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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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A headline in the April 8, 1962, edition of the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune read, “Senators Count on Edina’s Johnson.”

The article, published the day before the 1962 major-league baseball season opener, mentioned that Bob Johnson, an infielder, was one of keys to the upcoming season for the Washington Senators.

The next day, the Senators opened the season against the Detroit Tigers in the first baseball game in the new District of Columbia Stadium (now called RFK Stadium).

Johnson, beginning his third season in the big leagues, provided the crowd of 44,383 — which included the president and vice president, Cabinet members and members of Congress — with the first highlights of the season.

Playing shortstop, Johnson singled in the second inning for the Senators’ first hit and then hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning for the first home run in the new stadium. Johnson finished the day with three hits as the Senators defeated the Tigers 4-1.

It was good start to what would be the best season of Johnson’s 11-year major-league career. In 135 games that season, he batted .288 with career-highs in hits (134), doubles (20), home runs (12) and RBI (43).

Johnson, who played in the major leagues until 1970, died on Nov. 9 at age 83.

“He had a great career,” said former University of Minnesota athletic director Tom Moe, who was a high school teammate of Johnson’s. “He was a great guy. Enthusiastic and he loved baseball. He was two years ahead of me at Edina. He was so good with young guys like me. As a high school baseball player, he was a can’t-miss.”

Moe and Johnson were teammates on Edina’s 1954 baseball team, which finished third at the state tournament. Shortly after the tournament, Johnson signed a contract with the Detroit Tigers.

Johnson spent six seasons in the Tigers’ minor-league system before getting the opportunity to play in the major leagues with the Kansas City Athletics in 1960. Johnson was selected by the Senators in the 1960 expansion draft.

After two seasons with the Senators, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. He spent four seasons with the Orioles and was a member of the 1966 Orioles team, which swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.

During his time with the Orioles, Johnson became known for his versatility — he played all four infield positions and in the outfield — and his success as a pinch-hitter.

In 1964, Johnson led the American League with 15 pinch-hits. In one stretch, he had six consecutive pinch-hits to tie an American League record. Following the 1964 season, he was named the Upper Midwest Player of the Year at the annual Twin Cities Winter Baseball Dinner.

Former Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer, a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, tweeted last week, Johnson “was there in 1965, my first year with the O’s. One of the ‘good guys.’ ”

After retiring as a player, Johnson stayed active in baseball, helping put on youth clinics for the Minnesota Twins and managing a team every winter at the Baltimore Orioles Fantasy Camp in Florida. Outside of baseball, he had a long career in sales with Spartan Promotional Group.

Johnson was born on March 4, 1936, in Omaha to Wally and Lillian Johnson. The family moved to Minneapolis in 1947.

Johnson, who had lived in St. Paul since 1964, is survived by Karen, his wife of 58 years; daughter Stephanie and sons Greg and Todd, and seven grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held on Nov. 29 at Woodbury Lutheran Church, 7380 Afton Road, at 11 a.m. A visitation will begin at 10 a.m.

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You’d be forgiven for thinking that Lewis Black has a heart as dark as his last name. Most of the prolific comedian and actor’s work, from his stand-up routines to his recurring “Back in Black” segment for “The Daily Show,” draws on his talent for angry and venomous rants. For the latter bit, which he’s performed for nearly two decades, Black sounds off on topics as varied as CBD, flat earth theories and deceptive medical insurance practices with such intensity that you might worry he’ll pop a blood vessel—that is, if his heart pumps blood. If that’s not enough, he literally portrayed Anger in the animated movie “Inside Out.”

But much of that anger comes from a place of compassion. He carries that empathy into two causes—finding a cure for cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic condition affecting the respiratory system, and autism services—for which he hosts fundraiser shows. A 60/40 split of all proceeds from his November 12 performance at The Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric opera house will go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Hunt Valley-based Pathfinders for Autism, respectively.

A message from the legend himself: Buy your tickets now! @mediastarpromo presents: An Evening with @TheLewisBlack at the @ModellLyric, to benefit @Path_For_Autism and @CFF_MD. TICKETS: https://t.co/eUNIseOc0y pic.twitter.com/kT5uMwQAzA

— Path_For_Autism (@Path_For_Autism) September 20, 2019
Black, who was born in Washington D.C. and grew up in nearby Silver Spring, said that he first got involved with autism fundraisers through Robert Smigel, the comedian behind “TV Funhouse” on “Saturday Night Live” and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, whose son has autism. Black has performed at several iterations of “Night of Too Many Stars,” Smigel’s annual televised comedy show that benefits autism education and support services. He also recently did two benefit performances with his friend and fellow comedian Kathleen Madigan.

As for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Black said that he began hosting a recurring golf tournament and fundraiser for the organization nearly a quarter century ago. This year’s tournament took place in mid-October, only a few days before he spoke to The Baltimore Sun—”hence my voice being a little raggedy,” he explained. “I host and play golf, it’s more than one man should be doing.”

“We just celebrated our 25th year [of benefit golf tournaments],” he added. “In that time, apparently, we’ve added at least [an] average one year of life to the life expectancy of someone with CF, which is pretty extraordinary.”

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The 71-year-old comic’s life frequently intersected with Baltimore. He visits his mother, age 101, in Owings Mills often. He appeared in an episode of “Homicide: Life on the Street,” the 90s police procedural inspired by former Baltimore Sun journalist David Simon’s book. And while he had to pause the interview to look up some names, he fondly remembered Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, the late Mike Flangan and other players that made the Baltimore Orioles his favorite baseball team.

He remembered the Os’ last disastrous season much less positively.

“I don’t see what they’re doing,” he said, gearing up for a characteristic rant. “I’d like to have known what the concept was. I’d like to have known, what’s his name, the guy that went to Arizona…Adam Jones, why would you let him go? You got one guy who, in the history of baseball, plays out his contract for you, and is the kind of ball player you want to teach professionalism to other ball players, why would you get rid of him? What did you get for him? It was so staggering, as opposed to the ability for what he could pass on. He was class, greatness, everything that that Orioles organization has been about, and you let him go? You know, f**k you. That’s how I feel.”

Black shared equally strong criticism for the networks and streaming services that made securing a new comedy special, whose material he’ll try out in Baltimore, difficult.

“This has been as hard [of an experience] getting a special as I’ve ever had, while people are telling me, ‘Oh boy, you’ve really done well at this!’” he said. “Netflix didn’t answer a call for a year and a half…so we checked with other things, went to Amazon, Amazon said ‘No,’ and then they went and turned to [fellow comic Jim] Gaffigan—which is fine, I get it, don’t get me wrong…But we’re getting closer.”

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Although he’s discussed President Donald Trump and country’s political chaos during his current tour (“It was the first time when people would come up and say, ‘You talk too much about him,’ or ‘You talk too little about him.’”), Black said that the Baltimore audience will see him delve into a more personal issue: aging.

“I’ve heard all my life, ‘We’ve got a really good economy now’—the only people who say that are rich people and politicians, which is kind of a tipoff that there never really has been a good economy,” he explained. “I know that we don’t have a great economy because we don’t prepare for anything. And I know this because none of us were prepared for our parents to live that long…But the government shows no interest in it. And we’re going to live longer, and nobody’s dealing with it. There’s no financial dealing with it whatsoever. We’re just ignoring it. We’re all going to be in bunks together or something, who the f**k knows?”

If you go
See if Black figures it out during “An Evening With Lewis Black,” which takes place November 12 at The Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric,140 W. Mt. Royal Ave. in Baltimore. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets, which benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Pathfinders for Autism, cost between $60 and $200. Purchase them at modell-lyric.com or call 410-900-1150 for more information.

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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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This is an excerpt of Don’t Be Afraid to Win by Jim Quinn © 2019, published by Radius Book Group. Copies can be purchased here.

The dispute over the baseball players’ rightful share of TV revenue had a long and complicated history. From the very first TV deal, a group of veteran players had successfully earmarked a sliver of the World Series television proceeds for a modest pension plan. But no consensus had ever been reached as to what rights were owned by whom or how those revenues should be divided. This became a major bone of contention when Miller came to the union in 1966, but the owners simply refused to negotiate, claiming that it was not a proper subject of collective bargaining. The issue came to a head in the wake of the bitter 1981 strike.

Before long, the MLBPA hired us to organize a lawsuit, and over the next few months, we had extensive discussions with Miller, Dick Moss, and Don Fehr as they filled us in on the unique history of television in baseball. We were all ready to go, but there seemed to be some reluctance, particularly on the part of Miller (who was about to retire), to pull the trigger.

Before filing suit, Miller wanted to send a letter to the Lords of Baseball setting forth our position. Fehr and I thought we should sue first and bargain later, but Miller thought that the labor laws required otherwise. His was not an easy mind to change; he sent the letter, and it backfired immediately. The baseball owners jumped the gun and sued the MLBPA in federal court in Chicago. It came to be known as the Baltimore Orioles case, simply because they were the first team name on the pleadings. We fired back with our own lawsuit in New York federal court on behalf of three players, all of whom were prominent members of the MLBPA leadership: Steve Rogers, a five-time All-Star pitcher for the Montreal Expos; Bob Boone, a four-time All-Star as a Phillie who then played for the California Angels; and Steve Renko, a solid starting pitcher also with the Angels.

‘Don’t Be Afraid to Win’ by Jim Quinn © 2019
‘Don’t Be Afraid to Win’ by Jim Quinn © 2019
Now we had dueling cases and a pair of less-than-ideal judges. In Chicago, we had Charles Kocoras, newly appointed and no genius. He was like a numbskull fan who instinctively sides with owners because he thinks players make too much money. In the New York case, we drew Judge Irving Ben Cooper, who had been the baseball union’s nemesis in the Flood case 10 years earlier. Cooper had particular contempt for Miller, so we chose what we thought was the lesser of two evils and picked Chicago.

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The owners hired Lou Hoynes, by then a senior partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher, to lead their team. Willkie was baseball’s traditional law firm, and Bowie Kuhn had been a Willkie partner before becoming MLB commissioner in 1969. Hoynes had argued the Flood case at the Supreme Court. Hoynes was assisted by a young partner named Bob Kheel, who was the son of Ted Kheel, a nationally known labor lawyer. My team consisted of Irwin Warren and Jeff Klein, the young lawyer who had gotten his feet wet in the NASL case. Because publicity rights under the law are a form of intellectual property, I also drafted my partner Bruce Rich, an intellectual property expert, to weigh in on those issues.

The baseball owners had two principal arguments. First, they said whatever publicity rights the players might have were trumped by copyright law, and they owned the copyrights to all baseball games, so that was that. Second, by failing to sue over the past 35 years, the players had long ago waived any rights to television revenues. Our response was that live performances could not be copyrighted and that we had always reserved our rights on television going back to 1947. It was the litigator’s version of “Play ball!”

The owners’ first big move was to test our financial resources by forcing us to do tons of depositions—the same trick the NBA had tried in the Robertson case. Also, the more players they got to interview, the more likely one would say what they wanted him to say, which is that players were well aware they were being televised and had never raised an issue about it. The truth was the players had maintained for decades—both orally and in writing—that they were not waiving their right to a fair share of television revenues.

Bob Kheel took many of the depositions. Most of the players had been heavily involved in union business as officers or team player representatives. They were among the smartest and most accomplished players in the league, and many of them went on to distinguished postplaying careers as managers, coaches, and broadcasters. In addition to our plaintiffs (Rogers, Boone, and Renko), we also included Don Baylor (manager and coach), Tommy John (of elbow surgery fame and a broadcaster), Jerry Reuss (coach and broadcaster), Mark Belanger (MLBPA executive until his untimely death in 1989), Phil Garner (manager of several clubs), Pete Rose (manager and player still not in the Hall of Fame), Tom Seaver (broadcaster and Hall of Fame player), Dave Winfield (broadcaster and Hall of Fame player), and Reggie Jackson (a.k.a. Hall of Fame player “Mr. October”).

Apart from a few memorable moments, the player depositions were uneventful. Pete Rose, despite his faults in the eyes of the Lords of Baseball, turned out to be a Hall of Fame witness, respectful of the process and staunchly supportive of the players’ right to a share of television revenue. Reggie Jackson was the opposite; he pulled a Wilt Chamberlain and gave Jeff Klein a very tough time when he went down to Miami Beach to prep him. Jackson, a world-class pain in the ass, insisted that Klein put on a bathing suit and join him in the pool at his hotel. For all that, Reggie was a lousy witness, arrogant, forgetful, and dismissive of the entire process.

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These players knew they were sticking their necks out. More than any other sport, baseball owners had a history of punishing the players who dared to speak out, Curt Flood being a prime example. Flood was essentially banished from baseball after his unsuccessful free agency battle.

(l-r) Former MLBPA executive director Donald Fehr, first executive director of the MLBPA Marvin Miller and Richard Moss on behalf of the players’ association sought to sue baseball owners over rightful share of television revenue.
(l-r) Former MLBPA executive director Donald Fehr, first executive director of the MLBPA Marvin Miller and Richard Moss on behalf of the players’ association sought to sue baseball owners over rightful share of television revenue. (Peter Morgan/ASSOCIATED PRESS)
The owners also took depositions from a bunch of agents, including superagents Jerry Kapstein and Ron Shapiro, for no particular reason other than to harass our side.

Dick Moss, the MLBPA’s former general counsel who left the union to become one of the leading baseball agents, gave a lengthy deposition. As an agent, he represented such superstars as Nolan Ryan and Fernando Valenzuela. A little rounder and a little balder than when I first met him nearly a decade earlier, Moss still had the same wisecracking intelligence that had made him an effective second-in-command in building the MLBPA. He testified effectively and at length as to the long and tortured history of television revenue negotiations and its funding of the players’ pension plan.

It was during this period that I really got to know Marvin Miller on a personal level as Klein and I spent days huddled together in his midtown Manhattan apartment preparing him for his deposition. By then, Miller was retired and less voluble, but he hadn’t lost one iota of his commitment to the cause. He had a biting sense of humor and a gift for storytelling and was able to recall conversations word for word from 15 years earlier. He did not suffer fools lightly, as he made clear when he regaled us with tales of his often fruitless dealings with baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn and his labor henchmen, John Gaherin and Ray Grebey. A true believer in both the union movement and his players, he also recognized the irony of a Brooklyn-born, one-armed Jewish atheist having achieved fame, if not fortune, as the head of what was by then considered the most powerful union in sports. If you want to know why baseball is alone among the four major leagues in never having a salary cap, the answer begins with Marvin Miller.

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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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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

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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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The 2018 Orioles went 47-115, the worst finish in team history. The 2019 Orioles finished 54-108—hardly a giant leap for mankind, but a tiny kind of triumph for a team with no stars, no hype, and no expectations around it.

In other ways, these two teams looked very different. The 2018 team featured big (biggish) names—Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Zack Britton, Brad Brach, Jonathan Schoop, Darren O’Day, Chris Tillman, Tim Beckham, and Pedro Alvarez—who underperformed and got cut or traded through the season for parts.

The 2019 roster had a collection of names that would send nobody running out to buy a jersey (apologies to the Jose Rondon, Dan Straily, or Chandler Shepherd fans out there).

Few players actually stayed with the team the full two seasons: Trey Mancini, Richard Bleier, Mychal Givens, Miguel Castro, Dylan Bundy, Mark Trumbo, Alex Cobb, and Chris Davis round out the whole list.

Front Office
2018 turned out to be the last hurrah for the combo of GM Dan Duquette, Manager Buck Showalter, Farm Director Brian Graham, and Scouting Director Gary Rajsich. None of these four are currently employed in baseball, though Buck Showalter still gets airtime as a studio talking head, and entertained a few offers this season for managerial jobs.

Not everything that went wrong with this team can be pinned on these guys. (I still treasure my Buck Showalter gnome, and I bear Buck no ill will outside of the Ubaldo-for-Britton Wild Card flop.) But there’s no denying the fact that The Replacements—Mike Elias (GM/Executive VP), Brandon Hyde (Manager), Chris Holt (Director of Pitching), and Koby Perez (Scouting Director)—are the main reason Orioles fans have any reason for optimism right now.

“We’re going to be the next Astros,” goes the hopeful refrain, and, what with the overlaps in personnel, the new-look international scouting department, the straight-out-of-NASA analytics team, and the sabermetrics regime being applied to player mechanics, this is no fish tale.

New things that can already be credited to this regime include a bunch of international signings (long shots, but also low cost), dramatic improvement in the lower tiers of the farm system, and a new analytic approach, especially as to pitching. Two Orioles minor league teams, the Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds and Double-A Bowie Baysox, made it to the playoffs this year, the Baysox leading the Eastern League in ERA. A few big-league guys, including John Means, Hunter Harvey, and Shawn Armstrong, credit some of their recent success to the new analytic regime.

Pitching
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. By far, the biggest thing the two teams had in common was disastrous pitching.

The 2018 starting rotation featured Dylan Bundy (8-16, 5.45 ERA), Andrew Cashner (4-15, 5.29), Alex Cobb (5-15, 4.90), Kevin Gausman (5-8, 4.43), David Hess (3-10, 4.88), and Yefry Ramirez (1-8, 5.92). (The biggest surprise for me: remembering that Cashner actually pitched worse than Cobb in 2018.) In 2019, the rotation, such as it was, featured Bundy (7-14, 4.79 ERA), John Means (12-11, 3.60), Cashner (9-3, 3.83), Asher Wojciechowski (4-8, 4.92), Hess (1-10, 7.09), and Aaron Brooks (4-5, 6.18).

There were no real bright spots in 2018 (to be expected when your best rotation arm has a 4.43 ERA), but the 2019 rotation still wins for being even more of the “scotch tape and a prayer” variety. Brooks is no longer in the MLB, Cashner was traded, it’s unclear what the team has in Wojo, and if Hess remains an Oriole at the end of 2020, I’ll be shocked.

Both of these Orioles teams finished last in the league in team ERA, but in 2019, their ERA was nearly half a run worse, at 5.59. That’s a significant difference. The bullpen was a big reason: starter ERA was pretty much equal both years, but the bullpen’s went from 4.78 in 2018 to 5.63 in 2019. It’s evidence that the team was forced to put guys out there who weren’t just uncompetitive, but way beyond the pale.

Hitting
Here’s how the offense profiled in 2019. The Orioles hit for a .246 average (12th in the AL), a .310 OBP (12th), and a .415 OPS (12th). They couldn’t score runs: 729 (12th best) and 213 dongs (12th best). But they were eighth-best in total hits—evidently, the singles came in bunches (thank you, Hanser Alberto).

Believe it or not, though, the Orioles were a worse-hitting team in 2018. A vestige of the homer-happy 2011-2016 era, they were middle-of-the-pack in homers (188 on the season—see the inflation there, by the way?), but finished last in average (.239), OBP (.298), runs (622) and second-to-last in OPS (.689). This was a feast-or-famine team.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred believes home runs gets fans into the stands, but the 2019 Orioles were marginally better small-ball practitioners, a skill that should help weather bad times ahead. As they start to plug holes in the lineup (read: find a CF and a SS who can hit) with better players, the ability to manufacture runs should improve.

Fielding
The Orioles were pretty much identically bad at fielding in both seasons. They finished last or next-to-last, according to FanGraphs, in defensive runs saved, UZR, and defensive runs above average.

Not much more to say about this one. Trade away a Tim Beckham, sub in a DJ Stewart. Seems like institutional culture matters a little less on the field than simply having good-fielding players.

Conclusions
For the casual fan (or the non-fan), the Orioles have been just plain terrible the last two seasons. For the rest of us, there’s a little more interest below the surface. Fielding remains a huge weakness, the product of a recent lack of minor league depth. Driving runners in has not been a specialty, but a new small-ball philosophy has been put in place which could help smooth things out in the next few seasons. The bullpen regressed dramatically in 2019, and holes in the starting rotation still haven’t been adequately filled. Team ERA will be the key stat to watch next season. That will help clue fans in as to whether the Orioles are trending in the right direction in this rebuild, or still drifting.

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From the highest ERA in the Majors in 2018 to an All-Star appearance in 2019, Lucas Giolito had a season that nobody could’ve imagined possible.

As Giolito worked a pair of shutout masterpieces during the season, you knew you were watching something special. Then as the season unfolded, for the first time in MLB history four teams reached the finish line with at least 100 wins.

The White Sox, at 72 wins certainly were not among the ranks of the 100-win teams.

But the Astros and Twins both DID reach 100 wins, and something else those teams have in common is a 2019 shutout defeat at the hands of Giolito. Not only were those complete game shutouts the only ones thrown against those teams this past season, but they were the only complete game shutouts tossed against a 100-win team PERIOD. Nobody hurled a CG shutout against the Yankees and nobody pulled it off against the Dodgers.

So Lucas Giolito was the only pitcher in 2019 to toss a complete game shutout against a team that finished the season with 100 or more wins.

But let’s take it a bit further.

From 2012-2019 there were 12 teams who won at least 100 games in a season. And there were only five combined complete game shutouts against those teams. Giolito owns two of the five; Sean Manaea (against the 2018 Red Sox), Luis Severino (against the 2018 Astros) and Jason Vargas (against the 2017 Indians) have the other three.

Going back even further, from 2000 to present, 26 teams won 100 games in a season and there were 25 combined complete game shutouts tossed against those teams. Lucas Giolito & Jason Vargas (2017 vs. Indians and 2011 vs. Phillies) are the only two pitchers to have more than one. But Giolito is the only one to do it twice in a season.

To find the last pitcher with two shutouts against eventual 100-win teams in the same season, you need to go back to 1999 when José Jiménez of the Cardinals did it against the 100-62 Diamondbacks, which in itself is impressive given that Jiménez was only 5-14 with a 5.85 ERA that season. But Jiménez had both of his against the same team. What about the last pitcher to toss complete game shutouts against MULTIPLE 100-win teams in the same season?

Well, the last time THAT happened was 1980, when both Larry Gura and Moose Haas had one shutout apiece against the 103-59 Yankees and the 100-62 Orioles. Gura’s shutout against the Orioles came against eventual 1980 Cy Young Award winner Steve Stone.

As far as White Sox history is concerned, Giolito was the first White Sox pitcher to toss a CG shutout against an eventual 100-win team since both Melido Perez & Eric King shut out the 103-59 Athletics in 1990. And before that, Steve Trout had one apiece in both 1979 (against the 102-57 Orioles) and 1980 (against the 103-59 Yankees). But for the last time a White Sox pitcher did it twice in the same season, it’s Tom Bradley, who remarkably blanked the 101-60 A’s THREE TIMES in 1971.

So while Lucas Giolito’s shutouts were awfully impressive at the time, they become even more incredible when you look back at the season and realize that he was the only pitcher to shut out a 100-win team this season.

And he did it twice.

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The sprawling suburban estate once called home by Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and later, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Adam Jones , is back on the market for the second time this year.

The six-bedroom,10-bath mansion was listed for $4.25 million this month by current owner, Baltimore County-based Milden LLC.

The group had purchased the 25-acre estate from Jones, who previously played with the Baltimore Orioles, in May for $3.55 million.

It is the third time the Worthington Valley estate at 13301 Dover Road has hit the market since 2016.