As I sifted through my notes and old quotes from the season’s first half, I found manager Buck Showalter’s recent comments on shortstop J.J. Hardy.
I’ve been talking about Hardy a lot lately because I’m frequently asked whether the Orioles should move Manny Machado to shortstop. I tend to agree with Cal Ripken Jr., who sees no reason to mess with the left side of the infield.
“I want to see (Machado) apply his overall skill set, his aptitude for playing baseball from the shortstop position. But I wouldn’t change anything right now,” Ripken told me last week.
“They have the best left side infield, arguably, around. That’s the sort of defense that turns ground balls into double plays. And Manny’s range to his left and his aggressiveness certainly allows J.J. to play a little bit more up the middle, and that’s a big advantage.
“We get caught up in Manny’s skill set, but J.J. Hardy is a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop. He’s brought a tremendous amount of stability to the whole defense. There’s no reason to change that.”
Hardy signed a three-year, $22.5 million extension in July 2011 that keeps him with the Orioles through the 2014 season. He won his first Gold Glove last winter and made his second All-Star team this summer. If he isn’t Showalter’s favorite player, he’s extremely high up on the list.
“He’s one of those teammates you want to please,” Showalter said. “He’s a pleasure to watch. Takes a lot of pride in the infield’s defense, not just his, so guys want to please him. Everything about him isn’t about, ‘How flashy can I look and how much can I make it look easy to me?’ And through that, he makes it look easy, and we know how hard it is.
“He took a ball, a really bad hop, and everybody was in shock. It went as an error and should have been, probably. The ball went by him and we all kind of went, ‘J.J. just missed a ball.’ I went back and looked at it. But he doesn’t use it as an excuse at all.
“Last thing we do in an advance meeting after we go over the infield setup is, ‘J.J., what do you think? Good?’ It’s like having a coach on the field. And he gets situations. I could tell you 100 stories where he’s sharp. Infield depth, angles. He talks a lot about angles. People don’t get how important angles are in the infield. You can play in, but you can create a good angle to the ball. Cal used to talk about it a lot.
“He’s sharp. He’s one of those guys, he puts his hand up when you go, ‘Anybody got any questions?’ And you go, ‘Oh God, here it comes.’ I didn’t know how good he was. I knew he was pretty good. I didn’t know how good he was. He likes it here. He loves the Orioles and we’re lucky to have him.”
Should the Orioles consider keeping him beyond 2014 and leave the left side intact? Hardy has never played another position besides shortstop in his nine major league seasons. Should they consider a move to second base?
Nobody asked for my opinion, but Machado has plenty of time to shift over to short. He’s exceptional at third. He’s beyond cool at the hot corner. Leave Machado there and keep Hardy at short for as long as he’s got the range to play the position.
“J.J. makes everything look easy,” Ripken said. “I hear some criticism that he’s not covering enough ground, but the numbers indicate that he is, through the smartness of his positioning and his style of play.”
If it’s good enough for Showalter and Ripken...
Note: The Orioles will receive the second selection between the first and second rounds of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. Here’s the press release from Major League Baseball regarding the Competitive Balance Lottery that took place earlier today:
Major League Baseball announced this afternoon the results of the second annual Competitive Balance Lottery, which will impact the order of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. The drawing was conducted earlier this afternoon at Major League Baseball’s New York offices and the results were first announced on MLB Network.
The Competitive Balance Lottery, which was agreed upon as a part of the 2012-2016 Basic Agreement between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association, gives Clubs with the lowest revenues and in the smallest markets the opportunity to obtain additional draft picks through a lottery. The 10 Clubs with the lowest revenues and the 10 Clubs in the smallest markets were entered into a lottery for the six selections immediately following the first round of the First-Year Player Draft.
The eligible Clubs that did not receive one of the six selections after the first round, and all other payee Clubs under the Revenue Sharing Plan, were entered into a second lottery for the six picks immediately following the second round of the Draft. A Club’s odds of winning the lottery were based on its prior season’s winning percentage compared to other eligible Clubs in that lottery round.
The results of the Competitive Balance Lottery are as follows:
(Six Draft Selections Following First Round)
1. Colorado Rockies
2. Baltimore Orioles
3. Cleveland Indians
4. Miami Marlins
5. Kansas City Royals
6. Milwaukee Brewers
(Six Draft Selections Following Second Round)
1. San Diego Padres
2. Arizona Diamondbacks
3. St. Louis Cardinals
4. Tampa Bay Rays
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
6. Seattle Mariners