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November 30, 2011

The Hall of Fame -- and old Orioles on the ballot

The 2012 Hall of Fame ballot has been mailed out to roughly 600 eligible members of the Baseball Writer Association of America. Among the 13 new candidates on this year’s ballot are former Orioles catcher Javy Lopez and Baltimore native and Milford Mill graduate Brian Jordan, who was an outfielder for four teams in a 15-season career.

There are no slam-dunk Hall of Famers in the new group that is led by former outfielders Bernie Williams, Tim Salmon and Ruben Sierra and infielder Vinny Castilla.

Also on the ballot are 14 holdovers, including longtime Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, who received just 11 percent of the vote last year, his first on the ballot.

Palmeiro amassed than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs in his 20-season career (seven with the Orioles), but a positive test for the banned substance stanozolol in 2005 adversely affected his Hall chances. To stay on the ballot, a player must receive at least 5 percent of the vote submitted by BBWAA members who have at least 10 years in the association.

For election, a player must receive at least 75 percent of the vote. Former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin is the returnee with the most support from last year, when he was named on 62.1 percent of submitted ballots.

Former Orioles Tim Raines and Lee Smith also return to the ballot this year.

Results of the voting will be announced Jan. 9.

Here is the complete ballot: Jeff Bagwell, Jeromy Burnitz, Vinny Castilla, Juan Gonzalez, Brian Jordan, Barry Larkin, Javy Lopez, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Bill Mueller, Terry Mulholland, Dale Murphy, Phil Nevin, Rafael Palmeiro, Brad Radke, Tim Raines, Tim Salmon, Ruben Sierra, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell, Larry Walker, Bernie Williams, Tony Womack, Eric Young.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:10 PM | | Comments (2)
        

Chong deciding between Korea and Orioles -- not a medical holdup

South Korean right-hander Chong Tae-Hyon is deciding between staying in his native country to continue to play baseball or accept the Orioles’ offer to join their 40-man roster.

The holdup in signing the 33-year-old submariner is not medical but instead is based on whether he wants to leave Korea for the United States.

Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said he hopes to have a decision in a week or so. This is the first time Chong has been a free agent, and the eight-time Korean Baseball Organization All-Star is being pursued heavily in his own country.

If Chong chooses the Orioles – who likely would be offering a multiyear deal and a 40-man roster spot – he would be the first player to go directly from the KBO to the majors. That certainly has its allure.

The Orioles had hoped that Chong would sign last week. He has been in for a physical, but the sides have not reached an official agreement.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 2:27 PM | | Comments (11)
        

Should the Orioles deal Guthrie this winter?

Baseball’s annual meetings start Monday in Dallas.

There will be tons of agents there hoping to get the best deals for their players. I am sure the Orioles will talk to plenty of them, letting them know there is interest in their clients.

And I will not be surprised if, at some point, the Orioles sign one or two free agents for 2012, likely lesser tier players who won’t get eye-popping deals.

But the sense is that if new executive vice president Dan Duquette makes a splash next week – or within the next month – it will be in the form of a trade.

When you look at the Orioles’ roster, there aren’t a whole lot of valuable trade chips. Their most coveted players – Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, Zach Britton – are players that can be built around. J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis are solid players with contracts hefty enough that teams aren’t going to hand over the farm while absorbing those salaries.

Mark Reynolds would attract some interest, but remember the going price for him last year was two relievers, so you have to be realistic in what would come back in return. Much of the rest of the roster is filled with marginal big leaguers or inexperienced players who are young enough to have an upside but have not established themselves as future mainstays.

There is one guy, however, who seems utterly tradeable – so much so that we mention his name every winter and every July. And yet right-hander Jeremy Guthrie remains an Oriole.

There is a reason for that. Guthrie is solid and dependable. He will make 30-plus starts, he will throw 200-plus innings and he’ll keep you in most games in the AL East. That can’t be said – at least not yet – for the rest of the Orioles’ projected staff.

So it’s tough to consider trading your one dependable starter from a rotation of question marks.

The flip side is that Guthrie will be 33 in April and a free agent at season’s end. He’ll likely cost $7 million or more in his final year of arbitration considering he’s now thrown 200 innings in three consecutive seasons.

And he has trade value. Not as an ace, the role he is forced to fill in Baltimore, but as a middle-of-the-rotation innings eater on a good team.

And, frankly, the Orioles can lose 90-plus games with or without Guthrie in 2012, so why not deal him for a potential future part or two?

But there is a contingent out there that gasps at the idea of dealing Guthrie, simply because of what his absence would do to the rotation. There’s also the thought of extending Guthrie for another few years since dependable starting pitching is always a commodity.

Which camp are you in?

Daily Think Special: Should Jeremy Guthrie be dealt this winter?

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (39)
Categories: Connolly's Corner Sports Bar
        

November 29, 2011

Orioles unveil 2012 spring training schedule

The Orioles on Tuesday announced their 2012 Grapefruit League schedule. The O's spring-training slate beings March 5 with an afternoon split-squad game against Tampa Bay in Port Charlotte and a night game against Pittsburgh at Ed Smith Stadium.

The O's will host 10 different teams during the spring campaign, including the Boston Red Sox three times, and the Minnesota Twins, Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays two times apiece. The Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals will each make one visit to Ed Smith Stadium.

The Orioles will play 15 games on the road during the 2012 Grapefruit League schedule. They will make two trips to play the Blue Jays, Phillies, Rays, Red Sox, Twins and Pirates and one trip to face the Braves, Tigers and Yankees.

For more information on Orioles spring training, click here. Check out the complete schedule below.

DateOpponentLocationTime
March 5Tampa Bay RaysPort Charlotte1:05
March 5Pittsburgh PiratesSarasota7:05
March 6Boston Red SoxFort Myers1:35
March 7Minnesota TwinsSarasota1:05
March 8Atlanta BravesSarasota1:05
March 9Tampa Bay RaysPort Charlotte1:05
March 10Philadelphia PhilliesClearwater1:05
March 11Boston Red SoxSarasota1:05
March 12Toronto Blue JaysDunedin1:05
March 13Tampa Bay Rays Sarasota1:05
March 14Pittsburgh Pirates Sarasota1:05
March 15Detroit TigersLakeland1:05
March 16Minnesota Twins (ss)Fort Myers1:05
March 17Boston Red Sox (ss)Sarasota1:05
March 17Boston Red Sox (ss)Fort Myers1:35
March 18New York Yankees (ss)SarasotaTBA
March 18Atlanta Braves (ss)Orlando1:05
March 19off day
March 20Philadelphia PhilliesSarasota1:05
March 21Toronto Blue JaysSarasota1:05
March 22Minnesota TwinsFort Myers1:05
March 23Boston Red SoxSarasota1:05
March 24Washington NationalsSarasota1:05
March 25Philadelphia PhilliesClearwater1:05
March 26Pittsburgh PiratesBradenton7:05
March 27Minnesota TwinsSarasota1:05
March 28Toronto Blue JaysDunedin1:05
March 29New York YankeesTampa7:05
March 30Detroit TigersSarasota7:05
March 31Pittsburgh Pirates (ss)Bradenton1:05
April 1Tampa Bay RaysSarasota1:05
April 2Florida Southern CollegeSarasota7:05
Posted by Baltimore Sun sports at 5:22 PM | | Comments (1)
        

Duquette believes Orioles staffing levels are sufficient

One of the things that interested me the most during Monday’s teleconference with Dan Duquette and new amateur scouting director Gary Rajsich was Duquette’s reaction when asked about the organization’s number of scouts.

This has been a bone of contention with many in the organization throughout the years. The Orioles trail many of their AL counterparts, especially East rivals the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox, in resources and employees in their respective scouting departments. International, especially, is a comparative joke.

Duquette and Rajsich both said that one of their priorities is to fill some of the holes that were created this offseason when certain scouts left or were dismissed (as part of normal attrition). Beyond that, though, Duquette said he is comfortable with the numbers.

“In regards to the staffing and the staffing levels, we have appropriate staffing levels and we are going to be making some other changes to the staff to make sure that we are strong, not just in amateur scouting, but in professional and international scouting as well,” Duquette said.

So it seems like it will be more of a change in how the current personnel is utilized than a big spike in staffing numbers. Interesting development.

Truth is, some people within the past regime felt that was one of the things Andy MacPhail didn’t do well. He didn’t fully utilize those at his disposal, from his top assistants down to his area scouts. He was somewhat hands off when it came to that aspect of managing.

The Duquette regime, at least in this matter, looks like it will be different.


Posted by Dan Connolly at 10:00 AM | | Comments (2)
        

November 28, 2011

Orioles coaching staff nearing completion: Castro, Hale

Looks like the Orioles 2012 coaching staff is just about set.

The club is expected to hire former Milwaukee Brewers coach Bill Castro to be bullpen coach and would like to hire Boston Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale to be third base coach, according to an industry source.

Hale’s situation is a little tricky since he is still under contract with the Red Sox, who don’t currently have a manager and therefore cannot commit to whether Hale will be retained. The Orioles hope to know this week whether Hale will join them and manager Buck Showalter, who worked with Hale for three seasons in Texas.

The Orioles are considering other options if Hale remains in Boston.

Hale, 50, was on Showalter’s coaching staff in Texas from 2003 to 2005. He has spent the past six seasons as a coach for Red Sox, including four as a third base coach. A former first baseman/outfielder in the minors, Hale also would be in charge of infield instruction with the Orioles.

Showalter is looking for an experienced third base coach to replace Willie Randolph and Hale fits that requirement. Long considered a future manager, Hale likely would have been a candidate for the Orioles’ managerial job this offseason if Showalter had moved to the front office.

Castro, 59, spent 10 seasons as a major-league pitcher, almost all as a reliever, with the Brewers, New York Yankees and Kansas City Royals. He spent nearly two decades as a bullpen coach and, at times, a pitching coach with the Brewers.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Castro would be the Orioles’ lone Spanish-speaking coach.

The Orioles other four coaches are: Jim Presley (hitting), Rick Adair (pitching) Wayne Kirby (outfield/first base) and John Russell (bench/catching).

It’s possible the Orioles could also hire a seventh coach, who would be able to suit up before games, but must be out of uniform and out of the dugout by game time.

Former Orioles infielder Mike Bordick could potentially fill that role during home games and then work with minor leaguers when the Orioles are on the road. Or he could continue in a full-time minor league instruction position.

MASNsports.com first reported Castro as a candidate for the bullpen job and mlb.com first reported Castro agreed to the position.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 10:30 PM | | Comments (2)
        

Some extra from Gary Rajsich, new amateur scouting director

Gary Rajsich, the Orioles’ new amateur scouting director had a teleconference with the Baltimore media on Monday afternoon.

Here are some things he said that struck me as worth passing on to you.

Rajsich on being hired by Dan Duquette: “I’m very excited about the new job and the challenges ahead. And I am very grateful to Dan for this opportunity to possibly have an impact on the Baltimore Orioles’ major league club.”

On having no experience on the administrative/director side of scouting: “Administratively, I think I will have a lot of help in place to help me with those things. I do have a lot to learn and I’m looking forward to the challenge. I think once we get people in place and they are all very good at what they do, I think the administrative and technical side of the job will be handled well. And it will be a good blend of evaluation and office skills to maximize our success really in getting the right players.”

On the difference between scouting on the pro and amateur levels: “The last nine years I have been looking at pro players that belong to someone else and now there’s a chance to go out and evaluate and draft and acquire players that you can actually get. In that sense it is very exciting. To me, scouting is scouting no matter what level. Just to recognize talent, bring those kids into a system, watch them develop and watch them peak and win for you at the major-league level is very satisfying.”

On a draft preference between college and high school players: “I really don’t have a preference. I don’t think you can pull yourself off from one segment of draft-eligible players. … I think they are equally important. The philosophy for me is to draft players with talent, great makeup and upside and turn them over to the farm system and develop them into winners.”

On his current scouting staff: “A few of them I know and have a relationship with in the past. There are a few holes to fill, but I think that will be one of our first orders of business to fill those positions and get our staff squared away and then go forward from there.”

On scouting in the AL East: “I do have an understanding of the American League East, I have an idea of the product that needs to be on the field to compete and win. I definitely am going to try and raise the bar here and that we scout and we evaluate talent to do just that.”

On support from ownership and Duquette to be able to sign draftees: “I think that the amateur scouting department has had the support of ownership to sign players over the last several years according to their records so that wasn’t a concern of mine. I know Dan knows the importance of signing good players and signing the right players and that’s where we’ll target our funds.”


Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:50 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Lee MacPhail IV to be reassigned

During his teleconference announcing that Gary Rajsich as the Orioles new amateur scouting director, Orioles' executive vice president Dan Duquette said there has also been another change in his front office.

Pro scouting director Lee MacPhail IV has been reassigned within the scouting department. Duquette wasn't specific about duties, but the assumption is MacPhail will continue to scout for the club without administrative or supervising responsibilities.

"I’ll do whatever is needed. I am an Oriole," MacPhail said. "I'm happy to be here and I'll do whatever is asked."

MacPhail, the nephew of former club president Andy MacPhail, has held the position since October 2007.

Duquette said he was still working on the structure of his front office and it seems likely the club will not have a specific pro scouting director.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 3:28 PM | | Comments (2)
        

Orioles make Rajsich hiring official

As reported here last night, the Orioles have hired Gary Rajsich away from the Toronto Blue Jays to serve as their director of amateur scouting. Here's the news release from the club:


The Orioles today announced that GARY RAJSICH (pronounced Ray-sitch) has been named Director of Amateur Scouting.

“We have added a very good, veteran baseball man with this hire,” said Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations DAN DUQUETTE. “Gary is an excellent judge of talent at all levels.”

Rajsich, 57, began his scouting career with the Boston Red Sox, serving in both the amateur and professional departments from 1994-2006. In his time with Boston, Rajsich drafted and signed LHP JON LESTER and was instrumental in acquiring RHP DEREK LOWE with CA JASON VARITEK from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for RHP HEATHCLIFF SLOCUMB on July 31, 1997.

From Boston, Rajsich joined the Texas Rangers as a professional scout, where he served from 2006-2009. In the fall of 2009, he was hired by the Toronto Blue Jays as professional crosschecker.

Selected and signed by the Houston Astros as an 11th round selection in the 1976 draft out of Arizona State University, Rajsich played four years in the major leagues (1982-85). The first baseman and right fielder made his Major League debut for the New York Mets in 1982, where he also played in 1983, and played for the St. Louis Cardinals (1984) and San Francisco Giants (1985). Rajsich finished his playing career with the Chunichi Dragons in the Japan Central League (1986-88).

Rajsich and his wife, Linda, have been married for 35 years and have two sons, Lou, 28, and Lee, 27.

Posted by Chris Korman at 1:10 PM | | Comments (1)
        

Orioles’ top affiliate will have a new manager in 2012

The Orioles’ top affiliate will have a new manager in 2012.

Ron Johnson, a long-time minor-league skipper who spent the past two seasons as first base coach for the Boston Red Sox, is expected to take over as the manager of the Norfolk Tides, the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate.

Gary Allenson, who managed the Tides for parts of the past five seasons, likely will be re-assigned within the organization.

Johnson, 55, was the manager of Triple-A Pawtucket, the Red Sox top affiliate, from 2005 to 2009 and led the PawSox to a playoff berth in 2008. He first joined the Boston organization as a minor-league manager in 2000 – while new Orioles’ executive vice president Dan Duquette was GM of the Red Sox.

Johnson has spent much of his career in the Kansas City Royals organization, which drafted him in 1978. He played parts of three seasons in the big leagues primarily as a first baseman with the Royals and Montreal Expos. He then coached and managed in the Royals’ minor league system before heading to the Red Sox organization.

He is the father of Houston Astros’ infielder Chris Johnson.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 11:23 AM | | Comments (9)
        

Some Orioles thoughts: Winter meetings, coaching staff, Rajsich

In a week, baseball’s annual winter meetings in Dallas will begin.

New executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette will be a busy man. It’s expected he’ll be more involved in trade talk than in the free agent market.

That said, I’m sure the Orioles will sign at least one free agent before the offseason ends – they usually get several, though rarely do they land a big one. And that’s expected to be the case this winter too, a couple hole-fillers but no seat-fillers.

There are other things to keep an eye on this week.

Buck Showalter likely will sign off on his coaching staff – perhaps as early as today. Right now there are two open spots: third-base coach and bullpen coach.

Rick Adair will be back as pitching coach, Jim Presley as hitting coach, John Russell as bench coach and Wayne Kirby as outfield instructor and either first base or third base coach.

My sense is that Kirby, who was at first base, will stay there. But he also could move to third depending on who is hired.

The Orioles need an infield instructor to go with the base coach and so Mike Bordick and Jose Hernandez have been discussed as internal choices. Showalter could go with one of those men or go outside the organization.

If he goes outside the organization, former Boston Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale is a thought.

The Red Sox connection, however, will be tapped in the front office. It looks like Dan Duquette will hire Toronto Blue Jays crosschecker Gary Rajsich to be the organization’s next amateur scouting director. They worked together for years in Boston.

Duquette’s not confirming it yet, but he does want his scouting director to join him in Dallas next week. He also has some other positions he could fill; they may come this week or a little later.


Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (3)
        

November 27, 2011

Orioles hire Gary Rajsich as amateur scouting director

Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette has made his first key addition to his front office, hiring Toronto Blue Jays’ professional crosschecker Gary Rajsich to be the Orioles’ new amateur scouting director, according to an industry source.

Rajsich, 57, has been with the Blue Jays since 2009 but spent most of his scouting career with the Boston Red Sox, where he worked with Duquette.

The Orioles have not announced the deal yet, but Rajsich has accepted the job and tendered his resignation to the Blue Jays.

A former major league first baseman, Rajsich played parts of four seasons with the New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants from 1982-1985

He will be replacing Joe Jordan, who left the Orioles’ post earlier this offseason to join the Philadelphia Phillies.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 4:12 PM | | Comments (3)
        

November 26, 2011

Another name to consider: Chen Wei-yin

The Orioles are expected to soon sign South Korean submariner Chong Tae-hyon giving them one Asia-born player on their 40-man roster.

Like every big-league team, the Orioles are also closely watching to see if 25-year-old right-hander Yu Darvish will be posted by his club in Japan. The Orioles have scouted Darvish multiple times for several years, and so there is interest there.

I’m just not sure they’d pony up the sum needed to land Darvish if he is posted – the estimate is that it would take roughly $50 million to win the post and a similar figure to sign him.

While that waiting game continues, there’s another name from Japan’s league you should keep in mind: Chen Wei-yin, a 26-year-old lefty with the Chunichi Dragons.

Because he is Taiwanese and not Japanese, his length of contract with the Nippon Baseball League was negotiated in his deal. So he can declare his free agency this Dec. 1 – that’s the date that others can as well, including right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma – and it’s expected Chen will.

He won’t cost a posting fee, and one industry source has said that at least a dozen teams will kick the tires on Chen, who has a lanky 6-foot frame but can hit the low 90s with his fastball.

The Orioles have scouted him previously, including in October, and there definitely is some thought about making Chen the club’s second import from Japan’s pro league – depending on price. My sense – and that’s all it is -- is that the Orioles would be more likely to make a run at Chen than a Japanese veteran such as Iwakuma (who was posted last year but did not agree to terms with the Oakland A’s) or soft-tossing lefty Tsuyoshi Wada.

Chen was 8-10 with a 2.68 ERA in 164 2/3 innings over 25 games (24 starts) this year. He was limited some by an injury in 2011, but is considered one of the better young pitchers in Japan.

It will be interesting to see if new executive vice president Dan Duquette makes a splash in Japan/Taiwan after grabbing the Orioles first South Korean.

If so, the press box at Ed Smith Stadium next March could get mighty full.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (12)
        

November 25, 2011

Klentak talks about leaving the Orioles

Matt Klentak, who spent the last four years as the Orioles’ director of baseball operations, said today that leaving the club to become an assistant general manager with the Los Angeles Angels was just too good of a career move to ignore.

“This is a great opportunity,” Klentak, 31, said. “It has nothing to do with the (Orioles) team and the change in regime. It’s an opportunity that (my wife) Lauren and I didn’t feel we could pass up.”

Klentak, a Dartmouth College graduate and Massachusetts native, was in Major League Baseball’s Labor Relations Department for four years before being hand-picked by former Orioles’ president Andy MacPhail in 2008 to be one of his top lieutenants. That distinction at such a young age propelled Klentak into “future GM” discussions.

“I’m thankful to the Angelos family and I am extremely appreciative of the opportunity that Andy MacPhail provided for me to start my (front office) career in Baltimore,” Klentak said. “Lauren and I really enjoyed our time living in Baltimore, I started a family here and there are a lot of people we will miss.”

In Baltimore, Klentak was primarily responsible for arbitration, contractual negotiations and rules interpretations. He’ll likely do a lot of that in Anaheim, but now will have the “assistant general manager” title and likely will be more involved in to day-to-day decisions.

“It’s just the opportunity to go to Anaheim and work with Jerry Dipoto and that entire organization,” Klentak said. “I am looking forward to building a winner out in Anaheim.”

Dipoto was the first candidate the Orioles interviewed this offseason for their top executive spot which eventually went to Dan Duquette. Dipoto and Klentak did not have a previous working relationship, but apparently Dipoto had collected enough information on Klentak from others during routine research for the Orioles’ job that there was a potential match in LA once Dipoto was hired.

Klentak said he was obviously interested in the Orioles’ search for his new boss and had checked with his own contacts about Dipoto. So when the Angels came calling, Klentak was intrigued. Still, he said, it was a tough decision personally to leave behind the friends he made with the Orioles

“The hardest part about this is knowing I will not be able to come to work and work with the great people I have gotten to know in the last four years in Baltimore,” he said. “But I am confident the Angels have a lot of great people and I am looking forward to working with them.”

Posted by Dan Connolly at 2:49 PM | | Comments (2)
        

November 24, 2011

Prediction Thursday: Orioles-Niners and Vladimir Guerrero's future

Prediction Thursday doesn’t sound right.

But we still have to crack the bar door on Thanksgiving to accommodate the Ravens’ fans.

Last week’s prognostication wasn’t particularly good – I’ll give the free tab to Ultimate Ravens Fan who said the home team would win 27-17. They beat the Bengals 31-24.

This week’s game I hear may have some family connection. The only thing that makes a difference to me is that the Ravens will get homecooking, so I say John Harbaugh comes out victorious against brother Jim and his upstart San Francisco 49ers.

I’ll say 16-14 Ravens with Billy Cundiff earning hero of the game with three field goals.

Switching to baseball, the Orioles officially cut ties with designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero on Wednesday, choosing not to offer him arbitration. It was the obvious move, because Guerrero would have made in excess of $8 million in arbitration, so he likely would have accepted.

Technically, he could still return to Baltimore at a lower salary. But it would be a huge shock if that happens. His O's career is one-and-done.

Guerrero was a true pro in his season here, but he turned in career lows in nearly every significant offensive category and hit just 13 homers. However, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said repeatedly last September that he thought Guerrero would have a strong season in 2012.


I assume someone will offer him a low-risk contract. And he told me last September that he wants to keep playing.

So I ask you this: Is Vlady done? Should he ride into the sunset as the all-time Dominican hits leader in MLB history? Or will he bounce back in 2012, further buoying conspiracy theorists that are convinced the Orioles are forever cursed?

Oh, one last thing: Happy Thanksgiving to all. And, on a personal note, thanks for coming into this joint year after year even though we hiked up the cover at the front door.

Daily Think Special: Prediction Thursday: Ravens-Niners

Bonus Think Special: Will Vladimir Guerrero bounce back – somewhere – with a good 2012 or is he done?

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Connolly's Corner Sports Bar
        

November 23, 2011

Klentak leaves for Los Angeles Angels

Matt Klentak has left the Orioles to take an assistant general manager position with the Los Angeles Angels.

Klentak, 31, had been the club’s director of baseball operations since March 2008, handling contractual situations, rules and arbitration cases.

He has been hired by new Angels’ GM Jerry Dipoto, who interviewed for the Orioles’ top spot in October – a position that eventually went to Dan Duquette.

An Angels' news release said Klentak agreed to a "multi-year deal" and will focus on "all aspects of baseball operations" along with Dipoto and new assistant GM Scott Servais.

Klentak accompanied Duquette to baseball’s general manager meetings last week.

It’s unclear whether Duquette will fill the position with a rules/contract specialist or whether he’ll use the spot in a different manner.

Klentak seemingly was being groomed as a GM by former club president Andy MacPhail, who hired Klentak from the commissioner’s office.

Keith Law of ESPN first reported Klentak was likely heading to the Angels.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 1:28 PM | | Comments (4)
        

Labor peace in our time

It has been 17 years since Major League Baseball and the players union learned their big lesson about the importance of compromise, but it is a gift that keeps on giving to baseball fans while the other major sports -- most notably the NBA -- continue to push their disputes to the brink.

Baseball has again achieved a lengthy period of labor peace by quietly working out a new five-year deal that includes the first mandatory HGH testing by a major sports league, limits on spending on international and drafted players and an increase in the number of playoff teams to 10. I'm not that high on the new one-game wild card playoff round -- a best-of-three series would give each team at least one home game -- but I am high on the fact that we don't have to hear any more scary labor talk at least until late in this decade.

Baseball went to war with its union in 1994 and '95 and damaged its image with the fans so thoroughly that it took Cal Ripken's march to the all-time consecutive games record in 1995 and several years of steroid-pumped homermania to bring them back to pre-stoppage levels. The lessons learned from the steroid era also contributed to a greater appreciation on both sides of the importance of working together to stay on top of the technological advances in the production and masking of illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

Congratulations to MLPBA executive director Michael Weiner for taking a less confrontational approach to this latest set of labor negotiations. Former union chief Don Fehr did a great job of protecting the rights of the players and staving off a strong effort by the owners to institute a hard salary cap, but the union has taken a less confrontational approach over the past decade and made some reasonable compromises to help achieve more parity between the large and small market franchises.

The thing I find most encouraging about this latest agreement is the recognition by the players that enhanced testing for PED's is actually in their best interests. I wouldn't want to be subjected to random blood testing, but the union has compromised for the good of the sport and the good health of its members.

The new rules governing spending on international and drafted players are complicated, involving slotting rules and luxury taxes based on revenues and won-loss records, but they are a step toward narrowing the huge advantage some clubs have in acquiring amateur players. That should help teams like the Orioles and Pirates compete for top international talent, but there is still no substitute for strong scouting and a well-run player development department.

The new agreement also calls for a "competitive balance lottery" which will give small-market teams extra picks in the draft and revamps the rules governing free agency and salary arbitration. There's a lot to digest in the new agreement, so we'll focus on some of the particulars in later posts.

Right now, it should be enough just to know that it's settled.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 5:55 AM | | Comments (3)
        

November 22, 2011

Orioles close on Chong

The Orioles are working out the final details of a contract with Korean pitcher Chong Tae-Hyon and could have the deal wrapped up sometime on Wednesday, but the announcement does not appear imminent. Apparently, the Ravens aren't the only ones trying to get things done on a condensed schedule this week.

Club officials have indicated that there are still a few things to work out and Chong has yet to complete his physical with the holiday looming. The deal apparently is going to get done. Just not very quickly.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 5:48 PM | | Comments (3)
        

What a potential Chong signing really means

The fact that the Orioles are close to signing 33-year-old South Korean Chong Tae-Hyon, a submarining right-hander, to a major league deal is rather interesting.

But there is something even more compelling about this move.

If there were questions before about trepidation, they can go away now. New executive vice president Dan Duquette is not sitting back and waiting to get acclimated with a world he left nine years ago.

The jury is out on whether Chong will be able to make it as a late-inning reliever in the big leagues. Some believe his unorthodox style will befuddle hitters no matter where he is pitching. And he has had plenty of success on the international level (he closed out both medal games in the 2008 Summer Olympics).

But he’d be the first person to leap from Korea’s baseball league to the majors, and some believe that’s way too much of a jump – that he’ll be a Double-A level reliever, nothing more.

Whether he makes it is only part of the plot here. The fact is the Orioles are the team that is on him. And Dan Duquette is the one with the major connection to South Korea. He had connections there when he was in Montreal and Boston, and now his first noteworthy signing will be a guy from South Korea.

That’s not to say that Chong was foreign (pun intended) to the previous Orioles regime. If you play on the major international stage, the Orioles know about you. But there was no indication that they had any interest in bringing him state-side.

That’s all Duquette.

In fact, the Orioles’ five acquisitions – counting Chong, Matt Antonelli and three six-year free agents – to date have had Duquette’s thumbprints all over them.

That’s not necessarily unusual for a GM. But it is surprising that he is taking charge this quickly.

Can’t say these moves are definitely going to work out for the Orioles. But it is interesting that they are already happening.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 10:48 AM | | Comments (28)
        

November 21, 2011

Orioles sign minor leaguers Tolleson and Socolovich

A couple more minor league, six-year free-agent signings are trickling in.

The Orioles have agreed to minor league deals with right-handed pitcher Miguel Socolovich and right-handed-hitting infielder Steve Tolleson.

Socolovich, a 25-year-old from Venezuela, was a combined 3-2 with a 3.44 ERA at Double-A and Triple-A in the Chicago White Sox organization. He was originally signed by the Boston Red Sox but has spent the last four seasons in the White Sox's system. The majority of his career has been as a reliever.

Tolleson, 28, batted .275 last year with nine homers and 55 RBIs at Triple-A with the Oakland A’s and San Diego Padres organizations. A former fifth-round pick of the Minnesota Twins, he played 25 games with the Oakland A’s in 2010, hitting .286 with one homer. He has played second, shortstop, third base and the outfield in the minors.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 7:34 PM | | Comments (3)
        

Antonelli official; Orioles heavily pursuing South Korean righty

Infielder Matt Antonelli passed his physical Monday and has been added to the Orioles’ 40-man roster, and the club is continuing to pursue other low-profile moves, including the potential signing of a South Korean reliever.

In an ongoing attempt to build roster depth, Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said the Orioles are in negotiations with 33-year-old right-hander Chong Tae-Hyon, who closed out South Korea’s 2008 gold-medal victory over Cuba in the Summer Olympics.

A submariner – Duquette described his delivery as “unorthodox” – Chong has pitched with the SK Wyverns of the Korea Baseball Organization since 2001. Although it was initially reported that the Orioles had agreed to a deal with Chong, Duquette said Monday evening that nothing was official.

“He is one of those we are working on. We are trying to see if we can get that resolved,” Duquette said. “He is a first-class pitcher. He was on the mound when Korea won the Olympic games. … He has pitched for years at the highest level of competition.”

Antonelli, a former first-rounder of the San Diego Padres who played at Triple-A with the Washington Nationals in 2011, will provide depth at second base and third base. He agreed to a major league deal and will compete for a big league spot in spring training.

“The signing of Antonelli is a good one for us. He has good on-base percentage, he is a good fit for us because he can play both second base and third base and I think he’ll be a favorite of the fans. He brings a lot to the party,” Duquette said. “He is starting to fulfill the vast potential that San Diego saw in him when they took him No. 1.”

The 17th overall pick in 2006 out of Wake Forest, Antonelli was once highly touted, but injuries and offensive troubles at Triple-A derailed his career. He hit just .193 in 57 at-bats with the Padres in 2008, and the club didn’t offer him a contract after the 2010 season. But he had a solid year at Triple-A Syracuse in 2011, hitting .297 with a .393 on-base percentage and eight homers in 300 at-bats.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:03 PM | | Comments (4)
        

VandenHurk talks about the fatal stabbing of his friend

Orioles right-hander Rick VandenHurk woke up this morning in California to countless messages on his phone. He then spoke to his father, who told him the heartbreaking news.

VandenHurk’s friend and fellow Dutch countryman, Seattle Mariners outfielder Greg Halman, was found stabbed to death in the city of Rotterdam, The Netherlands, this morning. Halman’s 22-year-old brother has been arrested, according to Dutch police.

“I looked at my phone and couldn’t believe all the messages and phone calls I had,” VandenHurk, 26, said. “My dad had called me right away. He brought me the news. I have no words. I can’t believe it.”

VandenHurk and Halman were together earlier this month as part of a baseball instruction tour throughout Europe that VandenHurk and his father have organized for two offseasons. VandenHurk and Halman, along with Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, Milwaukee first baseman Prince Fielder and several others, visited Amsterdam, Rome and Prague, teaching baseball to kids.

“I came back on Nov. 13, that whole week before I was with him every hour of the day,” VandenHurk said. “I literally spent almost every minute of every day with him. We were close. We’d go out to dinner, we’d see the sights and go out at night. We shared a lot with each other.”

Halman and VandenHurk had been friends since they were 7 years old, playing baseball with and against each other – and then pulling for each other to make the majors and stick there.

“We always shared the same passion for the big leagues. When we both signed, we kept in touch with each other. We’d see each other in the offseason and tried to keep in touch during the season,” he said. “Obviously, I was very happy for him when he made it to the big leagues.”

Halman, who batted .207 in 44 games over parts of two seasons with the Mariners, had prodigious power. He hit 33 homers in 112 games with Triple-A Tacoma in 2010. But VandenHurk will remember his buddy more for his big personality.

“He was always joking around, keeping you loose. He had a big passion for baseball and he really wanted to succeed,” VandenHurk said. “He was just a great guy. That something like this has happened, I can’t describe it. It really is unbelievable.”

Posted by Dan Connolly at 3:40 PM | | Comments (2)
        

Some random Orioles thoughts (40-man roster, coaching staff)

Some random Orioles thoughts

Matt Antonelli is supposed to have his physical today at Camden Yards. If all goes well – and it is expected to, though this is the Orioles’ infamous physical – the infielder’s signing will become official and he’ll be added to the 40-man roster.

That will make the 40-man full, but that’s not a real problem. The Orioles have, in my subjective opinion, eight or nine guys that can be taken off, clear waivers and probably would remain in the organization and report to Triple-A.

So they’ll have room to add free agents if they choose to go that way.

One thing they can’t do is add any from the organization to the 40-man now. That means pitchers like Tim Bascom and Steve Johnson and position players such as Brandon Waring and Orioles’ fans’ favorite whipping boy, former first-round pick Billy Rowell, could be taken in the Rule 5 draft.

Here’s the deal: Most players selected get returned before Opening Day. It’s just hard to carry a guy from Single-A or Double-A all season in the majors. Can it be done? Sure. The New York Mets did it last year with Pedro Beato. It normally happens with relievers who can be stashed in the bullpen, yet it’s rare when those guys go on to become stars (Joakim Soria and Johan Santana are the exceptions).

I was asked by several people whether I was surprised the Orioles added just one eligible minor leaguer to their 40-man at the deadline Friday (Naval Academy product and right-hander Oliver Drake).

The answer is no. The Orioles don’t have much talent in their farm system and most of it is not eligible for the Rule 5 this year (Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, etc). The club is obviously rolling the dice that some of their young minor-league pitchers who may be able to contribute eventually are too far away to stick on a big-league roster season. Or they simply aren’t considered keepers.

One of the things the Orioles as an organization hasn’t done well in the past is evaluating its own talent. So maybe protecting just one eligible minor leaguer is one step in that direction. A second would be cleaning up the 40-man roster. I’m sure that’s coming, too.

The Orioles’ coaching staff is still incomplete, but I think it will be completed real soon.

The more I talk to people the more I believe Rick Adair will return as pitching coach. You can put his name in that slot with erasable ink – but I think we are beyond pencil now. That would leave a bullpen coach position open, and I’m not sure where manager Buck Showalter goes with it.

I’d still pencil in Mike Bordick to fill the infield/base coach slot with Jose Hernandez as another leading option. I think those are the two leading in-house candidates. The Orioles could also go outside the organization, and here’s one name that is intriguing: DeMarlo Hale.

Hale, who was most recently the Boston Red Sox bench coach, currently is without a job after the shakeup in Boston. He is considered a future manage and Showalter takes pride in developing those types. Plus, they were together in Texas.

He has experience coaching third base – meaning Wayne Kirby would stay at first – but he is considered more of an outfield coach, like Kirby. I’m sure Hale will land somewhere for next season. Not sure if it will be Baltimore, but that’s at least a consideration.

I still expect the Orioles to go in-house with an infield type and then move Kirby to the third base coach’s box, but we’ll see.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 11:44 AM | | Comments (8)
        

November 19, 2011

A little more on Matt Antonelli

The Orioles are on the verge of signing their first free agent for the 40-man roster.

His name is Matt Antonelli, a right-handed hitting 26-year-old second/third baseman who was the 17th overall pick in the 2006 draft out of Wake Forest University.

Not exactly Prince Fielder, but this is the kind of depth signing one can expect from the club’s new executive vice president Dan Duquette.

The deal, which will include a 40-man spot and an automatic invite to spring training, is pending a physical.

But if he’s healthy – and the Orioles have no reason to think he is not – he’ll compete for a big-league roster spot in spring training, giving the Orioles insurance at second base and Chris Davis some competition at third.

This guy seems to be an interesting flyer – in 2008 he was considered by several media gurus as one of the top 50 prospects in all of baseball and Baseball America had him ranked second in the Padres organization, which gave him a $1.575 million signing bonus.

But he struggled mightily at Triple-A, dealt with some injuries, didn’t produce in limited action in the majors (.193 average in 57 big-league at-bats) and by the end of 2010 he was non-tendered a contract. Last year he played primarily at Triple-A Syracuse, the Washington Nationals’ top affiliate.

He did pretty well there with a .297 average, .393 on-base percentage and .460 slugging while hitting eight homers and driving in 30 runs in 300 at-bats.

He takes walks, plays solid defense at two infield positions and is considered a strong make-up guy with plenty of toughness – as a high school senior he was the Massachusetts player of the year in football and hockey (and second in baseball).

He could very well be the Orioles’ starting second baseman next year if Brian Roberts can’t play and the club utilizes Robert Andino in a super-utility role. Or Antonelli could prove to be a Quad-A player at best and could spend most of his time at Norfolk or in another organization.

These are the kind of moves a team like the Orioles should make to improve depth. Of course, these aren’t the kind of moves that placate a disgruntled fan base, either.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (23)
        

November 18, 2011

Orioles agree to terms, pending physical, with infielder Antonelli

The Orioles have agreed to terms with infielder Matt Antonelli, a former first-round pick of the San Diego Padres' who played with Syracuse, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, in 2011.

Antonelli, 26, can play second base and third base and will join the 40-man roster if he passes his physical. He’ll likely compete for a big league job this spring.

The 17th overall pick in the 2006 draft out of Wake Forest, Antonelli has played just 21 games as a big leaguer, hitting .193 in 57 at-bats for the Padres in 2008.

The right-handed batter hit .297 with eight homers and 30 RBIs in 300 at-bats with Syracuse last season. Antonelli is a product of Peabody, Mass., where Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette first became familiar with him.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 5:52 PM | | Comments (22)
        

Orioles add Drake to 40-man roster, no one else

In preparation for next month's Rule 5 draft, the Orioles set their 40-man roster, adding just one minor leaguer to the list of protected players.

The club added pitcher Oliver Drake (Navy), who was a combined 11-8 with a 3.32 ERA at High-A Frederick, Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk last year. The 6-foot-4, 24-year-old right-hander was a 43rd-round draft pick in 2008.

The 40-man roster is at 39. After today, they cannot put anyone currently in the organization onto the 40-man roster.

That leaves a chunk of upper-level minor leaguers susceptible to the Rule 5 draft, but the club is gambling that those players won't be claimed by other teams or won't be kept on the claiming team's big league roster all next season.

Last year, the New York Mets grabbed reliever Pedro Beato and were able to keep him all year, so he has remained part of the Mets' organization. The Milwaukee Brewers, however, selected pitcher Pat Egan but returned him at the end of spring training.

In 2010, the San Francisco Giants selected pitcher Steve Johnson in the Rule 5 draft but returned him in March.

Johnson (St. Paul's) is one of the more notable players who could be selected in the Rule 5 draft, which occurs during the winter meetings next month.

Others include pitchers Cole McCurry and Wynn Pelzer, catchers John Hester and Caleb Joseph, infielders Greg Miclat and Brandon Waring and 2006 first-round pick Billy Rowell.

Top prospects such as Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop have not accrued enough time in the minors and therefore do not have to be protected on the 40-man roster.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 4:40 PM | | Comments (12)
        

Prediction Friday: Ravens-Bengals and Prince Fielder

It’s Prediction Friday, and do you know who your favorite local pro football team is?

Let’s hope, for Ravens fans’ sake, it’s not the squad that was in Seattle last Sunday.

Most of us at the bar botched that prediction, thinking the Ravens would win. Some of you expected it to be close, but only one person predicted a Seattle Seahawks upset.

So congratulations to brogers, who gets the free drink tab this week for predicting a Seattle victory, 24-10. It ended up 22-17, but that’s close enough to drink on me.

This week’s Ravens-Bengals game should be interesting. I still don’t believe in the Bengals because, well, they are the Bengals. But I refuse to predict any more blowouts, even at home.

I say it ends up 24-13 and Ray Rice -- remember him? – gets two TDs. Now it is your turn to pick the winner and hero of the game.

(By the way, Ravens-Bengals is just one football game I am eagerly anticipating this weekend. I’ll be paying attention Friday night to the MIAA A Conference title game at Unitas Stadium in Towson between my alma mater, the Calvert Hall College High School Cardinals – insert cheers here – and some other private educational institution in Baltimore with a bit of a football tradition, I hear. I can’t quite remember that school’s name. Anyway, I won’t make a prediction on that one for fear of being attacked by racing dogs next week.)

To baseball: I’ve pretty much worn out most Orioles topics worthy of prediction at this point. At least until the offseason heats up more. So let’s just pick out one overall baseball topic and go from there.

I have been writing for months that I don’t see the Orioles spending what it will take to land Prince Fielder. But who will?

Because many of the big boys have first baseman already, the list of landing spots is intriguing. I’m going to go to left field for the first baseman and say the Toronto Blue Jays. They have money, and they are getting close to competing. And putting him at cleanup really makes that lineup scary.

Daily Think Special: Prediction Friday: Ravens-Bengals

Bonus Think Special: Where does Prince Fielder end up?

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Connolly's Corner Sports Bar
        

November 17, 2011

A new wild-card format; and O's fans yawn

So the Orioles' chances of making the playoffs just got better – at least technically speaking.

Commissioner Bud Selig has announced that one new wild-card playoff spot will be added to each league, perhaps as soon as 2012 (certainly by 2013).

The two wild cards in each league would face off for a one-game playoff, and the winner would play the club with the best record (so long as it's not in their own division) and the other two division winners would face off as in past years.

What this means is that AL East teams may be able to send three teams to the playoffs in the future. So the whining about being stuck behind the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees can be tempered ever so slightly.

Of course, the Orioles will still have to play the Yankees and Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays an inordinate number of times in compiling their season record.

And, more to the point, none of this matters in Baltimore if the product on the field doesn’t improve dramatically. At this point, Selig could double the number of playoff teams and the Orioles would still be on the outside looking in.

So you might want to tuck this change away for a while.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 2:38 PM | | Comments (17)
        

What to do with the Orioles' DH spot in 2012

One thing to watch over the next few weeks is what the club does with their designated hitter role.

Last year, that spot belonged to Vladimir Guerrero, who is a free agent and is not expected to be back.

With all due respect to the future Hall of Famer, the Orioles could use a significant production increase from its DH in 2012. Last season, Orioles designated hitters were in the bottom five in the American League in home runs, RBIs, on-base percentage and on-base-plus-slugging.

The other problem is that with Guerrero cemented at DH because of his inability to cover ground in the outfield, Orioles manager Buck Showalter lost a lot of lineup flexibility.

In 2012, Showalter would like to use the DH as a floating position with several players filling the role depending on matchups and partial-rest days.

“In a perfect world, yes, you’d like to be move guys around and do certain things with it,” Showalter said.

But, Showalter said, it all depends on the makeup of the 25-man roster, which is a work in progress.

It’s unlikely the Orioles will seek a DH-only like a Guerrero or a David Ortiz, or at this point in his career, Jorge Posada, if they can get another power bat at corner infield or left field.

“But short of that, we need to get somebody that helps us at the plate,” executive vice president Dan Duquette said.

And, Duquette said, it is possible the best option ends up being a DH-only player, though that’s not the ideal situation.

“I’m not sure how it is going to shake out in terms of DH,” he said.

One person we can’t forget is Luke Scott, who is coming off shoulder surgery and a lost 2011. If he is healthy – and the Orioles and Scott can agree to a reasonable contract for both sides – he could be the primary DH with some outfield starts (and emergency ones at first base). That decision will be made within the next month or so.

Mark Reynolds does not appear to be a DH option. He’s never done it and doesn’t want to – he said he needs the flow of a game to keep him involved and ready to hit. The Orioles could force his hand and make him DH several times a week, but giving him irregular playing time in the field could further hamper his already suspect defense.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (27)
        

November 16, 2011

Duquette on Day 2: Don't expect offers beyond three years to free-agent pitchers

Dan Duquette said he is not officially ruling out any potential free agent at this point in the offseason.

But an organizational philosophy, which the team's new executive vice president of baseball operations endorses, likely takes the Orioles out of the running for highly coveted starting pitchers such as C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle.

In the past, the Orioles have avoided agreeing to free-agent deals longer than three years for pitchers. Under Duquette, that is expected to stay the same.

“That’s smart,” Duquette said Wednesday during a phone call from the general manager meetings in Milwaukee. “I don’t see any reason for that to change.”

Recent history shows that long-term deals for starting pitchers rarely pan out – with a significant drop-off occurring as the seasons and innings pile up.

“I think having a limit for pitchers is a good thing,” said Duquette, who said he had a similar philosophy when he served as GM in Montreal and Boston. “I think that’s healthy to have a deadline [for contracts to expire]. It’s prudent. It’s smart.”

With a limited number of quality choices in the free-agent market, it would be exceptionally surprising if Wilson, for instance, settled for anything less than a four-year deal. He likely is seeking a five-year contract.

Still, Duquette said, the Orioles’ No. 1 priority is to improve their pitching staff. That might have to come via trades or the signing of lower-level free-agent pitchers to shorter contracts.

“We need to focus on improving our pitching staff, no question,” he said. “We are talking to a number of different [free-agent] pitchers, and we are looking at trade options, too.”

Although not going beyond three years takes the Orioles out of some pitching sweepstakes, Duquette said: “We haven’t ruled anybody out. We need to be interested in all the capable players we can get.”

In his second day at the meetings, Duquette said, he met Wednesday afternoon with four clubs and several player agents. He expected to have several more meetings in the evening. He hoped the club was closing in on a few minor league free agents to provide depth but didn’t necessarily anticipate any 25-man roster moves by the time he leaves Milwaukee on Thursday – which is typical of most clubs.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 5:46 PM | | Comments (69)
        

Orioles will unveil statues of six Hall of Famers beyond bullpens in 2012

As part of their 20th anniversary at Camden Yards, the Orioles will be unveiling six statues in 2012 of the modern franchise’s Hall of Famers in a revamped area beyond the bullpens in left-center field.

Each of the six men who have gone into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as Orioles – Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr. – will be honored with his own free-standing bronze statue.

All six have been involved in the process, which has been ongoing for more than a year.

The Orioles are not planning to officially announce the new monuments for a few more weeks, but a club source confirmed the plans.

It has not been revealed whether the six will be unveiled simultaneously or at separate ceremonies throughout next season. The Orioles used the same sculptor for all six statues, which all will be located together in a reconfigured picnic area beyond left-center field.

The Orioles first alluded to a tribute for the Hall of Famers last month, when a statue featuring Brooks Robinson was dedicated just outside of the park. That statue was sponsored by entities independent of the franchise.

The Orioles already have retired the numbers of the six Hall of Famers – and those numbers are on display on the grounds of the park. This, however, will be a much larger tribute.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 1:49 PM | | Comments (10)
        

Some more free-agent thoughts

The first part of this blog isn’t going to make many Orioles fans happy. I spoke to several agents Tuesday afternoon who represent free agents whom I believe the Orioles’ covet.

None has had substantial conversations with the Orioles so far this offseason. Most hadn’t talked to the Orioles at all yet. One agent I spoke to explained it this way: “I think they are still trying to figure out a plan and, frankly, they are a little behind the 8 ball right now with how long they went without a general manager.”

That said, new executive vice president Dan Duquette told me last night that he talked to several agents in Milwaukee on Tuesday and that the focus was adding depth to the bench.

Since some of those types are floating off the board, you can assume the larger-ticket items are not a top priority since that ilk isn’t typically signed until the winter meetings or later.

But I offer this caution: I don’t expect the Orioles to be particularly aggressive in free agency this offseason. Duquette has gone on record saying that he’ll look at all available avenues to acquire players and he believes free agency is the riskiest path.

That’s not to say they won’t land a free agent or two – they always do – but they don’t appear to be as active right now as some other teams.

One area I think that’s worth mentioning, however, is backup catcher. There have been suggestions from at least one national baseball writer that the Orioles are a fit for Jorge Posada and Ivan Rodriguez.

And I am sure that suggestions of Jason Varitek can’t be far behind, since Duquette once traded for him and because Orioles starter Matt Wieters has plenty in common with Varitek: Georgia Tech backstops and Scott Boras clients.

But those three are not what the Orioles are looking for – at least not now. What the Orioles want is a true backup, not a falling star who still thinks he should start.

The Orioles would like to have a veteran who embraces the role of backup and mentor and, when he is called upon once or twice a week to start, can provide good defense.

The previously mentioned trio wants to play – certainly more than the Orioles can provide an opportunity. And in the cases of Posada and Varitek, their days of being average catchers are in the rear-view mirror. So it would make it difficult for manager Buck Showalter to pinch-run for Wieters in the eighth inning of a tight game, because the drop-off behind the plate would be too severe.

One fit could have been Henry Blanco, the well-regarded 40-year-old Venezuelan, but he re-signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks (several teams inquired about Blanco but not the Orioles). Matt Treanor is also off the board, and Brian Schneider soon could be.

The list is thinning, which means that if a Pudge or a Varitek or a Posada is still standing around in January and the Orioles still have only one catcher on their 40-man roster, well, there could be a marriage. But not right now.

Speaking of drying-up markets, two potential second base targets, Aaron Hill and Mark Ellis, have signed elsewhere. The Orioles weren’t in on them, making me believe that their second base situation is cloudy given the uncertain health of Brian Roberts.

It’s going to be hard to lure a starting second base type to Baltimore if there’s a chance Roberts will be healthy. But the Orioles don’t want to make that assumption and then have no Plan B if he again struggles with his concussion symptoms. The Orioles ideally would like Robert Andino to be a super-sub instead of being stuck at one position.

When I asked Duquette about that situation, he said, “Second base is something to keep an eye on.”

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (14)
        

November 15, 2011

Duquette on GM meetings: Talked trade with clubs, made FA offers to fill bench

I talked to Dan Duquette after his first day at the general manager meetings in Milwaukee on Tuesday.

He said he had a busy schedule, which included meeting general managers he hadn’t been acquainted with, talking trade with several potential partners and talking to player representatives. He didn’t offer any specifics, except to say that the focus was more about building bench depth.

“We talked to a couple clubs, trying to see if we are compatible, and we put some offers out to some players to fill out our bench,” Duquette said.

Duquette said he’s “hoping to sign some of these players” within the next week.

As for trades, he said he felt the club had several attractive pieces to dangle in a deal. Asked specifically whether he would consider moving center fielder Adam Jones, who is a free agent after the 2013 season, Duquette said: “I like the composition of this ballclub up the middle, at catcher, shortstop and center field. Those guys are at an age where there is potential to improve, and they are exciting ballplayers for our fans to see.”

I took one more shot at the Jones question, and Duquette responded by saying, “We like those guys on our ballclub.”

So, at this point, you can probably scratch off the possibility of dealing Jones. At least for now.

Infield depth, specifically utility infield or second base, is still an area to pursue, Duquette said.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 7:37 PM | | Comments (24)
        

Orange jerseys and two cartoon bird hats added for 2012

By now, you know the Orioles have retired the ornithologically correct bird on their hats and will be switching to a cartoon bird that most resembles the logo from 1970.

But here are a couple things about the uniforms that the Orioles didn’t release until 9:30 a.m. today.

The Orioles will wear three different caps this season: A black cartoon bird hat with an orange bill; a multi-paneled cartoon bird hat that is black in the back and white in the front with an orange bill; and a black hat with the orange ‘O’s’ that the club will continue to wear on Fridays with their black jerseys.

The other noteworthy change is that the Orioles will wear orange jerseys with black lettering for the first time since 1992, which was the inaugural year of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The orange jerseys will be worn on home Saturdays.

That one caught me a little off guard. I’m not a big uniform guy, but I always did like the orange jersey. I don’t know why.

All told, the Orioles will have four jerseys: traditional white with ‘Orioles’ script (most home games); black with ‘Orioles’ script (all Fridays, home and road), orange with ‘Orioles’ script (home Saturdays) and gray with ‘Baltimore’ script (most road games).

The jerseys will have two patches: A 20th anniversary Camden Yards one on the right sleeve and the Maryland flag with “Baltimore” above it and “Orioles” below it on the left sleeve. In some 2011 versions, that patch had “Orioles Baseball” instead of the team name.


Posted by Dan Connolly at 9:30 AM | | Comments (11)
        

What's the best MLB hat ever?

The Orioles are about to bring back the cartoon bird hat. We’ll ask you what you think of that on Wednesday after you get to see the new version Tuesday morning.

Maybe you’ll love it. Maybe you’ll hate it. I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts.

But today I want to know about your favorite baseball lids of all-time. I’m not a uniform guy, though I am a big fan of wearing baseball caps, especially now that they cover up some seriously exposed cranium.

Although I always liked the Montreal Expos’ blue one with the red bill, there are two caps that really stand out to me:

My second favorite is the classic Detroit Tigers’ black cap with the old D. So clean, so cool.

But the greatest of all-time has to be the Milwaukee Brewers’ M and b that formed the glove with the ball inside. Absolute genius.

You’ll have to really wow me to better that one.

Daily Think Special: What’s the best MLB hat ever?

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Connolly's Corner Sports Bar
        

November 14, 2011

Cartoon bird logo and new uniforms unveiled Tuesday

The Orioles will officially unveil their new cartoon bird logo and 2012 uniforms tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. on www.orioles.com

We’ll have a story and the images up on shortly thereafter, so you can come here, too. By about 10 a.m. Tuesday, we’ll have it all.

I had a chance to view the merchandise today – under the promise that some specific details won’t be released until the Orioles do it officially tomorrow.

My first impression is that the cartoon Orioles logo looks more like the one from the 1960s than the 1980s one of my youth. It is plumper. In fact, if you put the 1960s bird and the 2012 bird side-by-side there are only two discernible differences.

One, the white trim along the back rim of the bird’s hat isn’t as pronounced as it was in the old logo. It’s hard to pick that up unless you are really looking.

The other, though, is obvious. This cartoon bird is wearing an O’s hat and not the indistinguishable orange blotch from the 1960s logo.

That makes it a little more authentic. Otherwise, it’s basically the same logo as the one we all remember.

I’ve said before, I am not much of a uniform guy. I’m always more interested in what’s inside of the uniform. But I know a lot of you care about these things.

So there you go.

The other changes to the 2012 uniform, as we reported previously, include a new 20th anniversary Camden Yards’ patch on the right sleeve of all of the uniforms and a slightly altered left sleeve patch – it’s the Maryland flag but now will say “Baltimore Orioles” in each version.

Baltimore will remain scripted across the road uniforms, but the type will now be consistent and not tapered. So the ‘alt’ will be the same size as the ‘more.”

Speaking of more, you’ll get more on Tuesday if you want it.


Posted by Dan Connolly at 3:25 PM | | Comments (16)
        

November 13, 2011

Free-agent thoughts, concluded

Happy Sunday, everybody. As we get deeper into the free-agent signing period, it’s time to close out my three-part look at some potential Orioles targets before any of the 12 players my colleague Dan Connolly identified come off the board. As always, these opinions are strictly my own and should not be taken an indication of the likelihood of any player’s signing with the team. With that said, let’s get into the final four (you can read my thoughts on the first four players on Dan’s list here and the second four here.

Paul Maholm, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates: Despite a 6-14 record, Maholm, 29, is coming off the most successful season of his career by several measures. His 3.66 ERA was a career best for a full season, as was his 3.78 FIP (a metric that estimates what a pitcher’s ERA should’ve been while factoring in only things he is thought to be able to control). However, I can’t shake the feeling that Maholm’s 2011 was a bit fluky. Some of it is evident looking at the lefty’s batted-ball statistics. Hitters had a .286 average on balls in play against Maholm — not far off the MLB standard in 2011, but the lowest for a full season of his career —despite the fact that Maholm also posted the lowest ground-ball rate (49.9 percent) of his career. It wasn’t stellar defense behind him that helped turn all those batted balls into outs, as, statistically, the Pirates weren’t impressive in 2011. That leaves us to conclude that a lot of Maholm’s success in preventing hits was because of luck — balls hit right at Pirates fielders, for example. Add in the fact that Maholm wasn’t the only Pirates starter to have a career year in 2011 (Charlie Morton and Jeff Karstens also posted their best ERAs and FIPs) and it’s fair to wonder how much of Maholm’s success is repeatable. He also landed on the disabled list last year with a shoulder strain in August. All this doesn’t mean that Maholm wouldn’t help the Orioles, of course. He has started at least 29 games and pitched at least 176 innings every year of his career except for 2011, and the DL trip last year was the first of his career. He has been very close to a league-average pitcher over his career, which you can’t say about many of the Orioles starters over the past few years. He’s also going to be significantly cheaper than the other pitchers on Dan’s list. The Orioles, however, shouldn’t expect him to maintain sub-4.00 ERAs and FIPs going forward, especially with his moving from the National League to the American League, and specifically the AL East.

Mark Ellis, 2B, Colorado Rockies: Ellis is 34 years old and coming off easily the worst offensive season of his career. He struggled mightily in Oakland, batting .217 with a .253 on-base percentage and .290 slugging percentage, before being traded to Colorado at the end of June. With the Rockies, his numbers were more respectable — .274/.319/.392 — but still far from impressive, especially with his playing half of his games in a much more hitter-friendly park. Defensively, Ellis is an above-average second baseman. He might make some sense as an insurance policy at second base in case Brian Roberts misses significant time again in 2012, but there are better free-agent options for that role. And the Orioles would still have to depend on someone else to hit leadoff in Roberts’ absence; I don’t see Ellis getting on base at a high enough clip for the team to be able to count on him there. It’s hard to see Ellis providing much value to the Orioles.

Josh Willingham, LF, Oakland Athletics: Willingham could certainly help the Orioles with his bat. The 32-year-old has hit 21 or more homers in four of the past six seasons and never fewer than 15, including 29 last year. The question is where the Orioles would put him. If he’s your everyday left fielder, he’s displacing Nolan Reimold, who I feel had a strong enough finish to last season to warrant giving him a shot at the full-time job in 2012. You could have Willingham serve as your designated hitter — he DH’ed in 36 games in 2011 and isn’t a particularly good fielder. However, Willingham might not be willing to sign with the Orioles just to bat four times a game. Most players prefer to play both sides of the ball, and hitters’ production traditionally suffers when they go from playing in the field to being designated hitters. Also, there’s the question of what to do with Luke Scott if the Orioles sign Willingham, though the club might be willing to part with Scott after he played in just 64 games last year. Those aren’t reasons not to try to sign Willingham, who will be looking for a pay raise from the $6 million he made last season, but they are considerations.

Jason Kubel, OF, Minnesota Twins: Kubel’s game is similar to Willingham’s — and for that matter, Scott’s — power at the plate, below-average defense in the outfield. The left-handed-hitting Kubel probably makes more sense for the Orioles than Willingham, though, as the team has been in search of more left-handed power for quite some time. You run into the same questions with Kubel as you do with Willingham, but those questions are more easily answered with Kubel. There’s no reason to have both Kubel and Scott on the active roster — they play the same position and both hit left-handed, so a platoon wouldn’t make sense. But at 29, Kubel is four years younger than Scott, so you’d have to think the Orioles would value him over Scott. Additionally, signing Kubel wouldn’t necessarily mean kicking Reimold out of left field. Kubel has DH’ed 303 times in his career and might be more amenable to a role as the regular designated hitter. Going after him makes a lot of sense.

What are your thoughts on those four players as they relate to the Orioles? Please share your comments below.

Posted by Steve Gould at 11:08 AM | | Comments (41)
        

November 12, 2011

A look at the 2012 coaching staff


Right now, the Orioles employ four coaches for 2012: Rick Adair, Wayne Kirby, John Russell and Jim Presley.

Presley will be the hitting coach and Russell will be the bench coach. That much is certain.

Kirby, the outfield instructor who also coached first base, may switch to third if the Orioles end up hiring a rookie infield instructor/base coach. Coaching first is a little easier – or a little less stressful, anyway – than third base coach.

Adair likely will remain as pitching coach unless the Orioles hire a veteran for that slot, and then Adair would move back to bullpen coach where he started 2011.

My sense is Buck Showalter likely will keep Adair at pitching coach and hire someone for the bullpen. Not sure who that will be. I mentioned yesterday that new executive VP Dan Duquette met with former Oriole pitcher and long-time big-league pitching coach Joe Kerrigan on Thursday.

They had lunch – and it’s possible it was nothing more than two old friends getting together. I suspect it is more than that -- Duquette employed Kerrigan as pitching coach in Montreal and Boston -- but Kerrigan is a long shot to join the Orioles’ big-league staff for 2012. He is having double knee surgery on Jan. 30 and will be out of commission for six to eight weeks.

As for the infield/base coach, it’s possible, maybe even likely, that it comes from within the organization’s minor-league system.

Former Oriole shortstop Mike Bordick, last year’s offensive fundamentals coordinator, met with Showalter this week to discuss the job and has long been rumored as a rising coaching candidate. Another name to keep in mind is Jose Hernandez, Delmarva’s infield coach who spent 15 years in the big leagues and was an all-star in 2002 with the Milwaukee Brewers. He’s considered an up-and-comer in the organization as well.

Other potential internal candidates include Bobby Dickerson, the minor-league infield coordinator, and minor league instruction coordinator Brian Graham, although he could end up in a front office role.



Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
        

November 11, 2011

One more note on Joe Kerrigan -- he was at Camden Yards on Thursday

I recently wrote that you can scratch Joe Kerrigan off the Orioles' 2012 wish list to join Buck Showalter's staff because he is having surgery on both knees on Jan. 30 and would be hobbled for at least six to eight weeks.

But scratch him off in pencil.

Kerrigan visited Camden Yards on Thursday and met with new executive VP Dan Duquette and had lunch.

I'm not sure what to make of the visit, but, given their history, you have to assume it was a little more than just two old friends catching up.

The Orioles currently have a spot open for a pitching expert on the big-league staff. That's likely bullpen coach, but it could be pitching coach if Rick Adair gets moved back to the bullpen. Regardless, the post needs to be filled by mid-February, which would probably take Kerrigan out of the running.

The club also needs a minor-league pitching coordinator, and that could be something that could interest Kerrigan and, conceivably, could wait until after his knees were healthy. Kerrigan told me he couldn't think about employment until he knew he could walk properly again -- which would probably be late March or early April.

This is all speculation. But Kerrigan, who has been Duquette's pitching coach for two different clubs, was in Baltimore on Thursday.

Worth connecting the dots a little.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 5:24 PM | | Comments (5)
        

Melvin Mora on Ramos' kidnapping, crime in Venezuela and wanting to return to the Orioles

UPDATE: Wilson Ramos was rescued Friday in Venezuela. Read the story of his rescue here.

If anyone understands violence in Venezuela, it is former Oriole Melvin Mora, whose father was killed in front of the family’s home in a case of mistaken identity when Mora was just a boy.

So, sadly, he’s not surprised that 24-year-old catcher Washington Nationals Wilson Ramos was kidnapped in Valencia, Venezuela, on Wednesday and is being held hostage, presumably for ransom.

Ramos was taken from his home by four gunmen, and, as of early Friday afternoon, an investigation was ongoing and Ramos was believed to be alive. Mora doesn’t know Ramos well but spent time with him at a restaurant last year when the Nationals and Arizona Diamondbacks, Mora's team in 2011, played.

“I’m really worried, not only for Ramos, but I worry for his family,” Mora said. “They went and talked to the police, and I’m afraid [the perpetrators] will come back and do something to them later because they went to the police.”

Mora, who was cut by the Diamondbacks at the end of June, lives full time in Bel Air, but he visits his home country frequently. He goes in and out without telling too many people he is visiting. He said that sometimes his mother, who lives primarily in Venezuela, doesn’t even know when he has returned to Maryland.

“My mama will call and say, ‘Where are you?’ and I’ll say, ‘I am in the United States,’ and she’ll say: ‘When did you leave? You were just here?’ I kind of go into hiding,” he said.

He said he understands the perils of his country and that it is easy to be caught up in the criminal world.

“Somebody shoots my dad in front of me, and sometimes, in life, you don’t realize you’ve been through all this stuff when you have a good family and you have a reason to care and work hard,” he said. “But when you don’t have anybody, you end up as one of them in crime or [as] killers. I’m glad my mama always took care of me. She never allowed us to go in a bad direction, and here we are. When we go to Venezuela now, we see 14-year-olds really serious about crime. [Lawmakers] have reduced the crime a little bit, but it is still there.”

Mora has always been a huge supporter of Venezuela and has a children’s foundation there. He said he returned recently to deliver baseball equipment and was met by a man with a gun. The man escorted him around the area, making sure he wouldn’t be harmed by others.

Mora said the man told him he wanted to protect Mora because the ballplayer had given his son baseball equipment.

The Ramos incident, he said, likely will deter other big league players from going to Venezuela and participating in the winter league there. That’s completely understandable, and a shame, he said.

“It’s a sad situation. There are so many families, wives and kids, that support the players. They go over there to give a good attraction to the fans, to play for the fans and we give you a good show,” Mora said. “And we don’t expect that it is going to be scary. But all the players don’t want to play in Venezuela now because of security, and that is sad.”

Mora said the country of Colombia also used to be crime ridden, but with the help of the U.S. government, it’s safer now – safer than Venezuela. He would like the same thing to happen in his homeland.

“I think we need help from the United States to help us fix the things over there in that country. I don’t think without the United States we can do it,” Mora said. “I have lived 20 years here, I see the security here. I see how it works here. But I know there are a lot of things to fix here, too.”

Mora used to talk, only half-joking, about wanting to be president of Venezuela. No longer does he even kid about going into politics.

“Two things I don’t want to be in my life: I don’t want to be a coach, unless I be a coach for my kids, and I don’t want to be a politician,” he said.

What he wants to continue to be is a baseball player. He turns 40 in February and is coming off a rough 2011 in which he hit .228 in 127 at-bats for the Diamondbacks. He was in a car accident in spring training, and his brother-in-law, who was like his second father, died during the season.

He believes his time away from the game has helped him focus, and he thinks he could contribute as a regular or a utility player next year.

And, yes, he’d love to come back to the Orioles, for whom he played from 2000 to 2009. He said he likes manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, whom he knew when Duquette ran the Boston Red Sox.

In fact, Mora said, he recently spoke to former Oriole Miguel Tejada, who was cut this season by the San Francisco Giants, and talked about reuniting in Baltimore.

“I said, ‘Why don’t we go back to the Orioles?' And he said, ‘You want to do that?'" Mora said. “I don’t know. I guess we have to see who the general manager of the Orioles is to see if he will take us back.”

That reunion seems unlikely since Duquette is more focused on rebuilding with younger players and not veteran castoffs. But Mora hopes to play somewhere in 2012, hopefully on the East Coast, near his wife, 14-year-old daughter and 10-year-old quintuplets.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 1:48 PM | | Comments (15)
        

Scratch Joe Kerrigan off the potential coaches list

With Dan Duquette joining the Orioles as executive vice president of baseball operations this week, and with plenty of holes to fill in the organization, there will obviously be some names from Duquette’s past floating around baseball circles in connection with the Orioles.

One that makes a lot of sense can be scratched off: Joe Kerrigan.

Kerrigan, the former Orioles right-hander, was a pitching coach for the Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox during Duquette’s tenure with those organizations. He was briefly Duquette’s manager in Boston in 2001, and the men remain friends.

The Orioles have a vacancy on Buck Showalter’s staff for a pitching expert, whether it’s as bullpen coach or pitching coach if current pitching coach Rick Adair is moved back to the bullpen, where he started 2011. There’s also a minor league pitching coordinator job open.

My sense is Showalter would like to keep Adair as pitching coach, but Duquette certainly will have input in the decision. And that hasn’t been worked out yet.

Kerrigan, however, won’t be filling that role, or any other to start next season. He is having double knee surgery on his 58th birthday, January 30, 2012.

The recovery time is six to eight weeks, so Kerrigan said he figures he’ll probably be taking it easy for a good chunk of early next year. And, therefore, you can take him out of running for an Orioles job in 2012.

Kerrigan, who was most recently the Pittsburgh Pirates' pitching coach before being fired in August 2010, pitched for the Orioles in 1978 and 1980. He was part of that 1977 offseason trade that sent Rudy May, Bryn Smith and Randy Miller to the Expos for Gary Roenicke, Don Stanhouse and Kerrigan.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 11:00 AM | | Comments (5)
        

Prediction Friday: Ravens-Seahawks and Duquette's first noteworthy move

Have to say this joint was busting at the termite-infested seams Sunday when the Ravens came back and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 23-20.

Like many of you, my score wasn’t far off (27-20), but I had the wrong winner. I am OK with that.

Lots of close scores. Smitty15 (24-23) and Max (24-17) get free drink chips, but our free tab of the week goes to Dave from Glen Burnie, who had the Ravens winning, 21-20.

Impressive, Dave. Drink up.

This week, there’s another chance for a hiccup game like what happened in Jacksonville. But I’m not going there, though I will say that it could be a little closer in Seattle than many will expect.

I’m going with 24-14 Ravens, with Joe Flacco hitting Anquan Boldin with a late TD to cement the victory. It will be Boldin’s second TD of the day, giving him hero of the game honors.

Now it is your turn to predict the winner, the score and the hero of the Ravens-Seattle game.

Switching to baseball, we are now in the Dan Duquette Era in Baltimore. He’ll really get thrown into the fire Tuesday at the GM meetings, where the groundwork is often laid for moves at the December winter meetings or later on this offseason.

Here’s what I want you to predict: What will Duquette do first, make a trade or sign a free agent? And I am not talking a minor league free agent (which has already happened) but a player slated for the 25-man roster.

For a bonus – if you are really feeling creative – tell me who gets traded or signed.

Daily Think Special: Prediction Friday: Ravens-Seahawks

Bonus Think Special: Duquette’s first noteworthy move: trade or signing?

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (28)
Categories: Connolly's Corner Sports Bar
        

November 10, 2011

Orioles sign minor league free agent Beerer

The Orioles apparently have inked at least one six-year, minor league free agent this week with the signing of outfielder Scott Beerer from the Colorado Rockies organization.

Beerer, 29, was drafted in the second round in 2003 as a right-handed pitcher by the Rockies, but was converted to the outfield in 2009. Last season, he hit a combined .315 with 16 homers and 70 RBIs in 130 games between Double-A and Triple-A.

He batted .372 in 41 games with Triple-A Colorado Springs in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League last year. He agreed to a minor league deal with the Orioles.

He never made it to the majors, so Beerer never played at Coors Field.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 4:51 PM | | Comments (16)
        

Orioles to honor Buck O'Neil on Sunday

The Orioles will hold a ceremony Sunday to honor Negro leagues pioneer Buck O’Neil at their minor league facility in Sarasota, Fla.

O’Neil, who died in 2006, would have been 100 years old Sunday. The star first baseman and manager spent part of his childhood in Sarasota, home to the Orioles’ Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex at Twin Lakes Park. O’Neil, who went on to scout and coach in the major leagues, worked to preserve the history and promote awareness of the Negro leagues.

The Orioles will unveil three illustrated baseball cards of O’Neil created by artist Gary Cieradkowski, whose works honor Negro leagues players who never had cards of their own. The O’Neil cards have been displayed at the minor league complex. An honorary plaque will also be hung at the main entrance to the complex’s administrative building.

Sarasota County commissioners Carolyn Mason and Joe Barbetta will also proclaim Sunday Buck O’Neil Day in Sarasota.

Here are the three O'Neil cards, courtesy of the Orioles.

Posted by Steve Gould at 4:45 PM | | Comments (3)
        

Some random Orioles thoughts (Duquette, free agency, trades, Cuddyer)

One of the things I took out of Tuesday’s Dan Duquette news conference was the growing mutual admiration between Duquette and Orioles manager Buck Showalter. Each heaped praise on the other. Showalter was part of the search committee that interviewed Duquette, which is a little backward since Duquette is Showalter’s boss.

Duquette said he thinks the duo will make a dynamic team; Showalter said he expects Duquette to be opinionated and passionate and to engage him in spirited discussion, which the manager said he is excited about.

Throughout baseball, people are curious to see how these two strong-willed men coexist. You should be, too, because if the Orioles have any chance of turning things around, it likely will be because Duquette and Showalter get on the same page and rebuild the franchise.

Forget the big tickets?: Heading into free agency, I thought there was very little shot the Orioles would be in the hunt for the biggest-money free agents, namely Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and C.J. Wilson. After hearing Duquette talk Tuesday, I’m even more convinced there is no chance of that happening.

Duquette said he wants to look at all avenues of improving the franchise. And that would include free agency. But he also pointed out that it’s the riskiest endeavor – code for that this club isn’t ready for taking a major financial risk given how far away it is from competing for a title. He said he was a builder, and so I expect him to build and not buy for a while.

Touching base with agents: It’s not as if the Orioles will completely sit out free agency, however. They always do something, and this year likely will be no different. I was told that while the club was looking for its top executive, some of the current lieutenants contacted just about every free agent of interest to let their representatives know that they would be in touch at a later time. So the groundwork has been laid, but the real work will begin now that Duquette is in place.

Trade winds: One of the quickest ways to rebuild is to trade away current pieces for future ones. And Duquette has shown a knack for trading in the past. Given that, I would assume very few players on this 25-man roster will be untouchable this offseason. Matt Wieters would be one. It’s possible the list ends there (though a guy like Nick Markakis would be hard to trade for a sufficient bounty given his salary).

Adam Jones could be a longtime keeper, but he has just two seasons before free agency; Jeremy Guthrie has only one. At the very least, Duquette should have some interesting talks with other clubs this winter.

Cuddyer watch: There’s been a lot of talk that the Philadelphia Phillies want Michael Cuddyer badly and that they have his friend, Jim Thome, talking up the NL East champs (not that Philadelphia is a hard sell). That’s bad news for the Orioles, because my sense is Cuddyer is near the top of the Orioles’ wish list. The Virginia native fits well because he can play multiple positions, including second base, first base and outfield, so landing him would allow the Orioles to be more flexible in filling their other holes. Good luck, though, if the chief competition is the Phillies.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (25)
        

November 9, 2011

Do you like the Duquette hiring? Can he succeed here?

Dan Duquette is now officially the Orioles’ GM – or, should we say, executive vice president of baseball operations.

He signed his contract and had his introductory news conference.

By now, I assume you’ve had a chance to digest the concept of Duquette running things and have had a chance to read about his thoughts taking over the Orioles.

Now I want to know what you think about the move to hire him.

Here are my two cents: Among the candidates, he wouldn't have been my first choice. But I’ll give the guy some time to establish himself as a decision-maker and leader before I applaud or pan him. His track record really is excellent, that’s for sure.

That said, his time away from the game gives me pause. When you are that good, and you don’t get hired for nearly a decade, something is up. And I am not fully buying that it was because he had other interests and priorities. Maybe for a few years; not for nine.

Part of it is that he alienated a lot of people – other GMs, media types, team personnel – when he was in Boston. And when you get a certain reputation in baseball, it’s extremely hard to shake, even if it has been exaggerated.

But Duquette’s tenure in Boston was a long time ago. And he joked Tuesday that he now expects to be “kinder and friendlier” this time around.

The Duquette we saw at Tuesday’s press conference was one that was a bit vague in specifics and a bit awkward in the spotlight. He inadvertently mentioned bringing a championship back to “Boston,” and he initially and incorrectly challenged a question about the Orioles producing no homegrown players from Venezuela.

In short, he doesn’t have the same polish as the club’s past few executives, including his cousin, Jim.

The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter whether he is a good speaker or whether he sings, dances, jokes and juggles at press conferences. He can be as staid and unsure in the bright lights as he wants if he gets the job done. And he has the experience that shows he could be successful. But this is a unique challenge with its own set of obstacles. Whether he can work his magic here is certainly up for debate.

So start debating.

(I'm sure there will be plenty of the "no one can succeed here under current ownership" camp, and I understand your frustration. But try to get beyond that tired refrain if you can, because that aspect is not changing. And, really, there's no point of talking about anything Orioles in that case. Which makes things kind of boring here at the bar.)

Daily Think Special: Do you like the Dan Duquette hire? Can he succeed here?

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (38)
Categories: Connolly's Corner Sports Bar
        

November 8, 2011

What they're saying about Dan Duquette

Here's a roundup of a few takes on the Orioles' hiring of Dan Duquette by other writers.

* At SB Nation, Marc Normandin takes a look at Duquette’s personnel moves while with the Expos and Red Sox and wonders which Duquette the Orioles are getting — the one who drafted well and succeeded in the international market while with small-budget Montreal, or the one who didn’t draft as well with big-budget Boston but made some smart acquisitions and trades:

“It's tough to say how good Duquette will be in today's game. The kinds of things that led to success for him in the ’90s are more prevalent now — on-base percentage is valued much more, and the rich teams are even richer than they were 10 years ago. What we do know, though, is that the Orioles need Montreal's Dan Duquette more than Boston's, given the sorry state of their player development has led them to where they are, and strong drafting and trades are the only way to climb back out of that hole.”

* Also at SB Nation, Rob Neyer notes that while Duquette talked a lot at his introductory news conference about building a quality farm system, he didn't leave the Red Sox's minor league system in very good shape.

"In 2002, with Duquette on the verge of being fired, Baseball America's Prospect Handbook ranked the Red Sox farm system 28th in the majors. ...

"One year later the system ranked 27th, with this comment: "End of the Duquette regime means this ranking could finally turn around."

* Boston Globe columnist Tony Massarotti writes that Duquette deserves another shot running a team and reminds us that Duquette did a better job with the Red Sox than he is given credit for:

“Duquette needs the Orioles as much (or more) as the Orioles need Duquette, both parties in need of rehabilitating their credibility and image in the wake of what has been a forgettable decade. And so maybe this is a match made for redemption, a team and its chief baseball executive both believing they have been given another chance.”

* Boston Herald columnist John Tomase also praises the job Duquette did with the Red Sox and expresses surprise he didn’t get another GM job directly after his firing:

“Add [his success in Boston] to his legacy in Montreal — the Expos looked like the best team in baseball before the 1994 strike — and it’s a wonder Duquette wasn’t immediately hired after departing in 2002.”

* ESPNBoston.com’s Gordon Edes has a less rosy outlook on Duquette’s ability to turn the Orioles around. He looks at Duquette’s time away from the major leagues and wonders why the Orioles would want him:

“It's hard to divine what in that lineup [of Duquette’s pursuits while away from the major leagues] qualifies him in the eyes of Orioles owner Peter Angelos to have another go-round as GM in the AL East, where he will compete against the likes of a multiple-World Series winner in Brian Cashman (Yankees), highly regarded young GMs Andrew Friedman (Tampa) and Alex Anthopoulos (Toronto), and a Theo Epstein protégé (Ben Cherington) who comes out of Duquette's alma mater, Amherst College, and was given his first opportunity by Duquette.”

Posted by Steve Gould at 3:25 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: What They're Saying about the O's
        

Simon's hearing canceled; cleared of wrongdoing, his representatives say

Orioles right-hander Alfredo Simon has been cleared of all wrongdoing in the Jan. 1 fatal shooting of his cousin, according to his representatives.

Simon was supposed to have a hearing today in the Dominican, but it was canceled and his representatives said all potential charges were dropped. Twice before, a hearing was scheduled but witnesses did not show.

Today’s canceled hearing seemingly ends an 11-month saga in which Simon was the lead suspect in the case. He spent two months in a Dominican prison but was never charged with a crime.

He began pitching for the Orioles again in May and was 4-9 with a 4.90 ERA in 23 games (16 starts).

Posted by Dan Connolly at 12:48 PM | | Comments (4)
        

Duquette introduced as executive vice president

The Dan Duquette era has officially begun.

Duquette, 53, was introduced as the Orioles’ executive vice president of baseball operations at a news conference Tuesday morning at the Warehouse. He becomes the seventh man to hold the team’s top executive spot in the past 16 years, succeeding Andy MacPhail, who resigned as president of baseball operations last month.

In his first remarks as a major league executive since 2002, Duquette pledged to turn around an Orioles team that hasn't had a winning season since 1997.

"I'm here to build a contending team that everyone in Baltimore can be proud of," said Duquette, who wore a white dress shirt and orange tie under a dark suit.

"I'm so thankful for this opportunity to the Angelos family. I'm going to do everything in my power to help this club succeed."

Duquette, the general manager of the Montreal Expos from 1991 to 1994 and Boston Red Sox from 1994 to 2002, was at one time considered one baseball’s shrewdest executives. He is credited with orchestrating some of the personnel moves that led to Boston’s winning its first World Series in 86 years in 2004, two years after he was fired.

However, Duquette was also known for a brashness that rankled many in baseball, both in Boston and around the big leagues.

In nine years between major league jobs, Duquette’s activities included starting the short-lived Israel Baseball League, establishing and running a sports camp for kids and owning and operating a college-level summer team.

"I've kept my skills sharp. ... I've maintained my contacts." Duquette said Tuesday. "My focus is going to be sharper [after being away from the game].

"This challenge is the kind of challenge that I look for and the kind of challenge that I successfully met" in Montreal and Boston, Duquette said later.

He is the second Duquette to hold a prominent position in the Orioles’ front office. His cousin, Jim, also served as vice president of baseball operations in 2005-2006, working alongside Mike Flanagan.

Posted by Baltimore Sun sports at 11:13 AM | | Comments (17)
        

Hank Peters and the Dan Duquette parallel

In putting together a piece on Dan Duquette’s nine-year absence from the majors before agreeing to the Orioles’ executive vice president job, I found an interesting parallel.

In the 1975 offseason, the Orioles hired another guy who hadn’t been a GM for a decade, Hank Peters, who went on to be one of the most successful executives in club history.

This isn’t a perfect comparison, of course.

Duquette basically was out of affiliated baseball during most of the past decade. Peters, the Kansas City Athletics' GM in 1965, left there and spent five years with the Cleveland Indians as VP of player personnel, then four more years as the president of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, essentially directing the minor leagues, before joining the Orioles.

Peters inherited an Orioles team with an established manager, some fading stars and a solid core. He was credited with bringing the club back to prominence, and arguably his best move occurred less than a year into his tenure in Baltimore. In July 1976, he orchestrated a 10-player deal with the New York Yankees that brought Tippy Martinez, Rick Dempsey and Scott McGregor to the Orioles. Those three helped the club make World Series appearances in 1979 and 1983.

Peters left the Orioles in 1987 after 14 years as GM, the longest such stint in club history.

I am not suggesting that Duquette is another Peters. Not saying that at all. It just struck me that this wasn’t the first time the Orioles have hired a top executive who had been a former GM but wasn’t with any organization – including its own – the previous year (or years).

Peters is now 87, retired and still living in Baltimore County. I caught up with him yesterday, and here is an excerpt of our talk.

Peters on whether there was any media or fan criticism when he was hired: “I don’t recall hearing that at all. Actually, I turned down the job two years before because I felt I had an obligation to stay where I was. I was elected to the position. … But I recognized how much I missed the competitive aspects of baseball and so I made the change.”

On the learning curve facing Duquette: “Naturally, when you’ve been away from something for a period of time, there are always subtle changes and sometimes dramatic changes in philosophy and even the rules of baseball. So there are some things that you need to get up to tune with.”

On the challenges and what Duquette needs to do to succeed: “I think it is going to be different initially because he has been away totally from professional baseball for nine years and that’s a pretty big gap in time. But I think it all depends on how he surrounds himself with experienced people as he builds things himself. Hopefully, those people can contribute considerably with both the needs of the Orioles as well as Dan’s personal needs to do the job.”

On the pull to return to the majors he once felt and Duquette may feel: “I think it is probably a combination of factors if you are a baseball lifer, which I was and I assume Dan wants to be. You want to resume that life, even though it is a very demanding one. … All of a sudden, there aren’t many challenges in what you are doing, and that, to me, was a big thing. Life is a series of challenges, and I missed the fact that I didn’t feel like I was being challenged before I came back here. And that might be the same for Dan, too, Maybe his life became too routine.”

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (2)
        

November 7, 2011

Duquette's news conference at 11 a.m. Tuesday; his title is executive vice president

The Orioles will host the Dan Duquette news conference at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Warehouse, it has been announced.

Duquette, 53, will be introduced as the executive vice president of baseball operations.

I was asked whether that means he’ll have less say and less power than Andy MacPhail, who was president of baseball operations.

My quick take: The Orioles’ titles mean very little. Duquette will be GM and the top executive of the club. MacPhail was the GM and top executive of the club.

MacPhail came in as president partially because the executive vice president title was already taken by Mike Flanagan, who previously was the vice president of baseball operations when Jim Beattie was executive vice president.

Yet Flanagan and Beattie were basically co-GMs, as were Flanagan and Jim Duquette. Got all that?

So, no, I read nothing into Duquette’s title, other than it is official and the GM search has ended.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 4:29 PM | | Comments (9)
        

A history of Orioles general managers

With the hiring of Dan Duquette on Sunday, I thought it would be appropriate to list all of the Orioles’ top executive in franchise history. These aren’t necessarily the general managers — there have been some funky titles over the years. But these are the top front office employees since the team came from St. Louis in 1954.

The dates included are years of employment as the top banana — I’m not including the co-GMs in the mid-2000s, because one always had an elevated title over the other — and not necessarily seasons in charge (many were hired at the end of a calendar year). Thanks to the Orioles for a major assist with this.

It won’t be lost on our astute readership the number of changes recently. There have been seven men to hold the top spot in the past 16 years (including Duquette); there were seven in the first 31 years of the franchise.

Art Ehlers, 1954
Paul Richards, 1954-58
Lee MacPhail Jr., 1958-1965
Harry Dalton, 1965-1971
Frank Cashen, 1971-75
Hank Peters, 1975-1987
Roland Hemond, 1987-1995
Pat Gillick, 1995-98
Frank Wren, 1998-99
Syd Thrift, 1999-2002
Jim Beattie, 2002-05
Mike Flanagan, 2005-07
Andy MacPhail, 2007-2011
Dan Duquette, 2011-

Posted by Dan Connolly at 12:18 PM | | Comments (2)
        

November 6, 2011

Orioles hire Dan Duquette as general manager

A former major league executive who had been out of the big leagues for nearly a decade found a match Sunday with a perennial losing franchise which been rejected by at least one of its top executive candidates.

Dan Duquette, who has been credited with building the foundation for the Boston Red Sox winning their first championship in 86 years -- and later their second -- has been hired to try his hand at ending a 14-year losing streak for the Orioles.

A high-ranking Orioles official with knowledge of the negotiations between Duquette and club owner Peter Angelos, confirmed Duquette's hiring.

An announcement is expected Tuesday, the source said.

Angelos declined to comment on Duquette. Duquette could not be reached for comment.

Duquette, 53, replaces Andy MacPhail, who resigned after a disappointing 2011 season. MacPhail had been the president of baseball operations for four-plus years.

After a promising finish in 2010 under newly hired manager Buck Showalter and a fast, if brief, positive start to last season, the Orioles plummeted in the standings for most of the summer before another late-season surge that culminated with their knocking the Red Sox out of playoff contention in the final game of the season.

MacPhail had appeared to get things turned in the right direction when he hired Showalter after the All-Star break in 2010 and the team finished with a 34-23 record in their last 57 games. But the corps of young pitching hopefuls, in particular Brian Matusz, took several steps backward last season.

The hiring of Duquette, who also was credited with rebuilding the Montreal Expos as the team's farm director in the early 1990s, came after the Orioles were turned down by at least one other candidate, Toronto Blue Jays assistant general manager Tony LaCava.

According to his cousin Jim Duquette, who was vice president of baseball operations with the Orioles in 2005 and 2006 and worked alongside the late Mike Flanagan, Dan Duquette was a candidate for the Los Angeles Angels' job and had tried to get back into a major league position with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the past couple of years.

Dan Duquette had been running a baseball academy in Massachusetts since he left baseball in 2002.

Posted by Don Markus at 4:02 PM | | Comments (37)
        

A quick GM update


Here’s what we know about the Orioles’ GM search heading into Sunday afternoon.

Dan Duquette met with the Orioles’ search committee late into Saturday evening. He was not offered a job during that meeting, a source confirmed.

However, he is meeting again today with club managing partner Peter Angelos, among others.

I’ve been saying for a couple days now that the Orioles are very serious about this guy – and I think three straight days of meetings makes that obvious.

So the sense is Duquette will get an offer today. And at least one source has told me that Duquette, who hasn’t been in the big leagues since he was fired as the Boston Red Sox GM in 2002, is eager to get back in the majors and likely would take a deal if offered.

The bottom line is that it appears this will be resolved soon and Dan Duquette will be the next Orioles’ GM.

That said, this process has not gone smoothly, to say the least, so I’m not assuming anything is official until I see Buck Showalter and Duquette sitting next to each other at a Camden Yards press conference.

SI.com first tweeted about today’s meeting with Angelos.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 11:39 AM | | Comments (1)
        

More free-agent thoughts

While we await news of whether we’ll be ushering in the Dan Duquette era in Baltimore, here’s the second installment of my thoughts on whether potential Orioles free-agent targets, as identified by Dan Connolly, would be good signings for the club.

I looked at the first four players on Dan’s list Thursday and today tackle four more. Again, these are strictly my opinions, not an indication of the likelihood of the Orioles’ signing any of these players.

Edwin Jackson, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals: Jackson has been, and continues to be, a bit of an enigma. At 28 years old, he has five full major league seasons as a starter under his belt. However, he has also been traded a jaw-dropping six times. That speaks to Jackson’s inconsistency, or at least his perceived inconsistency. Jackson’s season-by-season ERA since 2007, his first year as a starter: 5.76, 4.42, 3.62, 4.47, 3.79. However, I’m higher on Jackson than many. While his ERA fluctuated quite a bit over the past five seasons, you have to take into account that he pitched for five different teams during that span, including going from the American League to the National League to the AL to the NL. He’s hardly had a chance to acclimate himself to each league’s hitters. Furthermore, ERA isn’t the be-all, end-all stat for measuring pitching performance. Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), a metric that estimates what a pitcher’s ERA should’ve been while factoring in only things he is thought to be able to control, indicates that Jackson has improved each season as a starter. His season-by-season FIP since 2007, according to FanGraphs.com: 4.90, 4.88, 4.28, 3.86, 3.55. With Jackson demonstrating steady improvement and also coming off his best season as a starter in terms of walks per nine innings (2.79), home runs allowed per nine innings (0.72) and rate of fly balls that resulted in home runs (8.2 percent), he’s someone I think could really help the Orioles. I still wouldn’t advocate giving him a five-year contract, but in his case, I don’t think four years is unreasonable. It’s obviously not a matter of simply going out and getting Jackson — other, more attractive teams will be throwing money at him — but I believe the Orioles would be wise to make a push for him.

Mark Buehrle, LHP, Chicago White Sox: Here we have another player who could greatly help the Orioles at the position where they need it most. He’s 32, so he’s probably not going to be part of any grand Orioles turnaround. But he’s exactly the kind of competitive innings-eater the team’s young starters should aspire to be and who would lighten the load on the bullpen, which has been severely taxed year in and year out. Buehrle has made no fewer than 30 starts every year since 2001, his first as a starter. Perhaps more importantly, he has topped 200 innings every one of those years and averaged well over six innings per start. Buehrle is a terrific fielder; that’s something all the Orioles’ young pitchers could learn from. Additionally, he has consistently excelled at inducing ground balls (45.9 percent of balls put into play against him over his career have been hit on the ground). They’re not identical pitchers, but you’d still have to think Zach Britton — a fellow lefty and a ground-ball pitcher himself when he’s at the top of his game — would benefit from working with Buehrle and watching him pitch on a regular basis. As long as the Orioles didn’t have to break the bank for him — and because he’s far from a flashy, power pitcher, I think they wouldn’t — he would be a very good fit in Baltimore.

Roy Oswalt, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies: Oswalt, an All-Star from 2005 to 2007, is a pitcher many Orioles fans seem intrigued by, and it’s easy to understand why. The highest ERA he has posted in his 11-season career was 4.12 in 2009; throw that out and last year’s 3.69 is his worst mark. His career ERA is 3.21 (3.35 FIP), he has averaged 3.5 strikeouts for every walk allowed and he has seven seasons of more than 200 innings pitched. That said, it’d be very risky to give Oswalt anything longer than a one-year guaranteed contract. He made just 23 starts last season, in part because of a trip to the disabled list with inflammation in his back. Back problems of any sort are troubling, and Oswalt has a history of them. Throw in the fact that he’s 34 years old, and it’s fair to speculate that Oswalt might not have more than one or two healthy and effective seasons left in him, if that. This is not to say the Orioles shouldn’t pursue Oswalt, who would immediately become their best pitcher. Rather, they shouldn’t let what could be a competitive market for his services — the pitching-hungry New York Yankees have reportedly already reached out to his agent — force them to offer him a multiyear deal, at least without some kind of dependable backup plan.

Carlos Pena, 1B, Chicago Cubs: You probably watched enough of Pena’s games against the Orioles when he was still a Tampa Bay Ray to know the book on him. Great power (an average of 34.4 homers over the past five years), not so great at hitting for average (.236 average from 2007 to 2011) or avoiding strikeouts (158 K’s a year over that span). Because of his penchant for striking out, it gets overlooked that he draws a good number of walks, too (at least 87 each of the past five seasons). Does that description remind you of anyone? As Dan pointed out, he’s a very similar offensive player to the Orioles’ Mark Reynolds. For that reason, I can’t see him being a fit with the Orioles unless they’re also planning to trade Reynolds. The team’s lineup isn’t nearly deep enough to be able to accommodate two players who create as many unproductive outs as Reynolds and Pena, and bringing Pena in to play first base would entail moving Reynolds to third base or designated hitter, neither of which are attractive options. And, frankly, if I had to pick between the two, I’d rather keep Reynolds. Reynolds is 28, young enough that he might still be able to improve as a hitter. We’ve probably seen all the improvement that Pena, 33, is going to show us. Additionally, Reynolds is significantly cheaper than Pena is likely to be. It’s true that Pena, a Gold Glover in 2008, has the edge defensively, but Reynolds looked solid last year during his time at first. Assuming that wasn’t an aberration, there’s not enough of a disparity there for me to overlook the five-year age gap and price difference.

What say you? Who among the above four would you like to see in an Orioles uniform?

Posted by Steve Gould at 7:00 AM | | Comments (9)
        

November 5, 2011

Dan Duquette returning to Baltimore for second meeting in two days

Dan Duquette, who left Baltimore on Friday after a strong interview with Orioles officials concerning their open GM job, is returning this afternoon and is expected to meet with them again this evening, according to an industry source.

ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian reported that the meeting is to finalize a contract.

An industry source said no offer has been extended to Duquette at this time, but that could change very soon.

Duquette, 53, built his reputation by constructing a surprisingly good team in Montreal from 1991 to 1994 before taking over the Boston Red Sox in his native state.

Duquette led the Red Sox for eight years before being fired in 2002. He basically built the foundation of the club that won two World Series after his departure. His trade of reliever Heathcliff Slocumb for pitcher Derek Lowe and catcher Jason Varitek in 1997 will go down as one of the most lopsided deals in Red Sox history. And Duquette twice traded for perennial All-Star pitcher Pedro Martinez, once for Boston and once for Montreal.

Duquette’s tenure with the Red Sox was also marked with a public brashness that included his now-famous quote about letting star pitcher Roger Clemens go via free agency in the “twilight of his career.” Clemens pitched 11 more seasons and won four Cy Young Awards after that declaration.

Since Duquette left the Red Sox, he has worked with various minor league operations and currently runs the Dan Duquette Sports Academy in Hinsdale, Mass. He also interviewed this winter for the Los Angeles Angels’ GM position that ultimately went to Jerry Dipoto.

If hired, he would be the second member of the Duquette family to hold an executive post in Baltimore. His cousin, Jim, was the Orioles’ vice president from 2005 to 2007.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 2:05 PM | | Comments (14)
        

November 4, 2011

Baird decides not to interview with the Orioles

Boston Red Sox VP Allard Baird said he has decided he will not interview for the Orioles' open GM job.

Here is his statement: "I was honored that the Baltimore Orioles expressed interest in me as a candidate for their GM position. The opportunity to possibly work side by side with Buck Showalter made this so attractive. At the end of the day it came down to my loyalty to the Red Sox/Ben Cherington."

So to recap: You have three candidates still standing: Dan Duquette, Scott Proefrock and John Stockstill and Damon Oppenheimer may interview.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 8:40 PM | | Comments (7)
        

GM update 2; Baird out, Duquette a serious candidate; Oppenheimer in mix

Here’s as much as I know about the Orioles’ GM search.

Dan Duquette, the former Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos’ GM, interviewed Friday. My sense is that he is a serious candidate for this position based on his track record and experience.

He’s been out of big-league circles since 2002, but he also was interviewed by the Los Angeles Angels this winter for the GM job that ultimately went to Jerry Dipoto, the first candidate that the Orioles interviewed for their vacant post.

Duquette, 53, obviously wants back into the majors and the Orioles want somebody with a strong scouting and development background that, frankly, does not have a better job to run back to. It is starting to seem to me that this could be a real fit – but I’m officially out of the prediction business.

Duquette was the sixth candidate interviewed – only three remain -- and the Orioles could talk to one more: New York Yankees’ vice president Damon Oppenheimer.

They wanted to talk to Boston Red Sox vice president Allard Baird, but he issued a statement Friday saying he declined the interview due to loyalty to the Red Sox and new GM Ben Cherington.

They also had interest in Minnesota Twins’ vice president Mike Radcliff, but have been denied permission. MASNsports.com first reported the Twins’ denial.

Right now, there are no interviews scheduled for this weekend. They’ll have to be scheduled soon, because the Orioles would like to wrap up this process by next week. It’s possible they already have their man – which could be Duquette or their other remaining candidates, Philadelphia Phillies assistant GM Scott Proefrock or current Orioles player development director John Stockstill.

If I were a betting man -- and by now, this search would have cost me my house -- I'd say the Orioles make an offer to Duquette unless Oppenheimer blows them away in his interview.

At this point, the Orioles have not asked permission to talk to anyone else and have no plans to do so.


Posted by Dan Connolly at 8:36 PM | | Comments (10)
        

List of Orioles' minor-league free agents

Baseball America has obtained the list of all the potential minor-league free agents and you can look at the full list here: http://bit.ly/vGS8fX

The Orioles – according to Baseball America – have 21 on the list. It doesn’t include players like Jeremy Accardo or Jake Fox who have already declined their assignments and become minor-league free agents.

To me, two names stand out here. The first is local boy Brandon Erbe, a third-rounder in 2005 out of McDonogh High. The tall right-hander simply couldn’t stay healthy and was taken off the 40-man roster earlier this year. He’s only 23 and a great kid. I hope he can one day get healthy and realize his talent at the big-league level.

The other is outfielder Kieron Pope, who was selected in the fourth round in 2005. He was the club’s Moe Drabowsky Comeback Player of the Year in 2010 when he battled back from a broken leg in 2009 that nearly ended his career.

There was one other name of note for me, Jose “Jumbo” Diaz, simply because the 329-pound reliever had a chance to beat Walter Young as the heaviest Oriole ever (Young was listed as 255, but I was told he tipped 300.)

There’s still hope for Jumbo. All of these guys could re-sign with the Orioles.

Another note on minor-league free agents: Former Orioles top pick Adam Loewen, who was converted from pitcher to outfielder and made his debut with the Toronto Blue Jays in September, is also one now. Thought you’d want to know.

Here’s the Orioles’ list, courtesy of Baseball America:

Baltimore Orioles (21)
RHP: Jose R. Diaz (AA), Brandon Erbe (SS), Armando Gabino (AA), Chris Jakubauskas (AAA), Raul Rivero (AA), Chorye Spoone (AA), Mark Worrell (AAA)
LHP: Michael Ballard (AA), Nick Bierbrodt (AAA), Chris George (AAA), James Houser (AAA), Will Startup (Hi A)
C: Zach Booker (AAA), Adam Donachie (AAA), Jhonatan Javier (DSL), Steve Lerud (AA)
1B: Rhyne Hughes (AAA)
3B: Brendan Harris (AAA)
SS: Carlos Rojas (AAA)
OF: Miguel Abreu (Hi A), Kieron Pope (Lo A)

Posted by Dan Connolly at 4:17 PM | | Comments (1)
        

Prediction Friday: Ravens-Steelers and the Orioles' next GM

This has been a tough week.

For the Orioles (and consequently for those who cover the Orioles).

And for patrons at Connolly’s, too. No one enjoyed the fake tab at this fake establishment this week for coming close to predicting the Ravens’ 30-27 squeaker against the Arizona Cardinals.

Anon was closest with a 27-24 score, but he/she had the Cardinals winning. So I’ll at least throw a chip your way. But nothing more.

All that’s in the past, though, because this is the second Steelers week of the season (and how come I have the sinking feeling there will be a third as well?).

Speaking – or writing – of sinking feelings, I don’t have a good one here. Maybe it’s because the Ravens have struggled against two bad teams in a row and the Steelers seem to be more focused.

So I am predicting a Ravens loss – 27-20. That Big Ben fella will bounce back from an awful first game and throw for three TDs.

Sorry, people, I hope I am wrong. Predict the winner, score and player of the game.

As for the Orioles, they have a new crop of GMs to consider. Former front office exec Scott Proefrock, now the Phillies’ assistant GM, interviewed Thursday, and former Boston Red Sox GM Dan Duquette will be in today.

I have been told that New York Yankees VP of scouting Damon Oppenheimer, Minnesota Twins VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff and Boston Red Sox VP of player personnel Allard Baird are also expected to interview this time around.

The lone holdover from the last round of four is Orioles player-development director John Stockstill. Los Angeles Dodgers’ assistant GM De Jon Watson took his name out of consideration Thursday, and Tony LaCava and Jerry Dipoto are already gone.

Is there one of these guys who sticks out to you as the Orioles’ next GM? Are you still holding out for someone else? Let me know.

Daily Think Special: Prediction Friday: Ravens-Steelers

Bonus Think Special: Who are you predicting for O’s GM now?

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:00 AM | | Comments (31)
Categories: Connolly's Corner Sports Bar
        

November 3, 2011

Orioles likely to interview only 4 more: Duquette, Oppenheimer, Radcliff and Baird (update: Watson out)

The Orioles are likely to interview just four more candidates for their open GM position, according to an industry source.

They also lost one, when Los Angeles Dodgers' assistant GM De Jon Watson pulled his name out of consideration, according to another source.

They will speak with former Boston GM Dan Duquette on Friday and may interview the New York Yankees’ scouting director Damon Oppenheimer this weekend.

They have asked for and are expected to receive permission from the Yankees to interview Oppenheimer and from the Minnesota Twins to talk to vice president Mike Radcliff.

They also have asked the Boston Red Sox permission to talk to assistant GM and former Kansas City Royals GM Allard Baird.

They have not asked for permission for any other candidates and likely will not unless they do not settle on one candidate.

The Orioles did have interest in Chicago White Sox assistant GM Rick Hahn and Tampa Bay GM Andrew Friedman, but neither will interview.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:29 PM | | Comments (11)
        

Source: Dan Duquette to interview Friday

The Orioles will be bringing in former Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos general manager Dan Duquette to interview for their top executive spot, according to an industry source.

Duquette, who will be the sixth candidate interviewed, is expected to meet with the club’s search committee on Friday.

Once considered one of the best and brightest – and brashest – executives in baseball, Duquette, 53, had success with both the Expos, whom he led from 1991 to 1994, and the Red Sox, whom he was with from 1994 until 2002.

Duquette, the cousin of former Orioles executive Jim Duquette, was dismissed by the Red Sox after an ownership change in 2002. He has worked with various minor league teams since and runs the Dan Duquette Sports Academy in Hinsdale, Mass.

The Orioles have interviewed five others for the job, including Philadelphia Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock on Thursday.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 5:38 PM | | Comments (7)
        

Thoughts on potential free-agent targets

The free-agent market opened just six hours ago, and we’re not likely to see many major acquisitions — either by the Orioles or baseballwide — right away, but it’s not to early to check out Dan Connolly’s a primer on 12 intriguing targets the Orioles could consider.

Since piggybacking off my reporters is what I do best — just ask them — I decided to break down Dan’s list and examine why I think each player would or would not be a good signing for the Orioles. These are purely my opinions and should not be taken as an indication of the likelihood of any player’s coming to Baltimore. Because you’re busy people and brevity is not my strong suit, we’ll break this into three installments of four players each. Here goes:

Prince Fielder, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers: Much like Dan, I don’t see Fielder ending up with the Orioles for a variety of reasons. But even if Fielder for some reason had his heart set on Baltimore — maybe he really likes the cartoon bird; he wouldn’t be the first player — I just don’t see him working out well with the Orioles. We know he’ll be looking for a huge contract, both in terms of length and money — perhaps as much as eight years and $200 million. The chances that the Orioles, or any other team, actually get what they paid for from Fielder over an eight-year deal of that size are virtually nonexistent. He’s just 27 and thus entering what should be his prime years, but players’ prime years don’t last until they’re 35. Yes, that’s speaking in generalities, but your general major league star also isn’t listed (perhaps generously) at 275 pounds. Field has been remarkably durable so far, having played in 157 games or more each of the past six seasons, but his body type — to say nothing of simple luck — leads me to believe he’ll break down before his contract is up. Additionally, there’s nothing to lead me to believe the Orioles will be contenders for the next few seasons, when Fielder’s performance is peaking. Having the big guy in orange and black, regularly hitting majestic home runs onto the Camden Yards flag court, would be a lot of fun, but one power hitter can help a team only so much. It doesn’t make sense for the Orioles to guarantee Fielder either the money or the years he’s looking for in a new contract.

C.J. Wilson, LHP, Texas Rangers: This is going to sound like more of the same, but the number of years the Orioles would likely have to guarantee Wilson in order to land him would scare me off. Wilson, who turns 31 this month, is looking at a five-year deal. I’m of the opinion that five-year contracts for free-agent pitchers are almost never good ideas. How many talented pitchers have we seen break down at a relatively young age, never to be the same again? Mark Prior, Brandon Webb and Justin Duchscherer — remember him, O’s fans? — come to mind immediately, and that’s the tip of the iceberg. It’s true that Wilson doesn’t have as much wear and tear on his arm as many 30-year-old pitchers because he wasn’t a starter until 2010 and hadn’t pitched more than 73 2/3 innings in a season until then. But in a thin market for free-agent starting pitching, he’ll get paid like an ace. The odds are against his both being healthy and still pitching like an ace five years from now.

Michael Cuddyer, IF-OF, Minnesota Twins: Lest you think I was going to say that no one in Dan’s Dozen would be a good acquisition for the Orioles, I’ll come out in favor of signing Cuddyer. He’s got decent power both over the fence and in the gaps, having sandwiched 32 homers in 2009 and 20 last year around 14 in 2010, and turning in 25 or more doubles in six of the past seven seasons. He draws his share of free passes as well, with a career walk rate of 9 percent. (For comparison’s sake, his 48 walks in 139 games last year would’ve tied him with Matt Wieters, also in 139 games, for third on the Orioles, behind Mark Reynolds and Nick Markakis.) But what should make Cuddyer really attractive to the Orioles is his versatility. He played 77 games in the outfield last year, 46 at first base and 17 at second base, as well as eight as a designated hitter (he even pitched a scoreless inning). He has also played 171 games at third base over his career and has, at one time or another, played every position except shortstop and catcher. That means he could essentially be an everyday player for the Orioles without them having to give him a set position. As Dan wrote, he’d provide insurance in case second baseman Brian Roberts has another injury-shortened season. He might even be capable of being the Orioles’ everyday left fielder if it came to that. Perhaps best of all, he should be available at a reasonable price and contract length.

Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Chicago Cubs: If he weren’t the top third baseman on the free-agent market, he might make more sense for the Orioles. That might sound backward to you, but here’s my reasoning: Because he’s the best free-agent third baseman, a team will almost certainly have to overpay to sign him, and it will be to a multiyear deal. Ramirez is 33, hasn’t been a model of durability recently, and isn’t exactly seen as the kind of guy who brings a clubhouse together. He also had a down year (albeit a 25-homer year) in 2010 before his resurgent contract year in 2011. Looking at it from a different angle, signing Ramirez could, depending on what other moves the Orioles make, leave Chris Davis without a regular place to play. That’s not a reason in and of itself to not bring in another player who improves the team overall, but it’s something to think about. Sure, Davis might never pan out as an everyday major leaguer — the Rangers obviously believed he wouldn’t — but you’d have to think the Orioles want to get a better look at how he fares against major league competition. They didn’t have much of chance to do so after acquiring him in a deadline deal last year, as he played in just 31 games and recorded only 123 at-bats as an Oriole. Bottom line: Does signing Ramirez make sense for a contender? Absolutely. Does he make sense for the Orioles? Probably not.

I’ll be back with thoughts on the rest of the list soon. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on Fielder, Wilson, Cuddyer and Ramirez? Please share your opinions in the comments section.

Posted by Steve Gould at 7:00 AM | | Comments (12)
        

November 2, 2011

Proefrock interviews Thursday; more GM stuff: Radcliff, the other Duquette?

The Orioles will interview a fifth candidate for their vacant top executive position, and it’s a name familiar to the organization.

Scott Proefrock, who was the Orioles’ director of baseball administration from 2006 to 2008, will meet with the Orioles’ search committee Thursday.

Proefrock, 51, was one of the more well-respected front office lieutenants during his time with the Orioles, but he left after the 2008 season to become the assistant general manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Known as a contracts and rules expert, Proefrock also worked in scouting and development for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves. Before joining the Orioles, he was an assistant general manager for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

He and his family still live in Phoenix, Md.

The Orioles have also asked permission to interview Minnesota Twins vice president Mike Radcliff, who has spent 24 years with that organization and is in charge of their player-evaluation process at the major and minor league levels.

There have been no other interviews scheduled, but it’s likely the Orioles will talk to a few more candidates besides Proefrock.

The Orioles were intrigued by White Sox vice president Rick Hahn, but an industry source said Hahn is expected to stay with Chicago for the foreseeable future.

The Orioles could continue to expand their search, and potential candidates include New York Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer and former Boston Red Sox GM Dan Duquette.

No one in the front office of the Texas Rangers, including Northern Virginia native Thad Levine, has been contacted by the Orioles for a potential interview, an industry source said.

The Orioles have interviewed four candidates: Jerry Dipoto, who took the Los Angeles Angels’ GM job; the Toronto Blue Jays' Tony LaCava, who turned down the Orioles' position; Los Angeles Dodgers assistant GM De Jon Watson; and Orioles player-development director John Stockstill.

Watson and Stockstill have not been ruled out, but there is no plan to re-interview either.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 8:15 PM | | Comments (4)
        

Orioles claim O'Day from Texas, move Roberts, Scott and Arrieta back to 40-man

The Orioles’ legion of former Texas Rangers grew by one Wednesday.

The club claimed 29-year-old side-arming right-hander Darren O’Day from the Rangers and added him to its 40-man roster. O’Day was 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in 16 games for the American League champs in 2011.

In a four-season career with the Los Angeles Angels, New York Mets and Rangers, the reliever is 8-5 with a 2.89 ERA and has held right-handers to a .214 average in 471 plate appearances.

O’Day will join a bullpen that also includes former players from the Rangers’ organization in Pedro Strop, Willie Eyre and Zach Phillips.

The Orioles also announced they reinstated three injured players, pitcher Jake Arrieta, second baseman Brian Roberts and outfielder Luke Scott, to their 40-man roster, which is now at 38.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 2:17 PM | | Comments (6)
        

Wieters and Markakis talk more about Gold Gloves and GMs

Matt Wieters and Nick Markakis, the new Orioles Gold Glovers, talked this morning to area writers via conference call.

Here are some of their quotes:

Wieters on winning the Gold Glove:
“I take a lot of pride in the award. It’s definitely something I always work at to get better, and to be able to win a Gold Glove, I’m honored to be in the same class as the other great catchers in the game defensively. It’s an honor for sure. I’m very blessed to be able to win the award this early in my career. I think it’s a tough award to win because different coaches are going to see you at different times. We have some guys, like J.J. Hardy, who could have won the award, but you’re not always going to get the votes. Just to be considered in the same class as the top three or four defenders at your position is pretty special.”

Wieters on following the GM search:
“I’m definitely following it. It’s something I like to do throughout the whole offseason. I keep in touch with the media outlets and see where it’s going. I liked a lot of the moves we were able to put together last year, and I’m always excited when we’re able to put more moves together and move forward. Getting a GM in place is the first move that needs to get done.”

Wieters on the all-star nod versus a Gold Glove:
“I think they’re both huge honors to be able to win this early in my career. The Gold Glove is pretty special because you’ve got other coaches voting on it when they’re able to see you day in and day out. And the All-Star Game is something you always want to play. But the Gold Glove is nice because it comes in the offseason and you can enjoy it for a little bit. The All-Star break, you’ve got to get yourself focused for the second half of the season.”

Wieters on improving defensively:
"I definitely feel like I improved. The more reps and more game experience you’re going to get, the more comfortable you get and the more natural it’s going to come to you out there. Also, our pitchers did a great job cutting down their times, and that helped me with my stolen-base percentage. That can really open some eyes, and that’s something that really helped me this year.”

Wieters on what type of catcher he’d like to see replace backup Craig Tatum (who was claimed by the Astros):
“I think it’s all what the right fit is. Craig was a guy where me and him were able to work well together and sort of bounce ideas off each other, and that’s sort of one of the things I like to look for, a guy who’s going to be able to read swings or help with video to where we can throw ideas off each other and learn from each other. I’m sad to see Craig go because we were able to have a very good relationship of talking about hitters or talking about pitchers or game-calling strategy. And that’s what I’d like to have in another catcher: somebody I can bounce off ideas.”

Markakis on winning the award:
“First off, just to be talked about in a class with a group of guys is one thing, it’s pretty cool. It’s definitely an honor. … It was a shock a little bit, it kind of shocked me. I know the [other] guys, the reputation that the guys have. It was definitely a cool honor and something I’ll always remember.”

Markakis on improvements he has made as an outfielder:
“I still feel good out there, I still feel like I’m 21, 22. I’m just smarter. I try to be more accurate with my throws, try to get rid of the ball quickly, do the little things. One of the best guys in the outfield that I was able to play with, Jeff Conine, he didn’t have the best arm, but he could throw some people out because he got rid of the ball so quickly. Good fundamentals and preparation before he let go of the ball. It’s all these things that’s a learning process. I’m getting the gist of it. I’ve been working with [Wayne] Kirby in the outfield every day, making throws. … I think, overall, it’s just [being] smarter. I’ve learned not to let guys take the extra base. Hopefully, I was able to throw them out, help my team that way. Over time, it’s just maturity, getting to know the league and the parks.”

Markakis on right fielders (and left fielders) getting their own award in 2011:
“I was kind of shocked, but I was like, when you think about it, it’s like why not? You’ve got one at every other position -- why not have it for each position in the outfield? Center field, that’s one tough job out there. They’ve got a lot of ground to cover, backing up their [teammates]. That’s why you put your best defenders in center field. That’s why they win it. But [the rule change] is nice to see because you’ve got a chance from both sides, every position’s out there now.”

Markakis on whether he is concerned that the Orioles are without a GM on the eve of free agency:
“I’m not worried about it at all because I know who our manager is, and unless I’m incorrect, I’m pretty sure he’ll get it done, he’ll get something done. No, I really have no worries about it.”

Posted by Dan Connolly at 11:43 AM | | Comments (1)
        

Nick Markakis on his health after bone bruise

Nick Markakis just finished up his conference call today about his first gold Glove win.

He was asked about the pelvic bruise that forced him out of the season finale.

He said he first injured it in the Sept. 8-10 series in Toronto when he slid into second and his belt buckle dug into his pelvic bone. The bruise bothered him after that any time he dove.

But he really felt it on that great diving catch against Boston on Sept. 27.

“I kind of felt a dagger in my stomach and I was again not feeling too well again,” he said. “It’s better now. Like I said it needs time. And hopefully I’ll be ready to roll here in a couple weeks.”

Markakis estimated he is at “70 to 75 percent” healthy, but continues to rest and believes he’ll be ready to begin offseason preparation by around Thanksgiving.

Posted by Dan Connolly at 9:52 AM | | Comments (0)
        

November 1, 2011

Gold Glovers Wieters and Markakis (and Showalter) talk about awards

So you are looking for some good Orioles news after finding out that the club’s GM job is still unfilled.

Well here you go (because you know I am always a ray of sunshine in the Orioles’ wilderness):

Catcher Matt Wieters and right fielder Nick Markakis became the first set of Orioles teammates to win a Gold Glove in the same year since Roberto Alomar, Rafael Palmeiro and Mike Mussina did it in 1998.

(Shortstop J.J. Hardy was a finalist and had a chance to make it three, but Los Angeles Angels' Erick Aybar won it.)

Markakis, who didn’t make an error all season, was obviously helped by the new rule that split the outfield vote into three positions. That took away the center-field bias, allowing Markakis to win his first.

Wieters also picked up his first – and a 2011 Fielding Bible Award (a more stats-based designation) as well this week. Wieters allowed one passed ball (we’re not counting the All-Star Game) and threw out 37 percent of would-be base stealers.

He became the first Orioles catcher to win the award. It was the last position needed for the Orioles (though technically left field is still out there), who are third among clubs with 61 Gold Gloves all time. Only the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees have more.

Here are quotes from Wieters, Markakis and manager Buck Showalter:

Wieters on becoming the first O’s Gold Glove catcher:
“That’s pretty amazing for a storied organization like the Orioles and with as many great catchers and great players that have come through here. It’s a great honor and it’s nice to get all nine positions covered now for the Orioles.”

Wieters on why he received more attention this year:
“I think going through the league more than once helps. I started out hot, threw out a lot of base runners early, and that gets you noticed. And I was able to play well defensively all season. I think defense is something that I take pride in and a lot of catchers take pride in coming up.”

Wieters on Markakis also getting the award:
“It’s awesome. I’ve gotten to see Nick play a great right field for three years now, and he’s well-deserving with the way he plays the right-field wall and the way he throws out base runners. This was a long time coming for him.”

Markakis, through a spokesman, on his defense:
“I love being out there and playing hard every day. I love helping the team win any way I can, and I take as much pride in my defense as I do my offense. I really enjoy playing defense as much as the offensive part.”

Showalter on Markakis and the new voting rule:
“That’s a great example of what splitting up that outfield thing would do: You bring in a guy throwing the way Nicky did and playing the wall the way he did. … You always hear about run production, but it’s also about run reduction. And if you took the number of runs he reduced and added to the number he produced, he would have had something like 150 RBIs.”

And Showalter on Wieters’ 2011 performance behind the plate:
“That’s probably, from start to finish, the best catching job I’ve ever seen.”

Posted by Dan Connolly at 10:32 PM | | Comments (4)
        

LaCava talks about his decision to turn down Orioles

Here’s what Toronto Blue Jays assistant general manager Tony LaCava had to say to the Sun after he turned the Orioles’ offer to become the club’s next general manager.

LaCava stressed that the Orioles did everything right in this situation, but ultimately he didn’t want to leave the Blue Jays, who many believe are one of the up-and-coming teams in baseball.

“This was about the Toronto Blue Jays more than it is anything about the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles were classy in everything they did and I think they are going to go down the right path. For me, it was how much I love the Toronto Blue Jays and I really, really treasure my relationship with my general manager, Alex Anthopoulos, and I really want to see this through with him. He created a great atmosphere to work up there, along with president Paul Beeston, and it is very hard to leave them.”


LaCava said he wasn’t actively searching for a GM job this time around, and was very much interested in the Orioles post.

“When I decided to interview, it wasn’t that I was looking to leave. But there are only 30 GM positions and I was interested in it. When I weighed both at the end of the day, I just didn’t feel I could leave the Blue Jays.

“I am working in a great place, a job that I love. It’s just as simple as that.”

Posted by Dan Connolly at 6:33 PM | | Comments (32)
        

LaCava turns down Orioles

According to an industry source, Toronto assistant general manager Tony LaCava has turned down the Orioles' offer to become the club’s next general manager.

LaCava met with the club Monday, his second time interviewing, and was offered the job Tuesday.

The Orioles have also interviewed Jerry Dipoto, then of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who has since taken the GM job with the Los Angeles Angels; Los Angeles Dodgers assistant GM De Jon Watson; and Orioles development director John Stockstill.


Posted by Dan Connolly at 5:45 PM | | Comments (13)
        

GM search grinds on

Just when it looked from the outside that the Orioles were closing in on a replacement for Andy MacPhail, there are rumblings out of the front office that the interview process may be extended for at least a few more days.

Draw your own conclusions. Tony LaCava was in Baltimore yesterday to meet with the ownership component of the search committee, which raised everybody's antennae and led to some speculation -- right here, in fact -- that they likely were getting close to the point of talking contract and perameters of authority.

Apparently, the Orioles still aren't settled on a candidate, since a source indicated yesterday that there might be more interviews. That could mean that Angelos wasn't that impressed with LaCava or LaCava wanted more authority than Angelos was willing to allow. It could also mean that the meeting was just another meeting and not really a late-stage negotiation.

What we do know is that we're kind of late in this game, since the free agent market is about to open and the new guy needs to do some other things, like hire a scouting director and figure out the hierarchy of his front office staff. The winter meetings are what, five weeks away?

Clearly, there is not the sense of urgency you might expect from a team that wants to win anytime soon. It was pretty obvious a couple of months ago that the Orioles might be hiring a new president of baseball operations this fall, and they're still treading water two days before free agency.

By comparison, the Angels, who were in the AL West and wild card races until the final week or so, already have hired Jerry Dipoto to be their new general manager, even though they had far less time to think about it.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 10:44 AM | | Comments (29)
        
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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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