Spared one tough decision on Owings, Reds still have another

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owings.jpgAs mentioned last night, Micah Owings lost the tiebreaker that would have gained him super-two eligibility and increased his 2010 salary from $500,000 to likely around $1 million or so.
Had Owings been made arbitration eligible, it’s possible that the Reds would have non-tendered him. The 27-year-old went 7-12 with a 5.34 ERA last season and was even worse with the Diamondbacks in 2008, finishing 6-9 with a 5.93 ERA. He was only successful during his rookie season in 2007, when he went 8-8 with a 4.30 ERA.
So, as a pitcher, Owings very likely isn’t worth $1 million for 2010. It doesn’t look like he has the arsenal to stick as a starter, and his command has regressed in a big way.
Of course, Owings isn’t really known for his pitching these days. A star first baseman at Tulane, the 6-foot-5 Owings has hit .300/.331/.547 with eight homers in 170 major league at-bats. That line comes with a 56/8 K/BB ratio, but it’s still incredible for someone who hasn’t had more than 60 at-bats in a year since 2005.
There was already a legitimate case a year ago, but now there’s a great argument for converting Owings into a position player. Maybe he could be a perfectly useful major league reliever, but his arsenal hardly stands out. And he could always go back to that if he fails as a position player. On the other hand, his time to make the switch to the outfield is running out. At age 27, he’s going to have to improve his conditioning to pull it off. He’s only going to lose athleticism as he ages.
As a full-time hitter, Owings would seem to be a definite threat to hit 25 homers. Whether he’d maintain a respectable OBP along the way is the question. If he gets regular at-bats, the holes in his approach are going to be exposed. But he’ll also be able to concentrate on making adjustments. Plus, he’ll probably show more patience at the plate. For what it’s worth, he walked 42 times in 217 at-bats during his final year in college.
I think it’s clear he has more upside as a batter than as a pitcher at this point. And he could still be of additional use as an occasional reliever in games already decided. Whether he fits in with the Reds in that role is still up in the air. The team currently has Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, Jonny Gomes, Chris Dickerson, Wladimir Balentien, Willy Taveras and Laynce Nix as outfield options. Taveras and Nix are both candidates to be released, but that still leaves five legitimate options, and Gomes, Balentien and Owings are remarkably similar offensive talents as right-handed power bats with OBP issues.
The Owings’ offensive ceiling so closely resembles Gomes’ 2009 season may, in fact, rule Owings the outfielder out as an option for the Reds. But it probably wouldn’t cost much at all for another team to bring in Owings. It’s time that he makes the switch, and there are several small-market clubs that would have something to gain by taking a chance on him.

It’s the tenth anniversary of the biggest rout in baseball history

Associated Press
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Ten years ago today the Rangers and the Orioles squared off at Camden Yards. The Orioles built a 3-0 lead after three innings and then all hell broke loose.

The Rangers scored thirty (30!) unanswered runs via a five-spot in the fourth, a nine-spot in the sixth, a ten-spot in the eighth and a six-spot in the ninth. That was . . . a lot of spots.

Two Rangers players — Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ramon Vazquez — hit two homers and drove in seven runs a piece. The best part: they were the eighth and ninth hitters in the lineup. There was plenty of offense to go around, however as David Murphy went 5-for-7 and scored five times. Travis Metcalf hit a pinch-hit grand slam. Marlon Byrd drove in four. It was a bloodbath, with Texas rattling out 29 hits and walking eight times.

On the Orioles side of things, Daniel Cabrera took the loss, giving up six runs on nine hits in five innings. That’s not a terribly unusual line for a bad day at the office for a pitcher — someone will probably get beat up like that in the next week or so — but the Orioles’ relievers really added to the party. Brian Burres was the first victim, allowing eight runs on eight hits in only two-thirds of an inning. Rob Bell gave up seven in an inning and a third. Paul Shuey wore the rest of it, allowing nine runs on seven hits over the final two.

The best part of the insanely busy box score, however, was not from any of the Orioles pitchers or any of the Rangers hitters. Nope, it was from a Rangers relief pitcher named Wes Littleton. You probably don’t remember him, as he only pitched in 80 games and never appeared in the big leagues after 2008. But on this day — the day of the biggest blowout in baseball history — Wes Littleton notched a save. From Baseball-Reference.com:

Three innings and 43 pitches is a lot of work for a reliever and, per the rules, it’s a save, regardless of the margin when he entered the game. Still, this was not exactly a game that was ever in jeopardy.

When it went down, way back on August 22, 2007, it inspired me to write a post at my old, defunct independent baseball blog, Shysterball, arguing about how to change the save rule. Read it if you want, but know that (1) no one has ever paid attention to such proposals in baseball, even if such proposals are frequently offered; and (2) the hypothetical examples I use to illustrate the point involve an effective Joba Chamberlain and Joe Torre’s said use of him, which tells you just how long ago this really was.

Oh, one final bit: this massacre — the kind of game that the Orioles likely wanted to leave, go back home and go to sleep afterward — was only the first game of a doubleheader. Yep, they had to strap it on and play again, with the game starting at 9PM Eastern time. Baltimore lost that one too, 9-7, concluding what must have been one of the longest days any of the players involved had ever had at the office, both figuratively and literally.

Hall of Fame baseball announcer Rafael ‘Felo’ Ramirez dies

Associated Press
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MIAMI (AP) Rafael “Felo” Ramirez, a Hall of Fame baseball radio broadcaster who was the signature voice for millions of Spanish-speaking sports fans over three decades, has died. He was 94.

The Miami Marlins announced Ramirez’ death Tuesday.

Ramirez, who died Monday night, began his broadcasting career in Cuba in 1945 before calling 31 All-Star games and World Series in Spanish. He was the Marlins Spanish-language announcer since their inaugural season in 1993 and was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2001.

He was known for an expressive, yet low-key style and his signature strike call of “Essstrike.”

Several Spanish-language broadcasters, including Amury Pi-Gonzanez of the Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants, have admitted to emulating his style.