Reasons for hope as the Orioles season trudges along

As the Baltimore Orioles crawl towards the finish line in what has been arguably their worst season ever, several veteran Orioles are doing their best to instill some hope in what has been a disappointed fan base.

Free agent pitching acquisition Andrew Cashner delivered a quality start Tuesday night against the Mets, going seven innings and giving up just two earned runs on five hits while striking out three and walking three.  Cashner (4-10) dropped his season ERA to 4.71 and has rebounded nicely since his clunker on August 2 against Texas.

In his last eight starts, Cashner has surrendered two earned runs or fewer in six of them. Cashner has begun to right the ship at the same time as fellow free agent signing Alex Cobb has seemed to turn the corner as well.

Cobb (3-15) has lowered his ERA from 7.23 on June 10 to 5.31 now. Unfortunately for Cobb, it has not translated in the win/loss column as he appears headed to a potential 20-loss season. Cobb has given up one earned run in four of his last five starts but has just one win to show for it as the year-long struggle at the plate continues for the Birds.

Other Orioles who have seen recent upticks in play include outfielders Trey Mancini and Mark Trumbo. Mancini has raised his batting average from .220 to .235 out of the All-Star break by hitting .300 month in the month of August to-date. Mancini has four homers and ten RBI in what is already his most productive month on the season.

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Trey Mancini has picked up his play since the All-Star Break. Image Credit: AP

After exploding on the scene last season, Mancini had gotten off a rough start in the 2018 season. While he won’t reach his production levels from 2017, it is an encouraging sign that he now appears poised to salvage what is left of this forgotten year.

Trumbo has taken his season average from .250 at the All-Star break to .264 currently. This is thanks in-part to what has been a massive August for the 32-year-old Trumbo. In the month, Trumbo is hitting .350 with 5 homers and 13 RBI and is getting on base at a .372 clip. Not to mention that he’s doing this with knee discomfort that had Buck Showalter talking about an injection as recent as Sunday.

The Orioles sit at 36-84, a whopping 49.5 games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox. This is not an attempt to put lipstick on a pig by any means. This season has been a disaster of epic proportions. Long-standing Orioles Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Zach Britton, Brad Brach, and Kevin Gausman are gone and it remains to be seen what the returns for those players will produce.

But it is encouraging to see some of the key veteran players remaining on this team play well down the stretch. All four players figure to factor heavily in the equation in regards to next year’s team while Cobb and Mancini have potential to be here through the rebuild and the hopeful eventual rebirth of the team.

Stay faithful Orioles fans. There are reasons for hope.

Image Credit: USA TODAY Sports

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Podcast Episode 12: Dissecting the horrible mess that is the Maryland Football program

Welcome to Episode 12 of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with site owner Jake McDonnell, editor Nolan McGraw, and author Ian Schultz.

Unfortunately, this week’s show kicks off with a lengthy discussion surrounding the horrible mess that is the Maryland Football program (0:52). Last week, ESPN released a detailed report siting several current University of Maryland football players and other people close to the organization calling it a “toxic culture” under head coach D.J. Durkin. On June 13, Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair passed away after the 19-year-old had passed out during an outdoor football workout on May 29.

Since the report became public, coach Durkin has been placed on administrative leave while the investigation continues. Both the University of Maryland’s athletic department and the university itself are being questioned about their lack of attention to McNair’s situation following the May 29 practice.

After the Maryland segment concludes, Jake and Ian go into a lengthy conversation about the Baltimore Ravens (17:50) Following the Ravens’ 33-7 win over the Rams on Thursday, the guys tell you who’s trending, either in a good or bad way (21:12). The crew also discusses the latest training camp nuggets (30:34) and tells you what to watch for next Monday night as the Ravens hit the road to take on the Indianapolis Colts in more preseason action (33:30).

Up next, Jake and Ian talk about the extremely early exit of the Orioles from the American League East division race (36:40). In fact, the Orioles officially being eliminated on August 10 is the earliest date in the divisional era that a team has been out of the race for their team’s division. But it’s not all bad, because this Orioles segment wraps up with some talk on the call-up of Cedric Mullins and Adam Jones moving to right field (41:11).

To wrap up the show, we dive into our weekly numbers segment, taking a look at the best Ravens & Orioles players to wear the number 12 (44:57).

Subscribe to the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes. Please leave us a review, we love to hear your feedback and may read it on a future episode. Thank you for listening!

A look at Cedric Mullins’ Orioles debut following 19-12 loss to Red Sox

BALTIMORE — In the latest development in the rebuild of the Baltimore Orioles, the ball-club called up outfielder Cedric Mullins from Triple-A Norfolk prior to Friday’s series opener against the Red Sox at Camden Yards.

The move had been expected for awhile with Mullins carrying a .288 average and a .346 on-base percentage (OBP) between both Norfolk and Double-A Bowie this season. The arrival of Mullins saw a noticeable change in the Orioles’ outfield that’s been rumored for weeks. When the Baltimore lineup card was revealed a few hours before first pitch, Mullins’ name was penned batting ninth in the centerfield slot, with long-time centerfielder Adam Jones in right-field while still hitting from the #3 spot in the lineup.

“Adam’s playing right field today and that’s the direction we’re going tonight,” manager Buck Showalter said during Friday’s pre-game press conference. “Is he going to play right field the rest of the year? Yeah, as opposed to who? My plan is for Adam to play right field until he needs a day off and we’ve got some other options, without naming other guys down in Triple-A. But Adam’s playing right field.”

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The change in centerfield from Jones to Mullins marks a new era for the Orioles. Dating back to 2008, Jones has started 1,537 games manning centerfield for the Orioles. Tonight marked just the fourth career start for Jones in right-field, and the first in his Orioles career. The other three appearances for Jones in right took place with the Mariners before the infamous 2007 trade that sent Jones to Baltimore. The change to right field certainly isn’t easy for the 33-year-old Jones, but the O’s legend had no problem passing the torch.

As the Orioles got set to take the field, Jones refused to step out of the dugout before Mullins. Jones, who usually leads the team onto the field, deferred to the rookie. After a quick discussion (and getting bypassed out of the dugout by Tim Beckham), Mullins trotted onto the field, with Jones behind him.

The entire game did not see much effective pitching, and Mullins used that to his advantage. In his first major league at-bat in the second inning, Mullins smacked a 97-MPH Nathan Eovaldi fastball to the corner in right field for a double, plating Renato Nuñez. Mullins’s contribution became part of a four-run inning that gave the Orioles a 4-3 lead. The 23-year-old finished up his first offensive appearance by crossing home, appropriately scoring on a single by Jones.

The Orioles again plated four in the third inning, where Mullins delivered again in his second at-bat. This time, Mullins racked up his second RBI on a sharply-hit bouncer to second baseman Brock Holt. The Red Sox infield was drawn in, and Holt could not find the correct angle on the ball before it bounced off the ground and rolled into right field. Mullins scored again on a single, this one by Beckham.

In the fifth inning, Mullins reached base again by walking with two outs, but would not advance as Jonathan Villar lined out to Boston left-fielder Andrew Benintendi. Mullins hit a pop-up to Benintendi in the seventh. Finally in the ninth, Mullins came up again with two outs and delivered another double to right-center, capping off a hot night at the plate: 3-for-5 with two doubles, a single, and two RBI. Mullins crossed home for the third time when Villar singled to center for Baltimore’s 12th run, but Beckham followed that up with an infield groundout to end the game.

Defensively, Mullins looked like a natural in centerfield, but the night was not perfect. In the fourth inning, Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a 91-MPH fastball by Dylan Bundy to deep left center that proved to be a tough test for Mullins. The ball was hit hard enough to send Mullins full speed to the warning track. Mullins extended his right arm out and the ball graced the edge of his glove, but dropped and bounced to the right of Mullins, leading to a triple and a run with Holt crossing.

The play is certainly one that Mullins would like to have back, but these things can happen in unfamiliar ballparks with new teammates. Mullins will get more comfortable with the dimensions of Camden Yards in due time. Having Jones there to offer support and advice will pay huge dividends.

Bradley Jr.’s triple made it 8-4 Baltimore. Although the Red Sox mustered that lone run in the fourth, they would plate six in the sixth inning, largely in-part to five walks by the Orioles. The Red Sox put together a five-run eighth inning, giving them four big innings in the contest. After the Red Sox made it a 19-12 final, the Orioles finished the game with 10 walks charged to their pitching staff. Red Sox pitchers walked four for a total of 14 walks own the evening.

According to Rob Daniels on Twitter, this loss marks the third time in team history in which the Orioles allowed 19 or more runs along with 10 or more walks. The Red Sox pitching staff walked four Orioles batters on their side.

After the fact…

Image Credit: Baltimore Sun

11: Ravens HOF weekend recap & a look at the new NFL helmet rules

Welcome to Episode 11 of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with site owner Jake McDonnell, editor Nolan McGraw, and author Ian Schultz.

This week the podcast is heavily focused on the Ravens as they come off of an eventful weekend. The guys don’t waste any time diving right into Ray Lewis and his Hall Of Fame speech (5:00). After that the conversation switches over the Ravens 17-16 win over the Bears in the HOF game (15:25). Jake, Nolan, and Ian all give their opinion on which players they think are trending up and trending down after the first preseason game.

Before turning their attention to this coming week’s matchup with the Rams, the guys spend some time dissecting the new NFL rules involving helmet hits (34:38). The issue has made headlines everywhere since Thursday and the Charm City Bird Watch crew is eager to give their takes as well.

The Ravens discussion concludes with a look ahead to the second preseason game. The Ravens and Rams will practice together this week in Owings Mills before meeting at M&T Bank Stadium on Thursday night (42:45)

The podcast concludes with some brief Orioles talk (50:23). The excitement of the trade deadline has passed and now we are left with an even more incomplete team. However, there are a handful of new Orioles that have made their debut in black and orange this past week. The weekly numbers segment is pushed back to the end of this weeks podcast, where you can hear some memories of former players like Robert Andino and Kamar Aiken (55:50).

Subscribe to the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes. Please leave us a review, we love to hear your feedback and may read it on a future episode. Thank you for listening!

Orioles win 9-6 to avoid sweep in Arlington

ARLINGTON- The Baltimore Orioles were able to salvage the final game of a four-game set with the Texas Rangers on Sunday, scoring a 9-6 win in order to avoid being swept for the 15th time this season.

Mark Trumbo had a huge day at the plate and got started early with a RBI single off Rangers starter Drew Hutchison in the top of the first scoring Jace Peterson who singled on the first pitch of the game.  After Yefry Ramirez relinquished the lead in the bottom of the first, catcher Austin Wynns clubbed his third homer of the season, a three-run-shot, to put the O’s back in front 4-2.

It was a rough day for Ramirez though who failed to get out of the second inning.  After issuing a lead-off walk to Willie Calhoun to start the second, Drew Robinson doubled to deep right to put runners on second and third with nobody out. A Shin-Soo Choo sac fly cut the lead to 4-3.

Unfortunately for Ramirez, he was unable to weather the storm and would surrender two more hits,two more walks, and two more runs in the inning and left the game with two outs in the frame. Tanner Scott relieved Ramirez and worked out of the situation by striking out Ronald Guzman which kept the deficit at 5-4.

After Jonathan Villar led off the third with a walk, Trumbo delivered the first of his two homers on the day to give the Orioles a 6-5 lead. Scott worked a scoreless third and fourth for the Birds before yielding to Donnie Hart for the bottom of the fifth.

Hart took over protecting a 7-5 lead in the fifth after Villar added a solo shot to his day to extend the Orioles lead. Hart went 1.2 scoreless innings striking out three before Miguel Castro came in to finish the sixth inning.  The Orioles extended their lead to 9-5 in the top of the seventh inning when Trumbo added his second homer of the game, a two-run shot.

Trumbo finished the day 3-4 with 2HRS and 5RBI and Villar reached base in all four of his at bats going 3-3 with three runs scored and a walk. Villar is 8-17 since joining the Orioles via the Jonathan Schoop trade.

Castro pitched a scoreless seventh before turning the ball over to Paul Fry who struggled with his control in the bottom of the eighth inning. After Calhoun flied out, Fry walked Robinson and Choo before throwing a wild pitch to advance the runners. Rougned Odor grounded out to cut the lead to 9-6 and that would close the book on Fry as Mychal Givens got the final out in the eighth.

Givens pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up his second save of the season. Scott took the win for the Orioles to get to 2-2 on the year out of the bullpen. The loss went to Hutchison for the Rangers who fell to 1-2 on the year.

The Orioles (34-78) are off Monday before opening a three-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays (56-56) on Tuesday in St. Petersburg.

Image Credit: AP

10: Orioles blow it up at the trade deadline & reminiscing on the career of Ray Lewis

Welcome to Episode 10 of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with site owner Jake McDonnell, editor Nolan McGraw, and author Ian Schultz.

It’s a loaded episode this week as the guys give their initial thoughts on the Kevin Gausman and Jonathan Schoop trades (29:15), but as always things start with the weekly numbers segment (6:00). It’s fitting that this is episode ten because Adam Jones has been making headlines recently as he decided to stay in Baltimore with the O’s. The guys look back on Jones’ career so far and give their takes on his decision (16:30).

After wrapping up all the Orioles news for the week, the conversation switches to the Ravens (39:50) and their big weekend coming up. It all starts with their first preseason game of the year on Thursday (41:20) and then concludes with a celebration when Ray Lewis enters the Hall Of Fame on Saturday night (45:30).

To honor Lewis’ big achievement, the Charm City Bird Watch crew gives their favorite memories of Ray’s career and have some fun talking about his famous pregame introduction and dance (52:22). The podcast concludes with some prop bets for Ray’s speech (58:23).

Subscribe to the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes. Please leave us a review, we love to hear your feedback and may read it on a future episode. Thank you for listening!

Bringing back legends to assist with rebuild is a great move by Orioles

BALTIMORE — In recent weeks, Orioles general manager Dan Duquette has made it clear that the franchise is beginning to rebuild. The team has already dealt Manny Machado, Zach BrittonBrad Brach, Kevin Gausman, Darren O’Day, and Jonathan Schoop. Even though the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline already passed, the Orioles can still move players this month if they clear waivers. On the field, the next few years will be rough for the Orioles, but the hope is that the team can return to its competitive form in the early 2020’s.

In the last three weeks, the Orioles announced the returns of two team legends who will assist the ball-club in their quest to rebuild. On July 15, it was revealed that Brooks Robinson, who won 16 Gold Gloves with the O’s in 22 seasons, will come on as a special adviser. 10 days later, fellow Orioles legend – three-time Silver Slugger recipient Eddie Murray – showed up in town and revealed that he’s also coming back to Baltimore to serve as a special adviser, specifically to ‘Executive Vice President’ John Angelos.

Murray and Robinson will both serve the front office as special advisers, but their roles will differ. Robinson, 81, is 19 years older than Murray, so obviously his workload won’t be as heavy. Robinson and Murray both outlined their responsibilities during aired interviews on MASN.

“I’ll be doing some things to try to promote this club and get people to this stadium,” Robinson said. “It’s a beautiful ballpark, and the Orioles have always tried to get people in and get people into the community.” “I might go to Spring Training, I might do a fantasy camp, I might do a session with the players [at FanFest] that they have here in January. So that’s really my job.”

“I’m not going to say it’s broke, but it’s pretty close,” said Murray. “They’re not playing very well, but hopefully [I] can come in here and maybe add something. We’ll see what I’m capable of doing.” … “[John] was letting me know that there’s definitely going to be a change made here. They said this is their chance to shine, and they would really like to get this down here on this field turned around.”

Over the last few months its become clear that much of the power held by Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos is shifting to his two sons, John and Louis. Peter celebrated his 89th birthday on July 4 and it’s only fair to assume that he will not hold his post as majority owner much longer. Although John has worked for his father as the Orioles’ Executive VP since 1999, Peter has been, for the most part, calling the shots. No official announcement about a torch being passed from Peter to the kids has been made. However, it appears that John and Louis are taking over their father’s duties fairly quickly.

Both Robinson and Murray have been out of the game for a while, but they sure do know what it takes to win. Between both Orioles Hall-Of-Famers, the duo appeared in nine playoff runs, won three World Series Championships, and played on 26 teams that finished with winning records out of 36 combined seasons. They’ve seen first-hand what it takes to build a competitive, winning ball-club and do it consistently.

From the perspective of John Angelos, perhaps the Orioles’ Executive VP (if that’s still his current title) feels that bringing back player legends to advise team operations would not only give him an accredited voice to guide him, but it would also allow the Orioles to make amends with former players who were isolated by his father.

It’s no secret that Peter Angelos severed multiple relationships with long-time Orioles players and coaches. There was the infamous battle between Angelos and former manager Davey Johnson that led to Johnson’s resignation following the 1997 season in which Johnson’s Orioles fell to the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship series. Johnson and Angelos never got along. Johnson’s slow downfall to resigning began when he ordered then-second baseman Roberto Alomar to to pay a $10,500 fine for not showing up to a team dinner and skipping an exhibition game during the All-Star Break. Johnson wanted the money to go towards a fundraiser that his wife was involved in, but Alomar paid the fine to a different charity after being told by the players’ union that Johnson’s orders could be classified as a ‘conflict of interest’. Angelos used this ammo on top of his already existing disdain towards Johnson to force the Orioles’ Hall-of-Famer into resignation.

Johnson actually resigned the same day that he won the AL Manager of the Year award. He had led the O’s to three straight playoff appearances and two trips to the ALCS. After Johnson resigned, the team endured 14 straight losing seasons. His presence was dearly missed.

Aside from Johnson, another detriment to Peter was his disregard for great players and team legends, including Robinson himself. According to a 2001 article in The Washington Post, Peter made promises he couldn’t keep, telling former players like Brooks and Frank Robinson that he would schedule meetings with them, but never returned their calls. The lack of communication between Angelos and famous Orioles caused many of those players to stay away from the team, especially when the team constantly lost.

Perhaps the most underlying problem with Peter is the fact that the successful law firm he launched in 1961 presumably takes up a large chunk of his time. That’s understandable, but it doesn’t create an excuse to not pay an equal amount of attention to a professional baseball team under your name.

Former Orioles general manager Andy MacPhail described Peter as ‘a lawyer who happens to run a baseball team‘, giving the impression that the firm always has been his first priority. During his reign of owning the Orioles, Peter has gotten involved in several team decisions that would normally be made by the general manager without interference from ownership. If the law firm was truly the first thing on his agenda, you have to wonder how much thought Peter actually put into each decision before putting his foot down.

The tactics of Peter Angelos have corrupted the once-great Orioles organization. Because the Angelos family, to date, almost never addresses fans or the media, bringing the dirty laundry to surface takes some digging. Aside from first-hand accounts from former players and managers who have worked under Angelos in the past, there’s not much to go off of. It’s one of those cases where you simply say “the proof is in the pudding”.

Even though the reign of Peter Angelos hasn’t been easy for the Orioles or the city of Baltimore, the early moves of John Angelos show that there’s some hope. Letting kids below the age of nine in for free was apparently the first big decision made by John, and now the credit for bringing back Robinson and Murray is going to him. If that’s the case, there’s certainly reason to being optimistic about the future of the Orioles, specifically ownership.

Murray and Robinson can’t offer anything on the field, and they won’t even be around full-time. Robinson’s age makes a part-time schedule best for him, and Murray lives on the west coast. But, from a baseball perspective, it’s a great move by John Angelos to have these two men in his ear as he begins to take over the ownership reigns from his father. There’s going to be a lot of pressure placed on John. Reaching out for advisement was not only a great move, but it will bring multiple heads together to try to get this franchise turned around as soon as possible.

Nothing is promised and the rebuild of the Orioles will take some time. With John now at the helm with former Orioles greats assisting him, there is going to be some sound baseball decisions made. Under Peter Angelos, this seemed to not be possible.

Image Credit: Baltimore Business News