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Friday Bird Droppings: Where we’re missing minor league baseball

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Having the MLB season on hold is bad enough. But missing out on the minors, too, is a tough pill for a rebuilding club.

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MLB: MAR 01 Spring Training - Orioles at Phillies
Orioles fans were excited to watch Adley Rutschman play this year. They’re going to have to wait quite a while.
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

Yesterday was April 9, a day that — in a perfect world — would have been full of excitement and intrigue for baseball. It’s the date that the 2020 minor league season was slated to start, before coronavirus went and ruined everything.

For a rebuilding club like the Orioles, the minor league season was arguably even more important — and certainly more fun — than the majors. Such was the case last year, when the Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds ran roughshod through the South Atlantic League with a 90-48 record, best in club history, led by O’s top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez. The Double-A Bowie Baysox also stormed to the postseason with a second-half surge before falling in the Eastern League championship. In a non-COVID world, both those clubs would have been opening at home yesterday.

Promising prospects abound throughout the minor league system. There’d be plenty of attention on the High-A Frederick Keys, not only because their starting 2020 roster was likely to feature both Rodriguez and No. 1 prospect Adley Rutschman, but also because it could be the final year of the club’s existence if MLB’s minor league contraction plan goes through. Elsewhere, the Triple-A Norfolk Tides figured to carry a stacked rotation featuring Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther, Alex Wells, Bruce Zimmermann, and perhaps Michael Baumann. And top lefty prospect DL Hall was presumably on his way to Bowie.

But now...who knows? It’s tough to see how any of those players, or any minor league club, is going to be able to take the field for actual competition this year. It’s difficult enough to make a plan for major league clubs to play — witness the recently rumored, cockamamie scheme about sequestering thousands of players and staff in Arizona for four and a half months — but there’s been almost no discussion of a path forward for the minors. Minor league games don’t have the benefit of being televised on regional sports networks like the majors do, and if they also can’t have fans attend their games (which will almost certainly be the case), then what do you do?

The Orioles, and every other team, have plans in place to keep their minor leaguers active and learning even while they’re isolated, but if there aren’t minor league games to play, those prospects are missing out on crucial development time. And the Orioles’ attempts to rebuild are getting even harder.

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe...

In a universe where COVID-19 doesn’t exist, the Orioles wrapped up a four-game series at Yankee Stadium yesterday. Despite Gleyber Torres hitting seven home runs in the series, the Birds took three out of four games, winning the final two on ninth-inning comebacks against Aroldis Chapman. In one instance, he coughed up a two-run homer to Renato Nunez; in the other, he walked the bases loaded, walked in a run, and plated the go-ahead runner on a wild pitch.

Every hitter on the Orioles’ roster picked up at least one RBI in the series. Meanwhile, the Yankees, littered with injuries, have been forced to resort to the leftovers of the free agent market, including Yonder Alonso and Tim Beckham, with the expected dreary results. The Orioles are now 9-4, a game ahead of the Rays atop the AL East. The Yankees are 3-10.

Simulation brought to you by the PWAG (Paul’s Wild-Ass Guesses) system.

Links

Reaching out to non-baseball teams during MLB's shutdown - Steve Melewski
O’s director of player development Matt Blood talks about how the minor league staff is helping prospects from afar, including solo drill assignments and a bunch of Zoom calls. Am I the only one who had never heard of Zoom before this whole thing started and now can’t get away from it?

My favorite player: Cal Ripken Jr. – The Athletic
If you’re a person who grew up on Cal Ripken being the heart and soul of the Orioles, as I did, then this tribute will strike a chord with you.

5 O’s greats whose number could be retired - Orioles.com
Joe Trezza speculates on five former Orioles who could have their number retired by the club, including Mike Mussina. I feel like the O’s would need to have a change of ownership before that would one ever happen.

Mark Reynolds Announces Retirement - MLB Trade Rumors
It’s been eight years since he was an Oriole, but I’ll always remember Reynolds for his role on the delightful, surprising 2012 Birds. Specifically, I’ll always remember his massive home runs.

My ballpark journey revisited: Camden Yards is still the best - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Which of Rich Dubroff’s ballpark rankings do you agree/disagree with? He has Wrigley Field as No. 3, but I was a little underwhelmed when I was there in 2014 (albeit before their renovations were finished). The men’s restroom had a trough! WTF?

Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! You are awash in O’s birthday buddies — five of ‘em, in fact. They include 1992 Most Valuable Oriole and famed home run robber Mike Devereaux (57), outfielder and gif king Chris Dickerson (38), righty Al Reyes (50), outfielder Lee Lacy (72), and 1959-64 reliever Wes Stock, who turns 86 years young today.

April 10 has historically been a pretty good day for the Orioles. In 1968, they won their season opener behind a home run by Brooks Robinson, his third straight season with an Opening Day dinger. And in each of the next three years, the O’s pulled off a walkoff victory on this date, thanks to game-winning RBI singles by Boog Powell in the 13th (1969), Brooks in the 10th (1970), and Davey Johnson in the ninth (1971).