Random take Tuesday: The wall, Bruce Bochy and more

Aaron Judge and the New York Yankees might not like it, but Orioles fans are probably growing to like the deeper dimensions in left field at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Over two years now, it has produced fewer homers and ended the day of the so-called cheap homer to left center. But it also has led to more O’s wins. The 2022 team, coming off 110 losses, went 45-36 at home. That club was eighth in the AL in home ERA at 3.73 and fifth scoring 4.23 runs per game at Oriole Park.

The 2023 club went 49-32 at home, third-best in the AL. The team ERA ranked sixth at 3.82 and the O’s scored 4.47 runs per game at home, which was eighth in the league.

At his season-ending press conference, O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias was asked about the wall. Could it be changed or altered in the coming years?

“Look I’m glad we did it,” said Elias. “It coincided with winning baseball in Baltimore and a better style of baseball which is kind of one of the things we talked about it. Is it perfect? Is it the exact perfect dimensions? Does it look perfect and is it going to stay that way forever? No, and I don’t know.

“But, we are going to be renovating the stadium through this new (lease) agreement in the next few years. I don’t have any specifics, but I am totally open to that being on the table. Especially from maybe a smoothness or aesthetics standpoint. I think that is something we should talk about and take a look at.

“But I definitely like not having the most ridiculously homer-prone left field in the league. That wasn’t good. So, we changed it as quickly and as realistically as we could at the time. Seems like it worked."

Bruce Bochy appreciation: Covering the Orioles and Texas Rangers in the American League Division Series represented the first time I ever got to be around Texas manager Bruce Bochy, a skipper with three World Series titles when he managed the San Francisco Giants.

Bochy, 68, is impressive. He handles himself with class as you might expect, and like many managers, was always positive and upbeat about his players and he surely exudes confidence. During press conferences, you could tell how much he believed in his moves and against the Orioles he pretty much batted 1.000. Just about everything he did worked.

He started Andrew Heaney in Game 1 and he did well. After Robbie Grossman fanned four times batting third in the opener, he moved Mitch Garver to the No. 3 spot. He promptly hit a grand slam. Evan Carter batted ninth after his call-up in early September. He moved him to fifth in the playoffs and well, you know what he has done there. What a run he’s had for the Rangers.

This continued in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series. Bochy could have started Nate Eovaldi on regular rest but he went with lefty Jordan Montgomery, who had allowed five runs to the Orioles. And Houston led the AL with a .809 OPS this year versus left-handed pitching. But this is Bochy and his moves all seem to work right now. So Montgomery threw 6 1/3 scoreless as the Rangers took Game 1.

Bochy’s quiet confidence struck me and that must filter down to his team right now too. That confidence must come from all his experience in the game not to mention the rings he won with the Giants in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

It was around this time last year – Oct. 21, 2022 – that the Rangers hired Bochy out of a short retirement. He stepped away after the 2019 season and 13 years with the Giants. Now he has a Rangers team that had six straight losing seasons and won just 68 games last year, close to a World Series.

One thing that surprised me about Bochy is that he has an overall losing record as a major league manager at 2,093-2,101 (.499). He had several losing seasons while managing the Padres and had three at the end of his Giants tenure.

During the ALDS, Bochy talked about how grateful he is to be back in the game.

“Last year, I was at home, doing a little fishing, hitting a few golf balls. Here we are in the postseason," he said. "I'm with a tremendous team here, a bunch of great guys. CY (GM Chris Young), great front office and, of course, ownership. Ray Davis, who I've said many times provided resources to help us be in this position. I'm having the time of my life.”

About the five-day layoff: Yep, the 100-win teams, including the Orioles, had a five-day layoff and then promptly lost their first playoff series and it happened to the Atlanta Braves last year too. But for me it’s too soon to reach conclusions about this and if the wild-card round is going to be best-of-three and not just one game, how else can baseball make this work?

I don’t see an answer or an easy fix here and again I say it is too soon to ponder one. It would seem teams could really use the break, the Orioles sure seemed to need it. But for teams that win their division by big margins – Atlanta won by 14 games and the Dodgers by 16 – it could be an issue. They are already coasting home the last week or two and then get five days off. But what should we do, tell them not to win so much?

The Orioles used the time to have pitchers throw simulated innings and in live BP-type situations. Not much else a club can do I don't think.

Winning your division should not come with any disadvantages, and, at this point, I am not ready to call the five-day layoff that. 



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