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January 6, 2011

Derrek Lee talks about the Orioles, the chip on his shoulder and Showalter

Newly signed Orioles first baseman Derrek Lee, whose one-year, $7.25 million deal became official today, spoke to Baltimore reporters via a conference call earlier this afternoon.

We’ll have a full story later, but here are some of the things he said:

Lee, 35, on signing a one-year deal to prove that last year’s down season was an aberration:
“I do, I have a little chip on my shoulder, man. I have been hearing a lot of people saying I am old, declining, and so I want to prove that theory wrong. I’ve played a while, I am getting up there in age, but that doesn’t mean I’m getting worse because of age. I had a bad year. That’s behind me. I’ve had some pretty productive years, and I feel like I’ve kind of gotten thrown by the wayside after just one season. So, yeah, I have a little chip on my shoulder, and I’m excited to personally prove people wrong.”

Lee on joining the Oriole now after nearly agreeing to trade-and-extension to Baltimore in 2003, before ultimately declining it and ending up with the Chicago Cubs:
“Very close, I was sitting there in the offices there at Camden [Yards] with my family … going back and forth on the numbers. We were extremely close, and it didn’t work out that day. I didn’t know if it was over when I got back on the plane, but it didn’t work out at that time. But I was extremely close. I guess I was meant to be an Oriole because here it is, what, seven years later, and I am coming to Baltimore.”

On coming to Baltimore now:
“Honestly, Baltimore wasn’t on my radar entering the offseason. I was hoping to get out west, near where I live. It didn’t work out, and my agent kept bringing up Baltimore. I kept thinking about it. I watched on "SportsCenter." Would go on the website and see that they kept signing guys. I was looking over their lineup, seeing what Buck [Showalter] is doing over there. I always knew Baltimore had great fans. I just kept thinking about it and really warmed up to the idea. It kind of grew on me, and next thing you know, here I am. So I am actually very excited about it and am looking forward to playing with these guys.”

On his right thumb injury, a torn ligament that needed reconstructive surgery. He hasn’t swung a bat this offseason, but expects to be cleared soon:
“I got hurt Opening Day last season diving for a ball. I went to brace myself with my right hand, and I bent the thumb back. I had surgery Nov. 5. I have been out of a cast about two weeks now, and it’s doing great. Doing rehab every day, and I expect to be 100 percent once I get to spring training.”

On whether that was a reason his offensive numbers were down in 2010:
“I’ve had injuries before and played well, and been healthy before and played bad, so injuries don’t help. But I think a lot of guys play with injuries, and that’s part of the game. You have to do the best you can, and your numbers are what they are.”

On whether he thinks it’s important to be a veteran leader:
“It is important, you have got to have veteran leadership on ballclubs … I’m a laid-back guy. I am not a rah-rah [type]. You are not going to see me yelling and screaming. But I will be pulling guys aside and letting them know how I feel the game needs to be played. Kevin Gregg will be doing that as well. ... We’re just going to get guys pulling on the same rope and moving in the same direction, and with all the talent, I don’t see why we can’t do special things this year.”

On playing for manager Buck Showalter:
“What a prepared, organized, positive guy. I’m really excited to get a chance to play for him and you saw what he had done with those guys last year, he really get it turned around. I’m sure he is excited to get a full year under his belt with this team and I just want to help him out anyway I can.”

On Showalter’s role in getting Lee to Baltimore:
“I didn’t talk to Buck until it was pretty much a done deal. But obviously we all know Buck’s track record, we all know how professional Buck is and how much he wants to win. So it is an attraction, but, no, he didn’t call and lobby me.”

On where he’ll be batting in the revamped lineup:
“We didn’t get specific. [Showalter] said somewhere in the middle of the order. We didn’t talk specifics on where I would hit. And I don’t really care.”

On his style of play:
“I think if you asked my teammates to describe me, it’s that I show up every day to work. I try to be [able to help] every single game. Injuries are part of it, but I think if you are able to get out there, you get out there. I am willing to play hard, and I try to lead by example and play the game the right way. That’s how I was brought up, and that’s how I try to play the game every day.”

On the 2011 Orioles in general:
“I don’t think too many people are expecting big things out of this team. … I think this team is confident, and I’m excited to be a part of that and maybe surprise some people.”

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Posted by Dan Connolly at 2:37 PM | | Comments (35)
        

Comments

Hard to read this and not be excited. Here's a professional hitter with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove ... and he seems at least mildly excited to do it in Baltimore.

My D. Lee projections for 2011:

.296, 29 HRs, 99 RBIs

I'm glad to hear the "I'll be pulling people aside" comment; that's the way Frank Robinson and the veterans of the teams in the 60s used to handle players who messed up on the field.; they'd get an earful from their *team mates,* not just management.

Lee was very honest in this interview. He said he wanted to play out West, but warmed up to the idea which is better than saying I wanted to go to the O's from jump street. He has a chip on his shoulder and Kevin Gregg has a chip on his shoulder so I see only positive things happening with both men.

Veteran leadership is huge in my book just like a great manager which is why the 2011 O's are a lot different from past teams. I am expecting a very exiting year from this club. Not sure on the W's and L's, but exciting nonetheless.

With Manny, Thome, Vlad and Damon on the market and not a lot of teams needing to fill the DH spot, I wonder if Andy will change his mind? I personally believe that Reimold should start in AAA so he can play every day. I still think that there are enough AB's to go around for Luke and Felix because Lee isn't going to play 162 games at 1B. I just think having Jim Thome would add so much protection in the lineup that it will benefit every hitter. Thome had 25 HR's in less than 300 AB's for the Twins so what we he do at OPACY?

I love the no excuses attitude he has with regard to his injuries. Honest, straightforward answers, and when true professionals have something to prove, they are typically able to prove it. I was hoping for Lee over LaRoche all along, and even a line that resembles his career averages would be great, but I think we would at least be justified in hoping for something close to his 2009 numbers.

FYI the UCL is in the elbow.

Yes! Welcome, Derrek!

I can't wait for Opening Day!

I'm surprised to hear he's 2 weeks out of a cast!! To pass the medical I'm sure it's all good but that's odd to hear he still can't swing a bat.

Like the rest I'm hoping for a "bounce back season" and 30-plus bombs would really pump up our offence.

Still, Gonzalez in Boston..Tex the Traitor in NY...Lee in Balt? We're still short at the corners to compete in this division.

Gotta love someone who has a chip on his shoulder and wanting to prove others wrong. Also like the fact he wants to be here and believes Buck can turn this franchise around. Maybe in 2011?

Wacko for Flacco!

@Birdland Todd ... you may just get your wish. O's are being linked as one of three suitors for Vlad (along with Rays and Angels) by Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes. So maybe MacPhail has a surprise up his sleeve.

Would love to watch that guy hit every day.

Gimme a

O!
R!
I!
O!
L!
E!
S!!!

Welcome to Baltimore, Mr. Lee - I'm liking this.

Dave, u said it all..

"Would love to watch that guy hit everyday."

Vlad and Frank Thomas were two guys who always made me scared when they would come up. Vlad would bring intimidation that is so needed on this team. I would really love to see him in Black and Orange hitting at OPACY

My hope for Lee is
.275/25/100

This guy is just one, bad-luck-with-an-injury year away from a having a major stud year. He's a good signing for this particular team and well worth the risk.

Thome and the short right field porch would be very interesting, however we have Scott, who is also left handed hitter. Vlad might be the better idea being that he hits from the right side.

@Dave and FL_O's Fan,

I agree with you guys on Vlad, as he would be fun to watch every day. When pitchers know they have to face a Frank Thomas, Jim Thome and Big Papi type of hitter, they know those guys are one pitch away from hitting a HR. It changes the approach of the starters and relievers plus it takes pressure off every other hitter in the lineup.

You add Vlad and teams are going to be scared to face the O's! I know it sounds crazy, but take Vlad, he has to be pissed after what he did for Texas and wasn't offered a deal so he's going to prove that he has a lot left in the tank. A pitcher would now have to get through Reynolds (30 HRs), Vlad (30 HRs), Lee (20 HRs), Luke (20 HRs) plus Nick and Adam are capable of 20+ HRs. Add is a healthy Roberts and Hardy plus a more confident Matt Wieters and this team isn't a joke! There wouldn't be one weak hitter in the lineup unlike last year when we had Lugo, Izzy and Bell, more times in the lineup than any manager would want to have.

FYI, there is also a UCL at the base of your thumb that controls the movement from that joint. I have had the same injury before and if he had surgery on Nov 5th it takes about 4 months to be FULLY healthy again, so he should be completely healed by opening day.

I give MacPhail credit. He is trying to build a strong team and excitement, and as far as I am personally concerned, it's working.

I have always been a fan of Lee, I really like the way he plays the game, on a lot of fronts. Part of it can be glimpsed in that interview. He's a pro, and quietly confident.
I hope this goes down as Andy's best FA signing to date.

Seems to me that a big-time DH would create a logjam with Scott, Pie, and Reimold all lbeing eftfielders.

I'm thinking if it's true, maybe it would trigger some sort of deal upon the signing.. Matt Garza perhaps? The Rays are in rebuilding mode and would like to move him for youth; Pie, Reimold and Tillman, maybe? (Of course, that depends upon Garza's contract situation)..

Also, if we're going to pick up a DH, what about Manny? He's another guy with a chip on his shoulder, he has been detoxed from the juice. and probably has plenty of bat left in him.

Hey, Anonymous:

I love you how you comment on Orioles boards while taking shots at the Ravens. You clearly are an Orioles fan, but a typical obnoxious Squeeler bandwagoner. Why aren't you a Pirates fan?

Ok Andy don't stop now.
Sign Vlad or Thome...you're call
Sign a lefty relief guy
Sign an experienced starter

I've been beating that Guerrero drum for weeks now. Think Lee's got a chip on his shoulder, how would you like to be Guerrero and put up a monster year just to be pushed aside?

Now that could be a man with a huge chip to work off. Roberts, Markakis, Lee, Guerrero, Scott, Reynolds, Wieters, Jones, Hardy.

It's there to be had, time for the BB writers in Baltimore to lobby for it!

Just answering the questions the way he did demonstrated that we are getting a true professional baseball player who has had great success, and will add real veteran leadership to a fairly young team. We don't need a rah-rah guy, just a guy who, like Frank, would pull people aside or have an old-fashioned kangaroo court. We are getting "Buck-Type" players here in Baltimore, and like i said yesterday, Buck-type coaches. It's gonna be fun watching our team this season.

to The Doc - yes, there is a UCL in the medial elbow, however there is also an "ulnar collateral ligament of the thumb" at the metacarpalphalangeal joint. A little judicious googling will reveal this much even to one w/o a medical edumacation..

Liking the Derrek Lee signing, I'm starting to see the shape of things, and while I didn't really like any one move in particular (I was particularly skeptical about Reynolds, and remain so..) it is hard to argue things haven't been moved in the right direction. Looking forward to spring training again!

Welcome Mr. Lee.

I have also been wishing and hoping for a Guerero signing, pushing Scott into left field.

With Pie (if not traded for starter), Izturis, Fox and possibly Tatum (not sold on this one) on the bench it is a pretty experienced and dynamic team. Probably score 5.5 runs per game.

Can we please stop worrying about who plays for the Redsox or the Yanks and remember the fact that Buck had a winning record with a team that was considerably worse that what we are going to be putting out there every day in 2011? Remember a majority of those games we won in August/Sept were divisional games against teams that had a lot to play for. Have a little optimism! It's January for Schmuck's sake!
Go O's!

Hey All,
Yes, I am glad that the O's are considering Vlad Guerrero. I don't know if we are going to see him everyday. We should rotate the DH to keep Vlad fresh and strong late into the season. I am of the belief that he has one good year in him! I really do believe that!
@ Birdland Todd.
I felt the way you did at first about Thome, but the Orioles have way too many lefties as it is. That's why I want Vlad now.

Now, I am quite pleased that the O's got Derrek Lee, he should be a fine addition to the O's organization! I am much looking forward to the 2011 season! I really am.

Dare Rick! Dare Rick! Dare Rick!
Cant wait to hear that chant and see him deliver some big hits. Maybe the Os wont be a joke this year!

right now, the line up is a perfect lefty-righty mix that managers all prefer, especially at the end of games...adding a THOME would not be too many lefties and slot in well with FOX, whom I'm assuming makes the team.

What an honest star Lee is. NO EXCUSES. But what does that tell you about our front office when we had Lee in the WAREHOUSE and couldn't close the deal. Kind of a microcosm of what we've all feared. Hope that's all behind us now. GO O'S.

Vlad would be good, Young would be even better, great backup corner IF, although he probably makes too much for that role.

And trading Pie for a quality starter would be a coup. But it can't hurt to dream...I'm fine withhim as our opening day starting LF too.

Couple things concern me, but I've seen this comment elsewhere. Lee's thumb, and the idea of Luke playing left we sign Vlad. Luke already didn't work out defensively, which Buck isn't going to like. And I see Buck closely monitoring Lee's at-bats in camp and resting him for a day here and there, if not during the season. We should expect that, which is all the more reason to keep someone who CAN play first.

In the long term, depending on how this year goes, giving Lee and extension makes more sense than go after Fielder. Lee will be 36 next off-season and will only really command 4-5 more years.

Fielder is a much younger guy, and it will take an 8/200 to get him done. In the 6th-7th-8th years of that contract, we are on the hook for $25 million to Fielder, right around the time we need to pay Jones, Matusz and Weiters the money to keep them. It's something I'm sure Andy has in mind on the horizon. But things on the horizon affect things you do now.

Hey All,
I will post here because hopefully I will blend in better. I don't like being first or last on the blog believe it or not.
Anyway I was reading an article by Peter Gammons about DH's and this quote by Peter got my attention: There are two factors working against players who are predominantly designated hitters," said one American League general manager. "The first, obviously, is the flexibility. If you're the Orioles, why give the DH spot to Guerrero when you have Scott [and his .902 OPS] and can give Derrek Lee a rest and allow Scott to play first? I would like to remind everyone of Luke Scott's , DH RISP BA through July 7th was a dismal .133
August 3rd -10th BA.571 (4-for-7)
Ok, Luke improved when Buck first took over and drastically! Vlad Guerrero for his entire career is well over .300 and in 2010 was around 300. Plus, the fact he (Vlad) has never ever struck out over 100 times in a season. Luke Scott has! Now, I haven't the foggiest idea as to what Peter Gammons is trying to do in this article. It sounds like a load of hogwash, even though he means well.
I will post it so you can make your own decision on it. I would like Vlad. Luke Scott and Thome are lefties. Honestly, I would love Billy Butler aboard, but he's not available! So I will take Vlad for a one year deal if at all possible.

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110106&content_id=16401394&vkey=perspectives&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

Also, if the Orioles want Vlad, lets go get him! Waiting till the end of the month does us no good. Call up his agent see what he's looking for and go from there. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for Orioles. Lets get this done!

Now,I would like for them to go after Vladdy Guerr.I think his bat would open the door for the rest of our lineup.I think they should bring Kevin Millwood back too and think about Pavano too.I know we can win 90 games with this idea.

After Atkins at first I’m a bit wary of trying to give people second chances, but I’ve always been a fan of Lee. Even if he puts up the number he did last year he’ll be a team leader.

Ok, now that Matt Garza has officialy been traded, when does our GM bring him to the Charm City to pitch for the Baltimore Cubs???
I'm pretty sure it's now ok to go after him since he's with our sister team.
How about Andino & some of Angelos' Confederate money for ol' Matt?

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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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