouldn’t take a deal from say Boston or NY if in fact that’s the best deal out there. If that’s the best the Orioles can do, is it really smart of them to turn the offer down? Isn’t that akin to cutting off one’s nose to spite their face?

Perhaps it is. But ask yourselves…do the Orioles really need to make a deal? If anything, if they wait until the trade deadline and re-evaluate things based on the first half, they might get more for him than they otherwise would have. (If they decide to trade him at that time.) But the Orioles don’t need to worry about getting his salary off the books for any reason. So it’s not wise to take a deal just for the sake of making one.

And it’s not wise to basically help out your main competition. Yet many fans seem to question why the Orioles wouldn’t listen to offers from New York. And I suspect they’d be the same ones who would in turn question the Orioles further when thousands of fans come into Camden Yards wearing pinstriped Machado jerseys. Why did they do that? How could they do that?

I suppose that new school thinking says that you should at the very least consider trading within your division if the opportunity arises. But just because something’s new doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better.

Baltimore Orioles promote Brian Ebel to head athletic trainer

You may not know the name Brian Ebel, but odds are you’ve seen him on the bench during Baltimore Orioles’ games. He was the Asst. Athletic Trainer for 21 years under the legendary Richie Bancells. Bancells of course retired after 41 years on the job following the 2017 season.

Ebel always had the inside track to replace Bancells, although it wasn’t made official until yesterday. He’s been Bancells’ assistant for the past 21 years, and he started with the organization in 1985. So even without Bancells for the first time in over 40 years, the Orioles still have a tenured person as their head trainer.

As many injuries as the Orioles seem to amass each year, the fact that a familiar face will be leading the sports medicine effort in the clubhouse is a good thing. Ebel is a guy with whom players are already familiar, and who already knows their ins and outs. Hopefully, nothing skips a beat.

Baltimore Orioles: Does Manny Machado simply want out of Baltimore?

The Baltimore Orioles are still actively taking offers for third baseman Manny Machado. Over the weekend we heard once again that the New York Yankees had called on the Orioles regarding Machado. They’re interested – big time. However neither they nor any other team has been willing to offer the Orioles want they want and quite frankly what they deserve and need for Machado: pitching.

However that aside, there’s one part to this story that hasn’t been reported for awhile. When we first heard that the Orioles were shopping Machado (about a month ago), part of the narrative was that he wanted to play shortstop moving forward. And part of the Orioles’ methodology was that they didn’t have a need for him at shortstop, so they thought the timing might be right to trade him.

But we aren’t hearing too much about that any longer. In fact, we’re hearing about teams like New York who want him, but who do have a hole at third base. With Gregorious set as NY’s shortstop, Manny Machado would be guarding the hot corner in the Bronx if that’s where he went. Ultimately the Orioles probably don’t care too much about that, nor should they. At that point he’d be someone else’s issue if he wasn’t happy at third.

But was that either Machado’s agent or perhaps Machado himself saying that he simply wanted out of Baltimore? If that were the case, you might take a moment of pause and concern. Why would Manny Machado want out of Baltimore? By all accounts he’s never had an issue with anyone in the clubhouse, or the coaches, etc. He’s also said all the right things about the organization, and how he wouldn’t mind staying in Baltimore.

It’s hard to say, because few players are truly candid these days. Nor should they be. Most players are going to talk about what a class organization of which they’re a part and so forth, and how they really like being there. Who knows how true any of that is for any player. But one would hope that we could take Machado at his word.

Baltimore Orioles: Chemistry matters

The Baltimore Orioles have always had some of the best team chemistry in the league (during the Showalter era, that is). Not one guy who’s come through the Orioles’ clubhouse in the last few years has ever said anything to the contrary. And there’s a reason for that; the Birds vet every player from the bottom up. They look at their skill set and how that fits in with the roster, however they also look at the player’s personality and how he’ll fit in the clubhouse.

And I can tell you on pretty good authority that I know of at least one instance where a trade for a pretty darned good player was nixed because the guy’s personality wouldn’t have fit in with the current team. Some fans would say that’s incredibly foolish. However if someone’s going to be a locker room cancer, or one of those dreaded anonymous sources of which we hear in sports and in the news, he isn’t worth the commitment.

In looking at the news that came out about the NFL’s New England Patriots this week, you see the beginnings of a locker room coming apart. Coach Bill Belichek has done a masterful job of keeping that organization tight-lipped and professional during his tenure. And that’s honestly just a different way of doing the same thing, as compared to what the Orioles do. The O’s literally won’t add someone to the team that won’t fit in properly. The Patriots will add anyone who can help them win regardless of their character – the only caveat being that if you have a personal qualm with someone, you put it aside for the good of the team.

But again if you read the news this week, is that starting to come apart? According to what has been reported, apparently you have quarterback Tom Brady who’s all but mandated that every potential replacement to him be shipped out via trade. That’s hardly being a team player. That’s looking out for oneself. Joe Montana wasn’t exactly comfortable with Steve Young nipping at his heels, but he didn’t work behind the scenes to get him traded.

If someone pulled that on the Orioles’ roster you can bet they’d be in trouble. That type of approach or attitude is inconsistent with the type of character guys the Orioles have, however I digress. All we’d hear about and thus all writers like me would be able to report would be that the matter was being handled internally. However first off in my view part of being a truly great athlete who goes down in history is knowing when to step away…

…and if Tom Brady thinks he can and should play until he’s 45 (as he’s said in the media), he’s crazy. But another part of it is helping to mentor people behind you. Yes, someone that at some point will probably take your job – ideally after you retire as opposed to after an injury or after you get benched. But when that guy takes the helm, would it not be a great tribute to you, the great player, if neither he nor the team skipped a beat?

That aside, team chemistry is very important. Perhaps just as important if not more so than skill. If you have guys at people’s throats, even the best teams can come unraveled at their cores very quickly.

Baltimore Orioles: Does flair matter?

The Baltimore Orioles have never been the glitziest of teams – in the modern era, at least. Sure they’ve had their share of utter superstars (the Ripkens, Murrays, Palmers, and Robinsons of the world), but not necessarily recently. One might say that the likes of Davis, Trumbo, etc. are fairly glitzy, but they aren’t on par with the names I mentioned above.

This week I’ve listened to a lot about how the NFL playoffs (which begin today) don’t have the most exciting teams competing. In truth, what that means is that they’re devoid of star power. Granted Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Big Ben are out there, but teams like the Jaguars, Bills, and Chiefs aren’t going to draw too much excitement outside of their home markets.

I’m one of those people who’ll watch the NFL simply because it’s the NFL. In August after I’m done covering the Orioles for the night, I’m either watching another baseball game or I’m watching the third/fourth quarter of NFL preseason games. As in when the regular players are done for the game. I just love football (and baseball).

However that attitude is getting away from us. If the NFL is silently worried about what happens when you replace the likes of Aaron Rogers or Dak Prescott with the Jags and Bills, that’s a problem. And it’s true in all sports. Was the Royals/Mets World Series as exciting and compelling as a Yankees/Dodgers World Series would have been? In my opinion it was. But fewer and fewer people feel that way.

I used to know a guy who had a Super Bowl party every year. And this guy went all out – fully stocked bar, good food, etc. But the Super Bowl was the only game he watched every year; because it was the only one that mattered. And that’s the attitude we’re starting to see among sports fans. Show me some flair, or I’m not about to pay attention.

So take an Orioles team that wins with the likes of Jones, Davis, Tillman, Joseph, and Schoop. Is that not a compelling story? I think it is, because winning is compelling, and thus worth the price of admission. But what sports fans are telling us is that it isn’t enough anymore. It goes without saying that you have to win – but in doing so, go big or go home.

Baltimore Orioles: Does Chris Tillman fit in 2018?

Perhaps one of the more disappointing Baltimore Orioles in 2017 was starter Chris Tillman. He finished the season with a 1-7 record and a 7.84 ERA. Tillman also didn’t participate in the first part of the season, after being sidelined in Spring Training with a shoulder issue. The question is whether or not that’s fully in the past at this point.

Tillman’s contract expired at the end of the year, so he’s a free agent. To my knowledge the market on Tillman hasn’t really been that large. So the question is whether or not the Orioles bring him back or not?

Assuming his medicals check out, and he’s willing to sign a short-term contract within the Orioles’ range, I’d give him a look. The Orioles need starters – and they need them fast. While Tillman didn’t do himself any favors in 2017, it was also evident that his injury issues lingered.

And I think that Orioles fans know what Tillman’s capable of doing. Because they’ve seen it. He had a 2.93 ERA in 2012, and a 3.34 in 2014. Those were good years for Tillman, and there’s no reason to think he can’t replicate that now – if he’s healthy.

And yes, that might be a big risk. However again, there appears to be no market on Tillman right now. Many fans would say been there, done that. But what alternatives are out there?