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There May Be No Place Like Home: On The Return of Chris Davis, Alex Gordon, and Yoenis Cespedes

Most Oriole fans had resigned themselves to the departure of slugger Chris Davis to free agency. To the credit of the sportswriters covering the drawn-out story in Baltimore and nationally, they always mentioned the possibility that Davis might stay.

After all, he likes living in Baltimore, he loves hitting in Camden Yards, and it was manager Buck Showalter who knew him in the Texas Rangers organization and was glad to obtain him in a trade in 2011.

When owner Peter Angelos removed the reported offer of seven years and over $150 million from the table late last year, it was made clear that lines of communications were still open between Davis, his super-agent Scott Boras, and the Orioles’ octogenarian often irascible owner.

I for one had no problem with how the Orioles handled the negotiations. Boras always likes teams to think there is a secret bidder salivating over a coveted free agent. In the past that strategy has worked – Alex Rodriguez got his huge $200 million-plus 10 year contract with the Rangers in 2001 when former owner Tom Hicks started bidding against himself.

Angelos called that bluff and when no mystery team emerged, Davis accepted the original offer that reportedly was only sweetened a little bit. The day before Davis signed, Showalter went public with his advice he had given to Davis some time before he became a free agent.

“Is there anything at a Target that you cannot afford?” Buck asked. Davis ultimately decided that the grass was not greener in other franchises.

When Boras was asked at the news conference welcoming Davis back to Baltimore if Chris had any other suitors, Boras did deliver one of his more humorous lines: “You don’t talk about ex-girl friends at a wedding.”

Left fielder Alex Gordon’s return to the Kansas City Royals, the only organization he has ever known, played out similarly. His local roots went even deeper than Chris Davis’s. He went to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and was a number one draft choice of the team. Originally a third baseman, Gordon was billed as “the next George Brett.”

That was unfortunate, creating probably too much pressure. Gordon needed to return to the minors and learn the new position of left field. He has become a Gold Glover and a clutch player. The Royals’ chances of making a third straight appearance in the World Series in 2016 certainly weren’t hurt by his re-signing.

Yoenis Cespedes’ return to the Mets might be the most surprising. Reportedly he wanted six years in the $150 million total range. I stress “reportedly” because fans and writers outside the loop don’t really know what it is going on behind the closed negotiating tables. Numbers are thrown around loosely, usually by agents wishing for the highest number so they can get their cut immediately.

Cespedes came to realize that his streakiness at both the plate and in the field was costing him a long-term contract. So he signed for the reported $75 million for three years – not exactly chump change. He also has a buy-out of $27.5 million after one year if his value and consistency somehow increase in 2016.

Let me conclude this latest post with a nice baseball story that doesn’t involve money. Angels center fielder Mike Trout, arguably the best player in baseball today, has a passion for weather. The south New Jersey native discussed his passion in the media during the buildup to blizzard Jonas that brought the Northeast to its knees this past Saturday Jan 23.

That’s all for now – spring training is just a handful of weeks away. The college basketball season is heating up and both my alma maters Columbia and Wisconsin are showing signs of being contenders. A great time of year unfolds.

So more than ever always remember: Take it easy but take it!
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Teny Ymota’s Mid-May Musings: The Wright Stuff Arrives in Baltimore

The first few weeks of the season have been painful and disconcerting for Orioles fans. Results of spring training exhibition games don’t usually indicate the season ahead – the Tigers had a worse Florida record than the lackluster O’s and they are in a dogfight with defending American League champion Kansas City at the top of the AL Central division.

Sadly, the O’s spotty play in games that didn’t matter has been reflected in the regular season. The O’s have not yet put together a good winning streak and languish near the bottom of the AL East three games under .500 after 35 games.

With a 127 games left, no need to panic yet with the suddenly slumping Yankees only five games over .500 in first place. But signs of mediocrity do abound in Birdland. They get on an offensive roll and the arms fail them. Currently, the pitching has been stellar but the bats are in slumber. And the stellar defense has broken down too many times.

Historically, Orioles fans have not put up for long with bad play. As if fans of any kind can do anything about it except whine and wring hands to the point of injury.
So far attendance has held fairly well, a good sign given the loss of five home games because of the recent urban riots.

An unadulterated bright day occurred yesterday (Sunday May 18) when rookie right-hander Mike Wright made his major league debut and hurled 7 1/3 sparkling shutout innings in the O’s 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. It salvaged the final game of a three-game home series that the Angels won with earlier 3-1 and 6-1 victories.

Wright is a third round draft choice in 2011 out of East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, who has worked his way steadily up the minor league ladder. He was organizational Pitcher of Year in 2013, slumped badly at the beginning of 2014, but recovered by end of season and so far in 2015 he has combined quality stuff with growing maturity.

Wright was 3-0 at top Triple A-affiliate Norfolk, VA when called up for an emergency start because Chris Tillman, the team’s ostensible ace, had back stiffness and fellow starter Bud Norris has had a prolonged bout with bronchitis and ineffectiveness.

Garrett Richards was the Angels hard-luck loser on Sunday. He gave up the only run the O’s needed on a wild pitch in the fourth inning scoring Adam Jones from third.
Jones manufactured the only run Wright needed in the 4th inning with a swinging bunt down the third base line.

Jones then sped from first to third on Delmon Young’s single up the middle. Reigning AL MVP Mike Trout plays a very deep center field and though blessed with great speed and a good arm, Trout could not stop Jones from getting the extra base. Jones was thus positioned to score the run on Richards’ wild pitch.

The Birds’ vital insurance runs came in the 8th inning thanks to more hustle by Jimmy Paredes, the surprise member of the 2015 Birds, Baltimore’s only other .300 hitter right now along with Jones. Paredes beat out an infield hit to second and after an error raced home on Jones' two-run double.

No one knows for sure if Mike Wright stays up in Baltimore permanently. His mid- 90s fastball and command of off-speed pitches on Sunday certainly opened a lot of eyes in Baltimore. With supposed future ace Kevin Gausman now on DL and needing more innings at Norfolk, I for one want Wright to get another start or two to prove that yesterday was no fluke.

I give the Orioles credit for not over-reacting to the slow start to the season by making massive changes to the roster as Boston and Toronto have done. But time is growing short to see if the roster that came out of spring training is what will remain as the core and supporting cast for the rest of what is so far a disappointing 2015.

Meanwhile on the college front, it won’t be until Memorial Day Monday May 25 that the Columbia Lions, my other great rooting interest, find out what regional the NCAA will send them to. Stay tuned.

Always remember: Take it easy but take it!

Yours in Baseball Forever, Teny Ymota (The Earl of NY, Your Man on The Aisle)
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