Peter Angelos’ specter of mortality is keeping the Orioles from doing what must be done

The following are true:

1. Peter Angelos, majority owner of the Baltimore Orioles, is 88 years old. This coming 4th of July, he will be 89.

2. The Baltimore Orioles’ current window for contention is almost entirely closed. Barring a miracle or a sudden change of heart, this will be the last season that Manny Machado, their best player, will be on the team. Adam Jones may also soon be gone. Chris Davis is still in for the next few years, but is no longer the slugger he once was. The pitching continues to be uneven at best, although Dylan Bundy still has some promise. The bullpen is better, but is still hurt by injuries and free agencies. The farm system, while not as bad as some say, is still poor, especially compared to most of the Orioles’ AL East rivals. Oh, and those AL rivals, especially the Yankees and Red Sox, seem to be headed towards another one of those 5-10 year stretches where they will be fighting for the top spot while all other teams fight for third.

3. The Orioles are doing nothing to set the groundwork for another run. They haven’t traded Machado, they haven’t had any significant talks with Jones, and to the best of my knowledge they haven’t stepped-up scouting or tried to get any top international prospects.

Those preceding points are, again, all true. And they are all related. To be more specifically, they all have to do with point number one: Peter Angelos is 88 years old. Every owner in sports dreams of two things (although the order may differ depending on the person): to win a championship, and to make a ton of money.

Angelos has succeeded in the latter. He is a billionaire, and the value of the Orioles has skyrocketed since his group first bought them in the 90s. No championship has come, and Angelos, in his old age, no doubt recognizes his chances of seeing one are numbered. It does not take a psychologist to recognize what is happening in his psyche: he wants to win one before he goes, and he has decided that he has a better chance if he stays the course, as opposed to committing to a long rebuild that he may not be alive for the end of.

It isn’t completely insane. To be sure, the Orioles aren’t anyone’s pick to win the World Series in 2018. Or even win the division. Or even the wild card. However, it isn’t totally insane to think that maybe Buck Showalter can work his magic one last time and that the team could overachieve its way into some type of Wild Card spot. And then, it’d be the playoffs, and who knows? Maybe they could somehow get hot at the right time and come home as champions. It isn’t likely at all, but it isn’t totally impossible.

However, it should be noted that there is an error with this theory: if indeed this was a case of wanting to win now before Machado leaves, the Orioles would be doing a lot more. To the best of my knowledge, they have made no major overtures to any of the top free agents still left on the market. They outright admitted they made no serious attempt to get Shohei Ohtani, citing organizational philosophy. With the exception of a few minor moves, they have made no indication that they are going for it, no-holds-barred.

Perhaps this is because of the climate of baseball this hot stove season, where the movement has been so slow that some are speaking of collusion and flaws in baseball’s financial structure. However, it seems unlikely that Angelos, probably the most pro-labor owner in baseball (during the 94/95 strike he refused to try out scabs), would go along with collusion, at least explicitly. No, more than likely it is just that the other part of being an owner: the money. Quite simply, Peter Angelos is trying to have it both ways: he wants to win a championship before he dies, but he also doesn’t want to put the money in the game that would let him do it.

In other words, he is trying to do two things at once, and in the end, he may end up with nothing at all.

Advertisements

(Blogathon ’16) Stacey Folkemer: Baseball is more than a game, it’s part of the family

This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

Baseball has always been a part of my family life. I can’t remember a time when summer evenings didn’t include the ballgame on the radio or television, or when a holiday passed that my uncle didn’t offer his opinions on how to fix the rotation while my grandfather complained about a slugger who strikes out too much.

For most of my life, the Baltimore Orioles have been a bad baseball team. They’ve had their moments, but I was born after their glory years. And for my entire adult life until four years ago, the Orioles weren’t just bad, they were a laughing stock. But it was during those years that they became an even bigger part of my familial relationships as I grew into adulthood and my grandparents, especially my grandmother, advanced in age and became less a part of the everyday world.

If you have spent time with someone who doesn’t often leave the house, you understand how difficult it can be to come up with new and fresh things to talk about. My grandmother spent many of her last years confined to her home, limiting her ability to speak about things that she didn’t see on TV or hear about from someone else. But thanks to baseball, we always had plenty to say during our visits. She watched every game from her living room and had strong opinions on every player.

She and my grandfather were two very different types of fans. She was the ultimate pessimist. The Orioles were never good enough, they’d never going to return to their former glory with these players or this manager. It was an extension of her personality at large, where she was often times harsh but passionate for those people and things that she cared about. But she never gave up on them, even if she expected them to lose. If the game was close in the ninth inning, she couldn’t take it. She’d take refuge on the patio, smoking a cigarette and waiting for me to come out and tell her who won. If the answer was the Orioles, she’d smile but comment on how it’s just like them to almost throw it away.

My grandfather, on the other hand, has always been a baseball optimist. Even in the darkest years, as the O’s losing streak stretched across a decade, he always believed they could win. Every year during Spring Training, as reports flooded in that players were in the best shape of their lives, my grandfather believed them all. “They’ve got the hitters, the pitching might come around,” he’d say, as my grandmother and I disagreed and told him he was crazy. He and I had a conversation before the 2012 season in which he repeated the same optimism he’d shown every year prior, and I laughed at how misguided he was. We made a bet on their record, with him claiming they’d be over .500 and me stating that they didn’t have a chance.

Well, if you recall the 2012 season, the Orioles won 93 games, captured the Wild Card, and made it to game five of the ALDS before their season came to an end. I heard a lot about my pessimism that year, let me tell you. I still hear about it sometimes, almost four years later.

As a fan myself, I have to admit that I’m more like my grandmother. Even now, with the Orioles having four straight non-losing seasons and two playoff appearances since 2012, my natural instinct is to think the worst. The starting pitcher will always implode, the offense will never get a hit in the clutch, the Orioles of 2012-15 were a fluke.

I wish I didn’t have that attitude. Outwardly, I have tried to take on the more optimistic view that has always been modeled by my Granddad. Over the last few years I have argued on Twitter and my internet home of CamdenChat.com about how the Orioles are better than people think. When the game is on the line late I profess my faith in my team despite a sinking feeling in my stomach. I am trying to fake it until I make it, basically, but I don’t think I’ll ever be fully successful.

We lost my grandmother to cancer in 2008, so I was never able to share the winning Orioles with her as an adult. As the O’s participated in the 2012 playoffs, I thought about her a lot, wondering if she would have changed her pessimistic ways after watching the magical 2012 team. Probably not. We are who we are, after all. I imagine that she would have seen Jim Johnson’s implosion coming from a mile away (or at least claimed she did). She wouldn’t have witnessed Brian Matusz giving up a walk-off home run to Raul Ibanez in game three of the ALDS (she would have been on the porch, unable to take it) but she never would have forgiven Matusz for as long as he was in an Orioles uniform. But she still would have been ecstatic for our guys even as she cursed them, and I’m sad I didn’t get to experience that with her.

I have been able to spend the last four seasons of good Orioles baseball with my grandfather, and for that I’m grateful. Finally, he has seen a return on his optimism. The ultimate payoff would be a World Series win (though he, unlike me, has at least gotten to see three of those for the Orioles in his life), and maybe he’ll soon be rewarded for his faith in his team.

I wouldn’t count on it, though. Have you seen the starting rotation?

Stacey Folkemer has been writing for Camden Chat, SB Nation’s Baltimore Orioles blog, since 2008. You can find her there or follow her @StaceyMFolk. She lives in Maryland with her husband, who is also a sports writer. In the winter she dreams of baseball. In the summer she watches it from section 334 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

This guest-post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer were not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

(Blogathon ’16) Matt Taylor: Adam Jones Is a Difference Maker for Baltimore

This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

I’m pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the Blogathon to raise money for the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. Like most everyone, it seems, I have a close personal connection to cancer. I lost my mom to the disease many years ago. I’ve also worked at the American Cancer Society, which helped me understand how much progress was and is being made in the fight against cancer.

I do my Orioles blogging over at Roar from 34. When I think about charity in relation to the Orioles, Adam Jones comes to mind. Jones received the 2015 Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award back in November. The award, which is part of the Major League Baseball Players Choice Awards, honors Jones’ efforts on the diamond and in the community. 

If you’re not an Orioles fan, you might not know about Jones’ charitable work. After receiving the Marvin Miller award he said the following: “I do a lot of stuff in the dark. I’ll do it on my own time and with my own resources and it’s great to have it thrive that way.”

In addition to the Marvin Miller Award, Jones has received the Governor’s Service Award in Maryland, the MLB Players Association’s Brooks Robinson Community Service Award, and has twice been nominated for baseball’s Roberto Clemente Award.

It’s easy, and often wise, to cast a cynical eye toward athletes’ charitable efforts. Jones isn’t one to worry about polishing his image, however. You might guess as much if you’ve ever witnessed his candor on Twitter (he introduced me to the term slapdick) or read some of his locker room quotes. The guy takes big cuts on the field and off of it.

Jones’ charity of choice is Boys & Girls Clubs of America. He benefited from the program while growing up in San Diego and now gives back to clubs there and in Baltimore.

Giving back to these kids, letting them understand that there are people out there who really care about you in terms of your education and well-being. These have been the kind of places that always have been safe havens for youths,” Jones explained in a 2014 Baltimore Sun story.

Jones combines his love for food and for charity with an annual #StayHungry Purple Tailgate at a Baltimore Ravens game to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club of Baltimore. In addition to raising money, the event allows fans to interact with Jones in person. The 2015 event featured Biz Markie.

Adam Jones has got what we need in Baltimore to make us proud.

Matt Taylor has been blogging about the Baltimore Orioles at Roar From 34 since 2006. Roar From 34 is the oldest independently operated Orioles blog. The site, which focuses on humor, history, and homerism, will celebrate its 10th anniversary this season. Matt was the first credentialed blogger to work in the press box at Orioles Park at Camden Yards and has participated in the MidAtlantic Sports Network’s (MASN) guest blogger program since its inception in 2011. 

This guest-post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

“30 Teams, 30 Posts” (2015): The Orioles’ fortunes depend upon the returning stars- especially Machado

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2015 season. Previous installments can be found here. Today, I talk about the Orioles.

Keith Olbermann put it best when he described the 2014 Baltimore Orioles as being like Wile E. Coyote running off a cartoon cliff. Despite not having Manny Machado, Matt Wieters or Chris Davis, the Orioles were able to keep running on air for awhile until finally, in the ALCS, they realized they were over the cliff and then plummeted to their doom.

And, after a fairly quiet off-season that saw some major losses (Nick Markakis- although how big of a loss that is is up to some debate- and Andrew Miller) and no major additions. In fact, the biggest story of the offseason for the Orioles was likely the fact that GM Dan Duquette might leave to take a higher position with the Blue Jays. He didn’t, at least, not yet.

So, the most important thing for the defending AL East champion (!) Orioles will be how the players returning from injury/suspension will do. Manny Machado and Matt Wieters from injury, of course, and Chris Davis is returning from a PED suspension. To be sure, they could do great and the Orioles could still miss the playoffs, but it feels unlikely that the Orioles can make the playoffs if they don’t produce.

Of the three, the most important one, at least for the long-term hopes of the Orioles, is Manny Machado. Still just 22, he is the one who will be an Oriole for most of the foreseeable future, while Wieters (28 and with just one more year on his contract) and Davis (also 28, and also in the last year of his contract) could soon be on their way out. Machado has seen two straight seasons end in injury- the last thing the Orioles need is their young super-star becoming an injury-prone mess.

Because Adam Jones cannot be expected to be a one-man show, and the starting pitcher remains a bit suspect, at least on gut reaction when you look at it.

Although, on the other hand, Buck Showalter is involved, so it’s entirely possible everything goes wrong for the Orioles this season and they still make the playoffs.

Your 2014 Baltimore Orioles, AKA “Where The Hell Did These Guys Come From?”, a Q&A

Last night, the Orioles won, walking off the Yankees in the 9th to lower their magic number to 3. It seems all but inevitable that they will clinch their first AL East pennant since 1997 within the next few days, perhaps as early as tomorrow.

And yet, many are likely asking: “Where the hell did these guys come from?”

It’s not a bad question, as the Orioles have continued to win, even after losing not one (Matt Wieters), not two (Manny Machado), but three former or current All-Stars to either injury or, in Davis’ case, suspension. In fact, if anything, they seem to have gotten better with every big player they’ve lost.

So, to answer some questions about the Orioles, here’s a Q&A:

Okay, so, the Orioles do still have Adam Jones and Nick Markakis, right?

Yes. They do.

And both of them were actually developed in the Orioles farm system?

Only half correct. Markakis was 100% home grown, but Adam Jones was originally in the Mariners system and was acquired in a trade for Erik Bedard back in 2008.

Oh, bummer for the Mariners. Anybody else from that trade on the Orioles roster?

Chris Tillman. Currently 12-5 with a 3.29 ERA.

Wow, the Mariners really screwed that up, didn’t they?

Yes, yes they did.

By the way, alongside Tillman, the Orioles rotation has done pretty good this year, what’s their story?

Wei-Yin Chen, a lefty who is currently 15-4 with a 3.59 ERA and some of the best control in the league (he has had the 5th lowest percentage of BB/9 in the AL this year), was acquired from Japan, where he was a member of the NPB Chunichi Dragons. Before that, he played in his native Taiwan.

Ubaldo Jimenez was acquired as a free agent this last offseason, and has not lived up to his $50 million dollar contract, with a ERA approaching five. It’s highly unlikely he’ll be a starter during the postseason.

Bud Norris was acquired from Houston in 2013 in a trade for L.J. Hoes and a minor leaguer.

Miguel Gonzalez was signed as a free agent in 2012, having never reached the Majors during his time in the Angels or Red Sox systems. He’s 9-8 with a 3.28 ERA.

And, finally, there is Kevin Gausman, the lone member of the starting rotation who is 100% Orioles. Although he was up and down between Baltimore and AAA Norfolk this year, at least some of that had more to do with taking advantage of MLB service time rules than his actual performance (he has a perfectly respectable 3.57 ERA). Only 23 and one of the top prospects for Baltimore, he loves powdered donuts and has a fastball that can hit triple digits at times.

Hang on, so those five guys and Chris Tillman have been the Orioles rotation this year? It looks like a bunch of guys who’d be mid-rotation guys on other teams.

Yeah. Feels that way, doesn’t it? In fact, if you were to look at FanGraphs’ pitching WAR leaders, you don’t see an Oriole until you get to 47 on the list- Tillman, who’s just ahead of Kyle Gibson of the Twins. If you were to look at the rotation’s FIP (Fielding-Independent Pitching, basically what a pitcher’s ERA would be like if they were pitching in laboratory settings with average fielding, luck, etc.), you’d see none of them have one under 4.

So, perhaps the Orioles’ rotation is playing over it’s head, getting lucky and taking advantage of the offense supporting them and the defense behind them. Another way to look at it, though, would be that perhaps having 5 steady mid-rotation guys is better than having one or two aces followed by more questionable pitching. I don’t know.

Okay, enough about pitchers? How about the long-ball?

Nelson Cruz was probably among this past off-season’s best free agent signings, as he’s worked his way from PED-suspended disgrace and poor fielder to dinger-pounding DH (currently 39 on the season), although he has cooled off significantly in the second half of the season, only hitting 11 of the 39 after the All-Star Break.

Go on…

The next highest number of home runs on the Orioles is 26, by Chris Davis, who isn’t available. Adam Jones has been having a good power year, though, and is currently at 25 homers for the year. Steve Pearce, a super-utility/backup 1B/backup OF, has been having a career year at the plate with 17 HRs. He’s another good free agent signing.

Say, where did the Orioles get JJ Hardy, again?

They acquired him from the Twins in 2010 for such immortals as Jim Hoey and Brett Jacboson.

Who?

Exactly.

So, who is Jonathan Schoop and how do I say his last name?

He’s a international free agent signing from Curaco, a member of the WBC Honkballers, long one of the top infield prospects in the Orioles system, and his last name is pronounced like “scope”.

Thank you.

You’re welcome.

Now, where’d the bullpen come from?

The bullpen is basically made up of failed starting pitching prospects. Closer Zach Britton? He was a starter coming up. Same for Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter (Hunter was initially a starter for the Rangers, and was acquired in the same deal that brought Chris Davis to Baltimore) and Andrew Miller (who the Orioles acquired in July from Boston). Only Darren O’Day has never started a game in the big leagues. He, by the way, was taken off waivers from the Rangers back in 2011.

So, anybody else notable?

Delmon Young. David Lough. Ryan Flaherty. The Orioles have plenty of guys who you know you remember still being in the league but can’t quite remember much about. Well, Ryan Flaherty has been with the Orioles since he was acquired in the 2011 Rule 5 draft, but still.

So, really, how are the Orioles doing this?

They made some good acquisitions, a good bullpen and lineup, and the pitching is good enough. Also, they sacrificed Wieters’ UCL and Machado’s knee to the baseball gods. Only rational explanation.