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Thoughts on Winter Meetings, Hall of Fame Selections, and Doug Jones' Greatest Save

Though more and more it seems to me that these meetings are like a Made for TV event without much action, the Yankees certainly stole the show with the one-sided trade for the Marlins’ slugger Giancarlo Stanton.

Derek Jeter has certainly gotten off to a rocky start as the face of the Marlins, a team saddled with debt and a new stadium that doesn't draw fans. Why should they come because they've seen stars from their past 1997 and 2003 World Series winners sold off and in Stanton's eight years as a Marlin the team never experienced a .500 season.

Jeter didn't even attend the Orlando meetings. He was spotted in a luxury box at Monday night's Dolphins-Patriots game. It is a shame that commissioner Rob Manfred worked overtime to arrange the sale of the Miami franchise to Jeter and the real money man Bruce Sherman, a hedge fund executive whose last enterprise was buying and then selling or disbanding newspapers.

As an Orioles fan realizing that the glow of the Showalter-Duquette revival years starting in 2012 ended with a thud in 2017, there is foreboding that the trades of third baseman Manny Machado and star closer Zach Britton might be inevitable. Both can walk at the end of 2018 and so can manager Showalter and gm Dan Duquette and team leader and genuine Baltimore community presence center fielder Adam Jones.

It is doubtful that Machado can be signed to a long-term contract that could reach the $300 million level. Even in his off-year of 2017, he hit .259 with 33 HRs and 95 RBI along with his usual string of defensive highlights at third base.

He is represented by Dan Lozano of the Beverly Hills Sports Council who represents Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson also eligible for free agency after 2018.
A few years ago Lozano got Angels owner Arte Moreno to give Albert Pujols that lavish 10-year contract.

Since California needs a third baseman it wouldn’t surprise me if the Angels get into the bidding for Machado or Donaldson. Machado supposedly would like to play shortstop, his original position, but the Angels are set at short with the gifted Curacao native Andrelton Simmons.

The White Sox’s incumbent shortstop Tim Anderson is not an All-Star and the Chicagoans are supposedly seriously interested in Machado. But they won't part with the blue chip pitching prospects Lucas Giolito and Michael Kopech the Orioles covet.

With the trade of Chase Headley back to the Padres, the Yankees have a hole at third base. Yankee fans have dreamed of getting Machado (and the Nationals Bryce Harper also eligible for free agency after 2018). But would the Orioles trade within the division?

They did it in 1976 on the dawn of free agency after the historic Messersmith-McNally arbitration decision. (See the opening chapter in my first book, “The Imperfect Diamond.”) The Yankee farm system is deep but whether they would aid the Orioles as they did in 1976 trading future Oriole stalwarts pitchers Scott McGregor and Tippy Martinez and catcher Rick Dempsey for pitchers Doyle Alexander and Ken Holtzman and catcher Elrod Hendricks seems doubtful to me.

Southpaw Zach Britton had a record-breaking almost perfect 2016 regular season but injuries marred his 2017 campaign. How long can he continue to throw his magnificent bowling ball-like 95 mph sinker? That is the big question for evaluators.

It might make sense for the O’s to keep Britton through at least the July 31 trading deadline. Machado may be beyond the Oriole budgetary capacity and could be gone before spring training.

My suggestion is that the O's should re-up Adam Jones as soon as possible. He is a genuine fan favorite and respected member of the Baltimore community. His center field defense may have slipped a little but offensively he has been quite consistent. He’ll strike out a lot but he’ll also produce consistent numbers in the 20-plus HR and 80-plus RBI category.

While they are at it, the O's should extend Jonathan Schoop who had a breakout year at second base. Another Curacao native, Schoop might take the home team discount because he has been with the organization since he was 16.

More baseball news of note recently has been the election by a Hall of Fame veterans committee of two Tigers stalwarts, shortstop Alan Trammell and bulldog starting pitcher Jack Morris. Trammell was the model of consistency in the field and at the plate.

One of the greatest tributes he ever received came from Oriole manager Earl Weaver. When Cal Ripken Jr. moved from third base to shortstop early in his career, Weaver’s simple advice to him was “watch Trammell.”

Jack Morris won 254 games in his career, mainly with the Tigers where he was a key part of their 1984 World Series winners that went wire-to-wire after a 35-5 start to the regular season. I will never forget the enormous bear hug exchanged between Morris and catcher Lance Parrish after Morris's no-hitter that same magical year of 1984.

Maybe Morris is most remembered for his 1-0 10-inning shutout for the Twins over the Braves and John Smoltz in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

The regular election to the Hall of Fame will be announced in late January with the Braves’ switch-hitting third baseman Chipper Jones considered a shoo-in during his first year of eligibility. Slugger Jim Thome with his-600 plus career HRs and no taint of steroid use has a chance on his first try, and Vladimir Guerrero who came close last year might get the call as well.

The Ford Frick media award will go to Bob Costas who has served baseball with dignity and class for over four decades. Originally from the New York City area, Costas received his degree from Syracuse University’s powerhouse communications department and then St. Louis became his adopted home.

I love the story that when Costas first went to Stan Musial’s restaurant he left a tip of $3.31 in honor of Musial’s career batting average. That Musial wound up his career with 3630 hits, 1815 at home and 1815 on the road, has always been to me the gold standard for that elusive thing called consistency.

One political note of promise occurred on Tuesday Dec 12 when Democrat Doug Jones won the Alabama US Senate race against the alleged child predator and unrepentant Neanderthal Roy Moore. I like to think that Jones’s narrow triumph will go down in the history of our currently beleaguered republic as a Save far more valuable than the estimable reliever Doug Jones’s 303 career saves in his major league career from 1986-2000.

While I wait for spring training, basketball does involve me somewhat. Columbia’s men’s basketball record is 1-9 but they are young and are playing reasonably close games. Ditto for Wisconsin’s 5-7 record and 1-1 in Big Ten. As Tug McGraw said, “Ya gotta believe,” right?

So always remember: Take it easy but take it!  Read More 
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When Your Team Starts Losing or Not Winning Series

I’ve been saying on this blog since August that if the Orioles won every series until the end of the regular season on Sunday October 2 they’d win the American League East for the second time in three years.

That desired outcome took a hit this past weekend when the Orioles could only split at home a four-game series with the last place Tampa Bay Rays while the Red Sox swept four from the arch-rival Yankees at Fenway.

The Bosox have now won the first two games of their series in Baltimore by identical 5-2 scores. The losses to Boston were not really as close as the final score indicated. The Bosox took the lead in the third inning of both games and never were headed.

They lead the O’s by 5 games with 11 games to play. Realistically AL East titledom and avoidance of the wild card game are no longer realistic goals for the Birds. Yet as Buck Showalter constantly advises, players don't live in the long run. They live through daily play and a pitch or a bad bounce can change fortunes in a twinkling.

It must be said though that there are some impressive Killer B’s in the Boston lineup – Mookie Betts an excellent right fielder and leader for MVP consideration, Zander Bogaerts from Aruba a slick shortstop, Jackie Bradley Jr who covers a lot of ground in center, and now rookie left fielder Andrew Benintendi has been added to the B brigade.

As a great believer in scouting and player development, I cannot complain when Boston has signed and nurtured all of these Killer B's. Ditto to the Yankees for waiting for years for catcher Gary Sanchez to become a possible rookie of the year based on some outstanding play on both sides of the ball since early August.

Sanchez has provided a lift to the Yankees comparable to what Manny Machado brought to the Orioles late in the 2012 season. Loving baseball is a lot about loving youth and the fresh legs and lively spirit that prospects bring to the game.

Back to the formidable Bosox for a moment, I haven’t even mentioned old Boston standbys Dustin Pedroia, who has been hitting over .400 since being moved to leadoff hitter, and DH David Ortiz in what is presumably his last year. He’s setting all-time records for productivity over the age of 40.

As always that winning feeling has been fueled by the improved Boston pitching led by 21-game winner Rick Porcello the Seton Hall Prep New Jersey product. He dispatched the O’s with complete game ease on Monday night.

The $217 million southpaw David Price has also rounded into form and the bullpen has also improved. With Price and Porcello and Pedroia the Red Sox have Potent P's to go with the Killer B's.

I’m not saying that other AL division winners Cleveland and Texas won’t have something to say come October. Don’t rule out the possible wild card contestants Toronto and Detroit or Houston and maybe even the Orioles if somehow they score more than two runs a game. Seattle and the Yankees are fading now but they’ve had impressive winning streaks lately so can’t be totally counted out.

Right now though Boston has put it all together at the right time of the year, late September. Meanwhile in the NL there is a three-way fight for the wild card among three flawed but occasional potent teams, the Cardinals, Giants, and Mets. The big bad Cubs are lurking in post-season along with the Nationals and Dodgers.

Notable Recent Highlights:
**Baseball scout John Hagemann’s plaque now occupies a honored place in the Scouts Wall of Fame at the Hudson Valley Renegades Dutchess Stadium in Fishkill, NY.

One of the highlights of Hagemann’s distinguished career as a scout for the Expos, Orioles, Braves, and now the Phillies, was his recommendation in 1987 that the Braves obtain Class A minor league pitcher John Smoltz in the trade with the Tigers for veteran hurler Doyle Alexander.

Alexander helped the Tigers to the playoffs but Smoltz became a Hall of Famer.

Hagemann also signed out of their native Staten Island pitcher Jason Marquis.
His major league career now probably over, Marquis will pitch for Israel in the World Baseball Classic elimination tournament Sept. 21-24 at the Brooklyn Cyclones MCU home field on Coney Island. So likely will former Red Sox southpaw Craig Breslow and former Met infielders Ike Davis and Josh Satin.

More on that fascinating tourney matching Israel, Brazil, Great Britain, and Pakistan in the next installment of this blog.

For now as always: Take it easy but take it!
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