Category Archives: Cheap Orioles Jerseys

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Hello, friends.

There are now 147 days remaining until Orioles Opening Day 2020. No more baseball games are left to divert our attention between now and spring training. The World Series ended last night and there will be no baseball that counts until the end of March. The Astros did not win a second title in three seasons.

It figures to be a quiet offseason for the Orioles. Things will probably be even less eventful than they were last year, when at least the team had to find a new general manager and then a new manager. They weren’t done doing those things until mid-December. The GM search, in particular, was important because of the signal it would send about how serious the team’s ownership would be about investing in the needed rebuild project.

We know, now, that they are on board, since the Orioles hired Mike Elias to do what needs to be done. That is a good thing in the long run. It didn’t mean a lot of winning at the MLB level in 2019, and it doesn’t look like 2020 is going to be all that great either. Coming off of a 108-loss season isn’t the time for big moves that will have an immediate, positive impact on the MLB standings.

There won’t be any big free agent signings. There may not even be any significant trades, because most of the players who you might have thought a year ago would be trade chips at this point did not play well in 2019 and don’t have much value. We’ll find out if they’re going to cash in on Jonathan Villar and Trey Mancini.

If those players get dealt, that would mark a real shift compared to what Elias and company have done so far. While they have made a lot of choices to not chase what they felt would be meaningless short-term improvement, they have not yet done a lot that would actively make the Orioles worse. Even the trade of Andrew Cashner looked like a shrewd sell high decision with how he pitched for Boston after that deal.

What will be going on a lot through the offseason is random roster churn. The Orioles kicked that off on Wednesday by outrighting four pitchers from the 40-man roster: Luis Ortiz, Josh Rogers, Ryan Eades, Tayler (not Tanner) Scott.

Ortiz and Rogers are interesting names if only because they were part of the July 2018 fire sale trades; they’ve done nothing in the organization to consider this a loss to the 40-man. Eades and Scott also did not make a memorable positive impression with the playing time given to them.

Around the blogO’sphere
Orioles claim Valaika off waivers (School of Roch)
Along with the four guys who got outrighted, the O’s made one waiver claim, on infielder Pat Valaika. Roch runs down Valaika’s career to date.

Where will Rutschman play next year? (Orioles.com)
Joe Trezza hits the inbox to tackle questions about Adley Rutschman and comparable trades for Trey Mancini.

O’s minor league arrangement could be very different a year from now (Baltimore Baseball)
Rich Dubroff’s read on the Baseball America story about the potential elimination of minor league teams is that Delmarva might be the most likely team to be squeezed out.

A reunion with Jonathan Schoop seems unlikely for the Orioles (Steve Melewski)
It’s going to be a long offseason if it’s not even November and we’re reaching for stories like these.

Cal Ripken and Adam Jones’ former Baltimore County estate back on market (Baltimore Sun)
The people who bought the Cal Ripken house from Adam Jones did a bunch of renovations and then decided they didn’t actually want to move out of their current house to go live there, so it’s for sale again. No, really.

Birthdays and Orioles anniversaries
Today in 1979, Mike Flanagan was named the winner of the AL Cy Young Award. Flanagan pitched in 39 games, 38 of which were starts, posting a 3.08 ERA over 265.2 innings. Pitching for the fantastic ‘79 O’s helped him rack up a 23-9 record. He received 26 of 28 first place votes in beating out New York’s Tommy John. Flanagan never received a Cy Young vote again.

There are several former Orioles with Halloween birthdays. They are: 2013 eight-gamer Yamaico Navarro, 1997 reserve outfielder David Delucci, 2005-06 reliever Tim Byrdak, 2007-08 pitcher Steve Trachsel, 1995 catcher Matt Nokes, 1989-90 pitcher Mike Smith, and 1962-74 pitcher Dave McNally.

It’s also the birthday of former Orioles manager Dave Trembley.

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday and Halloween to you! Your spooky birthday buddies for this day include: poet John Keats (1795), Girl Scouts of America founder Juliette Gordon Low (1860), actor John Candy (1950), author Neal Stephenson (1959), filmmaker Peter Jackson (1961), rapper and home improvement enthusiast Vanilla Ice (1967), and actress Piper Perabo (1976).

On this day in history…
In 1517, Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the All Saints Church in Wittenberg. The publication of the Theses are now generally recognized as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, though historians say Luther the “nailing to the door” part may have happened in mid-November.

In 1917, during World War I, the British (heavily Australian) Army defeated a German-Ottoman force in the Battle of Beersheba in what is recognized as the last successful cavalry charge in military history. The victory led to the British capture of Jerusalem before Christmas.

In 1940, during World War II, the Battle of Britain came to an end, at least by British reckoning, as the threat of a Nazi invasion subsided. German accounts considered the battle as lasting until the end of the Blitz in the next year.

In 1941, work on Mount Rushmore was completed, and ever since we have been debating what is the “Mount Rushmore” of everything else.

**

And that’s the way it is in Birdland on Halloween – or at least, unless something happens later on this first full day of the offseason. Have a safe Thursday.

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The Orioles approach to major league roster construction in 2019 essentially boiled down to “throw it against the wall and see what sticks.” That was certainly the plan when it came to assembling a pitching staff. Unfortunately very few things stuck, but the Orioles front office did add a few arms to their 40-man roster that could at least play a role in bridging the gap from the current rebuild to the expected reemergence as competitors. Two of those pitchers are Asher Wojciechowski and Aaron Brooks.

Wojciechowski has moved between many organizations in his career. Originally, he was a first-round pick (41st overall) of the Blue Jays back in 2010. Then he was part of a massive trade between Toronto and the Houston Astros in 2012 and thus began a pattern of transactions that, to this point, has concluded with Wojciechowski as an Orioles players for the second time.

The 30-year-old Wojciechowski had thrown 78.2 innings of major league action before becoming an Oriole this year. He tossed 16.1 innings for Houston in 2015, and then 62.1 innings for the Cincinnati Reds in 2017.

Brooks is a former ninth-round pick back in 2011 who has bounced around quite a bit as a professional. The Royals sent him to the Athletics in 2015. Then in 2016 the A’s traded him to the Brewers. He was claimed off waivers by the Cubs in 2017. The A’s bought him back in 2018. And then finally the Orioles claimed him off of waivers this past July.

Prior to joining the Birds, Brooks had 33 games of big league experience to his name, but it had not gone especially well. He compiled a 5.71 ERA in 29 games with the A’s between 2015 and 2019. And in four games as a Royal he allowed 16 runs across seven innings.

It was Wojciechowski that would get the first opportunity to impress the O’s brass, starting his first MLB game of the season on July 2 against the Rays. From there, he was a regular part of the rotation for the remainder of the year.

Was Wojciechowski any good? Well, sorta. He certainly had impressive moments. His July 21st start against the Red Sox was one of the highlights of the Orioles season. Over 7.1 innings, the righty shutout the Boston bats, allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out 10. That performance earned a “Game Score” of 94, the best by an Orioles pitcher all year. And he followed that outing with another seven-inning effort against the Angels in his very next start.

But on the whole, Wojo was just about average. Over 17 games (16 starts), the South Carolina native tossed 82.1 innings, had a 4.92 ERA, 96 ERA+, 5.61 xFIP, 1.3 bWAR and 0.9 fWAR. However, average on the Orioles is different than average on some other team. These numbers make Wojciechowski perhaps the third-best starting pitcher on the team behind John Means and Dylan Bundy.

It was a different story for Brooks, who made his Orioles debut on July 13 and moved right into the rotation. His season lacked the highs that Wojociechowski enjoyed. Brooks finished the year with a 6.18 ERA and 77 ERA+ over 59.2 innings as an Oriole.

A common struggle for Brooks, as it was for many Orioles pitchers, was going deep into games. Of the 12 games he started, Brooks made it past the fifth inning just four times. His best outing came on September 20, when he came out of the bullpen to deliver seven innings, allowing just one run on one hit, a walk and four strikeouts against the Seattle Mariners.

Down the stretch, Brooks pitched quite well. Over his final eight games, he tossed 37.2 innings and allowed just a 4.30 ERA and a .257/.335/.382 batting line against. That performance sets him up to be a major league consideration heading into 2020.

Both Wojciechowski and Brooks do currently find themselves on the Orioles 40-man roster. But that place is far from secure for either one of them. The O’s have a number of young players that will need to be protected from the Rule 5 draft this offseason. In order to do so, those young players will need to be placed on the 40-man, which means other players will be removed.

Between the two of them, Wojociechowski has the better chance of making it through the off-season and being a part of the Orioles Opening Day roster. He flashed an ability to compete at the highest level and provides more stability to a pitching staff in desperate need of just that.

Brooks was much more shaky, especially in a starter’s role. The Orioles are unlikely to enter 2020 with the plan to start him every fifth day. Instead, he could be an option as a swing-man out of the bullpen. But that role won’t be handed to him as the relief corps could be one of them most competitive units in the upcoming spring.

Neither of these two pitchers will be expected to play a prominent role on the Orioles team that returns the organization to the proverbial mountain top. But they both have the chance to be serviceable stopgaps until the cavalry of arms emerges in Baltimore.

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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.”

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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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HOUSTON — On Dave Martinez’s baseballreference.com page, his birthplace is listed — correctly — as New York, New York and his high school as Lake Howell in Winter Park, Florida.

But that is not a complete picture of Martinez’s youth. The second-year Nationals manager is the first to say he’s very much a product of Long Island.

“For me, it’s memories, childhood memories,” Martinez said in an interview with Newsday before Game 4 of the World Series at Nationals Park. “A lot of my best friends, very close friends, guys I’ve stayed in touch with, I’ve known them since I was 7, 8 years old, are from there.”

The Brooklyn-born Martinez — whose Nationals trail the Astros three games to two entering Game 6 on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park — moved to Brentwood at the age of 4 and moved to Florida before what would have been his junior season at Brentwood High School.

In between, he developed the considerable skills that allowed him to play 16 years in the majors and establish relationships and memories that he still cherishes.

And those memories, which the 55-year-old Martinez recalled with a smile that never left his face, are many.

Trips to Jones Beach. Fishing expeditions that departed from Silly Lily in East Moriches that resulted in catching flounder. Roller skating or dodgeball on the weekends.

Many of those memories involve a group of teammates from that critical time in his life that remains central to his foundation. Some of those teammates he’s never lost contact with, some he has, but none has been forgotten.

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“When I think back, it’s just a combination of the upbringing, how we were all really close, every weekend we were together,” Martinez said. “Those are my friends. Those are guys that had my back. You got in a fight in school, it’s over. You’re fighting seven, eight guys.”

The ones Martinez played with — whether it was with the Brentwood Youth Association summer league travel team, on the West Junior High School team or the Brentwood Sonderling junior varsity squad — remember a long and lean teenager who was a standout outfielder and stud lefthanded pitcher with a late-moving fastball and devastating curveball. Even on teams that featured several future Division I college players, Martinez stood out.

“He was a skinny little kid, but his ball had a lot of movement on it. He had those long Pedro Martinez fingers,” said Eddie Lippert, a fellow pitcher.

As an outfielder?

“He had a cannon,” Lippert said of Martinez, known almost universally among his teammates as “Tippy,” nicknamed as such for longtime Yankees and Orioles lefthander Tippy Martinez.

Another teammate from that time, Doug Vigliotti, said that on a team of talented players, Martinez “definitely stood out,” though not because of self-promotion.

“He was quiet,” Vigliotti said. “Didn’t brag about it. Just went about his business. Played the game the right way. Ran out everything. He had an arm, hit for power, average, played defense. Just a great guy.”

Another former teammate, Steve Rocco — who remains close to Martinez and attended the Nationals’ wild-card victory over the Brewers and Games 4 and 5 of the World Series in Washington as a guest of Martinez — choked up over the phone while describing his friend’s success.

That success became crystallized on June 15, 1986, when Rocco received a call from another former teammate, Dan Brennan. A mutual friend that day happened to be making his major-league debut with the Cubs at Wrigley Field against the Cardinals.

“He said, ‘Turn on the TV. You’re not going to believe who’s at-bat,’ ” Rocco said of the call from Brennan. “I got chills on my body. For me, somebody [from our group] broke through to the majors, it was so gratifying. To see somebody make it touched me deeply. His graciousness to his friends has always been awesome.”

Martinez had a .276/.341/.389 slash line with 1,599 hits, including 91 home runs, and even made a couple of appearances on the mound in his MLB career.

Martinez, who played for nine different clubs in a career that spanned from 1986-2001, recalled his years in the American League when he played at the previous Yankee Stadium. Fans seated in rightfield in those years could be rough on opposing players, to put it nicely. But those fans, some of whom might well have been from Long Island, generally took it easy on him.

“What’s cool, as a player when I went to Yankee Stadium in those years, rightfield was brutal,” Martinez said with a smile. “I played rightfield a lot, and the fans were actually really good to me because they knew I was from. [They'd yell], ‘You’re one of us, Dave! You’re all right!’ ”

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It’s a story that elicits strong reactions from baseball players around the Majors. The Houston Astros are being investigated by MLB for their sign-stealing techniques in 2017.

The Astros, according to stories from The Athletic, had a live video feed fixated on the catcher’s signs from center field. A person reportedly banged on a trash can to signal to the hitter in the batter’s box which pitch was coming. Former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers confirmed the method to The Athletic.

ESPN reported an Astros executive sent an email to scouts requesting that they point a camera from the stands to the opposing team’s dugout. The Astros won the World Series in 2017.

“This Astros thing is bad!!!” Reds reliever Kevin Gausman wrote on Twitter. “Guys lost jobs, got sent down, missed service time (because) of how they were hit in (Houston). Does anyone really think they only did this in ’17?”

This Astros thing is bad!!! Guys lost jobs, got sent down, missed service time bc of how they were hit in HOU. Does anyone really think they only did this in 17? #getreal

— Kevin Gausman (@KevinGausman) November 14, 2019
Gausman, then with the Baltimore Orioles, made one start at Houston’s Minute Maid Park in 2017, allowing two runs on eight hits in 6 ⅔ innings while striking out two. The Orioles lost 2-0.

During the 2018 American League Division Series, the Cleveland Indians filed a complaint with MLB against the Astros, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, after they saw an Astros employee filming video inside their dugout with a cellphone from the photographer’s pit.

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Trevor Bauer (27) paces after striking out his 11th batter of the night in the seventh inning of the MLB National League game between the Cincinnati Reds and the San Diego Padres at Great American Ball Park in downtown Cincinnati on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. The Padres won the series opener 3-2.
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Trevor Bauer (27) paces after striking out his 11th batter of the night in the seventh inning of the MLB National League game between the Cincinnati Reds and the San Diego Padres at Great American Ball Park in downtown Cincinnati on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. The Padres won the series opener 3-2. (Photo: Sam Greene)

The Astros swept the Indians in three games. Reds starter Trevor Bauer, then with the Indians, pitched out of the bullpen in all three games.

“Ooooohhhhhh, so you mean to tell me the guy videoing our dugout in 2018 ALDS wasn’t just doing that to ‘protect against the Indians stealing signs?’” Bauer wrote on Twitter. “Who would have ever guessed that he was up to no good. What a revelation … maybe MLB will do something about it this time.”

OOOOOHHHHHH SO YOU MEAN TO TELL ME THE GUY VIDEOING OUR DUGOUT IN 2018 ALDS WASN’T JUST DOING THAT TO “PrOtEcT aGaInSt ThE iNdIAnS sTeAlInG sIgNs”!? WHO WOULD HAVE EVER GUESSED THAT HE WAS UP TO NO GOOD. WHAT A REVELATION…maybe @Mlb will do something about it this time but ‍♂️ https://t.co/zuwDswDczr

— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) November 17, 2019
Sign stealing has always been a part of the sport but using technology to steal signs is prohibited. The Boston Red Sox were fined in 2017 for reportedly using Apple Watches to relay the catcher’s signs to the dugout.

“When technology changes, people are always going to find edges and maybe they convince themselves that somehow they are on the right side of the line when they’re not,” Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams told The Enquirer. “I don’t know what goes through their heads, but clearly there has been a lot of attention drawn to it and I think it’s the exceptions rather than the rule because we’re paying so much attention to when it’s discovered.

“The general managers don’t want any part of it. The players and coaches don’t want any part of it. The commissioner’s office is trying to get rid of it. I think they are going to have to continue to try to figure out ways to prevent it because teams are creative when it comes to gaining an edge. Nowadays, everybody in the ballpark has electronics and it’s pretty hard to police it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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