Baltimore Orioles: What to make of the clubhouse rumbles


Mar 7, 2015; Sarasota, FL, USA; A general view of

Ed Smith

Stadium where the Baltimore Orioles play during a spring training baseball game against the Boston Red Sox at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It is exceedingly unusual for any less-than-pleasant rumblings to come out of the Baltimore Orioles clubhouse, a place that in the era of Buck Showalter has been the MLB exemplar of the happy baseball family. But a series of tremors have made the china rattle slightly in the dining room cabinet, temblors that would not even interrupt a sentence on the West Coast, but in the fault-free baseball geography of Baltimore merit articles in the press.

That fact that former clubhouse leader Nick Markakis was annoyed his circumstances and offers did not eventuate in fulfilling a desire to stay in Baltimore is only surprising insofar as he generally does not say much about anything. The uncharacteristic edge in his remarks opened the door perhaps for other statements of friends and past teammates to follow.

The first of these was Adam Jones, who had some pretty blunt things to say. He especially made some remarks about being the face of the franchise and desiring perhaps some more open communication with The Warehouse management. Certainly Jones wants to win; if anybody wants success more than Adam, I don’t know who it is with the Orioles. Jones is going to “go off” once in a while, which is simply his personality. What I think we especially hear from him is the clubhouse sentiment of feeling the loss of Markakis, as the realization that Nick is gone is really now sinking in as the old gang gets back together again …

"“He was known in this clubhouse, he was known in the community, he was known as a guy who just showed up to work and did his job. That’s what you want out of an individual and that’s what you want out of a teammate and that’s what you want out of a man. That was my definition of Markakis. He came to work every day.”"

Next came an interview of Chris Davis with Peter Schmuck of The Baltimore Sun, where Davis expressed a somewhat similar concern about ownership and management being fully committed to retaining a winning combination on the field for an extended time. Some negative reaction came from the fanbase on this, though I don’t think Davis was being persnickety. What I heard was a hope and desire to be able to stay in Baltimore, though (having seen Markakis go) a concern expressed that it might not work out.

"“Some things are going to have to change as far as contracts are concerned, because we have a lot of young guys that you’re going to have a chance to sign before free agency and, I’ll tell you one thing, I’m not going to play for a team that has no shot at competing every year. The next contract I sign I would like it to be my last one, and I have no desire to play for a loser every year.”"

Again, this surely looks worse on paper than it probably sounded coming from the likeable big guy. Whereas Jones has the equity to say what he says and the way he says it, honestly, after the 2014 season for Davis I feel these remarks – no matter how gently stated – are ill-advised. If he really wants to stay in Baltimore, two things he can do are: Have a great 2015 season and retain the services of a different agent.

The next player up with remarks was J.J. Hardy. As is imaginable, he was more measured in what he said, aided by his own situation as having signed a three-year extension. But he too sounded a similar theme of concern on the issue of retaining the winning personnel comprising the winning foundation of the team.

"“When I signed, I trusted them that we were going to be doing everything we could to keep the guys who are helping us win.”"

That has a bit of a past tense feel to it. Again, it probably looks worse in print.

And fourth and finally are the most gentle of the remarks by the most gentle of the personalities – Matt Wieters – who said …

"“I have no crystal ball, I have no idea what the future will hold. … “I think the biggest concern is in this clubhouse we feel like we’ve put together a team that can compete for a lot of years … And we really like this clubhouse. That’s why you see so many guys that want to stay and want to come back, because of the kind of camaraderie that we have in this clubhouse. … In Major League Baseball, you don’t see the closeness that this clubhouse has a lot.”"

That final remark sums up a lot of what I think is happening in this collection of statements. This is a great clubhouse. The closeness of it and the unique nature of the relationships were completely obvious to everyone three years ago at FanFest, even before these winning seasons got started.

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But at the end of the day, the end of spring training, the end of the season, the end of it all … it’s a business, and that involves dollars and financial realities. And it is simply not possible to retain every last piece of what has given this team its successes since the end of the 2011 season. And this is the last time around the sun together for a number of these players, and everyone knows it and feels it. And that reality is bubbling to surface a bit in some of the remarks that are being made.

I have no stake in the game to be either an apologist for Duquette, Angelos and the Orioles, any more than I have to be a critic. But I believe that in the big picture of things they are largely doing what they can within financial constraints to bring back as many critical pieces as possible, while also realizing that there is no way to pay 15-25 free agent salaries. The prescription for success must involve pre-arbitration-eligible players, particularly those rising through the farm.

And that is why Duquette often says …

"“I think best way to have a good team year in and year out is to have good player development, good scouts and good depth in your organization. We aim to have that every year.”"

Next: Already playing and planning for 2016