The Baltimore Orioles hosted over 15k fans at the Baltimore Convention Center yesterday at their annual FanFest celebration, proving once again that O’s fans are some of the best and most loyal in sports. It’s always an exciting spectacle to see the various exhibits, collectors, forums, etc, along of course with the throngs of fans who come each year to support the team. I’ll be very frank; I was a bit taken back by the attendance numbers, especially given that the mood of the fan base appears to be somewhat sour at the moment due to the underwhelming nature of the off season thus far. But Birdland didn’t disappoint, and the event was a total success.
Probably the most interesting part of the day’s festivities was the noontime forum involving Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette. There were numerous questions, however these moments stuck out at me:
- Instant Replay - Someone in the crowd asked Buck Showalter about replay, and in fact called out a few MLB umpires in the process. MASN’s Gary Thorne (who was hosting the event) quickly sidestepped over the specific umpires, however Showalter made mention of the fact that his various fines over the years weren’t tax deductible and that he was hoping the replay process would keep him from getting ejected from as many games (and thus lower his fines). However on a serious note, he was very forthright about the fact that he thought it would take a couple of years to get all of the kinks ironed out in the system. (He also threw in a dig both towards the umpires and two of the Orioles’ rivals by saying that hopefully Boston and New York won’t be the only teams allowed to test it out during spring training.)
- Depth - When asked about whether or not the players were over-tired towards the end of the season, Showalter did seem to agree that there were some tired bats and arms on the roster. He also echoed my personal thoughts on the matter when he said that one of his goals this off season had been to improve the club’s depth across the board. Again, while the team’s signings to this point have been underwhelming, one could legitimately argue that they are a deeper team. However Showalter also said that the fact that various players played so many innings attests to their work ethic and how they approach the game. And that’s not something that should go lost to Orioles fans.
- Off season - Dan Duquette said something of which some of the angrier members of the fan base should take not. When asked about free agents, he said that the market on some of these guys had developed much slower than they would have thought. And while the Orioles have struggled to get people to sign or to get them to pass their physicals, there are many other teams who are trying to get deals done with the exact same players and they’re waiting out there in limbo also. Quite frankly if I were Bronson Arroyo, A.J. Burnett, or any of these other players, I’d be looking to get myself signed right away because the price will have to start coming down eventually (if it has’t already). So the point here of course is that while critics will argue that Dan Duquette is just sitting in the Warehouse and twiddling his thumbs, in reality the Orioles are just playing the game just like everyone else.
- Manny Machado - Dan Duqette said that Manny Machado’s agent told ESPN that Manny was “going to be just fine.” It’s still unclear whether or not Machado will be ready for Opening Day, but he’s been cleared to resume some baseball activities. Buck Showalter echoed Duquette’s statement, and he also threw around the Ides of March as a key moment in time for Machado. He said that if Machado’s playing in spring training games by March 15th, there’s a good shot he’ll be ready to go on Opening Day.
Single game tickets also went on sale yesterday, so Orioles fans can start buying tickets for all
regular season games with the exception of Opening Day. A couple of other quick hits from FanFest were that Chris Davis reiterated to MASN’s Roch Kubatko that he loves playing in Baltimore and that he’d like to stay here. Matt Wieters told MASN’s Steve Melewski pretty much the same thing, although he did say that he hoped to avoid going to arbitration against the Orioles. However he also indicated that he wasn’t worried about his contract situation, as that’s why he has an agent.
All of that aside, I know that the Orioles are very thankful to all of the fans who paid to come through the turnstiles at the Convention Center yesterday. And for the record, pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota in two weeks!