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It makes sense why Manny Machado's comment would bother Orioles fans, even if it wasn't about them

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It makes sense why Manny Machado's comment would bother Orioles fans, even if it wasn't about them

Orioles Twitter was all, ahem, atwitter Tuesday evening after a Manny Machado article was published on Sports Illustrated. In it, the former Oriole star appears to throw shade towards the organization that drafted and developed him. 

“The Dodgers last year, they showed me some love,” he says to Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein. “The Orioles drafted me. I did a lot for that community, I did a lot for the state, and they didn’t show me a bit of love. It is what it is. But going over to L.A., L.A. giving up a lot of prospects for me, that kind of shows you what I meant to them, which is amazing.”

That’s a tough quote to accept if you’re an Orioles fan who cheered on Machado every day for seven years. Nine, if you include the minor leagues.

From his debut through 2017, fans in Baltimore cheered on Machado unconditionally, through “controversies” about his hustle, aggressive slides, insistence on playing shortstop, and more. Fans also held out hope for an eventual extension to keep their most talented player in charm city for his entire career, a franchise tradition since the days of Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer and Cal Ripken, Jr.

Instead, fans read reports of the front office being unwilling to commit to the level of contract Machado sought, and by 2018, when it became obvious the Orioles weren’t going to be competitive again before his free agency, everyone knew a trade was on the horizon.

Apstein points out in her article that Machado “saw the July trade [from the Orioles to the Dodgers] as a referendum on who wanted him.”

It’s a little confusing, as every baseball fan in America knew at that point the Orioles had no choice but to trade their star. It would have been malpractice to allow Machado to play out his final weeks in Baltimore on a 115-loss team without getting anything in return.

Machado’s quote reads like a referendum on Orioles fans, which is why most were so taken aback by his words, but the story’s author feels it was directed solely at the front office.

This stance would be a bit more understandable, as management did bungle contract negotiations. Reports came out that the two sides were a mere $10 million apart in negotiations, an entirely affordable number for an owner as rich as Peter Angelos. Instead, the team remained stubborn, committed too much money to an aging first baseman, and painted themselves into a corner with the most talented player in franchise history.

We’ve seen that Machado doesn’t always deftly get across his criticisms, a pattern highlighted by his “Johnny Hustle” comments in Los Angeles. It’s highly likely that’s what’s happening now, and he really does appreciate the fans in Baltimore. 

Machado deserves to be annoyed with the Orioles front office, especially when it comes to the lack of an extension, and if that’s all he was implying, then fans in Baltimore have no reason to be upset with him (and every reason to be upset with the previous regime).

But to point out how much he gave the community in Baltimore and then say “they didn’t show [him] a little bit of love” is unfair, and only ends up frustrating the same fans who never stop caring about him, even if it seems clear that wasn’t his intention.

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Mike Elias expects big things from Adley Rutschman in 2020 and beyond

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Mike Elias expects big things from Adley Rutschman in 2020 and beyond

As excited as Orioles fans are for the future of the franchise, and as desperate as they are for any glimpses of that future in the form of their top prospects, it doesn’t guarantee they’ll see Adley Rutschman in the big leagues any time soon.

The number one overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, Rutschman is one of the most highly-touted prospects to enter the draft in years, and as an experienced college catcher, is the prototype of a fast-moving player through the farm system.

According to the man tasked with ultimately making those types of timeline-based decisions, Rutschman will play the biggest role in determining how quickly he advances.

“Well it’s his first full season in pro ball, so it’s hard to put too much expectation on that,” General Manager Mike Elias cautioned to NBC Sports Washington when asked about the hype surrounding his first-ever draft pick. “It’s about starting in A-ball, or High-A, or wherever we decide to start him, and having success. And once he has success, we’ll get him moving.”

Elias told reporters at the Winter Meetings that Rustchman would have a chance to play with the big league club at Spring Training next season, but that will be more about the learning experience and less about a true opportunity to break camp with the team.

It’s hard to imagine a player like Rutschman not having success. He showed flashes of his talent across three lower levels of the Orioles’ minor league system after signing last summer, ultimately landing with the Delmarva Shorebirds.

The skills necessary for success, both on and off the field, were readily apparent to Elias and the Orioles front office throughout the draft process.

They say timing is everything, and Elias considers the Orioles very lucky to have earned the top pick in a year with a player like Rutschman.

“I think we were very fortunate that we had the number one pick in a year when Adley Rutschman was in the draft,” he said while praising the future face of the franchise. “He fits the type of player that we’re looking for perfectly, being an impact hitter but also a really good defensive catcher and team leader type. So it’s a perfect guy to sort of kick off this whole era of our rebuild, and I think it’s going to be fun seeing what he does in our minor league affiliates this year.”

Of course, Rutschman isn’t the only young player fans will be keying in on this season. Austin Hays is one of the more exciting young players in the organization, and he will enter Spring Training as the favorite for the everyday job in centerfield. If the gifted outfielder can stay healthy, he will be given every opportunity to solidify himself as the centerfielder of the future.

“He’s what we call in the scouting parlance ‘tooled out’,” Elias described when asked about Hays’ highlight-reel plays late in the 2019 season. “I mean he can run, he can really throw, he’s got power, all the physical capabilities. And he’s shown that when he’s healthy he can hit at the Major League level too.”

Of course, injuries have been the one thing that can stop Hays early in his promising career. 

“Health has been the issue for him,” Elias continued. “He’s had two injury-plagued seasons in a row, but when he came up at the end of last season he was playing with energy, he was healthy. So that’s all we want to see for him, but I think he’s an impact centerfielder and a huge part of our next good team.”

The next good Orioles team is still a few years away, but the pieces are starting to come into place. Not every top prospect will pan out -- there’s no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to minor league players -- but the Orioles are stocking the organization with talented, hard-working players.

Looking ahead to another long season in 2020, Orioles fans will have to look beyond the win-loss column to find signs of hope. If things go according to Mike Elias’ plan, Rustchman and Hays should provide plenty of moments worth getting excited.

Rutschman’s time is coming. For Hays, the future is now. For both, the eyes of Baltimore are upon them as the franchise enters the next era of Orioles baseball.

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Orioles and Scott Boras have met to discuss how Chris Davis can improve

Orioles and Scott Boras have met to discuss how Chris Davis can improve

When the Orioles signed Chris Davis to a team-record $161 million deal ahead of the 2016 season, they were expecting the left-handed slugger to be a perennial candidate for the league lead in home runs while being a versatile defender at multiple positions.

Instead, Davis has been a black hole in the lineup. No one in the majors has more strikeouts than Davis since the start of that contract, his home run totals have fallen every year and he’s played almost exclusively first base and designated hitter.

“We’re trying everything we can,” Orioles GM Mike Elias told NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas. “He’s been struggling now for years and there are a lot of reasons for that and we continue to look into it. But the reality is, as you said, he is under contract and it’s something not to take lightly and because of that we’re going to be focused on getting the most out of him that we can. But it’s a very frustrating situation for him and for us.”

At his annual Winter Meetings impromptu press conference, Davis’ agent Scott Boras told reporters that he’s spoken with Orioles officials about how they can help the first baseman improve his production next season.

Davis, who spends his offseasons in Dallas, is reportedly not interested in attending a hitting school. Both Boras and the Orioles are hoping to come up with a different approach that will help him contribute to the lineup next season.

Baltimore still has Davis under contract for three more seasons, but the deferred money in his contract has the team paying him until 2037.

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