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August 6, 2011

Orioles news, notes and opinions

I don’t know if this matters to any of you. After all, last place is last place. But as things stand, the Orioles are on pace to finish 64-98, which would narrowly avoid just the third 100-loss season in franchise history. I thought last year’s team was an absolute lock for 100 losses before the late-season surge. So I should probably avoid such a prediction this year. However, I will say that with Jake Arrieta likely having thrown his last pitch this season, Zach Britton on the disabled list, the Orioles bullpen further weakened by the trade of Koji Uehara, and Brian Roberts not close to a return, I think the team’s chances of hitting that dubious mark are pretty good.

For most Oriole fans, it would probably be an easy decision. Cesar Izturis is an aging infielder who doesn’t hit much, and clearly is still working his way back from elbow surgery. There were two plays last night that an accomplished defensive player – and Izturis is that – makes very easily, and Izturis didn’t make either one. The Orioles have nothing to play for so why not let Robert Andino, Blake Davis or Ryan Adams get most of the at-bats at second base, while letting Izturis go on his merry way, and either catch on with a contender as a possible late-game defensive replacement at shortstop, or do something else? I get the thinking and it’s hard to argue with it. It also may come to that rather quickly. However, the Orioles won’t take that decision lightly. I’ve said this many times and I know nobody wants to hear it, but no Oriole is more respected and more liked in the clubhouse than Izturis is. He is a sounding board for the Latin players, the young pitchers, manager Buck Showalter and the rest of the coaching staff. He is trusted by everyone in the organization, and if Izturis decided to hang up the spikes after the season, I'd be very surprised if he wasn't on the Orioles' coaching staff next season. Izturis also worked his butt off to get back for the final two months of the season. So as easy as it may sound to unceremoniously dump Izturis or confine him to the bench, it would be an extremely tough decision for Showalter to make.

Showalter essentially said yesterday that it really made no point for him to give the day-to-day updates on Brian Roberts’ health because it only further complicates the situation. For the record, Roberts, who hasn’t played since May 16 because of concussion symptoms, is making some progress with his baseball activities and having more good days than bad ones, but he still hasn’t been cleared for game action. Details about Roberts’ symptoms and on his general prognosis have been very hard to come by, and it would be both unethical and unfair for me to speculate. However, I do think it’s fair to question whether Roberts will wind up playing even fewer games this season than he did in 2010. He’s currently played in 39 games. Last year, he saw action in 59. Overall, he’s played in just the 94 of the Orioles’ last 267 games.

Also worth noting: Tommy Hunter last night became the 10th different Oriole pitcher to start a game this season. Eight of those guys have made five starts or more. It will be interesting to see how Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair fill Britton's spot. Could Steve Johnson finally get an opportunity? Will the Orioles decide to bring back Brian Matusz? Or knowing that Britton may only miss two starts, will the Orioles just use somebody out of the bullpen for those games like Brad Bergesen or Jo-Jo Reyes? We should know more on that later.

Remember when one of the bigger stories of the season was how early the Orioles would shut down rookie Zach Britton in order to limit him to no more than 175 innings? That’s certainly a story no longer. Assuming Britton comes off the disabled list not long after the 15 days are up – he’d be eligible to return Aug.19 – he should be able to remain in the rotation for the rest of the season. Britton has logged 121 2/3 innings this year between the Majors and the Minors. That leaves plenty of innings to play with over the final month and a half of the season.

Very few players have improved their standing in the organization, especially over the last six weeks. But one guy who has is left-hander Troy Patton. He was so far down the depth chart when the season began, but he’s had a couple of pretty encouraging outings. There’s a long way to go, but he could be in the process of pitching himself into next season’s plans.

Orioles President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail mentioned in his post trade deadline conference call with reporters that he got a lot of calls in teams interested in Adam Jones. The Atlanta Braves were reportedly one of the teams to call and I’ll add the Philadelphia Phillies to that list. Looking for a right-handed bat, Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro expressed interest in Jones. MacPhail informed him that Jones wasn’t available, and that’s now a moot point as the Phillies acquired Hunter Pence.

Speaking of the Phillies, I watched with interest their bench-clearing incident with the San Francisco Giants last night. I don’t particularly enjoy such occurrences because they can get real ugly, but I had to chuckle when I saw former Orioles manager and coach, and current Phillies’ third base coach Juan Samuel right in the thick of things. Samuel is absolutely one of the nicest guys in all of baseball, and a favorite of reporters everywhere. He’d also be on my list of guys I’d least want to fight or get provoke. If Samuel’s team is involved in a brawl or anything like that, expect to see him actively involved. He didn’t disappoint last night.

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 7:00 AM | | Comments (26)


I keep saying it, and nobody believes it, but we'll see. "Brian Roberts' career is over". Everyone talks of how the team would be better if Roberts was on the field, yet the team has never had a winning season with Roberts. That won't change, as he approaches 35 years of age. Even if gets back onto the field this year or next, we will not ever see B-Rob of 2005, or anything close to that again. Unfortunately for him, he never had the opportunity to play for a winner.

Keeping Izzy around juts b/c he's a nice guy is part of the formula as to why this team/org is terrible year in & year out. Have they rehired Trembley for a spot in the org yet ? LOL

Calling up Steve Johnson would be a mistake. We are talking about a guy who has thrown 50 IP's in AAA. By the way, Matusz pitched ZERO in AAA before he was made an Oriole for the first time. Tell me that wasnt a mistake

Too bad the O's couldnt keep tough guy Samuel around,,,but why would anyone want to work with the O's brass day in & day out....losers

The O's should consider trading Jones given we are 15 pitchers away from being relavant,,,of course if we did bring in 5 or so guys with Jones they would fail miserably in our org

Hey Jeff .... I know a lot can happen with the GM slot before next season, but do you get the sense the Orioles internally are more open to the idea of dealing Jones this offseason to fill their obvious pitching needs??? Enjoy your weekend ...

Jeff Z's reply: I am sure there will be some talks, but I don't see that happening. If you trade Jones, you might as well start over again. Nick Markakis isn't the hitter that you expected him to be. Matt Wieters isn't either. Jones is developing into that guy, and is far and away the team's best hitter.

Any updates/movement on the signings of Dylan Bundy or Jason Esposito? Given what an absolute train-wreck this season has been, I'd expect the Orioles to sign neither...


Jeff Z's reply: I just wrote about Bundy last night. Nothing has changed since that. They've had some talks and he was in town to get his physical, but that's where things are. No real progress made. Same with Esposito. Talks, but both sides still holding strong.

It truly is amazing how quickly the O's season unraveled. We flirted with .500 in June and then the season quickly went down hill. I thought we would see progress this year but here we are again trying to find 5 starting pitchers to finish out the season. I am really beginning to believe that the O's are cursed as nothing they do seems to turnout right. How could all of our young pitchers pitch so badly at the same time? How could both Vlady and DLee both seem to lose their ability to hit at the same time? How could Brian Roberts slide into 1st and be out for the remainder of the season? And now Hardy has a mysterious ankle injury and our $66 million dollar man has become a no-impact singles hitter. I just don't get it. And on top of it all, our defense is terrible. The O's momentum for losing has only picked up steam and you must wonder what it will take to right this ship.

This off season should be one in which we make bold moves with no player (and I mean no player) viewed as untouchable. At this point the entire team is infected with loser disease and if we can get good value (major league ready and talented) for them, I move them. The O's cannot continue to make marginal moves that make very little difference. The moves must be bold and take risk (but I emphasize smart risk). We must spend money for impact players like Fielder and must find proven major leaguers to fill our pitching staff. The entire situation must be turned upside down and inside out. We must also look at our ability to assess and develop talent. We are very lacking in both areas. Tough talk by Buck that we cannot back up does not help; nor does an indecisive GM who seems to wait for ever to make any type of decision.

I've said it before, it is not Mr. Angelos fault (although it would be nice for him to show more interest and be more visible). The responsibility clearly lies with Andy McPhail. What has worked for other organizations clearly has not and cannot work here. McPhail must be smart enough to realize his plan is has not worked, and develop a new more flexible and aggressive plan or we will continue to be patsies for the rest of the league for the foreseeable future. It is time to do something different!

Nice article. Why is Pie still playing? He's regressed and gives us nothing except speed on the bases, except he has no baserunning instincts. I would run Reimold out there every night.

Also, is there any interest in Mark Reynolds? I know he's not clutch but he's a legitimate HR hitter. Does it make sense to see what Bell can do at third every night?

Jeff Z's reply: Pie has been playing less and less, and I'm fine with that. But last time I checked, Reimold isn't exactly knocking the cover off teh ball either. For all the clamoring for him to play, he's hitting under .220. As for Reynolds, trade deadline has passed. He could be a trade chip this offseason, but I don't really see it. Josh Bell really wasn't dominating at Triple-A so to this point, he's done nothing to suggest he should be billed as the Orioles third baseman of the future.

I've been a life-long Oriole fan--that won't change--and I'm 71. In all those years, I've never been as down on the O's as I am now. It's not that Vlad or Lee didn't live up, but it's more the young pitching. I know some might still come through, but I really felt this year, with Arietta, Matusz, Tillman, Britton and, what I thought would be an even better Guthrie, that we finally had the makings of a staff that could us back to competitiveness. Maybe that will happen, but I'm a tired, old O's fan--tired of losing, tired of waiting, tired of another long and lost season.

I have been hot on the topic. Development is the key to all the O's problems. I am not convinceour talent selected is any worse than most of the teams. I am convinced the development process is not working.People closer to the subject and are better than me to dissect the problem. But it comes down to one/ combination of these.
1. The Director is not competent. I mean he has not set the process and hired correct people to perform the job. This has been going on for yrs. Why has he not noticed problem/ corrected it? Accountability?
2. The process is not working. This includes body care- proper exercising and diet and too the learning of fundamentals completely before you move to the next level. It takes a strong process/system that will hold back a player until fundamental are achieved.
3. Coaches whether team or roving coaches are the backbone of the system.Criticize the process and player movement to levels; they aren’t just there to teach. Teaching is the fundamental/ core of their duties. They have the eyes and knowledge to see if things are working. Great Organizations critic themselves. Expectations -Excellence not Satisfactory.
4. Drafting the best talent available. I agree with Andy's approach-pitching is premium. But like the Ravens I am an absolute believer in BEST AVAILABLE regardless of need. Eventually you will wind up with players pushing at all positions at all levels a Next Man Up approach.
Developing talent will either waste the dollars spent and talent provided or turn it into GOLD. The O's organization's serious question in the development process. Is anyone accountable?
Challenge-sports writters and media people to dig into this. Ask the hard questions. players, coaches, organization. I think you will be surprised. Eventually write the article on you findings

Why is it when a player is struggling and this is especially true with the Orioles? That particular player is always somehow nominated as some sort of liaison and therefore provides invaluable leadership to the team and can't be replaced or released. A ballplayer is paid to play the game and play the game well. Izzy doesn't do that anymore and he should consider retiring. I could seem him a coach and would do a fine job if that is the decision that is made. Now some comments on the Oriole play last night. I thought Andino did an excellent job. Wieters was excellent in blocking the plate and preventing two runs. Reimold made a good throw from left. Bell and Reynolds had their moments too especially with that one play Bell dove and the nice scoop by Reynolds. So even though the O's lost again! There were a lot of positives.
Lastly, Do the Blue Jays think the Orioles are running some sort of "Saw Dust" joint at Camden Yards? I ask this because after the game the Blue Jays covered Bret Lawrie with shaving cream. I mean that is no big deal, but then they dumped gallons of Gatorade all over him right on the playing field. I bring this up because Jim Palmer mentioned the outstanding job that the head grounds keeper been doing. Bret didn’t play that well last night, and I appreciate it was his rookie debut; still OPACY is not a “Saw Dust” Joint. So if they want to roll like that let them dump Gatorade all over him let them do it when they are playing at the Skydome. Jim Palmer did a good job of announcing last night; let’s see if he can keep it up with Tillman pitching tonight and Simon on Sunday can’t wait!

The Friday loss, pin it on flat out terrible hitting with runners on base. Just pathetic.

I've been put a positive spin in recent years, refusing to get depressed when things bottomed out at end of seasons or snowballed at beginning of 2010. But with the failure of the young pitching cavalry in 2011, I'm finally becoming negative.

i can't help but feel negative about the orioles.i predict they will lose 100 games this year because the pitching is not ready for prime time and the rest of the rest of the team is not interested in playing baseball. if they really wanted to win games they would be dong it. none of the sprts writers want to hear that peter the great has run all of the good player development people scouts, paly by play anouncers out of baltimoer. andy macphail will soon be gone too. yea he has tried, peter the great is the one who should leave town.

Seriously...izzy mentors latin players...What club are you talking about.. we have Andino and Simon and vlad(who I'm sure doesn't need much mentoring). Oh yeah, those mentioned players all came to us from other clubs..Remember, this is the orioles, we don't do LATIN...that's one of the reasons we suck year in and year out.

Sell or take the team elsewhere PA......

The the only chance Oriole fans have of ever again having a competitive team.

The city would get another team in a few years's too good of a baseball market.

Doesn't even matter if the new team is called the Baltimore Peppers. It's not like people wear Oriole hats and jerseys anyway... They're too embarrassed.

PA and his boys don't care about winning. And he hired a gm who has been the worst at it for over the last 20 years....... And some still can't see this?

Sell or leave PA... Please

This Britton injury highlights one of the reasons why the cavalry went down (to a man!). Too much pressure put on them, all feeling it and overthrowing each time out. (Save us new guy! this has been the rotten organization story here for so long.) If Lee and Vlad had performed as billed, sending lots of balls out of the park, the kids (and Guthrie) could have relaxed a bit. The money should have been spent on experienced pitchers, to bring in vet savvy and confidence to shore up the kids. The team might still have had a losing season, but the pitchers would have been a lot healthier now and have learned things worth learning. Buck is no savior here--who knows how much a part of the problem. Dumping Kranitz for a couple of old buddies, one of whom decamps before the AllStar game, put ego above organization. In the latter spirit, perhaps the mgmnt will see the sense in making Izzie a coach. You are right Jeff, the young guys should play.

Jeff...was Tillman also on an innings limit prior to his self destruct mode? I do figure him to be back in the rotation and was wondering if he would be limited.

Jeff Z's reply: No, Tillman has no innings limit.

Hi Jeff,

Here's a Val Majewski and Scott Rice update:

Majewski is hitting .405 {17 for 42} with the Rangers AAA Round Rock affiliate and there was mention of him on the Rangers official site a few days ago.

Scott Rice is pitching at AA Chatanooga in the Los Angeles Dodgers system Used as a situation lefty, In 32.2 innings he has given up only 25 hits, has 27 strikeouts and a 2.48 ERA.

I saw both of them play this spring for the York Revolution in the Independent Atlantic League. I honestly think that both players would be an upgrade to our current major league roster. A ride up 83 was all it would have taken. The Orioles certainly know both players since they are former first round draft choices of the organization. With the dearth of talent in our minor league system, it is disheartening to see them in flourishing in other organizations.

This "all the king's horses & men time" for sure, but why was Izturis at 2b & Andino at ss? Izturis is a ss playing 2b & Andino has been at 2b 90% of the season. I don't get it.
It's the same as Vlad still in the 4 spot. Why?
I'm not jumping off the Buckwagon yet, but some of the stubborn thinking reminds me of Billick. If I can see this why can't they? You're only the smartest guy in the room when you have the players, just ask Davey Johnson.


I'm not a doctor never mind a neurologist, but I'm finding it real hard to swallow that Brian Roberts is out this long due to a concussion from sliding head first into a base.

Also, I saw the video from last year when he hit himself in the helmet with his bat. I've seen guys get hit in the head with a fastball and weren't out as long as he was.

I'm not saying he isn't hurt or he's soft, but just that there's got to be something else there. We, of course, have to respect his privacy, but, the whole thing doesn't pass the smell test.

I just hope that it isn't something much more serious.

Why are we surprised Itzuris is on the team?? After all we opened the season with 2 DH's, 3 SS's and NO backup Catcher.
Fox after hitting 10 Spring HR's was told he could only make the team as backup Catcher (which he's not) meanwhile Itzuris was a lock as 3rd SS for what possible reason? Would any other ML team make decisions such as this? As long as Buck is here undeserving vets will hold down key spots while young players are jerked back & forth from minors to majors & used only were injuries force their use. Why shd Vlad use up AB's that we could be using to see if any of the young players are part of our future.
Why did Lee play every game when he had the worst ML avg with runners on? Buck is probably the most overrated Mgr we've had

Jeff, I appreciate all you and the other Sun writers do to keep us in the loop on the Orioles - you all do a very good job with it as hard as that is since the team's not doing well.

One thing I was wondering about though. Since I presume MLB organizations know their competitor's strengths and weaknesses better than anyone, have you all done much in the way of off-the-record interviews with front office personnel, managers, coaches, scouts, etc. in other organizations to get their insider take on what's wrong with the Orioles? Maybe you do this regularly already, but if not it would be interesting to know what the competition's perspective is of the Orioles organization.

Jeff Z's reply: Yeah, I think all baseball writers to that pretty regularly. They don't say anything different than what everybody around here knows already. They fixate on the fact that they don't spend enough money on scouts and scouting in general, they've drafted poorly and just the idea of it being tough to win in the AL East unless you do so many things well. And the Orioles clearly don't do those things well.

Jay from Connecticut is correct. I am a physician, and Brian Roberts being out for 2 1/2 months (so far!) for a supposed concussion without blunt trauma to the head does not add up. Of course I can't hope to make a diagnosis from afar, but the person who is 'treating him' is NOT A PHYSICIAN BUT A RESEARCH PSYCHOLOGIST WHO HAS MADE HIS CAREER BY EMPHASIZING HOW DANGEROUS CONCUSSIONS ARE. This person is not qualified to look for other possible causes of headaches, not to provide clinical treatment of any medical condition at all. Roberts should be seen by a neurologist or neurosurgeon for a second opinion.
Let me emphasize that I am not criticizing Roberts for not playing--I would guess that he is terrified bout what his psychologist is telling him about irreversible brain damage.

Hello Jeff

I'm at the point where I think they should trade everyone including Jones, Wieters, and Markakis for prospects that could be brought along with Machado.

Between players that have not lived up to the hype, and injuries, as a fan I would prefer that they blew this team up and started fresh.

Good da:y,
Besides my great idea of of Guthrie as CLOSER, I think we should do the following:

Sign as many Bud Norris, Capuano, Correia types as possible-even Rodrigo again. Hey, 2nd career at only 35-36? Sign Gibbons, sign as mnay FRANCOEUR types as possible. Any position, doesn't matter. Because why, NOBODY'S job should be safe. Sign nthose two dudes that the other guy keeps talking--Majewski & Rice. The point is flood your team with as many ok bodies as possible. It has worked in the past, Milligan, Sutcliffe, Storm, Dan Graham, Joe Nolan, Morogiello, etc...the ONLY difference between then and now is those in charge of the ORIOLE WAY.

I've never ever rooted for a player because he is favorite of reporters, nor rooted against him because some reporter made him out to be a bad guy...who cares whether Juan Samuel is a favorite of reporters? And is your opinion of him being a nice guy based solely or primarily on his popularity with reporters?

Jeff Z's reply: Well, I like him as a guy and he also has a reputation as a pretty damn good coach, and a guy who fights for his players. The Phillies obviously thought enough of him to make him their 3rd base coach and outfield coach.

Jay from Connecticut is right--I am a physician and I agree that being incapacitated for nearly 3 months (so far!) for a supposed concussion, without severe blunt trauma to the head, simply does not add up. I would not hope to diagnose Roberts from afar, but he needs to be seen for a second opinion--one from a neurologist or neurosurgeon. There are many causes of headaches besides concussion, but the person who is 'treating' Roberts is a research psychologist, not a physician at all. He is not qualified to evaluate various causes of headaches, or for that matter, to provide clinical treatment of any medical condition whatsoever. He has made his reputation by alerting the world to the dangers of concussion, and he might be biased in terms of seeing this condition where it is not present, or over-estimating its severity.
PLEASE try to influence club personnel to seek an actual medical opinion on Roberts's condition. Let me add also that I am not criticizing Roberts for being out so long--I would imagine that he is eager to play but is terrified by what his psychologist has told him about the permanent brain damage he is incurring.

Another aspect of the management deficiencies facing the Orioles is the relatively poor state of its farm system. Our Triple A club in Norfolk has the worst record in the IL, despite a roster that has been stable relative to most other clubs in the league. Plus they currently have four of the pitchers that were on the O's opening day roster, plus frequent use of Tillman and Bergesen.
If my memory is correct, not a single player was promoted this year from Norfolk because of an outstanding hitting or pitching performance. Promotions have come mainly out of desperation, to replace major league players grossly under-performing or hurt.
One would have to look far and wide to find anyone at this point who could be a productive first year player in 2012.
The successes and failures of professional athletic teams start at the top.

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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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