Not yet the time for Orioles to spend

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Thanks in large part to the flood of talent brought in though the Erik Bedard trade, things are certainly looking up for the Orioles. Matt Wieters is going to be a superstar behind the plate, the Nolan Reimold-Adam Jones-Nick Markakis outfield should be plenty productive and is under complete control through 2013 and Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman are two of the game’s very best pitching prospects.
It isn’t yet, though, the time to try to surround the impressive young core with quality veterans. The Orioles needs simply don’t mesh with this year’s free-agent market. Matt Holliday and Jason Bay wouldn’t make nearly as much sense as Mark Teixeira did a year ago. Top talents such as John Lackey and Chone Figgins would have to be overpaid to come to Baltimore, and besides Aroldis Chapman, there isn’t much in the way of younger free agents with upside.
The Orioles aren’t one or two players away from toppling the Yankees and Red Sox, so biding their time will continue to be the right strategy. At the rate the team is developing talent, Baltimore could soon again become a preferred destination for free agents. With several top pitchers potentially available, the club might actually have a shot at Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Brandon Webb or John Beckett after next season.
In the meantime, the Orioles should look to go short term with a late-game reliever, a middle-of-the-rotation starter and a corner infielder. It’d be awfully nice if Adrian Beltre fell into their laps, but Carlos Delgado, Hank Blalock and Troy Glaus are interesting one-year options to help out at first or third. Try Jim Johnson as a starter and sign Kevin Gregg or J.J. Putz to battle Koji Uehara and the youngsters for the closer’s role. Look into Justin Duchscherer and Todd Wellemeyer as cheap rotation options.
It’s 2011 that the Orioles should be thinking about. Wieters will be established as one of the game’s top-five catchers, and with any luck, they’ll have come up with three effective starters from the group of Matusz, Tillman, Jeremy Guthrie, Brad Bergesen, Johnson, David Hernandez, Jake Arrieta and Troy Patton. That’s a team that might be just one or two veterans away from threatening the AL East’s elite.

The Yankees were booed last night. Did they deserve it?

Masahiro Tanaka

The boos came raining down from the Yankee Stadium faithful last night. They started when Brett Gardner grounded out in the eighth inning. More came later. A lot of it was, no doubt, based on Gardner’s disappointing performance late in the season. A lot of it was because, around that time, it seemed like the Yankees had zero shot whatsoever to mount a comeback. Which, in fact, they didn’t. A lot of it was pent-up frustration, I assume, from a late season skid which saw the Yankees lose their lead in the AL East and wind up in the Wild Card Game in the first place.

Anyone who buys a ticket has a right to boo. Especially when they buy a ticket as expensive as Yankees tickets are. It’s obviously understandable to be disappointed when your team loses. Especially when your team is eliminated like the Yankees were. And last night’s game was particularly deflating, with that 3-0 Astros lead feeling more like 10-0 given how things were going.

But isn’t booing something more than a mere manifestation of disappointment? Isn’t a step beyond? Booing isn’t saying “I’m sad.” It’s saying “you suck!” It’s not saying “I’m disappointed,” it’s saying “you should be ashamed of yourselves!” And with all respect to Yankees fans, the 2015 Yankees have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

This was a club expected to miss the playoffs, full stop. Maybe some people allowed for an if-everything-breaks-right flight of fancy, but hardly anyone expected them to play meaningful games late in the year, let alone a playoff game. They were too old. Too injured. There weren’t enough young reinforcements to fill the gaps. Some even went so far as to claim that they were about to spend years in the wilderness.

But then A-Rod broke out of the gate strong. And Michael Pineda had a really nice first couple of months. And Mark Teixeira put up numbers that wouldn’t have been out of place for him several years ago. The bullpen did what it was supposed to do and more, Masahiro Tanaka held together somehow and, eventually, a couple of young players like Greg Bird and Luis Severino came in to reinforce things. The not-going-anywhere Yankees were contenders. And they led the division for a good while. Of course they stumbled late. And of course they lost last night, but by just about any reasonable measure, this was a good team — better than expected — and, unlike a lot of Yankees teams in the past, was pretty darn enjoyable to watch.

Then the boos. I just can’t see how this Yankees team deserved that.

I realize a lot of people in the media have duped a lot of people into thinking that a team with a high payroll is supposed to be dominant. And I realize George Steinbrenner duped a whole lot of people into thinking that anything less than a World Series championship for the New York Yankees is failure. But that’s rhetoric and branding, not reason. In the real world where baseball players play baseball games World Series titles are rare, even for the Yankees. At the end of the season all but one of 30 teams are either at home for the playoffs or went home after suffering a gut-wrenching playoff loss. The Yankees are the most dominant franchise in the history of American professional sports yet they still have finished their year without a title over 75% of the time.

With that as a given, fans are left to judge their team’s performance based on its talent, its health, its heart, its entertainment value and the strength of the opposition which ultimately vanquished it. The Yankees weren’t nearly as talented as many, yet made the playoffs anyway. They were a walking hospital ward, let limped on. They never quit and never got pulled down into the sort of muck a lot of New York teams find themselves in when things start to go sideways. And, ultimately, they were simply beat by a better team. By any reasonable measure the 2015 Yankees were a good story, a successful enterprise, a resilient bunch and no small amount of fun.

It’s OK to be sad that it ended as it did. But that doesn’t deserve to be booed. Not by a long shot.

Collin McHugh will start Game 1 of the ALDS for the Astros

Collin McHugh Astros
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After using ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel to get past the Yankees in the Wild Card game the Astros will turn to right-hander Collin McHugh in Game 1 of the ALDS versus the Royals.

McHugh had an up-and-down year, posting a 3.89 ERA compared to his 2.73 mark last season, but thanks to good teammate support he had a 19-7 record and his 171/53 K/BB ratio in 204 innings was solid. He was particularly good down the stretch, posting a 2.89 ERA and 69/20 K/BB ratio in 72 innings after August 1.

McHugh will match up against Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura in Game 1. Houston hasn’t named a starter for Game 2 yet, while Kansas City is going with Johnny Cueto. And then the Game 3 matchup figures to be Dallas Keuchel versus Edinson Volquez.