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Richie Martin Jersey

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Evaluating Richie Martin from a statistical perspective is a little like that scene from the movie Office Space.

If you’ve seen it, you probably know where I’m going with this. A pair of consultants are brought in to help with downsizing, and while hearing a particularly replaceable employee try to describe his responsibilities, one finally gives up and asks “What would you say…you do here?”

For an Oriole fan, it’d be easy to ask that of Martin given a look at the numbers from this summer.

Martin didn’t do much at the plate for the Orioles this season. He batted .208 over the course of 120 games, had an on-base percentage of .260 and posted an OPS of .581. Not good.

But he’s a shortstop, you might counter, so surely he’s another Rey Ordonez or Cesar Izturis, right? Someone whose glove and defensive prowess at a key position make up for his light bat?

Not exactly. Martin’s defensive WAR was -0.1, indicating he was ever-so-slightly below league average, and his fielding percentage was .971, while the American League average at shortstop was .970. His range factor, which measures putouts and assists per nine innings and is therefore an attempt to gauge a player’s ability to get to balls, was 3.81 per nine innings. The league average was 3.87.

So…what does he do here?

In truth, Martin’s role, as is the case with a lot of Orioles players ever since the front office ripped up the franchise floorboards, comes not from what he does, but what he can do. The 24-year-old Martin was a first-round pick by Oakland out of the University of Florida only four years ago, and in 2018 while still with the Athletics organization had a solid year at the plate for Double-A Midland, batting .300 with an .807 OPS and 25 stolen bases.

He arrived in Baltimore as a Rule 5 acquisition last December, and got a promotion he likely wasn’t quite ready for just yet. Despite having no major league innings under his belt, he was named the team’s Opening Day shortstop, and started 2-for-his first 23 to put himself in a hole with his average that he never escaped.

Still, it’s clear that the organization is hoping he can have a role with this team going forward. He was the 13th-ranked prospect entering the season, and after getting a feel for big-league pitching, he began to show that he was getting the hang of it. After looking out of his element in the first half of the season, Martin was more comfortable in a part-time role in the second half, batting .284 with a .321 on-base percentage and .713 OPS in 51 games, only 33 of which he started.

And then there is the defense. Martin’s ability at shortstop wasn’t appreciated by the numbers, but he’s made a name for himself over the years both in college and the pros for his slick fielding. That was apparent during the season, as Martin was routinely showing off a flair for the highlight-reel play with his quick reactions to hard-hit balls and strong arm.

Add to that mix enough speed for Martin to swipe 10 bags on 11 tries, and it becomes clear what the Orioles see in him. The question becomes how much of that potential Martin can fulfill.

He’ll certainly get his chances.

With two more years to go before he’s arbitration eligible and five years of team control remaining, Martin is the ideal low-risk prospect for the Orioles to try to develop as they take these first steps toward rebuilding the team. He has no touted prospect like Adley Rutschman or Ryan Mountcastle immediately threatening for his job, so it’s in both his and the team’s best interest for Martin to get some more cracks at establishing himself as a big-league shortstop.

Given his defensive skills and situational value (defensive replacement, utility infielder, pinch-runner, etc.), Martin certainly has value for the Orioles’ and any team’s roster going into 2020. Next to catcher, shortstop is the position where defensive ability is most appreciated and offensive shortcomings are most willingly tolerated. Martin should get a chance to make his case for the starting lineup next year — although the emergence of Hanser Alberto makes that a tougher prospect if Jonathan Villar is back — but even if he doesn’t make the progress expected of him in the offseason, he remains someone Brandon Hyde will appreciate having on his bench.

After that, however, it gets cloudier. For Martin to have a role on the Orioles when the rebuild begins to show fruit, he’ll need to be able to hit. By then, Baltimore’s shortstops on the farm — be it Mason McCoy, Adam Hall, Gunnar Henderson or Cadyn Grenier, assuming he gets his game back together — will be all grown up and challenging for the big-league job. Being a sure-handed .215 hitter probably won’t be enough to make the lineup, and even if Martin does get better with the bat, it might not be his call; Henderson, a second-round pick this year, could take the drama out of the decision depending on how his minor-league career goes.

Barring a veteran acquisition that leaves him on the outside looking in, however, Martin will likely get a good, long look for more Camden Yards at-bats this spring. Whether he starts proving he knows what to do with them will determine just how many he gets.

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BLACKSBURG — Mike Young is the new men’s basketball coach at Virginia Tech, but he is hardly a newcomer to the New River Valley.

Young grew up in Radford, where his love of sports and his desire to be a coach sprouted.

“I can’t imagine a more idyllic place for a young person to grow up than this area, in Radford,” Young, 56, said in a recent interview in his office. “What an opportunity, what a blessing that was to grow up in that town. It was remarkable.”

His father, Bob Young, was a high school coach. So was his uncle, Norman Lineburg.

Young decided to become a coach, too.

“It’s the family business,” he said.

In April, Young stepped down as the coach at Wofford to take the reins of the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team.

“Being back in the NRV is great,” Young said. “I love the area. I love the people here.”

He last coached in the NRV 30 years ago, when he was a Radford University assistant.

“It is wonderful to have him back after 30 years,” his mother, Nancy Miano, said. “We had our first Mother’s Day dinner this year … in I think in 25 years. I can’t tell you how happy that made me.”

Young’s first season at Virginia Tech will begin Tuesday at Clemson.

His parents plan to be regulars at Cassell Coliseum this season.

“I can see all of his games, and I don’t have to drive so far to see him,” Young’s father, Bob Young, said.

Coaching family

Mike Young — whose parents divorced when he was an adult — grew up across the street from a park which had a playground, a basketball court and a ballfield.

He didn’t always have to cross the street.

“I can remember all the guys coming to the driveway after school each day, and we’d have a big game out there,” his mother said. “He was so into sports.”

Young attended an all-sports camp at Virginia Tech. He also attended the basketball camps of the late North Carolina coach Dean Smith.

Young’s mother was a secretary at an elementary school.

His father was an assistant football coach at Dublin High School for 10 years and also had a stint there as the head baseball coach. Bob Young later served 20 years as the principal at Dalton Intermediate School in Radford.

Bob Young’s sister, Joann, an ex-physical education teacher, is married to Norman Lineburg, the legendary former football coach at Radford High School.

“Everybody was involved in education in some way,” Mike Young said. “It’s all I ever wanted to do. I never wanted to be a fireman. I never wanted to be the president. I wanted to coach.

“I can remember the locker room and the feel of Friday nights when my dad was coaching and then being around my uncle so much when he was at Radford for so many years. There’s nothing like that locker room after a big win.”

Lineburg won 315 games as Radford High School’s football coach.

“With my Uncle Norman, you walk into that home every week and there he’d sit in front of the old VHS tape and that thing running back and forth, back and forth,” Young said. “While I probably should have thought that was boring as heck, it was something that was really neat to me.

“The film study, game preparation, practice preparation, I probably took more from my uncle than I did anybody in that regard. It is an all-consuming proposition. In some strange way, that always appealed to me.”

The Youngs and Lineburgs lived just a few blocks from each other.

“It was like one big family,” Young said.

Young and his younger brother, David (who now lives in Botetourt County) spent a lot of time with their cousins. Robert Lineburg is now the athletic director at Radford University, while Wayne Lineburg is an assistant football coach at Wake Forest. Mark Lineburg is the superintendent of schools in Halifax County. Paul Lineburg is the principal at Northside Middle School.

“We all just kind of grew up together. We had some great times,” Robert Lineburg said. “On Christmas Eve, we would all get together and talk basketball or football. … We saw the sun come up on Christmas morning because we’d been sitting in the basement, … just talking about sports.”

Robert Lineburg said Mike Young, who was five years older than him, was like a big brother to him. The two played pickup basketball and football games with each other. They attended Baltimore Orioles games and Bruce Springsteen concerts.

Robert Lineburg is not surprised his cousin became a college basketball coach.

“He was driven early on,” Robert Lineburg said.

Young was a point guard for the Radford High School boys basketball team. He pitched for the school’s baseball team.

“He was never a star, but he was always a good teammate,” his father said.

‘A little far-fetched’

After graduating from high school, Young played basketball the following season for Fork Union Military Academy.

“I don’t think he was ready for college yet at that time. He needed to grow up a little,” his father said.

Young then played basketball for the late Bob Johnson at NCAA Division III member Emory & Henry.

“I loved him like a dad,” Young said.

Young graduated from Emory & Henry in 1986.

“A friend of mine who was superintendent of schools in Giles County offered him a job as the head basketball coach, and I thought he ought to do that,” his father said. “I remember him telling me, ‘Dad, I don’t want to coach in high school. I want to coach in college.’

“At the time, I thought that was a little far-fetched. I thought he should’ve coached high school.”

Young stayed at Emory & Henry for two seasons as Johnson’s assistant coach. He then spent a season as Oliver Purnell’s graduate assistant at Radford University before becoming an assistant at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in 1989.

Young was a Wofford assistant when he began dating his future wife, Margaret, who was then a Wofford senior in the physical education class that Young was teaching.

“Coaches aren’t supposed to date students, so for about a semester nobody really knew,” she once told the Roanoke Times.

The two married in 1994.

Young spent 13 seasons as a Wofford assistant before being promoted to head coach in 2002.

In his fourth game as the Terriers’ head coach, he steered Wofford to a win at Virginia Tech.

Young’s wife is a partner in the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has a Spartanburg branch.

“One of the reasons I couldn’t just [leave Wofford and] go anywhere is she needed to be close to a … city,” Young said. “[But] they have an office in Greensboro; that’s the closest office to us [in Blacksburg]. She does a lot of work in Charlotte.”

‘Tickled to death’

Young steered Wofford to 299 wins in 17 seasons as the head coach of the Southern Conference school.

“Like his dad and like my grandmother — they were teachers — if you go watch a practice, he is a great teacher,” Robert Lineburg said.

Wofford swept the Southern Conference regular-season and tournament titles last season, finishing No. 19 in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll. Wofford advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time this decade and beat Seton Hall in the first round. He was named the national coach of the year by The Sporting News.

Virginia Tech hired him in April to succeed Buzz Williams.

“If you’re a high-character person and do things the right way, good things will come. Sometimes, it takes more time,” said Dan Earl, the coach of Southern Conference member VMI. “He’s a high-character individual, but he’s also a hell of a basketball coach.”

Young used to attend Tech games at Cassell Coliseum with his father in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

“He loved going to Tech,” his father said.

Young will now be coaching at Cassell Coliseum.

“I can still see … where I would sit with Dad, watching the Hokies play,” he said.

“I’m sure that [coaching] … an ACC-type school is something he’s dreamed of every day in his life,” Robert Lineburg said.

Young and his wife have two children. Their daughter, Cooper, is a Sewanee student studying abroad in Austria. Their son, Davis, is a golfer on the Blacksburg High School team.

Young has been busy since getting the Tech job, with recruiting often requiring him to hit the road.

“I have seen him less since he’s been at Tech than when he was in South Carolina,” his father said. “He came by here last Sunday, stayed about an hour. That’s about the longest I’ve seen him.”

His parents will see him on Friday when Young coaches in Virginia Tech’s home opener.

“To have this opportunity at this stage of my career and to do it here until I walk into the sunset is awesome,” he said. “I’m tickled to death.”

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For those actively searching for a player ready to assume Anthony Rendon’s former title as the game’s “Most Underrated” player, Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien is making a valid case for himself in 2019. As Martin Gallegos of MLB.com notes, Semien scored his 120th run of the season on Sunday, placing him just three runs behind Reggie Jackson 1969 record for most runs scored by an Athletic in a single season (link). Besides that possibly impending accomplishment, it’s important to note that the 28-year-old Semien has done more than just cross the plate in 2019. Among AL shortstops, his 32 homers place him 3rd, his 90 RBIs are good for 2nd, and his 7.2 WAR valuation places him behind only Houston’s Alex Bregman at his position. However you slice it, 2019 has been a banner year for the former Cal Bear, who will likely garner MVP consideration at season’s end.

Semien’s near-peerless production has been a large reason behind Oakland’s 2.0-game cushion on all Wild Card competitors. He’s likely due a sizable raise in his third trip through arbitration this offseason, as his $5.9MM salary this year represents one of baseball’s biggest bargains.

More notes from around the league on a quiet Sunday eve…

Yesterday, we passed along word of one dissatisfied ex-employee of Orioles GM Mike Elias’–namely, former special assignment instructor B. J. Surhoff, who felt disrespected by Elias’ handling of his dismissal. Despite that bit of scuttlebutt, Elias is feeling good about his organization’s direction now that he’s had nearly a calendar year to direct its progress, as he told Roch Kubotko of MASN Sports in a wide-ranging interview (link).“When we came in here, the big league team (had) the worst record in the league last year,” Elias told Kubotko. “The farm system was ranked in the 20s…We had no real international scouting function, a minimalist analytics group. All of that’s changed. We’ve got our program going internationally. We’re signing players, we’re competing for players out there. We’re building towards a bigger analytics staff. The farm system’s taking a huge jump this year.” There are several other items of note in the article itself, among them his support of manager Brandon Hyde (who did ’Great’ in 2019, in Elias’ estimation) and his expectations for the club in 2020.
The Astros were finally able to pop the corks on champagne bottles that had remained on ice through Friday and Saturday, as Sunday saw the team capture its third consecutive AL West title. In a well-written piece from the Houston Chronicle’s Chandler Rome, manager A.J. Hinch credits mentality–not the team’s embarrassment of stars–as the source behind Houston’s success (link). “We just keep on keeping a winning culture, a winning mindset. We show up ready to play every day,” Hinch told Rome. “It’s the thing I’m most proud of. We just stay current in the moment.” Also of note in Rome’s article is a rundown of the club’s utter dominance of its AL West opponents in 2019; the club has won 32 out of its last 38 games at home against AL West competitors, en route to an overall 51-19 record against divisional foes this year.

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a temporada de agentes libres — “El Invierno al Rojo Vivo”, por así decirlo — puede llegar a ser un juego bien peligroso. Seguro, ese agente libre luce flamante y tentador en el aparador, como si fuese la pieza idónea para lo que tu equipo necesita, pero recuerden: Cada auto comienza a perder su valor desde el primer minuto que el nuevo dueño lo saca de la agencia.

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Ninguna contratación es realmente un desastre, por supuesto: Incluso los peores fracasos le aportan valor a una novena de Grandes Ligas. Pero todos haríamos algunas cosas de una manera diferente si tuviésemos la oportunidad de hacerlas otra vez. Con eso en mente, examinemos ese contrato en la agencia libre del que cada equipo de MLB en cuestión terminó arrepintiéndose. Algunas son contrataciones que hasta la fecha siguen atormentando a los fanáticos, mientras que otras tienen que ver con haber dejado ir a una estrella sólo para verla brillar en otro lado.

ESTE DE LA LIGA AMERICANA

* Azulejos: B.J. Ryan, cinco años, US$47 millones, 2005

Ryan tuvo un gran año para Toronto antes de que una operación Tommy John terminara con su carrera, y pasó el último año de este contrato fuera por lesión.

* Orioles: Albert Belle, cinco años, US$65 millones, 1999

Belle no estuvo terrible por Baltimore cuando jugó, pero problemas crónicos en su cadera lo obligaron a retirarse dos años después de haber firmado el contrato.

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* Rays: Pat Burrell, dos años, US$16 millones, 2009

Tampa Bay no se caracteriza por otorgar grandes contratos, pero los Rays pensaron que gastar en Burrell un año después de que el toletero ayudó a Filadelfia a vencerlos en la Serie Mundial les daría el empujón que necesitaban. Burell terminó conectando sólo dos jonrones en 24 juegos para ellos en 2010.

* Medias Rojas: Pablo Sandoval, cinco años, US$95 millones, 2014

Tanto los Medias Rojas como el propio Sandoval terminaron arrepintiéndose de firmar este contrato — “Si tuviese la oportunidad de hacerlo de nuevo, no lo haría”, declaró Sandoval en 2019 – ya que las lesiones y un pobre rendimiento acabaron con el paso del Kung Fu Panda por Boston.

* Yankees: Jacoby Ellsbury, siete años, US$153 millones, 2014

Es difícil recordar que la firma de Ellsbury tenía bastante sentido en aquel momento: Los Yankees habían quedado fuera de la Postemporada, los Medias Rojas acababan de ganar la Serie Mundial y los Bombarderos iban a perder al dominicano Robinson Canó en la agencia libre de cualquier forma. Entonces: Ellsbury. Pero qué contratación tan desastrosa terminó siendo ésta: Solamente jugó para los Yankees por cuatro temporadas y su desempeño con el bate y el guante estuvo por debajo del promedio hasta que las lesiones comenzaron a aquejarlo. Esta es la peor estadística de Ellsbury con los Yankees: No pudo conectar un solo imparable en la Postemporada. (Se fue de 10-0).

CENTRAL DE LA LIGA AMERICANA

* Indios: Haber dejado ir a Manny Ramírez a los Medias Rojas, 2000.

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Cleveland quería retener a Manny – la Tribu le ofreció ocho años y US$136 millones — pero Boston ganó la puja por el dominicano y lo que logró con los Medias Rojas es de todos conocido.

* Reales: José Guillén, tres años, US$36 millones, 2008

Guillén lució terrible como jugador de Kansas City, pero el dominicano se convirtió en un problema aún más serio fuera del terreno de juego, cuando lanzó críticas a la organización y se enfrascó en varias broncas con los aficionados. Definitivamente nadie lo extraña ahí.

* Tigres: Mike Moore, tres años, US$10 millones, 1992

Moore había sido convocado al Juego de Estrellas y ganado la Serie Mundial con Oakland apenas tres años antes. ¿Su promedio de efectividad de por vida en 86 aperturas para Detroit? 5.90.

* Mellizos: Haber dejado ir a David Ortiz a los Medias Rojas en 2002

Técnicamente hablando, Minnesota no le ofreció contrato a Ortiz, una decisión de la cual los Mellizos terminarían arrepintiéndose en grande. El Big Papi terminó firmando con Boston, y ustedes saben el resto.

* Medias Blancas: Adam Dunn, cuatro años, US$56 millones, 2011

Dunn bateó .201 en su estadía en Chicago, e incluso su temporada con 41 cuadrangulares llegó con 222 ponches.

OESTE DE LA LIGA AMERICANA

* Angelinos: Josh Hamilton, cinco años, US$125 millones, 2012.

Hamilton fue una historia de inspiración, y casi un héroe en la Serie Mundial de 2011, pero los Angelinos tuvieron que pagarle más de US$26 millones después de haberlo dejado en libertad.

* Astros: Haber dejado ir a Randy Johnson a los D-backs, 1998

Johnson siempre fue una adquisición en la fecha límite de canjes del 31 de julio, pero Houston pudo haberlo retenido de la misma manera que Arizona pudo haberlo obtenido. Tres años después, los D-backs habían ganado la Serie Mundial.

* Atléticos: Haber dejado ir a Catfish Hunter a los Yankees, 1974

Realmente no había una razón para que Oakland perdiera a Hunter; sólo fue un desacuerdo por de un tecnicismo en el contrato de Hunter. Ese pequeño detalle llevó a una audiencia de arbitraje que terminó anulando el contrato de Hunter y lo convirtió en el primer agente libre de Grandes Ligas. (Luego, por supuesto, firmó con los Yankees).

* Marineros: Carlos Silva, cuatro años, US$48 millones, 2007

El venezolano no era particularmente bueno antes de firmar con los Marineros, ¿pero con Seattle? 5-18, 6.81 de EFE.

* Rangers: Chan Ho Park, cinco años, US$65 millones

Park llegó a Arlington con la etiqueta de ser un come-innings, pero tras registrar efectividad de 5.79 con los Rangers, probablemente los aficionados terminaron deseando que hubiese lanzado mucho menos.

ESTE DE LA LIGA NACIONAL

* Bravos: Melvin Upton Jr., cinco años, US$72.3 millones, 2013.

B.J. Upton dio 28 jonrones en su año previo con los Rays, pero los Bravos decidieron cambiarlo dos años después de firmarlo. Para el final de su contrato, hasta su nombre había cambiado.

* Marlins: Jonh Burkett, dos años, US$7 millones, 1995

Digan lo que quieran de los Marlins, pero han sido muy buenos en evitar firmas terribles de agentes libres.

* Mets: Perder a Daniel Murphy en el 2016

Es doloroso ver que un jugador finalmente ajusta su swing justo cuando llega a un rival de división con un modesto contrato de tres años y termina de segundo en la votación del Jugador Más Valioso de la Liga Nacional.

* Nacionales: Matt Wieters, dos años, US$21 millones, 2017

Los Nacionales necesitaban a un receptor y Wieters venía de un año en el que asistió al Juego de Estrellas con Baltimore. Pero su poder desapareció en Washington y dejó OPS de .658 en sus dos temporadas.

* Filis: Perder a Dave Stewart, 1986

Stewart había sido descartado por Filadelfia y Texas, y casi da a parar en Japón, antes de que los Atléticos lo tomaran en mayo de 1986. Imaginen lo diferente que pudo haber sido esa década para los Filis con Stewart en el equipo.

CENTRAL DE LA LIGA NACIONAL

* Cerveceros: Jeffrey Hammonds, tres años, US$22.2 millones, 2000.

El pacto llegó después de que Hammonds dejara OPS de .924 con Colorado, y quedó comprobado que los equipos todavía no conocían del todo el efecto del Coors Field.

* Cardenales: Tino Martínez, tres años, US$21 millones, 2002

Martínez fue firmado para ser el reemplazo de Mark McGwire, pero nunca pudo duplicar lo hecho en Nueva York. En la Postemporada del 2002 se fue de 25-2 y fue cambiado eventualmente a Tampa Bay antes de culminado su contrato.

* Cachorros: Perder a Greg Maddux, 1992

Maddux había ganado su primer Cy Young el año anterior. Se fue y ganó tres más.

* Piratas: Perder a Barry Bonds, 1992

Es complicado imaginar un escenario en el que Bonds se queda en Pittsburgh. Imaginen lo diferente que sería la historia del béisbol.

* Rojos: Eric Milton, tres años, US$25.5 millones, 2005

Cincinnati estaba conociendo su nuevo estadio en el 2005. Aprendieron rápido. Los lanzadores que permiten elevados tienen problemas allí.

OESTE DE LA LIGA NACIONAL

D-backs: Russ Ortiz, cuatro años, US$33 millones, 2004

Arizona presenció sólo 28 aperturas de Ortiz, quien terminó con récord de 5-16 y efectividad de 7.00.

* Dodgers: Darren Dreifort, cinco años, US$55 millones, 2000

Dreifort lanzó sólo 200 entradas después de firmar ese contrato con Los Ángeles y luego se retiró.

* Gigantes: Barry Zito, siete años, US$126 millones, 2006

La efectividad de Zito en San Francisco aumentó más de una carrera en comparación a la que tuvo en Oakland, aunque jugó en un par de equipos de Serie Mundial. No estuvo a la altura del contrato, pero los aficionados le quieren, así que el pacto no fue del todo malo.

* Padres: Oscar Gamble, seis años, US$2.8 millones, 1978

El cabello de Gamble fue legendario, pero terminó jugando un solo año con San Diego; el peor de su carrera.

* Rockies: Mike Hampton, ocho años, US$121 millones, 2001.

Hampton dijo abiertamente que firmó con Colorado por su sistema escolar, pero a los dos años ya estaba en Atlanta.

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Morning, Birdland!

Baseball’s winter meetings just recently concluded, and it feels like the Orioles may nearly be done the majority of their offseason movement already. They added three players this week and now have a full 40-man roster. Brandon Hyde will be introduced as the manager on Monday. And the only rumor swirling is that they may be interested in adding a veteran outfielder, which would be more of a wish list item than it would be a necessary addition.

This is not a surprising development. Mike Elias and his crew have made it known that the Orioles are gonna stink in 2019, and likely a few years after that as well. This off-season isn’t about fighting the big boys for high-end free agents. It’s about building the foundation for a winning club. For now, that means finding the right front office people and putting in place processes that continually produce winning baseball teams.

Are Richie Martin, Drew Jackson or Rio Ruiz capable of putting up numbers at the major league level? Their past employers weren’t so sure. The Orioles might not be convinced either, but it was worth a shot to find out.

At the very least Elias has implemented a plan and is on his way to fully realizing that plan. Here’s hoping it pays off…eventually.

Links

Should the Orioles still pursue a veteran shortstop via trade or free agency? – The Athletic
At this point it feels unnecessary to add another shortstop to the mix. The goal with Martin and Jackson was likely two-fold: find a big league starter at shortstop, bulk up the middle infield options in the upper minors going forward. It’s possible that neither one of them is the answer long term. However, if they can survive the season that then gives the Orioles two young, controllable infielders in Norfolk that can easily step in and do a nice job if needed. That is an option they do not currently have. It makes little sense to complicate the issue with an expensive vet.

Leftovers from the Winter Meetings – MASN Sports
After an extended delay due to, ya know, the lack of a front office, the Orioles are fully operational. They are wheeling and dealing.

Orioles Hire Brandon Hyde As Manager – MLB Trade Rumors
It’s official. Just like the Elias hiring, the addition of Hyde was leaked days before the contract was actually signed, but the Orioles got their man. Now, it will be interesting to see how Hyde fills out his staff this late in the offseason

5 things we learned from the Orioles’ week at baseball’s winter meetings – Baltimore Sun
It is extremely weird how almost all of the talk regarding the Orioles at the winter meetings this week was positive. Everyone loves Elias and Sig Mejdal. There were plaudits for the proposed hiring of Hyde. And we even picked the consensus top Rule 5 guy with the number one pick. There is no way this lasts, right?

Orioles birthdays and history

Is it your birthday? Happy Birthday!

Also celebrating is 37-year-old Luis Montanez. You remember Montanez, don’t you? He won the Eastern League Triple Crown during the 2008 season with Double-A Bowie despite missing a month’s worth of games following his big league promotion. His career with the Orioles was less noteworthy. He played 93 total games with the Birds between ‘08 and ‘10 and hit .223/.257/.323 with four home runs.

Rick Helling turns 48 today. The right-handed pitcher was a member of the O’s 2003 staff. That season he compiled a 5.71 ERA across 24 starts and 138.2 innings.

1962 – The Orioles acquire pitchers Stu Miller and Mike McCormick and catcher Johnny Orsino from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for pitchers Jack Fisher and Billy Hoeft and catcher Jim Coker.

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Good morning, Camden Chatters.

Happy All Saints’ Day. Hope you enjoyed your Halloween, for those who celebrated. We took our 2-year-old daughter out trick-or-treating in her dinosaur costume, complete with custom-made velociraptor cage (a.k.a., a wagon decorated with Jurassic Park decals and strung-up lights as an “electric fence”). I look forward to eating all the candy she collected.

Meanwhile, in baseball, the World Series is over, the calendar has flipped to November, and it’s time for clubs to start jettisoning some of the flotsam and jetsam from the roster. The Orioles have more than most. In the last two days, they’ve excised five players from their 40-man, the most recent being outfielder Mason Williams, who declined an outright assignment to the minors yesterday and elected to become a free agent.

The fact that Williams was one of the best hitters at Triple-A Norfolk (batting .308/.371/.477 with 18 homers and 67 RBIs), yet still didn’t get called up until September for a club that was noticeably lacking a center fielder all year, tells you all you need to know about the front office’s opinion of his talents. The 28-year-old journeyman will now try to latch on with a new organization, which would be the fourth of his career. His brief Orioles stint will soon be forgotten.

He’s not the only player for whom that will be true. Looking at the current Birds 40-man roster, I count at least a half-dozen more players who could easily be sent packing without batting an eyelash. (Tell me, what’s your favorite memory of the Eric Hanhold era?) Expect to say your goodbyes to several other unremarkable Orioles throughout the winter.

Links
Nationals’ strange World Series win might be painful for Orioles fans – BaltimoreBaseball.com
I would agree that this wasn’t exactly the optimal outcome for O’s fans, though I’m not upset to see the Astros lose. And better the Nats than the Yankees or Red Sox.

Is There Hope For Orioles RHP Alex Cobb? – PressBoxOnline.com
I legit forgot about Alex Cobb’s existence until just now. Matt Kremnitzer didn’t, and he examines whether the veteran righty can provide anything useful to the O’s in the final two years of his contract.

Gerardo Parra’s ‘Baby Shark’ ditty conjures memories of Orioles’ sour note with poor Nick Markakis’ decision – The Athletic
The headline has about eight too many words, but the gist of this story is that the O’s screwed up letting Nick Markakis leave town five years ago. I don’t know if the loss of Markakis was the mistake so much as the Orioles’ complete inability to find a competent right fielder afterwards.

Last game marks beginning of free agency – School of Roch
If you had your heart set on Mark Trumbo returning to the Orioles, friend, then Roch Kubatko has some bad news for you.

Orioles birthdays and history
Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! You have three O’s birthday buddies: 2012 infielder Steve Tolleson (36), 1993 rotation filler and former Dodgers phenom Fernando Valenzuela (59), and the late Jim Pyburn (b. 1932, d. 2011), a utility man for the 1955-57 Orioles.

On this day in 1960, O’s shortstop Ron Hansen won the AL Rookie of the Year vote after posting a .781 OPS and contributing 22 homers and 86 RBIs in 153 games. Hansen received 22 of the 24 first-place votes, and the two he didn’t get went to two other Orioles: Chuck Estrada (18-11, 3.58 ERA) and Jim Gentile (21 HRs, 98 RBIs, .903 OPS). It was a good year for O’s rookies, folks.

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Hunter Harvey burst onto the major league scene last August and showed that he can be a shutdown reliever. Up until last year, the Orioles and Harvey had been clinging to the notion of him being a starter. But injuries and endurance concerns pushed that issue.

The hard-throwing right-hander made 11 starts at Double-A Bowie in 2019 and three relief appearances, putting up a 5.19 ERA. Then he was promoted to Triple-A Norfolk, where he was strictly a reliever, and he put up a 4.32 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 11.9 SO/9 and 4.40 SO/W.

And well all know the rest of the story — he had a stellar run in Baltimore the final few months of the season to end the year. In seven relief appearances with the big league club, Harvey had a 1.42 ERA and an eye-popping 15.6 SO/9.

Most of you probably already know that Hunter’s dad, Bryan, had a very successful nine-year MLB career as a reliever for the California Angels and Florida Marlins. In 322 games he had 177 saves, a 2.49 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 10.4 SO/9. So in a way, being a closer is in Hunter’s blood. A converted starter breaking into the majors, who was raised by an All-Star closer — it just seems destined to be. A passing of the torch from father to son, if you will.

But does a rebuilding club like the Orioles really need a closer and are they willing to pass that torch to Harvey so soon? For much of last year, Brandon Hyde did not want to define roles, as he preferred to mix and match in the ninth inning in lieu of naming a single guy as the closer.

Of the eight players who earned at least one save last year, Mychal Givens led the field. In 19 save opportunities, he was successful 11 times. But it’s important to note that in save situations, Givens had a 5.90 ERA and in non-save situations that number went down to 3.44. Although Givens set a career high last year with 12.3 SO/9, he also allowed averaged 1.9 HR/9, which was the highest of his career.

Harvey has the age advantage over Givens, and it’s not even a sure thing Givens will be around much longer. His name has come up in trade rumors for some time now. So if it comes down to the older, more expensive Givens and the younger, cheaper Harvey, the club will probably choose the latter.

With Harvey, there are going to be injury concerns because of his history. The Orioles were careful not to overwork him late last summer when he was promoted to the majors, and that will be a consideration moving forwards. So he would need to stay healthy and show endurance in order to nail down a consistent closer job.

As much as folks want to say the ninth inning is just another inning, it’s not. Not every pitcher can handle the pressures of closing out a game. It’s just different.

From the brief glimpse we got of Harvey on the mound the last two months of the season, it looks like he’s got the intangibles. He looks unflappable on the rubber, as though nothing really gets to him. He’s also calm and cool off of it, answering reporters’ questions in his easy-going Southern drawl, and with his unique style choices — the goatee along with a hairstyle that’s business in the front and party in the back.

He’s already gained somewhat of a cult following around town, with fans in the stands at Oriole Park late last year spotted with Harvey jerseys, mullet wigs and mustaches. Baltimore baseball fans need a larger than life figure like him to cheer for in these dark days of the rebuild until the team is competitive again. Harvey certainly seems to fit the bill, so far at least.

I’m not sure the analytics would support this, but I’m of the notion that defined roles in the bullpen lead to success. Baseball players are creatures of habit, and if they know when they are normally going to pitch, they can prepare accordingly. Let one guy take the closer job and run with it and see how things go from there. Right now, Harvey has to be a prime candidate for that job.

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There have been 302 no-hitters throughout Major League Baseball’s history, and nearly all of them have been performed by a single pitcher. The others? Fourteen combined efforts where the starter didn’t go the distance and the bullpen completed the feat.

Below is a look at each combined no-hitter, beginning with the most recent.

Astros 9, Mariners 0 — Aug. 3, 2019
Aaron Sanchez (6 IP), Will Harris (1), Joe Biagini (1), Chris Devenski (1)
What a debut. Sanchez was making his first Astros start, after Houston acquired him from the Blue Jays at the Trade Deadline just three days earlier. He became the first pitcher in franchise history to throw six or more no-hit innings in his first game as an Astro. And Sanchez wasn’t even the only new guy to take the mound — Biagini, who pitched the eighth, came over from Toronto in the same trade. The Astros’ no-no made the 2019 season just the second ever with multiple combined no-hitters, along with 1991.

Astros toss combined no-hitter
Astros toss combined no-hitter
01:25
Aug. 3rd, 2019
Angels 13, Mariners 0 — July 12, 2019
Taylor Cole (2 IP), Felix Pena (7)
In an incredibly emotional game, the first at home after the tragic passing of Tyler Skaggs, the Angels jumped out to a big lead behind Mike Trout’s homer, two doubles and six RBIs. But as the evening went on, it became clear that another special development was unfolding: a combined no-hitter.

Taylor Cole was the opener against Seattle, and tossed two perfect innings with a pair of strikeouts. He gave way to Felix Peña, who came in and was dominant for the remaining seven frames, walking one and striking out six. He finished off the combined no-no by getting Mallex Smith to ground out to second.

Following the final out, an emotional Angels squad gathered together and each player took the jersey off his back — each with the name “Skaggs” and the No. 45 — and placed it on the mound, along with a painting of Skaggs in front of the famed cornfields from “Field of Dreams.”

Pena finishes off combined no-no
Pena finishes off combined no-no
00:53
Jul. 13th, 2019
Dodgers 4, Padres 0 — May 4, 2018
Walker Buehler (6 IP), Tony Cingrani (1), Yimi Garcia (1), Adam Liberatore (1)
Buehler was electric in his third Major League start, hurling six no-hit innings with three walks and eight strikeouts. But with his pitch count up to 93 and the Dodgers playing it safe with their top prospect, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts turned the game over to his bullpen for the final three frames. Cingrani, Garcia and Liberatore finished the job, completing the only combined no-hitter in Dodgers history and the club’s 23rd overall. And this one happened in Mexico.

Must C: Dodgers’ combined no-no
Must C: Dodgers’ combined no-no
02:29
May 4th, 2018
Phillies 7, Braves 0 — Sept. 1, 2014
Cole Hamels (6), Jake Diekman (1), Ken Giles (1), Jonathan Papelbon (1)
Hamels was dominant for six frames, holding the Braves without a hit and striking out seven batters. But five free passes brought his pitch count to 108, prompting the call to the bullpen. Philadelphia’s relief trio of Diekman, Giles and Papelbon combined for three perfect innings to finish off the no-no at Turner Field. Hamels would complete a no-hitter of his own the following season against the Cubs on July 25.

Mariners 1, Dodgers 0 — June 8, 2012
Kevin Millwood (6), Charlie Furbush (2/3), Stephen Pryor (1/3), Lucas Luetge (1/3), Brandon League (2/3), Tom Wilhelmsen (1)
Seattle tied the 2003 Astros’ record for most pitchers used in a no-hitter when Millwood and five relievers combined to complete the feat against the Dodgers. A mild groin strain knocked Millwood out of this one after six innings. He walked one batter and struck out six before exiting after 68 pitches. It’s one of six Interleague no-hitters and the first Mariners no-hitter at Safeco Field.

Seattle’s combined no-hitter
Seattle’s combined no-hitter
05:49
Jun. 8th, 2012
Astros 8, Yankees 0 — June 11, 2003
Roy Oswalt (1), Peter Munro (2 2/3), Kirk Saarloos (1 1/3), Brad Lidge (2), Octavio Dotel (1), Billy Wagner (1)
The Astros set the MLB record for most pitchers used in a no-hitter, which was later tied by the Mariners in 2012. Oswalt’s early exit due to an injury left Houston’s bullpen to complete this no-hit effort. Lidge was named the winning pitcher after two perfect innings.

Pirates 3, Astros 0 — July 12, 1997
Francisco Cordova (9 IP), Ricardo Rincon (1 IP)
Cordova was brilliant in blanking Houston for nine innings at Three Rivers Stadium, compiling 10 strikeouts to two walks over 121 pitches. He remains the only pitcher in MLB history to open a combined no-hitter by pitching nine full innings. The Bucs got a walk-off, three-run homer from Mark Smith in the bottom of the 10th to end it, after Rincon worked around a one-out walk to retire the side in the top half of the frame.

Braves 1, Padres 0 — Sept. 11, 1991
Kent Mercker (6 IP), Mark Wohlers (2 IP), Alejandro Pena (1 IP)
Mercker, who is the last Braves pitcher to throw a no-hitter (April 8, 1994 at Dodgers), started and held the Padres hitless through six innings on 82 pitches at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, walking two and striking out six. Wohlers and Pena took it from there, closing things out for the second Braves no-hitter since the club moved to Atlanta in 1966.

Braves’ combined no-hitter
Braves’ combined no-hitter
01:25
Sep. 11th, 1991
Orioles 2, A’s 0 — July 13, 1991
Bob Milacki (6 IP), Mike Flanagan (1 IP), Mark Williamson (1 IP), Gregg Olson (1 IP)
Milacki was cruising until a line drive off Willie Wilson’s bat hit him in the hand and then the leg, though the ball fortuitously bounced over toward first base to keep history intact. That ended his day, but Flanagan, Williamson and Olson towed the line to record the second four-pitcher no-no.

“I think it was kind of strange for them,” said then-A’s manager Tony La Russa. “Everybody congratulated different people. Nobody knew who to shake hands with. But it all counts.”

Orioles combine for no-hitter
Orioles combine for no-hitter
01:25
Jul. 13th, 1991
Angels 1, Mariners 0 — April 11, 1990
Mark Langston (7 IP), Mike Witt (2 IP)
What a debut this was for Langston. Fresh off signing a five-year, $16 million contract with the Angels, Langston tormented his former team with seven no-hit frames in his team debut before handing off to Witt, who was making his first relief appearance in seven years. Witt was responsible for the Angels’ previous no-hitter — his perfect game against the Rangers on Sept. 30, 1984.

Angels combine for no-hitter
Angels combine for no-hitter
01:23
Apr. 11th, 1990
White Sox 2, A’s 1 — July 28, 1976
Blue Moon Odom (5 IP), Francisco Barrios (4 IP)
It was a wild night in Oakland, with Odom walking eight batters through five innings, then getting pulled for Barrios after issuing his ninth free pass to begin the sixth. Barrios walked two more, as the White Sox set a record with 11 in a no-hitter. Only 3,367 fans were on hand to see this history made.

A’s 5, Angels 0 — Sept. 28, 1975
Vida Blue (5 IP), Glenn Abbott (1 IP), Paul Lindblad (1 IP), Rollie Fingers (2 IP)
While the A’s ultimately fell short in seeking their fourth straight World Series title in 1975, they still capped off their fifth straight division-title season in style. It was the last game of the season, and Oakland let its ace Blue pitch just five innings before handing it off to its bullpen, which didn’t allow a baserunner the rest of the way. This marked Blue’s second no-hitter after he twirled one by himself on Sept. 21, 1970.

Orioles 1, Tigers 2 — April 30, 1967
Steve Barber (8.2 IP), Stu Miller (0.1 IP)
Baltimore didn’t allow a hit, but it also didn’t get the win. Barber issued back-to-back walks to begin the ninth, and the runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt. Barber then tossed a wild pitch that allowed Detroit to tie the game at 1, and then followed with his 10th walk of the day.

Miller came in to spell Barber and got Don Wert to line out to shortstop Luis Aparicio, but the normally sure-handed Mark Belanger dropped Aparicio’s relay throw for a potential double-play forceout, allowing the Tigers to score the go-ahead run. Al Kaline grounded out to end the inning, but the Orioles went down in order in the bottom of the ninth to seal a rare no-hitter loss.

Red Sox 4, Senators 0 — June 23, 1917
Babe Ruth (0 IP), Ernie Shore (9 IP)
It’s probably the most famous opening to any no-hitter. Ruth, in his fourth season as an ace pitcher for Boston, got himself ejected for arguing balls and strikes after walking leadoff man Ray Morgan. Morgan was caught stealing after Shore’s very first pitch, and the righty retired the next 26 batters he faced for a most improbable no-hitter.

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This post is part of a series concerning the 2020 Modern Baseball Era Committee ballot, covering executives and long-retired players whose candidacies will be voted upon at the Winter Meetings in San Diego on December 8. For an introduction to JAWS, see here. Several profiles in this series are adapted from work previously published at SI.com, Baseball Prospectus, and Futility Infielder. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

2020 Modern Baseball Candidate: Dwight Evans
Player Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Dwight Evans 67.1 37.3 52.2
Avg. HOF RF 71.5 42.1 56.8
H HR AVG/OBP/SLG OPS+
2,446 385 .272/.370/.470 127
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference
An underappreciated cornerstone of Boston’s 1970s and 80s contenders, Dwight Evans reached the majors two years ahead of outfield mates Fred Lynn and Jim Rice, both of whom would win MVP awards and spend far more time in the limelight. Durable and defensively adept — traits that pair could rarely combine — Evans outlasted both, spending the first 19 of his 20 seasons (1972-91) with the Red Sox while helping the team to four division titles and two pennants. Though merely an above-average hitter in the first half of his career, “Dewey” developed into a dependable slugger with a keen batting eye, totaling 11 seasons with at least 20 homers and six seasons with at least 90 walks, three of which led the league. An outstanding defender as well, he combined excellent range with a cannon-like arm while playing Fenway Park’s difficult, oddly configured right field.

While Evans won eight Gold Gloves, further recognition was harder to come by. He made just three All-Star teams and never got a first-place vote for MVP, let alone win one (he did have third- and fourth-place finishes). Bill James rated him as the game’s top right fielder in his 1982 and ’83 Baseball Abstracts, but had advanced statistics been more pervasive, Evans’ high on-base percentages and defensive value would have generated greater appreciation. Eight times he was worth at least 4.0 WAR, and at his best in 1981-82, he was one of the game’s five most valuable players. Yet when he became eligible for election to the Hall of Fame, he lasted just three years on the BBWAA ballot, topping 10% only in 1998, his second year of eligibility. Bypassed for both the 2014 Expansion Era Committee ballot and the ’18 Modern Baseball Era Committee ballot, he’s finally getting another chance in front of the voters.

Though born in 1951 in Santa Monica, California, Evans spent his early years living in Hawaii, and he didn’t play baseball until his family returned stateside, to the Los Angeles suburb of Northridge, when he was nine. While he starred in Little League, he didn’t make his high school’s junior varsity team, but he persisted and not only made the varsity in his junior year but the San Fernando Valley League’s All-Valley team as well; he won league MVP honors as a senior. On the recommendation of Red Sox scout Joe Stephenson, he was chosen in the fifth round of the 1969 amateur draft.

Evans made solid progress up the Red Sox chain, most notably winning International League MVP honors for a .300/.409/.482 performance with 17 homers and 95 RBI as a 20-year-old in 1972. He joined the big club that September, playing mainly left field while Carl Yastrzemski shifted to first base. His lone appearance in right field came in his debut on September 16, when he pinch-ran for Reggie Smith and took his first plate appearance while batting out of turn; in what was at that point a 9-0 rout over the Indians, Red Sox manager Eddie Kasco had replaced the lineup’s top five batters within the span of half an inning, hence some confusion. Evans started the Red Sox’s last 16 games and hit for a 117 OPS+, but the team’s 85-70 record fell half a game short of the Tigers’ 86-70 in an AL East race marred by a failure to reschedule games wiped out by the players’ strike in April, which left teams with unequal numbers of games.

The Red Sox opened up right field for Evans by keeping Yastrzemski at first base, shifting Smith to center field (where he’d started from 1967-71) and Tommy Harper from center to left field. He struggled as a rookie (.223/.320/.383, 10 HR, 0.9 WAR) but improved significantly in 1974 (.281/.335/.421), emerging as a standout defender; Total Zone estimates his defensive work at 23 runs above average, pushing his total contribution to 4.5 WAR. Rice, the team’s first-round pick in 1971, and Lynn, their second-round pick in ’73, both arrived in late ’74 and took over full-time jobs the following spring. The trio, all 22 or 23 years old, combined for 15.5 WAR while helping the Red Sox to 95 wins and their first AL East title. Lynn, the AL Rookie of the Year and MVP, led the team with 7.4 WAR; Evans, who hit .274/.353/.456 with 10 homers, a 120 OPS+, and +24 defense, was second with 5.1 despite being limited to 128 games.

Despite losing Rice to a broken left hand in late September, the Red Sox bumped off the three-time defending champion A’s in the ALCS but lost a classic seven-game World Series to the Reds. Evans hit .292/.393/.542, highlighted by a game-tying two-run homer off Rawly Eastwick in the top of the ninth inning of Game 3 (though the Sox lost in 10) and a game-tying two-run triple off Fred Norman in Game 4, keying a five-run rally in Boston’s win. His most memorable moment was his spectacular running, leaping catch to rob Joe Morgan of a potential two-run home run in the 11th inning of Game 6, after which he threw (wildly, but chased down) to double Ken Griffey off first base. Carlton Fisk’s famous home run off the left field foul pole won it for the Red Sox in the 12th.

Evans led off the eighth inning of Game 7, which was tied 3-3, with a walk but was erased when Rick Burleson grounded into a double play. He would be the last baserunner of Boston’s season; Morgan’s RBI single broke the tie in the top of the ninth, and the Red Sox went down in order.

From 1976-80, Evans hit a combined .260/.347/.462 for a 116 OPS+, averaging 19 homers and 3.1 WAR. He won his first Gold Glove in 1976 while leading AL right fielders with 15 assists for the second straight season, but he dipped to a 109 OPS+, his lowest mark since ’73. Though he hit for a 128 OPS+ in 1977, a torn MCL in his right knee limited him to 73 games and required season-ending surgery.

In 1978, he hit a career-high 24 home runs and made his first All-Star team on the strength of a strong first half (.286/.386/.523, 16 HR), but a prolonged second-half slump (.203/.275/.364, 8 HR), exacerbated by an August 28 beaning by the Mariners’ Mike Parrott, depressed his final numbers and played a part in the Red Sox blowing a 14-game lead over the Yankees. One week after the beaning, which concussed him, Evans made two errors on fly balls in a loss to the Orioles. As The Athetic’s Peter Gammons recalled, “After the game, I asked him if he was still having headache or vision issues from the beanings. ‘I don’t know why you’re going there,’ he responded, clearly annoyed by my question. He denied. That’s just the way it was back then.”

In mid-1980, after a wretched first half (.194/.278/.335) that found him confined to platoon duty, the 28-year-old Evans — who since the beaning had been prone to stepping in the bucket and by his own account had “about 300” batting stances — shored up his swing with the help of Red Sox hitting coach Walt Hriniak, who taught him to keep his weight back and think about driving the ball up the middle instead of trying to pull it. This was the turning point of his career. “You’ll remember this day the rest of your life,” said Yastrzemski, who had observed the proceedings with Gammons despite the 101-degree heat.

Evans hit .316/.413/.588 with 13 homers the rest of the way and his career took off. During the strike-shortened 1981 season, he share the AL lead with 22 homers; his 85 walks and 6.7 WAR both led the circuit, while his .415 on-base percentage and 163 OPS+ both ranked second, his .522 slugging percentage third — a performance that garnered him a third-place finish in the AL MVP voting behind Rollie Fingers and Rickey Henderson. He followed that up with another exceptional season in which his .402 on-base percentage led the league, his 112 walks ranked second, his 149 OPS+ third, his 6.4 WAR and 32 homers both fifth, and his .534 slugging percentage sixth.

Evans’ 13.1 WAR from 1981-82 trailed only Robin Yount (15.4), Andre Dawson (15.3), Mike Schmidt (15.1) and Henderson (13.4). Somehow though, he missed the All-Star team in the latter year and wouldn’t make one again until 1987 despite hitting a combined .266/.372/.477 (128 OPS+) while averaging 27 homers and 3.8 WAR and winning Gold Gloves annually from 1981-85. Though his 1983 season was something of a dud (106 OPS+, 1.2 WAR) due to a groin strain and a prolonged slump, he rebounded strongly in 1984; his 147 OPS+ ranked fourth in the league, the first of two times in this stretch that he would crack the top five.

In 1986, a typically strong season (26 homers, 131 OPS+, 4.4 WAR), Evans helped the Red Sox reach the World Series for the first time since ’75. He went just 6-for-28 in the ALCS against the Angels, with a home run after the Red Sox had already taken a 7-0 lead in Game 7, but was much better in the World Series against the Mets (.308/.400/.615 with a series-high nine RBI). He homered off Dwight Gooden in the team’s Game 2 victory and hit an RBI single off him in Game 5 as well. He had two RBI in a losing cause in Game 6 (the Bill Buckner game), and three in Game 7, via a second-inning solo homer off Ron Darling for the game’s first run, and then a two-run double off Roger McDowell in the eighth inning that trimmed the lead to 6-5 — the last runs the Sox would score, alas, as they went down in defeat.

Though Evans’ defense in 1986 was estimated to be eight runs above average, the reality is that his work in the outfield was in decline (-8 runs from 1983-86). With the arrivals of Mike Greenwell (who actually debuted in ’85) and Todd Benzinger, he spent most of the second half of ’87 playing first base, that after making just his third All-Star team. Indeed, he set across-the-board career bests with a .305/.417/.569 line, 34 homers, and 123 RBI, en route to a solid 4.8 WAR, his best showing since 1983. The first base experiment continued into mid-1988, but Evans never took to the position; Total Zone says he was a whopping 15 runs below average in just 143 games there across the two seasons, compared to -3 in 161 games in right field.

His bat remained potent; Evans managed a 136 OPS+ in both 1988 and ’89 with a combined 41 homers, 211 RBI, and 7.0 WAR; the Sox won the AL East in the former season but bowed to the A’s in the ALCS. Back problems limited him to DH duty in 1990, his age-38 campaign, and while he was part of one more AL East champion squad, his performance deteriorated. He parted ways with the Red Sox following the year and was quickly picked up by the Orioles, with whom he spent one more year plus a spring; he retired upon being released in March 1992.

***

When Evans retired in 1991, he ranked 29th all-time in home runs, one notch ahead of Rice, whose career ended two years earlier. Similarly, he ranked 38th in hits, one notch below Rice (2,452). To be fair, the latter had 1,511 fewer plate appearances, but the larger point is that those career totals stood out at least somewhat, and that was still the case when Evans hit the 1997 ballot alongside Dave Parker, who had more hits (2,712) but fewer homers (339) than Evans but had won two batting titles, two World Series, and an MVP award. On a ballot dominated by holdovers, fifth-year candidate Phil Niekro was elected and fourth-year candidate Don Sutton came close; Parker got just 17.5%, and Evans barely made the cutoff with just 5.9%. He improved to 10.4% the following year but fell off after getting just 3.6% in 1999.

This is not that surprising in retrospect given how unheralded Evans was. His 70 on the Hall of Fame Monitor — which measures how likely (but not how deserving) a player is to be elected by awarding points for various honors, league leads, postseason performance, and other things that tend to catch voters’ eyes — is well below “a good possibility.” Even his big offensive seasons in terms of triple-crown numbers tended to go unrewarded in the All-Star process, and his six top-10 finishes in on-base percentage were obscured by his hitting .300 or better just once.

Evans was a late bloomer offensively, hitting a modest .262/.344/.448 (114 OPS+) through 1980, his age-28 season, but .278/.385/.484 (135 OPS+) thereafter, decline phase and all. Over that latter stretch, only eight players had a higher OPS+ in at least 4,000 PA, while numerous Hall of Famers — Dave Winfield, Tim Raines, Yount, Tony Gwynn (!), Dawson, Paul Molitor, Harold Baines (cough), Kirby Puckett, and Rice — were lower. Even taking full careers into account, Evans’ 127 OPS+ is one point below Rice, equal to Henderson, and ahead of Puckett (124), Raines (123), Molitor (122), Baines (121), Dawson (117), Fisk (117), Gary Carter (115), Ryne Sandberg (114), Alan Trammell (110), and Ozzie Smith (87), the enshrined contemporaries with whom his career overlapped significantly.

Yes, some of those players played more difficult positions, but that’s the point of turning to advanced stats. Even with his defensive decline, Evans finished was 66 runs above average according to Total Zone, a total that ranks 17th among players who spent the majority of their careers in right field. His 67.1 career WAR is tied with Dawson for 25th among players in the 1961-92 period, between the first wave of expansion and the rapidly changing landscape of the mid-90s; he’s fourth among non-Hall of Famers from that stretch behind the banned-for-life Pete Rose (79.7), Bobby Grich (71.1), and Graig Nettles (68.0), and 0.1 ahead of Lou Whitaker. Oh, and he’s a country mile ahead of Rice (47.7), who was elected in 2009, his final year of eligibility.

Among right fielders, Evans ranks 14th in career WAR, 4.4 wins below the standard and 2.1 below Gwynn but still ahead of 15 of the 26 Hall of Famers, including BBWAA honorees Winfield (64.2) and Vladimir Guerrero (59.4) as well as current BBWAA candidates Gary Sheffield (60.5), Bobby Abreu (60.0) and Sammy Sosa (58.6), and fellow Modern Baseball candidate Parker (40.1). That’s pretty impressive, much more so than his number 29 ranking in peak, 4.8 WAR below the standard, behind all of the players in that last sentence, and ahead of just 11 Hall of Famers. For all of his prowess on both sides of the ball, he had just two seasons among the AL’s top 10 in WAR and four above 5.0 WAR, mainly because by the time he became outstanding hitter, his defense had regressed; from 1972-80, he was 67 runs above average with the bat and 90 above average with the glove, while from ’81 onward, he was 286 above average offensively but 24 below average defensively.

One thing worth considering given the contours of Evans’ career was that he played a good portion of it while quietly dealing with trying, even heartbreaking conditions off the field. His oldest son Tim, born in 1973, was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis (“Elephant Man’s Disease”), a genetic disorder often characterized by benign but painful tumors on or under the skin, at age 2. From 1975-78, he endured 10 surgeries, a number that grew to 16 by the time he turned 16; the disease cost him the sight in his left eye, and he sustained significant emotional damage from being teased by other children. Evans’ youngest child, Justin, who was born in 1976, was diagnosed with the disease in ’82, via a tumor at the base of his brain that required radiation treatment, and by age 10 had developed another one around his spine, which was removed via a 12-hour surgery in 1989. Their problems, which Evans kept from public view until the mid-1980s, took their toll from a relatively early point in his career, as he shuttled from hospital to ballpark.

“We talked some about his kids,” Yastrzemski told Sports Illustrated in 1985, “but there was nothing you could do. He used to tell me that he knew that to play this game you had to be 100% mentally at the ball park. But how do you do that when your kid is in the hospital?”

Overall, Evans is 15th in JAWS, 4.6 points below the standard but ahead of 14 of 26 Hall of Famers, again including Winfield and Guerrero. Without a significant amount of “what if?” — what if he wasn’t burdened by his children’s health problems, didn’t battle concussion woes, played on a World Series winner, or simply had his best offensive and defensive years align — I’m not thoroughly convinced he’s a Hall of Famer, but then again, I’m not convinced he isn’t. I do know that on a Modern Baseball ballot where two of my four slots would go to Whitaker and Ted Simmons, and where I’m in favor of Thurman Munson as well, I’m running out of room. The question still remains as to how to handle the candidacy of Marvin Miller, the lone candidate remaining in my series and one who damn well should be in the Hall… except that his family is dead-set against his being honored posthumously. That’s a topic for another day. For now, I’d call Evans a possible yes, with hope that he remains in circulation.

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Thad Ward didn’t make our Red Sox Top Prospect List prior to this season. Baseball America wasn’t bullish on the 22-year-old right-hander, either. Their rankings went 30-deep, and Ward didn’t make the cut.

Next year will be a different story. Ward was a revelation in his first full professional season, fanning 157 batters, and allowing just 89 hits, in 126-and-a-third innings. Those numbers came between low-A Greenville and high-A Salem, where his cumulative ERA was a sparkling 2.14.

His slider is his best pitch.

“It’s a Chris Sale slider,” is how Red Sox pitching guru Brian Bannister described it to me in late September. “It’s a sweeping slider, with a similar shape to Jhoulys Chacin’s or Corey Kluber’s. It has that extra horizontal component to it.”

That’s long been the case, although Ward’s understanding of the how-and-why is recent. When he reported to spring training this year, the 2018 fifth-round pick out of the University of Central Florida got a crash course in Pitching Analytics 101.

“I already knew that the slider was my pitch,” explained Ward, who copped Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors this year. “Everybody has a pitch where they can just pick up a ball, throw it, and it comes natural. That’s a slider for me, but until this spring I didn’t know much about spin efficiency and spin rate. Working with the cameras, the TrackMan, and getting the feedback, I learned what those things have to do with the development of a pitch.”

One thing he learned is that while other pitches in his arsenal needed further development, his go-to offering was already pristine.

“With a slider, the desired spin efficiency is zero,” Ward told me. “You want your slider to be spinning as perfectly sideways as possible, and I learned that I already had zero spin efficiency. In essence, I was already throwing a ‘perfect slider.’”

The above quotation marks on ‘perfect slider’ are via the righty’s request. Wary that people might misinterpret his comment as arrogance, Ward wanted to clarify that he was referring solely to spin efficiency. Not that a little arrogance would be out of order. It’s clearly a plus pitch, as evidenced not only by data, but also by on-field results.

Which isn’t to say that he’s emerged as a top-shelf prospect because of his slider alone. His repertoire also includes two- and four-seam fastballs, a changeup, a curveball, and a cutter. According to Bannister, the last of those six is what allowed him to turn a corner.

“In spring training this year he came up with a cutter,” said Bannister. “If you look at the guys who have good sweeping breaking balls, like Kluber — Roy Halladay had one — they had cutter-heavy mixes. I would almost consider it their foundation pitch, the one their other pitches build off of. The nice thing about the cutter is that it tunnels with the two-seamer, so by adding the cutter, Ward can now protect his fastball.”

The student echoed the educator when I asked about his newest pitch.

“The two play off each other,” Ward said. “My primary fastball is a sinker, and I’m able to tunnel my cutter off of that. The slider plays off of it as well. Having all of these pitches coming out of the same tunnel is what allowed me to get a lot of the swings-and-misses.”

In terms of grips, the Fort Myers, Florida native isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel. The quality movement he gets comes more from mechanics, and from how he releases the baseball.

“I throw Rick Porcello’s grip when it comes to the cutter,” said Ward. “Basically, it’s a two-seam going across the laces, and I offset it. That’s basically all it is. My slider is grip is traditional. Frankly, if you open a book to look for a slider, you’re going to find my grip.”

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Angel Berroa went 4 for 40 against CC Sabathia.

Oscar Gamble went 4 for 40 against Dave Stieb.

Curt Flood went 4 for 40 against Ken Holtzman.

Mark Belanger went 4 for 40 against Stan Bahnsen.

Ernie Johnson went 4 for 40 against Walter Johnson.

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Starting pitching has a big topic in this year’s World Series. (At least when the discussions revolve around what’s happening on the field.) Both the Astros and the Nationals boast rotations that are the envy of all but a few. During the regular season, Houston and Washington starters ranked in the top four in pitcher WAR, as well as innings pitched.

The Brewers ranked in the bottom half in both categories, and not just because they bullpen with the best of them. Given his druthers, David Stearns would prefer to have it another way.

“We still believe that the most valuable pitchers in baseball are your elite starters who can pitch at a very high level for 200 innings a year,” Milwaukee’s president of baseball operations told me before the start of the season. “But as an industry we’ve discovered that there are very few people on the planet who can do that. They’re really valuable — they help you win a lot of games — and our goal from a player development perspective, for pitchers, is to get those guys to the major leagues as starters. We may have one or two of those young, major-league, potentially premium-type starters, in our organization right now.”

Who might they be? According to our own Eric Longenhagen, 21-year-old Aaron Ashby and 24-year-old Zack Brown would be the most likely candidates. Ethan Small, a 22-year-old southpaw out of Mississippi State University, was Milwaukee’s first-round pick this past June.

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Sticking with the Brewers, but jumping to the other side of the ball, a number of months ago I asked Craig Counsell about hitting analytics. More specifically, how do they compare to pitching analytics, which by all accounts are more advanced?

“The big difference is that the pitcher starts with the ball,” said Milwaukee manager told me back in March. “He initiates all the action — he’s not responding on anything — and that changes a lot of the analytics. First and foremost, it changes the ability to adjust. It’s easier on the pitcher’s end. I’m not necessarily saying that pitching changes are easy to make, but at the same time, it’s not as easy as, ‘This is what a good slider looks like, now throw it.’

“That said, it is similar to hitting: You can say, ’This is what the ideal swing looks like, now reproduce it.’ In theory, you can improve the angle of your swing into the zone, and increase length through the zone. We have things to measure that with now. But they’re not producing answers, like the fastball answer — the easy answers, like the fastball-up-in-the-zone answers. Not yet. But again, hitters do have diagnostics now to help give them swings that should lead to more success. But making that transition… it’s a body issue — biomechanics, the physiology of swings — and while we’re making a lot of progress, it’s not easy to do.”

——

Quiz time: Willie Mays holds the record for most extra-inning home runs, with 22. Which pitcher holds the record for most extra-inning home runs allowed? The answer can be found below News Notes.

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NEWS NOTES

The Phillies have hired Brian Barber as their new director of amateur scouting. The former Cardinals and Royals right-hander has spent the last 18 seasons in a scouting capacity with the Yankees, most recently as a national cross-checker.

The Cincinnati Reds have hired Alan Zinter as their new hitting coach, and promoted Donnie Ecker to assistant hitting coach/director of hitting.

Nikki Huffman is stepping down as head athletic trainer for the Toronto Blue Jays. When she was hired in 2017, Huffman became the second woman to serve in that role for an MLB team. Sue Falsone was the head athletic trainer for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 and 2013.

Cincinnati Reds third baseman Eugenio Suárez has been named the winner of the 2019 Luis Aparicio Award, given annually to the top Venezuelan player in MLB.

The Pulaski Yankees are the recipients of this year’s John H. Johnson President’s Award, which is presented annually by Minor League Baseball to honor “the complete baseball franchise.” Per MiLB’s press release, the criteria for the award are based on financial stability, contributions to league stability, contributions to baseball in the community, and promotion of the baseball industry. The Pulaski Yankees are the first Appalachian League to win the award, and the sixth short-season team to be so honored.

Scott Mathieson announced his retirement earlier this week. The 35-year-old right-hander out of Vancouver appeared in 15 games for the Phillies over the parts of the 2006, 2010, and 2011 seasons. He’s spent the last eight seasons with NPB’s Yomiuri Giants.

If you missed it earlier this week, the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks won the Japan Series for the third straight year. In doing so they became the the first NPB team to three-peat since the Seibu Lions turned the trick from 1990-1992.

The Doosan Bears won the KBO championship on Saturday, completing a four-game sweep over the Kiwoom Heroes with an 11-9, 10-inning win. The Seoul-based squad had finished with the league’s best regular season record, at 88-55.

———

The answer to the quiz is Roy Face. The longtime reliever surrendered 21 extra-inning home runs, none of which were hit by Mays.

——

Aroldis Chapman was named the American League Reliever of the Year yesterday, while Josh Hader earned the honor in the National League. I’m using the term “earned” loosely — and that applies to both recipients. Are they quality relievers? Of course they are. But were they the best in their respective leagues in 2019? The numbers say they weren’t.

For my money, Liam Hendriks and Kirby Yates deserved the honors. You can peruse our reliever leaderboard if you care to parse in detail, but in short, Hendriks was statistically superior to Chapman in WAR, ERA, FIP, and strikeouts. Yates bested Hader in WAR, ERA, FIP, and saves.

Saves represent the head-scratcher. While one might assume the voting panel opted for Chapman (37 saves) over Hendriks (25) primarily for that reason, Yates (41) had more than Hader (37). So if saves weren’t viewed as the be-all-end-all, why would the pitchers with the lesser numbers in most other meaningful categories garner the most support? As for skeletons in the closet, that wouldn’t exactly be in their favor either.

Per MLB’s press release, the voting was done by a seven-person panel comprising Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, John Franco, Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera, Lee Smith, and Billy Wagner.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

There will be no Sawamura Award [the NPB equivalent to the Cy Young award) given out this year, as the selection committee didn’t deem anyone worthy — primarily due to a lack of complete games — and Jason Coskrey has the story at The Japan Times.

Korean baseball legend Sun Dong-yeol attracted the attention of multiple MLB teams in the 1980s, but political pressure —“ a phone call from the spy agency… was quite threatening” — prevented him from coming over. Kang Hyun-kyung has the story at The Korea Times.

Sports Illustrated’s Emma Baccellieri wonders if, in the wake of countless controversies, there is reason to trust MLB.

Baseball fans of a certain age will remember Morganna, “The Kissing Bandit.” Fifty years after she first ran onto the field to smooch a player, Josh Peter caught up to the busty blonde for USA Today.

Cuban-born Dolf Luque is the oldest pitcher to ever win a World Series game, and Bill Chuck wrote about it at Billy-Ball.com.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Per StatCast, there were 1,093 opposite field home runs this past season. That represented a 62 percent increase from 2018, and a 160 percent increase from 2014.

The Washington Homestead Grays won the last ever Negro League World Series, in 1948. The Grays beat the Birmingham Black Barons, whose roster included 17-year-old Willie Mays.

Over his first eight-plus big-league seasons, Willie Mays had 5,301 plate appearances, 279 home runs, and 204 stolen bases. Over his first eight-plus seasons, Mike Trout has 5,273 plate appearances, 285 home runs, and 200 stolen bases.

Orioles pitchers Jim Palmer, Wally Bunker, and Dave McNally combined to throw one shutout (McNally) during the 1966 regular season. The trio threw back-to-back-to-back shutouts against the Dodgers in that year”s World Series.

Gary Waslewski was a 26-year-old rookie who’d thrown 42 big-league innings and hadn’t started a game since July when he started Game 6 of the 1967 World Series. Waslewski got a no-decision as the Red Sox beat the Cardinals to stave off elimination.

Virgil Trucks pitched all nine innings as the Detroit Tigers beat the Chicago Cubs 4-1 in Game 2 of the 1945 World Series. It was his second time on a mound in 24 months. Trucks spent all of 1944 in the Navy, and didn’t return to the Tigers until the final days of the 1945 season. He threw five-and-a-third innings on September 30, then went the distance against the Cubs on October 4.

Billy Johnson hit three triples for the New York Yankees in the 1947 World Series. Along with Tommy Leach and Tris Speaker, Johnson holds the record for most World Series triples in total, with four.

Per B-Ref, Friday night’s 4-1 win by the Astros was the first time a World Series game lasted four-plus hours, didn’t go to extra innings, and had five or fewer total runs scored.

Last year’s World Series Game 3 between the Dodgers and Red Sox, in Los Angeles, went 18 innings and ended at 12:30 a.m. local time. Fans on the east coast —the few who were still awake — saw LA prevail 3-2, at precisely 3:30 A.M.

In his seven seasons as a Washington Senator, Frank Howard logged a 151 wRC+ and averaged 34 home runs per year. “Hondo” led the American League twice each in homers, total bases, and intentional walks over that stretch (1965-1971).