Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Game 58: Changing Of The Guards

It's been only five days and three games since the Yankees and O's last met but, for the Orioles at least, much has changed in that time. After getting swept by the Yankees last Thursday night, Baltimore returned home and fired manager Dave Trembley Friday morning. It was hardly a surprise; rumors of Trembley's impending termination had circulated for weeks. In fact, in many ways, it was probably a relief to Trembley, who by all accounts is a good baseball man, but also clearly wasn't getting it done and seemed to have run out of answers.

Juan Samuel took over for Trembley on an interim basis, becoming the third consecutive Orioles manager to take the helm mid-season. He lost his first two games to run the O's losing streak to ten in row, 12 of 13, 14 of 16, and 17 of 20, before recording his first managerial victory with an extra inning decision over Boston on Sunday. He had yesterday's off day to bask in the glow of his win, but things won't be getting any easier for him with the Yankees in town for three before kicking off two weeks of interleague play.

Not only is Samuel the third consecutive mid-season hire for Baltimore, following Trembley and Sam Perlozzo, but he's also the fourth consecutive Oriole hire with no prior Big League managerial experience, a trend that started when the O's hired then-Yankee coach Lee Mazzilli following the 2003 season.

Going with a rookie manager four times in a row hasn't brought much success for the Orioles, but it's not as if they were tremendously successful under previous retreads Mike Hargrove and Ray Miller. The truth of the matter is, the Orioles haven't been worth a damn since 1997, when they went 98-64, won the AL East, and advanced to the ALCS. After that season manager Davey Johnson resigned, and the O's haven't had a winning season since.

Johnson made a cameo at the draft last night, serving as one of the Washington Nationals representatives as the Orioles' Beltway rivals selected super-hyped phenom Bryce Harper with the top pick in the draft. Tonight, just down I-295, those same Nationals will host the Pirates in the most anticipated game of the season, in front of a sold out house, as last year's top overall super-hyped pick Stephen Strasburg makes his Major League debut. Meanwhile, even with the Yankees in town, Baltimore will fail to fill their park, which was once one of the hottest tickets in the Majors.

While Washington had to suffer through two consecutive seasons of having the Major's worst record in order to secure those coveted young talents, it is now the Orioles who occupy the MLB basement. Typical of their recent luck, they're on pace to have the top pick in next year's draft - the first draft in three years that doesn't figure to have a once-in-a-generation type talent sitting at the top of the heap.

In the history of mid-Atlantic baseball, tonight could mark a turning point. After arriving in Baltimore from St. Louis in 1954, the Orioles quickly established themselves as a model franchise. "The Oriole Way" became a shining example of how to run an organization, leading to World Series titles in 1966, 1970, and 1983, AL Pennants in 1969, 1971, and 1979, and ALCS losses in four other years. It generated Hall of Famers in Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Eddie Murray, and Cal Ripken Jr.

The strength and proximity of the O's made it was easier for the region to stomach the original Senators leaving Washington after the 1960 season, and then the expansion franchise leaving after the 1971 season. The Orioles extended run of quality play softened the blow of the Nation's Capital being without a Big League team for the next thirty three seasons.

But tonight, with Strasburg debuting, with Harper soon to be in tow, with another mid-season interim rookie manager in the Baltimore dugout, and with Baltimore staring down their thirteenth consecutive losing season, we might just be witnessing a changing of the guards in metro-D.C. baseball.

Gentlemen, he said,
I don't need your organization, I've shined your shoes,
I've moved your mountains and marked your cards
But Eden is burning, either brace yourself for elimination
Or else your hearts must have the courage for the changing of the guards.
[Song Notes: Another epic tale from Dylan. The video quality isn't great, but the options are limited as the song has rarely been played live.]


Not much to say here. This is what passes for the regular lineup right now. Perhaps the comforts of home can help Mark Teixeira snap out of his season-long funk. Phil Hughes faces Baltimore for his second consecutive start and third time this year.
Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada DH
Curtis Granderson CF
Francisco Cervelli C
Brett Gardner LF

RHP Phil Hughes

Julio Lugo 2B
Miguel Tejada 3B
Nick Markakis RF
Ty Wigginton 1B
Luke Scott DH
Not Pacman Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Lou Montanez LF
Cesar Izturis SS

RHP Kevin Millwood

Extraneous Thoughts On The Draft

Some leftover opinions on the draft that I didn't want to bury at the bottom of the Culver post:
  • Wow, those five minute intervals were way, way too long. I understand that the whole reason for putting this thing in prime time was to make money off of it and the longer you stretch it out, the more commercials you can sell. But if you pace it too slow, no one is going to be around to watch those ads. I DVR'd this joint and I tried to watch it at regular speed at first, but ended up fast-forwarding between the breaks and ultimately just turning it off until the Yankees were up.

  • Mysteriously, every fucking team took their allotted five minutes, right down to the second. Yes, that probably made the broadcast flow much smoother since the hosts knew right when to kick it back to Bud Selig. However, in other sports, they might need to use that time since they can trade away their pick, and if the team is ready with the selection, they just go sooner and save everyone the time.

  • After the first round was said and done, I somehow despised Bud Selig even more than I did at the beginning. I hated the fact that he had to go through the same protracted spiel before every pick:
    With the seventeenth pick in the Two Thousand and Ten (that's M-M-X in Roman numerals) Major League Baseball First Year Players Draft, the Tampa Bay Rays of Tampa, Florida select Josh Sale, and outfielder from Seattle High School In Seattle, Washington, down the street from the Mobil station on the right, about a block and a half west of the hospital.

    The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have the next pick in the 2010 Major League Baseball First Year Players Draft and will have five minutes, which translates to 300 seconds, and are on the clock - metaphorically speaking, not literally on top of a clock - starting now.
    AAAAAAAHHHHHH! We know what draft we are watching and don't care what town the college or high school the kid goes to is in. I hate hearing you speak. Less is more. Shut the fuck up.

  • Judging by his suit, if Selig wasn't announcing the picks last night, he might have been trying to sell you a 2002 Nissan Maxima with 140,000 miles on it. "All highway. You can drive one of these to 250,000, easy!"

  • By the time they got to the supplemental round, the pacing was much better and it was far more interesting, even though the players were ostensibly less heralded. Even the guys at the desk thought it was better and said so on air (oops!). This thing didn't need to be drawn out for three and a half hours and by pick number #35 or so, it was painfully obvious.

  • It was also pretty cool to see the team's representative announce the pick (and mispronounce the name) during the supplemental round. Jeff Bagwell got stuck with "Mike Kvasnicka" and Roberto Alomar had to try to say "Noah Syndergaard" and "Asher Wojciechowski". As someone with a last name that everyone butchers, I found that amusing.
That's all I got. If they don't ditch the contrived intervals and cut this thing down to about an hour and a half next year, I promise I won't turn it on until the Yanks are on the clock.

Welcome To The Machine, Cito Culver

With the last pick in the first round this year, just like they said they would, the Yankees went with a high school position player. However, it wasn't any of the multitude of prospects that they had been connected to via mock drafts and countless other forms of internet speculation.

Cito Culver is a switch-hitting high school shortstop out of Irondequoit, New York, which is close to Rochester. On the broadcast last night, they said that he was ranked 168th in Baseball America's Top 200 (which I can't verify since I don't have a subscription) and most of the mock drafts had him being drafted somewhere between the fourth and six round. For a frame of reference, FanGraphs was dropping in descriptions of players to this post after the picks were made, and they had nothing prepared for Culver.

Little CC had committed to play for the University of Maryland but after getting drafted in the first round by the Yankees, you can pretty much throw that out the window. If the Yankees make that kind of reach in the first round, they are going to sign him.

Naturally, Mike from River Ave. Blues has a more complete profile of Culver, but the gist of it is that he's an excellent athlete with a great throwing arm but not a great baseball player just yet. Essentially, he's got the tools that you can't teach and the Yankees are hoping that they can mold him into a solid all-around player. There are also concerns about a troubled family life (his father is in prison), but we learned our lesson with Slade Heathcott last year, and are not going to touch that at all.

Clearly, the Yankees know way more than we do about this kid. All I've seen are second and third hand scouting reports and a very short video clip of him swinging away in batting practice and declining to offer at two pitches in a live game. But from a purely logical perspective, I really hope that the Yankees were sure that he'd get snatched up before they got a chance to pick again at #82, otherwise this doesn't make much sense.

There were two other shortstops taken just behind Culver in the supplemental round - Taylor Lindsey and Matthew Lipka - but the former might have been a bit of a reach as well.

As fans we didn't get the tantalizing talent that we were hoping for and on a certain level that's disappointing. No high end arm that scouts were projecting towards the front of the rotation and no high school slugger with preposterous power potential. Instead the Yanks did what many small market teams do, which was take a player from their own state who was clearly higher on their list than anyone else's.

Regardless, Culver is a shortstop and that means he's going to have some big shoes to fill if and when he makes it to the big leagues.