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

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.



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