September 2011

The waiting game

The 2011 season now in the books, all the attention turns to the Orioles’ front office and where things go from here. Orioles manager Buck Showalter said yesterday that today would be a busy day in terms of meeting with owner Peter Angelos and president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail to decide where the organization goes from here.

While the sense is the Orioles would rather make an announcement sooner than later, keep in mind MacPhail –who is expected to leave his post — has a contract through October 31.  There’s no rush for things to be finalized and announced today, and I don’t expect them to be.

Showalter has plans to fly to Texas for Saturday’s TCU-SMU football game with his kids, and he is tentatively planning on a trip to Sarasota for instructional league on Monday.  Will things be resolved by then? No. But I do expect the Orioles front office picture to be a little clearer by then. If I’m wagering when the announcement on MacPhail’s future comes down –and the belief is it’s just going to be a statement — I”m going with Friday.  I also believe, and this is just a guess, that will be the only news on Friday with Showalter still very much on the fence regarding his future.

He wasn’t ready to be the GM in Texas. Is he ready now? Does he want to be? It’s something I imagine he would at least need this weekend to discuss, and –with any hope — by this time next week we’ll know what position the Orioles need to fill.

Quotes to close the season

Here’s a few quotable lines after the Orioles’ dramatic 4-3 walkoff win over the Red Sox concluded their 2011 season…

“End of season like this, [to] make Boston go home sad, crying. I’ll take it all day,” said Orioles second baseman Robert Andino, whose two-out ninth-inning RBI was followed a minute later by Tampa Bay’s walkoff win, effectively ending a reeling Red Sox’s hopes of reaching the postseason.

“As tough as it’s been this last month, we weren’t ready to go home,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “You want to go home when you dictate. Not when somebody makes you. It’s extremely disappointing.”

Conversely, the Orioles will head home with wins in six of their final eight games against the Red Sox, and a collective 11-6 record down the stretch. Whether their second consecutive September surge will carry over into next spring and beyond,  Orioles manager Buck Showalter –who has been heavily rumored to be a candidate to take over as the team’s next president/GM – wasn’t sure.

“Last year our record was better than the year before, and this year it’s better than last year, and I want to keep that up,” said Showalter, who –if he does move upstairs — will be faced with the tall task of reversing a trend of 14 consecutive losing seasons. “It may not seem like much to a lot of people who just look at it purely by the numbers, but it’s inch by inch, claw by claw.

We didn’t get where we were overnight and we’ve got to keep that type of relentlessness and not be denied. I don’t pay a lot of lip service about what we’re going to do and not do. Let’s see it. That’s what I’d be saying if I were the fans.”

A few more tidbits

*Infielder Chris Davis will have sports hernia surgery back home in Texas, and he said today that he’s pushing for it to be October 13th. Davis said the issue started in July while with Texas, and he was treating it as a groin injury, which is pretty common with a sports hernia. (Second baseman Ryan Adams mentioned the same thing with his sports hernia.)

*Outfielder Matt Angle will go to instructional league in Sarasota and work with infield coordinator Bobby Dickerson and Minor League coordinator Brian Graham on playing second base.  Angle said he played the position some before, when he was much younger, but he’s game for anything that makes him more enticing to the organization next spring.

*Felipe Alou, the former Expos manager who was a mentor to Vladimir Guerrero, will be here today to see Vlad’s hit record honored in a pregame ceremony.  It should be a pretty neat moment, and Vlad (as usual) was all smiles when I asked him about getting to see Alou again.

*What to do with Jim Johnson? Orioles manager Buck Showalter acknowledged in a perfect world he’d like to send Johnson into the offseason with a better idea of his role for next year. But that won’t be happening, and Johnson’s future as either a starter or reliever will depend on what moves the teams makes (or doesn’t make) this winter.  You can bet that the Nolan Reimold experiment at first base is over. He will come to camp next spring trying to establish himself as the team’s starting left fielder.

*Finally, the preference would be for an announcement and more clarification in terms of the Orioles’ front office situation to come on Thursday. But that doesn’t mean it’s a definite. I do expect things to move quickly on that front, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Thursday comes and goes with nothing from the warehouse.

Jones MVO and lineups

The Orioles announced Thursday afternoon that Adam Jones has been voted winner of the 2011 Louis M. Hatter Most Valuable Oriole Award by members of the local media who cover the team on a regular basis. He will be recognized for his accomplishments in an on-field ceremony prior to Thursday’s season finale against the Boston Red Sox.

Entering the final game of the season, the 26-year-old Jones has set new career-highs in home runs (25), RBI (83), doubles (26) and games played (150). He is tied for the team lead with 14 outfield assists and leads all ML centerfielders in assists. Jones’s 400 total chances were the most by an American League outfielder.

The Most Valuable Oriole Award is named in honor of the late Lou Hatter, a former sportswriter for the Baltimore Sun who covered the Orioles for 27 years. Shortstop J.J. Hardy and catcher Matt Wieters also received first place votes and finished second and third, respectively in the voting. Mark Reynolds, Jim Johnson, Robert Andino and Nick Markakis also received votes.

ORIOLES LINEUP

Robert Andino 2B
J.J. Hardy SS
Nick Markakis RF
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Matt Wieters C
Adam Jones CF
Mark Reynolds 1B
Chris Davis 3B
Nolan Reimold LF
Alfredo Simon SP

RED SOX LINEUP

Jacoby Ellsbury  CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Ryan Lavarnway C
J.D. Drew RF
Marco Scutaro SS
Carl Crawford LF
Mike Aviles 3B
Jon Lester SP

Orioles/Red Sox lineups

*Orioles manager Buck Showalter hinted at some changes coming as soon as Thursday. I did a whole blog speculating on the organization’s future you can read here.

*The team will send at least one player to instructional league, maybe two, to continue working out. It’s just a guess, but Alfredo Simon would seem like a logical choice given that he missed all of spring training.

ORIOLES LINEUP
Robert Andino 2B
J.J. Hardy SS
Nick Markakis RF
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Matt WietersC
Adam Jones CF
Mark Reynolds 1B
Chris Davis 3B
Nolan Reimold LF

LHP Zach Britton
RED SOX LINEUP
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Jed Lowrie 3B
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Ryan Lavarnway C
Darnell McDonald RF
Carl Crawford LF
Marco Scutaro SS

Erik Bedard LHP

The Orioles future and front office

Since I’ve been getting bombarded with questions (and rightfully so) regarding the state of the Orioles’ moving forward, I thought I’d weigh in on what looks to be a very, very interesting winter.

And that starts with the front office stuff. As you know by now, president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail is expected to not renew his contract and step down at the end of the year. An announcement could come at any time, but my money’s on after the season concludes on Wednesday, with manager Buck Showalter hinting today at a Thursday announcement.  The preference, for the media of course, would for a press conference but knowing how low-key MacPhail is the consensus in the organization is that it will more likely come via a statement.

So where does that leave things? Showalter had a meeting with owner Peter Angelos today and while I’m sure it’s the first of several pow-wows in the next few days, the situation in the front office seems to be the most important issue that needs addressing. Showalter’s name has continually been floated as a potential general manager/president candidate and –although he has declined comment – the speculation is if he can’t find a suitable candidate with Angelos he could make the move upstairs.

I know Showalter still enjoys managing and the day-to-day interaction being with players and down in the dugout and at this point in time there’s still a lot of decisions to be made and three different scenarios that could go down. Two of those are far more likely than the third, which would involve Showalter completely walking away. I think it would take a complete breakdown with his relationship with Angelos for that to happen and Showalter isn’t the type to just quit. So, I’d put that under the least likely scenario.

The other two scenarios are obvious: the Orioles are either looking for a manager or they are looking for a  GM/president. You can toss the Yankees’ Brian Cashman out, he’s not coming here. You can also tentatively discard John Hart, the baseball executive who is close with Showalter and is bound to be an easy name to speculate on. I’m told it’s not a likely scenario at this point. Hart has turned down a few chances to get back into baseball’s front office before, and while it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility, it’s believed it would take a pretty inviting opening to get him.

What I do think will happen is Showalter will move upstairs, leaving a managerial vacancy and perhaps changing several scouting and development jobs around him.  The current coaching staff could change if there’s a manager change, another topic Showalter sort of danced around today. He has had meetings with his staff to let them know where things stand, but it’s hard to promise jobs for next season with the uncertainty up top.

The two coaching jobs everyone always wants to know about are pitching coach and hitting coach. Pitching coach Rick Adair has a contract for next year, with Seattle paying his salary this season. Adair started the season as bullpen coach, and while there’s no guarantee that he will be back in the same capacity next year –again, it depends on what happens with Showalter — there is also the school of thought that the continuous cycle of different pitching coaches needs to stop.  Hitting coach Jim Presley is also on a two-year deal, and is basically in the same spot as Adair. Although, in my opinion, any guy who can keep Mark Reynolds from 200 strikeouts –which at this point looks like he will avoid — should stay on.

Willie Randolph is on a one-year deal and it’s believed he would like to stick around in the organization as well.  Randolph, who shifted from bench coach to third base coach this season, could be a potential managerial candidate, but it’s not very likely at this point.

By this time next week, the Orioles should know what they are looking for and regardless of what position he is in, Showalter made it clear that the organization will be “relentless” in its quest to get better.  The other contract that is up is scouting director Joe Jordan’s, and right now if I had to guess, I’d say the organization does bring him back, on a shorter one or two year deal. The consensus is Jordan wants to stay with the organization and continue what he started.

Orioles/Red Sox lineups

*Jason Varitek was a late-scratch for the Red Sox with a right knee bruise.

*The Orioles, who rested most of their regulars on Sunday in Detroit, have their regular lineup in tonight and will try to hold off a Boston squad that is hanging to its’ one-game lead.

ORIOLES LINEUP

Matt Angle LF
JJ Hardy SS
Nick Markakis RF
Vlad Guerrero DH
Matt Wieters C
Adam Jones CF
Mark Reynolds 1B
Chris Davis 3B
Robert Andino 2B

Tommy Hunter RHP

RED SOX LINEUP

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Carl Crawford LF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Jed Lowrie 3B
JD Drew RF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Marco Scutaro SS

Josh Beckett RHP

Awards, awards, awards

The Orioles announced a whole bunch of awards today including infielder Jonathan Schoop as the club’s top minor league player and right-hander Tim Bascom as the club’s top minor league pitcher. The winners will be honored before the Orioles’ game against the Boston Red Sox tonight at Camden Yards.

Schoop, the Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year, hit a combined .290 with 13 home runs, 71 RBI and a .781 OPS in 128 games with Single-A Delmarva (51G) and Frederick (77G). The 19-year-old played second base, third base and shortstop this season and was named the Orioles Minor League Player of the Month for August. He was named the Carolina League Player of the Week (August 8-14) and participated in this year’s Futures Game in Arizona as the Orioles’ representative on the World Team. Signed by the Orioles as a non-drafted free agent in August of 2008, Schoop will represent the Netherlands at this year’s International Baseball Federation World Cup competition, which will be held in Panama.

Bascom, the Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year, went 10-4 with a 2.97 ERA (136.1IP, 45ER) in 30 games (18 starts) for Class-A Frederick (1G/1GS) and Double-A Bowie (29G/17GS). His 2.97 ERA was the second best in the organization and his 117 strikeouts ranked fourth.  Bascom finished in the top five in the Eastern League in ERA (3.11 – fourth) and WHIP (1.13 – third). The Orioles’ fourth round selection in the 2007 First Year Player Draft, Bascom was also named to the Western Division roster for the EL All-Star Game.

Left-handed pitcher Cameron Roth has been named this year’s recipient of the Elrod Hendricks Minor League Community Service Award. Roth made various appearances to schools and local libraries while playing for Delmarva this season and was often seen signing autographs for fans before and after Shorebirds games. The 22-year old was the Orioles’ 29th round selection in the 2010 First Year Player Draft.

Frederick Keys Manager Orlando Gomez was named winner of the Cal Ripken Sr. Player Development Award, presented to a minor league staff member who exemplifies the qualities of the late Oriole who is regarded as the architect of “The Oriole Way”. Gomez completed his second season with the Keys (seventh with the Orioles and 48th in professional baseball), guiding the club to their fourth Carolina League championship and best record in franchise history (80-59) this season. Gomez has guided Frederick to the playoffs in both of his seasons and is the winningest manager in Keys history, with a mark of 152-127 (.545).

Northeast Regional Crosschecker Dean Albany was presented the Jim Russo Scout of the Year Award, named in honor of the man who spent 33 years in various scouting capacities with the Orioles beginning with their move from St. Louis in 1954.  Albany completed his 12th season as a scout and three of his signed selections (Steven Bumbry, Mike Flacco and Glynn Davis) contributed to the Frederick Keys’ championship season. He also signed 10 players from the 2008 draft, including third rounder LJ Hoes and fifth rounder Greg Miclat. In addition to his scouting coverage, Albany supervises Youse’s Maryland Orioles, the 20-year old and under college scout team for the Orioles.

The Orioles will also recognize the Frederick Keys championship club and these members of the organization, rewarded for their outstanding work this season:

* PAT ARMSTRONG (Strength and Conditioning Coach, Delmarva Shorebirds) who was named South Atlantic League Co-Strength Coach of the Year in his first season with Delmarva (2nd season in the organization).
* MARK SHIRES (Head Athletic Trainer, Norfolk Tides) who was named International League Trainer of the Year for the second time (also 2009) in his fifth season with Norfolk (12th season in the organization). He is currently representing the Orioles as the athletic trainer for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League.

Orioles/Tigers lineups & Vlad watch

*Vladimir Guerrero is hitting .392 with seven doubles and two home runs in his last 18 games, with 10 of those being multi-hit games. With his single on Saturday, he tied Julio Franco for the most hits all-time by a Dominican-born player (2,586).

*Baltimore is third in the American League in outfield assists, with 34. Adam Jones and Nick Markakis lead the team with 14 each and are tied for fourth in the AL.

Nolan Reimold has five assists, and Felix Pie has one.

The O’s have doubled four runners off first base, and thrown out 13 at second base, three at third base and 13 at home.

ORIOLES LINEUP
Matt Angle CF
Robert Andino 2B
Chris Davis 3B
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Jake Fox 1B
Nolan Reimold RF
Kyle Hudson LF
Pedro Florimon SS
Craig Tatum C

Brian Matusz LHP

TIGERS LINEUP
Austin Jackson CF
Magglio Ordonez RF
Delmon Young LF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
Alex Avila C
Jhonny Peralta SS
Ryan Raburn 2B
Brandon Inge 3B

Brad Penny RHP

Orioles/Tigers lineups and pregame tidbits

*Brian Matusz will start Sunday’s series finale in Detroit, as the organization feels it’s important for Matusz to get another start and hopefully end the year on a positive note. The Orioles feel Matusz is making more strides, and is stronger physically, than he has been all year and the Tigers lethal lineup will certainly be a good indicator of where he is.

*Tommy Hunter (right groin strain) threw a bullpen session today with no problem and is slated to make Monday’s start as his final outing of the season. Zach Britton and Alfredo Simon will follow him to close out 2011.

*Justin Verlander is going for his 25th win tonight, and if he gets it he would be the first pitcher since 1990 to do so.

*Designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero tied Julio Franco for the most hits all-time by a Dominican-born player (2,586) with a first-inning hit off Justin Verlander on Saturday night. Guerrero’s next hit will put him in sole possession of the record.

*Matt Angle hit his first career home run to lead off Saturday’s game. Angle, who gave the Orioles their fifth leadoff homer this season, had just 11 homers in 2,054 Minor League at-bats.

Here are the lineups….

ORIOLES LINEUP
Matt Angle LF
J.J. Hardy SS
Nick Markakis RF
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Matt Wieters C
Adam Jones CF
Mark Reynolds 1B
Chris Davis 3B
Robert Andino 2B

Jeremy Guthrie RHP

TIGERS LINEUP
AUstin Jackson CF
Magglio Ordonez RF
Delmon Young LF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
Alex Avila C
Jhonny Peralta SS
Ryan Raburn 2B
Don Kelly 3B

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