Many Baltimore Orioles fans are probably waking up this morning happy to see that the hated New York Yankees have been bounced from the post season. They were defeated last night by the score of 4-0 in Game 7 of the ALCS. The Houston Astros will now advance to the World Series to represent the American League against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
I do find a bit of irony in this matchup, as it’s two teams who seemingly stand for the inverse of what their league is all about. When I think of small ball, I think of National League clubs. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t exist in the American League, because it very much does. Cleveland, Minnesota, Kansas City, and yes Houston all play their share of small ball. And for the record, this is the fourth consecutive year that a small ball team will represent the American League in the World Series.
Los Angeles on the other hand is a power-hitting club. Again, that isn’t to say that there aren’t other teams who rely on power in the National League. The Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals both win games by hitting a lot of home runs. Chicks dig the long ball, as they say.
But for the most part small ball is the National League’s game, and power that of the American League. And that’s in essence done by design. The National League forces pitchers to hit, which incidentally is something I support. I’d love to see the DH struck from the game across-the-board. (I also know that’s not happening anytime soon.) So with all of the strategy that comes with that, it’s natural that small ball would rule the day in the NL.
It’s also natural that in the absence of that strategy in the American League, it would be more based on power. The American sports fan yearns for the big play. Whether it’s a big touchdown, a slam dunk, or in this case the home run ball. It puts people in the seats, and keeps them cheering.
Small ball will once again meet power in this year’s fall classic. Each side will just be represented differently than one might have otherwise expected.
When I think of Baltimore Orioles’ opponents, few were as classy as Dusty Baker down I-95 in Washington DC. Similar to Buck Showalter, Baker was an accomplished baseball man who managed the game the right way. And again, he was about as classy a competitor as you’re going to see.
His contract was up after this year, and Washington made no attempts to re-sign him. In fact, I would argue that they made it well understood that he’d be “taken care of” after the season. Now that after the season is here, Washington announced that they would not be retaining Baker.
Dusty Baker won that team two consecutive division titles. That’s unprecedented in the history of that franchise. After those accomplishments, you don’t treat someone like Baker like that. I’m sorry, you just don’t.
And I’m not talking from a baseball perspective. I’m talking as a guy who watched his father and grandfather manage people from a young age. They always treated their employees like family. And that comes off as the exact opposite from how the Nationals did Dusty Baker yesterday. And in reality for much of the season.
That comment above, you just don’t treat someone like that, is kind of what rings in my head when I think of this situation. Many want to say that Baker could have handled situations in the NLDS games – who knows maybe he could have. Others say that the team was so good that anyone could manage them. Again, maybe they could.
But it’s not about that. It’s about how managers treat their employees. And in my view Dusty Baker the employee was done wrong.
The Baltimore Orioles technically were buyers at the trade deadline this past year. They have been since 2012. Mind you that in 2011 they “sold,” and ended up with the likes of Davis on the team. That trade kind of worked out.
However in the past few seasons it’s seemed that the line between buying and selling has blurred just a bit. In the past, a buyer would acquire a piece in the form of a player that’s well established at the big league level who can help them. In exchange, the seller would get a hot prospect or two which of course would help them in the future. Selling was considered waving the white flag – on that season, at least.
And I suspect that it still is. However if you use the 2016 New York Yankees as an example, they had a tough first half. Then at the deadline they decided to sell. And they did so en masse. They ended up with guys like Judge among others. Again, that trade kind of worked out.
And almost immediately, they began to win. The prospects they got in return for their players seemingly performed on the big stage right away. And by extension, many of the New York veterans who were still on the team performed better. New York made a run at the playoffs last year at the end, and of course are now one game from the World Series.
But is this an anomaly? Or a trend? It’s really tough to say. A lot of people point to that and say that the O’s should have sold this year. I’ve never really considered that selling and in essence purchasing young talent could make you an immediate contender. Usually that talent either stays in the minors a couple of years before coming the the big leagues, or comes to the big leagues immediately and has to learn on the job.
Moving forward it’ll be interesting to see if in fact this type of trend continues. Time will tell.
Manny Machado had his share of clutch moments for the 2017 Baltimore Orioles. And there were plenty of others as well. Look back to Opening Day and you’ll see Mark Trumbo hitting a walk off homer to beat Toronto. That’s a big spot and it’s obviously as clutch as it gets.
But also look to last night’s ALCS game where New York came from four runs down late to defeat Houston. You have Judge of course hitting a home run, and New York proceeding to bat around in the following inning. Can we say that something like this never happened to the 2017 O’s? Of course not. But it sure seeed that the times it happened were few and far between.
So how did this clutch gene seemingly land in New York? Perhaps the better question is how does it seemingly always seem to land in New York – over the generations? That’s really tough to say. This is a New York team that knows they’re playing on borrowed time in a sense. They weren’t supposed to be this good this quickly.
And in a sense, they’re soaking in the experience of playing at the level at which they are. And perhaps that’s relaxing them to the point of playing the way that they are. Instead, the Orioles felt the pressure almost from day one. And at a certain point it took it’s toll.
However keep in mind that Judge is a hitter that’s probably similar to the likes of Davis and Trumbo. He’s predictable in the sense that he swings at anything and everything. Right now his bat is catching everything, making people think he’s the begin all end all of hitting. But keep in mind that he had a secon half swoon as well where his bat wasn’t catching anything.
And that’s perhaps part of the story of the 2017 O’s. They were constantly predictable in the sense that teams knew they were going up to the plate hacking. So at some point they’d employ a small wrinkle in their game plan, perhaps as small as late movement one way or the other on a pitch. And being predictable, the Orioles couldn’t adjust.
And that’s part of why they couldn’t seem to get that clutch gene going. Will that change in 2018? It’s going to have to.
The Baltimore Orioles have been in the post season of late enough for fans to know that post season games are longer. And that’s literally a fact, not so much because of how the games unfold, but because of the between-innings clock. During the regular season teams have two minutes and thirty seconds between innings. In the post season it lengthens to just under three minutes.
But that’s not uncommon. Commercial breaks are longer for Sunday or Monday night football than they are for a regular Sunday, 1 PM NFL game telecast. The same is true with Sunday Night Baseball. It’s more of a national television thing than anything else.
Having said that, the fact is that post season games unfold differently than do regular season games. If a starter doesn’t have it early, he’s probably pulled in the second or perhaps even the first inning. We don’t see this same sense of urgency in the regular season, nor should we (for the most part). Dropping one game isn’t going to do you in. It could in the playoffs.
And the other ironic part is that we don’t see too many people complaining about the length of games in the playoffs. Post season baseball is one of the most compelling things in sports. And that’s mainly because of the fact that the games do unfold with much more of a sense of urgency.
The NFL playoffs have that same sense of urgency because its one and done. However in general games aren’t played differently than they are in the regular season. Maybe the end of games might vary slightly if it’s close, but for the most part football is football.
Again, nobody really complains about the length of the games in the MLB playoffs. One thing that does get covered ad hoc is the start times of the games. Two NLDS games this week are beginning at 9 PM eastern time. I’m the first one to tell you that’s way too late.
How can MLB expect kids to stay up and watch those games if they’re starting so late? And if the games are lasting four hours in general, how can they expect anyone to stay up and watch them? Find another way; start the games earlier – for the kids’ sake!
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.
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.