Orioles Are Off On The Wrong Foot

Samuel, Trembley Criticize Many Errors On Base Paths

August 27, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

MINNEAPOLIS - - A day after Felix Pie's two gaffes on the bases contributed to a 7-6 loss to the Minnesota Twins, Orioles manager Dave Trembley and third base coach Juan Samuel took accountability for the team's poor base running this season but said the responsibility ultimately lies with the players.

"For some reason, they're not processing it," said Samuel, who has served as the Orioles' base running coach the past three seasons. "It's just a lack of concentration, because they know. They are major league players, or at least we think some of them are. To me, some of them are not. Some of them to me have to be thankful that expansion came because some of them wouldn't be here. Some of the stuff that you see them do is not OK. You're going to tell me that they are in the big leagues and don't know how to run the bases?"

Samuel and Trembley have gotten heavy criticism from fans because of the high number of outs the Orioles have made on the base paths. The Orioles' stolen-base percentage of 66 percent - 65 steals in 99 attempts - is the worst in the American League, but that doesn't tell the full story of their base-running problems. Their blunders have included a little of everything, from Brian Roberts forgetting how many outs there were to pickoffs to players not taking an extra base when they have the opportunity.

"It has never bothered me to take criticism," said Samuel, who stole 396 bases and was a three-time All-Star during his 16-year career in the big leagues. "I'm man enough to do it. If they don't want to make the players accountable, then I'm going to be accountable. But to me, players need to be accountable. If you make a mistake, you need to take responsibility for your mistake. You have to do it. That's why you see teams that are up here [in the standings] and teams that are down here, because they don't want to be accountable. It's always somebody else's [fault], and that's a problem."

While Trembley said he took full responsibility, he also said he "doesn't buy" the theory that bad base running is entirely the fault of the manager and coaching staff.

"You don't have a little sound piece in somebody's helmet out there," said Trembley, who described the state of base running in the majors as "atrocious." "Base running is instinct, base running is anticipation, base running is the score, the situation, the number of outs, how important is my run and who's on deck. It's all instincts. The coach doesn't tell you when to go and when to stop. It's too late. When you're out there playing this game, you're on your own. All of that stuff is predetermined.

"I take full responsibility, but the player should be accountable. What am I going to tell Felix Pie [Tuesday] night when he's at second base and there's a foul ball right in front of the dugout? Do you think you're invisible? Come on."

Pie, who was summoned into the manager's office for a meeting before Wednesday night's game, made two extremely noticeable mistakes in Tuesday's loss. While stealing second in the fourth inning, he didn't pick up Samuel on Nolan Reimold's single to right field. Instead of getting to third base - where he should have been without a play - Pie stayed at second, but not before taking a couple of steps back toward first.

Then while he was at second base with no outs in the sixth, Pie tried to tag up on Reimold's foul ball that was caught by Twins first baseman Justin Morneau in front of the Orioles' dugout. Pie apparently thought catcher Joe Mauer had caught the ball and fallen into the dugout, allowing him to move up a base.

Samuel was more annoyed with Pie for not breaking toward home with the pitch when he was on third with two outs and a 3-2 count to Matt Wieters later in the fourth.

"Since you're playing Little League, you know everyone is running on 3-2 with two outs," Samuel said. "He didn't take off from third base. I had to tell him, 'Go.' They're not anticipating. When they're on base, they're not thinking base running. They might be thinking about their at-bat or the ball that they pop up, and the situation comes up and they don't know what to do. They react late to it."

Samuel said the most disappointing thing about the team's base-running problems is the coaching staff recognized the team's troubles on the bases last year and made it a point of emphasis in spring training. Each day during batting practice, Samuel or first base coach John Shelby had a group on a certain base working on everything from secondary leads to breaking on hit-and-runs to tagging up on fly balls. The group would then move to the next base the following day.

"We'd do that almost every day," Samuel said. "They know, but they're not paying attention to the little details, and those things are going to cost you ballgames."

Trembley acknowledged that the staff has to do a better job of "relaying information and making it a priority." But he said it should start far earlier than when players arrive in the big leagues.

"I think you need to have more of a focus on base running when you develop the players," Trembley said. "When the player is coming up, they need to put that in their playbook, so to speak, and develop those good habits, that pride. Guys want to hit. They want to get on 'SportsCenter.' Base running? I'm sorry."

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