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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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Hello, friends.

There were always bound to be times this season where the pleasant glow of a better future became hard to see in the face of the bright, hopeless light of the present day of the 2019 Orioles. The current stretch where the Orioles have lost six of their last seven games, with the offense scoring fewer than three runs per game on average in that time, is not one of the fun times.

Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Yankees was an exercise in futility. The Orioles combined to go 0-13 with runners in scoring position across both games. That’s a tough way to try to win a couple of games. The Baltimore Sun’s Nathan Ruiz noted that the Orioles are now 6-60 in those situations over their past ten games.

Check out Paul Folkemer’s recap to see what you missed in the first game, and Alex Church’s recap of the night half of the doubleheader to enlighten yourself about the second game.

After watching those games yesterday, what’s bringing me down about the Orioles right now is the outfield. One of the things I tried to tell myself heading into the season was that, at least we might finally be able to see a real outfield full of outfielders this season.

That has not proven to be the case. Yesterday saw first baseman Trey Mancini bump into utility infielder Steve Wilkerson while going to make a catch. That’s not a shock when you play infielders in the outfield and then expect them to do normal stuff. Mancini committed an error in the first game and Joey Rickard committed an error in the second game. Rickard simply failed to catch an easy ball in one of the worst-looking outfield plays you’ll ever see.

The hoped-for outfield from back in spring training hasn’t materialized yet. The struggles of Cedric Mullins to stay afloat at the MLB level, along with Rickard’s struggle while somehow staying on the roster, have left the Orioles frequently deploying the kind of patchwork that does no one any favors.

Maybe none of this really matters all that much as long as Orioles pitchers are going to continue to give up a bazillion home runs. But I’ll feel a little better about it if Mullins plays his way back to MLB, and Austin Hays gets himself into the mix as well.

The chase for the home runs allowed record continues. The Orioles gave up four home runs in the first game yesterday and one homer in the second game. That leaves them with 89 home runs surrendered in 42 games, a pace over a full season of 343 home runs allowed. The question continues to be when, rather than if, these O’s will blow past the record of 258 home runs allowed by the 2016 Reds.

Mike Mussina was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame 117 days ago. The Orioles have not yet announced any plans to retire his jersey number or erect his statue at Camden Yards.

Around the blogO’sphere
Rebuilding Baltimore Orioles already better than last year’s team (Forbes)
Sometimes this feels like it’s true and sometimes it doesn’t. Right now is one of the times where it doesn’t, so it’s nice to be reminded that maybe this is a little better.

Smith Jr. flourishing in the fast lane (Orioles.com)
Dwight Smith Jr.’s advice from his retired MLB dad: “Don’t miss your fastball.” And this year, he hasn’t been.

Wrapping up 5-3 loss in Game 1 (School of Roch)
I’m including this one mostly because of the quotes from catcher Austin Wynns, who accurately summed up the home runs allowed stuff as “embarrassing.”

One year into his major league career, David Hess seeks to develop consistency (Baltimore Sun)
My pet peeve word right now that is meaningless in baseball commentary is “consistency.” David Hess IS consistent at not pitching well enough for MLB success, including yesterday when he gave up four home runs. He just hasn’t been good.

Elias on draft: “A rare opportunity to get an impact player” (Steve Melewski)
Mike Elias is not a guy who gives specifics very often, but it’s always enlightening to see what he has to say as far as a broad philosophy. For now, he says there are five players under strong consideration and one or two dark horse contenders.

Birthdays and anniversaries
Today in 1984, the Orioles released future Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer. In five games in the young season, he had a 9.17 ERA. His career 2.86 ERA in nearly 4,000 innings pitched remains impressive, as do his three Cy Young Awards, his never giving up a grand slam in MLB, and his remaining the only pitcher to ever win a World Series game in three different decades.

There are a handful of former Orioles who were born on this day. They are: 2018 futility infielder Luis Sardinas, 2000 reserve Ivanon Coffie, and the late Dave Philley of the 1955-56/60-61 Orioles.

Today is also the birthday of current Orioles pitching coach Doug Brocail. He turns 52 years old today.

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday to you! Your birthday buddies for today include: Alaska-purchasing Secretary of State William Seward (1801), actor Henry Fonda (1905), historian Studs Terkel (1912), artist Janet Jackson (1966), actress Tori Spelling (1973), and actress Megan Fox (1986).

On this day in history…
In 1843, what’s recognized as the first major wagon train set off from Elk Grove, Missouri along the Oregon Trail. If you’re close to my age, you probably remember the computer game.

In 1868, President Andrew Johnson avoided removal from office in his impeachment trial in the Senate by a margin of one vote.

In 1951, regularly scheduled transatlantic flights existed for the first time, as El Al Israel Airlines scheduled flights between what’s today JFK Airport in New York City and Heathrow Airport in London.

In 1966, China’s Communist Party issued the “May 16 Notice,” a simple title for what’s now known as the Cultural Revolution. Over the next decade, as many as several million Chinese were killed for suspicions of bourgeosie sympathies and thinking.

**

And that’s the way it is in Birdland on May 16 – or at least, until something happens later when the Orioles play the Indians. The game is scheduled to start at the unusual time of 6:10 Eastern, so don’t say you weren’t warned. Have a safe Thursday. Go O’s!

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On the occasion of the Orioles’ visit to face the Arizona Diamondbacks and old friend Adam Jones, neither Jones’ performance in the desert nor the progress of the young players the Orioles looked to as his replacements have done much to change opinions on what was the most polarizing part of the Orioles’ offseason.

There were two pretty clear camps: one believed that no matter the cost, Jones’ time in Baltimore was finished, and a younger crop of players who had a chance to be part of the next generation of winning Orioles clubs should get a chance. The other saw the possibility of last year’s 100-plus-loss season repeating itself and viewed the idea of bringing Jones back as a sign of goodwill to the fans that decided to come to Camden Yards all the same.

Both had plenty of merit. And what’s happened since has done little to sway either side.

Analysis: Former Orioles OF Adam Jones’ lengthy free agency part of growing team-building trend »
That center field has been a massively disappointing position for the Orioles this season makes letting Jones leave in free agency and ultimately sign a one-year, $3 million contract with the Diamondbacks tough to swallow. When Cedric Mullins was summoned to Baltimore last August to play center field, shifting Jones to right field, he was seen as the center fielder of the future.

He started out hot but struggled the last few weeks of the season, and didn’t really get going in spring training, either. Mullins was the Opening Day center fielder nonetheless, and went 6-for-64 (.093) before being sent to Triple-A Norfolk. He was knocked down a level further to Double-A Bowie at the All-Star break.

From Adam Jones’ heir to Double-A Bowie, Cedric Mullins demoted again to ‘get some positive mojo working’ »
It’s been a nightmare season for Mullins, and in addition to putting Stevie Wilkerson and Anthony Santander in center field with no real experience there, the Orioles brought in Keon Broxton, who struggled at the plate before being cut loose Sunday. The Orioles’ center fielders entered the weekend batting .198 with a .598 OPS, even if all have played well defensively.

Adam Jones of the Arizona Diamondbacks is congratulated by manager Torey Lovullo after scoring during the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on July 14, 2019.
Adam Jones of the Arizona Diamondbacks is congratulated by manager Torey Lovullo after scoring during the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on July 14, 2019. (Jeff Curry/Getty)
But major league performance wasn’t really the reason not to bring Jones back. It was so the likes of Mullins, Austin Hays, DJ Stewart, Santander and eventually Ryan McKenna and Yusniel Diaz could have a clear path to the majors when they’re ready. Ready, however, means something different than it did in the past. So the Orioles traded for Dwight Smith Jr. so he and Trey Mancini could occupy both corner outfield spots, and all of the young outfielders except Mullins started the year in the minors.

Stewart and Santander made it back to the majors eventually, with the former getting hurt shortly after arriving, while Hays has played well when healthy. McKenna and Diaz are still in Bowie, though they’ve played well of late.

Simply put, no one’s development would have been impacted in the slightest had the Orioles re-signed Jones. And yet, after a good first month or so, Jones has performed mostly at the levels he did in Baltimore in his first year with Arizona.

Entering Saturday’s games, he was hitting .271 with a .762 OPS and 13 home runs while rating better defensively in right field than he did toward the end of his time in center with the Orioles. From a baseball perspective, that would make him a tough fit in Baltimore, where Mancini has fit into the lineup in right field most often.

Jones might have been a steady bat in the lineup and helped the Orioles to a few more wins, and he certainly would be a player fans would be able to come to the ballpark and cheer for more so than the cast currently assembled.

But hardly anything this front office under executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias has done since being hired in November has been with winning this year in mind as much as building a talent pipeline for the future.

Elias’ detachment from Jones’ decade-plus with the Orioles, even as he frequently said in the offseason how much respect he had for Jones and what he accomplished in Baltimore, made it easy for him to make it a baseball decision.

Whether that was cover for resentment on high for Jones exercising his vested veto rights on a trade to the Philadelphia Phillies last year, or simply a baseball decision, it seems like the idea of Jones returning got far more play outside of the Orioles’ offices than inside them. He said he never heard from the team before choosing Arizona, and still has an affinity for the city.

When an Orioles team that will be almost wholly unrecognizable to Jones arrives at Chase Field on Monday, the most accomplished Oriole on the field will be in Diamondbacks colors. Whether that should be the case is largely subjective, and probably reveals a lot about where one falls on this whole “rebuilding” thing going on in Baltimore.

Pedro Severino, left, and Mychal Givens of the Baltimore Orioles celebrate after defeating the Boston Red Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 21, 2019.
Pedro Severino, left, and Mychal Givens of the Baltimore Orioles celebrate after defeating the Boston Red Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 21, 2019. (Will Newton/Getty)
What’s to come?
With three games in Arizona before a week in Southern California facing the Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres, this is the big, back-breaking western swing that always seems to happen this time of year.

As if that wasn’t difficult enough, it will be the week in which the Orioles are expected to accomplish a lot of their trading business ahead of the July 31 deadline. Dating to last year’s deadline, the mandate has been to cut payroll and get younger talent. Players who either are getting paid well or could be making more money soon — closer Mychal Givens, infielder Jonathan Villar, right-hander Dylan Bundy and outfielder Trey Mancini — could find their names popping up on the ticker before the deadline strikes.

It will make for an awkward dynamic on the road trip, but one most of the Orioles lived through before as last year’s deals shook up the clubhouse with the trades of Manny Machado, Zack Britton, Brad Brach, Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman.

The Orioles’ Rio Ruiz follows through on a three-run home run off Tampa Bay Bays reliever Austin Pruitt during the fourth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 3, 2019.
The Orioles’ Rio Ruiz follows through on a three-run home run off Tampa Bay Bays reliever Austin Pruitt during the fourth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 3, 2019. (Steve Nesius / AP)
What was good?
With all due respect to Mancini and the host of Orioles who broke out of slumps this week, here’s one that hasn’t been in a slump at all: third baseman Rio Ruiz. He ended the last trip out west batting .220, the lowest his average was since early April, but in 15 games since, he’s batting .349 with a .918 OPS.

He’s being protected from left-handed pitching and is essentially in a left-right platoon at third base with Hanser Alberto. But between what’s been standout defense that rates near the top of the American League in most advanced metrics and some good fortune at the plate, Ruiz is pulling himself out of his funk and getting himself into a good place as the second half grinds on and he presents his case to be a big leaguer beyond 2019 with the Orioles.

Pedro Severino of the Orioles hits a single during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays during game one of a doubleheader at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 13, 2019.
Pedro Severino of the Orioles hits a single during the sixth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays during game one of a doubleheader at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 13, 2019. (Will Newton/Getty)
What wasn’t?
Catcher Pedro Severino was riding high after his three-homer game in Texas on June 4, after which he corrected a reporter who teed up a question by mentioning how he wasn’t traditionally a power-hitter. The next day, he had to leave the game after taking a foul ball to the mask in the first inning, and though he was cleared of concussion symptoms, his production took a tumble after that.

Severino was feasting on left-handers and batting .288 with a .939 OPS after that big game; since, he’s hit .229 with a .577 OPS. This slide coincided with the arrival of Chance Sisco that week in Texas, with Severino’s regular playing time waning, especially as Sisco has swung a good bat himself.

It’s noteworthy, however, that that week in Texas featured a pair of players in Severino and Dwight Smith Jr. who suffered head injuries and haven’t really gotten back on track since.

Bowie Baysox pitcher Alex Wells
Bowie Baysox pitcher Alex Wells (Bert Hindman/HANDOUT)
On the farm
Left-hander Alex Wells, by virtue of his status as a soft-tossing left-hander, will have to prove he can be effective at every level of the minors before getting his major league shot. He’s proven his brand of deception and his 86-88 mph fastball can yield incredible success in his first crack at Double-A Bowie this year.

Wells allowed two runs on four hits in eight innings Monday and followed it up with six shutout innings Saturday against Akron, striking out four and walking none in each outing. His ERA dropped to 1.83 in 93 2/3 innings with 70 strikeouts and a 0.99 WHIP.

After finishing his first two professional seasons with identical 0.91 WHIPs and ERAs of 2.15 and 2.38, respectively, before a bit of a step back last year at High-A Frederick, Wells doing this at Bowie only goes to show that he very well could be for real.

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The Baltimore Orioles are reportedly set to hire former major leaguer Anthony Sanders as their first base coach.
Originally reported by MLB.com’s Jon Morosi as being close to a done deal and since confirmed by Greg Hansen of the Arizona Daily Star, the Baltimore Orioles are set to hire Anthony Sanders to be their new first base coach.

The move has not yet been confirmed by the Orioles, but MLB.com’s Joe Trezza also has a source that confirms the move.

The hiring leaves two open positions on Brandon Hyde’s coaching staff, bullpen coach (held by John Wasdin in 2019) and assistant hitting coach (formerly held by Howie Clark).

A seventh-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays back in 1992, Sanders’ playing career spanned from 1993-2006 and included stints with the Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies, Seattle Mariners, and multiple rounds with the Blue Jays. He spent his final season of pro ball in Mexico, logging 25 games with two different teams.

Despite the long playing career, Sanders appeared in just 13 games at the major league level, going 6-25 with three doubles and six RBI.

After his playing career, Sanders joined the Colorado Rockies where he would serve in multiple roles, including player development, outfield coordinator, baserunning coordinator, hitting coach, and head coach of the rookie-level Grand Junction Rockies.

Source: Anthony Sanders close to being named #Orioles first base coach. The highly respected Sanders has worked the last 14 seasons in the #Rockies farm system as a manager and coach. Most recently, he was on the @USABaseball coaching staff at the @WBSC @Premier12. @MLB

Sanders brings with him an impressive resume, including earning Pioneer League Manager of the Year honors in 2014 with the Grand Junction Rockies. He also had a bit of experience with Team USA baseball before joining the coaching staff this year as their first base coach. He won a Gold Medal as a member of the 2000 Olympic team in Sydney, Australia.

Sanders replaces Arnie Beyeler, who served as the first base coach of the Orioles for just one season. Beyeler had a tough job last season, coaching an outfield that consisted of Stevie Wilkerson and a revolving door of center fielders, along with an out of position Trey Mancini and struggling defenders like Dwight Smith Jr and DJ Stewart.

With a manager and general manager in place, unlike last offseason, and a full offseason to evaluate and hire coaches both on the farm and at the major league level, it’s no surprise that there has been major shakeups up and down the organization.

Not having been a follower of Colorado Rockies minor league baseball or coaching staff, first-hand knowledge of Anthony Sanders and his work has to come from outside reports, all of which speak very highly of the former major leaguer.

Time will tell if this hire will work out, but for now, welcome to Birdland, Anthony Sanders.

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Good morning, Camden Chatters.

This is where I normally would offer my thoughts about the latest Orioles news. Except there’s no Orioles news, given that teams are generally pretty quiet during the playoffs. So let’s talk about those playoffs.

They’ve been pretty exciting, haven’t they? Sometimes the playoffs are kind of a snoozefest with a lot of non-competitive games, but this time there have been some real barnburners, especially in the National League. The Cardinals and Braves are headed to a decisive Game 5 to settle a wild roller coaster of a series, in which three of the four games were decided in the ninth inning or later. I don’t particularly like either of those teams, but they’ve certainly played some thrilling baseball.

Meanwhile, the wild-card Nationals have held surprisingly tough against the heavily favored Dodgers, forcing a Game 5 of their own. Two winner-take-all contests on Wednesday? Yes, please, I’ll sign up for that. And in the AL, the Rays fended off a sweep from the Astros with a blowout win yesterday, adding at least a little bit of intrigue to that series, and assuring we’ll have more baseball to watch today.

Baseball can really be a beautiful game. Even if watching the Orioles the last few years has made us forget that sometimes.

Links
Orioles’ Dylan Bundy looks to Astros’ Zack Greinke as model for his ever-evolving pitch mix – Baltimore Sun
If you’re going to try to emulate a guy, Zack Greinke is a pretty good choice, his rough start in the ALDS yesterday notwithstanding. It may be the last time we see Dylan Bundy and Zack Greinke mentioned in the same sentence, though.

Inbox: Will Villar return to the O’s in 2020? – Orioles.com
Joe Trezza answers readers’ questions, and says Ryan Mountcastle won’t be on the 2020 Opening Day roster because the Orioles “want him to get more seasoning.” He misspelled “want to gain an extra year of team control.”

Digging into Orioles’ past – School of Roch
Roch Kubatko wonders why Andy Etchebarren isn’t in the Orioles Hall of Fame, and it’s a good question, considering his many years not just as a player but a coach in the organization. I can certainly think of less deserving candidates who have been inducted.

Wilkerson’s versatility is the key to a 2020 return with the Orioles; Remembering Andy Etchebarren – BaltimoreBaseball.com
Stevie Wilkerson may not actually be a good player, but danged if he isn’t a load of fun. Not mentioned: his delightful “Dr. Poo Poo” nickname.

Orioles birthdays and history
Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! You share your day with four Orioles, the most recent being former first round pick Keith Reed (41), who played just six major league games. On the other end of the spectrum are Enos Cabell (70) and Mike Morgan (60), who combined for 37 years in the majors, with Cabell playing for the O’s from 1972-74 and Morgan in 1988. Also born on this day was the late Bob Mabe (b. 1929, d. 2005).

Oct. 8 has been another successful day in Orioles postseason history, with the club going 4-1 on this date. Most notably, they iced the ALCS against the White Sox in 1983 with a 10-inning shutout in Game 4, scoring three runs in the top of the 10th while the Storm Davis/Tippy Martinez duo blanked the Sox.

Also on this date, the Orioles won Game 3 of the 1966 World Series, 1-0, behind Wally Bunker’s complete game shutout of the Dodgers. Paul Blair provided the game’s only run with a fifth-inning homer. In 1997, the O’s won Game 1 of the ALCS against the Indians with — what else? — a shutout, this one thrown by Scott Erickson and Randy Myers. Brady Anderson and Roberto Alomar homered. And in 2012, the Birds beat the Yankees in Game 2 of the ALDS, 3-2. The only O’s loss on this date came in 1974, when the Athletics’ Vida Blue outpitched Jim Palmer in a 1-0 shutout in ALCS Game 3.

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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.”

[Most read] Fire guts West Baltimore’s Edmondson Village Shopping Center, damaging 10 businesses »
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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Contributor Joe Chambers takes a look back at one of the top outfielders in Orioles history, Paul Blair.
Paul Blair was a talented outfielder for the Baltimore Orioles, one of the best players to roam the outfield in an Orioles uniform in franchise history. He spent 13 of his 17 pro seasons with Baltimore and was one of the best outfielders in Major League Baseball during his playing career.

Blair was an eight-time Gold Glove Award winner, winning seven straight from 1969 – 1975. Known for his great fielding ability, Blair owned a .988 fielding percentage over the course of his nearly two-decade-long career. Playing primarily in center field, Blair averaged less than five errors a season.

In three different seasons, Blair finished in the top five in outfield assists, logging 13 assists in 1967, 14 in 1969, and 14 in 1973. Blair had a great arm and was able to throw runners out at any base. He recorded 34 assists at second base, 28 at third base, and 24 at home plate in his career. For reference, Orioles center fielders combined for just three outfield assists in 2019.

Throughout his career, Blair was a decent hitter, owning a career slash line of .250/.302/.382 with 134 home runs, 1,513 total hits, and 171 stolen bases. Clearly, his defense was his carrying tool. Half of his career WAR (37.8) came from his defensive value.

Despite playing extremely shallow throughout his career, balls rarely found their way past Blair. In an interview with USA Today Baseball Weekly in 1997, Blair said, “”I was taught to play defense. Back in our day it was pitching and defense. Our philosophy (the Oriole way) was don’t make the little mistakes that cost you ballgames. That is the way we won over such a long period of time.”

Growing up, Paul Blair was one of my favorite players and a role model to look up to. Meeting him at an Alumni Monday on Eutaw Street was a life-changing experience. Living fairly close to me right before he passed away, it was always nice to say hello and chat for a little while at Oriole Park.

Paul Blair will forever go down as one of the greatest Orioles to ever play. He currently ranks eighth in career-WAR for position players (fifth in Defensive WAR), seventh in games played (1,700), and ninth in total outs made (4,526).

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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.