The rumors that Andy MacPhail will resign at season’s end continue to swirl, although none have been confirmed by MacPhail himself. If the reports are true, let’s take a look back at his tenure in Baltimore.
What do you think of the player moves MacPhail made in his four years here?
I’ll let you out there in the blogosphere tee off on the not so savvy decisions like missing on first-rounder Matt Hobgood and spending $15 million this year on Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero.
Meanwhile there are three key moves MacPhail can walk away from this organization proud of.
* Trading Erik Bedard to Seattle for five players including Adam Jones. A Gold Glove and two All-Star games later, it’s safe to say Jones is the backbone of this ballclub for years to come. At 26, there’s still a lot for Jones to do in this game.
* Trading minor leaguers Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson to the Twins for J.J. Hardy and Brendan Harris plus cash. Then, of course, signing Hardy to a three-year $22 million contract.
Perhaps we should give credit to the Orioles scouts who lobbied to get Hardy. I remember seeing him in Minnesota in 2010 and thinking what a gamer this guy was. Since coming to Baltimore, Hardy has well exceeded expectations. His close friend and teammate Mark Reynolds said Orioles hitting coach Jim Presley had a lot to do with it.
“(Hardy) kind of got away from what his strengths were over the last year or two and kind of became more of a singles hitter, More of a slap guy, you know? You got to give a lot of credit to Pres because he was like, ‘Hey, swing the bat with authority. You’ve done it before. It’s still in there you can still do it.’ He came in this year on fire. He’s done a great job for us, he’s a great shortstop,” said Reynolds.
Hardy came into Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jays riding a 13-game hitting streak. Monday night against the Yankees, Hardy tied his career high with his 26th homer of the season.
It’s only fitting he and Reynolds are buddies. The pair is tied for the most home runs hit by teammates since the All-Star break with 24. Yankees Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher have also combined for 24 homers since the Mid-Summer Classic.
That brings me to MacPhail’s third best player move.
* Acquiring Mark Reynolds by trading young relievers David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio.
After 2010, it was clear the Orioles desperately needed some pop in the lineup. MacPhail sort of knew what he was going to get in Reynolds - a lot of strikeouts, a lot of homers. I believe Reynolds’ 31 homers by Aug. 29 can be classified as exceeding expectations.
Reynolds has no delusions about the type of hitter he is.
“I go up there every at-bat looking for a pitch to drive. If I get two fastballs outer-half black, I’m going to take them,” Reynolds said. “I’m not going to try to hit a ground ball to second or something. I get myself in a hole a little bit that way, but for the main part I’m in the lineup to hit the ball in the gaps and hit ‘em over the fence and drive runners in. With two strikes, I try to do what I can and put the ball in play. Maybe I get a single here or there, but I’m looking for a pitch I can drive and do some damage with.”
As of Aug. 31, the Orioles had already exceeded 2010’s home run total by 23 and there’s still a month to go in the season. Adding power to the lineup in 2011 has been one of MacPhail’s successes, even though he missed on Guerrero and Lee, who he believed would bring more power to the lineup.
On a side note, Reynolds’ play at first base has been impressive and Hardy’s at shortstop has been Gold Glove-worthy. Not only are the two first-year Orioles producing on the field, their lockers sit next to each other in the clubhouse and are about as close as any two players are on the team.
“We both like to play ping-pong, both like to golf and fish. In spring training, we did a lot of that stuff together and our personalities are kind of the same. We’re both laid back, not really the center of attention and we just kind of hang out by the side and let the other guys take the spotlight,” said Reynolds.
The spotlight is sure to continue to shine on Reynolds and Hardy if they continue to put up the numbers they have this season.
As for MacPhail, it’s important to note, no official decision has been made as to whether he’ll return, but there’s a feeling around the ballclub that it’s not likely.