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Baseball reflects on HOF pair Weaver, Musial


Baseball reflects on HOF pair Weaver, Musial

One was born in St. Louis, the other became a star there.

Aside from that, Earl Weaver and Stan Musial were about as different as two Hall of Famers could be.

``Talk about your odd couple,'' said George Vecsey, the longtime sports columnist for The New York Times who wrote a recent biography of Musial.

Weaver was a 5-foot-6 rabble rouser whose penchant for quarreling with umpires belied a cerebral approach to managing that has stood the test of time. Musial was a humble slugger with a funky batting stance who was beloved by Cardinals fans and respected by pretty much everyone else.

Saturday began with news of Weaver's death at age 82, and by the end of the night Musial had died, too, leaving baseball to reflect on two distinguished careers rich in contrasts.

``Earl was well known for being one of the game's most colorful characters with a memorable wit, but he was also amongst its most loyal,'' Commissioner Bud Selig said.

Selig later released a statement after Musial's death at age 92.

``Stan's life embodies baseball's unparalleled history and why this game is the national pastime. As remarkable as `Stan the Man' was on the field, he was a true gentleman in life,'' Selig said.

A three-time MVP and seven-time National League batting champion, Musial helped the Cardinals win three World Series championships in the 1940s. His popularity in St. Louis can be measured by the not one, but two statues that stand in his honor outside Busch Stadium. After his death Saturday, Cardinals of more recent vintage began offering condolences almost immediately.

``Sad to hear about Stan the Man, it's an honor to wear the same uniform,'' said a message posted on the Twitter account of Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday.

Albert Pujols, who led St. Louis to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011 before leaving as a free agent before last season, offered prayers for Musial's family via Twitter.

``I will cherish my friendship with Stan for as long as I live,'' said a message posted on Pujols' site. ``Rest in Peace.''

Weaver was born in St. Louis, but his greatest success came as a manager in Baltimore. He took the Orioles to the World Series four times, winning one title in 1970.

Never a fan of small-ball strategies like bunting and stealing bases, Weaver preferred to wait for a three-run homer, always hoping for a big inning that could break the game open.

``No one managed a ballclub or pitching staff better than Earl,'' said Davey Johnson, who played under Weaver with the Orioles.

Johnson now manages the Washington Nationals and ran the Orioles from 1996-97.

``He was decades ahead of his time,'' Johnson said. ``Not a game goes by that I don't draw on something Earl did or said. I will miss him every day.''

While Musial could let his bat do the talking, Weaver was more than willing to shout to be heard. His salty-tongued arguing with umpires will live on through YouTube, and Orioles programs sold at the old Memorial Stadium frequently featured photos of Weaver squabbling.

Former umpire Don Denkinger remembered a game in which the manager disputed a call with Larry McCoy at the plate.

``Earl tells us, `Now I'm gonna show you how stupid you all are.' Earl goes down to first base and ejects the first base umpire. Then he goes to second base and ejects the second base umpire. I'm working third base and now he comes down and ejects me,'' Denkinger said.

Musial was a quieter type who spent his career far removed from the bright lights of places like New York and Boston. But his hitting exploits were certainly on par with contemporaries Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams.

``I knew Stan very well. He used to take care of me at All-Star games, 24 of them,'' Hall of Famer Willie Mays said. ``He was a true gentleman who understood the race thing and did all he could. Again, a true gentleman on and off the field - I never heard anybody say a bad word about him, ever.''

Dave Anderson of The New York Times recalled growing up in Brooklyn, rooting for Musial. Those Dodgers crowds helped give Musial his nickname, Stan the Man.

``I thought he was going to knock the fence down in Brooklyn, he'd hit it so often,'' Anderson said.

Musial did it despite an odd left-handed stance - with his legs and knees close together, he would cock the bat near his ear and twist his body away from the pitcher before uncoiling when the ball came.

If that was a lasting snapshot of Musial, the images of Weaver will stay just as fresh - the feisty manager, perhaps with his hat turned backward, looking up at an umpire and screaming at him before kicking dirt somewhere and finally leaving the field.

None of those histrionics should obscure the fact that in the end, Weaver often had the last laugh - to the tune of a .583 career winning percentage.

``When you discuss our game's motivational masters, Earl is a part of that conversation,'' Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson said. ``He was a proven leader in the dugout and loved being a Hall of Famer. Though small in stature, he was a giant as a manager.''

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Should the Orioles think about trading Brad Brach?

Should the Orioles think about trading Brad Brach?

The Orioles should trade Zach Britton and get a haul for him. That was the suggestion of one reader when I wrote on Friday of the moves the team could potentially make this offseason. 

When Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter held their year-end press briefing on Oct. 4, Duquette was asked about the possibility of trading Britton or Manny Machado, both of whom could be free agents two years from now. 

“I haven’t thought about that that much, but that’s something we can think about for the offseason,” Duquette said. “I like those guys on our ballclub, I like the work that they do and I like watching them every day. One’s an MVP candidate and the other one’s a Cy Young Award candidate. Those guys are tough to find and they’re young and they’re good and they play for the Orioles. We like them on our ballclub.”

In Duquette’s five years with the Orioles, the team has been in contention each season, and he has shown no inclination to trade attractive players who are nearing free agency. 

Not even in 2015 when the Orioles were on the fringe of contention and they had some tradeable assets who were about to become free agents: Wei-Yin Chen, Darren O’Day and Matt Wieters, did they trade.

Instead of trying to move them, Duquette added another looming free agent, Gerardo Parra, to the team. 

Trading Britton after his historical season, could appear to some to be wise, but even though he’s under club control for two more seasons, those will be expensive seasons, and there are many clubs who would balk at paying a reliever—even one as excellent as Britton—the $11.4 million that he could earn in arbitration, according to MLBTradeRumors.com.

If Britton has another good season, he could make perhaps $15 million in his final arbitration year, and while some teams with large payrolls could afford that, how many teams have the type of players that would make a deal like that attractive to the Orioles? 
As good as the Orioles bullpen is, Britton is the key. 

But, there’s another alternative to trading the best relief pitcher in baseball, and that’s trading Brad Brach.

Brach is also two years away from free agency, and while he’s no Britton, some teams needing a closer may think he could fit. 

It’s highly unlikely that two years from now, the Orioles could afford a high priced bullpen that includes O’Day, who is set to make $9 million in 2018 and 2019, Britton and Brach. 

While Duquette has held onto his free agents, the Orioles don’t have many attractive veteran players to trade, and Brach is perhaps the most attractive. 

Brach was obtained three years ago from San Diego, where he struggled to establish himself as a major leaguer. In one of Duquette’s best trades, the Orioles acquired Brach for minor league pitcher Devin Jones, who did not play in 2016. 

In his three seasons with the Orioles, Brach is 22-8 with a 2.61 ERA and last year had a 2.05 ERA and an All-Star selection.

Brach has three saves in the last two years, and in arbitration, he is estimated to bring home $2.9 million in 2017, far less than Britton’s number. 

The three biggest reliever names expected to hit the market are Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon. If the Kansas City Royals don’t exercise Wade Davis’ $10 million option, he could be on the market, too. 

Brach would also be far cheaper than any of those. 

While a bullpen featuring Brach, Britton, O’Day, Mychal Givens and Donnie Hart would be strong, Givens has pitched well enough to move into Brach’s role. 

In his last 13 regular season appearances, Givens allowed just one run on six hits in 12 2/3 innings, striking out 16. In Brach’s last 13 appearances, he allowed eight runs—five earned—on 13 hits in 12 1/3 innings for a 3.65 ERA. 

I’m not one to throw out fantasy trades, but it’s obvious the Orioles are looking for help in the leadoff spot as well as fortifying catching. 

If Brach, who underwent minor knee surgery earlier this month, can fetch the Orioles some help at the top of the order, perhaps they should listen. 

I’m not campaigning for the Orioles to trade Brach, but they’ve shown organizational ability to develop relievers. In the past two seasons, they’ve brought both Givens and Hart up directly from Double-A. 

Showalter likes having relievers who are optionable, and moving Brach could open a spot for a reliever who can be freely optioned.
Givens, Hart, Oliver Drake and Parker Bridwell all have options. 

Keeping Brach isn’t a bad idea, but seeing what they could get for him seems to make a lot of sense. 

MORE ORIOLES: Hardy has been dependable for Orioles

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What moves can return the Orioles to postseason in 2017?

What moves can return the Orioles to postseason in 2017?

In 2017, the Orioles will try to accomplish something they haven’t done in 20 years, play in the postseason in consecutive seasons.

While the Orioles have the most wins in the American League over the past five seasons (444), they played in the postseason in 2012, 2014 and 2016, but didn’t in 2013 and 2015. 

Before each of the postseason years, the Orioles made key moves, whether it was in the traditional offseason months or at the beginning of spring training. In the years they didn’t qualify, their postseasons weren’t terribly active at all. 


When Dan Duquette took over nearly five years ago, his first offseason included the signing of Wei-Yin Chen, trading Jeremy Guthrie for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom as well as drafting Ryan Flaherty. 

He made some other moves during spring training and during the season, signing Miguel Gonzalez and Nate McLouth that became huge successes. 

Following the 2012 season, the Orioles had a young and inexpensive team, and their only major moves were nontendering Mark Reynolds and re-signing McLouth. 

The Orioles won 86 games in 2013, but finished out of the playoffs. 

While Duquette was heavily criticized for inaction during the winter, he saw two players, Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez that offered good values, and he signed them early in spring training. A trip to the American League Championship Series followed. 

In the offseason that followed, Duquette was rumored to be the next president of the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Orioles quickly lost Cruz, Nick Markakis and Andrew Miller with no suitable replacements. A .500 season followed. 

Last season featured Duquette making moves early and often—securing Matt Wieters for another year after he accepted a qualifying offer, trading for Mark Trumbo, signing Hyun Soo Kim, and re-signing Darren O’Day and Chris Davis. 

In spring training, Yovani Gallardo and Pedro Alvarez were added. 

This offseason, the Orioles don’t seem to have as many holes as they did a year ago, but for one of them, they must decide quickly what they’re going to do. 

Wieters is again a free agent, and the Orioles must decide whether they’re going to seriously pursue him, or if he leaves whether they’ll fill the catching vacancy internally or externally. 

There won’t be many quality catchers on the market, and the Orioles should move expeditiously to either sign or trade for someone who could start in 2017. 

They could decide they think a combination of Chance Sisco and Caleb Joseph can handle the job, but that decision must not linger. 

The Orioles must improve their depth so that manager Buck Showalter feels comfortable in resting Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop. 

While the Orioles may try and re-sign Wieters and Mark Trumbo, they won’t be chasing after big ticket free agents early in free agency. 

There are few quality pitchers on the prospective market, but there are some quality hitters including Alvarez, Trumbo, Jose Bautista, Carlos Beltran, Yoenis Cespedes, Ian Desmond, Edwin Encarnacion, Dexter Fowler, Kendrys Morales, Mitch Moreland, Colby Rasmus, Josh Reddick and Michael Saunders.

It’s not Duquette’s way to try and outbid other teams, but there are so many good hitters that perhaps one or two of these names, or ones from the second tier fall into the Orioles’ price range. 

In order to improve their depth, the Orioles will likely again be active in the Rule 5 draft, but unless they move a pitcher or two from their current crop, it seems unlikely they can be flexible enough to keep a drafted pitcher on hand. 

In 2015, the Orioles drafted Jason Garcia and Logan Verrett. They ended up keeping Garcia and sending Verrett back to the Mets. 

Having Garcia on the staff complicated manager Buck Showalter’s use of the bullpen, and he was sent to Bowie to start in 2016, but didn’t raise many eyebrows. 

Joey Rickard, the outfielder drafted last December, proved to be a useful addition who filled in for Jones and platooned with Kim before he was hurt. 

If the Orioles find a pitcher they like they’d have to include him on a prospective staff that already includes starters Gallardo, Jimenez, Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Wade Miley and Chris Tillman as well as relievers Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Mychal Givens, Donnie Hart, and Darren O’Day. 

It’s more likely that a Rule 5 pick would be a position player. 

While the early part of the offseason may include a series of smaller moves with bigger ones waiting for the market to settle, fans will undoubtedly criticize what they see as Duquette’s seeming lack of action. 

They shouldn’t because in the end if he has a decent start to free agency, he usually has a strong finish—and so do the Orioles.