Ex-O Archives

March 19, 2004

Another year, another bus trip

From the "this guy is still around? Really?" file:

The Phillies sent down non-roster spring training invitee Mark Smith yesterday.

Smith was the Orioles' wasted first round pick in 1991, managed just a couple of hundred ABs with the Orioles over six years, and has bounced around ever since, from Pittsburgh to Florida to Montreal to Milwaukee, with a stop in Japan in between, never managing more than 200 ABs in a season at the major league level, but somehow lasting almost a decade even so. On the other hand, he does have a claim to fame that few more talented players will ever match: saving a person's life. I'd like to see Derek Jeter do that.

March 27, 2004

Roster trimming

It's that time of year, when scouring the transactions wire reveals the names of washed up veterans being cut as teams try to get their rosters down to 25 players a week before Opening Day.

On Friday the Chicago Cubs demoted Fernando Lunar and Trenidad Hubbard, who were in their camp as non-roster players, to the minors. Lunar and Hubbard, incidentally, were two of the three players that Syd Thrift got from the Atlanta Braves for B.J. Surhoff (and Gabe Molina) in the Great Roster Cleansing of 2000. (The third, who was supposed to be the prize of the whole set of trades, was Luis Rivera; unfortunately Thrift forgot to check his medical records before trading for him, and Rivera pitched a total of just 2/3 of an inning in the majors in the three+ years since the trade.)

March 30, 2004

We couldn't have kept this old guy?

Via, this interview with 41-year old Jamie Moyer, who last year became the fifth 40-year old ever to get 20 wins in a season.

"And, of course, I had the great fortune to play with Cal Ripken when he broke Lou Gehrig's record."
Of course, he was a spry young 32 then, and hadn't shown much of anything to suggest he'd still be pitching in two years, let alone ten.

April 1, 2004

Hargrove to throw out first pitch at the Jake

2000-2003 Orioles manager Mike Hargrove, now back with the Indians as a special adviser, was tapped to throw out the first pitch at Cleveland's home opener on April 12 (story from the Cleveland Plain Dealer), marking the 10th anniversary of the opening of Jacobs Field.

He has told the press that he wants to manage again, creating the potential for tension between him and current Tribe manager Eric Wedge, but apparently the two have been friendly with each other throughout their time working together.

Despite his lack of success in Baltimore, Hargrove was always a stand-up guy, and it's hard to blame him for all the O's struggles during his tenure here. It's comforting to see him still in baseball and back with the Indians, the team with whom he has spent most of his career as a player and manager.

Akron Beacon Journal: "First pitch goes to Hargrove"

April 20, 2004

Hit the road (to Ottawa), Jack

After the Orioles designated Jack Cust for assignment on April 9 to make room on the big-league roster for Erik Bedard, there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth in the Orioles' sabermetric community. I discussed Cust earlier—he is a flawed player, but he still has too much promise as a hitter to be surrendered for nothing.

However, I have yet to see a commensurate level of surprise at what happened after that: not a single major-league team claimed Cust off waivers. After ten days, the rights to Cust then reverted to the Orioles, who assigned him to Triple-A Ottawa.

I have to say that I was shocked. After all, one week earlier the Orioles had let go of John Stephens, another flawed prospect held in high esteem among performance analysts, and saw the Red Sox (who have the vanguard of the sabermetric movement on staff as an adviser) claim him and add him to their 40-man roster. I expected something similar to happen to Cust. Despite Cust's defensive deficiencies, I thought that surely an American League team with a weak farm system (Red Sox, Yankees) or a sabermetrically savvy front office (Athletics, Blue Jays) or a weak major-league roster (Devil Rays) could find a place for him. Perhaps an NL team needing bench depth (Giants) would find a role for him as a pinch-hitter and spot starter. But no one bit. And it's not like some teams fell asleep at the waiver wire, either, because the move drew extra attention when MLB found the Orioles guilty of calling up Bedard too early after the transaction was announced and reversed it, forcing the Orioles to place Cust back on their roster for a few more days. One reason for the other teams' hesitation was that (to quote beat writer Gary Washburn) "any team that claimed Cust would have had to place him on the 25-man roster." This was not true in Stephens's case.

But the total lack of interest from 29 big-league teams showed just how far Cust has fallen in the eyes of MLB talent evaluators. This is the same guy who made a lot of top-50 and top-100 prospect lists just a few years ago, who has an impressive .299 BA/.436 OBP/.551 SLG in his minor-league career, who was one of the Orioles' top hitting prospects when he was acquired from the Rockies in March of 2003, who has nearly three full AAA seasons under his belt, who posted an impressive .878 OPS in a limited role last year, and who is still just 25 years old. What happened? Are all those teams dunderheads for passing on him? Or were they right, and have the stat-heads overrated Cust and turned a blind eye to his flaws?

Continue reading "Hit the road (to Ottawa), Jack" »

April 23, 2004

Another ex-O named Cal

If you haven't noticed, ex-O's farmhand Calvin Pickering has been destroying the Triple-A Pacific Coast League as a member of the Omaha Royals, with eleven homers in his first thirteen games. His batting line as of Thursday speaks for itself:

2004 Batting Statistics for Calvin Pickering
13 43 13 19 54 2 0 11 26 0 1 4 6 0 11 0 0 0 .442 .537 1.256


Continue reading "Another ex-O named Cal" »

May 6, 2004

Conine's travels

A bit of trivia: Jeff Conine, an Oriole from 1999-2003 who was traded to the Florida Marlins last August, is the second-most traveled player in the majors, having visited 38 different stadiums in his career. By my count, that total should reach 43 this year as he plays his first games in the new parks in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Arizona, and San Diego. Only Robin Ventura has played in more ballparks (he's expected to reach 44 this year). Gary Graves of USA Today caught up with Conine recently for a brief, light-hearted chat about his journeys, recounted in "38 parks down, 4 more on tap for vet Conine." A snippet:

Q: What does playing in 38 ballparks say about your career?

A: It means I'm old. Obviously I came into the big leagues at a time of aging stadiums and now I get to see the advent of all the new ones.

Conine is a wise old head who knows what he's talking about. Since breaking in with the Royals in the early 1990s, he has spent an almost equal amount of time in each league, during which he has witnessed the ripple of neoclassical (so to speak) ballpark construction that started with Baltimore's Camden Yards in 1992. Although he is not quite ancient enough to have played in Memorial Stadium (put to rest in 1991) or the old Comiskey Park in Chicago (1990), he was around to play in Cleveland Stadium and Arlington Stadium before they were retired, as well as Mile High in Denver, which the Rockies called home before Coors Field opened.

Q: Your favorite park?

A: Camden Yards (in Baltimore, where he played five seasons for the Orioles).

They may call him Mr. Marlin, but the man has not lost his sense of taste.

July 16, 2004

The Corked Bat Caper, ten years later

This is only peripherally related to the Orioles, but I thought some of you might find it interesting. Recently I ran across an article by Paul Sullivan on the Chicago Tribune site (subscription required) titled “Mystery over Belle's lumber still a corker.” It so happens that yesterday, July 15, 2004, was the ten-year anniversary of the corked-bat incident involving Albert Belle, who at the time was starring for the Cleveland Indians (some four years later he would join the Orioles as a free agent). For those who don't have or want a subscription to the Trib's site (I believe if you have an account on the Baltimore Sun's site, your username and password will work on the Tribune site because they are owned by the same media conglomerate), here's my summary of the story.

That day the Indians were playing in Chicago's Comiskey Park. The race between the two teams was tight that year. Early in the game, White Sox manager Gene Lamont, acting on a tip, asked the home-plate umpire to check for evidence of tampering in Belle's bat. The umpires saw nothing unusual with the bat on initial examination, but they exercised their right to confiscate it and locked it in the umpires' office/dressing room at Comiskey, from which it was to be sent to the league office in New York for X-ray inspection.

During the game, someone stealthily squirmed through the overhead crawl space connecting the visitors' locker room and the umpires' room, lowered himself into the umpires' room through a displaced ceiling tile, and switched the confiscated bat with a "clean" bat from the cache of Cleveland first baseman Paul Sorrento. The umpires noticed the switch after the game (not to mention pieces of broken ceiling tiles), demanded Belle's bat back, received it and sent it to New York. League officials found cork in the bat and suspended Belle for ten games (later reduced to seven on appeal).

The story doesn't end there. Five years later, the mysterious bat switcher finally revealed himself to the New York Times's Buster Olney. Who was it? Current Oriole reliever Jason Grimsley. Grimsley was a 26-year-old spot starter on the Indians in 1994, but had become a Yankee reliever in 1999 and felt that enough water had passed under the bridge to put the truth on America's so-called paper of record.

Tribe shortstop Omar Vizquel corroborated Grimsley's story in his 2002 memoir. He added that Grimsley had to replace the corked bat with a Sorrento model because “all of Albert's bats were corked.” Belle promptly denied this allegation, but Vizquel's version seems at least partially credible. If Belle had possessed just one or two corked bats, it would have been much simpler to use one of Belle's undoctored bats as a replacement. But if most or all of Belle's bats were corked, then the substitute bat would have to come from another player. Of course, Grimsley could not fix the difficult matter of Sorrento's name being on the replacement bat, so his risky work went for naught.

Other ex-Orioles litter the storyline, although their participation is more incidental. Mike Hargrove was the Indians' manager in 1994, five years before he took the same job in Baltimore. Although he apparently did not approve of the bat swap, his visiting manager's office at Comiskey was the starting point for Grimsley's overhead passage. John Hart was Cleveland's general manager, less than six years removed from an apprenticeship in the Oriole organization as a minor-league manager and major-league coach. He, too, did not condone the bat switch, calling it “more of a misguided sense of loyalty with a teammate than anything else.” And Grimsley's confessor, Olney, covered the Orioles for the Sun in the mid-1990s before moving to the Times and ESPN the Magazine.

What we learn from this story is that Grimsley is an exceedingly loyal teammate who will go to great lengths—and sometimes illegal ones—to help his team. But at 205 pounds, he is a good amount bigger than his 180-pound self of ten years ago, so crawling through cramped passages may not be a part of his skill set anymore.

August 2, 2004

Bird songs revisited, arguably the Internet's best (and unfortunately, most bloated) source of general sports information, has posted a Page 3 feature on the at-bat songs for every American League team, including the Orioles. Songs for all MLB teams are to appear in the near future.

The topic of player-selected intro songs came up in an April post here, and the page adds a few more to that list, along with a couple of song changes since then:

Brian Roberts: "Shake It Fast" by Mystikal
Miguel Tejada: "Hit 'em Up" by TK
Rafael Palmeiro: "California Love" by Tupac
Jay Gibbons: "Sweetness" by Jimmy Eat World
B.J. Surhoff: "Sultans of Swing" by Dire Straits and "Evenflow" by Pearl Jam
Jerry Hairston Jr.: "Hot in Herre" by Nelly
John Parrish: "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes
Eric DuBose: "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Buddy Groom: "Takin' Care of Business" by Bachman Turner Overdrive

Other teams' selections reflect a high proportion of recent popular hits, including a healthy dose of hip-hoppers and hard rockers. Many Latin-American players select music from their native culture. Some players specifically request that no music at all be played before their game entrances.

A few observations:

Ex-Oriole David Dellucci, an Italian American outfielder now playing for the Texas Rangers, chose the theme to The Godfather. Lee Mazzilli must like this guy.

Another guy who once toiled in obscurity for the O's, Seattle manager Bob Melvin, is allegedly a master at identifying rock tunes. Now if only he could figure out how to turn around that team he's managing...

August 27, 2004

Calvin Pickering, PCL—and now MLB—masher

To follow up on another favorite ex-Oriole of mine, Calvin Pickering was finally called up by the Royals on Sunday and hit three homers in his first two games subbing at DH for the injured Ken Harvey. Despite going homerless in the three games since, his batting line still reads .263 BA/.333 OBP/.842 SLG for a 1.175 OPS. This came after Pickering put on an awesome hitting display at Omaha of the Pacific Coast League:

2004 Omaha Royals Batting Statistics for Calvin Pickering
88 299 65 94 213 12 1 35 79 0 3 7 70 7 85 0 1 8 .314 .451 .712

Rob Neyer and Rany Jazayerli of the weblog Rob and Rany on the Royals express mixed feelings about Pickering's promotion. While they are glad that C. Pick is finally getting his chance on the big stage, they fear that it may be too late for him to make a lasting impact on the team. Years of watching the Royals' torturous mismanagement have imbued Rob and Rany with an instinctive pessimism, and they wonder if Allard Baird and the powers that be in K.C. truly recognize the value of Pickering's bat, given how long it took them to call him up and that it took the injury to Harvey (.747 career OPS) to force their hand.

There are quite a few similarities between Pickering, who got some pub here back in April, and Jack Cust, who has fallen out of favor with the O's this year. Both are powerful hitters with lousy defensive reputations who have gotten stuck at the Triple-A level. At 27 (he'll turn 28 in a month), Pickering is about two years older than Cust, but because Pickering missed a lot of games in the past due to injury, his minor-league statistics and Cust's through 2003 look like mirror images of each other. (Click the links above and you'll see what I mean; Cust walks a good deal more, but their rate stats and games played at each level are uncannily close.)

The two sluggers' fortunes have diverged in 2004, however, as Cust has struggled to find his swing for most of the year while Pickering has been locked in launch mode. Despite Cust's relative youth, I think that Pickering is the better bet to succeed in the majors, based on their recent performance. If the Royals let go of Pickering at year's end, he would not be a bad pickup for the Orioles—or any other team in need of a DH, for that matter.

November 1, 2004

Postseason review

This hereby ends the postseason blog entry blackout for The Orioles Warehouse. Sorry for not being explicit about the hiatus, but it was not planned beforehand; it just unfolded that way because nothing really significant happened to the Orioles for three weeks after the end of the regular season, and so no commentary was warranted. But now baseball's offseason has begun, and so resumes our study of the anthropic version of Icterus galbula (translation: the Baltimore Orioles).

The red October surprise

But first, a few words on the thrilling postseason. The unquestionable highlight, in terms of sheer drama, was the Red Sox coming back against all odds in the ALCS to snatch the pennant from the Yankees' grasp. The unprecedented, storybook fashion in which the Yankees lost made it all the more satisfying to Oriole fans, whose hate for the Red Sox is exceeded only by their enmity for the Yankees. (If you totally missed the ALCS, here's a drive-by recap: the Yanks held the Sox at bay in Games 1 and 2 and blasted them to smithereens in Game 3 to take a seemingly invincible 3-0 lead in the series; but in Games 4 and 5, Boston eked out two extra-inning nail-biters in sudden death, then Curt Schilling and his patched ankle triumphed in Game 6, and in Game 7 long-locked Johnny Damon knocked two longballs to send the Sox to victory.)

It's tough for the Oriole community to have to watch a postseason with their favorite team on the sidelines. But from the perspective of a fan of the game of baseball, this one turned out well when the Red Sox shattered the Curse of the Bambino by sweeping the Cardinals in the World Series. It would have been nice if the Cards had been more competitive and stretched the series to six or seven games. But for once, Boston had everything go their way in the end. Ex-Oriole prez Larry Lucchino, now president and CEO of the Red Sox, is finally enjoying his just deserts. And native New Englanders across the country, a healthy portion of whom reside in the Baltimore-Washington region, are floating in the euphoria of their team's victory. Of course, they will henceforth have to shed their tiresome woe-is-me attitudes and assume the unfamiliar mantle of frontrunners from the Yankees. But let the Red Sox and their fans have their day in the sun. If anyone deserves it, they do.

Epstein leads with his head

The postseason confirmed that Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein is one of the game's sharpest decision-makers. Following last year's Grady Little/Pedro Martínez debacle, Epstein hired a field manager, Terry Francona, who handled the club like the seasoned professional that he is and made no dubious moves in the postseason (except perhaps his insertion of Pedro for a trivial relief inning in Game 7 of the ALCS). And although he could have stood pat after reaching the seventh game of the ALCS in 2003, Epstein identified his team's key weaknesses (lack of high-end pitching, suspect infield defense, and lack of team speed) and addressed them in the offseason and regular season by acquiring Schilling, Keith Foulke, Doug Mientkiewicz, Pokey Reese, Orlando Cabrera, and Dave Roberts. Of course, it helped enormously that his team had the second-highest payroll in the league ($125 million on Opening Day, far behind the Yanks' $183M but well ahead of third-place Anaheim's $101M), giving him the flexibility to acquire nearly anyone he wanted. And Boston's medical staff deserves a special award for their ad hoc repair of Schilling's ankle tendon for his final two starts of the postseason. But none of Epstein's big acquisitions backfired, and that includes his gutsy trade of his injury-impaired shortstop, Nomar Garciaparra, for Cabrera and Mientkiewicz. The final product was a well-rounded, championship-caliber team that had every right to win it all, and it did.

For those who care about Oriole-related matters: Epstein got started in baseball as a public relations intern for the Orioles in 1992-1994. He then followed Lucchino to the San Diego Padres, where he rose to director of baseball operations while he earned a law degree at UCSD. In 2002 he migrated with Lucchino to Boston and subsequently became the game's youngest GM at age 28. If Peter Angelos had been able to retain Lucchino as president of the Orioles upon buying the team in 1993, could there have been a 2004 Orioles team with Epstein at the helm? Perhaps, although Epstein, who grew up in Brookline, Mass., has been a Red Sox fan since childhood and would have jumped at the chance to be their GM if the position became available.

Baseball's mind game steps forward

The success of the Red Sox should give another boost to the sabermetric community. In addition to Epstein, a sabermetrically aware GM, at least two other people of a sabermetric bent are part of the championship team's brain trust: longtime baseball analyst and writer Bill James, now Boston's senior baseball operations advisor; and Voros McCracken, famed for his defense-independent pitching analysis and a consultant for the organization since late 2002. If the Moneyball-documented success of the Oakland Athletics catalyzed a sabermetric movement in baseball, the recent éclat of the Red Sox should only increase the prevalence of statistically knowledgeable analysts and GM's in front offices around the league.

It's clear that the management and analysis of information is more important today than it ever has been to the sport (or to business in general—but that's another story). Technology has made it possible not only to access and store reams of performance-related data on players, but also to quantitatively measure and optimize aspects of player performance—think defense and pitching—that have long been riddled with guesstimation and uncertainty. The problem is knowing what to do with all that information, and that is why it is critical to have smart, analytical people in every area of an organization, including the front office, the scouting department, the coaches, and the field manager.

The Oriole angle

Will the Orioles be at the forefront of this activity, pouring money and manpower into information technology, quantitative analysis, and research and development? Or will they be content to rely on tried and tested (and arguably outdated and inefficient) methods in running their organization? Most of the evidence so far suggests the latter rather than the former, although it's hard to be certain because club executives have been tight-lipped about their internal evaluation processes. A recent reflection by former Orioles intern Josh Goodstein in the Yale Herald paints a dim view of the Orioles' management, at least on the non-baseball side.

However, the franchise has a chance to make a major step in the direction of data-driven decision-making when it chooses its next director(s) of scouting and player development. (News reports have indicated that the O's may hire one person to handle the former duties of Tony DeMacio and Doc Rodgers.) More on that in an upcoming article.

Other topics that will be covered soon: the re-signing of Rafael Palmeiro and other recent roster news; the D.C. baseball saga and its effect on the Orioles; a review of the Birds' 2004 season; a look at the Orioles' offseason needs; more perspectives on Miguel Tejada; and the continuation of the historical Orioles series (yes, really this time).

March 3, 2005

A Palm Beach primavera premiere

Let the games begin.

To a baseball fan, those words might as well be “Let there be light.”

Today the Orioles begin their spring exhibition season against the Florida Marlins in Palm Beach, and the preparation for Opening Day revs into first gear. The game is not being televised, but like most preseason affairs it is being broadcast on WBAL radio (1090 AM) and over the Internet for Gameday Audio subscribers.

From the Orioles' perspective, this March brings less uncertainty compared to last year, but there is still room for surprises. Baltimore's manager is not as green as he was a year ago, having gotten his feet wet—and at times, held to the flame—during his uneven debut season. Virtually all of the starting position players from last year's roster are returning; the only major lineup addition is the new right fielder (you may have heard about him). Several hungry hitters will try out for a handful of seats on the bench: there are two reserves virtually guaranteed to make the roster, and the primary backup infielder's identity is fairly secure, but the backup catcher's is not. If the club keeps eleven pitchers, there will probably be space for an additional hitter from among the nonroster invitees.

The pitching picture is a bit murkier. The final slot (or two?) in the rotation is up for grabs, and the order of the starters remains unsettled. The bullpen will have a few new faces, and a rearrangement of relief roles is expected.

Primavera primer

For those who have been hibernating all winter, here's a categorical summary of the goings and comings and stayings in Orioleland during the 2004-2005 offseason. Within each category, players are grouped according to their expected 2005 impact (highest impact at the top) in the estimation of this writer. Click on the players' names for statistics. And click on the subheads to link to some classic songs of the past.

Continue reading "A Palm Beach primavera premiere" »

March 10, 2005

Two ex-Birds run afoul of the law

While Sidney Ponson's legal troubles stemming from his Christmas fight in Aruba have grabbed headlines lately, this winter has also been unkind to two Orioles who left the nest some time ago.

Jail Bird?

On Monday, February 28, Danny Clyburn was arrested in his hometown of Lancaster, South Carolina, and was given a litany of charges that included cocaine possession and resisting arrest. Clyburn, 30, had cups of coffee (actually more like sips) with the Birds in 1997 and '98 before being traded to Tampa Bay in '99 for pitcher Jason Johnson.

According to a March 4 report in the Lancaster News, on the night of his arrest Clyburn picked up a theft suspect in a Lincoln Town Car, failed to stop when signalled to do so by a trailing police car, then stopped suddenly and attempted to flee on foot but was eventually caught and handcuffed. The police found cocaine on the ground that he allegedly threw while being pursued, and they also charged him with driving under the influence, having an open container of alcohol in his vehicle, and driving without a license. His passenger (who was unidentified) escaped apprehension.

This was not Clyburn's first criminal act; two years ago he was arrested on a harassment warrant. He tried to evade the police that time as well, and when they nabbed him he had in his possession another person's driver's license, apparently intending to pass it off as his own because his own license had been suspended after a drug violation.

The latest incident disrupts Clyburn's nomadic baseball career. A second-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1992, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 1994 and came to the O's (accompanied by Tony Nieto) in a 1995 swap with the Reds for fireballing reliever Brad Pennington. (Nationals GM Jim Bowden was Cincinnati's GM at the time.)

A middling outfield prospect for the Birds in the late '90s, Clyburn never got an extended opportunity in the majors because of the Orioles' veteran-filled roster. His minor-league numbers indicated consistently good power but poor strikeout-to-walk ratios, and his defense was nothing special. After failing to catch on in the majors with the Devil Rays in 1999 and being released in March of 2000, he quit organized baseball for two years. A phone call in 2002 brought him out of retirement and into the independent Atlantic League. There he spent the past three seasons playing for the Newark (NJ) Bears, for whom he became a two-time All-Star and a teammate of Rickey Henderson. He hit well enough last year (.334/.379/.559) that he probably would have been welcomed back if not for his most recent arrest. (Who knows? Maybe he'll avoid a long prison term and get an invitation to return anyway.) An interview with Clyburn from last August is available on the Atlantic League web site.

Swaggerty walks—soberly

In other ex-Oriole legal infractions, Bill Swaggerty, a former pitcher who appeared in 32 games for the Orioles in the mid-1980s, was convicted Tuesday of driving under the influence and received probation before judgment in Carroll County Circuit Court. The DUI incident in question occurred last July. This was actually his second such conviction in Maryland; on the first occasion, in 1989, he also received probation before judgment (legalese for an arrangement whereby a violator accepts a guilty verdict in return for probation, which if successfully completed results in an opportunity to expunge the infraction from the defendant's permanent criminal record). According to the Baltimore Sun, Swaggerty “was ordered to remain alcohol-free, to submit to random testing, to pay a $400 fine, to participate in the Mothers Against Drunk Driving victim-impact panel and to complete an outpatient alcohol program.” (Whew! If that's probation, then prison doesn't seem like such a bad option.)

Swaggerty, 49, spent more time in Triple-A than he did in the majors in the 1980s. He contributed to the Orioles' '83 championship team as an emergency starter and mop-up reliever, and in '84 he served in the same capacity but to a greater extent, appearing in a career-high 23 games. Yet in '85 and '86 he played in just one game each year for the O's, despite the acute pitching struggles of those teams. When Swaggerty wasn't pitching in the majors in '83-'86, he was a leading starter for the Rochester Red Wings of the International League. But he lacked the stuff to be considered by the organization as a top prospect. The Birds released him in the fall of 1986, and the Kansas City Royals quickly picked him up, but he never made it back to the majors. Swaggerty was an overachiever, a 26th-round pick in the 1979 draft who turned himself into a decent pitcher despite lacking first-rate talent. I'm not certain what he's been up to since he retired as a player, but he has appeared at several Orioles-related events, including this year's FanFest and Fantasy Camp.

Ordinarily I'm not terribly interested in the happenings of former Birds, but Clyburn's episode was unusual and went mostly unnoticed in Baltimore, and I happen to have a beat-up 1985 Topps card of Swaggerty, so I noticed when his name was in the news.

August 26, 2005

Short tackling the tallest of orders

Here's a pleasant story from the ex-Oriole vein: Rick Short, who toiled in the Orioles' organization from 1994 to 2000 without reaching the majors, is having the season of his life for the New Orleans Zephyrs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals. Les Carpenter of the Washington Post wrote a feature-length article on Short entitled “Career Minor Leaguer Is Defying the Law of Averages” that appeared on the front page of the paper yesterday. It describes Short's exceptional year and his twelve-year odyssey through pro baseball, during which he has encountered great frustration and responded to it with equally great determination.

Continue reading "Short tackling the tallest of orders" »

October 11, 2006

Hey, it was fifty-fifty

Happened to see that the Texas Rangers designated ex-O Jerry Hairston Jr. for assignment today to make room on their forty-man roster.

The Orioles' long recent stretch of futility has made it seem as if every personnel decision they have made has been wrong; whether it be a prospect or veteran, when they keep him he falls apart, when they let him go he blossoms. That's of course an exaggeration born of pessimism, but it's not far off. It's hard to be a losing team for nine straight seasons without making a lot of bad decisions.

But Hairston? He's one of the few symbols of good (or lucky) decisionmaking by the Orioles. Hairston, of course, was one-half of the two second base prospects the Orioles had a few years ago, Brian Roberts being the other one. Hairston got a cup of coffee in 1998, played part time through the Delino DeShields "era," and became a regular in 2001, the same year Roberts appeared on the scene.

And for four years, the Orioles couldn't make a decision. Finally they did last year, and they chose Roberts. And a good decision it was: Hairston was a part time player for the Cubs last year, was dumped early this year on the Rangers, and has now been shown the door after batting .206 for the season; his career is in serious jeopardy. Meanwhile, Roberts was an all-star and MVP candidate in 2005, and recovered from a horrific season-ending injury in 2005 to have a solid 2006. (Plus, he's bluish! (No relation to recently-acquired Adam Stern, who's Jewish.))

(The Orioles being the Orioles, and me being me, I can't let the above moment of praise pass without noting the caveat that if the Orioles had made a decision a year or two sooner on Hairston, they wouldn't have had to play this second baseman in the outfield and they might have been able to get more for him than the washed-up remains of Sammy Sosa's career. But that's water under the bridge; the important point is that they did make the right choice in keeping Brian Roberts.)

About Ex-O

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The Orioles Warehouse in the Ex-O category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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