I’ve gotten many good questions for our monthly mailbag. I’ll answer some here, and some tomorrow. Thank you for such interesting questions. Questions are edited for clarity and style.
Question: What do you think needs to happen in order for the Orioles to consider the 2021 season a success? From: @TheWarehousePod
Answer: I suspect Orioles management and fans have differing takes. The club wants to accumulate as many talented players as possible this year while many fans are tired of losses and want to see discernible progress in the team’s record.
If Austin Hays can get through the season without a serious injury, Ryan Mountcastle has a good full season and, say, two pitchers of the group of Keegan Akin, Mike Baumann, Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther, Alexander Wells and Bruce Zimmermann establish themselves as starters, that would be great.
I think fans would like to see the team at least inch up in the standings, to perhaps 70 wins or so. If Hays, Mountcastle and perhaps Cedric Mullins put together a full season and you see two starters emerge, then the 2021 season is a success.
Question: How is rookie eligibility decided? I’m wondering why Austin Hays isn’t considered a rookie when he had fewer games played and at-bats than Mountcastle last year. From: @Kendo1316
Answer: Kenny, a position player must have fewer than 130 major league at-bats to be eligible for Rookie of the Year. Austin Hays has 250 major league at-bats in parts of three seasons. Mountcastle had 126.
Pitchers are eligible if they’ve thrown 50 innings or fewer. If a player has accumulated 45 days on a big league roster before September 1st, when rosters are expanded, that also eliminates them from Rookie of the Year consideration.
Question: Do players on the taxi squad have to be on the 40-man roster? If not, will this help stronger teams stockpile extra players? How will it impact the players with Norfolk? Will players be allowed to rotate between Norfolk and the taxi squad? If not, could some players on the squad be inactive during the season? From: Steve Cohen via email.
Answer: Besides Steve, others asked about the taxi squad, and I’ll try to answer their questions, too.
Taxi squad players only accompany the team on road trips. When they’re at home, they’ll be at the alternate site at Bowie for the first month, and then at Norfolk when the minor league season begins.
Four of the five players on the trip — Travis Lakins, Richie Martin, Isaac Mattson and Ryan McKenna — are on the 40-man roster. Austin Wynns isn’t. The stronger teams generally have better minor league players, so there’s no stockpiling.
There won’t necessarily be the same taxi squad players on each road trip. When not with the Orioles, they’ll be getting playing time in the minor leagues.
Players like traveling with the major league team because they receive major league meal money and if someone is ill or injured, they can step right in.
Question: When would Buck Showalter become eligible to be on a Hall of Fame ballot? And, and if he does, do you believe he will have a shot at making it? He is just over 50 percent in his career winning percentage, but he has over 1,500 managerial wins, is a three-time Manager of the Year and had a knack for turning the teams he took over into winners. No World Series titles will be something that stands out, but he had tremendous success, even though his winning percentage went downhill in his last two years or so in Baltimore. From: Michael Fleetwood via email
Answer: Michael, as you may know, I’m an admirer of Buck’s, but I don’t think he has a great shot at the Hall.
While he was an excellent manager, as you point out, his teams never got to a World Series, let alone won one. Two recent managers with fewer wins, Earl Weaver and Whitey Herzog, are in the Hall, but each won a Series.
As for the mechanics, I’m sure Buck will be on a ballot in the next several years, assuming he doesn’t manage again. He’d be considered by a small Veterans Committee, which meets every few years rather than on the annual ballot of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, which is only for players.
Question: In fantasy baseball, where the categories are batting average, runs, home runs, RBIs and stolen bases, which Oriole would you draft for 2021 if you could not change your roster for the entire season and you could draft only one player with the final pick (and Mancini and Santander were already drafted) — Mountcastle, Hays or Mullins?
And, why would you pick your guy? From: MLBFan via BaltimoreBaseball.com
Answer: I’m not a fantasy baseball player, but if I made one guess, it would be Austin Hays. If he stays healthy, he’s got the best chance to fill up those categories.
Question: If/when a lockout occurs next year because baseball’s current collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2021 season., do the minor league teams get locked out as well? I’m a little unclear as to what the dividing line is between MLB and MiLB team owners. From: Dave Hersl via email
Answer: If there’s a strike or lockout, it would affect only the players on a team’s 40-man roster and veteran players on minor league contracts with major league service time.
Norfolk and Bowie would be free to field teams, but they wouldn’t have any players with major league service time or on the 40-man roster. Other minor league teams could operate freely since prospects who haven’t been in the majors or joined a 40-man roster aren’t in the union.
Let’s hope it doesn’t come to this, Dave. A labor stoppage would be awful for all concerned.