Transactions Archives

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" »

May 11, 2004

What's on second? (Or is that who?)

The story in town today is the return of Jerry Hairston to the Orioles' active roster, and the debate over how the Orioles should play him now that Brian Roberts has staked a claim for the second-base job.

From the Sun: “Emerging Roberts second to none with Orioles” (Joe Christensen)

From the Washington Post: “For O's, an Unusual Position” (Dave Sheinin)

The Hairston-Roberts dilemma has been hashed and rehashed and mashed to microscopic little fragments, including on this blog, but it looks like decision time is coming up for the O's. For the near term, Roberts will stay at second and Hairston will DH and bat ninth. Writes Sheinin:

"I don't know that the prototypical DH [has to be] a [number] 3, 4 or 5 hitter, that power-type guy," Manager Lee Mazzilli said. "With our lineup and the way I like to run our guys, [Hairston at DH] fits in with our style of play."

That sounds all well and good, but it would be foolish for the Orioles to play Hairston at designated hitter every day unless he significantly outhits his .691 career OPS. Moreover, his slick defensive skills, which are the strongest part of his game, would be completely wasted at DH. On the surface, making Hairston the DH doesn't make sense in the long term.

Continue reading "What's on second? (Or is that who?)" »

June 18, 2004

Newhan is O's new man

I caught this note in the Sun's Orioles notes this morning:

The Orioles signed Texas Rangers infield prospect David Newhan last night to give them another left-handed bat off the bench, and he'll be in uniform tonight when they begin a three-game series in Colorado.

Given the team's struggles against left-handed pitching, it hardly seems urgent to get another left-handed bat. Newhan is not a bad fellow to have on the bench, though. While not good enough of a hitter to be a regular, his minor-league record indicates that he has some on-base ability and enough power to occasionally turn on a pitch. And he can fill in at first, second, or third base. That makes him more attractive than current sub Luis López, who has never really hit well anywhere he's been.

Newhan, incidentally, is the son of esteemed L.A. Times baseball writer Ross Newhan. That family link should immediately put him in good stead with the local press.

June 22, 2004

D-Baut out, Grimsley in: a grisly trade?

Yesterday the Orioles traded Double-A pitcher Denny Bautista for reliever Jason Grimsley from the Kansas City Royals. Bautista, who flopped in a two-game stint with the major-league club last month, was one of two pitching prospects acquired from the Marlins in the Jeff Conine deal last August. (The other, Don Levinski, has been ineffective at Single-A Frederick due mostly to shoulder problems.) As part of the deal, Grimsley signed a one-year contract extension for 2005, apparently for $2 million.

Selected citations:

This swap looks like an attempt by the Orioles to save face and stabilize their pitching staff after last week's seven-game losing streak dropped Baltimore to last place in the division. The Birds need pitching help, having by far the worst ERA in the American League at 5.45 (KC is next at 4.96). The injuries of Rick Bauer, Eric DuBose, and Kurt Ainsworth have left the staff short on arms with no ready replacements at Triple-A Ottawa. (That is not entirely true. Bruce Chen and Aaron Rakers have put up respectable stats for the Lynx and merited a look-see. But neither is a great prospect, and since neither is on the 40-man roster, someone would have to be removed from the Orioles' roster for one of them to be called up.)

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July 10, 2004

Birds' brains and Bauer: the bodies impolitic

Right-hander Rick Bauer fired several parting shots at Oriole management on his way back to the minors. His cross remarks came immediately after being informed of his demotion—and likely exclusion from the ballclub's future plans—by manager Lee Mazzilli, pitching coach Ray Miller, executive vice president Jim Beattie, and director of baseball administration Ed Kenney after Wednesday's game.

As reported by the Baltimore Sun (“Told he's unwanted, irked Bauer demoted, perhaps for last time”):

“I'm extremely surprised. The move probably shouldn't shock me with what's been going on this year. I probably shouldn't put it past them....

“They said I'm the 13th guy, I can't pitch for this team, they didn't think I could pitch here at all and they're trying to get rid of me—to be almost word for word. I like Baltimore, but I really don't have a choice. I don't get to make that decision.

“To flat-out hear I can't pitch here, that's kind of a joke because I've done it the past two or three years. Now all of a sudden, no? I had one horrible outing in Chicago. Minus that, and I'm probably one of the more effective guys on the team. But I guess that doesn't really count for anything.”

As transcribed by's Gary Washburn (“Hot Bauer sent down”):

“Deep down, yeah, I'm hurt. Because I busted my (tail) for this organization. So to hear that, especially getting kicked to the curb. You are washed up and you're 27. I am going to go put up zeroes [in the minors] like I always do, every time. And maybe somebody will pick me up, who knows? They said they were pretty much going to get rid of me. I have a bad ERA, that's it. I have no idea how to take that. Do I take it as a guy who (stinks)? Or as a guy who's looking for an opportunity.”

“I had one horrible outing in Chicago, besides that I am one of the more effective guys on this team,” he said. “But I guess that doesn't really count for anything. I am going to go deal in Triple-A as I always do for the past four years. Maybe somebody will give me a shot, I don't care if it's in the bullpen, anywhere. I just want to go back to the majors.”

Bauer's comments were unusually candid and undiplomatic. The opportunistic media, always looking for a fresh quote, lapped up his frustrations right after he had received the bad news—and, presumably, before he had taken the time to calm down and internalize the information. So while his words at the time were emotionally honest, if asked again today Bauer would probably put things differently, having had the benefit of some reflection. But let's parse his initial reaction and see if his thoughts were valid. (Apologies in advance to Linda Ronstadt.)

Continue reading "Birds' brains and Bauer: the bodies impolitic" »

July 21, 2004

Orioles send message: Performance matters

Two developments of note from Monday:

DeJean gone, García is here-ah

Our long regional nightmare is over. The Birds traded pitcher Mike "I Give No Relief" DeJean to the New York Mets for journeyman outfielder Karim García. The Baltimore Sun speculates that other trades may be forthcoming.

The two teams essentially swapped one problem child for another. Opposing hitters blasted DeJean's ERA to the outer reaches of the solar system at the beginning of this season, and although he had been pitching better over the last month or so, he was not really an asset to the bullpen. Moreover, last month's acquisition of Jason Grimsley made DeJean redundant.

Continue reading "Orioles send message: Performance matters" »

September 8, 2004

Thoughts on September call-ups

I've been meaning to continue my series on the coverage of the Orioles in the media with reviews of the Washington Times and the York Daily Record. But the original Orioles-related content (i.e., non-wire stories) in those two publications has been so paltry that to dissect them would be akin to picking through scraps. So I've moved those articles toward the back burner for now and will begin a new series starting tomorrow. But first, a few comments on the team as it stands today.

September call-ups

Thanks to the September roster expansion, the Orioles are no longer short-handed these days; they now have a surplus of options at virtually every position. But are any of these extra guys good enough to be a major part of next year's team?

Continue reading "Thoughts on September call-ups" »

October 5, 2004

DeMacio's time runs out

Since taking over in 2002, the Orioles' front office leadership of Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan has been cleaning house. Last year the club said sayonara to manager Mike Hargrove, and this year it's arrivederci to scouting director Tony DeMacio and minor-league director Doc Rodgers, whose expiring contracts will not be renewed after the season. Today we'll look at DeMacio's termination and his legacy.

From the Sun: “Orioles fire their scouting director

DeMacio's canning comes as a mild surprise, but not a shock. He was the highest-ranking baseball executive in the organization remaining from the Frank Wren administration. DeMacio's reputation as a member of successful scouting regimes in Atlanta and Cleveland helped him outlast former bosses Wren and Syd Thrift, and Beattie and Flanagan thought enough of DeMacio to keep him on for two more seasons. But in the end, the results just were not there.

Continue reading "DeMacio's time runs out" »

October 7, 2004

Farm director reaches the end of his row

The two-year relationship between the Orioles and their director of minor-league operations, Darrell "Doc" Rodgers, is to end this month. Last week, the team announced that it had decided not to renew Rodgers's contract for next season. The reasons cited by Rodgers and Jim Beattie were differences of opinion on the future direction of the system, particularly regarding staff and personnel.

From the Sun: “Rodgers is second member of front office dismissed

From “Notes: 'Doc' Rodgers dismissed

The Rodgers regime had plenty of positives. Shortly after taking the job in January of 2003, Rodgers implemented a total overhaul of the Orioles' farm system, installing new managers and coaches at every level. Rodgers and his staff emphasized professionalism and discipline, qualities that had been lacking prior to his arrival. Players responded surprisingly well to Rodgers's strict rules, which defined the parameters of a player's sartorial appearance and enforced nightly curfews. A more uniform code of instruction and training also began to pervade the system from the top down. The importance of on-base percentage, among other things, was highlighted to all hitters. Young pitchers received more careful treatment under the Rodgers administration, particularly at the lower levels.

Far from being a distant overlord, Rodgers also improved the communication between management and farmhands by having one-on-one meetings with players to monitor their progress. Under Rodgers, players were promoted based on performance, not hype; a player had to succeed at his current level to earn advancement to the next one. To avoid promoting prospects prematurely, veterans were brought in to plug holes in the upper levels. Perhaps not coincidentally, the combined winning percentage of Baltimore's minor-league affiliates rose markedly from .433 in 2002 to .486 in 2003, Rodgers's first year. The organization's talent level had not changed markedly in one year, but the players' attitude and dedication to the game had improved noticeably.

It was not a perfect two years by any means, though. Pitchers continued to suffer arm injuries—Adam Loewen was the biggest name to fall, but Ryan Hannaman and Don Levinski also were struck down this year. Such injuries happen in every organization, but perhaps better communication and monitoring could have revealed the problems sooner. Another instance hinting at inadequate communication was onetime top prospect Jack Cust's complaint about being ignored by the organization. In 2004, several prospects fell short of expectations, including Cust, and the farm system's winning percentage dropped to .458.

Rodgers leaves Baltimore with his reputation intact and probably enhanced by his work with the Orioles. The Birds' farm system was ranked among the worst in the game by Baseball America for several years before Rodgers's arrival, but it moved up closer to the middle of the pack after his first year with the team. In many ways, 2003 was a 180-degree turn for the Orioles' player development system, and Rodgers deserves the lion's share of the credit for that turnaround. Although the organization's momentum stalled a bit in 2004, Rodgers made a net positive contribution to the Orioles' minor-league system. This came after he helped execute a similar improvement in the Reds' system during six years as their assistant general manager. He should have no shortage of offers for a high-ranking position elsewhere.

Note: I have not abandoned the Greatest O's series of articles; cranking them out is just taking longer than I expected because I have been working on more timely articles like this one. The Greatest O's positional write-ups should be finished by next week.

November 10, 2004

Birds make low-risk investment in Stockstill

The Orioles appointed Dave Stockstill to be their new minor-league director last week. Stockstill, who served the farm system mostly as a roving hitting or fielding instructor for eleven years prior to his promotion, is a relative unknown outside of the Oriole community but is well regarded within it. Exec VP for Baseball Ops Jim Beattie especially liked Stockstill's experience and intimate knowledge of the team's minor-league system.

"David Stockstill brings valuable experience in minor league instruction to our front office," said Beattie. "His hiring will continue the improvement in player development." (from the Orioles' Nov. 3 press release)

"He had some very good ideas. You never know what will happen when you get a guy in a new environment, but when you have people from outside, they don't give you info about your own organization. He knows all the guys in our system, so we can just get started with our feet running." (Beattie again, from Gary Washburn's Nov. 3 story on

"We thought about going outside the organization. Given Dave's experience within the organization -- he knows the players, he knows the things that have gone well in the organization and instead of trying to change it all around again -- we decided that he was ready." (ibid.)

Continue reading "Birds make low-risk investment in Stockstill" »

December 14, 2004

Mid-December thoughts, part 1

Some of you who have noticed the paucity of recent updates to this site may be wondering, "Has The Orioles Warehouse turned into an abandonblog, like Bambino's Curse and Redbird Nation?" The short answer is no: despite appearances, this is still an active site with plans for new content to be added on a semi-regular basis. On the other hand, it is the offseason, and last month, November, is typically one of the slowest months of the year as far as baseball news goes. (A quiescent period begins roughly after the end of the World Series in late October and ends just before the winter meetings in early December.)

Accordingly, the Warehouse has gone into a semi-hibernatory state for the offseason. I have used the downtime to catch up on other pursuits and conduct some research for future articles. I know I keep saying that such-and-such articles are in the pipeline, and I promise that you'll see most of them before the winter is out. But today's entry and the ones that immediately follow will comprise a quick-hitting, around-the-horn assessment of the past month or so in Birdland.

Continue reading "Mid-December thoughts, part 1" »

December 17, 2004

Mid-December thoughts, part 2

Baseball's hot stove chatter has crescendoed in the past week to a mezzo forte. The free-agent market is bustling, the air is thick with trade talk, and adding spice to the mix is the bewildering on-again, off-again relationship between Major League Baseball and our nation's capital. More on that last part later. This article will foray into the Orioles' offseason of thus-far-unfulfilled hopes, beginning with their pursuit of pitching.

Continue reading "Mid-December thoughts, part 2" »

December 21, 2004

December 20 transaction analysis

The Orioles made a series of minor transactions yesterday. First, they signed left-handed reliever Steve Kline to a two-year, $5.5 million contract and purchased back infielder Chris Gómez from the Philadelphia Phillies. Then they re-signed Jay Gibbons to a one-year, $2.6 million deal to avoid arbitration, brought back Bruce Chen for another season at $550,000, and tendered offers to their other arbitration-eligibles, Jerry Hairston, Jorge Julio, Rodrigo López, Luis Matos, John Parrish, and B.J. Ryan. Yesterday (Dec. 20) was the last day for teams to offer arbitration to their players with between three and six years of major-league service; otherwise those players become free agents.

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January 14, 2005

An NRI scan

The Orioles' bleak midwinter continues. This week's signings of pitcher James Baldwin and infielder Chris Stynes to minor-league contracts with spring-training invites only serve to remind fans of how little new talent the club has added this offseason. Baldwin, Stynes, and fellow non-roster invitee Brandon Marsters fall under the category of "depth" acquisitions who stay ready in case something unforeseen happens to a member of the major-league roster.

If Baldwin pitches in a game for Baltimore this season, it probably would be bad news because it would mean that something went wrong with some of the team's younger pitchers. A 33-year-old starter, Baldwin had some success with the White Sox early in his career. But despite being named to the American League All-Star team in 2000, he's never been much better than a league-average starter, and his last decent season was 2001—i.e., eons ago. Last year, he was exiled from the pitching staff of the fourth-place Mets and clunked around in Triple-A for the rest of the season. Nowadays, Baldwin's primary asset appears to be his control, as his curveball no longer has the bite it once had. Sifting through Baldwin's most comparable pitchers on, one name pops out that should be familiar to Oriole fans: Rick Helling. Yes, that same Rick Helling who posted a 5.71 ERA for the Orioles in 2003 and did not pitch in the majors last year. So to sum it up, don't "go tell it on the mountain" that Baldwin is coming to the Orioles' camp. (But if you have the time, go read some of the writings by his namesake, who was a prose pro and an insightful thinker about American social issues.)

Stynes is another player who ideally should not see much playing time with the Orioles in 2005. If he makes the big-league roster, it will probably be because he beat out Chris Gómez to become the backup infielder or (horror of horrors) because of an injury to one of the Orioles' infield starters. Stynes, who turns 32 next week, is two years younger than Gómez, but similar to the other Chris in that he's bounced around as a mostly part-time player in the past few years. He's posted a batting line of .275/.335/.399 in his career, putting him a notch ahead of Gómez as a hitter, particularly in the power department. However, Stynes has played virtually nil at shortstop in the majors, while Gómez has logged over 1,000 games there. Since Miguel Tejada plays almost every inning of every game in the field, the Orioles might be able to make do without a true shortstop on the bench and thus keep Stynes instead of Gómez. Stynes' skill set (he has played second, third, and a bit of outfield in his major-league career) makes him a fine right-handed complement to David Newhan.

Another spring-training invitation went to 29-year-old catcher Marsters, who hit .210 in 60 games for the Rochester Red Wings (now the Twins' Triple-A affiliate) in 2004. Marsters, a defensive wizard behind the plate, might assist the big-league squad by warming up some of the Orioles' pitchers in February and March, but his anemic offense destines him to be a minor-league backup at best.

Less than six weeks before pitchers and catchers are to report to Fort Lauderdale for workouts, all that Baltimore's front office has to show for its efforts is left-handed reliever Steve Kline, along with a bunch of nondescripts signed to minor-league contracts. Yawn.

January 30, 2005

Sosa? So-so

According to the latest reports (Baltimore Sun, Washington Post), Slammin' Sammy Sosa is about to bring his bat—and his baggage—to Baltimore. The Orioles have reached a tentative agreement with the Cubs that would send second baseman Jerry Hairston and two minor-leaguers, second baseman Mike Fontenot and right-hander Dave Crouthers, to Chicago in return for Sosa and $12 million, which would help cover the slugger's $17 million salary in 2005 and the $4.5 million buyout of his 2006 option (which would have been worth $18 million if activated). Sosa's unusual contract also has a $3.5 million severance award that the Cubs have agreed to pay. Sosa would waive his no-trade privilege and void the part of his contract that was to trigger his 2006 option in the event of a trade. In turn, his 2007 club option for $19 million also would become void. (Some sources suggested earlier in the week that relievers Jorge Julio and Kyle Farnsworth were in the mix as possible trade material, but the most recent reports did not include them in the deal.)

There are other hurdles to clear before the transaction becomes official, although none appears especially imposing. The cancellation of Sosa's 2006 and 2007 options would require the consent of the players association, and the commissioner's office would have to approve the deal because of the amount of money involved. And of course, all the traded players would have to pass physicals. So the deal cannot be finalized until sometime next week.

Continue reading "Sosa? So-so" »

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 4, 2005

Sosa, so far

Now that a month has passed since the Sammy Sosa trade, a few thoughts:

The Sammy Show: Baltimore

The January 30 article here discussing the trade has attracted by far the most comments of any article on this site since we converted to the weblog format last year. That response includes three comments from me and four from a trollish Chicago fan, but also several reactions from first-time posters, including a Dominican Sosa fan.

The wide-ranging response illustrates how much of a lightning rod for public opinion Sosa is, and not just for Chicagoans and Baltimoreans. He has the kind of outsize personality that inspires adoration when things are going well (e.g., 1998-2002) and ridicule when things go badly (e.g., after the corked-bat misstep of 2003). In Latin-American circles, Sosa remains a folk hero, his star tarnished only slightly by the events of the last two years. Even more than the Orioles' best player, Miguel Tejada, Sosa is an internationally recognized name and face. Sosa's arrival has people thinking and talking about the Orioles again, and that counts for something.

Sosa has enjoyed a honeymoon of sorts since joining Baltimore. Among Oriole fans, the response to the trade has been mostly positive, if guardedly so. The Orioles' 2005 ticket sales reportedly got a major boost the week the trade was announced. Local and national media stories about Sosa's change of address have been cropping up regularly over the past month.

Sosa has already held two press conferences since joining the Orioles: one on the day the trade was made official (February 3) and another on the day he reported to camp (February 23). (The audio and video for the press conferences can be streamed from the Orioles' official site, although the audio level for the second conference was set too low, making it largely unintelligible.) During those question-and-answer sessions, Sosa said all the right things: he sidestepped reporters' attempts to goad him into badmouthing his former team, and he expressed unmistakable excitement about joining the Orioles. He sounded willing to cede the spotlight (or part of it, anyway) to Tejada, who he acknowledged is the leader of the team. If early signs are an indicator of things to come, Sosa should give the Orioles an enhanced media presence in 2005, no matter what he does on the field.

The response hasn't been all positive. Many, if not most, Cubs fans thought it was time for Sosa to leave the Windy City after his act wore thin last year. According to an unscientific survey done on the Chicago Tribune's web site, 76% of respondents thought that the Cubs were a better team without him. But Chicagoans' individual reactions were fractured; some had hoped for a more amenable parting with their longtime icon, or at least a better return in trade, and instead criticized manager Dusty Baker or GM Jim Hendry. A few Chicago-area reporters said that Sosa's personality had long irritated them, but that it only became an issue when his performance dropped.

Despite wanting to start his Baltimore career with a clean slate, Sosa has not given up all of his old habits, and the dogged media won't allow him to forget his past. Notably, Sun columnist Peter Schmuck's mention of Sosa's request to have a limousine transport him from his hotel to his physical exam in Baltimore evoked derisive comments from Chicagoans about Sosa's diva-esque lifestyle. And toward the end of Sosa's first Oriole press conference (18:22), a reporter half-jokingly asked if someone in Chicago owed Sosa a boom box (his previous one was allegedly wrecked at the end of last season by an unnamed, Whitney Houston-hating teammate). Sosa's reply (“No, because I have a new one here”) brought on a new round of jeers—and fears. Fortunately, Oriole skipper Lee Mazzilli quelled any possibility that Sosa's musical tastes would become a distraction by re-affirming his policy of no clubhouse music before games. Looks like Sosa will have to get an iPod if he wants a pregame salsa fix. But Mazzilli has no problem with postgame music, particularly when the Orioles win, so expect lo-fi, bass-heavy Latin beats to be blasting in plenitude this year.

Continue reading "Sosa, so far" »

April 4, 2005

For openers

Ah, yes. Baltimore's favorite day of the year to play hooky has arrived. And what a splendiferous day it is. Nearly a century ago in his treacly timeless poem “Casey at the Bat” Ernest Thayer wrote, “Somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,” and certainly there are no clouds to be found at Camden Yards this afternoon, where the Birds are opening their 2005 regular season against the Oakland Athletics. But a gusty wind is swirling, and Miguel Tejada had to dive to snare what should have been a routine popup by Nick Swisher. As I write this, Luis Matos has just put the O's up 2-0 with a home run off left-hander Barry Zito. Rodrigo López is making the start for the Orioles.

Update: The Orioles were victorious, 4-0, behind the splendid pitching of López and three relievers. Troublingly, Javy López left the game early with a sore back.

Continue reading "For openers" »

July 30, 2005

O's make a splash by getting Byrnes

The Orioles finally made a trade, sending Larry Bigbie to the last-place Colorado Rockies for Eric Byrnes in an swap of outfielders. The transaction was announced in the middle of Friday night's game. Here's a link to the story from Saturday's Washington Post.

Byrnes, 29, is headed for his third team in 16 days, as he came to the Rockies from the Oakland Athletics on July 13. He's probably best known for the hustling, highlight-reel catches he made for Oakland over the past few years. Scouting reports and statistics rate him as an above-average corner outfielder defensively. He can also play center, where he is about average.

He's not a bad hitter either. This year he hit .266/.336/.474 (BA/OBP/SLG) for the Athletics, numbers roughly in line with his production in 2003 and 2004. (Keep in mind that Oakland's stadium deflates offense slightly.) A right-handed batter, he has slightly above-average power for a corner outfielder and knows how to use his speed to steal an occasional base (37 SB with an 86% success rate in his career).

Continue reading "O's make a splash by getting Byrnes" »

August 4, 2005

Maz be gone

In a decision that was not totally unexpected, the Orioles replaced manager Lee Mazzilli with bench coach Sam Perlozzo this afternoon. Perlozzo, a native Marylander who in the past has been a candidate for managing jobs with the Orioles and other big-league teams, takes over the club for the remainder of the season.

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October 11, 2005

Off with O's head (or half of it, anyway)

Before I get to the day's big news, the bumping of executive vice president Jim Beattie, indulge me for a few paragraphs as I ruminate on the Orioles' ruinous state.

Continue reading "Off with O's head (or half of it, anyway)" »

October 12, 2005

Sammy to return in '06

No, not that Sammy.

After resolving their front-office situation yesterday by making Mike Flanagan their top baseball administrator, today the Orioles went in-house again by bringing back Sam Perlozzo to manage the team next year. The club showed enough confidence in Perlozzo's ability to sign him to a three-year contract through the 2008 season.

Perlozzo, 54, began the season as Baltimore's bench coach and was promoted to field manager the last two months of this season after Mazzilli was sent packing. The managerial change slowed the team's ghastly mid-season slide, but failed to resurrect the startling success of the season's first two months, as Perlozzo guided the O's to an underwhelming 23–32 (.418 winning percentage) record in the season's final 55 games.

However, several unfavorable circumstances undercut Perlozzo's trial run as a big-league manager. One was the turmoil that surrounded the team because of controversies such as Rafael Palmeiro's positive steroid test and Sidney Ponson's legal issues that led to both being booted from the club in September. An injury to Sammy Sosa's right big toe dampened his production in August and sent him to the disabled list after August 25. Brian Roberts and Daniel Cabrera missed significant time due to injury as well. And the Orioles' lack of depth certainly didn't make Perlozzo's job any easier, as the fill-ins provided mostly inferior performance to the players they replaced. Because Perlozzo inherited the job under such adverse conditions—a depleted roster, a boatload of distractions—and had just two months to demonstrate his wares, it's too early to make definitive statements about his managerial ability or strategic tendencies.

Continue reading "Sammy to return in '06" »

October 23, 2005

Orioles go "ZZ" tops by hiring Mazzone

Maybe we should call it "The Return of the Killer Z's." Barely one week after locking up manager (and Marylander) Sam Perlozzo for the next three seasons, yesterday the Orioles announced the signing of Perlozzo's longtime friend, Leo Mazzone, to a three-year contract to be their pitching coach.

Coming off a remarkably successful 27 years in the Atlanta Braves' organization, the last 15½ overseeing the Braves' pitchers, Mazzone returns to the state in which he grew up and where his parents and children still live. The New York Yankees also had been courting Mazzone, but the ties of friendship and kinship proved a stronger lure than Yankee money and pinstripes. (Apparently, the Orioles' "Confederate money" wasn't a deal-breaker in this case.)

Early coverage from the media:

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October 25, 2005

Profiler Ritterpusch sent packing

Dave Ritterpusch, who openly touted his use of psychological data to rate players as director of baseball information systems for the Orioles, is no longer with the team after being forced to resign (along with his assistant, Ed Coblentz) yesterday by executive vice president of baseball operations Mike Flanagan. The official reason given by Flanagan was that Ritterpusch's blabbiness to the media about the club's evaluation methods had become an “unnecessary distraction.... I think it really undermined his effectiveness.”

Let that be a lesson to loose-lipped leakers everywhere.

Press reports on Ritterpusch's dismissal:

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September 5, 2006

Mainely nonsense

On January 21, the Orioles traded Jorge Julio and John Maine to the Mets for veteran pitcher and Jim Duquette pet Kris Benson. I disliked the trade at the time, feeling that it was yet another example of the Orioles knee-jerkedly seeking guaranteed mediocrity rather than taking a chance on actually developing talent, and I've been following the various players in the trade ever since Maine was called up by the Mets in mid-season. I had intended to blog on this point anyway, but this Question and Answer session in the Baltimore Sun today prompted me to do so now:

Karl, Georgetown, Del.: Now that John Maine is a starting pitcher with the Mets, and considering his recent scoreless inning streak, do the O's have any second thoughts about having traded him away?

Jeff Zrebiec: I don't think so Karl. I certainly haven't heard anybody from the organization express second thoughts.

If I were the sort of person who were snarky, I'd note that having second thoughts require that a team have first thoughts, but since I'm not snarky, I won't say that.
Kris Benson, who they got for Maine and Jorge Julio, has had his moments, and everybody from Leo Mazzone to Sam Perlozzo to Jim Duquette feel like the Orioles starter should probably have about 14 or 15 wins by now if not for some bad luck and bullpen mishaps. They also give him some of the credit for helping out with Erik Bedard.
That's the sort of spin I expect from the front office; it's also the sort of lack of analytical thinking I expect from the local media, which so often uncritically parrots what the team tells it. Before I break that quotedown, though, I want to continue quoting, the part that really raised my blood pressure:
Team officials projected Maine as a No.5 starter No.4 at best. He's obviously improved dramatically. I haven't seen that much of him, but he seems to have improved his velocity and is getting more movement on his fastball. I watched him in his starts with the club last year and he was extremely hittable. Obviously, you have to give him a lot of credit, but I can't imagine that he would have the same numbers if he were pitching in the American League, specifically in the A.L. East.
Yes, and that's the whole point of having young players. They "improve dramatically." Not always, of course. But when you've got a 25-year old (Maine), he's a lot more likely to do so than a 31-year old (Benson). The Orioles never seem to realize that point, and what's worse, they never seem to care.

Anyway, on to the numbers. First, let's just directly compare the players involved:

Continue reading "Mainely nonsense" »

September 26, 2006

O's are Norfolkin': Good.

The tide finally came in for the Orioles in their search for a new Triple-A affiliate. Or rather, the Tides came in, as in the Norfolk Tides of the International League. Yesterday, the Orioles agreed to a four-year player development contract with the Tides, who replace the Ottawa Lynx atop Baltimore's farm system. The Lynx, as reported earlier, will switch their parent to the Philadelphia Phillies for next season before moving to Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 2008. Meanwhile, the Orioles' most advanced minor-leaguers will reside at the foot of the Chesapeake Bay from 2007 until at least 2010.

Continue reading "O's are Norfolkin': Good." »

March 31, 2008

Turning the page

For most people the year begins in January, but for me there's nothing like the sense of renewal that baseball's Opening Day brings. The combination of the early signs of spring—flowers blooming, birds chirping—and the return of baseball fills me with optimism and the expectation of better days to come. For me, as for Thomas Boswell and baseball devotees everywhere, time begins on Opening Day.

However, in the last few years my optimism began to fade as I realized that the Orioles were not getting better. Names and faces changed, but the team had become the epitome of baseball mediocrity, and I saw no signs of marked improvement on the horizon. My interest in the O's began to erode, and baseball fell behind in the competition for my attention. Damaging matters further were the revelations about steroid and human growth hormone use that disproportionately implicated current and former Orioles.

Bottoms up

This year, however, is different. True, on the field will be another losing team. Most rational observers think that the Orioles are going to be worse than last year, or even the last seven, with the betting market placing the over/under on the Orioles' 2008 win count at 65.5, the lowest of any MLB team.

What's changed is that there's actually some reason for optimism with the new regime led by Andy MacPhail. Having hit rock bottom after a decade of losing, the Orioles have given up trying to field even a mediocre squad this year at the big-league level. With MacPhail in charge, they have aggressively begun to prune the roster to a core of talented youngsters from which to build an eventual contender.

MacPhail has finally committed the club to all-out rebuilding, something his predecessor, Mike Flanagan, could not do in the last two years because doing so would have essentially confirmed that his work (with and without Jim Beattie) since 2003 had fallen short of the mark.

MacPhail's first offseason was telling. Instead of signing mediocre free agents to plug gaps, MacPhail traded two of the team's best players, Erik Bedard and Miguel Tejada, receiving bundles of legitimate prospects and youngish spare parts in return. He also took steps toward improving the club's international scouting efforts, long an organizational weakness. Brian Roberts, arguably the team's best and most popular remaining player, reportedly is next in line to be shipped from the Warehouse if a suitable package of prospects comes along.

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About Transactions

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

Scouting and drafting is the previous category.

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