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Fiery Orioles manager Earl Weaver dead at 82

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Fiery Orioles manager Earl Weaver dead at 82

BALTIMORE (AP) Loved in Baltimore long after he ended his Hall of Fame career, Earl Weaver remained an Oriole to the end.

The notoriously peppery Hall of Fame manager died at age 82 on a Caribbean cruise associated with the Orioles, his marketing agent said Saturday.

The Duke of Earl, as he was affectionately known in Baltimore, took the Orioles to the World Series four times over 17 seasons but won only one title, in 1970. His .583 winning percentage ranks fifth among managers who served 10 or more seasons in the 20th century.

Dick Gordon said Weaver's wife told him that Weaver went back to his cabin after dinner and began choking between 10:30 and 11 Friday night. Gordon said a cause of death has not been determined.

``It's a sad day. Earl was a terrific manager,'' Vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. ``The simplicity and clarity of his leadership and his passion for baseball was unmatched. He's a treasure for the Orioles. He leaves a terrific legacy of winning baseball with the Orioles and we're so grateful for his contribution. He has a legacy that will live on,''

Weaver will forever remain a part of Camden Yards. A statue of him was dedicated last summer in the stadium's flag court, along with the rest of the team's Hall of Fame members.

``Earl Weaver stands alone as the greatest manager in the history of the Orioles organization and one of the greatest in the history of baseball,'' Orioles owner Peter Angelos said. ``This is a sad day for everyone who knew him and for all Orioles fans. Earl made his passion for the Orioles known both on and off the field. On behalf of the Orioles, I extend my condolences to his wife, Marianna, and to his family.''

Weaver was a salty-tongued manager who preferred to wait for a three-run homer rather than manufacture a run with a stolen base or a bunt. While some baseball purists argued that strategy, no one could dispute the results.

``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. ``On behalf of Major League Baseball, I send my deepest condolences to his wife, Marianne, their family and all Orioles fans.''

Weaver had a reputation as a winner, but umpires knew him as a hothead. Weaver would often turn his hat backward and yell directly into an umpire's face to argue a call or a rule, and after the inevitable ejection he would more often than not kick dirt on home plate or on the umpire's shoes.

``He was an intense competitor and smart as a whip when it comes to figuring out ways to beat you,'' said Davey Johnson, who played under Weaver in the minor leagues and with the Orioles from 1965 to 1972.

He was ejected 91 times, including once in both games of a doubleheader.

Asked once if his reputation might have harmed his chances to gain entry into the Hall of Fame, Weaver admitted, ``It probably hurt me.''

Not for long. He entered the hall in 1996.

``When you discuss our game's motivational masters, Earl is a part of that conversation,'' Baseball 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.''

His ejections were overshadowed by his five 100-win seasons, six AL East titles and four pennants. Weaver was inducted 10 years after he managed his final game with Baltimore at the end of an ill-advised comeback.

In 1985, the Orioles' owner at the time, Edward B. Williams, coaxed Weaver away from golf to take over a struggling squad. Weaver donned his uniform No. 4, which had already been retired by the team, and tried to breathe some life into the listless Orioles.

Baltimore went 53-52 over the last half of the 1985 season, but finished seventh in 1986 with a 73-89 record. It was Weaver's only losing season as a major-league manager, and he retired for good after that.

``If I hadn't come back,'' Weaver said after his final game, ``I would be home thinking what it would have been like to manage again. I found out it's work.''

Weaver finished with a 1,480-1,060 record. He won Manager of the Year three times.

``I had a successful career, not necessarily a Hall of Fame career, but a successful one,'' he said.

Weaver came to the Orioles as a first base coach in 1968, took over as manager on July 11 and went on to become the winningest manager in the history of the franchise.

``Earl was such a big part of Orioles baseball and personally he was a very important part of my life and career and a great friend to our family,'' Hall of Fame shortstop Cal Ripken said. ``His passion for the game and the fire with which he managed will always be remembered by baseball fans everywhere and certainly by all of us who had the great opportunity to play for him. Earl will be missed but he can't and won't be forgotten.''

He knew almost everything about the game. He was also a great judge of human character, and that's one of the main reasons why he was loved by a vast majority of his players even though he often rode them mercilessly from spring training into October.

``His bark was worse than his bite, but you had to know him and kind of grow up with him, and then you loved him like a father,'' Johnson said. ``He was a used-car salesman in the minor leagues during the offseason, so he learned a lot of ways to sell you on just about anything.''

Pat Dobson, who pitched two seasons under Weaver, said, ``Certainly, the years I played for him were the two most enjoyable years I've had.''

During games Weaver smoked cigarettes in the tunnel leading to the dugout and he never kicked the habit. He suffered a mild heart attack in August 1998, and the Orioles' manager at the time, Ray Miller, wondered aloud how his mentor was holding up.

``I wouldn't want to talk to him if he hasn't had a cigarette in 10 days,'' Miller joked. ``They've probably got him tied to a chair.''

Weaver was a brilliant manager, but he never made it to the majors as a player. He finally quit after spending 13 years as a second baseman in the St. Louis organization.

``He talked about how he could drive in 100 runs a year, score 100 runs and never make an error,'' Johnson said. ``He said he never got to the big leagues because the Cardinals had too many good players in front of him.''

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Adley Rutschman in the top 5 headlines four Orioles in MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects

Adley Rutschman in the top 5 headlines four Orioles in MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects

MLB Pipeline released its Top 100 prospects for 2020 and four players in the Baltimore Orioles’ system made the list. As expected, catcher Adley Rutschman, the top overall pick in the 2019 draft, checked in as the Orioles’ top prospect and No. 4 in the league.

Rutschman recently received a non-roster invitation to the Orioles spring training, where he will get a taste of Major League competition. While the 21-year-old isn’t expected to make the club out of spring training, MLB Pipeline anticipates a 2021 big league arrival for Rutschman.

After the Orioles picked Rutschman No. 1 following a prolific career at Oregon State, the catcher played five games in the Gulf Coast League, 20 games at short-season Single-A level with Aberdeen Ironbirds and 12 games with the low-Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds. He compiled a .254 average over 130 at-bats with four home runs and 26 RBIs in his abbreviated first professional season.

With Rutschman, Baltimore has a potential transcendent player that can emerge as the face of the franchise as the team continues to rebuild.

But the Orioles’ farm system is deeper than just Rutschman — in fact, it’s currently the strongest it has been in years.

Last year, Baltimore had three players on the Top 100 list — the most since MLB Pipeline adopted that format in 2012. An additional player on this year’s list provides tangible evidence the commitment to rebuilding is paying dividends.

Grayson Rodriguez, the team’s 2018 first-round selection, earned the No. 36 spot on the list. Rodriguez pitched a 2.68 ERA in 20 games at low-Single-A Delmarva. Rodriguez was a co-recipient of the Orioles’ Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year with Michael Baumann. MLB Pipeline projects the right-hander to arrive in the big leagues in 2021.

DL Hall, a 21-year-old left-handed pitcher, was ranked the No. 69 prospect in the league. Hall was a 2017 first-round pick out of high school and pitched last year at advanced-Single-A Frederick. In 19 games and 17 starts, Hall had a 3.46 ERA and struck out 116 batters in 80.1 innings. The Orioles ended Hall’s season in August as he dealt with arm soreness.

The last Baltimore prospect to make the list was Ryan Mountcastle, who was the 2019 Independence League Most Valuable Player and Orioles’ Brooks Robinson Player of the Year after a standout season with Triple-A Norfolk. The infielder hit for average (.312) and for power (25 home runs) while driving in 83 runs in 127 games.

Mountcastle, who was No. 94 in the rankings, is the only Top-100 prospect MLB Pipeline expects to join the Orioles in the 2020 season.

Rutschman, Rodriguez and Hall all made Baseball America’s Top 100 prospect list as well, checking in at Nos. 5, 35 and 47, respectively.

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6 Orioles prospects to watch in Spring Training

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6 Orioles prospects to watch in Spring Training

The Orioles are still in the early stages of their rebuild, but the farm system is already starting to see dividends from the franchise's renewed focus in minor league talent.

The team saw four prospects make MLB Pipeline's Top 100 list, including 2019 No. 1 overall pick Adley Rutschman at fourth overall.

Many of those highly rated prospects will play key roles in the success of the team's rebuild. Prior to their eventual Major League debuts, the only chance fans will have to see them play with big leaguers is at Spring Training each year.

Considering their future importance, and potentially short-term impact as well considering the youth of the Orioles roster, fans will be keyed in on these prospects in the Grapefruit League this year.

Let's run through three position players and three pitchers fans should pay special attention to in February and March, starting with the aforementioned best prospect in the system.

Position Players

Adley Rutschman, C

Any conversation about the Orioles has to start with the best draft prospect in nearly a decade. Rutschman is, according to some evaluators, the greatest catching prospect ever. By all accounts, he looks like the future face of the franchise, and potentially all of Major League Baseball.

The Orioles have already announced that Rutschman will receive an invite to Spring Training, an exciting moment for fans in Baltimore who hope to see him play. Rutschman almost certainly won't play in the big leagues in 2020, so this will be the best chance fans get to watch him play this season. Don't miss it. 

Ryan Mountcastle, 1B

Mountcastle won the International League MVP in 2019, which is less impressive than it sounds. It means he enjoyed a strong season at the plate, but not strong enough to get called up to the big leagues.

Questions about his defense have plagued Mountcastle from the moment he was drafted, but his bat is close to Major league-ready. A strong spring could earn him his first opportunity in Baltimore, an exciting moment for the top 100 prospect.

Yusniel Diaz, OF

The centerpiece of the trade that sent Manny Machado to the Dodgers, Diaz hasn't enjoyed the same success in Baltimore that he did with Los Angeles. He's still considered one of their better prospects, however, and will have every chance to earn a spot in the Orioles outfield one day.

That day may come in 2020, and his spring training performance will give fans a chance to see both how healthy Diaz is and how much he has continued to develop.

Pitchers

Keegan Akin

Akin has never been the Orioles' best pitching prospect, but he's been in their second tier of prospects for a while now. Akin had a tough 2019 in Triple-A, pitching to a 4.73 ERA, but is still considered one of the O's eight contenders for a starting rotation spot. It's possible a juiced ball may have inflated his stats last season, but the Orioles can't know that for sure.

He may not be the highest-profile prospect this year, but considering his potential role with the team out of the gate, Akin is perhaps the most compelling prospect to watch out for at this year's Spring Training.

Dean Kremer

A secondary piece behind Diaz in the Machado trade, Kremer has seen his value take off with the Orioles. The 24-year-old struggled during a brief stint in Triple-A, but he had a strong overall year after spending the bulk of the season in Bowie.

Kremer is one of the best strikeout pitchers across the minor leagues, striking out over one batter per inning, and he looks like a future staple in the middle-to-back end of the Orioles rotation. He has less experience than Akin at the upper levels of the minor leagues, but as one of the O's most successful minor league pitchers, all eyes will be on his performance this spring.

Michael Baumann

Baumann had a terrific 2019 season, with a 2.98 ERA and 1.05 WHIP across two levels, on his way to being a co-recipient of the Orioles' Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year award alongside Grayson Rodriguez. Like Akin and Kremer, he's a little older at age 24, so the Orioles will need to give him his shot sooner rather than later. He almost certainly won't start the season with the big league team, but this spring will give him an opportunity against Major League hitters.

The breakout star of last year, Baumann can dominate when he's on the mound, as evidenced by his no-hitter at Double-A Bowie in July. He could provide some highlight-reel moments in Florida.

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