• Apr

    Buck makes wrong moves in loss to Yanks

    It is amazing how fast some people turn after a four-game losing streak against the Rangers and Yankees. I was reading through the boards and expected some emotional response after losing a heartbreaker to the Yankees again, but seeing all the Buck haters come out was a little surprising.

    Was last night painful? Sure. Did Buck screw up? Sure. But guess what, every manager is going to make bullpen mistakes and after all, it's not his fault he was given Kevin Gregg and Mike Gonzalez in his bullpen. Showalter's biggest failure was not bringing in Koji for the ninth and then in the tenth. Koji is your best reliever, he was rested, and he's the guy you have to have the most confidence within the Orioles bullpen.

    Saying that, it was not Buck's fault that the offense turned in for the night after scoring five runs. It was not Buck's fault that Berken didn't have his good fastball or command. It was not his fault that Pie doesn't know how and where to slide on a play at the plate. It was not Buck's fault that the ball took the perfect bounce to Martin to make the play even close.

    Last night in the Orioles game thread, I said that the Orioles were going to lose the game despite the fact that they were up 5-3.  This may have sounded negative, but I could just feel the momentum of the game swinging the other way and as the Orioles kept going 1-2-3 against the Yankees bullpen and the Yankees kept chipping away, it made me remember I had seen this game so many times before.

    By the bottom of the ninth, with Gregg running in from the bullpen, the entire thread turned to how no one wanted Gregg in the game. Almost unanimously a bunch of fans on a message board wanted Koji, and after seeing him warm up in the 8th, few could understand why Gregg was sent out instead.

    Unfortunately Buck, like many other major league managers has this idea in their heads that the team should only have one closer, regardless of the situation. I normally don’t have a huge problem with this, but I do have a problem with the selection of Gregg to pitch in this situation due to the fact that Koji is clearly the Orioles' best relief pitcher, was a great closer at the end of last season, and has shown to be much better than Gregg this spring and early in this season.

    But riding a three game losing streak, while watching his 5-0 lead dwindle down to 5-4, Buck ran Gregg out instead of Koji and it cost him. I can’t imagine a smart baseball man like Buck Showalter thought Gregg was a better option in this situation, but he alone chose Gregg over a rested Koji. He alone has to take responsibility for the decision.

    To compound the problem, despite the fact the Yankees brought out Mariano Rivera to shut down the Orioles in the 10th, Buck choose to go with Mike “wild thing” Gonzalez instead of Koji in the 10th despite the fact the Yankees had Teixeira, Rodriguez, and Cano due up.

    What did the Hangout game thread participants think of this move? Let’s just say the entire thread turned into trying to establish how Gonzalez was going to lose the game rather than whether he would lose the game. I had him walking Teixeira (check), and then wild pitching him to second before A-rod would move him to third after just missing a home run for a sacfly. Then Cano would single in the winning run.

    I was wrong in how it was going to end, but the outcome was never in doubt.

    Hopefully Buck will make the needed changes to the bullpen roles and get Gregg out of the closer role, install Koji, and ensure Gonzalez is never put into a close ballgame.

    The Orioles head to Cleveland and have Zach Britton on the mound in the series opener tonight. This game is very important because a loss would send the O’s to .500 and the good feeling start will have evaporated with a five game losing streak.

    It will be interesting to see if Britton can be the stopper this team needs right now.

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Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.