Baltimore Orioles: Baseball Business and Miguel Gonzalez

Mar 18, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez (50) pitches against the New York Yankees during the game at George M. Steinbrenner Field. The Orioles defeat the Yankees 11-2. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 18, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez (50) pitches against the New York Yankees during the game at George M. Steinbrenner Field. The Orioles defeat the Yankees 11-2. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Baltimore Orioles have decided to part ways with Miguel Gonzalez in a decision that is as much about the business of baseball as it is about the metrics of the sport.

The complicated rules allow the O’s to release Gonzalez without having to pay the bulk of his $5.1 million salary. Sending him to the minors would keep them on the hook for the dollars involved.

Most readers of this column have probably by now read about the reasoning involved in terms of his drop off in performance over much of last year and this spring. Here on The Baltimore Wire just yesterday we pondered if Miguel had done enough to be kept in the rotation. Our essential opinion was that he probably had not done so, that his Tuesday start was not as good as a single run in five innings would appear, that his stuff was not crisp and under control, but that his track record and affection from the organization would keep him.

But baseball business realities have intervened.

Those realities are not popular in the clubhouse. No surprise there. He is a genuinely good guy and well-liked by everyone.

This opens a spot for presumably Mike Wright and/or Tyler Wilson to join the rotation to start the season. Also here on The Baltimore Wire, we have in the past spoken against expensive starting pitching additions (including Gallardo) in reference to how filling vacancies constantly with new names creates a blocking pattern against developing players who have nothing more to prove at the AAA level. So whereas it is sad to see Gonzalez go, there is merit in the opening it provides. We anticipate this is going to be a net positive move for the team.

But let’s take a few paragraphs here to reflect on the past four seasons of Miguel Gonzalez and the Baltimore Orioles. O’s fan should rightly be grateful for the time and talents of this quiet and unassuming pitcher. He should be fondly remembered in Baltimore.

The story of Gonzalez is a great one. Seemingly washed out of MLB opportunity and pitching in Mexico, he was discovered and made an unlikely ascent to the Orioles in the middle of 2012. Those of us who follow these transactions closely were skeptical that this fellow with an unimpressive background could become any sort of significant contributory piece. But he did.

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Miguel Gonzalez owes the Baltimore Orioles nothing! He was a bargain.

Consider what he has accomplished for the Birds. He was 39-33 in 95 starts with a 3.82 ERA. He had a 2.09 ERA in the 39 games where he was the winning pitcher. The Orioles were 52-43 in games where he was the starting pitcher. These are very good numbers.

Here is the issue with Gonzalez: He has less physical skills and talent than the vast majority of major league pitchers. He is only 6-1, 170 pounds. He does not have great velocity (especially this spring) nor incredible ball movement and put-away secondary pitches. To be successful, he had to labor consistently on the very edge of personal perfection … there was little room for error.

But here is the further issue with Gonzalez: He walked the fine line over and over. He lived on the corners and made pitches most often when he needed to. He was truly a pitcher, not a thrower. Gonzalez should be warmly remembered and highly respected for this. In an era when pampered professional athletes are great, often because they are a God-gifted freak of nature in terms of physical abilities, Gonzalez was a mortal who the rest of us could appreciate as a workman we can relate to.

Another great attribute that he did have in spades was the perfect personality for a pitcher — the emotional flat line. One could never tell when it was going well or going poorly. He competed with pitch after pitch, regardless of the highs or lows surrounding him.

And finally let me finish this with a more personal reflection. You may recall that Miguel was originally with the Angels organization. He was there with a local Western Maryland product, Nick Adenhart — whom you might also recall was tragically killed in a car crash in April, 2009 after making his first rotation start as rookie. Nicky was from my high school where I coached — Williamsport. He was a friend and fellow graduate with my son.

Miguel Gonzalez and Nick Adenhart were also friends. And when Miguel made his first start for the Orioles, he did so with a baseball glove that Nick had given to him — honoring his departed friend, even as he had realized his own dream of making it to the big leagues. Classy guy.

Yep, Miguel Gonzalez is a good guy. It was great to have had him with the Orioles. We should wish him well, as hopefully he can pick up elsewhere, even if he has to re-invent himself as a long reliever or something like that. Don’t count him out. People did that before, and they were wrong.