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October 25, 2010

S.F. Giants well-represented by former Orioles

Aubrey Huff, the thong-wearing, wise-cracking first baseman of the National League champion San Francisco Giants, certainly gets much of the attention, but he is not the only ex-Oriole on the Giants’ roster.

There is utility infielder Mike Fontenot, one of the Orioles’ first-round picks in 2001. Fontenot never cracked the majors with the Orioles and was traded to the Chicago Cubs before the 2005 season in the Sammy Sosa deal. Fontenot, 30, has started four of the Giants’ 10 playoff games, going 3-for-14 (.214) with a triple and a stolen base.

You have backup catcher Eli Whiteside, the Orioles’ sixth-round selection in 2001. Whiteside was Jonathan Sanchez’s personal catcher for most of the regular season, but he still hasn’t gotten into a game in the postseason. That’s no surprise with rookie phenom Buster Posey in front of him. Whiteside, 31, played in nine games with the Orioles, all in the 2005 season. He went 3-for-12 with an RBI.

Then there’s former Orioles closer Chris Ray, who hasn’t been on the Giants’ playoff roster but has been very visible the dugout and has certainly supported the cause by growing a beard, like the other Giant relievers. Ray went 3-0 with a save and a 4.13 ERA in 28 appearances for the Giants after he was acquired from the Rangers in July for catcher Bengie Molina. Coincidentally, both Ray and Molina could get World Series wins regardless of who wins.

Ray saved 49 games for the Orioles in 2006 and 2007 before he needed Tommy John ligament-reconstruction surgery. You certainly have to feel good for Ray, who saw his once-promising career interrupted by injuries.

And I also feel really good for Huff, though I’m not sure all of you share that sentiment. I understand Huff burned a lot of bridges with his derogatory comments about the city. I know that his carefree attitude on things, including conditioning, rubbed some people the wrong way. He also didn’t do the Orioles any favors when he followed up his standout 32-homer, 108-RBI 2008 season by hitting just .253 with 13 homers and driving in 72 runs the following year. Once thought to be a pretty good trade chip, Huff fetched only a Single-A reliever back from the Detroit Tigers after the 2009 trade deadline.

But Huff was always a pretty stand-up guy who took accountability for his play. He also had a reputation as a clubhouse cancer from his days with Tampa Bay, but I never found that to be the case in Baltimore. In fact, the young players loved him and gravitated toward him.

For all his wacky antics, Huff wasn’t afraid to put some of the young players in line and tell them how not to behave. I remember one night in Arlington when the Orioles were swept in a doubleheader by the Texas Rangers. Following Game 2, young shortstop Luis Hernandez was chatting on his cell phone in an otherwise quiet and depressed clubhouse. It was Huff who walked over to him without making a show of it and quietly but sternly told him to hang up the phone or go somewhere else.

During the 2009 season, Huff and Nick Markakis also arranged and financed the purchase of new suits for the Orioles' rookies. I know veterans do this kind of stuff for younger players in clubhouses throughout major league baseball, but I think it is worth pointing out considering Huff’s reputation.

I haven’t spoken to all Huff’s former Orioles teammates, but I can almost guarantee you that pretty much every one of them is rooting for the big first baseman to get a World Series ring.

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 12:41 AM | | Comments (12)
        

Comments

Jeff,

I like you, because for the most part you write very good articles and you almost always add additional commentary when someone makes a comment, even me. Seriously, though where do you get some of this stuff? The "Luis Hernandez" cell phone incident who cares! Would something like that make a scouting report? No! I could see it now Aubrey Huff he's a great interview on Opie & Anthony, he puts young players in their place with a stern talking to, sadly though you could use a sun dial to figure out his time from the batter's box to first base. The "True" reason that the Giants are in the World Series is because they have Cody Ross! And for all the time that Andy Mac spent late in the year attending and watching Orioles games from the box could have been better spent reading the waiver wire every day, we could have gotten him. I can't wait for the meeting in Arizona, Andy will probable have everyone wear name tags. His will say I am Andy Mac and you're Not! It will show how much he's in touch with reality!

Jeff,

Aubrey Huff is the reason I am rooting for the Giants, Fontenot and Ray also.

Huff is a leader, not a great player but a lot of heart, he gave the O's some very good games throughout his career, great article Jeff.

Cody Ross? Are you kidding me? Cody Ross, with the ML career .323 OBP and .788 OPS? He was waived late in August. That was the time Showalter was considering which players he wanted to take a look at from the Orioles farm system. I'm sure if Showalter had not already seen enough of Ross and wanted him on the roster at the expense of an Orioles prospect, MacPhail would have claimed him. But no doubt, Showalter knows that 6 games in the NLCS did not change Ross. There was no need for the Orioles to claim a player like Ross.

And that was good stuff about Huff in the clubhouse and with his teammates. Information that we fans don't usually hear about. Thank you, Jeff, and keep it coming.

Squirrel,


A player has to pass through waivers in his own league before the other league can get to him. So...we never had a chance to get Cody Ross.

Hey Jeff.........it is really interesting how clubs go about their business. The Giants weeling and dealing adding players that were cast off by other teams. One might say.... "so what, these guys are not going to make a difference in the long run".
To me i like the GM watching the waiver wire and taking a chance on somebody cast off.........this time the Giants got lucky and it actually worked.
But what i really admire about the Giants is their history of 1st round draft choices.
Is this also luck, or is their GM a damn good talent evaluator.
Maybe its a little of both luck and talent. But what ever it is the Orioles need some. I am really concerned about the "talent evaluation" part of McPhail's resume.
I am sure he has his strong points, but talent evaluation, in my opinion, is not his strong suit.
Comments?

...............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: Fair criticism, but the GMs only do so much evaluation. They are so heavily dependent on scouts and the people below them. Do you think Andy went out to Colorado late in the 2009 season to scout Garrett Atkins and decide if he's the type of guy the Orioles should go after? He may have watched video and talked to other people around the game whose opinion he respects, but he's going to have to rely heavily on his scouts. So no question, the organization's evaluation of talent - both their own and other teams - is a direct reflection on MacPhail. But there are so many other people who give recommendations on these players.

Doug,

You're right the Orioles didn't really have a shot at getting Ross. The Giants had preference since he played in the NL. The Orioles still could have made a claim on him which would have shown me that MacPhail was at least paying attention to the wire. He could have gummed up the works and maybe other teams would have noticed. That's why the Giants wound up with him, they were paying attention. The Padres originally wanted him. The Giants blocked it and eventually got him.

RBAS, I am not big on statistics. It's just my opinion from watching Cody Ross, and this before the NLCS against the Phillies, that he's a good ball player.

Lastly, I meant to mention this earlier but forgot. I remember the Giants/Orioles series. Jim Palmer stated before the 1st game that he would like to see Tillman get hit his fastball around 91-95 mph and basically get off to a strong start. Anyway, this was the game when he didn't even reach the 3rd inning. His fastball didn't even get past 90. He looked terrible. Didn't Palmer watch Tillman in the bullpen before the game and notice he was struggling. Did anyone else for the matter notice? The bullpen coach, catcher, Kranitz, and so on notice what was going on down there? After that he was sent down to the minors and a few weeks later, he had a brilliant game against the Rangers. The point I am trying to make is if the Orioles had taken 2 of 3 from the Giants instead of losing 2 of 3. The whole entire playoffs would have been changed. Just food for thought,

..............................................................................................,
Jeff Z's reply: Waiver claims don't become public. No other teams know who claimed who, so there is really no such thing as "gumming" up the works unless you count a team claiming a player just so their competitor doesn't get him, as is the case of the Giants denying the Padres Ross. Look Squirrel, I have no problem taking criticism. I can handle it. I also enjoy the participation. But when you complain about everything, just for the sake of complaining, that's when it gets tired. Ross is a solid player on a high-level club. He's not the kind of guy if you are a last place team that you put in a waiver claim on, especially when you look at his contract status. A lot of losing National League teams had a chance to put a claim in on Ross before he got to the Giants and they didn't either.

Does anyone else think that there is a lot less of Huff in his SF uniform? Maybe he thought it wasn't worth the effort to get in shape for the O's. Nevertheless, he suffered a long time here and in TB so good luck to him.


...............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: Yeah, it's pretty evident that he's in better shape. Aubrey said as much, admitting that this year was pretty much make-or-break for him in terms of his longterm future in the game, so he dedicated himself to getting in great shape in the offseason.

Huff-daddy is the man and I hope all the best for him.

I hope Chris Ray is able to get back to where he was before the injury. I thought that he was worth more than Millwood long term, and the results have been mixed to this point, but next year he could really emerge as a very valuable option in the Pen.

...and wasn't Cody Ross acquired to mostly Block the Padre's from getting him?... That's a GM looking to stop others...sure it worked out, but that wasn't the intent or motivation in getting Cody Ross.

Much like Jon Daniels trading Millwood for Ray. The intent was getting an Ace from free agency by the name of Rich Harden. Obviously moving Ray for Molina ended up being the more critical move...

Jeff
It's pretty obvious that Squirrel is Wayne from Schmucks blogs so you might as well get use to the complaining.


...............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: Guess so. Again, there's plenty of things that fans can complain about with the Orioles. But when you mention certain things and it's clear that you are doing it just for the sake of complaining or being a contrarian, that's when it gets real, real tired.

Hey Squirrel,

Go back to collecting nuts. You have a brain the size of squirrels'.

Jeff; There is a guy in the Arizona league, Oliver Drake, He went to the Naval Academy...how did we get him? Did he opt out of his Navy committment?

...............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: He was a 43rd round draft pick in 2008. From what I understand, Drake's age at the time that he was drafted (he went to prep school for five years) allowed him to bypass his military commitment.

Jeff: Don't let squirrels and nuts dissuade you from giving us interesting tidbits of the Orioles' personalities. I can look up the stats online; what I most want from you is exactly that. So, thanks.

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.


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