After taking a big step backwards this year, 26-year-old Felix Pie was designated for assignment by the Orioles on Tuesday. The team has called up fellow outfielder Matt Angle to take his place.
Pie, a former Cubs prospect, seemed ready to start in center field for some team after a 2009 season in which he hit .266/.326/.437 with nine homers in 252 at-bats, but rather than trade him, the Orioles instead kept him around as a part-time left fielder in 2010. He wasn’t really an asset in that role, hitting .274/.305/.413 in 288 at-bats.
Pie’s hopes of an expanded role this year died with the Vladimir Guerrero signing, and he was unable to capitalize after injuries to Derrek Lee, Luke Scott and Guerrero opened the door for him to seize the left-field job. He was hitting just .220/.264/.280 in 164 at-bats. Since the beginning of June, he was hitting .184 with two RBI and six runs scored in 87 at-bats.
While Pie may yet be young enough to turn into a useful player, his hopes of making it as a regular appear dashed. His lack of plate discipline is a huge issue at the plate, and he doesn’t use his speed to the best of his ability. Advertised as a quality defensive center fielder when he arrived in the majors, his fielding numbers have gotten worse every year to the point at which he was actually abysmal in left field this season.
To replace their underachiever, the Orioles are calling up an overachiever with a similar profile. Like Pie, Angle is left-handed-hitting outfielder with limited power and good speed. He was hitting .272/.347/.345 with 27 steals in 30 attempts for Triple-A Norfolk this season. Angle is just seven months younger than Pie, and he’s probably a fifth outfielder at best. Still, the Orioles have nothing to lose by giving him a look.
When he’s not throwing baseballs, Twins pitcher Trevor May is an active gamer. He streams on Twitch, a very popular video game streaming site, fairly regularly and now he’s officially on an eSports team. Luminosity Gaming announced the organization added May last Friday. It appears he’ll be streaming and commentating on Overwatch, a multiplayer first-person shooter made by Blizzard Entertainment.
May is the only current athlete to be an active member of an eSports team. Former NBA player Rick Fox owns Echo Fox, an eSports team that sports players in games including League of Legends, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Street Fighter V, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Mortal Kombat X. Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is also a known advocate of eSports.
The NBA in particular has been very active on the eSports front. Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov launched NRG eSports in November 2015. Shortly thereafter, Grizzlies co-owner Stephen Kaplan invested in the Immortals eSports team. Almost a year later, the 76ers acquired controlling stakes in Team Dignitas and Team Apex. The same month, the Wizards’ and Warriors’ owners launched a group called Axiomatic, which purchased a controlling stake in Team Liquid, a long-time Starcraft: Brood War website which has since branched out into other games. And also in September 2016, Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko bought team Renegades, moving them to a group house in Detroit. In December 2016, the Bucks submitted a deal to Riot Games in order to purchase Cloud9’s Challenger league spot for $2.5 million. The Rockets that month hired someone specifically for eSports development, focusing on strategy and investment. Last month, the Heat acquired a controlling stake in team Misfits.
Once an afterthought, eSports has grown considerably in recent years and now it should be considered a competitor to traditional sports. League of Legends, in particular, is quite popular, reaching nearly 15 million concurrent viewers at its peak in the most recent League of Legends World Championship. That championship featured a prize purse of $6.7 million with $2 million of it being split among winner SK Telecom T1’s members.
The Orioles have re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.
Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.
Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.