Right Field

Reveille 1/20/14

Good morning.

Here are several links from the past week that will make the third Tuesday of 2014 a bit more bearable:

What I think is that this strange exception to the new rules is a sop to the old-school baseball men who advise Commissioner Bud. Some shred of tradition must be preserved.

But this one won’t be for long. As Larry Granillo wrote just last summer, the neighborhood play — a/k/a the “phantom double play” — was already on the way out. But this new scheme’s going to kill it. Kill it dead. Even if a few umpires, probably the oldest umpires, persist in looking the other way when a fielder doesn’t actually touch the base while in possession of the baseball, it can’t last long. Ultimately, nobody except a few veteran infielders will tolerate sanctioned blown calls. Especially if said calls are plastered on the massive video boards now gracing more and more of our baseball cathedrals.

2. Team-wide on-base problems.

Thanks in large part to Davis, the Orioles led the American League with 212 home runs. Power isn’t an issue . . . but getting on base remains one. Of the team’s regulars only [Chris] Davis posted an OBP above .330. [Nate] McLouth was tied with Nick Markakis for second best at .329. [Delmon] Young, a notorious hacker, isn’t going to help there and [David] Lough walked only 10 times in 335 plate appearances with Kansas City. If the Orioles don’t hit home runs, they don’t score.

3. Matt Wieters isn’t a star.

Wieters is a good player but his bat just hasn’t developed and his production regressed last year as his OBP dropped to .287. Yes, he provides some power (22 home runs), but he’s making too many outs. Maybe it was a bad year; but maybe he’ll never learn to hit for a high average from the left side (.214). Right now, Wieters is a guy you need to hit eighth in a playoff lineup, not fifth or sixth.

4. Manny Machado’s injury.

The Orioles are still hopeful that Machado will be ready for Opening Day, but until Machado starts seeing game action in spring training it’s hard to predict when he’ll be ready to play following his knee surgery. Even if healthy, there will be issues about what Machado will produce at the plate. After hitting .317 with 35 doubles in his first 78 games, he hit .249 with 16 doubles over his final 78 games.

  • Will the recently unveiled Clark the Cub mascot have a longer run at Wrigley Field than did Poochie, the canine interloper on the Itchy and Scratchy Show? So what was the Chicago Sun-Times’ Neil Steinberg’s initial impression upon seeing Clark? I “could not have been more revolted had the Cubs unveiled as their mascot a severed calf head on a stick, dripping gore and buzzing with flies.”

That’s it. Have a walk-off week!

Jason Epstein is the president of Southfive Strategies, LLC. He was a public-relations consultant for the Turkish embassy in Washington from 2002 to 2007.