Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Base Hits: The AFL Rosters, Nagging Injuries and Happy Birthday to Cal.

The rosters for the Arizona Fall League have been, by and large, released. The Orioles who will be taking the field for the Phoenix Desert Dogs:

1B Brandon Snyder
3B Josh Bell
3B Brandon Waring
OF Matt Angle
RP Eddie Gamboa
SP Brandon Erbe
SP/RP Ryohei Tanaka

I'm very interested to see how Josh Bell and Brandon Waring fare against top notch pitching. Snyder proved himself in the AFL last season and that success carried him to the cusp of the majors this season.

The pitchers are intriguing too. Has Brandon Erbe recovered? Will fast-rising reliever Gamboa show the stuff to get top level hitters out? Does Tanaka have more promise than originally thought?

Interesting teammates for the Oriole players too. Top Nationals prospect Steven Strasburg will be on the squad as well as former Oriole pitcher turned Blue Jays hitting "prospect" Adam Loewen. (Loewen is posting a .245/.348/.371 line a high-A Dunedin...)


From this roundup article from the Boston Globe:

8. Dave Trembley, manager, Orioles - A scout who watched the Orioles-Rays series last week noticed a bit of apathy from the Baltimore bench. “They have good talent, a couple of good young pitchers, but there’s no fire over there whatsoever,’’ said the scout. “You’ve got to show your players you’ve got the fire no matter where you are in the standings, and you don’t see that with the Orioles. That really stands out.’’ Trembley has managed the tough times in Baltimore, but will he be around to manage the upswing?

If what the scout says is true, it could be a bad omen for Trembley. As I said last week, if Trembley gets let go, it'll be because he has lost his players and not because he lost a lot of games.


The Examiner takes a look at where some Orioles that started the 2009 season with the team have ended up.


Monday was the 49th birthday of Hall of fame shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr. In a reminder of the arrogance of the New York sporting community, here's the article from the New York Times that suggested that Ripken take a day off before breaking Gehrg's record in 1995.


Orioles-Inflicted Grimace of the Day. In honor of Baltimore's first series win since the All-Star break, I present Mark Buerhle:

This grimace comes courtesy of a Nolan Reimold 2-run shot on Sunday.


I don't like back injuries for young stars like Adam Jones and although the condition is not considered serious, it gives one pause to poner the Oriole lineup without him.

In the same article, Nolan Reimold may have offseason surgery to repair a fraying Achilles tendon. If that turns out to be the path he chooses, let him do it now! It's a good 4-5 months of recovery time and that's if everything goes well. The O's will need Reimold healthy for 2010...2009 is a lost cause.


Love the interviews with minor leaguers over at Right Off Russell and the two latest are Frederick pitcher Zach Britton and Frederick 1B/OF Robbie Widlansky.

Good Ravens coverage over there too, if you're inclined to that sort of thing.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Win Baltimore Sports-Themed Keychains

The good people at have sent me some Oriole and Ravens themed keychains to review on the site with a chance to send a couple out to some of my readers. Here they are!

They are well put together, no cheap feel to these products at all and they are officially licensed products of the NFL and MLB. Both of the Orioles keychains are metal with the Orioles logo. The bottle opener keychain is a particular favorite of mine and I have tested it out to ensure functionality!

The Ravens keychain is leather with the Ravens logo medallion.

They also allow for three lines of engraving on select keychains for only $5.99. These would make affordable and personalized stocking stuffers for the holiday season.

I was allowed to run a contest to give away these three keychains so I decided to do a trivia question.

In 1997, Jimmy Key started the season 8-0 for the Baltimore Orioles. He beat two teams twice during that stretch. Who were they?

Send a tweet with the answer to my Twitter account and I will send the first three respondents the keychain of their choice. (First come, first served of course.)

If you are interested in checking out, please use the promotional code "dempseysarmy" to get 10% off your order.

OK, resume party...

Little Big Man: Roberts is a One-Man Wrecking Ball in August

As I've often said (too often with this team...), when the Orioles are limping towards another losing season and another last place finish, it's time to focus on the individual accomplishments. Brian Roberts is the man to be watching as August winds down.

Roberts hit his 47th double against the White Sox yesterday and as I noted last week, Roberts is bearing down on his own club record of 51 doubles in a season. But that's only half of the story.

The other half is that Roberts is crushing the ball in every way during the month of August. He's putting up a line of .360/.439/.698 with 11 doubles and 6 home runs! Brian his 8 in April 2005 but he's never come close to that kind of homer production since...until now.

Slugging .698 is amazing. The slugging numbers in particular are fun as it appears that Roberts is building steam. For the last 28 days, he's slugging .654. For the last 21, .698. Over the last two weeks, .836 and last week, he slugged 1.000! That's sick power.

That's a .338 ISO in August. For reference, Albert Pujols leads the majors (by a good margin) with a .349 ISO for the season. The next best season ISO is Mark Reynolds at .312.

The Orioles have 8 games left in August, 7 of them against the Twins and the Indians. Expect the fireworks to continue and for Roberts to tie his doubles record by September 1st.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Trembley or Not Trembley? That Is The Question...

I've been seeing a few posts speculating on Dave Trembley's future as manager of the Baltimore Orioles. Or to be clear, they have been calling for Trembley's head after yet another losing season of Oriole baseball.

What strikes me as odd though is that most people are focusing strictly on the team's record. If you had a problem with Trembey's affection for the hit and run or aggressiveness on the basepaths with players who are ill-suited for the task, I could understand that a bit. Maybe even if you blamed him for the baserunning and fielding lapses, I would be with you. Maybe.

The bottom line is this: With the team Baltimore fielded in 2009, I'm not sure that anyone else could have done a better job.

The starting rotation we fielded on Opening Day included Mark Hendrickson, Adam Eaton and Alfredo Simon. We bolstered it with the likes of Rich Hill and an array of rookies who were, for the most part, rushed to fill the holes. Koji Uehara got hurt. Jeremy Guthrie is having his worst season in the majors.

The bullpen was a relative strength until the rotation fell apart. Guys were overused, fresh (and lesser arms) were brought up from the minors to help.

There was no offense to be had from the corner infield positions. Offense from the catching spot has been erratic. Overall, the lineup has had many solid performers but no stars. That kind of lineup will have trouble scoring when you are getting nothing from shortstop, third base or first base at the plate.

So this was/is a team with promise but a lot of flaws. The fatal flaw, of course, is that you compete in the AL East without a real pitching staff.

What could Trembley have done? Yelled really loud at Adam Eaton to make him pitch better? Gave a really nifty pep talk to Rich Hill and turn his season around? Shake Melvin Mora until he starts hitting like it's 2003? I don't think there's anything that Trembley could have done that would make any difference in the standings.

The truth is that Dave Trembley is not going to be judged by anything that happened on the field this year, not in a tangible way. Andy MacPhail is going to talk to his players, especially Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts and get their take on it. Has Trembley lost them or does he have their support? He's going to talk to Trembley's staff. He's going to talk to his people in the front office. He's going to talk to other coaches around the league. And then he's going to look at the record.

If Andy feels that the team could use a new voice, he'll make a change. If he feels that Trembley's philosophy of play no longer jibes with his, he'll make a change. But I really don't think Trembley has done anything wrong. I had a ton of reasons that Sam Perlozzo needed to go. Not so much with Trembley. There's nothing obvious (in my opinion) to point to since the record is a reflection of the whole organization, not just the manager.

I don't know if Trembley will be back in 2010 but that decision will be made by MacPhail and internal discussions not due to the record.

All this said, I'm OK with either scenario. Until he proves otherwise, in Andy I trust.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Base Hits: Roberts Chases Himself, The Bryce Harper Sweepstakes and Minor Opinions

One of the bright spots for the Orioles in 2009 (and for the decade) has been Brian Roberts. Roberts struck his 46th double in Tampa last night and is well on pace to break his club record of 51. The top seasons for doubles:

Roberts '08 51
Tejada '05 50
Roberts '04 50
Huff '08 48
Markakis '08 48
Ripken '83 47
Roberts '09 46
Ripken '91 46
Roberts '04 45
Markakis '07 43

Something to watch in September besides the standings...


Sad but true, the Orioles are actually in the running for the Bryce Harper sweepstakes. Follow the standings daily at Raise the Jolly Roger.


Feel the love.

Aubrey Huff has been absolutely glowing about the Baltimore Orioles since he was traded. Some quotes:

"I've grown close to a lot of staff, and especially a lot of players on this team. It's definitely emotional. I've seen all these young guys come up and I've had a great time with all these young guys....

"I want to thank Andy for the opportunity to come here and play all these years, and the whole staff. Dave's been great, all the players have been awesome, and I'm really going to miss it... I really enjoyed my time here."

Reportedly Andy MacPhail is open to the idea of Huff returning next year and on XM MLB Home Plate yesterday, Huff was again glowing in his praise of his time with Baltimore.

Could Huff be in Baltimore in 2010? If the price was right, I wouldn't be surprised.


I was browsing through Baseball America and saw some Oriole minor leaguers honored. Here's some of them.

In a survey of Carolina League managers (A+):

Best Pitching Prospect: Brian Matusz
Best Breaking Pitch: Brian Matusz
Best Reliever: Luis Lebron

In a survey of Eastern League managers (AA):

Best Pitching Prospect: Brian Matusz
Best Changeup: Brian Matusz
Best Defensive Outfielder: Jonathan Tucker

In a survey of International League managers (AAA):

Best Power Prospect: Nolan Reimold
Best Breaking Pitch: Chris Tillman
Best Reliever: Kam Mickolio
Best Defensive 1B: Michael Aubrey

Brian Matusz got noticed a bit, huh?

Nice to see Kam Mickolio on the list too.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Base Hits: Draft Surprises, Draft Hysteria, The New Aubrey and Cal the Selfish

So late Monday night while everyone was waiting to see if the Nats would sign Stephen Strasburg, the Orioles received a much bigger surprise than the Nats would get. 2nd round pick Mychal Givens signed with the Orioles after all.

This deal looked dead as Dillinger in the days leading up to the signing deadline but it turns out that both sides (especially scouting director Joe Jordan) were just playing hardball.

Joe Jordan on the tough negotiations:

"I don't know if it was any tougher than anything else. It became apparent to us several days ago that this was going to go down to the end. And I had to put a negative spin on things and then try and hopefully create a situation where we could get it done."

I think there was another factor involved. Givens was committed to Oklahoma State and I would imagine that Joe Jordan's been there. I have. Maybe if Givens was committed to Miami or USC
Jordan would not have been so bold in negotiations. But I'm guessing he was counting on the kid taking the money instead of going to play ball out in the middle of nowhere for the next two years.

The Orioles signed 25 of their top 30 picks including 10 of the first 11. In the first 11 picks, Baltimore added:

2 college righty starters
1 high school righty starter
1 college lefty starter
1 high school lefty starter
1 college righty reliever
1 college catcher
1 high school catcher
1 college first baseman
1 high school shortstop

Not a bad haul, especially when you consider that they made some high upside picks in the later rounds.


While we're on the draft, ESPN's Jayson Stark with a pro-owner/anti-player screed about how the draft is broken and needs to be changed. I don't like to pick on Jayson Stark since I used to read his work way back when in Outside Pitch. So I will agree with his assertion that draft picks should be able to be traded. Anything that gives the teams another avenue for building their farm system is fine with me.

I was going to write about Stark's rehashing of all the ideas many have thrown out to revamp the draft in recent years but Shysterball can do that better than I. (Good comments on this post too...)


Baltimore lost an Aubrey but gained one last night when they recalled 1B Michael Aubrey from Norfolk.


Matt Albers was sent down and Kam Mickolio was recalled from Norfolk.

Against all statistical evidence, I have believed (and still do) that Albers is a major league pitcher. He's got good stuff and just needs to learn to control it. It looked like he had turned a corner earlier this season but has fallen back to his old ways. I'm still pulling for the guy but if you can't find the plate, you can't really expect success...


I found this story comparing the selfishness of Brett Favre to the selfishness of Cal Ripken during The Streak. I refuted the argument in the comments and it turned out to be pretty long. Here's my argument in favor of The Streak:

What everyone seems to forget about Ripken's streak is that he was easily the best choice to play shortstop, offensively and defensively, every day he came to the ballpark. In the days before Nomar, A-Rod and Jeter, a bat like Ripken's was invaluable for a shortstop and his glove was top notch, one of the best of his generation at short. I have always failed to see how the Baltimore Orioles would have been better off with Manny Alexander or Tim Hulett in the lineup. Batting slump or not, Ripken was always contributing stellar defense. A run saved is at least worth an RBI.

I have also failed to see how a game or two off would suddenly rejuvenate a "tired" player. If that was truly the case, one or two games aren't going to help. Ripken often had a better second half than first half over the course of his streak. He often left the game in blowouts to get some extra rest. To assume that he would have had better numbers with a couple of extra games off is quite a leap. Again, this argument forgets Cal's defense.

There wasn't much juicy to write about Cal over the course of his Hall of Fame career so writers fell back on two criticisms: 1) Cal's streak is hurting the team and 2) Cal is not a fiery leader and that's why the Orioles lose. Both were simple, silly and designed to sell papers, not provide analysis. Olney and Ken Rosenthal loved these angles.

Peter Handrinos (an unabashed Yankee fan) makes the assertion that Ripken's poor September cost the Orioles the AL East in 1989. What he fails to remember is that the 1989 Orioles were a ragtag team of rookies and journeyman. They were not expected to contend at all and played above their head all year. To blame their collapse on Ripken's streak is ludicrous. Trading away Mike Boddicker and Eddie Murray (for minor leaguers and spare parts) in 1988 doomed the '89 season before it started. Management did not believe in the team and started to rebuild. The Streak had nothing to do with it. Handrinos seems to want to enhance Lou Gehrig's streak by diminishing Cal's.

And Bobby Bonds' criticism is hilarious. Bonds was a hard drinking partier during his playing days and aged badly as a result, possibly ruining a shot at a Hall of Fame caliber career. Ripken was a diligent trainer and kept in top shape during his career. Which player was truly selfish? Which player was letting his team down? Ripken slept at don't need as much rest when you get a good night's sleep.

Yes, Ripken was lucky to escape injury but as Seneca said, "Luck is where preparation meets opportunity." Ripken put himself in the best possible position to play every day. To compare Gehrig's streak and Ripken's in silly anyway; to even come close to Gehrig's streak, let alone break it, at shortstop instead of first base is far more impressive.

There’s certainly some room to wonder how historically important the streak was but to paint Cal as selfish in this regard is way off base, no pun intended.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Looking Forward to the Oriole Windfall, Part 2

In Part 1, we broke down the guaranteed and expected salaries for players currently on the roster and looked at possibilities for free agent third basemen the Orioles could target. We'll look at pitching but not before we take a look at first base.

Assuming the O's sign a free agent third baseman, that would leave Ty Wigginton to man first base. Brandon Snyder is hitting much better in Norfolk these days and may well seize the job in Spring Training sending Wiggy back to the bench. If so, great. If not, there will a bench spot left for corner infielder at the beginning of the year which could be filled by a guy from AAA (newly acquired Ryne Hughes, Michael Aubrey or a healthy (if there is such a thing) Scott Moore).

The bullpen is set without free agent signings (except for the signing of a lefty like Mark Hendrickson or someone of his ilk) and four of the spots in the starting rotation are Guthrie, Tillman, Matusz and Bergesen.

Jeremy Guthrie may not be a staff ace but he's not a 5.66 ERA pitcher either. I expect him to rebound next year, at least to league average levels.

Brad Bergesen is the most polished of the rookies and although he's unconventional, he should stick next season.

Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz are the young studs, great stuff, great pedigree and have found some success in 2009. They are here to stay, at least for 2010.

This leaves one spot to be filled by David Hernandez, Jason Berken or Jake Arietta internally. But all three of these guys have shown some strong signs of not being ready yet. So why rush them? Baltimore has the cash to sign a veteran to help anchor the rotation for the next few years.

The candidates?

Tim Hudson

2007 3.33 224.1 132 53 10 1.22 16 10
2008 3.17 142 85 40 11 1.16 11 7
2009 ----- has not pitched ----

The issues here are obvious. Firstly, the Braves have an affordable 2010 option on Hudson (but Hudson could void it if he wishes). Second, he's coming off elbow ligament replacement surgery. Third, he'll be 34 in 2010.

However, he's a pitcher who may be available and his style would fit in very well at Camden Yards. He's a ground ball pitcher and a good control guy. He would be available for probably $12-14 million per year due to health questions. He's had success in the American League before.

Why would he come to Baltimore from a team that could contend in Atlanta? Atlanta management, while they think they have a team that can contend, has tended to cheap out over the past few seasons when it comes to spending money. They may look at their pitching depth and not even pick up Hudson's $10 million option, looking instead to spend that money on a bat.

Hudson's a risk and you'd have to keep an eye on his rehab starts...but if he's healthy I think he's a good fit.

John Lackey

2007 3.01 224 179 52 18 1.21 19 9
2008 3.75 163 130 40 26 1.25 12 5
2009 3.73 118 99 33 12 1.23 8 5

Peter Schmuck stole some of my thunder on this one but Lackey is probably the best free agent fit in terms of health, age and performance. The problem is you'll have to pay for that performance.

It would take at least a 5-year deal to land Lackey and, for the Orioles, a 6 or 7-year deal might be necessary to lure him away from the Angels. Offering a long term deal to a starter in his thirties (Lackey will be 31 to start next season) is always risky and this contract would be an expensive risk.

Lackey is a bit more on the fly ball pitcher range of things but should still be OK at OPACY.

The other free agent pitchers are less than overwhelming. Jarrod Washburn, John Garland, Brad Penny, Erik Bedard...all mediocre to lousy or big injury risks. Maybe you bring a guy or two like that into camp with an incentive laden contract but you wouldn't pursue any of these guys hard.

For the first time since the 2004, the Orioles have some money to spend and a couple holes to fill. It's time to go fill them and start competing in 2010.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Huff Era Over, Now Aubrey's a Tiger

Aubrey Huff has been traded to Detroit for minor league reliever Brett Jacobson.

Once Huff cleared waivers early last week, you had to figure that Baltimore would try to move him but I was surprised they found any takers. But the Tigers, who appear headed for the postseason, were looking for more left handed hitting and parted with a young reliever to get him.

You had two options when it came to Huff. You could trade him now or offer him arbitration in the offseason and see if another team signs him giving the O's an extra draft pick. But the risk was that Huff would accept arbitration and remain an Oriole. That wouldn't have been good. Huff was not having a good year and there is little sign that he will ever get better.

Before the Orioles signed him, I wondered if Kevin Millar might just outperform him at a fraction of the price...

WAR Huff Millar
2007 0.8 0.7
2008 4.2 0.0
2009 -0.4 -0.4

Huff made $20 million, Millar made $7.4 mil. Was that one great year worth $12.6 million to the Orioles? Probably...

But Huff's gone. Who is Brett Jacobson?

Jacobson is a right handed reliever drafted out of Vanderbilt in the 4th round of the 2008 draft. The 22-year-old is listed at 6'6" and 205 pounds. The stats:

2008 A 1.52 29.2 31 5 0 1.04
2009 A+ 3.74 55.1 44 17 6 1.23

Decent stats, nothing earth-shattering. According to, Lakeland has a pretty fair stadium in terms of pitching so what we see here is what we get.

What kind of prospect is he? John Sickels had him listed as the #3 prospect in the Tiger system (although in fairness, he didn't like the system a ton anyway). Baseball America did not have him listed in their top ten. Nor is he on the list. But most reports I can find describe him as a power arm. For 6 weeks of Aubrey Huff, that seems to be a fair return.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Base Hits: Draft News, Rick Dempsey, His Nephew and the Blog Days of Summer

According to MASN's Steve Melewski, the Orioles have withdrawn their contract offer to 2009 2nd round pick Mychael Givens.

Oriole scouting director Joe Jordan:

"This is all on me," Jordan said. "This is my call. I just don't feel good about this and we are moving on to Plan B. We were working on info from the weeks leading up to the draft and some of that changed draft day.

"It was never my intention to meet that number (that Givens advisor mentioned on draft day). But I think some things will come out in the next few days that will ease our pain over this."


If the Orioles don't sign Givens, they will receive an extra 2nd round pick so they have a bit of protection. However, I have been and remain a strong advocate of teams (especially teams like the Orioles) signing their top ten draft picks and getting that talent into the farm system. Every year, you'll have an 8th or 9th round guy who will opt for college instead but as a rule, you need to sign that top talent if you want to compete in the American League. With that in mind, not signing your 2nd round pick is inexcusable.

Even if you get an extra pick in 2010, you've still lost a year of development. The Orioles blew this pick big time if they end up not signing him. You've got to sign the talent you draft. Especially in the first two rounds!

Tempering my irritation is the fact that the Orioles have drafted guys this year who are talented but dropped due to signability issues or health concerns. These are risky picks but the O's need to make those risky picks from time to time to increase the talent in the farm system. If Jordan is able to sign some of those guys , it will ease my concern a bit.

But make no mistake, this is a failure.

Or this is all just a playing hardball and calling Givens' bluff. We shall see on August 17th...


Speaking of draft signings, the Orioles have signed 22nd round draft pick and high school lefthander Cameron Coffey for $990,000.

The Baseball America link gives you all the background you need on Coffey and this is the kind of signing that takes the sting out of the Givens situation.


In the department of "too weird to make up", Adam Sandler's Happy Madison production company has purchased a script based on an incident in the life of former Oriole, current MASN analyst and this blog namesake, Rick Dempsey.

What's it about?

Variety says the script was written with input from Dempsey, the scrappy ballplayer who was named MVP of the 1983 World Series.

"Our pitch was, it's 'Catch Me if You Can' meets 'Bad News Bears' with a touch of 'Bad Santa,'" (script writer Johnathan) Schaech said.

Dempsey's coach, John Jennings, steered the team to a Little League World Championship in 1963, did time for his crimes and died of cancer after his release from prison.

So Rick Dempsey contributed to a screenplay about a team that wins the Little League World Series led by a bank robbing coach? I'm not sure which is crazier, the plot or the source of the screenplay.

If the film ever sees the light of day, it would be my professional (amateurish) responsibility to go see it...


By the way, Rick Dempsey believes and I suppose Dempsey's Army had better fall in line.


Also, Rick Dempsey's nephew is now with the Rays and our team is weaker for it. Hopefully Baltimore gets back a useful player to be named...

Good luck Gregg. It was great to have you back, even for a short time.


Forget the dog days of summer, for myself and the other Orioles faithful who type into the ether, these are the blog days of summer.

The O's are 7-19 since the All-Star break, an anemic 3-9 in August. It looks to get no better. And this is not new. The annual summer swoon is expected by Oriole fans in these dark days. Twelve consecutive losing season will do that to you.

This is only the third season I've been writing this blog but I feel like an old-timer. I have seen Orioles blogs come and I've seen them go.

Long gone are 2632 , Earl Weaver Rules and The Orioles Warehouse. I've seen some promising blogs pop up every year, including a couple this season, that wither away once the calendar turns to July. Hell, even Roar From 34 used to be three guys and is now just a very prolific one.

Sure, there are other blogs that cover Baltimore sports in general. The Ravens pick them up out of the summer heat, giving them hope and renewed vigor. But if you are writing a blog strictly about the Baltimore Orioles, there is no respite. You suck it up, keep writing about the losing or fade away.

So when I look at my brethren in the Oriole blogosphere, I pull for every one of them. This is no picnic and there's no bandwagon. If you're cranking out an Oriole blog, you must really LOVE this team. Or you hate yourself. Or both.

But October is right around the corner. The offseason, the fall leagues, Spring Training in Sarasota. Hope will spring anew.

And we'll keep writing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Looking Forward to the Orioles Windfall, Part 1

In these dark days, I'd like to look forward to 2010. A projected roster for 2010:

C Matt Wieters
1B Ty Wigginton
2B Brian Roberts
SS Cesar Izturis
3B ????
LF Nolan Reimold
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
DH Luke Scott

BN Felix Pie
BN ???
BN Robert Andino
BN Chad Moeller

SP Guthrie
SP Tillman
SP Matusz
SP Bergesen
SP ????

RP Jim Johnson
RP Matt Albers/Jim Miller/Kam Mickolio/Bob McCrory/David Hernandez/Dennis Sarfate/David Pauley/Jason Berken
RP Brian Bass
RP Chris Ray
RP Cla Meredith
RP Koji Uehara
RP Mark Hendrickson

A few explanations and assumptions...

Aubrey Huff and Melvin Mora are not brought back. Wigginton takes over at first base primarily since he's under contract...and the third base free agents look better than the first base class.

I'm assuming Chad Moeller or a guy like Moeller. I'm assuming Robert Andino or Justin Turner/Blake Davis coming up from AAA.

No Jake Arrieta? Nope. I'll explain.

I'm looking at a 7 man bullpen with five of the slots pretty well filled. I'm assuming that the Orioles will resign Mark Hendrickson (or someone like him) since he's the only lefty in the bullpen and there's not a lot of options in Norfolk. There are a ton of guys in the minors (or who just broke into the majors) to fill that last spot and step in for injured relievers.

So, the position player spots are pretty well filled for 2010 other than third and arguably first if you believe that Wiggy in a bench player.

The bullpen is fairly set as well with maybe one free agent signing of a lefty reliever necessary. 4 of 5 starter slots (at least) are solid too.

The O's have a 2009 payroll of $67,101,666. Estimated payroll for 2010 minus my assumptions:

2010 Salary (in millions)
Roberts 10.0
Uehara 5.0
Markakis 7.1
Wigginton 3.5
Izturis 2.6
Scott 5.0
Matusz 0.87
Ray 1.0
Moeller 0.85
Guthrie 3.5
Jones 0.8
Johnson 0.5
Hendrickson 1.75
Pie 0.45
Bass 0.45
Andino 0.45
Bergesen 0.45
Hernandez 0.45
Reimold 0.45
Tillman 0.45
Wieters 0.45
Meredith 0.60
1st baseman/bench
3rd baseman
Veteran Starter

Total 46.67

I have estimated arbitration/free agent numbers for some of the players.

Roughly estimated, the Orioles will fill 22 of the 25 roster spot while saving about $20 million off of their already paltry 2009 payroll.

There's money to be spent to fill those holes. Where might the Orioles spend it?

Third Base

This is the biggest need for the O's in 2010 and they have only shaky prospects at best in the minors. Their best prospect is the recently acquired Josh Bell and there is some question as to whether he will stick at third. There are two scenarios:

A) You think Bell is your 3B in 2011-12.
B) You don't think Bell's glove will play at third in the majors.

If you think Bell will be here in the next couple of years, there is only one choice to make: Joe Crede

Joe Crede

2007 .216 .258 .317 .576 4 0 .102 23.9
2008 .248 .314 .460 .773 17 0 .212 7.6
2009 .231 .289 .432 .721 14 0 .201 17.8

Crede is sneaky valuable. His glove is still terrific and he provides some good pop from, admittedly, a not so great bat. FanGraphs places his value at $8.3 million thus far for 2009. The Orioles could sign him for a song, he signed with the Twins for $2.5 mil plus incentives. A deal for $3 mil with incentives up to $5 mil and a club option for 2011 would almost surely get the deal done. He's a good stopgap and his defense next to Cesar Izturis would certainly help out the young pitching staff. The risk with Crede is health but the other viable 3B free agent option will take more than a 1-2 year commitment.

Longer commitment guys:

Adrian Beltre

2007 .276 .319 .482 .802 26 14 .207 -3.4
2008 .266 .327 .457 .784 25 8 .191 15.7
2009 .265 .296 .373 .670 5 9 .108 15.7

Beltre will only be 31 next season and while he has flaws as a hitter, his glove more than makes up for it.

He has good power but he's a free swinger although his walk rate is better in recent years than when he came up. His home/away splits for his career lean heavily toward the road since he has made his home in Dodger Stadium and Safeco Field for his entire career. His OPS is nearly 100 points higher on the road.

He would be an extremely dangerous hitter in OPACY and as long as he's healthy going into the 2010 season, I wouldn't have an issue with a 4 year contract for him. I probably wouldn't be upset with a longer deal either.

Good power, great glove. It works.

Chone Figgins

2007 .330 .393 .432 .825 3 41 .102 -6.1
2008 .276 .367 .318 .685 1 34 .042 13.8
2009 .300 .391 .397 .789 3 33 .097 11.2

The glove is not as good as Beltre but he still provides good speed, good on base skills and is a surprisingly good hitter. I'm not as big a fan of signing Figgins. I don't think that Figgins' skills will age as well as Beltre's will (and Chone is a year older) but he's still a massive upgrade over the last few seasons of Melvin Mora.

Baltimore has the money to spend. Let's spend it.

Before you know it, we'll turn around and Nick Markakis will be 30...

More to come in Part 2...

Friday, August 7, 2009

I-85 Baseball: A Quick Baseball Pilgrimage Through the Southeast

I was driving up to my parents' house in southern Virginia for the 4th of July weekend which was not unusual in itself but due to various circumstances, I would be driving there and back by myself. No wife, no kids, no schedule, just me and the dog.

I have always wanted to stop in Royston, GA, the home of Ty Cobb but never seemed to have the time to do so. On this trip, I would. But the more I thought about the trip, the more baseball shrines began to pop into my head. Instead of mapping out a beer run, (like I normally do) I was turning this journey into a baseball pilgrimage through the south. Here's what I found in (generally) order from south to north.

Royston, GA

Royston is 92 miles northeast of Atlanta and was the home of Hall of Famer Ty Cobb. Cobb's exploits on the diamond are well know and can be found here.

After his playing days, Cobb invested well (including heavily in the fledgling Coca-Cola) and was a successful business man. He was a millionaire despite never making more than $40,000 a season during his playing career. In 1950, he donated $100,000 to build the Cobb Memorial Hospital (dedicated to his parents) in Royston. The hospital (now grown into a regional concern called the Ty Cobb Healthcare System) now houses a museum dedicated to Ty Cobb in one of its buildings. I was there far to early in the morning to see the museum so I drove out to the Rose Hill Cemetery to see Cobb's grave.

Once you find the cemetery, Cobb's grave is easy to spot. His mausoleum dwarfs the rest of the headstones and is up on a hill. Cobb is entombed with his parents.

Although he had a stellar baseball career and was successful in business, he confided in a friend shortly before his death that he wished he had made more friends.

Greenville, SC

I like Greenville a lot and one of my ancestors owned all the land that currently makes up the city and the surrounding area back in the 18th century. But today, the thrust of the visit would be Shoeless Joe Jackson.

The first stop was at Shoeless Joe Jackson Memorial Ball Park which is a lovely patch of green in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The park is on the site of a field that Jackson played on in his youth. At 13, he made the Brandon Mill Team (a team made up largely of workers at the local textile mill) and began his journey to the big leagues. More on Jackson's career can be found here.

The park is simple but lovely. The likeness of Jackson on one of the pillars is in need of repair and two plaques describe Jackson's career and the history of baseball on this field.

Moving downtown, you will find the new Fluor Field, the home of the Greenville Drive, the A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. The stadium has a Camden Yards-esque brick facade but on the inside the field is a replica of Fenway Park complete with a mini-Green Monster. Because it is a Red Sox affiliate, I would like to hate it but the park is beautiful.

Across from the stadium is the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum, notable in part because it exists in what used to be Jackson's house. (They moved it across town to be next to the stadium a few years ago). It's only open on Saturdays but admission is free. Between that and the minor league ball park, I have a good excuse to get up here for a game some weekend.

Finally, a couple blocks from the stadium, there is a Joe Jackson statue that was commissioned for a plaza in the middle of town a few years ago. The statue may be new but the brick pedestal it sits on isn't really; it was constructed from bricks left over from Old Comiskey Park.

If you've seen (or read) Eight Men Out or seen Field of Dreams, you know the story of Joe Jackson. (If not, you can start here.) It was nice to see that Greenville is embracing this native son and his place in baseball history.

Spartanburg, SC

My visit to Duncan Park in Spartanburg may have been my favorite stop on this little tour. First, a little history...

Duncan Park was built in 1925 and claims (along with a few other parks, to be fair) to be the oldest ball park in minor league baseball. It hosted an exhibition game with the 1937 New York Yankees (featuring Lou Gehrig and Joe Dimaggio) and was home to the Spartansburg Phillies from 1963 through 1994. Major leaguers who played at Duncan Park during their minor league days include Larry Bowa, Ryne Sandberg, Tom Glavine and Dale Murphy. In 1970, when the Phillies moved out of old Connie Mack Stadium (a stadium formerly known Shibe Park that had been used by the Athletics before them), Duncan Park got many of the old wooden box seats from the old park. Today, the field is home to an American Legion team and hosts high school games as well.

I pulled into a parking lot behind the outfield fence hoping to snap a few pics over the outfield fence since the old place looked to be locked up pretty tight. And it was...except for a gate out in right field. I saw some construction gear but figured I could get a good shot of the grandstand before somebody kicked me out.

As it turned out, nobody was there at all, the gate was just left open. S0 I proceeded to crawl all over Duncan Park, into the old grandstand, down onto the field, into the dugouts, around the side what was once the visitor's locker room, around the back of the grandstand to the old ticket booth and out to the rightfield "bleachers", a concrete version built into the side of a hill.

The grandstand was in pretty bad shape (when you get to the slideshow, you'll see what I mean) and the wooden grandstand under the roof was completely fenced off so you couldn't get the wooden bleachers or those old seats from Shibe Park (many of which were in various stages of decay). The place could use a paint job and evidently the whole grandstand could stand to be overhauled to make it usable again. The good news: the outfield fence and scoreboard looked new and it looks like there is some work going on to fix up the old place. I have no idea if this includes the grandstand but I did find this article that announces a deal for the city and the local school district to share in renovating and maintaining the park (along with private fundraising). That's a good thing because Duncan Park is a jewel. I'd love to come back and watch a game once everything's fixed up.

Greensboro, NC

I am enormous fan of the movie Bull Durham and while I was watching the commentary track with Ron Shelton, the director of this masterpiece, began talking about the great ballparks they went to during the filming of the road trip scenes. He gave enough information that, with the help of the internet, I was able to figure out were most of them were.

One of them was War Memorial Stadium in Greensboro. "The Bulls will attempt to end a 6 game losing streak against the Greensboro Hornets with Nuke La Loosh on the hill," says Teddy Cullinane as the Durham Bull bus pulls up in front of War Memorial. They shot some scenes inside as well but the stadium was locked up tight so I could only get snapshots of the outside.

The exterior has some deterioration. This article from 2008 indicates that the stadium was "crumbling" and that the city was trying to come up with money for renovations. Among the major leaguers to play at War Memorial are Johnny Mize, Hank Greenburg, Ted Williams, Carl Yazstremski, Curt Schilling, Don Mattingly, Derek Jeter, Jim Bouton, Otis Nixon and Mariano Rivera.

Durham, NC

The Bull Durham tour continues! I have been to a game at the new Durham Athletic Park but hadn't been to see the Historic Durham Athletic Park, the old park that the movie was shot in. The park was built in 1940 and has been used for college and high school games since the Bulls moved to new digs in 1995.

Lots of work was being done the day I was there. New coats of paint, some work on the fencing and the grandstand, which was a good sign. According to Wikipedia, the city is renovating the park which will be operated by MiLB for training of umpires and groundskeepers and be used bu nearby North Carolina Central University for home baseball games.

Wilson, NC

The last stop on the "Bull Durham" portion of the tour is at Fleming Stadium in Wilson, NC. Fleming Stadium was built in 1936, is located in a residential neighborhood and is in fabulous shape for a stadium of its age. Ted Williams, Richie Ashburn and (former Oriole) Robin Roberts all played on this field. What's the Bull Durham tie-in? This is the site of the famous rainout scene where a drunken Crash Davis and teammates break into the stadium late at night, turn on all the sprinklers and go sliding all over the infield. "Oh my God! We got ourselves a natural disaster!"

The North Carolina Baseball Museum is housed on the stadium grounds but was not open. There was some general maintenance going on so I was able to get in and walk around the grandstands a bit. Again, really interesting looking stadium.

Home since it's inception of the Wilson Tobs (Tobs short for "Tobacconists"), the stadium now hosts a Coastal Plains League version of the Tobs in a college summer wood bat league.

Rocky Mount, NC

Nearly 20 years ago, when I was still collecting baseball cards, I found an autographed card of Buck Leonard in one of my packs, a player for the old Homestead Grays of the Negro National League. I had no idea who he was at the time but I was curious to find out.

Buck Leonard played first base for the Homestead Grays from 1934-1950. The Grays were the dominant team if the era and won 9 consecutive pennants from 1937-1945. Leonard was known as the "black Lou Gehrig" (batting behind his teammate Josh Gibson, "the black Babe Ruth")

A few teams toyed with the idea of signing Leonard as early as 1938 but nothing ever came of them. By the time he received a solid offer in 1952, he was 45 and declined the offer stating that he "didn't want to embarrass anyone or hurt the chances of those who might follow."

Leonard made it into the Hall of Fame in 1972. A historical marker stands near the place he was born in Rocky Mount. A lovely park dedicated to him is a Leonard line drive away from this marker.

edit: a quick extra...

Chattanooga, TN

I took the kids up to Chattanooga last weekend and added a couple more stadiums to my list.

Joe Engel Stadium is used for high school and college games these day but was the home of the Chattanooga Lookouts from 1929-1999 before the Lookouts moved to AT&T Park downtown. Harmon Killebrew, Edgar Martinez, Mike Marshall and Fergie Jenkins are among the players who called this field home when they were Lookouts.

The stadium looks to be a little dilapidated on the outside but generally looks to be n good shape. She was locked up tight not no chance for indoor pictures.

AT&T Park is another matter. It a quirky looking park in terms of its layout and the shape of the grandstand but is charming nonetheless. Built in 2000, it is the new home of the Lookouts. After a 20+ year association with the Cincinnati Reds, the team is now the AA farm team for the LA Dodgers. (New Orioles prospect were Josh Bell and Johnson were Lookouts until very recently.)

The Lookouts are one of the oldest minor league franchises, originally founded in 1885. Since I've moved to Atlanta, we've probably been up here once a year for a game and it's always a good time.

Slideshow on Jalbum:

Southern Baseball


BR Bullpen

Roadside Baseball by Chris Epting
: Great book and he has a new edition out this year!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Base Hits: 8/6/2009

Jeremy Guthrie pitched well in Detroit last night but gave up his 27th homer of the season last night. It's the first week of August but Guthrie is only 8 homers short of the club record. Once he reached the top ten, I guess we'll have to put up a Guthrie Homer-meter on the site.


Quick thought on Brian Matusz: Gnarly.

Matusz looked as polished as Brad Bergesen with better stuff. He had control of all four of his pitches and looks to be here to stay. Yeah, yeah, it's only one start and I'm the king of warning of "small sample sizes" but I'm calling it now. He's here to stay.


Speaking of Matusz and Oriole rookie starters, FanGraphs has two articles on new Oriole hurlers. Dave Cameron looks at Chris Tillman's fastball location and his propensity for giving up fly balls and Erik Manning uses PitchFx to analyze Matusz's major league debut.


Melvin Mora's line since his meltdown: .111/.111/.222.


Almost as encouraging as Brian Matusz's performance on Tuesday night was the performance of Chris Ray in relief. 2.2 IP, 2 Ks, 1 BB, 1 hit, 0 runs.

Ray could be an enormous part of the bullpen in 2010 if he is actually able to come back...


Some of Matusz's former Keys teammates will be in Baltimore next Monday to heckle the rookie pitcher.


Erik Bedard is going for an MRI on his shoulder and the fans of Seattle are not too thrilled about it.


The Bowling Green View interviews one of their alumni, Oriole outfielder Nolan Reimold.


Former big league outfielder Doug Glanville is a smart guy and make some good observations on some recent steroid revelations in The New York Times.


Shysterball offers up some good guidelines for ethical blogging.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Melvin Mora's Defense

"Don't give me the excuse that I cannot beat John Smoltz, that I cannot beat Josh Beckett or I cannot beat [Jon] Lester or I cannot beat Pedro Martinez or I cannot beat nobody here..."

Mora vs. Lester: .174/.208/.174
Mora vs. Smoltz: .250/.250/.500
Mora vs. Beckett: .227/.227/.500
Mora vs. Martinez: .192/.300/.231

Hey Melvin, next time you go on a rant, I wouldn't mention these guys.

Base Hits: 8/3/2009

OK, let's cover the big story first. Melvin Mora is angry that he's been benched during 3 of the last 4 games, spouted off about it and may be on his way out of town.

Some Mora quotes:

"I don't appreciate the disrespect, because I've been playing hurt for a guy who won't respect you. I don't deserve it...Whatever he wants to do, he can do it. But like I told you before, I need to have my respect. This is not a guy who just came to the Orioles. This is a guy who's been here for nine years busting his butt for the organization....

"Don't give me the excuse that I cannot beat John Smoltz, that I cannot beat Josh Beckett or I cannot beat [Jon] Lester or I cannot beat Pedro Martinez or I cannot beat nobody here because I've been here for nine years...All those guys in the [American League] East, they know me. They know me and you don't make the All-Star team for nothing. You deserve respect. That's the only thing I can say."

First, I'll continue to beat a dead horse and point back to the Oscar Salazar trade (hi frostking...). On July 19th, the day Salazar was traded away, Mora had a slash line of .272/.322/.333. Salazar was moved due to a need to make room on the 25-man roster. Now, MacPhail got value back for Salazar which was admirable but he got value back at a position that the Orioles have some depth at in the minors. Instead, he could have cut loose Mora, given Wigginton the starting job at 3B and kept Salazar, giving Oscar more ABs between, thirdbase, firstbase and DH. (Mora has been even worse over the past 3-4 weeks...)

Now, they likely find themselves in a position where Mora will be released anyway and there is no chance to find out if salazar could have been a good stopgap at firstbase/DH in 2010.

Second, aside from the Marlins' Emilio Bonafacio, Melvin Mora is the worst third baseman in baseball. The worst. And he feels entitled to play regardless of performance. The Orioles, in some manner, showed respect for his tenure by keeping him on the team and let him play out his contract. They were not bringing him back next year. They threw him a bone by keeping him on the roster.

The Orioles seems to understand the concept of a sunk cost (see Jay Gibbons) and you would like to see them take some non-traditional directions as they move forward in the rebuilding process. Now Mora is forcing their hand. It's timeo for Melmo to go.


I have little comment on the Boston series except to reiterate that Andy MacPhail did a lousy job at assembling a repsectable starting rotation to start the season. Jason Berken is getting his brains beat out because he was not ready for the majors and is only here because the Orioles had no other options.


Speaking of guys arriving ahead of schedule, Brian Matusz is set to make his major league debut with a Tuesday start in Detroit.

While this is yet another move that smacks of desperation, I feel OK about this. This is not like rushing up a 20-year-old Hayden Penn or Jason Berken who had very little on his minor league resume to recommend promotion. Matusz is a polished college pitcher and has dominated every level of the minors. He's worthy of a shot, at least for two or three starts. I don't get the impression that he will be in over his head.


The Arizona Diamondbacks are reportedly pursuing former Oriole hurler Daniel Cabrera.

Cabrera's career 5.09 ERA looks good right about now.


This is interesting. Liz pitches well for the Tides but Chris Waters has been recalled to Baltimore according to the note at the end of the article. Waters for Berken perhaps?


Work and personal life will be insane this week...see you next Monday?