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Tuesday Bird Droppings: Where we’re still making plans for a 2020 MLB season

MLB is optimistic that there will be baseball in some form in 2020. What it will look like is a different question.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

Another day has passed and we’re no closer to knowing when or how baseball might return in 2020. We can’t know, of course. The coronavirus isn’t being very forthcoming about when it plans to go away.

However, there is growing optimism that Major League Baseball will return in some fashion this year, even though it’ll probably require some significant changes. ESPN’s Jeff Passan laid out some details about what needs to happen before MLB can finalize a plan for playing the 2020 season, and what that season could look like.

Among other things, Passan concocted his own plan for how baseball could play a round-robin tournament in just 60 days, if the season wasn’t able to start until October. His idea: have six “hubs” around the country in relatively safe cities, with each hub housing five teams (preferably one division at each hub). Each team would play a four-game series against the four other teams, with the top two teams from each hub advancing to the next round. Then there’d be another round-robin between those top 12 teams — six AL teams at one hub, six NL teams at another — in which the top four AL teams and top four NL teams would advance. Then the Division Series, Championship Series, and World Series would proceed as usual.

To be clear, there’s no indication that MLB has proposed or even acknowledged the tournament idea that Passan laid out. But I kind of like it, as a last-ditch scenario kind of thing. Mainly because the shorter the season is, the more chance there is for the Orioles to actually be contenders. I mean, it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility for the O’s to go on a little hot streak for 16 games to advance out of the first round, then another hot streak in the second round, and then...actually, now that I’m writing it, it does seem kind of unrealistic. But it’d be fun.

Meanwhile, the video game Orioles are on the precipice of making the postseason in the MLB: The Show Players’ League, where Dwight Smith Jr. guided them to a 19-10 record. Going into Monday night, Smith had the third-most wins of any player, giving him an excellent chance of securing one of the eight playoff spots. As I’m writing this, other players are still completing their final set of games, so I’m not totally sure how the final standings will shake out. But a lot of things would have to go wrong for Smith not to make it. (Hopefully I didn’t jinx it.)

Assuming he makes it, Smith and the Orioles will play their first postseason games on May 1, televised on ESPN, ESPN2, and FS1. Good luck, Dwight!

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe...

In a universe where COVID-19 doesn’t exist, the Orioles made big news yesterday, calling up first base prospect Ryan Mountcastle for his much-anticipated major league debut. The promotion came after Mountcastle spent just over two weeks at Triple-A Norfolk, where the O’s had sent him to work on his plate discipline and his defense, or so Mike Elias claimed. “Riiiight,” said skeptics. “I’m sure it had nothing to do with gaming his service time to get an extra year of team control.”

In his MLB debut, Mountcastle drew a walk in all four plate appearances and made four Gold Glove caliber plays at first base. Somewhere, Elias was smirking. The Birds won the opener of a four-game home series against the Royals, 8-2, to improve their record to a league-best 22-6.

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


A look at two of the new hitting coaches on O’s farm - Steve Melewski
I never used to know or particularly care who the Orioles’ minor league coaches were, but that’s all changed under the Elias regime. All these guys seem exceptionally bright and well-prepared.

Orioles’ Top 5 left fielders: Trezza's take -
Brady Anderson ranks as the Orioles’ top left fielder all time. But under the weird rules of this MLB position ranking project, that means he’s ineligible to be listed as a center fielder, even though that's the position he played for his entire 50-homer 1996 season. Why can’t Brady be one of the Orioles’ top five left fielders and center fielders? He was good at many things!

More myths, misconceptions about some Orioles players - School of Roch
Roch Kubatko recounts some of the “highlights” of the Albert Belle era in Baltimore, including some incidents I’d never heard of before. He certainly had a, uh, unique personality.

Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! You have five O’s birthday buddies, most notably outfielder Jackie Brandt, who spent six years with the Birds from 1960-65 and was an All-Star in 1961. He turns 86 today. Also celebrating birthdays are 2001-03 righty Sean Douglass (41) and a bunch of relief pitchers named Jim: Jim Poole (54), Jimmy Myers (51), and Jim Miller (38).

This has been a pretty crappy day in Orioles history, I must say. On this day in 1988, the O’s lost their 21st consecutive game to start the season, extending their MLB record (fortunately the streak ended there). Mike Boddicker allowed four runs to the Twins in a 4-2 defeat in Minnesota.

In 2015, the Orioles canceled their scheduled home game against the White Sox for the second straight day following civil unrest in Baltimore after Freddie Gray’s death. They also announced the following day’s game would be played without fans. (Remember when a fanless game was a big deal? Now it seems like it’ll be the norm for baseball in 2020.)

And in 2017, the O’s blew a 9-1 lead at Yankee Stadium thanks to an epic bullpen collapse, ultimately losing a walkoff in extras. I remember listening to that game on the radio while driving up to New Jersey and then having to watch the painful end of it with Yankees fans. Not fun.