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Tuesday Bird Droppings: Where Mike Elias’ ex-team is in big trouble

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The Orioles’ GM wasn’t implicated in any wrongdoing in the Astros’ cheating scandal, but his former boss was harshly punished.

Milwaukee Brewers v Houston Astros
Pictured: Jeff Luhnow and Mike Elias. Only one of them still has a job.
Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

And good morning especially to Orioles GM Mike Elias, who is probably happy to be anywhere but in the Houston Astros organization right now.

Yesterday, the Astros faced the music for their 2017 cheating scandal — which involved stealing opponents’ signs from a center-field camera and relaying them to hitters by (among other things) banging trash cans — and MLB’s punishment was severe and decisive. The Astros forfeited their first and second round picks in each of the next two amateur drafts, while GM Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were each suspended for the entire 2020 season. Shortly afterward, Astros owner Jim Crane delivered the finishing blow, firing both Luhnow and Hinch.

Suddenly, the winningest team in the majors last year has been thrown into utter chaos, less than a month before pitchers and catchers report to spring training. The Astros are a rudderless ship, though they can be thankful that no players received any suspensions.

The reach of this scandal extends beyond current Astros, as well. Boston manager Alex Cora, the 2017 Astros bench coach who was the alleged mastermind of the sign-stealing scheme, is expected to receive a substantial penalty too...but not before MLB investigates Cora’s 2018 World Series-winning Red Sox, who have also been accused of illegally stealing signs. Something tells me the Sox are going to be looking for a new manager within the next month.

Some critics have insisted that the Astros should be forced to vacate their 2017 World Series championship in light of the controversy. I can’t get on board with that. As much as it stinks that the Astros (and Red Sox) might have garnered their World Series titles through illegal means, I’m not a fan of trying to rewrite history, especially such a recent event that most of us watched in real time. If you take away the Astros’ 2017 title, do you just...pretend that nobody won the World Series that year? Or do you retroactively award it to the NL champions? Hey, let’s reunite all the 2017 Dodgers for a champagne celebration and a championship parade through downtown Los Angeles. A bit anticlimactic, don’t you think?

In any case, the Astros investigation was a bit nerve-wracking to Orioles fans. Many fretted that Elias, who was Luhnow’s assistant GM in Houston before he was hired for the Orioles job in November 2018, could find himself embroiled in the scandal and punished by MLB. Fortunately, MLB’s official statement makes no mention of Elias, Sig Mejdal, or any other ex-Astros front office people currently working in the O’s administration. It appears they’ve kept their hands clean of any wrongdoing and can continue their work in Baltimore unscathed.

That’s a relief. On this day, at least, it’s better to be an Oriole than an Astro.

Links

Mountcastle bound for bigs, but at what position? - Orioles.com
I get why the Orioles want to try Ryan Mountcastle at a bunch of different positions, but honestly, I’d just stick him at first base and be done with it. Let him just focus on mashing the ball in the batter’s box.

Addition of Iglesias, Urena should improve Orioles’ infield defense; Catcher Bryan Holaday signed - BaltimoreBaseball.com
The Orioles’ defense has been laughably bad for about three years running. Perhaps that’ll finally change in 2020.

Taking stock of the club’s position players heading into camp - Steve Melewski
I agree with most of Melewski’s predictions about who will get the most playing time at each position, but of course, there's bound to be a surprise or two. This time last year, I certainly wouldn’t have predicted Stevie Wilkerson to be the Orioles’ most-used center fielder in 2019. Even Stevie Wilkerson wouldn’t have predicted that.

Hanhold outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk - School of Roch
Eric Hanhold is staying in the Orioles organization. Print the playoff tickets!

Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! Your two O’s birthday buddies are 1984-85 infielder Wayne Gross (68) and 1990 lefty Danny Boone (66), not to be confused with the American pioneer of the same name.

The Orioles have acquired two Hall of Famers on this day in history. In 1963, they brought in shortstop Luis Aparicio from the White Sox in a six-player trade (in which the O’s dealt away fellow Hall of Fame-bound Hoyt Wilhelm). Aparicio’s five years with the Orioles included two Gold Gloves, two stolen base titles, two All-Star appearances, and a 1966 championship ring.

In 1993, the O’s landed Harold Baines from the Athletics for the first of his three stints in Baltimore. The sweet-swinging Maryland native batted .301/.379/.502 with 107 homers and 378 RBIs in parts of seven years with the Birds.