Baltimore Orioles: Is instant replay getting too big for it’s britches?

The Baltimore Orioles along with all of MLB have benefited from instant replay. I was a proponent of instant replay. And I still am. But of late I’ve started to see some issues.

There were multiple calls across the league this year in which it almost came across like well in theory the runner COULD have been out so we’ll give the benefit of the doubt and overturn the call. And I’m talking about situations in which a runner’s leg came off the bag…but is it possible his pant leg was still on? It just seemed that too many “theoretical arguments” are being allowed to seep into replay.

And the net result will eventually be something similar to what’s happened in the NFL. Nobody seems to know what a catch is anymore. Did the guy have control of the ball? Did he have two feet in bounds? Did he make a “football move?” Listen, I’ve watched a lot of football in my life, and I have no clue what a football move is!

But that’s where the NFL is when it comes to replay. The ability to slow down the play and look at it again has introduced all of that int the game. Replay’s almost a tit-for-tat type of thing. And baseball might not be far behind.

And I can’t tell you for sure what the solution is. Perhaps enforcing the spirit of the rules as opposed to stringently enforcing the rules to the written word. In Saturday’s NLDS game the Chicago catcher was called for blocking the plate on replay. His leg jetted out in front of home plate before he had the ball. Guess what? Had he not done that, he would have fallen over.

In accordance with how the rule was written, the umpires got it right. But I highly doubt that the spirit of the rule was intended to be such that players had to risk falling over. Again, I’m a proponent of replay. I hope that it’s here to stay. I just think that it has to be tweaked a bit.

And when I say tweaked, I think it’s the mentality of the umpire that need to be tweaked. Again, the spirit of the rules perhaps as opposed to anything else. If on replay a runner gets to a base at the same time as the ball (and the original call was out), rule him safe. Yes there has to be indisputable evidence that the call was wrong, and a tie doesn’t ean that the runner got there first. But we all know a tie goes to the runner. More spirit of the rules, and less nitty-gritty…that’ll make replay a rousing success.

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Baltimore Orioles: MLB has gone too far on rules

The Baltimore Orioles and every other team have done their best to adapt to the various new MLB rules that have come into effect. However last night we saw a situation in game one of the NLDS where a run was allowed to score BECAUSE of a “new rule,” that was instituted for player safety. In short, Los Angeles was awarded a fifth run when on replay it was ruled that the Chicago catcher was blocking the plate prior to the ball arriving.

By the letter of the law, the umpires got the call right. However is the letter of the law…correct? I understand why these types of rules exist – player safety is obviously very important. However in that instance, the issue appeared to be the Chicago catcher’s leg jetting out over home plate. Well, the fact is that the guy had to do that in order to support himself and stay upright.

However that aside, we also need to remember that these plays happen very quickly. Baseball is a thinking man’s game, but that thinking is done in the dugout. When a play like that happens, it comes fast and furious. And players rarely have time to think. They just “do.” So…are we not in essence giving the offense more of an advantage in that sense as opposed to the defense?

I would argue yes. But that should be nothing new to sports fans; the NFL has done it for years! I understand that the goal is to limit the number of home plate collisions for safety reasons. But if players are going to be forced to stop and think of where their foot is in regards to the plate…are we not limiting the game itself? Again, I would argue that we are.

I’m not sure what the right answer is in all of this. I’m not against player safety by any means. But how many players out there have really had career-ending injuries, or even life-altering injuries because of things like home plate collisions among other things? Yes, it’s easy for me to say as a writer who sits behind a computer screen. Really easy. It’s not my career, nor is it my life. However I do care about how all things affect the game. And I’m not a fan of over-regulation in sports.

Baltimore Orioles release 2018 spring training schedule

Good news folks; the Baltimore Orioles are headed back to Sarasota in 2018! That of course you already knew. But the Birds released their spring training schedule (home dates only) this past week. Let the countdown begin!

In 2017 spring training began early due to the World Baseball Classic. This year however it will begin earlier than normal as well because baseball’s retooled it’s schedule. The regular season will actually open the last Thursday in March as opposed to the first Monday in April.

So that means that spring training opens earlier as well. And that’ll probably make a lot of people happy given the potential for severe weather around here in the winter. The O’s open the spring slate of games on February 23rd against Tampa at Ed Smith Stadium.

In fact, their first two games (as listed right now, at least) will be at home. On Saturday February 24th the Minnesota Twins will come to Ed Smith Stadium for a 6 PM Saturday evening tilt. The full home schedule can be viewed by clicking here.

The St. Louis Cardinals come in for a visit on February 28th, which for whatever reason seems to be a rarity. St. Louis has always been in the Grapefruit League, however the times the Orioles see them seem to be few and far between. The final home game will be Saturday, March 24th at 6 PM against Minnesota. However the regular season won’t open until the following Thursday…

…and presumably the Birds might play a road game the following day (March 25th). But what after that? In past seasons we’ve seen them play an exhibition game against a local Sarasota-area college, or perhaps even come north to play an additional game in a big league stadium. Time will tell.

But that’s the home slate of games for the Birds for next spring. I mention this several times a season, but when the Orioles trained in Fort Lauderdale they had a hard time convincing teams to come to play them at their facility because it was so antiquated. What they’ve created at Ed Smtih Stadium has teams lining up to come for games. It’s one of the best if not THE best spring facility in MLB.

Baltimore Orioles need to return to fundamentals

The Baltimore Orioles are a power-hitting club. This much we know, and we’ve known for some time. However I saw something in Monday’s NLDS Game Three at Wrigley Field that the Orioles should consider taking up.

Old school baseball, in the form of bunting. In general, I’m not a fan of giving up outs. That’s just not how you win games in the AL East. And I think there’s a chance that if the wrong team tried to play that type of game they could risk getting bludgeoned to death. But there are also two sides to every story.

Following a lead off walk in the last of the eighth inning, Chicago bunted the runner into scoring position. Later in the inning with two outs, that runner scored on a bloop RBI-single. In general a runner at second base might not score on a blooper. However keep in mind that with two outs the runner was going on contact.

That all served the Chicago Cubs well, and they won the game 2-1 – with that as the winning run. Imagine that – a small fundamental part of the game ended up winning it for a team. And in a post season game at that. Tough to be in a bigger spot.

And keep in mind that the Cubs are a power-hitting club as well. That’s their bread and butter, just like the Orioles. So with that said, would the Orioles really stand to lose much if they took up that type of bunting in games? Look at it this way, the Birds won 75 games this year. If they would have put on a play like that and scored even one more run in certain games, they would have gone from one-run losses to ties. And all bets are off then – if you end up winning those games, suddenly you’ve had a .500 season.

Again, this type of small-ball mentality would never work in the AL East in general. Many National League teams start playing that game from the early innings. The O’s would get run out of the park if they tried that. But obviously in a late-game spot where you need one run, it’s worth trying.

Odds are had the Orioles of 2017 tried to do that bunt play, they’d end up with two strikeouts, a fly-out, and maybe a base hit. The inning would have ended with runners at the corners. So…what’s the better alternative?

Baltimore Orioles: Over-accepting of the status quo?

One of the Baltimore Orioles’ big time foes made what I feel was a big mistake yesterday. The Boston Red Sox released manager John Farrell, and are now hunting for a new manager. Farrell took the BoSox to the playoffs on numerous occasions, and of course won the 2013 World Series as the skipper in Boston.

That’s a resume that should make Farrell an attractive candidate for a managerial position with another team. I said that it should make Farrell an attractive candidate; much is being made of the toxic clubhouse culture that seemed to ensue in Boston, to which he apparently either turned a blind eye or openly allowed to continue. Luckily when you look at the Orioles and Buck Showalter, none of that has ever been an issue.

Boston did what they did, and in fact this particular ownership group seems to have a history of that nature in Boston. Everyone remembers them cutting Grady Little situation where Pedro Martinez told him not to remove him from a play off game. He didn’t, Boston lost, and Little was out. Then there was Terry Francona‘s departure after the 2011 season, which seemed to come as a result of similar clubhouse angst among other things. And in between Francona and Farrell, Boston had Bobby Valentine for one season – which was an abomination by anyone’s standards.

Point being, management decided that the guy in charge wasn’t the guy to lead the team any longer, and they made an immediate change. The Orioles don’t always do that. Many people said that Dave Trembley and Sam Perlozzo were allowed to stay much longer than they otherwise should have. It also became apparent very quickly that Mike Hargrove wasn’t going to be able to take the franchise anywhere years ago, yet he finished his contract out.

And yes, if you can believe it, there are people now who would like to see the O’s go the Boston route and let go of Buck Showalter. This is a very small, but vocal minority. And it started after last year’s situation in the AL Wild Card game where he never used Britton. Yes, people want to totally discount from where the Orioles have come under Showalter, simply because of one incident and subsequent season gone awry.

So which do you prefer? Boston’s way, or the Orioles’? Speaking for myself, I’d be on board with how Peter Angelos honors contracts. That’s not to say that he’s never fired managers, but for the most part he wants to keep his word in terms of what he agreed to when he signed the guy. However Boston would argue that the urgency to win today is greater than any one person or group. So if the current guy isn’t the guy, cut him loose – now.

I maintain that Farrell should still be the manager there. A new manager is an unknown commodity in any situation. They thought they were getting something special with Valentine – couldn’t have been more further off than they were. Needless to say, it’ll be interested to see who ends up in the dugout up there. Incidentally, Philadelphia may have just found their new manager.

Baltimore Orioles: MLB screwed the pooch in the NLDS

The Baltimore Orioles are the first ones to tell you that the weather is unpredictable. And that seems to especially be true in terms of trying to decide whether to play baseball, delay, or post phone. However I would submit that MLB’s tactic yesterday in Chicago did more harm than good in the NLDS between the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals.

In a regular season (or spring training for that matter) game, the home team controls whether or not the game starts on time. In saying that, I mean it’s squarely their decision in terms of the weather. Now with that said, the unwritten rule so to speak is that you confer with the visiting team and the umpiring crew. Obviously if the game’s going to be post phoned, you want to come to a mutual decision together. But when push comes to shove, it’s up to the home team. Once the umpire’s said play ball, it’s up to the crew whether or not to call for a delay or cancellation.

However in the post season it’s different. MLB handles all weather situations. The forecast in Chicago yesterday was calling for heavy rain all day, but especially in the later afternoon and evening. I’m not a weather man, however it seems to me that the prudent thing to do would have been to simply post phone the game from the outset.

And yes, it’s easy for me to say. At this point I’m just like the rest of you – a fan sitting at home watching the game on television. And believe me, I was ready to watch baseball late yesterday afternoon! The pitching in this Chicago/Washington series has been very good. And I’m a fan of pitching. But if the weather isn’t going to hold up, why delay the inevitable.

Again, sometimes forecasts are off and sometimes strange things happen. Especially in a place like The Windy City. But it just seems to me that MLB did both teams a disservice by bringing them to Wrigley Field and having them go through the motions of getting ready to play a ballgame.

And let’s take it a step further; with the rain out, the teams now surrender their travel day IF Washington happens to win today. Whereas before they would have traveled back to DC today for a game five on Thursday, now they’ll travel immediately following the game today to be ready for tomorrow. Some would argue that’s more akin to the regular season which is what players are used to, and that might be a valid point. (And again, mind you that this only applies if Washington wins; if Chicago wins this afternoon the series is over.)

However on that premise, why would MLB schedule a 4 PM start today? Why not a 1 PM or even a noon game? Would that not give the teams an extra few hours to get to Washington if in fact that’s today’s eventuality? I get it in the sense that it’s all about TV ratings, and to a lesser extent how many people they feel will complain about the start time in terms of having tickets to the game. But this is Chicagoland…it’s acceptable to skip work on any random weekday afternoon for a regular season Cubs game. Much less a playoff game!

Baltimore Orioles: Sound of silence

At times in 2017, Adam Jones was one of the only players hitting and producing. Again, I said one one the only players. Trey Mancini and Jonathan Schoop obviously had great years. as well as a couple of others. However one of the hallmarks of this past season was that the offense hibernated all at once in various points of the season.

And that’s something on which we should spend some time this off season. Obviously the main problem was the pitching. But there were quite a few games that the pitching did in fact hold up their end of the bargain. And the bats let the Orioles down. It’s fine and dandy to pitch a quality start, but if your offense can’t help you out and you lose 3-0, it’s still a loss.

First off, every team is going to go through dead periods at the plate. The Los Angeles Dodgers had that happen in the beginning of September. It was kind of laughed off because they were light years ahead in their division and at no risk of missing the post season, but it still happened. So you can’t totally head off these types of problems in terms of having it not happen.

But it seemed to happen to the Orioles across several different periods of the season. May was a dead period, however the Orioles have had a couple of bad May’s at the plate over the past couple of years. And that almost attests for it happening. Perhaps guys are starting to settle into the grind of the season and so forth, realizing the long haul that it’s going to be.

The O’s also had a slew of injuries over the course of the entire summer. Davis, Hardy, Castillo, and Flaherty all found themselves on the DL (some more than others). That’s not an excuse, but a fact. And that was true throughout the entire year. Adam Jones missed in essence the entire last week of the season due to sore legs that had plagued him all year.

Instead, the Orioles’ competition seemed to get stronger and healthier. Boston and New York didn’t have to contend with those types of injuries. In general, I’m in favor of a veteran team like what the Orioles have. However if half your infield AND your depth (Flaherty) are hurt, you see the downside very quickly. And in fact, you look at the season that Trey Mancini had, and when you realize he was a rookie perhaps youth can sometimes make a difference.

Lackluster pitching will be the end story of this Orioles’ season. But the silent bats at times played just as big a role. Hopefully for the O’s a long winter’s rest will help them to spring anew come March.