A month into the offseason, Orioles pitching coach search and more


October 28, 2013|By Dan Connolly | The Baltimore Sun

One of the things I’m often asked when people find out what I do for a living is, "What do you cover in the offseason?"

My answer: Baseball, because there really is no offseason anymore. That’s been pretty evident this year. Lots of little things to keep us busy.

Tuesday marks one month since the Orioles played their last game of the 2013 season on Sept. 29.

So far this offseason, the Orioles’ top young player has undergone surgery, several Orioles players have been named finalists for various awards, and the club officially dismissed its pitching coach and kicked off a search for another one. (And I’m not even counting Cal Ripken Jr. managing rumors).

All of that before free agency officially begins following the final out of the World Series -- which will be at some point this week. It will happen no later than Thursday night.

The Orioles haven’t signed a truly high-profile free agent in years -- Miguel Tejada probably qualifies as the last one -- but the club will be in the middle of rumors for countless players this offseason. Happens every year. Then, before we know it, it will be February and pitchers and catchers will begin workouts in Sarasota, Fla.

Baseball’s cycle of life.

* The first big news of the Orioles offseason should come soon. The Orioles would like to have their pitching coach situation resolved today -- or at the latest by Thursday, which is the end of October. We’ll see.

I’ve been told the club could go several ways with its hire; the candidates were fairly even and impressive. If I were to handicap the four outside candidates in order of the most likely to be hired -- and it’s more feel than fact -- I’d put it this way: Carl Willis, Rich Dubee, Dave Wallace and Andy Hawkins. We keep hearing that the Orioles will consider in-house candidates, but my sense is any one of those possibilities would be behind Hawkins in the pecking order.

I’ve said since the beginning that the Orioles were looking for an experienced pitching coach from outside the organization. Whether it is Willis, Dubee or Wallace, I’m confident that is what they are going to get.

* Game 3 of the World Series on Saturday night ended in a truly bizarre way, with the St. Louis Cardinals winning on an obstruction call by umpire Jim Joyce that allowed Allen Craig to score the winning run in the Cardinals’ 5-4 victory.

It was the first walkoff obstruction call in World Series history.

And, though not exactly the same, it may have stirred up some memories for old-time Orioles fans -- and, no, I’m not talking about the Jeffrey Maier call in 1996 (that was in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series).

I was contacted by two different people in the last 24 hours that brought up a non-call in Game 4 of the 1969 World Series. In the bottom of the 10th of a 1-1 game, the New York Mets had runners on first and second when pinch-hitter J.C. Martin dropped a bunt that Orioles reliever Pete Richert fielded. Richert’s throw to first hit Martin and was ruled an error.

Replays showed that Martin was inside the baseline and should have been called out. He wasn’t, though, and pinch-runner Rod Gaspar scored on the error. The Mets won, 2-1, on a walkoff bunt and error that should have been ruled an out. The Amazin’ Mets ended up winning Game 5 to capture an improbable World Series title.

Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks, whose legs intertwined with Craig, prompting the obstruction call Saturday, will forever be linked with Craig and the play. But that doesn’t have to be his only World Series moment.

He can take solace in Richert’s story.

The next year, after his infamous throw against the Mets, Richert entered Game 1 of the 1970 World Series in the ninth inning versus the Cincinnati Reds. Jim Palmer had thrown 8 2/3 innings, but was pulled after walking Pete Rose.

Richert got Bobby Tolan to line out to shortstop Mark Belanger to save the 4-3 victory for Palmer. And the Orioles went on to win the World Series in five games, so Richert got a big save and a World Series title after all.

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