The Ray of light for Orioles in Tampa baseball model

- Advertisement -

As the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays look up at the Orioles and Rays in the AL East standings for the first time ever, Tampa broadcaster Neil Solondz tells Nestor the St. Pete model for sustained MLB success in the money drenched division.


team, good, game, year, tampa, baseball, bullpen, pitchers, division, orioles, great, people, players, rays, baltimore, chance, playing, manager, race, group


Nestor Aparicio, Neil Solondz

Nestor Aparicio  00:01

Welcome back, WN S T, Towson, Baltimore. Baltimore positive you’re positively into the crabcakes season could be doing the Maryland crabcake door on Thursday over at spirits west on Wilkins Avenue. We’re gonna be joined by my pal Chad Wesley. We’re gonna be talking about running back contracts in the NFL that Chris pica might be stopping by as well. It’s all brought to you by the Maryland lottery conjunction with our friends at window nation. 866 90 nation if you need some new windows by two, you get two free and two years of 0% financing baseball on our tongues. You know, there were a lot of conversations I’ve had with baseball people over 31 years doing radio 10 year, the last nine and a half years really doing this solo around your and there have been times when it’s just gone by the wayside with baseball where for years, they were just so bad. I didn’t want to bother Neil Solon sat down in Tampa, or any of my buddies, even in the division to come on here and all talk about being 25 games under 500 in June this year. However, it is exciting. It is exhilarating. And even though it’s a road trip and it’s road trip to Florida, I’m not on we welcome your Solons back on, you know your team has always been relevant somehow, someway. We’ve always knocked on the door wondering how we can be the Tampa race. And lo and behold, here we are. We got like a real thing going on between these two teams right now. It’s exciting.

Neil Solondz  01:19

It is and it’s a really good Baltimore club. You know, I think when I looked at the preseason prognostications nationally, I don’t think that enough people probably gave Baltimore credit for being the Talent Team that they are, I think it was, it was almost as if was last year, legit or not. And I kind of felt it was, and especially when I started to see some of their bullpen arms and spring training and how they bounced back from last year. I thought, Okay, this group is legit. And I also thought a full year of addley rushman, was going to have a really good impact on their team, because I saw how good they were once he came up last year. He’s a difference maker. He’s their core guy. And they’ve got a lot of other core guys around him that are really good.

Nestor Aparicio  02:01

Well, you have a core guys there and farm and a man and expectations and not every prospect makes it. But this has been a unique thing here that the Orioles have been so bad. You know, they’re bragging about how many one ones they had. And I’m thinking, Whoa, that’s a that’s 162 Bad to get one player, like literally. And they built this thing they said they were gonna build it this way. And I think one of the reasons maybe in the offseason they weren’t given as much love is that they didn’t do splashing, signing, pitching, doing the things that look like they needed to do to fortify looks like he still might need to do some of these things to fortify, to get past you guys in a short series, and two or three other teams to try to win a championship around here. And it’s kind of heady, that we’re talking about it in those terms. But I think that this, this class has come together at the same time at the right time. And then you get mountcastle back need to get Molins back out on the field as well. But by and large the way this thing has been built, yeah, it’s optimistic to say these guys, we’re going to turn out. But you know, people are pretty bullish on Adly rushman, being a pretty good ballplayer, and even Henderson and counselors come and these were all, you know, pretty solid prospects that were taking pretty high in the draft has been cursed at being another one at Jackson holiday and other one in line for all of this awfulness, that there is this sort of rainbow of sunshine here and this particular period of time to say we’re playing ball, the way the rays have built this now for literally a generation well back to Madden. And going back to when the guys originally showed up almost 20 years ago.

Neil Solondz  03:34

You know, a lot of people probably said the same thing about the race, you know, after a weight when they went from worst to first and had a great year and went to the World Series are they going to be able to stay in power and, and in some ways, I still kind of heard it after last year. I mean, the race made the playoffs for the fourth straight season, win 86 games and everyone said go out and get a left handed power hitter, go out and get a left handed power hitter. This team needs a left handed power hitter. And, you know, whatever happened in the free agent market happened and it didn’t work out. And the young players all took shape. You know, Luke really took a major step forward, Josh Lowe took a major step forward. And that gave all of a sudden the raise some left handed power to balance their right handed bats. And, you know, I think you have to do it differently. You can’t do it the same as New York or Boston or even Toronto in this division. I think Baltimore is almost a nice combination of what somewhat with the rays have done and what Houston did, where they had a really tough stretch for a while. They got a lot of really high picks, and they’ve hit on a lot of them. I mean, you know, never going to be perfect in the draft just like you’re never going to be perfect in trades, but they’ve hit on a lot of them. And they’ve made some trades that have really worked out too. I mean, you look at trading Jorge Jorge Lopez when they did and then here you near Cano was you know kind of one of the pieces of probably no one recognizing that deal. And then this year can Oh is probably one of the filthiest relievers in the game. So you have to make smart moves and you have to combine it with drafting and you have to have a good culture and club House and it seems to me both teams have that. And I think you know, both teams have some staying power for sure.

Nestor Aparicio  05:06

Nail Salons is a part of the rays broadcast team has been a multiple victim here at wn st over the years but never conversation we’re talking about battling for first place in June heady double digits above 500 playing good ball, great young players, all stars around the corner. But I would say for your organization and not making moves in the offseason of a consequence of money. That’s sort of expected by your your fan base has come to expect that and expect that you’re going to do it differently. I think the expectation is the same though. We’re players in the organization to say, I’m gonna get a chance here. If I do things the right way. They’re gonna bring me up and I’m gonna get a chance to go get my Carl Crawford money or what pick any guy you want as an old reference there, but but you’re gonna get a chance to go play baseball in the organization, because they’re gonna make room for you if if your talent shines, and that’s what I think about for the race bring in all Gen a generation now a player’s through is that there’s something about being a minor league player there that instills some good skills to get better at baseball. I mean, it’s a good, it’s not a good for it’s a great franchise in that way. That hasn’t been as supportive as maybe it could be in Tampa. But I think around the sport, people have looked at the situation in Tampa, it’s a it’s still the shining star even when you didn’t go get a left handed but you didn’t do these things. You start out like the ad for tigers. It’s been an incredible start for you guys.

Neil Solondz  06:35

It’s been amazing. And it’s been a great group. And, you know, they have done, you know, to be where, where they’ve been to be at a high of 29 games, but 500 At one point this year. I mean, that’s, you know, I think, dude, it’s June 15. I mean, it’s amazing. So, and I think that one thing that they probably did a little different, it probably wasn’t necessarily 100% By design, but they ended up extending a fair amount of guys, you know, Yandy Diaz was extended for three years, Pete Fairbanks out of the bullpen was extended, and they already extended wonder Franco and then get Tyler glasnow and extension. And they’ve got eight or nine guys that are extended two or three years out. And the guys

Nestor Aparicio  07:16

like playing there, right, even though the dome and this and that. I mean, it’s not it’s, it feels like there’s less pressure, it feels like it’s more fun than it is when you show up at Yankee Stadium. And it feels more like, Oh, this is business.

Neil Solondz  07:28

It’s a great culture. And it starts with, you know, ownership. It starts with Eric Neander, and Kevin cash and the coaching staff and, you know, a constant buy in by the players to do what’s needed to win. You know, I think, by and large, the last several years going into this year, they’ve had among the highest winning percentages in minor league baseball, too. So the players that come through the system have an expectation of this is how we do things, you know, this is how you play to win. And then you see that carry over when they get to the big leagues, there’s always going to be a transition period. But you know, watching guys like Taylor walls, play defensively and watching Josh Lowe and watching Luke Rayleigh and, you know, wander and East operators and so many guys who they’ve either acquired via trade, or they or they signed and develop themselves. I think when they come to the big leagues, they expect to kind of fit in the puzzle. And then when they do go out and sign a free agent like Zach Eflin, who has been outstanding in his first year, you know, I think there’s an expectation that the guys that they sign are going to be great fits in the clubhouse, they’re going to not only that, but they have the ability to be really, really good and fit it and then I think Zach’s an example, from day one, you can go back a few years, you know, Charlie Morton was a great fit here. Rich Hill was a really good fit here. Corey Kluber was a good fit last year. All of those guys kind of they find guys who are really good character guys that make sense with the group. And I think that they’ve got a really high level of ability to bring in good players, but also good character guys who they know would fit their system from a cultural standpoint,

Nestor Aparicio  09:01

you know, up and down to Port Charlotte one time and I think I’ve told you this story in the past, but my mother in law lives relatively close. I remember being down there and going into practice. And Rick Vaughn was still with the rays and bricks and be coming on the program a little later on this week talking about Oriole magic and all sorts of things. Maybe even some old Washington football stuff before a wild thing stuff. I’ll get him going on. But I visited your facility one time and it was like super early February, pre workout pre pitchers and catchers kind of thing. And it was literally opening day. And I the first day Kevin cash took a job the first day Joe Maddon is gone. And they’re trying to figure out what’s happening there. And, and I remember guys taking BP and they signed a couple of veteran guys that year. But I remember Vaughn saying, Hey, Mike, my manager is going to have his first ever press conference today. And I’m like, Huh? All these years later, he’s still there. And when I saw his name, he was a very hot prospect as a manager as the AS IS HE You know, a branded hide here who has survived a lot of bad to get to the good, most of those kinds of managers, but transitional managers, 234 years of 90 100 110, under 15 losses, you get jettisoned the new age of baseball and the way the game is played. And when I think about the difference between hiring a Kevin cash in that moment, or Buck show, Walter, who I think was still the Orioles manager at that time, and the way they think about the game and the way analytics had been baked into the game, and now baked into what’s happening here. cashes his own success story, right? Like they bet on the next Joe Maddon and that’s really hard to do. I mean, the Ravens didn’t hear going from Philly to hardball and not making a transition on the football side. But on the baseball side for a manager to survive that. I mean, your franchise only really had two managers this century, right? Like kinda sorta,

Neil Solondz  10:49

they, they did rebuild on the fly on those two, and they do without, you know, let’s say in Baltimore, you had the 110, you know, the 100. Plus last season’s and, and here it was, I think that was 190 Defeat season. And that was it, and everything else was in the 70s and 80s. And he was able to kind of rebuild, you know, and get back as they continue to draft and develop and bring in some guys, because I think the hard thing is from Oh, eight to 13, they made the playoffs, four out of six years 190, games, five to six. So they’re picking at the bottom end of the draft, every one of those years. And I think they only pick from the top 10, once in that 1418 period, which is really hard to still do and develop it a group that can win. And he managed to do it in an amazing way. And I think, you know, you saw him evolve year by year you I knew Kevin when he was in the minor leagues as a player. And I could always tell he had a great understanding of the game. And and was going to be if he wanted to a good manager someday, you know, we’d look at all the catchers across the game. And so many of them seem to make good managers because they see the game in front of them. But I think what Kevin does is he’s extremely self deprecating. He makes it about the players. He’s a terrific communicator, great understanding of the game itself. And I think he understands that the analytics are important, but the people are important, too. And I think he’s good at both of those in a really great way. And he worries about the now. You know, last year the race, even though they they made the playoffs I thought it was and were one of the last teams in I thought it was his best year managing because we were in the top three and in guys lost to the injured list. And the teams that also were in that category were well under 500. And he was undeterred and got his group to continue to believe. And I think that’s one of the things that really stands out is his guys really believe every day they have a good chance to win.

Nestor Aparicio  12:46

Yeah, so launch does all things raise baseball, he’s having a very good season. We’re in a pretty decent season around here. Luke will be down at the ballpark all weekend for Seattle. Meantime, the birds in Tampa, you guys who spent the time out on the West Coast. You know, I guess one of the strangest things about this year has been the we’re in Chicago, you’re in San Diego, we’re headed to some far flung National League place and doing what we’re doing to weird West Coast swings in August and into September. The schedule is not loaded the way it once was, which really, theoretically should really help your franchise and our franchise in that not seeing Toronto, Boston and New York get all loaded up. How much is that played into this? And it certainly was done not just with the thought that Well, everybody would get to see Shohei Otani play every two years even if he winds up being a Yankee or whatever, that that there would be a better chance that better baseball to have a fairer game across the board. It certainly felt a little unfair toward the race, very splits of your 29 games over 500.

Neil Solondz  13:51

I think it’s helped every team in this division. To be frank, I mean, you’ve got what five teams in the division that are all above 500 is WeChat.

Nestor Aparicio  14:02

They keep beating everybody else up, they may bat on balance a schedule back. So we beat each other up all over again.

Neil Solondz  14:07

I you know, I think you look at the central and they’re having a tough time in the American League keeping the team above 500 and the National League Central. They also have teams that are barely above the 500 mark that are winning those divisions, and it’s the east and the west divisions, which clearly are stronger. So I think, you know, the division will come down to how well you do probably outside the division. You know, I think or if one team gets a huge advantage head to head that’s gonna mean a whole lot.

Nestor Aparicio  14:36

You can only make so much hay when you’re only playing a dozen games, right? I mean,

Neil Solondz  14:39

yeah, when you’re playing 13 games against one another versus 19 or 76 games in Division versus 52. That’s 24 games against teams that are it’s not the not the other teams outside the the American League is but I still think it’s the best division not only in baseball, I think it’s the best division in sports, you know, in terms of the balance In the strength of all the teams right now

Nestor Aparicio  15:02

well now that the Orioles are pick themselves up and the Blue Jays has started spending money right, like it’s this is as good as it gets competition wise there’s no

Neil Solondz  15:10

question in my mind and I think all five teams are really well run in terms of their baseball operations. I mean they have really smart people at the top you know, I think they’ve cut really talented players throughout you know, you look whether you’re looking at Guerrero and Bichette or you’re looking at you know, the Yankees and when judges healthy in some of the pieces that they have there, you know, to the Red Sox with Devers is their centerpiece. I mean, there’s there’s top 25 players throughout this division, like no other you know, you can’t say that with five teams in any other division right now in any sport.

Nestor Aparicio  15:47

One thing we we have lamented you and I forever is your fan base, never really sort of showing up our fan base being gone for a generation and chased off by a poor ownership as well as love of the ravens and you guys have had to compete with a juggernaut of a hockey franchise down in Tampa, no one would understand. And then Tom Brady Jetsun for a minute or two and a couple of Super Bowls. So I mean, there’s been all of that, but baseball has been slow, slow to change anything ever to make things better. I mean, this Oakland situation, getting kicked down the curb to Vegas, I mean, there’s, but this year, I guess Theo Epstein got a hold of them. And they figured this thing out. But the pace of play the time of the games, I’m not a huge fan of the pickoff thing, but it is made speed. And my last name is Aparicio a lot more important. The 10th inning thing. I’m not in love with it. I hate the college football thing too. You know where they’re, they’re playing scrimmage football. But the games are getting over. They’re not crashing, pitchers are not crouching bullpens, bullpens are getting used so much anyway, because that’s the nature of the game. They’ve they’ve made the game better very, very quickly. At a time when our fans hear that we’re gone away. I mean, just gone. Like i i sat here and often sports radio for 31 years here. Trust me, when I tell you the last three years, it hasn’t been worth calling you even talking about your team coming in. Because there hasn’t been enough interest here. And now everybody’s coming back to it. Because they’re good. And they got good quick and April and, and then you start watching the games, they’re starting to 630. They’re over at 915. Yeah, I always said my dad and I took the bus out there we were kids, we get home at a decent hour, they have done a lot of things a globally across the sport to try to make it better. And yet, they still play two baseball games over the weekend, you can’t find if you’re a Apple TV, I mean, there are things that are wrong with it. But boy, from your perspective of traveling around on a day to day basis, and the people playing the games and managing the games, I would think on the inside, it’s gotta be a real joy, that they’re that they really are fixing the game for everybody.

Neil Solondz  17:55

I think a lot of the changes have been great. I will say first is that, you know, from an interest level standpoint, we’ve always seen great radio and television ratings here. And today, this year, I think in part that 13 Or no star has helped, attendance has been up 20 25%. And I think good. The team being you know, you know, 30 plus wins at home. And the best, you know, home team in baseball has really helped a lot. But also, it’s a really exciting team. And and, you know, they’ve been at the top of the game in stolen bases and near the top and homeruns. So it had been an exciting group. But, you know, to speak to your larger point about the game, you know, I think the pace of play is very similar to the game in the 80s and 90s that a lot of baseball fans fell in love with. And they basically, you know, they they had ways to try and get back to it. And this was the best way to do it. And I think it’s worked out great. I mean, the tempo of the game is very, very different as a broadcaster. And I think it probably has helped pitchers you know, in terms of the game more than anything, even though we see the stolen bases and the hormones up from last year. Because now they are forced to get into a tempo.

Nestor Aparicio  19:05

You’re so hyper focused for pitchers and I think really good pitchers a benefit of this guys at work at pace, like at Madison Smoltz and Glavine would have no problem in this in this era, Jim Palmer would have no problem. Good good pitchers would have no problem playing under these circumstances.

Neil Solondz  19:20

And I would say guys who had a had problems at times, maybe this is helping them. Like for instance, Blake Snell was a tremendous pitcher with the rays before they traded him after the 20 World Series. And he struggled with the Padres for a bit in his new environment. And he’s really started picking it up. He was terrific over the weekend against the rays in San Diego. And I think part of that is because there’s less time to think about which pitch am I going to throw if I’m a four pitch mix guy with great stuff. How am I going to use this now you don’t have time to think you have 15 seconds that nobody on base you have 20 seconds with a guy on days. You got to get it and go and you got to trust your catcher and you got to trust that the decision is made and throw your pitches with conviction. And I think it’s almost for some guys get back on track in a good way. And I think that tempo is also great for the game overall.

Nestor Aparicio  20:05

Well, it’s been fun to watch and fun to hopefully have some good little scraps here in the division there aren’t as many of them but it really does sort of bake in the significance of a two game set in Tampa in June having significance and meaning he definitely

Neil Solondz  20:21

magnifies every single game you play against one another and I think let’s say that the team that’s trailing in the division may treat those games a whole lot differently because every game is then a two game swing you know if let’s say you split a two game series for the team ahead it’s not it’s not as big a deal the team behind if you split it’s almost two games washed off the schedule because it’s difference between game two games and being a neutral and how many of those chances are you’re going to get so I think it changes the way teams are going to manage these games and I think it’s going to change the intensity to

Nestor Aparicio  20:52

I you fear the Orioles yet are you know I mean you think they’re real but like they’re not real to they start winning series in October, right like it at any pace and especially the pace with which you guys have played just if they just catch the rays by the end of the year somehow win the division it would be not miraculous, but it would really be an accomplishment. How do you accomplish accomplishment around here where they haven’t done anything. But there is a point where I start to think all right, when when do they earn their respect when they walk in the Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park when do you start fear them and I I think it may be when an arm or two comes whatever that is outside the organization. Rodriguez means the hall whatever is gonna happen. I don’t think you fear their rotation.

Neil Solondz  21:37

i If you’re trailing them after six innings? I mean, they shorten the game. You know whether it’s Cano, and Bautista and coulomb and Baker and Bollman. I mean, they’ve got some really high end arms. And I think, you know, they remind me a little bit of the Kansas City Royals from 14 and 15 in the fact that, you know, when you look at the back end of their bullpen, you know, with Davis and Holland, you know, they were they have three or four guys at the back end, where if you fell behind after six innings or you were tired after six, or even up just a run, you didn’t want to fall behind that group because you knew that you know, they were dangerous and and I also think the thing that makes them really tough is their lineup, just like the race is very unrelenting. They’re willing to accept their walks. They battle from behind. Yeah, there you’re gonna go through ups and downs during the course of the season. But you know, I think two years ago the race one 100 games, won the Division and then got knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. The postseason can be very random. But I think if you have a really good bullpen, you the bullpens to me are bigger in the postseason than anything else. If your starters can kind of steady the ship and give you a chance to win. And you have a nasty bullpen. You got it. You got a chance in any playoff series. So I’m kind of curious how well they keep arms fresh in August, September, October, you know, how do they have to really overwork those guys, I think the rays have done a good job of, of making sure not to overwork guys, but a lot of it is going to come down to health. To me there are a really dangerous team. I have all the teams I’ve seen and we haven’t seen every team in Major League Baseball. But I think that the bullpens that I thought were most impressive as a group were Baltimore in Houston. And so as I look forward, if I don’t know what they will look like in September or October, but if you’re asking me who I saw that we had the most impressive bullpen out, you know, on other teams, those are probably the two teams that that were dangerous.

Nestor Aparicio  23:47

Well, certainly a good charge to have in June to have a decent bullpen when you know you’re going to need because you’re not getting starters going six and seven. And you know, we’ve talked a little bit about a Calvary around here and one thing about having younger players is dealing that out to fortify your major league roster when you think you can win and we think we can win right now. I hope that the weather’s nice in Tampa in October when we get down there Neal

Neil Solondz  24:09

Well, the good thing is we’re playing we’re playing in a dome so no matter what the weather is we should we we don’t have any issues. They can say that for every team in this division. I won’t

Nestor Aparicio  24:19

say about the game I was just talking about for taking a trip in October you know because I’m playing in London I’m not going there. Hey man, I appreciate the visit as always it is a lot of fun to talk about baseball when baseball is good and when people in the community are reengaged with what’s happening and no bigger series in this week the Orioles traveling down to the trop in in Tampa to St Pete to get it done. I get a lot of friends that live down in St. Pete they’re all trying to get me to come down here and start drinking I’m telling you they got they apparently they have like a Maryland bar down there with a crab cake and all this stuff. So I’m I’m all ready to come down there and see some meaningful baseball games and pet the array. I’ll have you know that Neil.

Neil Solondz  24:56

There you go looking forward to it.

Nestor Aparicio  24:58

I’m not a hater, the trop you know that I’m a I’m okay with indoor baseball in St. Petersburg so but though Good luck we get the new project built there as well. Hey we don’t have a lease here. I’ve been talking about it all week we’re playing on a week to week basis here we can then yard so everybody’s trying to jockey for position. At least we got good baseball in the field. Enjoy the games. Enjoy the call. Thanks for taking some time. You got to Thanks for having me on. No Solon. So coming back from San Diego to a beautiful Tampa St. Pete and awaiting the Baltimore Orioles rival for a short two game series birds back in home all weekend against the mariners. Luke Jones will be at Oriole Park at Camden Yards all weekend long and of course, the Ravens on respite for the next six weeks, which gives me a chance to go eat some crab cakes. I’ll beat spirits west on Thursday. Were my state fair Sure. Because I drove through Catonsville the other night went to the Beaumont for a steak was delicious. And people already have their folding chairs out for the Fourth of July parade and kittens crazy people in 21228 but I’m wearing my state fair shirt anyway. We’re gonna be back at the Beaumont next month when the crabcake tour we’re kicking off our 25th anniversary on August 3 at costus and then on August 4 at drug city full day broadcast looking forward to giving away a lot of Maryland lottery scratch offs in this 50th anniversary. I am Nestor we are wn st am 1570 Towson Baltimore and we never stopped talking Oreo match feel it happened

- Advertisement -