Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Hagy Does Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Wild Bill is gone, but obviously not forgotten

By Matthew Taylor

"I'd give anything right now to hear one more time, hear my friend's jokes or stories."

-Chris Franklin, a friend of Wild Bill

Baseball season is over, but the memories of Wild Bill live on. Keith Maisel of The Catonsville Times covered another of the many local tributes to everybody's favorite former cab driver. It's just further proof of the legacy left behind by a man who, like many us of, loved what the O's once were.

Consider some of the comments left by Roar from 34 readers during this past season:

"Living behind Memorial Stadium for 22 years, I spent a lot of time in Section 34, as well as other sections at Memorial Stadium. I have so many fond memories of those days and appreciation for WB. What was better than he and Dempsey on the O's dugout? It's too bad young O's fans weren't lucky enough to know him, but he'll always live in our memories."

-Crystal Hall

"As a 'charter member' of he section 34 rowdies...I applaud the effort gents!!Thanks for keeping the spirit alive."

-"Young" Doug Reaves

"We were so privileged to have a first class organization like the Orioles during the "Orioles Magic" era and a group like Section 34. Like my friend "Young Doug", I was also a charter member. We had some great memories. Our fan base drew people from all professions and faiths -- steelworkers, cab drivers, accountants, doctors -- out for a fun day or night at Memorial Stadium to cheer our lungs out for the Orioles. We also had a softball team that raised thousands of dollars for various charities in the games we played. Our section was one large family of fans. In this era of sports with high ticket prices and the wine and cheese crowds, there may never be a group like Section 34 again. Thanks for the memories Wild Bill -- rest in peace my friend."


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Decade Later, ALCS Looks Very Familiar

Orioles played the role of the Red Sox 10 years ago

By Matthew Taylor

Cleveland established a direct connection to the Orioles’ franchise in Game 4 of the 2007 ALCS. The Indians
became the second team to score seven runs in one inning twice in a series, matching the 1970 Baltimore Orioles, who did it against Minnesota.

The Indians put up seven runs in fifth inning of Game 4, a 7-3 victory, and the 11th inning of Game 2, a 13-6 victory. The 1970 O’s, winners of 108 regular season games and the World Series, put up seven runs in the fourth inning of Game 1 of the ALCS, a 10-6 victory, and again in the ninth inning of Game 2, an 11-3 victory. The Birds also took Game 3, 6-1, for a sweep in what was then a best-of-five format.

However, reminders of the Orange and Black aren't limited to one statistical oddity from more than three decades ago. In fact, this year’s ALCS features multiple parallels to the
1997 playoffs, when the O’s, Wire-to-Wire winners in the East with a 98-64 record, played the role of the Red Sox vis-à-vis the Indians.

The Birds most recent playoff appearance happened to be the Indians most recent appearance prior to this season. And that’s where the déjà vu begins all over again.

-These AL Central-winning Indians, like the 1997 AL Central-winning edition, took down the Wild Card Yankees in the Division Series to reach the ALCS.

-The 1997 Birds, like the 2007 Red Sox, won Game 1 of the ALCS at home and then dropped the next three games, two of which were played at Jacobs Field and one of which was an extra-inning affair.

(With no apologies to Red Sox fans, our losses in ‘97 – all by one run, one in extra innings, and one in the bottom of the ninth – were much more heartbreaking than Boston’s losses have been in ’07.)

-Manny Ramirez – now a Red Sox slugger, then an Indians slugger – went deep in Games 2 and 4 of the 1997 ALCS and the 2007 ALCS.

-On Tuesday, the Indians gave up back-to-back-to-back home runs for the first time in LCS history. It happened only once before in the postseason when, you guessed it, the Indians served up three straight dingers to the Yankees in the 1997 playoffs.

-Should the Indians win the pennant this year they’ll face a 1993 expansion franchise from the National League, just as the ’97 Indians did when they squared off with the Florida Marlins in the World Series.

What remains to be seen is if the 2007 Red Sox can match the Orioles’1997 Game 5 performance, a 4-2 victory, to send the ALCS back home.

Extra Bases: The 1997 Indians featured six players who would wear an Orioles uniform at some point during their career: Jose Mesa, Tony Fernandez, Jeff Manto, Paul Shuey, Steve Kline, and Jaret Wright.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

It’s Finally Over … And It Could Have Been Worse

We could be fans of the Mets. Or Brewers. Or Padres.

By Christopher Heun

Now that a tenth consecutive losing season has met its merciful end, Orioles fans have plenty of reasons to feel sorry for themselves. But here’s something to cheer us up: at least we’re not Mets fans.

Determining which group of fans is cursed with the worse fate really boils down to a question of whether it’s better to have loved and lost (the Mets, Brewers and Padres) than never to have loved at all (the Devil Rays, Royals, Pirates – and the Orioles.)

Or, in the case of our Lovable Losers, it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have lost at all.

This year, the Mets were in first place for 159 days of the 183-day season. Murray Chass writes in The New York Times that no team had ever failed to finish first after leading its division that long.

Meanwhile, the Brewers were on top of the National League Central for 133 days but like the Mets failed to reach the postseason. And Padres fans couldn’t be blamed for taking the NL Wild Card for granted, only to see it slip away on the final weekend of the season.

As I have written previously, I live and work in New York City. Last week I assured Mets fans that their team would manage to hold on to the division; this week I’ve been expressing my condolences along with my disbelief.

Their response usually went something like this: “Thanks, but at least Orioles fans knew their season was over back in June.” Then a Yankee fan would interrupt and say it was over back in March.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Go to War, Tike Redman!

The Lovable Losers test the limits of improbability

By Christopher Heun

Of course the Birds would fight back from a 9-6 ninth-inning deficit against Yankees übercloser Mariano Rivera last night. Of course Melvin Mora would bunt home the winning run – bunt! – in the tenth. Of course Tike Redman would score three runs and knock out four hits, including a double to start the winning rally.

This is why the Birds, with a season record of 69-91 and 26 games behind first-place Boston, are Lovable Losers. The more improbable the victory, the harder they fight.

I love the bases-loaded, two-out bunt. It’s so Melvin Mora. Just a week ago we harped on his faults (primarily, his tendency to run the bases in crucial situations like a headstrong Little Leaguer), but let’s push that under the rug.

Actually, the surprise bunt is a familiar weapon in his arsenal. Back in late April, Mora tried a ninth-inning bunt, this time with one out and the tying run on third. But the ball didn’t make it past Oakland closer Huston Street, who held the runner and eventually earned the save.

But this time, it worked. And the Orioles won a game they trailed 4-1 in the third, 7-2 in the fifth and then 9-6 in the ninth.

Best Mora post-game quote: "Like I was telling my friend, I've been involved in so many playoffs and nobody's expecting that."

For the record, as a 27-year-old rookie for the 1999 Mets, Mora played in 9 postseason games, with 6 hits in 15 at bats. It’s his only taste of October baseball. Am I wrong, or does Mora have the habit of reflecting on his playoff days as if they are a vast reservoir of experience?

One more thing about Tike Redman: He’s this year’s version of David Newhan. In 2004, Newhan had a .361 on-base percentage in 373 at bats, was 11 for 12 in stolen base attempts, and generally seemed to slash the ball to all fields and scurry around the bases with the energy of a squirrel.

This year, Redman has put up similar numbers in just 125 at bats: a .359 on-base percentage and 7 stolen bases in 8 attempts. He’s played well substituting for the injured Corey Patterson and would be a nice extra outfielder next year, but let’s hope he’s not expected to be an everyday player.

Also, for what it’s worth, I really despise the phrase “walk-off” to describe a game-winning hit. (And “walk-off bunt” sounds simply ridiculous.) Anybody agree? Perhaps we should research the origin of this phrase, but I suspect we should blame ESPN and be done with it.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Where Should Miggy Play?

Should the shortstop change teams or just his position?

By Christopher Heun

Fact: There’s been a lot of ink spilled over whether Miguel Tejada should remain at shortstop next year (if he isn’t traded first.)

Opinion: We love Miggy, but he should have been traded a year ago. If the Warehouse can get two solid prospects for him, they should swing a deal.

Opinion: He probably won’t be traded. If Peter Angelos refused to pull the trigger on Brian Roberts, then he’s unlikely to part with the team’s only true superstar. Besides, Miggy’s trade value has fallen. The Birds might be better off keeping him for the first half of 2008 and hoping he plays well. In that case, a position change wouldn’t be wise.

Fact: The most damning article about a possible move for Tejada, by The Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec, quoted third base and infield coach Juan Samuel as saying of Miggy, “He doesn't move real well. I don't know how we can [fix] it. He's not overweight.”

Opinion: Why is Miggy’s own coach saying this publicly? And Juan Samuel of all people? He had about as much use for a glove during his playing career as Pele.

Fact: The same Zrebiec story also quoted a scout as saying:

"His arm is still a plus, but his range is very limited. He's really gone backwards in terms of first-step quickness and his range. Really, I think most people think that he should be playing third base. I've been saying this since last year. Almost every game, there are one or two balls that he's not getting to that he used to field."

Fact: According to the Hardball Times, Tejada ranks second among American League shortstops in Revised Zone Rating (the proportion of balls hit into a fielder's zone that he successfully converted into an out.) For the Out of Zone rating, he ranks seventh. See here for more on these stats.

Fact: Derek Jeter ranks at the bottom of both of those defensive categories.

Fact: Jeter has won a Gold Glove award the past three seasons.

Opinion: The Gold Glove is a joke.

Fact: In his blog, The Sun’s Roch Kubatko has said “Forget Miguel Tejada's declining range at shortstop. He's now having trouble handling grounders hit directly at him. What's happened to his hands?” And rookie Luis “Hernandez has provided a significant defensive upgrade on the left side of the infield.

Opinion: So is Tejada a poor fielder or not? I don’t know whom to believe.

Opinion: Why not move Tejada to first base instead of third? This way, only one player is forced to learn a new position.

Fact: Hernandez, 23, was claimed off waivers from the Atlanta Braves last October. If he turns out to be an everyday player next year, that would mean that two castoffs from other organizations have become significant acquisitions for the Birds (The other being Jeremy Guthrie, also claimed off waivers.)

Opinion: That doesn’t say much about the talent in the Orioles farm system, but we already knew that.

Opinion: The Orioles need players. Young players. Lots of them. Whether Miggy plays short or third or even first next year, unfortunately he can only play one position at a time. Should we blame him for that, too?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Nick Markakis Anagram of the Day

Hopefully it applies to next season

By Christopher Heun

“Nick Markakis” = "Karma Kicks In"

* Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus is the original source of this nugget, which first appeared in his online chat Friday, September 21, 2007.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mora Thrown Out to End Game – Again

This wasn’t entirely his fault, but can we redefine “aggressive”?

By Christopher Heun

Melvin Mora did it again Friday night. Except this time, he wasn’t thrown out at home to end a one-run game; he only managed as far as second base.

Perhaps this is a cruel comment on the state of the season; even the habitual boneheaded mistakes are more feeble than they seemed six weeks ago. (We’ve documented Mora’s proclivity for these blunders.)

For those of you missed the final disappointing play of Friday night’s 3-2 loss in Texas, with one out Mora was thrown out trying to steal second. It was the back end of a double play, because Paul Bako struck out on the pitch. Kevin Millar, the tying run, was left stranded on third base.

This was a dumb play all around. But in Mora’s defense, according to The Sun’s game story, the blame lies with manager Dave Trembley, who was playing for the win on the road, rather than a tie and extra innings.

I happen to like Dave Trembley as manager; he seems to have a knack for pulling the right strings with the limited talent on his roster. (Apparently, he wisely nipped in the bud any idea Mora might have had about sacrifice bunting in the ninth.) But how could anyone have looked at the ninth-inning matchup of Bako and Rangers closer Joaquin Benoit and predicted anything besides a strikeout?

Bako has struck out 50 times this season in 154 at bats (and five of his eight September at bats). He was facing a strikeout pitcher: Benoit has struck out 86 in 80 innings this year.

Had a groundball pitcher like Chad Bradford been on the mound, then the run and hit would have made sense. In wanting to stay out of a double play, the Birds ran into one. And lost the game.

Misplaced aggression

Trembley and Mora insisted after the game that they were playing aggressively. Maybe it’s in Mora’s and the Birds’ best interests if he tamed it down a bit?

I’ve dug up a few more examples of his inexplicable ninth-inning baserunning. Earlier this season, he stole third in the ninth inning of a game the Birds trailed 5-3. Jay Payton grounded out on the next pitch, ending the game. An irate Payton, convinced that Mora had disrupted his concentration at the plate and cost him a strike, nearly came to blows with Mora in the dugout.

Last year, Mora was the final out of a 5-3 loss to Toronto when he was thrown out at the plate trying to tag up from third on a pop fly caught by the shortstop.

Can anybody out there add to this list?

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Power Outage in Charm City

Fact: Tony Batista is one of the O's top power hitters of the 2000's

By Matthew Taylor

Colorado Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday on Thursday hit his 11th homer in 12 days. The feat matches Alex Rodriguez's streak of 11 homers in 12 games back in April. But which former Oriole - and Rockie for that matter - was the most recent player to do it before Holliday and Rodriguez?

If you answered Javy Lopez , you're right. Contact us to arrange delivery of your 2007 Baltimore Orioles playoff tickets.

Lopez went on his binge in 2003 and finished the year with 43 homers. The O's were so impressed with his handiwork that they signed him that off-season. He hit a combined 46 roundtrippers during his two-and-a-half seasons in Baltimore and earned $22.5 million for his efforts.

Lopez never led the O's in home runs. Had he come within six long balls of his 2003 career year he would've ranked in the team's Top 10 for a single season, territory that no Orioles player has touched this decade. Tony Batista - yes, Tony Batista - came closest in 2002 with 31 home runs.

While we're at it, no Birds player has cracked 30 home runs since Miguel Tejada did so in 2004.

O's Top 10 Home Runs (Single Season)
1. Brady Anderson, 1996, 50
2. Frank Robinson, 1966, 49
3. Jim Gentile, 1961, 46
4. Rafael Palmeiro, 1998, 43
5. Boog Powell, 1964, 39
6. Rafael Palmeiro, 1995, 39
7. Rafael Palmeiro, 1996, 39
8. Rafael Palmeiro, 1997, 38
9. Boog Powell, 1969, 37
10. Albert Belle, 1999, 37

Team Home Run Leaders By Season (Since 1997)
2006: Tejada 24, Hernandez 23, Markakis, Mora, Patterson 16, Millar 15
2005: Mora 27, Tejada 26, Gibbons 26
2004: Tejada 34, Mora 27, Palmeiro 23, Lopez 23
2003: Tony Batista 26, Gibbons 23, Mora & Conine 15
2002: Tony Batista 31, Gibbons 28, Mora 19
2001: Chris Richard 15, Gibbons 15, Conine 14
2000: Belle 23, Charles Johnson 21, Anderson 19
1999: Albert Belle 37, Surhoff 28, Anderson 24, Baines 24
1998: Palmeiro 43, Eric Davis 28, Surhoff 22
1997: Palmeiro 38, Hammonds 21, Surhoff & Anderson 18

Monday, September 17, 2007

If The Orioles Were A Tragedy, What Kind of Tragedy Would They Be?

Choose your own metaphor for the 2007 season

By Christopher Heun

Yesterday’s dramatic 12th-inning win aside (a game they had won in the 8th but promptly gave away, necessitating extra innings), the Orioles’ 2007 season has been rough.

But just how rough has it been? In many respects, pretty much exactly like the preceding nine losing seasons. Which is pretty rough. At 64-84 with 14 games to go, they look like a good bet to lose 90 games for the fifth time in seven years.

In order to describe this losing streak more accurately, we offer a multiple choice quiz:

The 2007 Orioles season has been like:

a) A train wreck
b) A car wreck
c) A yard sale promising pleasant surprises but really only offers discarded crap
d) A train and a car wrecked together
e) A shipwreck, but instead of real pirate booty buried in the depths there’s only rusted hulks of old cars and Danys Baez’s torn elbow ligaments
f) All of the above
g) b, c and e but not a or d
h) A nightmare you’ve had 10 years in a row

Saturday, September 15, 2007

After Victor Zambrano, Who's Next?

The Birds have opened a wing for former Mets starting pitchers circa 2005

By Christopher Heun

Victor Zambrano, best known for being traded to the Mets for prospect Scott Kazmir in 2004, threw four innings of scoreless relief in Toronto this afternoon in his first appearance as an Oriole. Jim Duquette, the former Mets GM who made that ill-fated trade, can't seem to get enough of his former starting pitchers.

Last year, the Birds traded John Maine to New York for Kris Benson. Then, when Benson was injured in spring training in March, Duquette and Mike Flanagan signed Steve Trachsel to replace him. And now Zambrano. What are the chances that after the season, The Warehouse swings a deal for Tom Glavine? Maybe Pedro Martinez?

Zambrano's performance today increases the likelihood that he will take Kurt Birkin's next turn in the rotation the next time around, which doesn't really mean much in the grand scheme of things but does make for odd trivia.

Here are some interesting numbers about Orioles starters in 2007:

Number of different Orioles pitchers who have started a game this season: 12
Number of Orioles pitchers who started one of the 17 games since Aug. 29: 9
Number of Orioles pitchers who started a game last season: 10
Number of Orioles pitchers who started a game in 2005: 8
Number of Orioles pitchers who started a game in 2004: 12
Number of Orioles starters from 2004-06 who started a game this year: 3
Who they are: Erik Bedard, Daniel Cabrera, Adam Loewen
Number of New York Mets starters from 2005 on the Orioles 2007 payroll: 3
Who they are: Kris Benson, Steve Trachsel, Victor Zambrano

Friday, September 14, 2007

Cliche Warning: The Kids Are Alright

O's score a moral victory and an actual victory to boot

By Matthew Taylor

Apparently some of the 16,000-plus fans at last night’s game were
unhappy that the O’s decided to bench a few regulars in favor of younger players.

The arguments expressed in today’s edition of The Sun remind me of Peter Angelos’s rationalization back in the late ‘90s for not trading away aging, high-priced players in exchange for young talent. In short, the thinking goes, the fans paid to see the big names no matter how poorly they’re doing. I would argue instead that I want to see the guys with the most passion regardless of their pay grade.

One game doesn’t prove anything, even if it was a 3-0 shutout victory over a first place team and a potential Cy Young candidate. Nevertheless, it’s hard to argue with Dave Trembley’s decision to light a fire under his moribund team by revamping the lineup. The players practically tell you that themselves, whether they intend to or not.

Just compare the comments from Wednesday night’s 18-6 loss with those that came after Thursday’s 3-0 victory.


Jay Payton: "It's pretty miserable, to be honest with you. It's bottom of the barrel right now. I don't think it can get a whole lot worse than it is right now. ... I've been with six different teams and I've never been through anything like this."

Melvin Mora: "This is the worst [stretch] ever in all the years I've been here and the worst ever in my life. The worst."

The lead of
this story says it all: “Wednesday’s game was a perfect example of what happens when a team going places meets one about to go on vacation.”


Brandon Fahey: "It was a blast. All the backup guys, we're all out there and we all played hard. It was a blast, maybe the most fun game of my life."

Jon Leicester: "I'm having a good time out there and trying to keep our team in the game. I was just trying to get them to swing the bat early, and the defense was amazing for me."

After an error-filled contest the night before, you simply had to watch some of the O’s early defensive gems on Thursday, including Luis Hernandez’s diving snare of Vladimir Guerrero’s third inning grounder, to know that for one night at least, the names on the jersey didn’t matter.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

O's Continue To Remember Wild Bill

Looks like the O's are doing things right when it comes to remembering Wild Bill Hagy. First they created the "Wild Bill Hagy Award" for the Orioles Hall of Fame, and now they're collecting memories to post on the team's MLB website, with a pretty good video of the man himself to spark your memory. It's worth a visit over to the Orioles' website to check it out.

Venting: A September Tradition in Charm City

With Red Sox fans in the rearview mirror for this season, it's time to look at some potential bumper stickers for next year

by Matthew Taylor

I promised my wife before Sunday's O's - Red Sox game that I wouldn't engage with the visiting fans. I kept my word, with one minor exception. When a drunken Boston fan attempted to start a "Yankees Suck" chant, I yelled, "So do the Red Sox ... you're both the same." You know times are tough when I'm using the Yankees in my own team's defense. I feel so dirty.

Having kept my frustration bottled up this past weekend, I need a release. So, in the new tradition of Camden Yards vendors selling Boston gear, I present my list of slogans for bumper stickers that can be sold to Red Sox Nation next season.

"Tired of the Yankees? Try Yankees Light."

"Red Sox Nation: You're guaranteed to sell more beer while we're in town."

"It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you annoy the locals."

"You'd be arrogant, too, if your team won one championship in 86 years."

"We hate the Yankees; they're the only team that can outspend us."

"$52 million bid + $52 million contract = 4.44 ERA."

"Pahk ya cah near Camden Yahds."

"A-Rod sucks ... because we couldn't get him."

"We love Manny ... because we couldn't get rid of him."

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ownership Won't Defend the Home Turf ...

so why should we?

By Matthew Taylor

I'm a typical underdog of an Orioles fan. I don't possess the arrogance of Yankees and Red Sox fans. I know better than to expect winning as a baseball birthright. I've seen more losing than winning. I'm too often pessimistic about the O's. And yes, I have an occasional baseball inferiority complex.

Still, I man the trenches for my Birds. I'm loyal in good times and bad. I stand by my team. No one can ever accuse me of being a fairweather fan or, when the good times finally come, of jumping on the bandwagon (ahem, Red Sox "Nation," I'm looking at you ... if you don't talk funny, don't tell me you're a fan).

Somehow I believe there's honor in all this, though it makes me squeemish to associate the word honor with being a fan; it suggests I'm taking it all too seriously.

With all that said, today's game at Camden Yards, which I attended, has pushed me into a new frame of mind. I'm still loyal, but I refuse to be blindly loyal. I'm still an underdog, but I'm dropping the inferiority complex. Frankly, I'm a little pissed off.

It's time for me and other Birds backers like me to stop feeling like we have something to prove as a fan base. There is absolutely no question that Baltimore loves its baseball team. And there's no question that we would drown out the respective fan bases of both A.L. East Evil Empires when they visit Camden Yards if ownership would reignite the flame of our passions by fielding a competitive team.

Give our team a fighting chance, and we fans will have a fighting chance of defending the home turf. Even better, ownership needs to defend the home turf with us, which is the very reason I'm writing this piece. We'll "Take Back the Yard" when ownership does the same.

Baltimore can be a great baseball city again, but it's not up to the fans to make the push at this point. We've been pushing like Sisyphus for too long only to have that baseball boulder roll back down upon us. I refuse to apologize for the fact that Baltimore is not a great baseball town - at least not at the moment - for one simple reason: the fault doesn't belong to the fans no matter how much people want to tell us that it does.

In the late '90s Peter Angelos publicly criticized the locals for ceding the home-field advantage whenever the Yankees came to town. He noted in a Baltimore Sun interview that Yankees fans were sitting in the box seats at Camden Yards, which meant that O's fans were selling them their seats. Peter gave us a collective slap on the wrist for bad baseball behavior.

Fast forward to this season. Earlier this summer Brian Roberts took an only slightly veiled swipe at O's fans by noting how difficult it is to play in a hostile home environment when the team is playing hard and improving.

On these occasions, and many others like them, I've taken a defensive posture. My reasoning has been apologetic at best. I've felt like I have something to prove - to ownership, to the players, to visiting fans.

That thinking led me to purchase a ticket for Sunday's game and, even after the recent run of horrid results, to honor that ticket. My reasoning was simple: "Roberts is right." I was determined to prove something about fan loyalty, as if sticking with the home team through 10 straight losing seasons isn't enough. But after my latest trip to Camden Yards I realize that this organization has something to prove to me, namely that it cares about more than just money.

The first way that the Orioles can prove to die-hard fans that they care about more than money doesn't even involve winning. Rather, it's this: Stop selling Dice-K jerseys inside the stadium. That's right, you could buy a Dice-K, Boston Red Sox T-shirt inside the stadium on Sunday. How far have we fallen?

Some would argue that it's smart marketing to cater to visiting fans while they're in Baltimore. That argument is fine for the street vendors outside the stadium, but things should be decidedly different once you step inside the gates. (And that's not even to mention the whole "Baltimore" on the road jerseys issue, which also reflects a deference to dollars whenever the opportunity presents itself.)

I felt like a fool for buying into the "our fans don't care enough about this team" hype as soon as I saw that No. 18 replica T-shirt hanging in a Camden Yards souvenir stand. The experience got me to thinking about the business side of Baltimore baseball, and the results of that thinking aren't as pretty as I'd prefer.

I'm a baseball romantic at heart, but my anger stripped away the nostalgia long enough for me to realize that I've been played the fool for too long. If the Orioles can sell Red Sox T-shirts at the home stadium because it's what the market demands, I can have some demands of my own.

The biggest of my demands is that the Orioles' organization start having some pride in its product. And make sure that it's local pride while you're at it.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Politics of AL East Baseball

You want to look away, but you can't

By Matthew Taylor

These are tough times for Charm City baseball fans. And for tried and true fans there’s little escaping the frustration. You still have to check the score even though you know it’s not going to be good. You still flip back to MASN to see if the bullpen has blown the late-game lead. You still allow yourself to get mad about the obnoxious cheers from visiting fans at Camden Yards.

It’s September, all potential marks of optimism are erased, yet still we watch. It’s about time I used that “car wreck” analogy, isn’t it? You want to look away, but you can't.

Much like the O’s August swoon there’s seemingly no turning away from the 2008 presidential race. But in this case it’s not because you’re a fan. Just try watching a news program without hearing some reference to the campaign, I dare you.

Heck, it seems you can’t even catch a good comedy without things getting political. I did a comedy movie double-header earlier this summer and both flicks – “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” and “The Simpsons Movie” – referenced at least one of the candidates. The horses are running extra lengths in ’08 because the race has gotten longer.

Well, we might as well give in. With apologies to the non-political, we ask the question, “Which 2008 presidential candidates are most like the teams in the AL East?”

New York Yankees –Hillary Clinton

Seemingly endless resources and a willingness to spend big make them a favorite out of the gate. Freed from any kind of cap on spending they use their financial advantage to overwhelm their competitors in ruthless pursuit of victory. The organization’s obsessive flirtation with attractive free agents suggests that relationships within the team are a marriage of convenience. Supporters, known for their arrogance, believe that victory is inevitable. Should it happen we’ll be forced to live with dynasty talk.

Boston Red Sox –Barack Obama

Considered a rock star, the sexy alternative to the frontrunner also has significant resources, drawing support from throughout the Nation, but is relatively inexperienced in the highest levels of the game. Even when leading they’re pre-occupied with the presumed favorite. Claim there are great differences between themselves and the frontrunner and work hard to highlight those distinctions. In the end, though, many suspect that only the packaging is different.

Toronto Blue Jays –Al Gore

You never really know if they’re going to be in the race, but there’s always a chance for it to happen. Had glory days that included back-to-back victories, but those days are behind them. It’s time for them to make a name for themselves. It’s an “Assault on Reason” to believe they’ll contend once you consider the “Inconvenient Truth” that their division rivals have too much firepower.

Baltimore Orioles – John McCain

Campaign that started with such optimism has crashed and burned. Continue to stick with an unsuccessful game plan, one that has squandered both resources and good will. Recent talk of a comeback can’t match the tough talk of the old days. Supporters still dream of the days when the campaign was associated with a short, fiery leader who put a scare into the competition.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays –Mike Gravel

No chance in hell of winning; probably shouldn't have entered the race. Nevertheless, keep things interesting, especially when it comes to angry demonstrations. Previous outbursts suggest that you should expect the unexpected, anything from flying bats to threatening voice mails.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

How Many Aubrey Huffs Does It Take To Add Up To A Carlos Pena?

By Christopher Heun

Answer: 2.467

This is a case of who’s on first vs. who could have been on first.

The Orioles have been searching for a power-hitting first baseman ever since Rafael Palmeiro left Baltimore the first time, after the 1998 season, possibly to find some clean needles. The search will continue after the season. (For a slugger, I mean, although Raffy may still be juicing and working on that comeback. Who knows?)

Here’s a guy the Birds almost signed last winter but didn’t:

Carlos Pena (2007): 418 AB, 37 HR, .615 SLG

And here’s three guys the Birds chose to use at first base and DH instead:

Aubrey Huff (2007): 479 AB, 15 HR, .438 SLG
Kevin Millar (2007): 393 AB, 14 HR, .430 SLG
Jay Gibbons (2007): 270 AB, 6 HR, .348 SLG

And here’s three other guys the Birds could have had this season:

Adam LaRoche (2007): 489 AB, 21 HR, .462 SLG
Jack Cust (2007): 329 AB, 23 HR, .523 SLG
Josh Phelps (2007): 139 AB, 7 HR, .525 SLG

What makes this sting even more is that Millar is just 13 plate appearances away from vesting his 2008 option, meaning that all three of the ill-fated triumvirate of Huff-Millar-Gibbons are signed for next year.

But back to the present. Carlos Pena hit two home runs, including a grand slam, against Orioles pitchers Wednesday night, to give him 37 HR and 105 RBI for the season, his first in Tampa Bay. In his last nine games, six of which were against the Birds, Pena has hit seven home runs.

Lest you accuse me of cherry-picking stats in his favor, consider that it weren’t for those very same games with Tampa Bay, Aubrey Huff’s numbers would look even worse than they do already. Seven of Huff’s 15 homers have come against his former team; he is batting .390 against them, compared to .258 against the rest of major league pitching.

In other words, in 112 games not against Tampa Bay this season, Huff is batting .258 with 8 homers. For this he is receiving nearly $20 million over three years.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Leo Mazzone, We Pity You

Who could blame him for retiring, rather than endure another year?

By Christopher Heun

None of this is his fault.

And by "this" I mean the 22 hits (including five home runs), five walks and 17 runs Orioles pitchers gave up to the Devil Rays Wednesday night, for a grand total of 34 runs allowed for the three-game series. Plus the 30 runs in a single game not long ago. And the 11 runs in a single inning to the D-Rays in the previous series.

(I know nearly everyone reading this is probably well acquainted with these stats already, and repeating them here is just piling it on, but everyone else is doing it to Orioles pitching, so why can't I?)

Remember all the hope and optimism when Mazzone was hired before last season? For what he's been given to work with, I wouldn't blame him if he quit tomorrow and opened a lemonade stand.

Of course, after his run in Atlanta, he was supposed to be a genius pitching coach. If he can't fix Danys Baez or turn Paul Shuey and Brian Burres into dependable relievers, should we complain? I think so.

I don't want to see any of the following pitchers on the Orioles Opening Day roster next spring, unless there's a rash of injuries to the staff:

Radhames Liz
Garrett Olson
Rob Bell
Brian Burres
Paul Shuey

Liz and Olson are not ready for the big leagues. Shuey was released Wednesday, so that solves that. Burres gave a nice boost earlier in the season but has run out of steam.

And what should they do with James Hoey? He was the the top pitcher in the Orioles farm system last year but has allowed 27 baserunners in 12.1 innings this year.

Was Brady More Than Just Good Looks?

Anderson put up some surprising numbers, and not just in 1996

By Matthew Taylor

The last American League player to qualify for the batting title and ground into only one double play all season was the Orioles' Brady Anderson in 1997.

Tim Kurkjian's article today on about Curtis Granderson's potential 20-20-20-20 season (doubles, triples, home runs, steals) for the Tigers includes a mention of former O's outfielder Brady Anderson. Apparently we should remember Anderson as more than "the most unlikely fifty home-run hitter in baseball history" and not just another pretty face.

"None of the numbers have been ridiculous,'' Granderson said of the 20-20-20-20 possibility. "I'm not doing anything drastic. I've been near those numbers before. But if there's even a chance to be in the same sentence with the great Willie Mays, that'd be special.''

And there are more numbers. Granderson grounded into a double play for the first time this year only recently, giving him 23 fewer than the major league leader, Washington's
Ryan Zimmerman. The last American League player to qualify for the batting title and ground into only one double play all season was the Orioles' Brady Anderson in 1997.
Here are some additional interesting stats about Brady, courtesy of Baseball Library:

-In 1992 he became the only player in AL history to reach 20 home runs, 50 steals and 75 RBIs in the same season.

-In 1994 he stole 31 bases in 32 attempts, setting a single-season record for the highest percentage of any player with at least 25 steals.

-From May 13th, 1994 through July 3rd, 1995, Anderson set an AL record (since broken by Tim Raines) by stealing 36 straight bases without getting caught.

-In 1996, 35 of his home runs came while batting leadoff, tying a record set by Bobby Bonds in 1973. Anderson broke another of Bonds' 1973 records by leading off twelve games with a home run.

-With 21 steals in 1996, he became the first player to own a 20-homer, 50-steal season as well as a 50-homer, 20-steal season. His 50 home runs set an Orioles record, as did his 92 extra-base hits.

Even with these numbers, O's fans still remember Brady best for his oft-questioned power surge in 1996 and the suggestive poster for which he posed, one that generated sales among female fans and scorn among male Bird watchers.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

No-Hitter Memories

With history on the line, can a true O's fan root against the home team?

By Christopher Heun

When Clay Buchholz no-hit the Birds last Saturday night in just his second major league start, I was instantly reminded of another rookie who threw a no-hitter in Memorial Stadium 16 years ago. It was a game I attended.

By the late innings of Wilson Alvarez’s no-hitter on Aug. 11, 1991, I was unsure of whether to root for history or for the home team to break it up. I have three clear memories of that day: that it was a Sunday afternoon, that Cal Ripken grounded into a double play to end it and that Rod Stewart’s “Some Guys Have All the Luck” played over the loudspeakers after the final out was recorded.

Turns out I have a bad memory. All I got right was the day of the week. I looked up the final box score and play-by-play on (search by box score, then by year, then by team, then by game log) and found out that with two out in the bottom of the ninth, Cal walked. Perhaps my memory of pleading for him not to make the last out has warped slightly in my conscience. (Both he and Dewey Evans reached base twice that day, odd for a game without any hits.)

As for the music after the game, I don’t know of a resource – on the Web or anyplace else – that would record such trivia.

But according to Baseball Almanac, even Alavarez admitted that fortune was on his side that afternoon. The site quotes him as saying, "Let's just say I got a couple lucky breaks today. That ball stayed in and they hit some bullets right at people."

Like Buchholz, it was just the second major league start for Alvarez. In his first, he failed to retire any of the five batters he faced and was yanked from the game. Only one other pitcher since 1900 has thrown a no-hitter in his first or second start in the big leagues: Bobo Hollomon did it in his debut on May 6, 1953, for the St. Louis Browns at home against the Philadelphia A's.

A few more facts about the Alvarez game: For a team that would finish in sixth place, (67-95), the 1991 Orioles still drew 40,455 that day. Maybe the final season in Memorial Stadium had something to do with it.

It wasn’t the only no-no for the Orioles that year. Nearly a month earlier, on July 13, 1991, Bob Milacki, Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson combined to no-hit the Athletics in Oakland.

A former Memorial Stadium usher gives a detailed description of the Alvarez no-no here.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Lovable Losers or Just Losers?

Why all this losing might actually be a good thing

By Christopher Heun

After the Orioles game this afternoon – another one-run loss – I flipped through the channels and landed on “The Natural” on AMC. It was just as a shrink, hired by the manager in the middle of an interminable losing streak, addresses the players in the locker room:

“Losing is a disease... as contagious as polio... as contagious as syphilis... as contagious as bubonic plague... attacking one, but affecting all.”

The parallels between the New York Knights of the movie and the Baltimore Orioles of 1998-2007 seemed pretty obvious. Except, of course, the part where Roy Hobbs saves the day. A more apt movie metaphor for the Orioles might be the Bad News Bears, but they too wind up battling for the championship, which is a little much for any of us to believe for the O’s anytime soon. There can only be one 2006 Detroit Tigers.

So, after the 30-3 loss and then, in a single week, the 11 eighth-inning runs coughed up to the Devil Rays followed by the no-hitter in Boston, I am fully endorsing the Orioles as lovable losers. This requires me only to see their failures as endearing and not to expect any Hollywood endings. (Matt wrote about this once last year, but we need to revive it.)

Here’s the evidence for the Birds as Lovable Losers:

They lose in style
They carry a lead into the late innings, only to blow it spectacularly. They get swept by the Devil Rays. They end a nine-game losing streak by giving up two runs in the bottom of the ninth, but still hang on for a 9-8 victory. They beat the Yanks 12-0 one week, then lose 30-3 the next. And that was just August.

They make us laugh. Then cry.
I want to like Kevin Millar. He jokes around in the clubhouse. He wears his eye black like a Kiss cover band. On Opening Day he did a little Ray Lewis dance. Of all the Birds, Millar is the most likely to play the role in The Natural of Bump Bailey, who died after crashing through the outfield fence chasing a fly ball.

Unfortunately for him and his teammates, though, Millar hits like a second baseman but plays first base. He symbolizes the Orioles and some of their fans; he believes he’s better than he really is and he can’t understand why any manager wouldn’t play him every day. On Sunday, batting cleanup, he couldn’t deliver with a man on third and one out. And he got caught wandering too far off second base.

Sometimes they actually cry
I could have sworn I saw tears on Melvin Mora’s cheek after a strikeout. You know you did too.

For a while, they fool us into thinking they’re actually good
I know at least a few Birds fans (some of whom write for this blog) who swooned under Dave Trembley’s magic wand. Not long ago, they were convinced this team had a shot at .500 or third place or some other modest accomplishment that only fans of losing teams get excited about. Then they lost nine in a row.

Unbelievably ridiculous misfortune befalls them
In recent seasons, Marty Cordova fell asleep in a tanning bed and had to go on the disabled list; Jack Cust, the tying run, tripped twice between third and home and was tagged out despite no opposing player standing between him and home plate; and Ed Rogers had a ball in play get stuck inside his uniform. And that’s just the left fielders.

Here’s why all of this is actually a good thing: at the end of the season, the guys in The Warehouse will not be able in good conscience to say that this is a good team that just missed, that it should be improved with the signings of a few middling free agents. Instead, they'll be forced to start over and build from scratch.

I’m rooting for the Birds to completely tank the rest of the season, to finish last. Maybe then the truth will become irrefutable. There’s four more years before Nick Markakis is a free agent. Think we can get it together before then?

If anyone this winter points to the more than 30 one-run losses this season as the only reason why the Birds didn’t make .500, show that person a picture of Aubrey Huff and $2o million. And tell them about the Lovable Losers.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Orioles Baseball - We Put the "Bull" in Bullpen

Same script, different day

By Matthew Taylor

Two outs, two strikes, the losing streak about to come to an end. Suddenly it was as if Danys Baez remembered, "Oh, that's right, I'm supposed to blow this thing." And he did.

Plenty of O's played a role in last night's demoralizing defeat, a
5-4 loss to the Devil Rays that extended the losing streak to eight, but the bullpen is an easy target these days. Not to mention that Baez literally looked scared when MASN did a close-up of him right before he blew the lead.

That's loss No. 32 for the bullpen, if you're counting, but the good news is that their ERA actually dropped last night, falling from 5.85 to 5.78. Take that, baseball critics. Meanwhile, Aubrey Huff would have Ruthian numbers if he could just play the Devil Rays every night.

My wife redefined Oriole Magic during last night's game, and I like her thinking. Oriole Magic used to mean late-inning comebacks; now it's "
Magic! Magic! Magic! Magic!" if the Birds hold a late-inning lead.

I'm calling it now - the losing streak ends tonight. This was all just a tribute to our favorite No. 8, Cal Ripken. I don't want to seem unappreciative, but it'd be a better tribute if Mr. Angelos would sell the team to No. 8.

Speaking of tributes, here's one to Chito Martinez. Remember Chito Martinez? Well, one YouTube user sure does. The following two videos about Martinez appear on the site:

The latter video, in which Chito gets two hits off of Jack McDowell and makes a nice catch in right field but forgets how many outs there are, also features Sam Horn and a slim version of Randy Milligan.

Chito played parts of with three seasons the Birds and in the process became the first Major League player from Belize. Apparently the feat made him a national hero in his home country. He was a hometown hero for the Roar from 34 writers, as we joined a chorus of "Chito" cheers one night in the rightfield bleachers at Memorial Stadium.

Other players who debuted along with Martinez in 1991 included Jeff Bagwell, Bernie Williams, Ivan Rodriguez, Eric Karros, Jim Thome, Kenny Lofton, Royce Clayton, the late Rod Beck, and the late Darryl Kile. All chumps next to Martinez, if you ask me.

I wonder what Chito Martinez would have to say about the O's current woes. Where have you gone, Chito Martinez?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Another Writer Fed Up With Red Sox Nation

More discussion about the Evil Empires of the East

By Matthew Taylor

Jim Caple, meet Chris Heun. Something tells me you guys are going to get along well.

Caple, the ESPN writer and former Red Sox fan, has posted
an angry, but accurate column that hits on the same theme that Chris articulated in a December Roar from 34 posting. In short, Red Sox fans have become what they hate. Consider Caple's words below.
It's true. While Yankees fans momentarily are neutralized by their recent embarrassing autumns and their current spot in the standings, Red Sox fans, sadly, have taken over the mantle as the most obnoxious fans in sports.


No longer. As soon as the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, Boston fans took on a swaggering, entitled persona, acting as if they alone invented sports fandom and behaving as if nothing else in baseball mattered but them.

Some fans want to blame Boston's bandwagon fans for the change in Red Sox Nation, which of course is a bunch of bunk. "Everybody hates a winner" is another convenient excuse. Stated more accurately, "Everybody hates a winner whose fans come to town not to enjoy the game in a beautiful ballpark but rather to harass the locals."

Knowing and liking a few Red Sox fans, I can attest that not everyone who follows the team is quite so unbearable. What generalization realistically applies to 100 percent of any group? Neverthless, Caple's column illustrates that the obnoxious characteristics with which O's fans are so familiar have reached a critical mass in an increasingly self-important Red Sox Nation.

Here's hoping The Loss Column's "Take Back the Yard" event on Sept. 8 is a success.

Tour for the Cure Stops in Delmarva and Bowie

As O's struggle, it helps to look at the big picture

By Matthew Taylor

Raising money for a good cause by traveling to ballparks? Where do I sign up?

The second annual "
Tour for the Cure" visited some O's affiliates this week, taking in games at Delmarva and Bowie on Days 135 and 136 of the summertime adventure. Here's hoping Tim Riley, the director of the 2007 Tour, had as good a visit to the Baysox game as my wife and I did last week.

According to its website: "The Tour for the Cure is the ultimate baseball road trip - a unique venture to raise funds for cancer research. In collaboration with the
Jimmy Fund and the world-renowned Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Tour will visit 180 major & minor league baseball stadiums across the United States. It combines the great American pastime with this vital cause."

The Tour for the Cure comes to Camden Yards on Sept. 6.

Time to Declare the Bullpen a Natural Disaster

O's pen leads the Majors with 31 losses

By Matthew Taylor

At this point there's nothing left for Dave Trembley to do other than declare his bullpen a natural disaster and apply for FEMA aid. Sadly, the players will continue to learn that their insurance runs are good for nothing. Expect President Bush to visit Camden Yards this week and tell the bullpen they're doing a "heckuva job."

The bullpen added to its Major League-leading loss total last night, notching its 31st loss of the season after an 11-run eighth inning against the Devil Rays turned a 6-3 lead into a 14-8 final.

The pen is now 16-31 for the season, with a 5.85 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, and 420 hits allowed in 381.2 innings. You can follow the carnage totals here. Perhaps the O's can mount consideration for Baseball Prospectus's list of "worst bullpens ever."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Points of Pride Still Remain in O's Reach

Losing streak eliminates chances to reach .500; other, smaller goals remain possible for struggling Birds

By Matthew Taylor

The Orioles didn’t lose last night, which would come as even better news had they actually played a game.

The Birds’ painful losing streak started with the embarrassing 30-3 defeat against the Rangers. However, for this O’s fan, the reality of losing a late-game, four-run lead over Johan Santana and with it a win that would have provided a validating end to the late-August misery, somehow hurt worse. Dan Connolly and Roch Kubato track the Orioles’ somewhat traditional “Start of fall.”

Thankfully, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays come to town this evening for a three-game set. The O’s are 10-2 against the D-Rays this season with six games between the teams left on the schedule.

The Devil Rays are like baseball aspirin, a cure for the hangover of an extended losing streak like the Birds’ current six-game slide. They’re the one thing that stands between the O’s and annual last-place finishes. In fact, the Devil Rays are the only team in Major League Baseball that currently stands closer to elimination than the Birds.

CBS Sportsline offers each team’s “Elimination Number.” The Devil Rays’ number stands at three, while the O’s are at 12. Some of our neighbors at or near the basement level include: Texas (14), Florida (15), Washington (16), Chicago (16), San Francisco (17), and Kansas City (18).

Dave Trembley is big on pride. Perhaps hanging around longer than these others teams could serve as a point of pride for the O’s in their remaining games. A much more important point of pride should be winning the season series against the Yankees, as should consecutive series wins against Boston.

The Orioles are 8-4 against the Yankees this season with six games remaining against the original Evil Empire (Sept. 17, 18, & 19 on the road; Sept. 28, 29 & 30 at home). This means that the Birds must finish 2-4 in those games to win the season series against the Yankees, which, according to MASN, hasn’t happened in the previous nine seasons. In other words, at least one long run of losing can come to an end this season.

Speaking of the Yankees, the New York Times addresses Mike Mussina’s recent pitching woes, including last night’s drubbing at the hands of the Detroit Tigers, and questions his future with the team.

Mussina is the most analytical of pitchers, but he seems mystified by this slump. He talked about the small slice of the game that pitchers actually control. But even that much has gone awry, shaking his confidence deeply.

“Right now, I let go of it and I don’t feel like anything good is going to happen,” Mussina said. “It’s tough to pitch that way. You can’t play the game that way to feel like you have no control over anything, and that’s how I feel right now.

“Even the 60 feet, 6 inches, it doesn’t feel like I have a grasp of, and two weeks ago I felt like I could do anything I wanted. That’s how this game is. It’ll slap you in the face when you think you’ve got it. I felt good about it and now I don’t feel good at all.”

The Yankees owe Mussina more than $11 million for next season, but he seems to be nearing the end. It is a scary and sudden reality, and it has knocked him as low as he has ever been.
The same article mentions that the Yankees called up former Birds pitcher Chris Britton after last night’s game.

I’ve long been a fan of Mussina, so much so that I’ve struggled to hate him for committing the ultimate Baltimore baseball sin of donning a Yankee uniform, a fact that I addressed in the July 2006 posting, “Moose Was a Great Bird.”

There’s a part of me that wants us to take Mussina off the Yankees’ hands and hope that he can re-coup some of that old magic in a Birds uniform. After all, the O’s aren’t above nostalgia. We brought back Eddie Murray to hit home run No. 500. We brought back Maryland-native Harold Baines. Why not bring back Mussina?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Schilling on Bedard

O's ace gets props from key member of Evil Empire Jr.

By Matthew Taylor

"His numbers are staggering, even more so when you consider he’s doing it in one of the most offensive oriented divisions in the game."
-Curt Schilling

On Sunday, Erik Bedard took his first loss since June 10. And while he wasn't nearly as sharp as he's been on most nights this summer, Bedard did manage to set the Orioles' single-season strikeout record - 221 and rising.

Here's what Curt Schilling recently wrote on his blog, 38 pitches, about Bedard. (Full disclosure: a co-worker sent it to me; I'm not a regular reader.)

"In the past few weeks I think we’ve seen four of the top 7-10 young pitchers in all of baseball in Eric Bedard, Scott Kazmir, Jason Shields and Joe Saunders. After seeing Bedard this spring I was under the impression that this was the year he’d stop flying under the radar but I didn’t expect him to be this dominant this fast. His numbers are staggering, even more so when you consider he’s doing it in one of the most offensive oriented divisions in the game."

It's good to see Bedard getting respect from his opponents. Pretty soon they'll even spell his first name correctly. Isn't that right, Kurt?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Forget 30-3. Remember the 12-0 Win in NY?

Celebrating a blowout: When's it safe to rub it in the faces of 52,567 Yanks fans?

By Christopher Heun

The record defeat the Orioles suffered a few days ago at the hands of the Rangers is best replaced in our consciousness with memories of a lopsided win over the Yankees the week before.

For an Orioles fan living in New York, nothing could be more satisfying on an August evening than to sit in Yankee Stadium and watch the Birds pile up crooked numbers on the scoreboard while shutting out the home team. (And silencing the near-sellout crowd.)

Sure, it would be nice if the game actually meant something in the standings to both teams. Still, any night overrated Derek Jeter goes 0-3 is sweet. For Orioles pitching to hold the entire Yankees lineup to just two hits is a precious gift. And to hear Yankees fans sarcastically cheer their own players for finally recording an out is sublime.

But to have it all happen on the same evening, while the Birds score a dozen runs? It's like Christmas morning when I was six years old.

I was there Tuesday night, Aug. 14, when the Birds pummeled the Yankees 12-0. But since I was also in The Stadium April 7 when the bullpen blew a 7-3 eighth-inning lead and eventually lost 10-7, I knew better than to start celebrating prematurely.

The problem was, this time around I was too nervous to enjoy the game while it was still being played. In fact, I never really celebrated at all.

This prompts the question: How do you know when a blowout is locked up? Is it:

A. When Danys Baez enters the game. (Hint: This cannot possibly be the correct answer, since that’s what happened back in April, which eventually led to some meathead spotting my Orioles hat, pointing and shouting “Loser!” to the delight of his beered-up friends, who laughed heartily. Also, notice in the box score that Trembley didn’t use Baez Tuesday night.)

B. When Paul Shuey enters the game. (This is actually a pretty good bet, since the last time before Wednesday that Shuey appeared in an Orioles win was July 27, also vs. the Yankees. But after Wednesday’s performance vs. Texas, in which he surrendered nine runs in two innings of work, Shuey may never appear in a game with the lead the rest of the season.)

C. When Jim Brower comes out to pitch his third consecutive inning. This is the important part: He’s not pitching for the O’s any more! What luck! (Who has forgotten Brower’s Oriole career that lasted about a month last April, during which he managed to allow 19 earned runs in 12.1 innings of work?)

The correct answer is C. Although I didn’t quite believe the game was in the bag until the leadoff batter in the ninth for the Yanks was retired.

The next day, Brower and Jeff Karstens, who started the game for the Yankees, were optioned to AAA. Shuey can avoid a similar fate at the hands of The Warehouse if he can manage to hang on for another week when rosters expand Sept. 1.

Friday, August 24, 2007

More on Bedard's "Reputation"

By Matthew Taylor

"Imagine, in the Age of Celebrity, a guy would prefer to be left alone. Sounds like he’s got his head on straight."

Be sure to check out Oriole Post's article from Thursday on Erik Bedard's visit with fans at the ESPN Zone. The piece seems to support the main premise of a post Chris wrote on Roar from 34 last weekend, namely that Bedard doesn't deserve a negative reputation simply because he doesn't like to talk to reporters.

One commenter on Oriole Post shared the same sentiment: "Anyway, I think an event like this is far more indicative of how Erik Bedard is as a person than how he deals with the media. Quite honestly, though I know I'm biased, I think the media just expects too much out of him sometimes. You want him to answer your questions? Fine, he answers them. It's ridiculous to then complain about the answers he gives or the length of them - I half expect them to hand him a script to read from. 'We'd really like it if you'd just say this...'"

Familiar Faces in Bowie

O's from the past and of the future take the field for the Baysox

By Matthew Taylor

“If you don’t see a birth certificate and you just watch Alan Mills out here pitching and running around and playing the game with the guys, he just looks like one of them. That’s a pretty big compliment to him, because for where he’s been and what’s he’s experienced, to come back with the energy that he’s come back with is a real credit to the type of person he is.”
-Erie Seawolves pitching coach A.J. Sager

My reaction in the bottom of the ninth inning of last night’s Bowie Baysox game was the same one most O’s fans would have while watching the visiting pitcher with the familiar-sounding name warm up: “Is that THE Alan Mills?”

A quick flip through the Baysox game day program suggested that the pitcher wearing a number, 39, smaller than his age, 40, could indeed be the former O’s reliever famous for cold-cocking Daryl Strawberry in the Yankees dugout during the Armando Benitez-induced Bronx brawl in 1998. And indeed it was, as confirmed in the appropriately headlined Record-Journal article,
“Is it really THAT Alan Mills?”

Mills has recorded 22 saves this season with the Erie SeaWolves, the Detroit Tigers’ Double-A affiliate, with 21 strikeouts in 26.1 innings pitched and a 1.71 ERA. He wasn’t particularly sharp during Thursday night’s match-up with the Baysox, allowing three hits and one run, but he pinned down the 4-2 victory by striking out pinch-hitter Morgan Clendenin, who represented the winning run.

According to the Record-Journal, Mills is cryptic about his reasons for returning to baseball after five years away from the game, stating, “I’ll talk about the team, but I don’t want to talk about myself.”

Mills was the oldest player at Prince George’s Stadium by more than a decade. Meanwhile, Erie manager Matt Walbeck is three years younger than Mills.

Quick hits: Kud-O’s to Baysox GM
Brian Shallcross for upholding Minor League Baseball’s fan-friendly reputation. After a bizarre infestation of flying ants at Prince George’s Stadium threatened to make it a very short night at the ballpark for my wife and me, Shallcross kindly relocated us to the club’s luxury box seating. The experience helped lift our spirits, especially after we missed out on the Nick Markakis bobblehead giveaway.

-Other familiar O’s faces at the ballpark on Thursday night included Baysox pitching coach and Oriole legend
Scott McGregor; recent Miguel Tejada replacement, shortstop Luis Hernandez; and 2006 call-up, centerfielder Jeff Fiorentino.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


They say that writing is therapy, so here goes ...

By Matthew Taylor

I tried to go to sleep and pretend that it was all just a terrible nightmare: 30-3! Pinch me, and make it hard.

Well, I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to do a late night e-mail check. It served as a reminder that my friends haven’t forgotten about me; they're always there when I need them most.

A sampling of the messages I received:

“30-3? Is that a misprint???”

“Let me check with my copywriter, he is good at this type of thing: 'Could the O's have really given up 30 runs to set a new MLB record? Must have been a typo, right?'”

“Did the Ravens lose 30-3 tonight?”

“30 runs?!?! How are you? How does one handle a jackhammering like that?”

Who needs enemies when you've got friends?

Here are some of the random thoughts that came to mind as I attempted to handle the jackhammering that was Wednesday night's doubleheader:

-Major League Baseball really needs a mercy rule.

-Good news, bad news.

The good news is that the O’s are the top story in the sports world.

The bad news …

-Isn't there something to report about Michael Vick?

-Perhaps tonight's game was an informal tribute to Wild Bill Hagy, because I sure wanted to drink nine beers and toss a cooler from the upper deck.

-Actually, I’ve got to think that Kevin Millar was somehow responsible for all of this. He’s just playing a cruel joke on Dave Trembley.

“Congratulations on the job, Dave. We lost by 27 runs. You got punked!”

I’m also pretty sure that Amber Theoharis was an accomplice.

-If I were an O’s player, I would’ve charged the mound … while my own pitcher was on it. Sure, it’s unprecedented, but so is giving up 30 runs in the modern baseball era.

-On the other hand, if I were an O’s beat reporter and I had one question to ask during the post-game press conference, it would be this:

“After a close loss we typically hear your players say, ‘I’d rather get blown out than lose a game like this.’ So is it safe to say that the guys in the clubhouse are pretty happy tonight?”

-Look at the upside, O’s fans: we no longer have to explain to other fans that our bullpen is the problem.

-Does anyone honestly believe that gamblers will bet the under on the O's again this season?

-And to think, I was pissed off at work when I checked the score and it went from 3-0 Orioles to 5-3 Rangers before I left the office. By the time I got home it was 14-3.

-Number of runs the O’s scored in their seven previous games combined: 39. Number of runs the Rangers scored in Wednesday’s doubleheader: 39.

-As long as we’re looking at the numbers – Texas had more RBIs in one game than Jay Gibbons has all season.

-Courtesy of the Carroll County Times: "To put the loss in even further perspective, Erik Bedard has allowed 31 runs in his last 17 starts while it took four Orioles pitchers just one night to surrender a run fewer."

-(Imaginary) Transcript from the O’s bullpen, courtesy of “Wired Wednesdays” -

Brian Burress: “Okay, dare.”

Other relievers: “We dare you to give up eight runs in less than a full inning.”

Rob Bell: “Okay, dare.”

Other relievers: “We dare you to give up seven more runs.”

Paul Schuey: “Well, I know I’m going to regret this, but dare ….”

-I couldn't even come up with 30 curse words during the game.

-Do you think Dave Trembley wishes he was on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" ... “I never said it was my final answer!”

I really need some sleep.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Right Call on Trembley

Once the interim manager, Trembley has the job for '08

By Matthew Taylor

Dave Trembley will manage the Birds in '08,
according to The Sun. Well deserved. We made amends with Trembley, who was optimistic about his future with the team from the get-go, in an earlier posting.

Optimism is perhaps the best word to associate with Trembley, though you wouldn't be able to tell it from his less-than-sunny post-game press conferences. Perhaps "gruff optimism" is the best way to describe it. No matter, the O's made the right call on this one.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More on Wild Bill Hagy

Tributes appear inside and outside of the Blog-O's-phere

By Matthew Taylor

“And, today, a generation of Orioles fans mourns their crazy uncle.”

-Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

A round-up of Wild Bill Hagy stories and tributes, starting with some of my favorite details and quotes about the O's legend.

· "If ever an out-of-town fan happened into his cab wearing a Yankees hat, he ordered it removed. If the person refused, he refused the fare."

· "This was a football town when I got here," Palmer said. "The Colts were still the No. 1 team in this town. But he was like everybody else. He was kind of the cheerleader version of Cal. I think people could relate to him. People loved to sit up there. ... He made it exciting."

· "In more personal moments away from the park, Mr. Dempsey rode in Mr. Hagy's cab and talked baseball with him.'He was just a thrilling part of our careers,' Mr. Dempsey said. 'There will never be another like Wild Bill Hagy.'"

· "At the ballpark, fueled by Budweiser and his love for baseball, he became a different person. Mr. Hagy took his inspiration from legendary Baltimore Colts fan Leonard 'Big Wheel' Burrier. He once asked Mr. Burrier if he minded an imitator at Orioles games. 'Big Wheel' gave him his blessing and thus began the routine."

· "If Orioles baseball was his religion, his pulpit was Section 34 - a perch in the upper deck of his church, Memorial Stadium. It's where he and his disciples stood and cheered nightly and drank in, not just soaked in, Oriole Magic."

· “His unforgettable chant, however, remains part of the Orioles' holy trinity of fan traditions along with the "O" during the national anthem and John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" during the seventh-inning stretch.It's one of those weird but lovable things that are uniquely Baltimore. It's hard to explain why certain random acts or people become so endearing here, except that they inspire nostalgia and remind us of a simpler, perhaps even better, time.”


Baltimore Sun

Dan Connolly column

O, By the Way



Carroll County Times

Channel 2 News

Wayward O

Baltimore Mick

Detours and Devotions

Legal Right



Dempsey’s Army

Oriole Magic

Oriole Post

Inside Charm City

The Loss Column

Monday, August 20, 2007

Our Favorite Local Legend Passes Away

[Photo: The Baltimore Sun]

Wild Bill Hagy, 68, creator of the real "Roar from 34," dies

By Matthew Taylor

"You can't fully appreciate what he meant to Orioles fans unless you were part of the Memorial Stadium days"
-Roch Kubatko

A sad day for longtime O's fans as another link to the team's magical past has died.

Wild Bill Hagy, the man who, according
The Sun, "loved his beer in Section 34 at Memorial Stadium," and who created the original Roar from (Section) 34 for which this blog is named, passed away this afternoon at his Arbutus home.

[See the sidebar "What does Roar from 34 mean?" for more details.]

Hagy is so ingrained in local lore that the Babe Ruth Museum includes him as part of its "Nine Innings of Baseball" display. The Museum describes Hagy's role as follows: "Inning Six features the familiar musical strain of "Orioles Magic," Wild Bill leading the Roar from 34, and other memorable images and music from the raucous 1980s."

Orioles' statement on Hagy:

The Orioles organization is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of "Wild Bill" Hagy. While leading cheers from "The Roar from 34" at Memorial Stadium, Wild Bill became a Baltimore institution. He was one of the great characters of the Baltimore sports landscape and was a true die-hard Orioles fan, supporting the club year in and year out. He will be missed by everyone who knew him and by everyone for whom he led the "O-R-I-O-L-E-S" cheer. All of us in the Orioles organization extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends. A moment of silence will be held in his memory before tonight's Orioles-Rangers game. William G. Hagy was 68 years old.

Roch Kubatko shares his thoughts and encourages fans to do the same. He writes, "You can't fully appreciate what he meant to Orioles fans unless you were part of the Memorial Stadium days ...."

The Roar from 34 authors saw Hagy earlier this summer during Cal's Hall of Fame induction weekend. Sadly, the many nostalgic Birds fans in the Cooperstown watering hole where Hagy was spotted couldn't coax the Baltimore legend into doing his O-R-I-O-L-E-S routine one last time.