10 April 2017

Nothing (Well, Very Little) New Here

Joe Reisel's Archives

I am fortunate enough to be starting my twelfth season as a datacaster for the Norfolk Tides. I have also been fortunate enough to work with a congenial and pleasant group of co-workers. The official scorers, with whom I work closely, have been the same for all the previous eleven seasons. I have worked with the same media relations director for ten of the eleven seasons; he took a year off to try to make some real money and decided he'd rather be happy than rich. Although I don't work with them as closely, the PA announcer, scoreboard operators, and other behind-the-scenes staff have been there most of the eleven years as well. We have a history with the Tides, and every year we hope we'll get to see entertaining and interesting players.

Just before the start of the major-league season, the Tides hosted the parent Orioles in an exhibition game and I provided Major League Baseball Advanced Media with the datacast. This was my first look at the 2017 Tides. When we looked at the Tides' lineup for the exhibition game, we were pleased to see Chance Sisco, a young player with a promising future. And it was nice to see Paul Janish; even though he's not a young player, it's nice to see a shortstop who can make all the routine plays and even a few not-so-routine plays. David Washington was, at least, a fresh face, a minor-league free agent who hadn't spent several years in the International League.

On the other hand, we were dismayed to see Robert Andino and Chris Dickerson in the lineup. I have nothing personal against Andino and Dickerson and they are probably among the top two thousand baseball players in the world. But we've seen a lot of them when they were through Norfolk before and we weren't excited to see them again. I wondered if the Orioles had tried to find other similar blasts from the past like Blake Davis or Chris Robinson; at least they hadn't brought back Ryan Drese.

On the whole, then, the 2017 Norfolk Tides didn't look to be particularly interesting for us long-time Tides followers. But every year there's a new employee who joins us long-time Tides followers in the press box. That's the media relations intern, who does grunt work for the Tides while learning the minor-league baseball business and building a resume. The interns provide an entirely different viewpoint; they are much less focused on the minor leagues than we are and haven't been jaded by four .500 seasons out of the last eleven.

And, during our observations about how uninspiring the 2017 Tides seemed to be, this year's intern said that he was excited to see Pedro Alvarez. After all, he's a former all-star and National League home run champ. He's only 30 years old. He's fighting his way back to the major leagues. Surely this is a player worth seeing.

And, of course, he's right, given that he hasn't seen 478 Norfolk Tides games in the past eleven years. But part of the fun in watching minor league baseball is seeing something new, like young players potentially destined for glory and other players to whom we haven't been overexposed. We've seen Pedro Alvarez on television many times - I've even seen him live. We know the Pedro Alvarez story, and we've heard the same story many more times, about different players. Left-handed hitting home run hitter, doesn't hit for a high batting average, can't play defense - we know what to expect. And that's why I'm not excited about the specifics of the 2017 Norfolk Tides - I have expectations about too many players.

And, this may illustrate why many fans are frustrated by the Orioles. The 2017 Orioles are just like every Orioles team of the past few seasons - Manny Machado will be great, the rest of the lineup will hit a lot of home runs and play outstanding infield defense; the starting pitching will be suspect and the bullpen outstanding. At best, that will get them into the postseason but not really be favored to advance. While we want to be (pleasantly) surprised and see something new and different, perhaps we should enjoy what we have, rather than want what we aren't going to get.


Roger said...

I don't know. MAybe it will be boring but the O's have promoted a few and brought in a few that might be interesting - Aquino, Ynoa, Verrett, Liranzo, Lee. These guys are not AAA repeaters. They're not Kershaw but they are not chopped liver either. You underestimate the pitching. The position players, outside of Sisco, are sort of meh, but I guess that's just where we are with the O's farm.

Unknown said...

To be fair to myself, in the exhibition game neither the "Orioles" nor the "Tides" used any of those pitchers. But your point is valid in that the pitchers are more interesting than the position players appear to be.

I am looking forward to seeing more of Aquino. I don't know much about Ynoa. Liranzo is starting the year at Bowie. Verrett is just a guy; he's 27 and hasn't pitched really well in five years. And as for Chris Lee, it's hard to have high hopes for a pitcher coming off a season in which he had an 11-19 BB-K ratio.

It's also unfair to them, but the first starts of Ynoa and Lee didn't inspire me with confidence.

Pip said...

I enjoyed this article very much. I hope you'll provide us updates. I'm especially interested in Alvarez' development-or non-development-in RF, as well as in the pitchers whom we're likely to see. I agree that Lee is no answer and wonder why so many are thinking otherwise, but I have hope for Aquino, Ynoa and Liranzo.

Matt Bennett said...

What is all the fuss about Aquino? We acquired him for cash and his numbers at Bowie last year showed it. Is he even a top 30 prospect?

We basically gave up some loose change and leftovers for Chris Lee, Jayson Aquino, Alec Asher, Joe Gunkel, Richard Belier, and Gabriel Ynoa. Maybe one of them turns out to be our next Miguel Gonzalez. I like these moves for exactly that reason. But it would have been a mistake have gone into 2012, assuming we were looking to be competitive, EXPECTING something out of Miguel.

Logan Verrett can be safely lumped with Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson at this point. 4A guys who have made it clear they aren't going to make it as starters in the big leagues.

Mr. Diggz said...

Yes, the 2017 have the same exact team which is frustrating...but the failure to develop top minor league talent is the issue. Why the hell did they burn a first round pick on a short, pudgy no defense playing prospect like D.J Stewart? Why did they use a mid first round pick to grab whomever that awful starting pitcher was from Texas last year? How have the 2nd,3rd round picks been progressing over the years? They hit on obvious talent like Machado, Bundy and Gausman...but what is up with everything else?

Jon Shepherd said...

Matt - By coincidence, that comparison is made in tomorrow's post.

Diggz - I think your comment on the draft both right and wrong. While Machado, Bundy, and Gausman were elite or near elite prospects, the club still had to choose them and others had to choose other prospects. It is not exactly like these players were gifted to the club.

Where the great difficulties come in for acquisition is that the club is turning over first round picks in order to sign free agents. The puts a greater dependence on lower round picks, which have in turn been steadily traded to support an MLB club in contention. Complicating matters is that the Orioles almost completely refuse to meaningfully act in the international market. They routinely spend the least on international amateurs every year, which stretches back into the MacPhail era. Compared to other clubs, this is particularly seen with lack of athleticism in middle infield and a lack of high velocity arms in the low minors.

Then you have development issues. You had Peterson around, who no one in development liked and often his teaching was different from pitching coaches at the affiliate. Add to that, Brady Anderson would come around and have other ideas. It was a pretty chaotic situation and still is for a pitcher. They deal with instability in year and then have to deal with changes in the off season and at the next level. Part of the inconsistency is due to how well each instructor listens to the front office (whose voice is not always in unison) and Buck's staff, who often act separate from the rest of the group.

It is a bit of a mess and you see that when pitchers leave. A common refrain is how refreshingly stable instruction is when you leave the organization. DeOriole is becoming a verb. So when you see a guy like Brault, Hader, or Davies do well elsewhere, it is difficult to think they would do well here. Davies is a major example of someone who was quickly reconfigured to become workable. When that trade went down, it greatly surprised several execs who have no idea why the Orioles did that. Eh.