The hiring of Quincy Boyd last month as an area scout was prompted by Rich Morales’ departure from the Orioles. Morales accepted a West Coast position with the Mets.
Why did Morales, who signed outfielder Cedric Mullins and catcher Austin Wynns and won the Jim Russo Scout of the Year Award in 2018, make the move across the country?
“It was not an easy decision to leave the Orioles, but an opportunity was presented to me to get me back home on the West Coast,” he said. “My father is 77 now and I’m very close with him. As you know, time is precious.
“I’ll forever be indebted to Mr. (Mike) Elias for allowing the Mets to speak with me in regards to this job opportunity. I truly feel the Orioles are headed in the right direction, and with the team Mike, Sig (Mejdal) and Brad (Ciolek) have assembled, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with now and in the immediate future.”
Morales will be living in Pacifica, Calif., but he’ll always feel a special connection to his former team.
“I loved working for the Orioles,” he said. “I’ll miss everyone in the front office.”
* While waiting to find out whether Major League Baseball is sticking with its 2020 rules this season, because it’s clearly in no rush, I’m here to offer a few suggestions.
No one asked. They never do. But it’s never stopped me.
Here are a dozen ideas, including a few to enhance the ballpark experience:
1. Replace batting practice baseballs with hot chocolate bombs.
2. Make doubleheaders one inning. Should really speed up the game and raise the intensity level. Also saves the pitching.
3. Begin extra innings with the bases loaded and everyone running on the first pitch. I’m not sure why except that it sounds fun to watch.
4. The exchange of lineup cards should be done the same way that we return purchases with FedEx.
5. Any manager who’s ejected from a game can remain in the dugout if he trades jobs with the bat boy. It’s his call.
6. Any manager removing a starter who is cruising because the lineup is turning over a third time must spend at least 20 minutes listening to fans talk about their fantasy teams.
7. Players can be traded after the deadline, but only for players with the same initials. The owners and union can fight over whether middle names are included.
8. Any fan who throws a home run ball onto the field must clean every urinal in the ballpark using his favorite shirt.
9. A team is awarded a run if a player stays alive in a rundown for one minute.
10. A player who runs through a stop sign and is out at the plate must assist in directing traffic leaving the ballpark.
11. Replace the seventh-inning stretch with the seventh-inning stench, when the crowd is challenged to “Guess that Smell.” Better than Kiss Cam.
12. Any reliever who leaves the bullpen to join a fight must spend at least one hour listening to your relatives argue politics.
* Former Orioles pitcher David Hess had multiple clubs interested in him as a minor league free agent. He chose the team that reached out first to his agent.
The Rays were aggressive early and presented an opportunity and reputation for developing pitchers that lured him to a division rival.
The first free agency experience for Hess was “a little bit quicker than I expected,” he said.
“You hear a lot of stuff with free agency and a lot of guys are sitting around waiting by the phone, hoping something comes up, and we had some pretty good responses pretty quickly, but the Rays really came in initially and kind of blew us away in a sense, just with how interested they were. So I was really fortunate and really pleased with the experience.”
The Rays stepped up the first day of free agency.
“That was a big thing,” Hess said. “One thing the Rays have built a track record of is developing guys and being specific in who they’re looking for, and so when they came in that quickly, we right away knew how serious they were. That meant a lot to us. That was just something, them being the first team and how interested they were, that tipped the scales in their favor in a pretty good way.
“We took a little bit of time just to feel out who was reaching out, who was interested, and also to see what the Orioles were planning to do, where they stood with everything. We had a handful of other teams that seemed to be pretty interested, but right off the bat, Tampa just came in and was very, very good to work with during that process. It started off on a good note for us and we’re excited to see where it takes us.”
The door didn’t close on a return to the Orioles after they outrighted Hess and he became a free agent, but the Rays clearly wanted him more.
“I think there was a little bit of communication,” Hess said, “but the opportunity just in terms of where everything’s at right now was a little bit better in Tampa for me personally. That’s not to say it wasn’t there and there weren’t some talks with the Orioles, but the priorities that they’re focused on right now were a little bit different than what we were looking at.”
The Orioles could see Hess in spring training and again during the regular season if he makes it to the Rays’ active roster.
“That’s one of the fun and kind of weird things about it is, especially going in-division to another team,” Hess said. “I’ve been really familiar with them, so I’m excited to hopefully get to pitch against the Orioles, get to catch up and have some fun with those guys. Hopefully just to mess with them a little bit, I can strike out a handful of guys and talk some trash to them.
“But I think that would be something that would be really fun and just really cool to reconnect and get to compete against them.”
* There’s a lot of offseason remaining in baseball, plenty of signings and trades to be done, but BetOnLine has updated its World Series odds.
Nothing changed with the Orioles from Oct. 30 to Dec. 30. Their odds remained 100/1, and the Dodgers stayed the favorites at 9/2.
The Rockies and Mariners also are 100/1. The Tigers, Royals and Rangers are 125/1 and the Pirates are 200/1.
What does this mean? Nothing, really, except that the Orioles keep improving their image. They aren’t the worst.
(MLB.com placed the Orioles 29th in its power rankings. Also doesn’t mean much.)
Contending in 2021, with more games on the schedule, isn’t in the cards. Of course, they could shock the world. Why not? But they’re more likely to finish far south of .500.
However, the level of respect for the organization is heading north. And that’s especially true of a farm system that’s projected to keep infusing legitimate talent onto the major league roster.
Elias won’t share his timeline for contention because it doesn’t exist. Rebuilds aren’t an exact science and some teams take longer than others to make it through to the other side.
“But ultimately, we’re sticking with the course of trying to lay a huge foundation of talent here for the organization,” Elias said last month.
It’s about farm growth and player development and deeper dives into the international market. The wins are gravy. And who doesn’t like gravy? But the Orioles are still willing to take small steps for the big picture.