Every team needs a first baseman. You can’t just show up and have no one play first. The Marlins recently contacted the Orioles about Chris Davis, according to reports, because Miami could use a new first baseman. After his tremendous power surge in 2013, Davis became a fan-favorite despite his struggles in 2014. I decided to think of other possible trades that the Marlins and O’s could do that benefits both teams.
As a kid living about 12.5 miles outside of Baltimore, Maryland; roughly the same distance from Liverpool to St. Helens ─ soccer, or as the rest of the world calls it football, was not the first sport I took an interest in. The first sport I ever played and watched also became my favorite. Baseball means as much to me as soccer means to a die-hard Liverpool fan.
It was bound to happen sometime. It happens in every career. Retirement. Most of the time, you’ve done it so long that it’s hard to walk away from it. That’s the case for former Orioles All-Star second baseman, Brian Roberts.
Roberts was drafted by the Orioles in June of 1999 out of South Carolina as a shortstop. He made his professional debut in 1999 with the Class-A Delmarva Shorebirds playing in 47 games and he held a .240 batting average. Continue reading
This left all Orioles fans, including myself, with a feeling of sadness, anger and hurt. How could this team of destiny fail us now when they were so close to making it to the final obstacle?
But after an hour of letting the series loss sink in, I realized how selfish I was being. There was no reason to be upset with a team that had the second-best record in the MLB. There was no reason to be upset with a team that was without stars Manny Machado, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis in the playoffs. There was absolutely no reason to be upset with a team that beat three straight Cy Young winners. This team had Oriole Magic and gave the fans an incredible ride.
The Baltimore Orioles were predicted by most to finish in last place in the AL East this season. The team’s biggest offseason move was bringing in starter Ubaldo Jimenez on a lucrative deal. Then David Duquette decided to bring in Nelson Cruz on a one-year, prove-it deal. These were the only big moves that media said the Orioles made in the off-season and thought it wouldn’t be enough. They were dead wrong.
Duquette also brought in some minor players, before signing Jimenez and Cruz, who would eventually play big roles. The Orioles traded for pitcher Brad Brach in November of 2013. In January, the team signed outfielder Delmon Young, who had floated around the MLB. And throughout the season, the team released and re-signed first baseman Steve Pearce.
This team was told it was going to fail and wouldn’t have a chance in the AL East. There was supposed to be no way for Buck Showalter to guide this team to even a shot at 10 games above .500. Here was a team that was going to be without star Manny Machado for the beginning of the season. This just gave the team motivation.
By the end of April, the Orioles were 14-12 and in second place in the AL East. Things were running smoothly and Baltimore had Manny Machado come back off of the disabled list. But soon, the team was hit with their first problem of the season. Matt Wieters struggled with arm soreness and was eventually placed on the 15-day DL. Wieters would never come off, as he was diagnosed with a torn UCL and needed Tommy John surgery.
It was a big blow for the Orioles, as Wieters was on an offensive hot streak and was one of the best defensive catchers in the league. How did the team solve the issue? By bringing up catcher Caleb Joseph and trading for catcher Nick Hundley.
Joseph had spent seven seasons in Baltimore’s minor league system and had finally made it to the big leagues. Hundley had lost his job in San Diego and was looking for a new home. Buck Showalter decided to make them a tandem. No one thought Wieters could be replaced, but Joseph and Hundley proved to be capable.
Both catchers played their parts, growing together and helping the starters get into a groove. They were able to come together as whole to be a “Matt Wieters.” These were two players that had no business being starters, but proved everyone wrong.
The blows kept coming in May though, as Tommy Hunter couldn’t maintain the closer’s job and Ubaldo Jimenez proved to be a bust. However, the team moved forward with Zach Britton, who had flopped the last two seasons as a starter. Britton re-invented himself in the bullpen and became one of the best closers in the regular season. Kevin Gausman would eventually take Jimenez’s role and show off electric stuff.
The Orioles kept up a rapid pace and behind the power of Nelson Cruz, held on to a 61-47 record and had a 2.5 game lead in the AL East. The team had also traded for lefty Andrew Miller, who helped give it one of the best bullpens in the game.Embed from Getty Images
However, another blow would be dealt. In fact, it was a critical one, as Manny Machado went down at the plate against the Yankees in mid-August. He had twisted his knee and it would be the last time he played that season. Baltimore had lost its second All-Star of the season. How could they move on from another blow?
Manny Machado is an irreplaceable player, but the O’s brought up Jimmy Paredes and had Ryan Flaherty and Chris Davis to take shifts at third. It would prove to work for the team, as all three played exceptionally there.
Baltimore continued to plow through August and would then trade for outfielder Alejandro De Aza and third baseman Kelly Johnson at the end of the month. De Aza became a crucial part of the team.
As we’ve seen though; when things are going well, another blow needs to be dealt. Chris Davis was suspended for 25-games and missed the entire postseason. That made it three All-Stars down for the season.
However, all the hard work Showalter and the team had finally paid off on Sept. 16, as the team clinched the AL East.
We all know what happened after that night, as the playoffs are fresh in our minds, but let’s take the time to truly admire winning the AL East. This was the team that no one thought twice about. It was a team that lost three All-Stars, had its highest-paid starter flop and had to change starters. This team won the AL East by 12 games.
It’s upsetting that the Orioles couldn’t make the World Series, but we all need to be proud of everything this team has done. It did the impossible and it shocked the world. We, as fans, got to enjoy the ride with them and it was incredible.Embed from Getty Images
So don’t be sad, because this is just the beginning. The O’s will be left with some offseason decisions and some players won’t be back, but we all know how baseball works. However, the core of the team will be here next season and will be better than ever. The three All-Stars that were sorely missed will be back.
All good things don’t have to come to an end. Sometimes they just come back stronger than ever. Get ready to enjoy it because after years of losing; we can finally enjoy it.
For many kids, their dream was to grow up and play a professional sport. It takes guts, hard work, and determination to make it. Growing up in a small town doesn’t help much, especially one like Hagerstown, Maryland.
However, Hagerstown has been a town built around its rich history. Part of that history includes baseball. For 34 seasons, Hagerstown has been the home of the Hagerstown Suns, a minor league team in the Washington Nationals organization.
The Suns have had many players in the MLB including Orioles legend, Jim Palmer, Giants legend, Willie Mays, and most recently, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Matt Cain, Carlos Gomez and Derek Norris. One of the most recent players to make it from the area is the late Nick Adenhart.
But now, Hagerstown has another promising prospect on the fast track to the big leagues. His name is Christian Binford.
Christian had a nice season in 2014 starting in Single-A Advanced Wilmington and ended with a championship with Triple-A Omaha. Drafted in the 30th round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals out of Mercersburg Academy (high school) in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, Binford became a Royals Top 5 prospect pitcher. I recently got the opportunity to talk with Christian about his career and more:
Q: One of the first batters you faced in Triple-A was MLB veteran Bobby Abreu. You struck him out. Were you nervous facing a guy like him?
CB: Facing Bobby Abreu was amazing, got down on him 3-0 and then came back. Not gonna lie it was my first taste of big league hitting, but it was a great way to get my feet wet.
Q: Growing up in a small town of Hagerstown, did you ever think you would be where you are now?
CB: Of course I hoped I would make it here someday but I never thought I would so quickly.
Q: You had Tommy John Surgery in high school. Do you think this affected your potential?
CB: I think it affected my potential in a great and positive way actually. After surgery, I worked hard on my mechanics and it put me in a whole new mindset to work harder.
Q: I was able to watch you pitch the SirusXM All-Star Futures Game in July on TV. What was your overall experience? Besides pitching, what was your most memorable moment?
CB: The most memorable moment was sitting in the dugout after my inning was finished and looking up at the massive crowd. As far as the overall experience, we were treated like big leaguers and it really makes you want to get there quicker!
Q: Who do you think helped influence you to get as far as you have?
CB: My family and friends no doubt. There have been quite a few bumps in the road and they have been my rock to help me through any kind of situation.
Q: What/who helped you change your mind about signing with the Royals instead of going to college like you were committed to?
CB: I made up my mind on my own. My parents were behind me with whatever choice I made. Which made the decision simple once I made up my mind because I knew they would accept whatever choice I made.
Q: If you weren’t a baseball player, what would your career be?
CB: If I wasn’t in baseball, I would like to do something with finance. Like a financial planner or stock broker.
Q: What was it like to start the Triple-A Championship Game in Charlotte for Omaha? What were the emotions going through you during the game?
CB: It was an honor to be named the starter on such a big stage. Once I started pitching, all the emotions go back to just being a pitcher and just another game. But leading up to the game was tough, but we got through and pulled out the win!
Q: What did it mean to you to be the special guest speaker recently at the Nick Adenhart Baseball Camp?
CB: Speaking at the Nick Adenhart camp was one of the best experiences I have ever had. It gave me a chance to help give back and also do it in the memory of Nick. Its crazy thinking I am kinda following in his footsteps. I also wore number 34 for the Futures Game in his memory.
Q: The Royals are having a great season and there was thought that maybe you were a September call-up to help them push for the postseason. Do you believe you were ready or do you think you need a few more minor league innings before being promoted?
CB: I believe I would have been ready. Being moved to a reliever, I needed some outings before I got comfortable in that role but once I was able to get those outings, I knew what I needed to do.
Q: What do you think of the Royals vs Orioles ALCS matchup?
CB: I am excited to watch the matchup. Two smaller market teams who know how to play the game correctly. Crazy to think I played with a lot of them coming up this year and now I am watching them fight for a pennant.
-Note: The Nick Adenhart Baseball Camp is an annual youth baseball camp hosted at Williamsport High School in Williamsport, Maryland, in Nick’s honor. Each year, a special guest speaker (usually from the Orioles) comes to speak to the young players. Christian was selected to speak after Miguel Gonzalez (a former minor league teammate of Nick’s) had to cancel. The camp also has a silent auction of memorabilia to benefit the Nick Adenhart Memorial Foundation which supports Little League baseball and other non-profit organizations.
This series was never supposed to happen. It was projected that these teams wouldn’t even make the playoffs, much less the ALCS with a chance to make the World Series. Yet, here we are.
The Orioles and Royals seem like the same teams: Average but overpeforming rotation, great bullpen and making their living on huge hits late in games. So which team has the advantage?
Let’s go through the aspects of the game:
Yes, the Royals have James Shields, who is a gritty as they come. But the rest of the rotation is extremely unproven, including Jason Vargas and Yordano Ventura. The Orioles are full of unproven starters, but the end of theirs is better than the Royals.
The Orioles have four batters with over 20 home runs. The Royals have none. The Orioles have Nelson Cruz. The Royals do not have Nelson Cruz.
Both bullpens have been fantastic throughout the playoffs, and neither has a clear advantage. The team that has the lead going into the seventh inning will likely win. That would put more emphasis on the offense.
With that said, I think the Orioles have the potential to score big runs much more than I do the Royals. However, it could easily be the opposite.
The two hottest teams in baseball are about to square off, as Ned Yost’s Royals are going to take on Buck Showalter’s Orioles.
This is going to be an exciting series, as both teams are on impressive streaks and both swept their division series.
Kansas City offers an impressive lineup, led by Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon, along with the speed of Lorenzo Cain and Jarred Dyson.
Their pitching staff has limited lineups all season and James Shields had an amazing second half of the season.
The bullpen has been phenomenal as well, with Greg Holland and Wade Davis basically untouchable.
Defensively, the team has the future Gold Glove winner in Salvador Perez and Gold Glover Eric Hosmer.
Overall, the Royals are a complete team on paper and look to be unstoppable. However, the Orioles have similar characteristics and will win this series 4-1.
The rotation for the O’s has been underrated all season, with Chris Tillman, Wei-Yen Chen, Bud Norris and Miguel Gonzalez leading the charge.
Zach Britton and Darren O’Day have formed one of the best tandems of set-up man and closer in baseball. And don’t forget to mention the O’s have the best LOOGY left in the playoffs in Andrew Miller.
The lineup has been full of power this season for the O’s, with almost every player having the ability to go yard at any time.
Kansas City is going to have a tough time getting through the Orioles lineup unscathed.
Kansas City will also struggle winning games if they can’t score off of the Baltimore rotation. They had a tough time scoring off Los Angeles, and if that continues; Kansas City is in trouble.
The Orioles have had a fairytale-type season and even after losing three key players; they continue on their run. Don’t expect it to stop anytime soon.
The Orioles haven’t made it this far since 1997. That season, the O’s won 98 games, (just two more than this season) under Davey Johnson. The roster featured players such as Cal Ripken Jr, Mike Mussina, Chris Hoiles, Roberto Alomar, and current MASN broadcaster, Mike Bordick just to name a few.
Things have changed since the O’s last made the ALCS (American League Championship Series). The Orioles played the New York Yankees, a team that now did not make the postseason, and started what was referred to as the Jeffrey Maier Curse.
Derek Jeter hit the controversial home run that Maier caught over the outstretched arm of Tony Tarasco. This season was Jeter’s final season. The Orioles won 96 games this season and captured the AL East crown for the first time also since 1997. The Royals and Orioles have faced each other before including playing six regular season games against each other where the Royals would win the season series by only one win.
This time of year is usually when high schools begin hosting their homecoming dances. The ALCS will be a homecoming of sorts for former Oriole pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. The 35-year old right hander spent five seasons (2007-2011) as the Orioles “ace” before being traded to the Colorado Rockies for Jason Hammel in the winter prior to the 2012 season.
Guthrie has been with Kansas City since late 2012, going 33-26. This is not the first time Guthrie has faced the O’s since playing for them as he had started a game for Kansas City in Baltimore last season.
Another familiar face is James Shields who will start Game One in Baltimore on Friday night. Shields pitched in the AL East with the Tampa Bay Rays for seven seasons (2006-2012) and the O’s have faced him this season. The Orioles have also seen potential Game Two starter, Yordano Ventura, and veteran lefty, Jason Vargas, before.
The Royals are built on speed:
The Orioles finished first in the majors in home runs hit while the Royals finished close to last. On the flip side, Kansas City lead the MLB in stolen bases while the Orioles finished close to last. The Orioles should be just fine stopping the running game because they have Caleb Joseph, who had one of the highest base runners caught percentage in the majors, and Nick Hundley behind the plate but Kansas City will not be afraid to test the Orioles anyway.
The First Pitch (Pitch Count):
Even though the Royals have a much more solid bullpen than the Tigers did, being patient and working up the pitch count will be key. Shields is a tough pitcher and they might be more comfortable facing someone out of the bullpen than a starter. During the ALDS, the Orioles struck out many times mostly in part because they chase first pitches. Plate discipline is very important.
This is going to be a good series. I see it coming down to the wire. Everything I noted above is mostly the things the O’s need to focus on to win the American League pennant. All we can do is continue cheering them on, and hoping for the best. The team is built well enough to go to and win the World Series, but first they need to get past the Royals in the ALCS.