Schmuck: Orioles need to keep squabbles behind closed doors after second confrontation this month

Somebody needs to remind the Orioles the cameras are always rolling.

For the second time this month, an eruption in the Orioles dugout was caught on video at a time when this rebuilding team doesn’t need any more bad publicity than it already is generating in the course of another 100-loss — and then some — season.


This time, it was struggling reliever Richard Bleier and third base coach José David Flores, who lost their cool Wednesday and got into a verbal altercation after a poor outing from Bleier. Three weeks ago, it was long-slumping first baseman Chris Davis who had to be restrained after a confrontation with manager Brandon Hyde.

In each case, the subject was defense. Bleier was angry at the defensive positioning that contributed to the string of hits he surrendered that broke open Wednesday night’s loss to the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park.

Davis was angry at his own defensive shortcomings in an embarrassing Aug. 7 loss to the New York Yankees at Camden Yards. Davis lost it after he was rebuked by his manager for his display of frustration when he came off the field.

In both cases, it didn’t really matter what it was about. They were minor incidents made major because they happened in front of everybody. That can’t happen at a time when the new manager and front office are trying to instill credibility in a multiyear attempt to rebuild the image and competitive stature of a franchise that bottomed out last season.

Let’s not be naïve. Over the course of a six-month season, during which 30 to 40 highly competitive men live in close proximity to each other almost 24 hours per day, dust-ups like the one everybody saw Wednesday night happen pretty regularly. It’s where they happen and who sees them that determines how seriously they’re taken.

Frankly, it’s surprising that Davis doesn’t throw his equipment around the dugout every night. He has been in an offensive tailspin for the past three seasons and nobody is going to let him forget he’s the highest-paid player in the history of the team.

Bleier had an ERA of less than 2.00 in each of his first three years in the major leagues, including last year’s injury-shortened season. This year, it’s 6.30 and he’s casting doubt on whether the Orioles should even tender him a contract when he becomes eligible for salary arbitration this winter.

The responsibility for the culture of the club rests on Hyde, who in his first season as a major league manager has done a good job of managing the complicated situation with Davis. And Davis has — with that one exception — been on his best behavior as Hyde has gradually reduced his playing time in favor of the younger players.

The usually mild-mannered Bleier probably got a talking to on the plane ride to Kansas City on Wednesday night, but he didn’t need one. He already had called himself out and taken responsibility for the incident during a postgame media session.

They call these the “dog days of August” for a reason. The weather gets steamy. The season has broken the 100-game barrier. Most of the players are banged up to some extent. In the case of the Orioles, they continue to lose at a near-record rate with no end in sight.

And somehow, Hyde has kept them focused and motivated enough that they have split their past six games against two playoff-bound teams. They even pulled off an impressive shutout victory Tuesday night against a Nationals club that has been the hottest team in baseball. The young Orioles continue to play hard when some veteran teams — and we won’t name names here — might have mailed it in by now.

It’s probably useful to remember that even in the best of times for the Orioles during this decade, frustrations have boiled over. How many times did Manny Machado have to apologize for an on-field eruption while the Orioles were winning more regular-season games than any other American League team from 2012 to 2016?

Baseball history is replete with championship teams that could not get along, most notably the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees of the 1970s.

During my career covering the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels and Orioles, I’ve witnessed several shoving matches and fist fights between teammates — including one between two members of a championship Dodgers team during which I came around a corner and accidentally got decked by one of the combatants.


Baseball is a tough business populated by intense people who are used to having success. The Orioles are no exception and are not immune to the frustration that comes with the level of failure they have had to endure this year.

Still, from all outward appearances, except the two incidents we’re talking about here, the clubhouse culture has remained surprisingly upbeat.

Stuff happens and always will, but the Orioles need to make sure going forward that it happens behind closed doors.