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).

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Podcast Episode 9: Rebuild – To build something again after it has been damaged or destroyed

Welcome to Episode 9 of the new Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with site owner Jake McDonnell and author Ian Schultz.

As usual, the podcast opens with the weekly numbers segment (4:57), reminiscing the best Ravens and Orioles players to sport a #9 jersey.

Next, Jake and Ian mourn the loss of Manny Machado and break down the trade that sent the former O’s superstar to the Dodgers (14:13). As you can tell by the podcast’s title, the gang also addressed Dan Duquette’s recent public comments announcing that the Orioles are beginning a rebuild. Jake and Ian pondered whether or not Duquette is the right man to lead the rebuild, and broke down the latest trade rumors surrounding the ball-club.

Up next, Jake’s friend from high school, Conor Miller, calls in (30:56). Conor is the younger brother of 14 News Sports Director Bethany Miller, who was on the podcast in January. Conor, a lifelong Baltimore sports fan and current collegiate baseball player, gives us his reactions/hot takes to the Machado trade, the Orioles rebuild, and the start of Ravens training camp.

With the end of Conor’s call-in focusing on the Ravens, Jake and Ian’s next segment analyzes the first few days of Ravens training camp (54:28). We’ve already heard from both Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson, and the national media is having a field day with the current storylines surrounding the two quarterbacks. Will Jackson’s presence make Flacco more emotional than we’ve ever seen? What are the biggest takeaways from the first few practices? Football is back, and we’ll get you up-to-date on the latest Ravens nuggets.

Last but not least, we wrap up episode 9 with What an Idiot (1:04:53).This week, Jake and Ian call out Josh Hader and the Milwaukee Brewers fanbase for embarrassing themselves in front of America.

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Podcast Episode 4: Pop the champagne, Chris Davis has been benched!

Welcome to Episode 4 of the new Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with Nolan McGraw and Jake McDonnell. Things sound a little different this week with Nolan hosting the show as Jake enjoys his vacation.

The podcast begins with a look at a few of the famous figures in Baltimore to wear the number four in their career. The guys follow that up by diving right into a few of the big Orioles stories from this past weekend, including Chris Davis being benched and the Orioles interviewing Ned Colletti.

After discussing the tough news surrounding Richard Bleier and his injury, the guys transition into some Ravens talk. Lamar Jackson got the opportunity to run the offense during practice this past Thursday which quickly caught the attention of the national media. Nolan and Jake give their opinions on Jackson’s progress thus far and comment on the media circus forming around the rookie QB and starter, Joe Flacco.

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!

Podcast Episode 2: Yes, we talked about hockey

Welcome to Episode 2 of the new Charm City Bird Watch Podcast with site owner Jake McDonnell and editor Nolan McGraw.

We don’t normally talk hockey here on the podcast, but we would be remiss if we didn’t kick off the show by discussing the Washington Capitals 3-1 (2-1 during recording of podcast) lead in the Stanley Cup Finals over the Vegas Golden Knights. After years of coming up short, will Alex Ovechkin and the Caps finally bring the cup home to D.C.? Nolan and Jake discuss.

The Orioles are now 17-41 and on a seven-game losing streak. Over the weekend, Dan Duquette said that the team needs to “put a sharper focus on the future.” Will the ownership actually go for it, even with Duquette and Buck Showalter’s contracts expiring after the season? The CCBW crew dive into this ever-important debate.

There’s not much new to report on the Ravens front this week, but Nolan and Jake spent some time digging into OTA nuggets and contemplating the potential starting offensive line combinations. Hear who the guys see winning the spots at left guard, center, and right tackle.

Last but not least, we debut our second newest segment in as many weeks, What an idiot! And guess what? There are multiple culprits this week!

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!

Orioles must change offensive approach to end losing ways

The Baltimore Orioles (17-41) enter the week of Jun. 4 with the worst record in the Majors. Losers of seven straight games, the 2018 season is already over. Now over two months into the season, Orioles ownership faces a cloud of uncertainty with the contracts of both general manger Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter expiring after the season. That’s not a good situation for a team like the Orioles who sit 22.5 games out of first place in the American League East.

Whether Duquette sticks around or leaves town following the 2018 season, the Orioles’ offensive approach needs to change in order for the team to find success again. Since Duquette arrived in Baltimore, the Orioles have relied on lineups full of power bats to carry the team via the long ball. From 2012-17, the Orioles finished in the top 3 in home runs, and they led the major leagues in 2013, 2014, and 2016. Also in that time span, Baltimore finished within the top 10 in strikeouts three times. So far this season, the Orioles rank fifth in strikeouts (523) and 14’th in home runs (65). They’re also 27’th in walks taken (159), 27’th in average (.230) and 29’th in both on-base percentage (OBP) (.293) & runs scored (210).

While these stats span just over two months total, it’s not hard to figure out that these numbers do not point to a successful offense. While ranking 14’th in home runs still puts the Orioles in the middle of the pack, they’re not scoring enough runs, not getting on base enough, and they’re striking out at an alarming rate.

Currently, only four regular starters in the Orioles lineup – Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Trey Mancini, and Mark Trumbo – own OBP’s above .300. This means that over half of Baltimore’s lineup is failing to reach base in seven-of-10 at-bats. Guys like Jones and Trumbo have done all they can to carry the offense, but even they carry free-swinging power bats who will see large strikeout totals when the 2018 season comes to a close.

Easily, the biggest disappointment for the Orioles dates back to the 2016 offseason, and that’s Chris Davis. Since signing a seven-year, $161 million deal in the winter preceding the 2016 season, Davis has hit an alarming .196 with 68 home runs and 487 strikeouts. Things seem to be hitting rock-bottom this season with Davis hitting .152 with just four home runs. Davis has hit at least 21 home runs in seven of 11 seasons, but he’s on pace to finish 2018 with 12 home runs (and about 219 strikeouts).

One factor playing into the declining offensive numbers has to be age. The Orioles are a veteran-heavy team with Jones, Davis, and Trumbo all at the age of 32. Pedro Alvarez, who’s been playing fairly often in the DH spot, is 31. Jonathan Schoop and Mancini are both 26, and Machado turns 26 on Jul. 6. When Davis, Jones, and Trumbo were in their late 20’s, relying on the home run got the Orioles by. Now, a lot of these guys are well above 30 and have started to decline. None of them will admit to it, but the Orioles are a veteran team in need of a turnover that includes plenty of youth.

This should not come as a surprise, but the Red Sox (40-19), Yankees (37-17), Astros (37-23), and Braves (34-24) are the highest scorers of the 2018 season to date. Boston, Atlanta and Houston make up the top three teams in hits while the Yankees, Red Sox and Astros hold the top three spots in RBI. Meanwhile, the Rangers (25-36), Padres (26-34), Giants (28-30) and Orioles make up four of the top five teams in strikeouts this season, with third-place Philadelphia (31-25) being an exception. The stats don’t lie. Teams that hit consistently, score runs and play small ball see success more often than not. Home runs will only get you so far, and strikeouts are the killer.

The scary part about this situation is that the Orioles’ front office appears to be very naive to the issue with no real drive to change the offensive approach. Despite a plethora of designated hitter, power bat types already on the roster (in the forms of Davis, Trumbo and Alvarez), Duquette recently expressed interest in 34-year-old free agent Hanley Ramirez. Duquette has prior experience with Ramirez from his tenure with the Red Sox, but signing a 34-year-old power bat to a team that should be selling makes no sense. With a 17-41 record and a lineup full of aging, undisciplined batters, comments like these from Duquette are extremely concerning.

Another frustrating practice the Orioles implement is neglecting their farm system of international talent. In May, Ben Badler of Baseball America wrote a story highlighting Baltimore ownership’s refusal to spend money in the international market. As Badler wrote in the piece, Duquette’s input only goes so far since the decisions on talent are ultimately made by the Angelos family. The decision to not dip into the international market not only limits the scouting the Orioles can do, but the return the team gets for sending off their international pool money amounts to almost nothing.

The struggles of the 2018 Orioles must not all fall on the offense. The pitching has not been perfect either, with the starting rotation sporting a 5.43 ERA and a bullpen that’s dealt with several injuries. However, since defeating the Red Sox 7-4 on May 18, the Orioles scored three runs or fewer in 13 of their last 14 games, going 3-11 in that span. Even if Dylan Bundy or another Orioles starting pitcher delivers a quality start, the chances of the Orioles’ offense providing just three runs have not been good as of late.

With just under two months remaining before the 2018 MLB trade deadline, there’s still time for Duquette and Orioles’ ownership to make some moves to better the club beyond 2018. All aspects of the club could use some work, but the offense appears to be the biggest issue plaguing the team. The scary reality Orioles fans are faced with is that the team’s ownership has been extremely reluctant to make any sort of changes to the way they construct their team, and no recent events point to that pattern changing. The reliance on the home run worked for a few seasons, but it’s time to change the offensive approach. Until the Orioles do that, the team’s losing ways will continue indefinitely.

Image Credit: Beyond the Box Score


Remembering Manny Machado’s top Orioles moments

With the Orioles 20 games below .500 and 20 games out of first place in the American League East, hopes for the 2018 season appear to be over. There are still four months of regular season baseball left, but the Orioles own among the worst records in the majors and would need a comeback of historic proportion to even sniff the second AL Wild Card spot.

Along with the struggles of the current Orioles ball-club, the organization faces a massive cloud of uncertainty following the 2018 season with the contracts of both manager Buck Showalter and general manager Dan Duquette expiring. There are also a handful of impending free agents on the Orioles’ roster, including Manny Machado.

Even though the Orioles’ front office refuses to talk publicly about their plans beyond 2018, trading Machado would allow the franchise to begin a much-needed rebuilding process. The return for Machado will pale in comparison to what the O’s could have pulled in for their superstar shortstop last year, but contending teams will still deal to rent Machado and possibly sign him long-term in the offseason.

With the impending Machado trade seemingly days or weeks away, let’s look back at some of Machado’s top moments in an Orioles uniform.

1. Hitting two home runs in his second MLB game

Machado made his Major League Orioles debut on Aug. 9, 2012 against the Kansas City Royals at Camden Yards. This came after Machado slashed .266 with 11 home runs and 59 RBI in 109 games with the Bowie Baysox. On that Thursday night in Baltimore, Machado went 2-for-4 at the plate with two hits, including a triple.

The next night, Machado went 2-for-4 again, but this time he hit his first two major league home runs. The first was a fifth inning solo shot off Luke Hochevar. An inning later, Machado got the best of Hochever again as the then 20-year-old blasted a three-run home run to left field, giving the Orioles a 7-1 lead that would end up being the game’s final score.

As noted in the video, both of Machado’s home runs were caught by the same person. The night ended with Machado receiving a pie to the face, courtesy of Adam Jones and Robert Andino.

2. Veteran-like instincts weeks into MLB career

Machado provided a number of memories during his abbreviated rookie season in 2012, but one that sticks out would have to be his heads-up fake throw that ultimately allowed the Orioles to defeat the Rays 3-2 on Sept. 12.

With the game tied at 2 in the ninth inning, the Rays had pinch-runner Rich Thompson at second base with two outs and Evan Longoria at the plate. Longoria hit a soft ground ball down to Machaco at third. Rather than making the throw over to first, the rookie third basemen faked the throw, turned around and flipped the ball to shortstop J.J. Hardy, who was backing up third. Hardy chased Longoria down the baseline before tossing the ball to catcher Matt Wieters, who finally tagged Thompson for the final out of the inning.

Machado would also score the winning run for the O’s in the bottom of the ninth. After singling to first base to lead off the inning, Andino advanced Machado to second on a sacrifice bunt, and then Nate McLouth singled to right field to bring home Machado and walk it off for the Birds. Even though Machado’s rookie year only saw him on the Major League roster for the final two months of the regular season, he was a crucial part in the O’s making the playoffs for the first time in 15 seasons.

3. Perhaps the greatest “Machadian” play of all time

Although Machado wants to continue his career at his natural shortstop position, he was arguably the top third basemen in the major leagues from 2012-17. Machado is a two-time Gold Glove winner (2013, 2015) who’s made too many plays like the one above for O’s fans to count.

This particular play came on Jul. 7, 2013 against the New York Yankees. In the sixth inning, Luis Cruz hit a hard ground ball that rolled down the third base line just inside of foul territory. Machado knocked the ball down with his glove, but it bounced out and rolled into foul territory, where Machado scooped the ball bare-handed and had to turn his body to make a very hard throw over to first base. Not only did Machado pull it off, but the throw was so perfect that Chris Davis did not need to move to make the play.

The Yankees led the Orioles 1-0 at the time of this play, but the O’s went on to win 2-1 behind a two-run home run in the ninth inning by Jones.

4.  Robbing one of the all-time greats 

Cruz is just one on a long list of names to have gotten robbed on the base paths by Machado. In the 11’th inning of a scoreless July 2014 tangle with the Los Angeles Angels, Albert Pujols hit a ball down to third base that forced Machado to stumble into foul territory. Even with an umpire in the way this time, Machado snagged the ball, quickly gained control of his body, and threw a laser over to Steve Pearce at first base for the first out of the inning. The game ended in the 13’th inning when Pujols hit a single that scored the winning run, giving the Angels a hard-earned 1-0 win.

5. Coming through in the clutch

Machado played in all 162 games in 2015, a season that resulted in his second career Gold Glove award. In mid-August after a 4-5 road trip, the Orioles opened a 10-game homestand with a four-game set against the Oakland Athletics.

The Friday series opener against Oakland went into the 13’th inning tied at 6. In the Orioles’ half, Junior Lake struck out to lead off the inning, but Caleb Joseph doubled off Drew Pomeranz, prompting Oakland manager Bob Melvin to pull Pomeranz and bring in Aaron Brooks with Machado due at the plate. After a first-pitch strike, Machado took Brooks’s 80-MPH pitch to the first few rows behind the left field wall to walk it off for the Orioles.

Machado finished the 2015 season with his second-highest totals in batting average (.286) and home runs (35). It was a good sign following Machado’s two knee injuries that ended his 2013 and 2014 seasons prematurely. He has not suffered any significant injuries since.

6.  Fight with hot-head pitcher Yordano Ventura

Before I break down this infamous moment, I would like to state that this is in no way picking fun at the late Yordano Ventura, who passed away in early 2017 in a car crash in the Dominican Republic.

Ventura’s passing was very unfortunate and felt all around baseball. However, Ventura was known to be a hot head who has an in-game fight compilation on YouTube. One of Ventura’s most famous incidents came in June 2016 against Machado. No known issues between Machado and Ventura existed before this incident, but the Royals were the ones who brought Baltimore’s 2014 American League East-winning season to an end in the ALCS.

In the second inning of a beautiful Tuesday night ballgame, Ventura threw high and inside to Machado. On the next pitch, Machado smacked the ball to left field which traveled far, but was caught for an out. When Machado hit the ball, he was a little slow out of the box. This apparently angered Ventura, who exchanged words with Machado following the play.

During Machado’s next at-bat in the fifth inning, Ventura hit him on a pitch that traveled inside and struck Manny in the left rib cage. Machado charged the mound, threw some punches at Ventura, and took him to the ground before the benches cleared and broke up the fight. Both players got ejected and served suspensions for this incident. This was the second career suspension for Machado, the first occurring in 2014 from an incident in which Machado threw his bat at then-Oakland A’s third basemen Josh Donaldson.

Since the fight with Ventura, Machado’s in-game demeanor has calmed, and he has not gotten into an fight since. Last year, Machado became involved in drama with the Red Sox that stemmed from a controversial late slide where Machado injured Boston legend Dustin Pedroia.

Red Sox pitchers Eduardo Rodriguez and Matt Barnes threw at Machado multiple times after the slide. Rather than charging the mound as he had done the previous season, Machado remained calm and let the umpires determine the proper punishment for Barnes, who was ejected. Afterwards, Machado responded the right way, hitting a double to score a run. Pundits have labeled Machado a “hot head” for his behavior in incidents like 2014 with Donaldson and 2016 with Ventura, but his maturity in this instance was nice to see for Orioles fans.

7. Putting the team on his back 

On Aug. 7, 2016, the Orioles defeated the White Sox 10-2 in Chicago. Seven of the 10 Baltimore runs were plated by Machado, who went 3-for-6 with a three-run home run and two separate two-run home runs.

Machado finished the 2016 season with career-highs in batting average (.294), home runs (37) and RBI (96).

8. Opening Day magic

Machado’s defensive greatness was on full display right away in 2017 when he made an amazing play in the 11’th inning of the Orioles’ Opening Day game against the Blue Jays. Toronto second basemen Devon Travis became Machado’s latest victim on another sharply-hit ball down to third base. Machado had to dive to his right side to secure the ball, and then he made a hard throw off his back knee in time to record the out.

In the bottom half of that same inning, Mark Trumbo hit a walk-off solo home run to win it for the Birds by a score of 3-2.

9. Turning two with his best friend 

It’s no secret that Machado’s relationship with fellow infielder Jonathan Schoop goes beyond the baseball diamond. The two regularly joke around in the dugout and on the field, something that’s been caught on television even more in 2018 due to Machado’s position switch from third base to shortstop.

Since 2014, Machado and Schoop have turned several double plays as regular starters in the Orioles’ infield. In the bottom of the first inning during a July 2017 game against the Rays, Machado and Schoop turned a beautiful double play to rob Longoria. Machado stretched into foul territory while controlling his body and made a perfect throw to Schoop at second base for the first out. Schoop quickly pivoted his left foot to get the throw over to Trumbo at first base for the second out of the 5-4-3 double play.

The Orioles went on to win 5-0 with Machado (2-RBI single) and Schoop (sac fly) aiding the Baltimore offense in the shutout victory.

10. Two-home run, six-RBI game versus Tampa 

With Machado set to hit the free agent market following the 2018 season, the 25-year old is off to an MVP-caliber season at the plate. Machado currently leads the majors in RBI with 44, hitting on a Baltimore offense that has scored 207 runs this season, 24’th in the majors.

On May 11 (also against Tampa), Machado plated six runs in the Orioles’ 9-4 win over the Rays at Camden Yards. He hit a two-run home run in the first inning and a grand slam in the seventh inning, becoming the youngest player in Orioles history to reach 150 career home runs in the process.

In the ninth inning Machado and Schoop flashed the leather yet again, combining for a 6-4-3 double play in which Machado flipped the ball from his glove to Schoop for the first out.

Machado’s days in an Orioles uniform are numbered, possibly making this performance against the Rays the last time the Orioles feel the type of impact that he can have on a single game. As the days go by, the Orioles can only hope that Machado delivers more of these performances to maximize the return package for his services.

Image Credit: FanSided

Series Preview: Orioles make first trip to St. Petersburg for weekend tilt with Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — After going 3-5 over the first eight games of an 11-game road trip, Orioles General Manager Dan Duquette’s apparent plan to “evaluate” following Memorial Day weekend remains a possibility. The Orioles (16-34) have struggled mighty on the road thus far in 2018, playing to a 6-21 record away from Camden Yards. The Rays got off to a rough 3-12 start, but ended the month of April with a 13-14 record and have basically played .500 baseball since, now 23-25 on the season. Like it always is in the American League East, the Rays will not go down without a fight against a struggling Baltimore ball-club.

So, Mr. Duquette, be ready to “evaluate” early next week if this weekend does not go well.

A look at the standings: Speaking of the AL East, the Rays come into the weekend 10 games behind the Red Sox (34-18), who lead the division by one game ahead of the Yankees (31-15). The Blue Jays (23-27) sit 11 games back, with the O’s 18 games out of first. The Rays won their game on Thursday night 6-3 over Boston, but lost the series 1-2 at Tropicana Field.

New approach for Tampa: The Rays are trying a new approach to managing their pitching staff as of late, and that approach is called “bullpenning.” Last weekend against the Los Angeles Angels, reliever Sergio Romo started the final two ballgames of a four game series, going 1.0 and 1.1 innings in his appearances. Ryan Yarbough (6.1 innings) took over in the third game, and the Rays used three different pitchers following Romo in the fourth game with none of them going more than 3.1 innings. This weekend, Rays relievers will start all three games versus the Orioles.

The “bullpenning” movement came to fruition due to more runs being scored in the first inning than any inning for American League teams. Another reason Tampa manager Kevin Cash is trying this with his squad is because a lot of starters, particularly veterans, struggle while pitching their third time through an order. If Cash uses a reliever to start the game, he pushes a “starter’s” third time through the order back at least an inning. Using relief pitchers to start the game for an inning or two does no harm, as they are already accustomed to pitching a few times a week for a handful of innings total.

Last meeting/season series: This marks the third series played between the AL foes this season, and the first one at Tropicana Field. The season series is tied 3-3. From May 11-13, the Orioles took three of four from the Rays at Camden Yards. The O’s outscored Tampa 35-18, including a 17-1 win on Sunday May 13’th. Kevin Gausman, David Hess, and Dylan Bundy each turned in a quality start, highlighted by Bundy’s seven-inning, two-hit performance with seven strikeouts. Manny Machado hit three home runs for seven total RBI over the first two games of the series, and then the shortstop brought in two runs on doubles during Sunday’s big win.

The Orioles went 3-6 at Tropicana Field in 2017.

Game times and pitching matchups:

Game 1Friday, May 25, 7:10 pm – David Hess (1-1, 6.75 ERA) vs. Sergio Romo (1-0, 4.34 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 2Saturday, May 26, 4:10 pm – Andrew Cashner (2-5, 4.72 ERA) vs. Ryne Stanek (0-0, 5.40 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 3Sunday, May 27, 1:10 pm – Kevin Gausman (3-3, 3.48 ERA) vs. Sergio Romo – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Notes on the Orioles:

  • At this time last week, the Orioles expected to activate Darren O’Day (hyperextended elbow) off the disabled list during the Boston series, but since then O’Day wasn’t feeling good enough to throw a scheduled Wednesday bullpen session. O’Day is reportedly waiting to see if the elbow feels any better by today (Friday), but he will likely receive cortisone shots.
  • In Thursday’s 9-3 win over the White Sox, the Orioles batted around in both the first and second innings. It marked the first time since Jun. 30, 2009 against Boston that the Orioles sent more than nine batters to the plate twice in the same game. The O’s won that game 11-10.
  • In 25.2 career innings against the Rays, Mychal Givens is 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA. He’s struck out six times as many hitters (30) than he’s allowed runs (5).

Notes on the Rays:

  • In 6.2 career innings against the Orioles, Romo has a 4.05 ERA with one save.
  • The Rays play in spurts; they’re a very streaky team. They’re the only team in the majors with multiple 5-game winning streaks and five-game losing streaks this season. Last night’s win over Boston snapped a three-game losing streak. The Rays had gone on a six-game winning streak before that losing streak began.
  • Tampa is 10-6 so far this season in series openers.

Image Credit: Birds Watcher