Myriad Orioles thoughts: Joseph's salary; arb wins; Manfra's legacy - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

Myriad Orioles thoughts: Joseph’s salary; arb wins; Manfra’s legacy

Catcher Caleb Joseph lost his arbitration hearing, it was reported Thursday, meaning he’ll make $700,000 in 2017 instead of the $1 million his side had requested.

That still represents a salary increase of $176,500 from last year.

And, because of that, there are plenty of outraged fans who just don’t care about the “baseball is business” aspect of this.

Joseph’s salary rose almost $200,000 despite the fact he had one of the worst offensive seasons in recent memory – hitting .174 with a .216 on-base percentage and a .197 slugging percentage.

He famously – or infamously – went the whole season without homering or recording a RBI. He had three doubles and 20 singles, but never drove home a run in 141 plate appearances, the most through a full season without a RBI in baseball history.

So, I heard from plenty of people over the past few weeks about how they were incensed that Joseph wouldn’t just take the $700,000 offered, be overjoyed and quietly move on. Several people described Joseph as “greedy.”

Well, I’ve known Joseph for years. I would use all kinds of words to describe the quirky reserve catcher; greedy would not be one. It might be one of the last to come to mind, honestly. Heck, this is a guy that was working Regular Guy winter jobs—like delivering packages during Christmastime — throughout his professional career because he needed to make ends meet. There may be no player that appreciates being in the majors more than Joseph, who spent seven years in the minors before making his big-league debut in 2014.

Now, I will say this: If I were dispensing advice to Joseph, I would have told him to settle with the Orioles before arbitration figures were exchanged and a trial approached. Frankly, it’s not worth the bad PR – and the “greedy” tag — to have a chance at a few extra hundred thousand (which, ultimately, he didn’t get).

But I’m not his advisor. And, obviously, Joseph’s camp viewed this as a routine exercise in the business of baseball. In 2014, Joseph filled a huge void when Matt Wieters was injured. He started three games in the playoffs – and made the league minimum. So, his first year of arbitration would be viewed as a bit of a market correction for his career, and not reflective of just one poor offensive season.

Joseph has played in 231 games for the Orioles in the past three years, and has gotten paid the league minimum or around the league minimum throughout his tenure. So, this was his first chance to make more, and his side obviously felt his past offensive contributions (he did homer 20 times in his previous two seasons) and solid defensive work should put him into the seven-figure hierarchy.

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An arbitration panel disagreed, but Joseph still gets a good raise – a great one in the real world – for his efforts. Everyone will move on, and I don’t expect this to affect Joseph at all as he competes for a catcher spot this spring. So, no harm, no foul. Just business.

I’m just not sure some fans will view it as simply as that. And that’s a dynamic I’m sure has been acknowledged and accepted by Joseph and his advisors as they were preparing their case.

O’s rule arbitration land

I’ve written it before. I’ll write it again, No one out-lawyers the Orioles. No one. With their victory over Joseph, the club is now 11-1 in arbitration hearings since attorney Peter Angelos became majority owner of the team.

They haven’t lost since 1995, when Ben McDonald and his agent, Scott Boras, were victorious.

It can be a nasty process, but the Orioles view arbitration as part of the sport. They have two more potential hearings: One next week with Kevin Gausman and one the following week with Brad Brach.

I still wonder if those two go to hearings, but the Orioles said on filing day – and Dan Duquette reiterated Saturday – that they took the “file and trial” philosophy this year. Given the Orioles’ track record, that makes plenty of financial sense.

Manfra no longer a full-time announcer

As part of a news release detailing the 2017 spring training schedule on 105.7 The Fan, the Orioles announced that long-time play-by-play announcer Fred Manfra will no longer be a full-time broadcaster and will only do a few games on radio next year.

Joe Angel will continue to do play-by-play and Jim Hunter will team with Angel for most games, but will also have some MASN TV responsibilities. Former Orioles Ben McDonald and Mike Bordick will also do some in-game radio analysis in 2017.

Manfra, 70, has been dealing with health issues – prompting hip and back surgeries — for the past couple years, and his schedule had been truncated. So, this news comes as no surprise.

But it also bears mentioning, from professional and personal standpoints.

Manfra, a Baltimore guy and Patterson High grad, had been a full-time Orioles broadcaster for 24 seasons. He connected with a generation of Orioles’ fans, speaking to them in their cars and in their backyards. He was a huge part of the Orioles’ fan experience.

I’ve always thought Manfra was an underrated broadcaster. He was sort of the Scotty McGregor or Mike Cuellar of the Orioles’ broadcast staff. He worked with Chuck Thompson and Jon Miller and Joe Angel, and he may not have had the same flourish and flair as those three all-timers. But boy was Manfra steady. And, boy, did that deep, rich voice make you think of summer.

I had the pleasure of getting to know Fred over the years. And, believe me when I say this, I’m not sure I’ve encountered a kinder, more professional man in this business. Simply put, he’s a good person who represented the Orioles with class and dignity for decades.

Two years ago, Manfra was the guest speaker at my charity Hot Stove Talk in York, Pa. Not coincidentally, it was the largest crowd we ever had. Afterward, a large chunk of the audience stayed to shake Manfra’s hand and get photos. Many told him how much they enjoyed putting a face with the voice they knew so well.

I guess I didn’t realize the impact that radio broadcasters still have in this world of mind-numbing technology. It was a cool moment for me. Almost a flashback to the 1970s and my childhood, when Thompson and Bill O’Donnell taught me baseball.

Manfra painted baseball’s picture on a nightly basis for so many. He did it effortlessly and eloquently. He’ll be missed.

42 Comments

42 Comments

  1. weams

    February 3, 2017 at 7:29 am

    Fred is awesome. And his voice reminds me of my youth as well. Thanks for bringing him to us.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 3, 2017 at 8:20 am

      He was the most popular guest we had at the Hot Stove Talk. Hoping we can get close to that Wednesday.

  2. BmoreBouch

    February 3, 2017 at 7:50 am

    Ok I’ll be the bad guy. Love that Fred is the proverbial “local boy makes good” story and he’s surely a great guy but c’mon – underrated as an announcer? Let’s be honest, if we were judging Manfra against his peers solely based on his qualities as a radio baseball play-by-play announcer, he’d have trouble not finishing dead last. He just doesn’t have the pedigree of a polished verbal “picture painter.” When he describes live action, it’s often tough to “see” what’s happening in your mind. After the crack of the bat, Manfra’s words often create more confusion than clarity, with the ultimate outcome of the batted ball sorted out after the play is complete rather than as it’s happening. Listeners are kept in suspense as to whether fly balls are routine outs, foul balls or home runs for seemingly an eternity. Comparing Manfra to Jon Miller or Vin Scully (or even Joe Angel) isn’t fair because they are among the best all-time in their profession. But travel around a little or listen to other teams’ games over the Internet or on satellite radio and I’m sorry to say that you won’t find an announcer who seems less polished at his craft than Fred Manfra. Great radio voice but simply not a great radio baseball announcer. Let the backlash begin….

    • Dan Connolly

      February 3, 2017 at 8:34 am

      Bouch: fIrst of all, I hope there is no backlash. The thing I love about this forum so far — LOVE — is how respectful everyone has been. Haven’t had to block or edit one person in the 10 months here. So long as you are respectful and present your opinion tactfully, we’re all good here. You did that. Now, I’ll respectfully disagree. Though, I’ll be honest, your opinion may carry a little more weight on this subject. Because of the way my job has been over the years — I’m at many of the games as they are going on — I don’t hear the local broadcasters on a daily basis. And perhaps advancing age has taken a toll the way it does with all of us. But when I listened frequently, I thought Joe and Fred were excellent. Because of my job, I’m often driving home late at night. For years I listened to West Coast games for the hour commute. That included East Coast broadcasters with games on the West Coast. And I would put the Orioles 2 guys up against just about any of those other tandems.

      • BmoreBouch

        February 3, 2017 at 10:52 am

        Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I agree that Angel and Fred have become a good team, and I agree with the other comments that Hunter is too much of a cheerleader (the mention by c Soprano of small sample size stats is perfect example) and I too would like to hear more Ben McDonald (funny that he’s showed a lot more personality on the airwaves than we were exposed to when he was pitching here). Like I said, Fred is a great guy and it pains me to be critical of him. But, like you, I was spoiled growing up with Chuck, Bill O’Donnell and then Jon Miller (who in my opinion is right there with Vin Scully for best in the current era), and I gotta call them like I see them. When Fred is doing play-by-play alone in the booth, it’s often a frustrating experience for this listener.

      • Raveonjo

        February 3, 2017 at 5:56 pm

        I grew up in Highlandtown and went to Sacred Heart of Jesus, so I love a Patterson guy like Manfra. In fact, I first became familiar with him in backyard cookouts during the Triple Crown races. My dad would have the radio on and Fred Manfra would give commentary on ABC Radio. I had no idea he was a Baltimore guy, much less a Patterson grad. So, I was excited when I heard he was a local guy who was coming home to be one of the voices of the Orioles. As much as I love Fred Manfra as a broadcaster, I have to agree with Baltimore Bouch. Fred’s achilles heal is the ball in play. The Oriole network and MASN would’ve been better served to reverse the assignements of Hunter and Manfra a decade against. Manfra would have shined as the MASN voice of the O’s.

      • Raveonjo

        February 3, 2017 at 5:57 pm

        I grew up in Highlandtown and went to Sacred Heart of Jesus, so I love a Patterson guy like Manfra. In fact, I first became familiar with him in backyard cookouts during the Triple Crown races. My dad would have the radio on and Fred Manfra would give commentary on ABC Radio. I had no idea he was a Baltimorean, much less a Patterson grad. So, I was excited when I heard he was coming home to be one of the voices of the Orioles. As much as I love Fred Manfra as a broadcaster, I have to agree with Baltimore Bouch. Fred’s achilles heal is the ball in play. The Oriole network and MASN would’ve been better served to reverse the assignments of Hunter and Manfra a decade ago. Manfra would have shined as the MASN voice of the O’s.

        • Steve Cockey

          February 3, 2017 at 11:21 pm

          I like the idea of Manfra on TV too (I can remember having the same thought at some point). I think he would’ve been exceptional there.

  3. c Soprano

    February 3, 2017 at 9:16 am

    As someone who listens to a lot of games on the radio I am sad there will be even less Fred and MORE Hunter. I just don’t think it’s professional to have a cheerleader in the broadcast booth and on top of that, Jimmy loves him some small sample size stats!!

    • Dan Connolly

      February 3, 2017 at 11:27 am

      I hadn’t heard Hunter do radio in a while, and I unfairly think of him as a TV guy now. But last year I heard him do a couple innings on radio one game, and I thought he was pretty solid. Of course, that was a small sample size, too. But I will say there aren’t many broadcasters — radio or TV — that are more prepared than Hunter.

  4. karks

    February 3, 2017 at 9:48 am

    I definitely don’t see Caleb Joseph as greedy. He had a terrible year and a terrible injury. But it’s not like the sides were that far apart in the grand scheme of things.

    Fred Manfra is really going to be missed. It’s a shame his health has kept him out of the booth. He and Joe were very good together.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 3, 2017 at 11:31 am

      You are in the minority among fans with the Joseph situation. At least of the ones I’ve heard from. But as you correctly point out, it’s not as if there were a huge chasm between the 2 sides. Plus, this is the arbitration process. There should be little or no emotion involved.

  5. Ken H

    February 3, 2017 at 10:31 am

    Please have less Jim Hunter and Mike Bordick on the radio and MASN broadcasts and hire Ben McDonald full time. Loved Bordy as a player but IMO he tries too hard to be a professional announcer instead of just letting his own personality shine through. Jim Hunter is a good emcee on the field but I cannot listen when he is in the booth. Ben McDonald is a hoot and makes it fun to listen to the games. Pair him on TV with Gary Thorne and it will be a blast!!

    • Dan Connolly

      February 3, 2017 at 11:33 am

      Big Ben is a whole lot more entertaining than people realize. And though injuries limited him in the majors, let’s not forget he is arguably the greatest college pitcher of all-time. He’s certainly in that conversation. So, he deserves a listen.

  6. Creatively_19

    February 3, 2017 at 10:32 am

    I’m pretty meh on Joseph’s arbitration salary. He’s not a star catcher, and any money spent on him is money the O’s don’t spend elsewhere. Here’s hoping they add a starter soon. On Fred Manfra it will be sad to see him go. I’m one of the types to bring a radio to the park with me and listen to the play by play. Fred and Joe are smooth. Sometimes they’re corny, they’re definitely homers, but together they represent the best part of summer – Orioles Baseball. I like Jim Hunter as a person, I like him as an analyst, but I don’t really like him as an announcer. It’s hard to follow in the footsteps of legends.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 3, 2017 at 11:35 am

      I was just looking at it and the Orioles have had 4 Ford Frick winners (Hall of Fame announcers). That’s incredible. And that doesn’t count Angel, who I think should be there alongside the greats.

  7. jeffc_miller

    February 3, 2017 at 11:06 am

    I really thought Caleb Joseph had a shot breaking the Orioles streak. For every negative thing said to lower value a response of “testicular injury that required surgery” would have shut me up. I hear he is a great a guy, and want him to do well.

    Sorry to see/hear Fred go. Met him in the hallways of Camden Yards a few times, he was always cordial and talked a little baseball with me and my boys. I think Jim Hunter will do well.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 3, 2017 at 11:37 am

      Yeah, Caleb had a really tough year. Bit you just can’t out-lawyer the Orioles. I’m convinced of that. We’ll see later this month, I suppose.

  8. Bancells Moustache

    February 3, 2017 at 11:19 am

    For the life of me, I can’t understand why Manfra is such a lightning rod. I’ve always found his smooth delivery and baritone to be excellent and prefer him to Joe Angel. That’s not a shot at Joe, who makes up for sometimes sounding like your drunk uncle by totally owning the big moments (They got him! They got him! They got him at the plate!!). Manfra will be missed. He wasn’t Jon Miller or Chuck Thompson, but Dan’s comparison to Cuellar, i.e. guy with a solid local Hall of Fame resume but not an all timer, is warranted here. Also, I have to second what the gentleman above me said; get Ben McDonald in the booth more. While the superstitions in me question a team with Gausman and Bundy on the roster letting McDonald anywhere near the ballpark, I love the way the guy does business behind the Mic.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 3, 2017 at 11:39 am

      And Ben and Gausman are both LSU guys and high picks (Ben, the Orioles only No. 1 overall). So don’t step under the ladder or focus on the black cat.

  9. Wade Warren

    February 3, 2017 at 11:30 am

    I would love to Wellington and Wieters as the catchers for os in 2017. there would be more production out is Wieters than Joseph. just my wishes

    • Dan Connolly

      February 3, 2017 at 11:40 am

      I hear ya. And though I don’t expect it to happen, I definitely hear ya.

  10. Boog Robinson Robinson

    February 3, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    As a NoVa based fan, I don’t often listen to the games on radio. I’m sure Mr. Manfra was very good, but my only thought on this topic is that I’d wish Mr. Angelos and the powers that be, could in one way or the other, work Brother Lo back into the broadcast fold.

    BTW … anybody know a DC based FM station that will broadcasts the Os this coming year?

    • Dan Connolly

      February 3, 2017 at 2:24 pm

      Can’t help ya on DC radio. Maybe someone else here can.

    • Steve Cockey

      February 3, 2017 at 2:30 pm

      Boog – the O’s website lists 980 AM and 570 AM as the two DC stations.

    • Creatively_19

      February 3, 2017 at 4:00 pm

      You can get the MLB Audio Only subscription for about $20 a season, and listen on mobile devices or on your computer. That’s two hot dogs and a beer at OPCY, so not really breaking the bank. T-Mobile has also given MLB At Bat subscription free to their subscribers the last couple of seasons.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        February 4, 2017 at 10:20 am

        Hey 19! (apologies to Steely Dan) …. but that’s a great idea. I hate the reception of the AM stations where I lve and this would be a great option for the car. I”m going to take MLB up on that one. Thanks for the advice/thought my friend.

  11. loganmillermusic12

    February 3, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    As a 22 year old, all I’ve known has been Joe and Fred (with Jim Hunter showing up more and more recently). I really do like Jim Hunter, but I was always a lot more excited to listen to Joe and Fred do it together. Fred’s voice is fabulous and is almost stereotypical baseball announcer… which I love.
    As for Caleb, Dan you’re totally right. He’s not greedy. In my opinion, he may be the all around best person on the team. He seems to be so thankful that he is where he is in his career right now and he acts so appreciative of the fans. Not sure if anybody caught him giving kids drum lessons at FanFest, but it was flat out awesome. Joseph may be on a (very) short list for his RBI situation last year, but let’s not forget. We wouldn’t have had the incredible 2014 that we did without him. And the dude is on another short list for hitting 5 home runs in 5 consecutive games in 2014!

    • Dan Connolly

      February 3, 2017 at 2:23 pm

      The crazy thing about Joseph is that he was known as a hit-first catcher in the minors. And he worked tirelessly to improve his D. Now it has switched. Just shows how difficult MLB is.

  12. 1roberts

    February 3, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    Great website Dan! Like one of the other posters said previously, I was surprised Caleb didn’t win his arbitration hearing. If I am not mistaken, they take in all three years of his major league seasons and he filled in really well in 2014 and 2015 when Wieters was out with his injury then coming back from his injury. It will be different hearing Fred Manfra on the radio for only 11 games this year. Jim Hunter does better on the radio then TV but still does not come close to Joe Angel and Fred Manfra. On a side note to Fred Manfra’s retiring, have you heard if Brian Roberts will be doing anymore telecasts for MASN? I saw him at his Delmarva Shorebirds appearance last summer and he said he would be around Camden Yards more this year but he didn’t elaborate. Thanks and keep up the great work!

    • Dan Connolly

      February 3, 2017 at 4:37 pm

      MASN hasn’t announced anything yet. I was told a while back that MASN was open to Roberts doing more, but his priority was time with his young family. Don’t know if that has changed.

  13. Deadman4139

    February 3, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    Everyone remember Caleb driving to spring Training last year in $700 Ford Ranger ?! When it broke him and his brother would fix it! Not to many guys fixing their own vehicles unless it’s a hobby… Sad to see/hear Fred go, I grew up on him and Joe and listening to them not only reminds me of summertime O’s baseball but of my Grandfather and Uncle and of days gone.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 3, 2017 at 10:57 pm

      Yeah. He’s not a silver spoon guy, that’s for darn sure

  14. Raymo

    February 3, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly with Bouch. It was so frustrating to listen to Fred when the ball was in play. Of course I was spoiled for so many years by the incomparable Jon Miller. I still miss him and I’m still furious at Peter Angelos for driving him away. That was the 2nd worst move ever by the O’s. (#1 all time was the disastrous trade for Glenn Davis, but that’s a different conversation.)

    • Dan Connolly

      February 3, 2017 at 10:56 pm

      That’s kind of my point. Os fans have been spoiled by an amazing cadre of announcers over the years. Five Frick winners. That’s incredible.

  15. originalbrooklyndodgerfan

    February 4, 2017 at 6:52 am

    I’ve been a fan of the Orioles for 50 years, and I listen to the radio a lot. I always thought Fred was ok, not real good or bad, but good as a straight man. On the other hand, my friends and I can’t stand Jim the Shill Hunter, his endless stream of stats, and the frequent errors that Palmer regularly corrects on TV. I also associate him with the loss of Jon Miller, my favorite of all. Jon didn’t “bleed black and orange,” but Jim does, to everyone’s detirment.i

    • Dan Connolly

      February 4, 2017 at 12:27 pm

      Yeah. Some people love the announcer that is pro-home. I’d prefer to have it a little more balanced. But that’s kind of my old guy, cranky view now.

  16. Os-less in Seattle

    February 4, 2017 at 10:33 am

    It’s hard to begrudge a person for negotiating their salary, especially someone like Joseph who got such a late start to his MLB career. Given his professionalism, and the team’s I would be surprised if there were any related problems.

    I hope all the best to Manfra, as he (along with Joe) was one of the consistent voices of my youth and adulthood as I’ve moved from the area. Having sampled the radio broadcasts for many teams, the O’s do have some of the best.

    Relatedly, I bet Joseph would do well on the radio or TV for the Orioles.

    • Steve Cockey

      February 4, 2017 at 11:46 am

      Joseph would be GREAT in the media once his career ends, Os-less. I completely agree.

    • Dan Connolly

      February 4, 2017 at 12:28 pm

      He is really funny. And as a catcher he really knows all sides of the game.

  17. charmacharm

    February 9, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Thanks for the enjoyable essay on Fred Manfra and baseball radio. Fred is a shining star who will leave a void in my aural landscape of Baltimore summers. While we enjoy our Oriole games on indoor MASN, sometimes I move to the outdoor patio with my portable radio. There I can sit for hours in the dark letting the creative team of Joe and Fred give my weary eyes a rest while visions of Os run all over my head. Hunter doesn’t do it for me. He uses stats to draw a workman like chart for the audience. What radio does best is employ artistic announcers/talent who can paint a picture for the listeners’ imagination.

  18. alfatouring

    February 9, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Was at your event two years ago, and really enjoyed Fred Manfra. Always loved his voice and thought he and Joe Angel worked well together, at least I enjoyed listening to them. I will miss Fred Manfra. I may be taking poetic licence but I remember years ago listening to Joe and Fred do a West Coast night game, and Fred remarked it had been a long road trip, and he said to Joe, “Joe, you are starting to look pretty good in this light…” Loved it!

    Was also there last night, but due to a very senior moment on my part, missed the first 15 minutes! Am hoping there will video posted here or on Zion Lutheran’s Facebook page. I was very impressed with Mike Bordick, humor, wit, and personality. Frankly I don’t think it comes through on TV, but I really am glad I got to see him in person. Thank you for bringing this event to York. I am not a real serious Oriole fan but follow them pretty closely, and will do even more so with your website and app. Thanks for those too!

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