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August 18, 2011

Orioles news, notes and opinions -- off-day edition

If you read this blog often, you know that I’m not a big fan of dissecting every managerial decision on a nightly basis. I didn’t do it that much with Dave Trembley, and I haven’t done it much with Buck Showalter. The reason is because I think it’s overdone and it’s a convenient distraction to the reality of the situation: The Orioles simply haven’t had enough talent to compete on a nightly basis and that doesn’t fall on the manager. Having said all that, I was a little surprised with two of Showalter’s moves in the Orioles’ 6-5 loss yesterday. The first one came in the seventh inning when Showalter let Craig Tatum hit with runners on the corners and no outs and the Orioles trailing by two runs. Tatum popped out to shallow right and the Orioles couldn't cut into their two-run deficit. As it turns out, that wasn’t the Orioles’ last scoring chance, but at the time, it easily could have been. I’m sending up Matt Wieters to hit in that situation. I’ve said several times that the Orioles should look to get Wieters more time off so I have no problem with his not starting a day game after a night one. But he was off last Sunday and he’ll enjoy a team-wide off day today so getting an at-bat or catching a few innings yesterday shouldn’t have been a huge deal. The other situation came in the top of the ninth, when Showalter pinch-ran for J.J. Hardy with Blake Davis, instead of Felix Pie. It turned out to be a huge play because Davis was thrown out at the plate to end the game. Davis, who has decent speed, ran hard the whole way and didn’t do anything wrong. Pie is not a good base runner, but he is the fastest guy on the team. I don’t know that he scores there, but I like his chances better than Davis.

I’ll have to take J.J. Hardy at his word, and yesterday he disputed the suggestion that his ankle may be bothering him again. So I’m left to believe that fatigue has set in a little with the shortstop. I’ve grown to enjoy watching how hard he plays and the elegance with which he plays the shortstop position. But it was clear watching him both offensively and defensively yesterday that he wasn’t operating with all his bullets, as Showalter likes to say. Today’s off day probably couldn’t have come at a better time for Hardy, who turns 29 tomorrow.

A lot of you have asked why the Orioles would have traded for first baseman Chris Davis if they knew that he had some shoulder issues. First of all, I’m can't be entirely sure how much the Orioles knew. The club’s athletic training staff and team doctors don’t speak to the media, and other club officials aren’t going to divulge information about players' medical records to reporters. I do know teams exchange medical information before trades are complete, so the Orioles certainly had access to past MRIs and physicals involving Davis. I also know -- and I have been told this by countless players, managers and teams officials -- that it is very rare for a guy who has been playing baseball for most of his life to have a completely clean shoulder or elbow. Most of these guys have some wear and tear on their labrum and rotator cuffs. That’s just the way it is, and most of them are able to play through it. My guess is since Davis hadn’t been getting treatment on his shoulder while he was in Texas, the Orioles didn’t consider it a concern going forward. Or perhaps it’s a new development, as Davis contends that he started feeling the discomfort after sleeping on it wrong while the Orioles were in Kansas City this month.

With reliever Michael Gonzalez and designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero starting to perform better in recent days, I wondered whether the Orioles had gotten any interest in either player from a contender looking to swing a waiver trade deadline deal. I’m told that they haven’t at this point, though it’s not impossible that could change closer to Sept. 1. I can’t say for sure whether Gonzalez or Guerrero have cleared waivers, but with their contracts and earlier-season struggles, I’ve treated that as a formality.

Because we haven’t gotten an update on Cesar Izturis in a while and I completely forgot to include this in my notebook in today’s paper, Showalter said today that the veteran infielder hasn’t made the expected progress with his groin injury and it’s unlikely that he’ll be ready to come off the disabled list when he’s eligible Tuesday.

Alfredo Simon has made a couple of good starts while logging badly needed innings for the Orioles. However, I think team officials believe more and more that if he has a future with the club, it’s in the bullpen. With Jim Johnson readying for a move to the rotation, Kevin Gregg appears to be the only current reliever who is a lock to be in next year’s 'pen. Simon could enter that mix.

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 6:30 AM | | Comments (27)



Thanks for your input on Davis. He probably helped to hide the injury hoping to get more playing time in Baltimore. Strange things happen with this hapless organization all the time. When it comes to the Orioles and Murphy's law, Murphy was an optimist.

Jeff; Are you kidding me Pie is a terrible base runner . Pie doesn't have hardly any baseball instincts. He's no more then a AAA player at best.
Sorry !
I think Showater made the best move he could of made. Maybe Randolf should not of sent him , but the way we been playing I can understand why he did .

I wondered, too, at whether Pie would have been a better choice than Davis as pinch runner but, no matter how fast he is, the throw beat the runner by 40 feet, and Pie is not that fast. Sending the runner was a good call, forcing the A's outfielder to make a perfect throw. Unfortunately, he made it.
The Orioles have been a disappointment this year, not even climbing to the level of mediocrity, but most of that is due to the failure of the pitching staff to progress. The young pitchers have been far worse than anticipated. I'd be surprised if a new pitching coach were not hired in the off-season.
The remainder of the team's failure relates to the strategy of signing older players (Lee, Guerrero), which has not worked.
I don't know that adding offense (even Fielder, who is unlikely to sign with the Orioles) would help much, though it is interesting to compare Guthrie's 5-16 record with a 4.55 ERA -- yeah, he seems always to pitch just good enough to lose -- to John Lackey's 11-10, 6.02 ERA...

I agree w/you that Simon may be better suited for the bullpen (although I really thought he'd do well in the rotation). I'd rather give Johnson a shot.

As far as C. Davis, I'm disappointed that we won't know what we have in him going into next year; however, he has, what, five years left before he's a free agent? Let's get him healthy for spring training. I'm high on this guy...he's earned his way up here (more so than any of the other position players in our organization).

As far as C. Davis, I'm disappointed that we won't know what we have in him going into next year; however, he has, what, five years left before he's a free agent? Let's get him healthy for spring training. I'm high on this guy...he's earned his way up here (more so than any of the other position players in our organization).

Jeff, I love your blogs!

Agree---Pie scores on that play. Odd move.
Also, when do you expect Jim Johnson to become starter?


Jeff Z's reply: Hard to say with Johnson. The thought process was to get him a handful of starts, but it's getting late here in the season. He does go out before every game and work on his conditioning with strenghth and conditioning coach Joe Hogarty, doing different running and agility drills. It's obvious that he's working himself up to that, but I don't know if the Orioles have a definitive date for him to join the rotation yet. They have said they wanted to see him do it before the end of the year because whether he can handle it or not affects their offseason plans.

Hey Jeff. What's the status of Manny Machado? I see he is only hitting .175 in his last 10 games...and .250 for the year at Frederick. Is he struggling...or what?

Jeff Z's reply: Yeah, he's going through some struggles. Not surprising. He's a 19-year-old kid in High-A. It happens.

I wonder if Showalter didn't pinchrun Pie because he was worried that, in spite of his speed, Felix might make a poor read or decision on the basepaths. There's more to baserunning than speed. If that's the case, then Pie is even more pointless on the team, except for his ability to play CF.

Or it could be that he didn't want to waste 2 players (Pie a pinchrunner, then Davis in for defense in the bottom) in case of a tie game, which makes some sense, but again I don't think he would have hesitated to do that if Pie's baserunning was as solid as his raw speed.

Look at the roster on this team. We have a bunch of bench players at best starting, how do you expect to win.
How can Andy McFail look in the mirror and say, "I have done a good job here" I dont know his W/L record during his tenure but I dont believe he has an above 70 win season???
Look at the Nats.
Also same goes for Joe Jordan and the player development squad. This team is broken from all aspects.
Im tired of hearing, "The o's play in the toughest division in baseball" Look at our record against AL West and Central. BAD!
Get a grip Peter, I cant even watch 1 inning of this team. I used to change my plans to watch the entire game. Pathetic!

yes Jeff those two managerial moves were questionable at the time. Clearly in the 9th he didn't want to burn two players with one move. But since Pie is not even used as a defensive replacement anymore, what was he saving him for? In the event of an injury to an outfielder?
You also touched on my biggest complaint. Give guys off days whether they want it or not. Guerrero didn't have an off day till the middle of May. And when he did get one, he went on that two week hot streak that got some of us excited. fool that i was

I recall when Bonds was having those incredible dominant seasons in his mid to late '30s, (ahem) , Dusty Baker would still give him the day off almost weekly. And with the young guys, its not necessarily physical fatigue but mental - after all, they are playing out the string for what, the 14th year in a row? (did i lose track)
I'm certainly of the minority in this town but i think Ripken's stats would have been greatly enhanced if he'd only played 150 games a year.
I'm fairly sure that prior to Eddie Murray, who was a freak of nature to be sure, Earl gave guys regular days off.

Hey Jeff,
Why does Hardy not run to first base? I suspected he didn't when he isn't even in the picture when the the ball gets to first on a ground out. Yesterday it was confirmed when Palmer made a comment about him not running. Are we going to have three more years with a ss not running out ground balls like we have in the past? Does Showalter just go along with this type of play or is there nothing anybody can do about it? If Hardy is so tired why doesn't Andio play short and Davis second? I would like to get more of a look at Davis anyway since we know what Andino can do. Looks like the manager is really fitting in well with the rest of the losers here!

Jeff Z's reply: Hardy clearly didn't run out that one groundball yesterday, and that could be because his ankle is bothering him. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think he's done that all year. I think he's played and ran hard all year.

Watching JJ Hardy not run hard on the booted infield ground-ball would certainly bring his ability to run into question. As Nick hits a HR on next AB, JJ's out was huge in a one-run game. Little-leaguers are taught to run hard and assume nothing. Is he hurt or just giving up on the season? Which is it ?

Jeff Z's reply: Hardy says that he's not hurt, but it's not hard to figure out that something is going on there. Showalter even said that he was a little "dead-legged" yesterday. Hardy obviously had the ankle issue about two weeks ago. I'd be surprised if it's not still bothering him.

I'd maybe give JJ a start or two but really it's better to move guys into the rotation way, way earlier. It is obvious that three things killed the O's this year: in order, pitching, LF, 3B.

The pitching has been terrible but with the left side of D being so bad it spiraled the badness. And the offensive dregs at LF and 3B have been so weak that other players try hard to make up for them at the plate and wind up struggling.

Next year if the pitching is sorted out, Angle or a competent hitter/fielder is in LF (and I'm sure Angle can do it) and the same competence is at 3B, a lot of other 'problems' will disappear.

Bad D and bad hitting at 3B/LF sure hurt the pitching, and vice versa. All the other issues the team has arose from those failures.

Hey Jeff .. Thanks for your consistently strong efforts covering a woeful franchise for us. I think your line "The Orioles simply haven’t had enough talent to compete on a nightly basis and that doesn’t fall on the manager" pretty much sums up this season and the past 14 years...Steve

If Kevin Gregg is a lock for our bullpen next season, then we are in deep trouble.

It has come to this:

With a win today, the Sarasota Orioles can clinch their division with a win tomorrow.

As to second guessing Buck, I agree it is a waste of time. He is not going to the Hall as a manager.

One of McPhail's biggest mistakes is waiting until after the teams in serious need of a trade to contend, complete their trades before he begins making his trades. Instead of starting business early in the process, he appears to believe in his thinking, that by waiting, that he is creating some incredible demand for his trade pieces. When in fact, he only seems to back himself into a corner and has to take left over players that the remaining, not-so-desperate trade partners are willing to give up.

I wonder what Dave Trembley is thinking as he watches this. I guess he wasn't all that bad after all. Yogi berra said it best when someone asked what makes him such a good manager and he replied, "Good players".

I have been a season ticket holder for more than 20 years. I am done. This is ridiculous. The games are over after 3 innings. It is horrible. Pitching, fielding and hitting are terrible. Also, I am very disaapointed by Buck. Young pitchers need confidence. Great coaches build confidence. I feel like this coaching staff does zero to build confidence. We either put a horrible defense behind a pitcher in need of a critical win, or we send them to the minors after a loss, or we keep them in the game too long instead of pulling them early after a great performance. The team is at least 3+ years away from competing in MLB let alone the AL East. PA---Please sell the team to a group willing to spend money. Need to pay for a 3 and 4 hitter and an ace. That means you need to spend an additional $50M a year. Spend it or sell. You are killing the spirit of the town. Thank God the Ravens are a good team. We would be the laughing stock of the sports world next to Cinn and Cleve.

I have been concerned with Weiter's workload. I really don't understand why they didn't back off of him earlier in the year - it is ridiculous he is going to catch 130+ games at his age in a season that doesn't matter. I really blame McPhail for not having a legitimate option at back up C, although Buck deserves some blame too for sticking with Fox for so long and basically just running Weiters out there pretty much every day early in the year. I really hope this abuse doesn't wear him out long term, as in 2014 or 2015 when we might be able to compete - assuming we actually grow useful arms and buy, not lease, bats.

JEFF Good story. I agree with most all you point out. I believe Buck did say something to hardy on that ground out wanting to know if his ankle was bothering him. Ankle hurts vare natural for athletes and if so hardy is trying to play through his not wimping out. Remember an ankle almost cost Cal his streak and he wasn't the same player playing through it. My call simon to bp and johnsonin rotation soon. PIE needs to be let go angle, hoes, and hudson all play LF hit lh and have speed and alot better baseball instincts and cost less. I think gonzalez might get some interestconsidering his new team would only have to pay one month salary. I disagree on the next years BP I believe both PATTON and SIMON would be in the picture at this point. After them ????

Jeff -

We can play revisionist expert all day because hey, that's what we all do best, but even the best teams out there are hard pressed to score 6 runs or more to win a game. The bottom line is the starting pitching needs to be better, period. I'm not trying to sound insulting, I'm just saying.

As far as Pie is concerned, knowing the way he runs the bases, he would've turned around to see the ball in play after passing 3rd base, slowed his momentum, and had been called out on a closer play at the plate. Pie would be an exceptable defensive replacement, but that's it.

As soon this team puts out something better than a 4A product, I can't be too critical of any manager on this team.

Another article claims that Josh Bell says playing more is just what he needs. That .184 average is exactly what we need and maybe his hustle and attitude will rub off on the other guys too!

How difficult must it be for a GM to walk onto the stage and be expected to turn around a horrible franchise with no money?
How difficult must it be to be a very good manager, walk onto the same stage and be expected to to turn around a franchise with almost no talent?
I kinda feel for these two, now, our last pitcher to feel good about, with Koji gone, Jim Johnson is about to be thrown to the wolves as a starter. A job that he definitely fail at. Why sabotage his career and jeopardize the good health of his arm by waring it out? The final result will be no dependable reliever and the loss of Johnson's services for some extended period of time.

The crowds are small at Camden Yards and getting smaller. Plus the young kids, coming into baseball- fan age, may find it hard to catch onto the O's, a perenial loser. Does the ownership care about the FUTURE of the franchise? Without spending for some bonafide talent, folks will not support this team. The alternative--building from within--seems light-years away, so going out and buying some talent is necessary. Does a zebra change its stripes? Seeing the O's brass spend would set the sports world back on its heels.


Who do you think the O's will send to winter ball? Do you think Hudson or Angle will get a look at left field after the rosters expand? Ditto Adams at 2B?

Never give up hope.


Jeff Z's reply: I think Angle would be a prime candidate to join club when rosters expand. I'd be surprised on Hudson. As for winter ball, a little early on that. I would like to see some of the top Oriole youngters go to Venezuela and Dominican and test themselves against good pitching. I know some of the minor leaguers have been reluctant to do that in the past.

I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

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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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