Thursday, August 30, 2007
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
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.
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.
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
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.The same article mentions that the Yankees called up former Birds pitcher Chris Britton after last night’s game.
“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.
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
By Matthew Taylor
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
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
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...'"
By Matthew Taylor
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
By Matthew Taylor
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?
-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
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
By Matthew Taylor
-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.”
Dan Connolly column
O, By the Way
Carroll County Times
Channel 2 News
Detours and Devotions
Inside Charm City
The Loss Column
Monday, August 20, 2007
[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"
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."
The Orioles' statement on Hagy:
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 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.
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.
by Matthew Taylor
The most interesting fact that I've read in the game stories about yesterday's 3-2, 10th-inning loss to the Blue Jays is this: "Baltimore leads the American League with 24 one-run defeats."
Considering Derek Jeter's check-swing chopper in the Birds' Aug. 13 loss to the Yankees, Bradford is fast becoming the master of losing on infield hits. The big hit isn't really been a problem for Bradford; he hasn't given up a home run this season despite making the eleventh most appearances of any pitcher. He last did so on May 14, 2006, which was his lone HRA during the 2006 season. Bradford also allowed just one home run in 2005.
The story of yesterday's game was J.R. House's base-running blunder in the top of the 1oth inning. The mistake served as a disheartening conclusion to an otherwise positive series for the newest Oriole. It was likewise a disheartening conclusion to an otherwise positive road trip for the Birds. Chances are, though, that Trembley's O's will continue to doing what they'd done best since the All-Star Break: rally.
Extra innings: The O's need to play .600 baseball for the rest of the season in order to finish with an even record. In other words, they have to be the Red Sox.
With 40 games remaining, the Birds need to go 24-16 to finish .500. The team is 19-15 since the All-Star break (.558), 28-25 under Trembley (.528).
Sunday, August 19, 2007
By Christopher Heun
"He's very, very private," O's manager Dave Trembley says. "He's not a [bad] guy. He just doesn't like people asking him obvious, stupid questions."
Erik Bedard has been getting a lot of attention from the national media recently as talk of his Cy Young candidacy heats up despite trailing Josh Beckett, Johan Santana and others in wins, the all-important category.
One detail repeated in all of the profiles about Bedard: his disdain for the media.
Amy K. Nelson of ESPN.com describes Bedard’s interactions with the media as “horrible at best, and nonexistent at worst.”
A New York Times profile published before his start last Wednesday in the Bronx reported that “he loathes talking to the news media and has, on occasion, slipped out of the Orioles’ clubhouse without discussing his starts.” (You can access the story here until Aug. 22 without a subscription.)
Bedard told reporter David Picker: “I don’t want everybody knowing everything about me. I don’t want to be recognized everywhere I go. Who wants that?”
Imagine, in the Age of Celebrity, a guy would prefer to be left alone. Sounds like he’s got his head on straight.
The Sun’s own Roch Kubatko has complained many times in his blog that Bedard offers little help to the scrum of scribes gathering around him after a game, fishing for a good quote for tomorrow’s story.
Roch’s unofficial transcript from one of those sessions is amusing and proves that there really is such a thing as a stupid question:
Good for Bedard for refusing to cooperate. The only people who are hurt by this are the sports reporters who make a living watching games, trading opinions among themselves in the press box, and waiting for professional athletes to make public proclamations about the condition of a sore muscle or their confidence in their teammates.
What matters is Bedard’s performance on the field. If he does manage to win that Cy Young, whether this season or sometime in the future, his acceptance speech should be interesting. And short.
Friday, August 17, 2007
By Matthew Taylor
The New Yorker (October 1970)
Back in 1963 the Orioles had a relief pitcher who was actually worth bragging about.
On this date in history, Aug. 17, 1963, Dick Hall retired his 28th batter in a row, pitching the relief equivalent of a no-hitter plus one. Halls’s no-hit run began on July 24th and covered five games.
The Birds won the game against the Kansas City Athletics, 6-1. Check out the box score to see Hall's streak and Jackie Brandt's heroics.
Hall would give up two hits in his next appearance, a 7-4 win over the Angels four days later.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
By Matthew Taylor
"They got the deal done. You can tell the city of Baltimore that the old evil owner stepped up and took care of things tonight. We had to fight to the end."
-Orioles Scouting Director Joe Jordan
Cards fans, coming off of a World Series victory last season and a 2004 appearance in the Series, are bummed about their team’s sub-.500 record this year. O’s fans, meanwhile, are excited about the very prospect of .500 baseball after nine straight losing seasons. Any hint of progress spurs excitement among Birds fans in Charm City.
Which brings us to the Matt Wieters signing. As if the last six games against the Red Sox and Yankees haven’t done enough to boost Baltimore’s baseball spirits, folks are downright giddy about getting Wieters in the fold. Just check out what they’re saying in The Sun.
"By the time the Orioles got top draft choice Matt Wieters to sign on the dotted line last night, it was no longer only about the can't-miss college catcher with the sweet swing from both sides of the plate.It was about the Orioles keeping faith with their fans.It was about the front office proving that the past isn't always prologue.
It was about maybe - just maybe - the franchise turning a corner after nine years headed in the wrong direction.And maybe it was about redemption, because Wieters was on the verge of becoming the newest symbol of everything that has gone wrong with the Orioles organization over the past decade."
"The Orioles signed 38 of their 48 picks, including 11 of the top 12. Wieters was a must, especially with no second or third rounders this year. The Orioles held firm, but also didn’t let their stubbornness get in the way. They kept negotiating right down to the final hour, with owner Peter Angelos getting involved. And I have no problem with Wieters getting a major league deal, if that’s the case. It shouldn’t take long with this kid.
Easily overlooked last night was the deal signed by TCU pitcher Jacob Arrieta. This also is huge news. The Orioles think they got a steal with Arrieta in the fifth round, just as they apparently did with Timothy Bascom in the fourth. And you never can have enough pitching.
The fact that it’s college pitching makes me even happier. Just don’t bring up Beau Hale.
Now it's time to turn our attention to the rest of the season - the race for third place, Dave Trembley's future as manager.
And, please, start throwing dollar figures at Erik Bedard. Legitimate ones. Nothing insulting. "
"And with the Wieters signing, the Orioles carefully navigated the brinkmanship situation of losing their top pick (he would have become draft-eligible again today) and getting the kid at a reasonable price. MacPhail was patient, took the talks with Boras to the deadline, and Wieters finally took the six large.
More learned observers of the Orioles, such as colleague Pete Schmuck, have made the case that the significance of the Wieters signing is that it sends a clear message to the rest of the clubhouse that the organization is prepared to do battle with the Yankees and Red Sox. Lately, the players have shown that with their bats and gloves. And they've done it showing a remarkably dogged determination and persistence. And hopefully, the organization is willing to do the same with its checkbook, even if it is in carefully weighed and deliberate steps."
An “O” for Optimism?
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
By Matthew Taylor
“We play for respect, we play with pride, and we’re the Baltimore Orioles.”
I don’t have any kids, my job is challenging without being stressful, and my marriage is going well. Clearly, the one thing responsible for the increasing number of gray hairs on top of my head is my favorite baseball team.
A game like Wednesday’s 6-3 victory over the Yankees just goes to show that, win or lose, it’s not over until the bullpen blows a lead.
With that said, the O’s came away from the
Despite multiple phone-in meetings to the office and a terrible MASN signal, I was able to follow the game in an amazing display of multi-tasking. So here are some well-earned observations from Wednesday’s game.
-I hate that baseball has allowed the networks to utilize in-game interviews, including MASN’s “Wired Wednesdays.” Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed Dave Trembley’s remarks from the visitor’s dugout in the
Dave Trembley just reeks of optimism. Aside from the bullpen, he really does have the team playing with pride since the All-Star break. How better to explain the club’s resiliency? They followed up a Mariners’ sweep at Camden Yards with series wins over the Red Sox and Yankees, including today’s tenth inning rally immediately after the bullpen blew a three-run lead.
On the individual level, you have to credit Erik Bedard for his composure in the sixth inning, striking out Jorge Posada to end the inning with runners on the corners after Tike Redman lost an easy pop fly to left in the sun. The pop-up was recorded as a hit for Hideki Matsui.
-Has there been a more exciting pitcher wearing Orange and Black in recent memory than Erik Bedard?
During his peak years in
Bedard already matched Mussina’s individual game mark for strikeouts with his 15 K performance against Texas on July 7. Now he’s on pace to shatter Mussina’s record for strikeouts in a season, 218 in 1997.
Bedard currently leads the league with 207 strikeouts; he is the first Birds pitcher to reach 200 strikeouts in a season since Mussina recorded 210 K’s in 2000. Bedard is 8-0 in his last 12 starts and hasn't lost since June 10 against
-We need Kevin Millar’s bat in the lineup, but I much prefer Aubrey Huff at first base.
While attending the first game of last week’s series against the Mariners I counted multiple occasions where the Birds would’ve gotten an out had Millar been able to stretch for a ball thrown high or scoop a ball thrown to him on one bounce. He also charged a ball hit lightly up the first base line only to miss the tag on the runner. It seemed like a case of bad baseball instincts.
The latter play serves as a good comparison to Aubrey Huff’s eighth inning defense during this afternoon’s game. Huff deflected a hard hit ball but wasn’t able to record the out on his own. He immediately retreated to the bag and stretched out to receive Brian Roberts’ throw just in time to record the out. Here was a case of good baseball instincts.
I’m not typically a stat guy, but I did a little research to see if there’s anything to support my case on this one. My research took me into bold new territory, beyond the limits of fielding percentage and into the terrain of Range Factor per Nine Innings.
This season, Aubrey Huff’s .992 fielding percentage at first base trails Kevin Millar’s .998 fielding percentage at the position. However, Huff’s RF/9 is 9.72, topping Millar’s 9.68.
Following the trend backwards over the past few seasons, Huff’s numbers at first base hold up against Millar’s.
2006 – Huff 10.12, Millar 9.38
2005 – Huff 7.75, Millar 9.99
2004 – Huff 9.48, Millar 9.21
I’m admittedly a rookie at using the Range Factor statistic, but in this case it generally matches my gut instinct.
By Matthew Taylor
It’s fitting that we get to read about Braves manager Bobby Cox’s record-setting 132nd ejection in this morning’s paper. On this very date in 1975 Earl Weaver got ejected from both games of a twi-night doubleheader as the O’s split a pair with the Texas Rangers at Memorial Stadium.
Umpire Ron Luciano tossed Weaver in the opener during a fourth inning argument about a double play. Weaver wasted no time in the nightcap, getting tossed during the exchange of lineup cards when he decided to continue the argument with Luciano, his longtime nemesis.
Weaver would miss the following night’s game so he could fly to
For his entire career, Earl Weaver was ejected from both games of a doubleheader on three separate occasions. [Check out our "Vide-O Corner" for a classic Weaver outburst.]
Sports Illustrated writer John Donovan uses Weaver’s doubleheader ejections on
Once, back in the waning days of the 1985 season, the dean of disputatious big-league managers, Earl Weaver, was thrown out of both games of a doubleheader in Yankee Stadium. The second time it happened, he barely made it to home plate for the pregame exchange of lineup cards before he was run.
The first time, though, was the beauty. In the third inning of the first game on that late-September day, after Weaver already had been out on the field three times to argue something or other, umpire Jim Evans finally tired of the show and tossed the diminutive Baltimore skipper. The ump then took out his watch and gave Weaver one minute to leave the field.
Weaver grabbed the watch, reared back and flung it into the visitors' dugout, where it skidded to a stop under the Orioles' bench.
"If my arm was still good," Weaver told reporters after the game, "I would've thrown it into the stands."
Memories of The Tractor
Was anyone else thinking of Chris Hoiles last night when Aubrey Huff, having already hit a grand slam, came to the plate with the bases loaded for a second time?
Huff had a chance to become the fourth Oriole, the 13th player overall, to hit two grand slams in the same game. Instead, Huff had an RBI single.
The O's who have achieved the feat are Jim Gentile ('61), Frank Robinson ('70), and Hoiles ('98). You can read more about it in our previous posting, "Beltway Baseball Wasn't Always So Bad."
Monday, August 13, 2007
How Many Times in a Season Can Melvin Mora Get Thrown Out at Home in the 9th Inning, O’s Trailing by One Run?
Answer: Three times.
Bonus Answer: He did it tonight at Yankee Stadium, July 1 vs. the Angels, and I seem to remember one other time earlier in the year (although some heavy googling yielded no leads).
Dare to Dream Answer: Since there are 45 games to go, undoubtedly he could squeeze in at least one more.
Or will he try again to bunt home the tying run in the ninth with one out?
By Matthew Taylor
Here’s what they’re saying in the Mini-Me version of the Evil Empire after the Birds twice rallied for victories against the Red Sox to take this weekend's series at Camden Yards …
Red Sox Fan from Pinstripe Territory proclaims his team’s bullpen as the worst ever. Apparently he didn’t watch the Mother’s Day Meltdown in May.
Gagne, don't get on my bad side. I went into this weekend thinking we were just about guaranteed to stay even with the Yanks, minimum. With a good chance of gaining. And we LOSE TWO GAMES in the standings. Terrible job. And at various points of the eighth innings of the three games in Balty, we were up 5-1, 6-0, and 3-1. With the best bullpen in the whole wide world. And we only won one of those games. At least the game I went to in Baltimore was the fun one. Pics to come from Saturday.Best headline awards go to The House That Dewey Built for “Cowboy, Up Yours” and Red Sox Monster for “Charm City my @#%*@%$.”
In the latter posting, Dan Lamothe writes: “Also, count on plenty of strange details about what life was like as a Red Sox fan in Camden Yards and Charm City, aka, Baltimore. I think you'll find that Massachusetts -- and Western Massachusetts, in particular -- were quite well represented.”
Ah, yes, the issue of Red Sox fans in Camden Yards. Going Full Circle celebrates the presence of “Red Sox Nation” in the typically modest fashion of a Boston fan. (Tongue planted firmly in cheek.)
I visited Red Sox Nation on Saturday, in what is known as the Sox' home away from home: Camden Yards in Baltimore. Based on tee-shirt observations, the visiting Sox fans outnumbered O's fans easily 4 to 1. And they definitely made their presence known. All those clap-clap "let's go, Os"? Appropriated to, "let's go, Sox." Kevin Youklis, the Sox 1st baseman up to bat, and the stadium erupts in loud "Youk" cheers, David Ortiz to the sounds of "Poppy." Not much mustered for the Os at the plate. Meanwhile, the video screen gamely played reruns of Cal Ripkin's induction into the Hall of Fame and career highlights.It’s bad enough they invade our stadium, but can’t these great baseball fans at least spell Cal’s name right? Just to show it's not a bias thing, Full Circle spells Big Papi’s nickname like poppy seed.
Baltimore blogger The Loss Column offers a rallying cry for Birds fans in response to the rising tide of Red Sox folk at Camden.
Peter’s Red Sox Fever calls this weekend’s losses to the Birds, “the two worst losses of the year.”
Meanwhile, SawxBlog says it’s time to panic: “I wouldn't necessarily allow myself to call it panic before, but how we lost the two games in Baltimore this past weekend have helped me shed that monkey, and yes, panic it is.”
Over The Monster urges his fellow fans to “keep the faith,” but acknowledges, “As a whole, this series sucked.”
Not for Birds fans, it didn't.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
by Matthew Taylor
"Trembley is a walking, talking example that nearly impossible dreams can come true. He is one of just seven men with no pro baseball playing experience to manage in the big leagues since 1900."
-Sean Kernan, Daytona Beach News-Journal
Back in June, when the O's were pursuing Joe Girardi to replace Sam Perlozzo, I ridiculed Dave Trembley's optimistic outlook on his job prospects: "I wasn't told that I'm the interim manager, and I'm not expecting that."
Nearly two months later, Trembley no longer has the "interim" in front of his name, and he's restoring a sense of optimism for Birds fans.
Just ask the folks at Camden Chat, who are pining for a .500 record and a third place finish in the AL East: "Dave Trembley, you son of a son of a gun, you. Your Orioles have me believing -- kind of."
It's not exactly "Why Not?" stuff happening in Baltimore these days, but it's at least a step in the right direction. The team, like the fans, seems to believe there's something left to play for, and there's even Cy Young talk surrounding the staff ace.
In short, it's starting to be fun to watch the Orioles again. At least, that is, until the bullpen takes over a game.
Sean Kernan pays tribute to the O's skipper, and his long path to managing in the majors, in the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Kud-O's, Dave Trembley.
Monday, August 06, 2007
By Matthew Taylor
There will be a Patterson in the outfield at Wrigely again now that Corey's younger brother, Eric, has been called up to the Cubs to replace Alfonso Soriano, who was placed on the disabled list.
Patterson was batting .299 at Triple-A Iowa with 14 homers, 23 doubles, 62 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. He has primarily hit leadoff all season, batting .300 in the No. 1 spot in the order with a .365 on-base percentage.
Patterson, 24, began the season as a second baseman, but has played the past 10 games in the outfield in both left and center.
He is the younger brother of former Cubs outfielder Corey Patterson, who is now with the Baltimore Orioles.
By Matthew Taylor
With his two home runs on Saturday, numbers 504 and 505 for his career, Frank Thomas passed Eddie on the all-time home run list. That same afternoon, Alex Rodriguez became the youngest player to hit No. 500 and now sits just four home runs behind Murray.
Murray’s statistical status could drop even lower in the near future. Active players within striking distance of the Oriole legend include Jim Thome (490), Manny Ramirez (489), Gary Sheffield (478), and Carlos Delgado (424).
Three other Orioles besides Murray are ranked in the Top 50 of baseball’s career home run list: Frank Robinson (No. 7, 586), Rafael Palmeiro (No. 10, 569), and Cal Ripken (N0. 37, 431). O’s short-timer Harold Baines is No. 50 on the list with 384 home runs.
Delgado and Mike Piazza (422) are both within striking distance of Ripken.
Celebrating past accomplishments and future possibilities
By Matthew Taylor
Cal Ripken may as well have been quoting James Earl Jones last Sunday when he stood at the podium at the Clark Sports Center and remarked, “Today is about celebrating the best that baseball has been and the best it can be.”
James Earl Jones, playing the role of Terence Mann in the classic film, “Field of Dreams,” summed up the beauty of the sport in similar fashion: “This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.”
Jones’ classic rhetoric in “Field of Dreams” does well to describe my experience at Induction Weekend. His words, some of which are quoted below, speak to the innocence of youth, the peace associated with that period of life, and baseball’s ability to trigger memories of those treasured times, places, and feelings long past.
Some of baseball’s most accomplished players and managers appeared in Cooperstown for Induction Weekend. Many of them are connected with the game’s greatest moments. But for me, it was more about the hometown heroes whose presence brought to mind their more youthful, archetypal images and the pure joy of being a young fan.
They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. "Of course, we won't mind if you have a look around," you'll say. "It's only twenty dollars per person." They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.
They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game, and it'll be as if they'd dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they'll have to brush them away from their faces.
Chanting “Ed-die” throughout an at-bat and believing all the while that enthusiasm conferred strength upon players. Only later did I learn that “Ed-die” was more than just an exhortation; it was an expression of gratitude as well.
Seeing Earl charge out of the third base dugout and knowing he would fight the good fight in theatrical fashion. There was a certain instructiveness in Earl's determination to right perceived wrongs.
Watching Cal range deep into the hole and make the difficult look routine. It took a while before the lesson set in that greatness can sometimes be subtle, defined more by consistency than flashiness.
Seeing Eddie, Earl, and Cal in Cooperstown also brought to mind simple, meaningful moments that extended beyond the field.
Soaking in my father’s own childlike excitement following the ’83 Series as he led an impromptu family victory celebration. He punctuated the celebration with a dash to the family car, where he repeatedly honked the horn.
Heading to visit my grandfather and eagerly anticipating his predictably grumpy response to the question, “How bout dem O’s?”
Leaving school early with dad to see the first-ever game at Camden Yards, an O’s-Mets exhibition on my birthday.
And a host of shared experiences that provide a consistent link to family and friends.
Inevitably, the sense of nostalgia I experienced during Induction Weekend was accompanied by sadness for days, people, and innocence lost. But Cal, like James Earl Jones, invited optimism from his audience by looking forward while celebrating the past.
Said Cal: “And finally, as I experience another new beginning with this induction, I can only hope that all of us, whether we have played on the field or been fans in the stands, can reflect on how fortunate we are and can see our lives as new beginnings that allow us to leave this world a bit better than when we came into it.”
From his celebration of unheralded heroes who show up for work every day, to his call for people to help young people lead better lives, Cal demonstrated in his Cooperstown speech an understanding that baseball at its best is about more than what happens on the field.
Read Cal's entire speech at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum website.