Because You Asked - Race 3

BOSTON - In an August mailbag race, mine isn’t vying for a third wild card. It’s running away with the division. Can’t be caught.

It can, however, be emptied.

Don’t ask me how that works.

This is the latest sequel to the beloved original. You ask, I answer, you keep asking and I keep changing my responses to confuse the heck out of you.

Trust the first one.

There isn’t much editing here.  There isn’t an obsession over clarity, length, style and brevity. We embrace our informal nature.

The next person who wonders if this is the exact length of each question and whether the brevity is untouched will be the first. You’ll also be fined by our Kangaroo Court.

Also, my mailbag points the fan away from yours and doesn’t let it oscillate.

What does Gunnar Henderson have to do to get called to The Show?
Answer his phone or hear his manager summon him into the office. That’s usually how it works. Otherwise, I don’t know whether Henderson debuts later this summer. He turned 21 on June 29 and played in only five games above the Single-A level in 2021. The Orioles aren’t known for flooring the gas pedal with their prospects. And Henderson’s rise to No. 1 prospect in Baseball America’s Top 100 rankings probably won’t wield much influence, since Adley Rutschman held the same honor and it still took him a while. Of course, the triceps strain in March contributed to the slower pace. So, long answer is I don’t know whether he’ll get the call, especially with the Orioles fighting for a wild card and quite happy with their infield defense. This isn’t Manny Machado replacing Wilson Betemit at third base. This isn’t the same front office. But rosters expand by two players in September. So … maybe? He isn’t on the 40-man roster and doesn’t have to be protected in the Rule 5 draft. But … maybe?

How do we fix the gaping defensive hole that is second base?
To be honest, I don’t see a gaping hole. Rougned Odor isn’t winning a Gold Glove, and I saw his minus-0.4 dWAR per, his minus-five defensive runs saved and minus-2.9 ultimate zone rating per earlier this week. He committed his 10th and 11th errors Tuesday night. He isn’t Bobby Grich or Davey Johnson. But he starts and turns double plays beyond just the satisfaction of manager Brandon Hyde. He’s really good at it. Overall, he’s OK for now. This isn’t a long-term relationship. The organization has built a nice stable of infield prospects. And he’s been clutch at the plate in the late innings and an extremely positive influence in the clubhouse.

Will Grayson Rodriguez pitch this season?
Maybe. Yeah, I’m chock full of information. I believe that he’ll pitch again, since he’s progressed to bullpen sessions in Sarasota and is ahead of schedule. But it might not be with the Orioles. He could hop back into a minor league rotation to get some innings, and to be rewarded for coming back from a Grade 2 lat strain. It’s important to him. I don’t know whether the wild card chase is any sort of factor – pro or con. I also don’t know much about history or biology.

I’m confused.
Sorry. Probably my fault.

Let me finish. I’m confused about the Florida Complex League. I thought the Orioles had two teams, but I only see one box score each day. What gives?
I also was confused. They have only one entry this year that plays official games. But there are lots of practices, simulated games, etc., so there are two coaching staffs. That’s a change from 2021. The managers, pitching coaches, hitting coaches and others rotate.

Seeing as this week is “Remembering things about Camden Yards and the Orioles," what is your favorite memory of covering this team?
There are a lot, and at the risk of name-dropping, I’ll always appreciate covering Cal Ripken Jr.’s 2,130 and 2,131, and his final game. And the “Delmon Double,” of course. But I’ll go with “Clinchmas,” when the Orioles clinched the division at home in 2014 and the celebration spilled onto the field, allowing fans to join the party. And it was a wild one. We lost dear friend and Orioles PR director Monica Barlow to lung cancer on Feb. 28, and the season was dedicated to her. So many emotions that night. And me, of course, driving home while reeking of champagne and beer. I kept imagining myself trying to explain that to a police officer.

Mike Elias seemed to indicate we may finally start to spend this offseason. Do you see a massive move from the front office or expect something like a No. 5 starter signing this offseason?
This will be the most interesting offseason in many years. I don’t necessarily envision a “massive move,” but I think they’ll aim higher than a fifth starter. They could go after a starter who’s under team control beyond one season and capable of competing for more than the back end of the rotation. John Means might not be ready for opening day. We don’t know if the club is picking up Jordan Lyles’ $11 million option, and if they do, whether they keep or trade him. (Remember José Iglesias?). Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall could break camp as starters, and the Orioles are hoping Kyle Bradish joins them. They also search for starters in the offseason, and we’ve seen them progress from a batch of minor league deals with spring training invites to a pretty substantial commitment to Lyles, given their reluctance to spend on pitching. I think there could be another bump in spending.

Based on what we’ve seen recently and the remaining schedule, do you think the Orioles lose another game this season?
You again?

Did Félix Bautista really walk out to Omar Little whistling "The Farmer in the Dell"?
Yes, he did, on Monday and most noticeably Tuesday. Wasn’t his idea. I asked. He isn’t familiar with “The Wire.” But the Orioles thought they’d give it a try, and the fans seemed to love it. Nice timing for the club to shoot his promo on Tuesday – there were remnants of smoke lingering in the air in the auxiliary clubhouse – and he earned the save later that night. Between the video, whistling and light show, it was an electric scene. Now, of course, Bautista has to back it up. Opponents may find extra motivation in knocking him down a few pegs, which still would leave him towering over everybody.

When does Matt Harvey make his 2022 Orioles debut?
He might not make it back to Baltimore. He’s pitching insurance, and his chances increased with Grayson Rodriguez’s lat injury, but there isn’t a need for him right now. He’s stretched out. That part is done.

Do the O’s win 80 games?
I wouldn’t bet against it.

What's more likely to happen this offseason, Mike Elias spends money in free agency or acquires talent via a trade?
It isn’t his money, but both scenarios could happen. The Orioles will spend in free agency, probably more than we’ve seen since the rebuild started, but how much is the question. There’s always the chance of a trade happening. There was a lot of interest in Anthony Santander at the deadline, but Elias held onto him. And he wasn’t the only outfielder discussed. The Orioles will need to figure out how Kyle Stowers becomes an everyday player. And maybe that’s one way that they can acquire a starter. Like I said, a very interesting offseason is approaching.

When will there be a Roch Kubatko bobblehead night?
Nothing is scheduled, probably because I haven’t approved the hair.

Do you think DL Hall is going to be a power reliever or starting pitcher next year?
He’s 100 percent starter. That’s why the Orioles drafted him and how he’s being developed. Of course, they can always make a change down the road if it doesn’t work out, but they have no reason to believe it won’t work out.

When we win the World Series, can we ride on a School of Roch float in the parade?
I’m envisioning the ending to “Animal House.” So, yes.

Jackie Bradley Jr. hit the market just two days after Brett Phillips did. Both are left-handed hitting, LH-batting, "defense first" outfielders. Phillips is four years younger than Bradley but the Orioles signed Phillips as a two-month option. Which of them would you have preferred if the Orioles had that choice?
Not sure he makes it to two months. Who goes if Kyle Stowers is promoted? Anyway, I would have said “Bradley” until meeting Phillips. Love his energy. And he's here for his defense, speed and clubhouse/dugout presence.

Will the Rays have a video tribute for Phillips, since he's returning tonight?
Yes, after the bottom of the second inning. And my guess is it will keep him in a good mood. Also, I'm told he will sign autographs before all three games. 

Is Adley Rutschman the greatest ever or just the greatest of a generation?
Let’s give him another month before we decide.

How many home runs would Eddie Murray have hit if he played his entire career at Camden Yards, before the left field wall was moved back?
There’s probably a way to actually calculate that, but I’m just going to take the easy way out and say at least 500 more.

Is team chemistry really a thing?
Just look at the 2022 Orioles for confirmation. Yes, it’s real. Talent still matters the most. A team can be tight, but it will lose more than it wins if it can’t play. However, the unity that we see on this year’s club – it might set a record for most T-shirts designed – keeps the energy level high and therefore makes it possible to keep staging these dramatic comebacks. They believe in themselves and each other. Shouldn’t downplay the importance of it. Maybe that’s why this team gives me a 2012 vibe.

Why did they ditch selling Icees at the stadium? I loved those things on a hot day.
Won’t lie, I didn’t know they ever sold Icees. Sounds refreshing. I’m sorry for your loss.

Any hints as to what future improvements are in the works for OPACY?
The Orioles aren’t revealing those plans, but I’d expect/hope they include scoreboard and PA system upgrades. Especially the latter. Can’t hear a thing in the press box. The umpire who shares the review outcomes is mic’d, right? I have to read his lips and body language. I heard chatter many years ago about an open concourse that would allow fans to watch the game while passing through or standing in line, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen. It would be a major overhaul with, I’m assuming, the removal of seats. I don’t do construction and I’m not an architect, but I think it would be necessary.

If you’re not an architect, why do you write so much about the rebuild?
I really need to stop making this mailbag conversational.  

How early is too early for scoreboard watching?
If Brandon Hyde is doing it in August, it’s time.

What is the new wild card format?
Three teams make it and it’s best two out of three games for each series. The third seed faces the division winner with the worst record. The higher seed is home for all three games, which are played within a three-day window.

Do you think Adley has a shot at Rookie of the Year?
I certainly do. He arrived in time, and there’s no arguing that he’s been one of the best. Would be really hard to keep him off the ballot.

What is the organizational thinking on the quick release of J.D. Mundy? (Poor results this year, but only his second professional season and he was solid last year. Plus, first base is not currently a farm system strength.)
Mundy was signed after the shortened 2020 draft. He had a really good 2021, batting a combined .291/.390/.536 with 20 doubles, 15 home runs and 57 RBIs in 308 plate appearances between Single-A Aberdeen and Delmarva., and I was surprised by his release. But he hit .218/.302/.385 with 15 doubles, eight home runs, 39 RBIs, 28 walks and 85 strikeouts in 268 plate appearances this year at Double-A Bowie, room is being made for players entering the system from this year’s draft, and he must not have been regarded as a piece – ugh, that word again – who fit on the post-rebuild Orioles.

Why do written game recaps start with the end of the game and then work backward to the beginning of the game, but TV recaps explain a game in chronological order?
That’s such a good question. The writing of a game story doesn’t come with concrete rules. You can go in chronological order, but it would read horribly. And then this, and then this, and then this … It isn’t supposed to be a ticker. The media also knows that most fans can track a game. This isn’t a courtroom transcription.

What was your take on Robinson Chirinos being in violation of the "home plate collision" rule the other day? Seemed to me like he was just trying to make a baseball play more than being in violation of anything.
I thought he was set up in front of the plate, waiting for the ball, which isn’t allowed. I only can go by what the replay showed. But if the throw brought him there, yeah, I agree. I don’t know what else he could have done. Stand to the side, reach for the ball and then hop in front of the runner? There was confusion over where he was allowed to be, which shouldn’t happen. The umpires need to know the rule, right? But it sounded like he was getting conflicting information. I don’t think it cost the Orioles a win. They scored one run and had four hits. They didn’t purposely shut down after the call. They would have lost 4-1 instead of 8-1. But I understand why the call infuriated some folks.  

Brandon Hyde for Manager of the Year if the O’s reach the playoffs?
At this rate, he should receive votes on the ballot even if they fall short, perhaps still finishing first. He looks top three to me. But we still have more than a month left.  

Any movement on the stadium lease? The Orioles' unilateral right to extend the lease by five years ends in Feb 2023.
I haven’t heard any updates. I also don’t sense any concerns over it. I’ll say this again: The Orioles aren’t moving. If that makes you feel better.

Did you ever desire to go bigger media outlet, let's say The Athletic, ESPN, etc? You're just as good, in my opinion, as the Passans and others. You're down to earth and incredibly knowledgeable, without the pomp and circumstance. We're lucky to have you.
Thanks, Mom. But you left out handsome and hilarious.

So, you’re not answering?
Local options were limited back in the day, and I wasn’t going to squeeze a raise out of The Baltimore Sun, where I worked for about 23 years, when I couldn’t bring them an offer from an outsider. They knew I wasn’t moving, especially with my daughter living here and me becoming a single dad. I’m still tied to this area as a husband, father and grandfather, and with all of my family here. I never felt like I settled by remaining in Maryland. It’s been a good run. Now, I’m trying to run straight into retirement.

OK, wasn't asking for your life story, but thanks.
Again, I really need to ditch the conversational thing.

Does a win in a one-game series constitute a sweep?
I hate it. I think it's deceiving. But the Elias Sports Bureau seems to think so and they get the final vote.

Is a Euro a form of currency or an Arby's sandwich, and what is a gyro?
This is probably a good place to stop.

How many Euros does a gyro cost?
This is definitely a good place to stop. Until next time …

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