Good morning, Camden Chatters.
We’re just one week away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, and we still don’t have a complete picture of what the 2021 MLB season will look like. But that picture got a lot clearer yesterday, when MLB and the players’ union agreed on health and safety protocols for the upcoming campaign.
As of this writing, the full details of the agreement haven’t yet been released, but for the most part they’re expected to be similar to those of the truncated 2020 season. There are a couple of key differences, though: there’s no universal DH this year, so pitchers will be back in the batter’s box, to nobody’s enjoyment. There also won’t be any expanded playoffs; the postseason structure will return to its 2019 form, with five teams in each league making it to October (three division winners and two wild cards).
So, that’s good news and bad news. The lack of a universal DH is a bummer — pitchers attempting to hit is a constant source of embarrassment for baseball — but at least it will barely affect the Orioles, who will still get to enjoy the designated hitter all season except their handful of interleague games in National League parks. And I’m delighted that last year’s 16-team postseason field won’t be returning. When more than half the teams qualify for the playoffs — including, like last year, two sub-.500 teams — it renders the regular season almost completely meaningless. It was fine to implement for a 60-game season like last year, but for a full, 162-game campaign? Hard pass.
Two other new rules from last year will extend into 2021: the seven-inning doubleheader games and the ghost runner at second base in extra innings. I kind of liked the former rule, and the latter rule didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. They both serve the purpose of ending games and getting players off the field at a reasonable hour, which is kind of important when there’s, you know, a global pandemic. I don’t see either of those rules continuing once COVID is under control, but for now, it’s fine.
Meanwhile, in Orioles-specific news, the club reached an agreement yesterday with the Maryland Stadium Authority to renew its lease for Oriole Park at Camden Yards through 2023. Naturally, skeptics have already crawled out of the woodwork to say, “Wait, the extension is only for two years? Welp, the Orioles are definitely relocating in 2024.”
But that fear seems unfounded to me. By all accounts, the O’s are still trying to negotiate a long term deal to keep playing baseball — and hold other events, like 2019’s Billy Joel concert — far into the future. This agreement helps buy them some time to iron out those details.
Relax, folks. The Orioles aren’t leaving Baltimore anytime soon.
Orioles agree to extend lease at Camden Yards through 2023 as talks continue on long-term commitment - Baltimore Sun
More details about the Birds’ new deal. Thank goodness! It would’ve been awkward if the lease expired and the Orioles had to start playing in, like, somebody’s backyard.
Answers to your Orioles questions - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff answers questions from readers, including one guy who asks which spot the Orioles pick in the draft this year. Kudos to Dubroff for answering the question without snarking, “You could have Googled that yourself in like five seconds.” I wouldn’t have been able to resist.
New season brings opportunity for young pitchers like Zac Lowther - Steve Melewski
I’m excited to watch Zac Lowther unveil his deception-and-command wizardry in the majors, probably this season. I’m just hoping it works as well in the bigs as it has his entire minor league career.
LeBlanc: “I want to make sure that I give them everything I have” - School of Roch
A tidbit I’d not heard before: the Orioles helped Wade LeBlanc raise money after his hometown was devastated by Hurricane Laura last year. Whatever you may think of their performance on the baseball field, the O’s are a pretty decent organization.
Orioles birthdays and history
Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! You have one current O’s birthday buddy, left-hander Bruce Zimmermann, the Baltimore-born Towson alum who made his big league debut in 2020 and may be in the running for a rotation spot this spring. Zimmermann turns 26 today.
Plenty of former Orioles were born on this day, too, including Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero (46), who ended his great career with a mediocre season in Baltimore in 2011. There’s also 1999 righty Doug Linton (56) and delightfully named 2005 four-gamer Napoleon Calzado (44); the late right-hander Erv Palica (b. 1928, d. 1982); and outfielder Vic Wertz (b. 1925, d. 1983), a member of the inaugural 1954 Orioles.
The O’s have made a few minor signings on this day in history. In 2010, they inked two lefty relievers, Mark Hendrickson and Will Ohman, who proved to be just the additions the club needed to finish in a distant last place. In 2012, they signed oft-injured first baseman Nick Johnson, who played 38 games before — surprise! — getting injured, ending his career.