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Picking Up The Pieces As The Oriole Rebuild Starts

Don’t ever say there is no crying in baseball. When shortly before the trade deadline of July 31 the Orioles traded both pitcher Kevin Gausman (to Atlanta along with veteran reliever Darren O'Day) and second baseman Jonathan Schoop (to Milwaukee), many tears were shed by both young players.

The first time you are traded is always an emotional experience because you are literally being kicked out of the only baseball family you have known.

Baltimore infield instructor Bobby Dickerson, a baseball lifer, shed the normally stoic demeanor of a Buck Showalter staff member. As he tearfully explained to Roch Kubatko on the masnsports.com website, he had known Curacao native Schoop from the age of 16 - he had watched close hand the growing pains and emergence of the former Little League champion into a major league second baseman with a great arm and formidable power.

It wasn’t that Gausman and Schoop could walk as free agents after this season. (Which was why All-Stars Manny Machado, Zach Britton, and Brad Brach were all traded.) Their possibly big free agent bonanza won’t come until after 2019 for Schoop and after 2020 for Gausman.

Yet Gausman had never lived up to his billing as the number 4 player picked in the first round of the 2012 amateur draft. His stuff can be electric - a fastball clocked in mid-to-upper 90s and a considerably lower velocity for his split-finger sinking pitch.

But he never could develop a curve or slider to complement his two plus pitches. His pitch count invariably rose early in games and when he needed to make a big pitch, he often did not execute it.

Gausman has remained healthy and durable so he might become an innings eater for the Braves. He did lose his first start to Zack Wheeler and the Mets, 3-0 on Saturday night August 3, not getting out of the sixth inning. (As someone who roots for the Mets to be competitive in the NY market, I'm glad they held on to Wheeler at the trade deadline. He seems to be emerging as a very effective starting pitcher.)

Schoop has gotten off to a slow start with the Brewers, going 0 for 13 before he got his first hit on Saturday night. He will help them I am sure once he gets settled. He even has started one game at shortstop, his original position as little and minor leaguer.

I for one will miss one of the most genuine smiles that I have ever seen in an athlete.
It was a dream of Orioles fans that Schoop and his BFF Manny Machado might comprise a Baltimore double play combination for years and years. Now both are gone and no replacements are on the horizon.

(Interestingly, Machado, who only wanted to play short for the Orioles once JJ Hardy departed after last season, is now playing both third base and shortstop as LAD tries to win a 6th consecutive NL West title.)

So what does an Orioles fan do when his parent team is in disarray and there is no clear evidence yet that any of the minor leaguers received for our stars will really emerge? Try to find hope in the farm clubs, right?

I love the atmosphere and affordability of minor league baseball so I checked in on the Aberdeen Iron Birds' visit to the Brooklyn Cyclones this past Thursday August 2. It started off as a dream day with late breakfast on the boardwalk followed by nearly an hour floating around in the refreshingly mild and surprisingly clean Atlantic at Coney Island.

Alas, the New York-Penn League Short Season A game at MCU (formerly Keyspan) Park quickly spoiled a beautiful day. After taking a quick 1-0 lead on a single by center fielder Austin Hays (last year's Orioles Minor League Player of the Year) and a triple by first baseman JC Escarra, the Iron Birds quickly fell apart.

Southpaw Willie Rios never looked comfortable on the mound, kicking at the ground trying to find a good landing spot I guess. There has been a lot of rain around here lately and the pitching area must have been a little muddy. But nobody on the Iron Bird coaching staff talked to Rios about the problem.

After getting the first out, he walked two and then the defense fell apart. At-'em balls at infielders were misplayed and thanks to a bases clearing double by Cyclones DH Walter Rasquin it was soon 6-1. Then 9-1 after 2, and 12-1 after 3.

Four errors of commission in the first three innings and many more of omission, eg. not covering bases or throwing to wrong bases. Final score of 13-6 was deceptive - it was not a competitive game.

But it was fun to see Austin Hays collect a couple of hits and display his Pete Rose-style enthusiasm for the game. He was halfway to second on a foul ball he hit that the first baseman corralled near the stands.

It was Irish Night and thank God I wasn't raised a Brooklyn Dodger fan because the
entertainment of the evening was provided by a group of dancers called the O'Malleys!
I know that perfidy of moving the Brooklyn Dodgers to LA by Walter O'Malley happened 61 years ago but it remains a wound deep in the heart of old Brooklyn and those in the diaspora.

Well, that's all for now. Plenty of baseball left to muse and moan about. So in the meantime always remember: Take it easy but take it.  Read More 
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Facing A Summer Without Oriole Contention

Well, it's the mid-way point of the long long major league baseball season. And after their second straight non-competitive loss on the road against the surprising Milwaukee Brewers, leaders in the surprisingly mediocre NL Central, the Birds are at their low point of the season, 40-43.

What is to be done? The farm system is not producing and the varsity is not producing and I haven't even mentioned the staggeringly bad starting pitching. Baseball is a game of streaks - you want to keep the good ones going and the bad ones short.

Chances for success depend largely on good starting pitching and with the slump of young Dylan Bundy there is nothing remotely resembling an ace on the Oriole staff.
The imminent return of ace closer Zach Britton from a long stint on the disabled list with forearm discomfort will help, but will there be leads to protect?

Oriole offense is spotty at best and Manny Machado is having his worst year at the plate. How long ago seems 2012 when he came out of the minors in August to fill the gaping hole at third base with timely hitting and sensational defense. I even bought my first Oriole jersey in his honor.

Along with reliever Brad Brach, Machado may be the Orioles' best trading chip before the July 31st deadline. But his value is not as high as it once was. And I don't appreciate his blathering to the press that the team is trying hard and always thinking of "passing the baton" to teammates.

Manny, I don't call swinging at the first pitch and meekly popping up when down five runs in the top of the 9th in the Birds' latest loss "passing the baton." Team leader and virtual captain Adam Jones is not having a great year at the plate either. He hit only his 9th double of the year today but later was thrown out overrunning third base.

Jonathan Schoop (pronounced "Scope"), the Orioles' one All-Star in 2017 did work the count in his 9th inning AB today. On a 3-1 pitch he homered to cut the lead to 6-2. At least there was no dugout celebration for that essentially meaningless hit.

I was reminded of Mike Shannon's solo homer in the 9th inning of the Cardinals Game Seven loss to the Tigers in the 1968 World Series. After returning from his home run trot, he kicked the water cooler in disgust as if to say, "Too little too late."

But I am happy that Schoop, one of the great Curacao contingent on the major league scene, is getting recognition.

He could be the Oriole shortstop of the future with J.J. Hardy out with injuries until late this month at the earliest. But Schoop is such a great second baseman I'd be wary of that move.

Another possibility is moving Machado to shortstop his original position and one he craves to play. They could put Chris Davis at third or even Mark Trumbo. Defense would suffer but I just hope the Oriole front office starts being creative about plans to bring back the Orioles to contention within my lifetime.

Let me end on a happier more whimsical note.
**Did you know that three MLB teams have a Barnes in their bullpen?
Matt with the Red Sox, Jacob with the Brewers, and Danny with the Blue Jays?

**And for a while this year there were two Daniel Robertsons on AL teams.
Second baseman Daniel with the Rays and outfielder Daniel with the Indians. But the Tribe's DR was recently demoted to the minors.

That's all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it!  Read More 
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