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Tiny crowd sits through long rain delay for Orioles win

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Tiny crowd sits through long rain delay for Orioles win

BALTIMORE – A little after four o’clock, perhaps 200 fans were left at Oriole Park. They sat through a three hour, 25 minute rain delay, and finally the Orioles were back on the field.

The Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays and Major League Baseball agreed on Wednesday to try and play the originally scheduled 7:05 p.m. start a full seven hours earlier, hoping to escape an ominous forecast.

Light rain fell at the start, then intensified in the bottom of the first.

By the time the game ended, more than six ½ hours after its start, the Orioles had a 6-4 win over the Blue Jays before what was left from an announced crowd of 18,257 on Thursday.

The teams already played a doubleheader on Wednesday and had an unusually early start time.

Manny Machado hit a two-run home run in the first inning off Drew Hutchison (13-5). Steve Pearce’s RBI double made it 3-0, and then the rain came.

“It’s tough. It’s been a long day. We weren’t supposed to play today until 7 o’clock and we almost played at seven. It’s just part of the grind, part of the game. It [stinks] that it happened so late, but it’s just stuff we have to deal with,” Machado said.

“We all kept ourselves going in here and trying to finish strong and win a ballgame. It’s frustrating with the rain coming down and the field not in the perfect condition but these are things you have to just deal with.”

Tyler Wilson, who pitched the first inning, didn’t come out for the second. T.J. McFarland came out to pitch, and Jonathan Schoop, who was hit in the right hand by a pitch, came out of the game with a bruised right hand.

“It was a little numb running around the bases. I was hoping it would feel better, but it didn’t. I really couldn’t squeeze. Then they decided to take me out and go get an X-ray. It came out negative so that’s good news, but it’s still stiff a little bit and swelling up a little bit,” Schoop said.

Paul Janish, who replaced Schoop, had an RBI single to make it 4-0 in the second against Jeff Francis, who replaced Hutchison.

Toronto scored a run in the fourth on Munenori Kawasaki’s infield out, and Nolan Reimold’s RBI single in the fifth made it 5-1.

Machado’s second homer, his 34th, made it 6-1 in the sixth.

McFarland (1-2) allowed one run in four innings.

"That was huge, but that's T.J.," Showalter said. "It's little things you take this time of year. He got his ERA under 5. He's not a guy if you're looking for hits-to-innings and a bunch of strikeouts, but he's a very valuable guy on a club. He's been very instrumental the last three years on our club.”

Mychal Givens struck out the side in the sixth.

Brad Brach allowed three runs in the seventh as Toronto (92-67) closed to within 6-4.

Darren O’Day recorded the final out of the seventh and pitched a scoreless eighth while Zach Britton worked the ninth for his 35th save.

Machado stole two bases. He joins Brady Anderson as the only Orioles with more than 30 homers and 20 stolen bases.

“It's something Manny should be very proud of and we're proud of him. It's hard to do. You can see why so few people have been able to do it,” manager Buck Showalter said.

It was the first time in Machado’s career he hit two homers and stole two bases in a game.

“I was just trying to get it over with. Not too worried about it. Basically go out there and put myself in a good scoring position and get it out of the way. I thought those were two perfect situations to go and do it and really take advantage of the situation,” Machado said.

NOTES: The Orioles signed Australian left-handed pitcher Alexander Wells to a minor league contract. Wells was given a $300,000 bonus and will report to the Instructional League. … Adam Jones is a finalist for the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award given by the Players Association for community service. … Trey Mancini was named the Orioles’ top minor league player. Oliver Drake and Mychal Givens, who are currently with the Orioles, share the minor league pitcher award. Mancini hit .341 with 29 home runs and 86 RBIs for Frederick and Bowie. … Wei-Yin Chen (10-8, 3.35) starts for the Orioles on Friday night against the New York Yankees. New York hasn’t named its pitcher yet. … The Orioles left 12 runners on base and walked eight times, both for the third time, equaling season highs. … Machado had his fourth game with two home runs this year, the sixth of his career.

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The Orioles mishandled their search for a new general manager and still ended up with a home run hire

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The Orioles mishandled their search for a new general manager and still ended up with a home run hire

The Baltimore Orioles let a lame duck general manager engineer the most important trade deadline in recent franchise history, showed interest in some of the most uninspired executive candidates on the market, attended the GM Meetings without yet having a new GM, and somehow still managed to land the best possible candidate on the market. After spending months, if not years, digging deeper and deeper into a self-imposed hole, they figured out a way to come out smelling like roses.

It’s finally official. The Orioles have hired Mike Elias to as Executive Vice President and General Manager, and he’ll be given full autonomy to oversee all baseball operations. It’s a perfect fit.

For the first time in what feels like years, the Orioles are making a decision that’s been universally lauded.

Elias leaves the Houston Astros having played a key role in their long rebuilding process, a task that at the time seemed similarly daunting to the one in front of him in Baltimore. His experience with a “trust the process”-style rebuild is one of the reasons he is such a perfect hire for a team that lost well over 100 games and holds the top overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft.

Elias is young (35), intelligent (graduated from Yale), experienced (former scout with model organization St. Louis Cardinals and assistant GM for the 2017 World Series-champion Astros), and has a scouting background (oversaw player development and all minor league teams for Houston). If popular narratives are to be believed, Elias’ youth would imply that he is hungry to prove himself in his first GM job, and that he is analytically-inclined, as most young front office executives are in 2018.

That last point is crucial, as the struggles of the Orioles in 2018 have largely been attributed to a consistent lack of interest in modern analytics, research and development, and player development. The Astros have also been quite active in the international markets, and area the Orioles have famously avoided for much of their history, and the hire of Elias could mean the franchise is interested in joining the rest of baseball in mining talent from Latin America.

It’s also interesting to note the Astros’ nearly unprecedented success with starting pitchers, especially as it compares to the Orioles’ equally unprecedented lack of success in the same area. The Orioles, once proud employers of some of the best pitchers in baseball, haven’t properly drafted and developed a homegrown pitcher in decades. Chris Tillman and Erik Bedard have ranged from serviceable to impressive for short stints, but Mike Mussina (in the ‘90s!) is the last true ace to come through the Orioles system.

The Astros, on the other hand, have established themselves as the industry standard for pitching development in recent years, both with young draftees and with acquiring “retreads” from other teams, tweaking something about their repertoire, and enjoying the results.

It helps that the Astros play in one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in baseball, but if Elias can bring to Baltimore any improvements for how to handle pitching staffs, that alone would make him worth the investment.

One point to emphasize from the official announcement is the public assurance that Elias will have full decision-making power in his role. Orioles ownership has a tough reputation around the league for being meddlesome and hamstringing their GM’s from operating as best they can.

If the announcement is to be believed (and frankly, it’s hard to imagine a rising star like Elias committing to the organization if he didn’t believe it himself), then this marks a sea change from how Peter Angelos has operated in prior seasons. His sons appear much more interested in letting the baseball people handle baseball things, and that’s cause for optimism for O’s fans.

They could have gone with the “tried and true.” They could have gone with the old-school. They could have gone with a baseball lifer. They could have gone with Ned Colletti.

No shots at Colletti, who by all accounts is a good administrative mind and a good man. But much like Buck Showalter is a terrific manager who was no longer the right fit in Baltimore, a GM of Colletti’s ilk is not what the Orioles franchise needs right now. 

Bringing in Elias, no matter the long and winding road that brought the Orioles to that decision, signals a changing of the guard in Baltimore. It signals a complete revamping of the way the front office operates. Everything from the process by which decisions are made, to how young talent is evaluated, to how modern analytics are applied to everything the franchise touches, is going to change under Elias. And, more likely than not, change for the better.

Make no mistake. This is a home run hire, and yes, pun very much intended. There’s finally cause for celebration in Birdland.

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Who is Mike Elias?

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Who is Mike Elias?

Where to begin after a team loses 115 games? That’s the main question settling into Mike Elias’ future when he takes over the Baltimore Orioles' beached ship.

Multiple reports have pegged Elias as the Orioles new general manager. He’s yet another front office member of the Houston Astros to be plucked by an outside organization for a larger role. He’s young, comes from an analytics-fueled front office and walks into a job where there only seems to be one direction to go following last season. 

Elias also has local ties. The 36-year-old is a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria. He went to Yale where he worked four seasons as a left-handed pitcher. Elias jumped into scouting for the St. Louis Cardinals directly after graduation.

Similar to Nationals manager Mike Rizzo, Elias moved up from a scouting baseline to a prominent decision-maker in the front office. Elias was ported from St. Louis to Houston when the Astros hired Jeff Luhnow to become general manager in 2011. The duo, and rest of the front office took over a team that was about to embark on three consecutive seasons with 100 losses or more. The organization became notable around the league for its fervent reworking of approach and willingness to absorb losses to vault to the top of the annual draft.

In 2012, the Astros selected Carlos Correa No. 1 overall. Elias, then a special assistant to the general manager, has received a large amount of the credit for taking a shortstop who became Rookie of the Year and an All-Star. Nine of the Astros’ 14 selections that year made it to the major leagues. Not all with the Astros. Not all with a large degree of success. But, they made it.

Houston selected burgeoning All-Star Alex Bregman with the No. 2 overall pick in 2015. 

However, the Astros’ high-end draft history wasn’t perfect with Luhnow and Elias in place. They selected Stanford starter Mark Appel with the No. 1 overall pick in 2013. Just 27, he is out of baseball after never making it past Triple A. The Astros took Brady Aiken with the top overall pick in 2014. He never signed. 

Yet, the organization continued to turn. Bregman developed into a star. Jose Altuve won the MVP award, Lance McCullers, also part of the 2012 class, became an All-Star. Four years after Luhnow arrived to reverse the organization’s course, the Astros had a winning season and reached the postseason. Two years later they won the World Series.

Hiring Elias signals the Orioles, long viewed as one of the stodgier organizations in baseball, are shifting to the modern era. Baltimore was known more for its reticence to embrace analytics as opposed to its use of the information. The move may also calm the ongoing rotation of the front office bosses. Elias will be the organization’s fourth general manager since the Nationals started playing baseball again in the District in 2005. 

Among Elias’ initial tasks is finding a new manager. The Orioles fired Buck Showalter after 8 ½ seasons. Three of them led to the postseason. But, the mess of last season forced a change.

They also need to hit in the draft. The Orioles hold the 2019 top overall pick.

Elias will try to conjure a way to resuscitate the Orioles while fighting the expansive cash flow of the New York Yankees and World Series champion Boston Red Sox within the division. 

He’s been part of turnarounds before. This one would fully be in his hands.