Monday, December 29, 2008

O's Draftee to Play in Bowl Game

N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson was drafted by the Orioles in 2007 but chose to play college football instead. You can catch him on Monday afternoon when the Wolfpack face Rutgers in the Bowl.

Do any bit of research on Russell Wilson and what immediately jumps out is his
versatility. He's on scholarship to play quarterback at North Carolina State,
but his performance on the baseball diamond in high school earned him a draft
selection by the Baltimore Orioles in 2007.

ESPN told Wilson's two-sport story this past summer.

Though he now plays for a different football coaching staff (former Boston
College coach Tom O'Brien supplanted Amato), Wilson is still permitted to play
two sports. He is on scholarship for football, but baseball is likely where his
future lies. Already taken by the Baltimore Orioles in the 41st round of the
2007 Major League Baseball draft, Wilson instead elected to fulfill his dream of
playing two college sports while pursuing a degree.

"I was leaning towards [entering the draft]," Wilson says, "but a college education is
something you'll always have."

When Wilson chose college, major league teams backed off -- the Orioles eventually selected him late in the draft as a just-in-case. "A lot of scouts said Russell could have been taken in the third or fourth round [of the '07 MLB draft] and were making calls trying to get him to sign," Avent says. "I have no doubt he'll make it to the big leagues."

Wilson's career goals aren't limited to baseball, however. A sports fanatic his
entire life -- "I was never a cartoon guy," he says, "I was always watching
ESPN" -- Wilson hopes to one day become a "SportsCenter" anchor after his
playing days are over.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Night Before Christmas

The latest headlines:

Teixeira sold out to the highest bidder

The Nats are holding an O's reunion in D.C.
, signing Patterson to a Minor League deal.

Some holiday cheer:

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Yard,
Not a free agent was stirring who could earn the Wild Card.
The numbers we hung on the Warehouse with care,
Like Cal and the glory days no longer are there.

Yankees fans are nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of the playoffs dance in their heads.
The Steinbrenners run wild without a salary cap,
Leaving fans other of teams to just say "Ah, crap."

When on ESPN there arose such a clatter,
More Hot Stove discussion that's just idle chatter,
Cause no matter how far the stock market may crash,
Baseball's free agents will still chase the most cash.

Old Buster did appear on the SportsCenter show,
But couldn't admit that he just didn't know,
In what uniform Teixeira would appear,
And whose fans would be left with something to cheer.

When it comes to the O's, this must be done quick,
In a New York moment, please go and sign Nick.
Because we just can't seem to win this free-agent game,
Even when a player mentions our city by name.

Now Peter! Now Andy! Let the rebuilding quicken,
Do it as fast as Ponson did get blitzened.
Whether by trade or by market, let's get on the ball,
And sign them, sign them, sign them all.

Please give the fans some reason to whistle,
Send us some form of a positive epistle,
Or else in the stands you'll find no one in sight,
And this proud franchise can call it a night.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Our Long National Nightmare

Daniel Cabrera is a National. How's he gonna get there from Baltimore? My guess is he'll walk.

The Cabrera signing will become either a great punchline at the Nats' expense or a nightmare at the expense of O's fans, namely Cabrera finally realizing his potential just down the Beltway.

Should Cabrera turn it around and Teixeira sign with the Nats, the baseball gods will officially have cursed our beloved franchise. You'd have to be a pessimist, even by local standards, to believe both things will happen.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mark Teixeira is Baseball's Middle School Crush

And Curt Schilling wants to be the school's bully

by Matthew Taylor

One important lesson taught to aspiring journalists is to consider a source's motivation when he or she wants to provide information without attribution. Approach such a situation with caution, the thinking goes.

Apparently this concept doesn't apply to sports reporting. Baseball writers run wild this time of year with all kinds of unattributed statements that are so clearly motivated by agents and competing ball clubs working to manipulate the free-agent market. Thus we have reports on Tuesday that Mark Teixeira has an "enormous attraction" to the Orioles; 24 hours later we learn just the opposite, that the Orioles are "out of it, unless Teixeira really, really wants to play there." (Just check out the headline of the latter story, where these anonymous voices get top billing in the headline: "Sources: Teixeira to Orioles unlikely.")

Alas, this system of sending anonymous messages through the media works as the O's have responded in kind to "sources" with word that the team's "bid for Teixeira could go up." Isn't that what was supposed to happen? Agent sends message through the press, "You're out of the running." Team responds, "But what if we give you more money?"

It's hard to believe, but this actually could be a good thing for the O's if they really want to sign Teixeira, the equivalent of the girl who actually likes you flirting with another guy at the bar just to make you jealous. Even if that's the case, it's frustrating for fans to follow (see, for example: The Loss Column, Oriole Post, Dempsey's Army, Weaver's Tantrum, Oriole Central).

As silly as the whole thing may be, I understand that reporters have little choice but to be pawns in this ridiculous game. They've got space to fill and, on most days, no real advancements in the story. Somehow I can't picture Buster Olney going on the air and saying the following: "Nothing to report again today, guys. Still don't know what's going to happen, and no one will talk to me on the record." He would earn praise for responsible reporting from journalism professors everywhere, which would be quite useful considering he'd need a new job.

Ultimately, the whole thing has the feeling of middle school courtship... "Hi, Mark, this is Andy McPhail. Listen, I was just wondering, do you like any team on the free-agent market more than a friend?" Imagine McPhail, Theo Epstein, Jim Bowden, Tony Reagins, and Brian Cashman sitting across the table from Scott Boras and passing him notes that read, "Do you like my team? Check Yes or No."

In other news, Curt Schilling puts in a good word for Baltimore in his analysis of the Teixeira sweepstakes: "I understand Mark is from the DC/Baltimore area and can speak first-hand to the allure of that place. I’m talking Baltimore though. Fantastic city, great fans and you have your pick of big city apartment or house in horse country. Not sure D.C. offers that second option or whether or not that matters, but I know going back to Arizona felt like ‘coming home’ and that was a huge draw for me."

However, Schilling's praise comes in a posting titled "Why Boston Might Be Best" where he describes Red Sox baseball as "Packer football, Cowboy football, Yankee baseball, Penn State football, ‘Bama football, all rolled into one."

It's nice to know that Schilling considers Baltimore a fantastic city with great fans (and here I thought he might just call it a "horses--- town"); however, I still have trouble taking his opinions seriously. After all, he continues to pile on Manny Ramirez
(we had four physical run-ins!) after the fact. This is the same guy who as recently as June was
praising Ramirez and hoping that the guy would hit home run No. 600 "here at Fenway."

Schilling must be from the
Colin Powell school of character analysis, where the strategy is to share your "honest," potentially controversial feelings about a guy after public opinion has already sailed so clearly in that direction. There's nothing quite like kicking with the wind at your back.

If baseball's GMs are akin to loverlorn middle schoolers experiencing their first crush, Schilling is the aspiring bully who picks on the little kids and talks about what he would've done to the big kids had they not already walked away.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Boswell on Teixeria

The Cliff Notes version: he wants him in D.C.

by Matthew Taylor

Thomas Boswell tends to veer from his traditionally strong, objective baseball analysis into more of a boosterism role when it comes to writing about the Nationals. In Friday's edition of The Post, Boswell makes an only vaguely surreptitious case for Mark Teixeira to sign with Washington.

After outlining what he considers to be the three things most important to Teixeira - family, business, and winning - Boswell notes that no team offers him all of those elements at once. However, he strongly hints, there is one N.L. East franchise that can satisfy two of the three and potentially provide the third in the near future.

"Sometimes, there's a perfect fit. Usually, there's not. The future of franchises is murky. Mike Mussina left Baltimore to be a champion Yankee. Last month he retired after eight years and many millions, but without a Series win. Maddux turned down the Yanks, went to Atlanta for 11 years and never finished anywhere but first.

Since free agency began, one pattern seems clear. Some players can be happy anywhere; they should go where they think they'll win. Others know the place that will make them happiest. Go there. Win eventually. And get to smile while you wait."

You can't really blame Boswell. His job would become a lot more interesting with Teixeira in town, and the boosterism would be that much easier to provide.

On a related note, it would be greatly ironic and once more revealing about the business-above-all-else nature of baseball were Teixeira to sign with the Red Sox, the team that, in the player's own words, "spoiled me for everyone else" during the 2006 draft.

If Teixeira is going to sell out to the highest bidder, he should go to the Yankees, a team built on the practice (although the Yankees may just be driving up the numbers for the Red Sox).

If Teixeira is going to "come home," he should sign with the Orioles, the franchise that existed while he was growing up in Maryland.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

More Hot Stove Quick Takes

Teixeira to the Nats would change the whole ballgame

by Matthew Taylor

Yankees back in on Teixeira sweepstakes; Boston Globe handicaps the finalists; Nats offering $160 million

Sure, you'd hate to see Mark Teixeira sign with the Yankees. And the Red Sox would be no better. But admit it, you'd be most upset if Teixeira became a National. Consider this line from Oriole Post: "If the Nationals for some reason acquire Teixeira, I shudder to think what will happen in Baltimore and amongst Oriole fans nationwide."

Up to this point there's be no real rivalry to speak of between the Orioles and Nationals. The Washington Post was pushing hard for one since before D.C. even got a team. Major League Baseball wants the same thing, which is why the teams face off in Interleague Play each year. But ultimately "The Battle of the Beltway" is as silly as it sounds. (What is it about sports marketers' fascination with mass transit, by the way? Subway Series ... Battle of the Beltway ....)

Ultimately, there's just no real steam to the O's - Nats "rivalry." Send Teixeira to D.C., though, and you might finally have the flame that ignites local passions.
The Nats have a much easier climb to make in their division, but I can't imagine that will be enough to attract Teixeira. If he's staying local, he's coming to Baltimore.

Brewers-Yankees deal to include Cameron
"The Yankees have found their center fielder for 2009, as they are set to send Melky Cabrera to Milwaukee for veteran outfielder Mike Cameron on Thursday, according to two major league sources. The Yankees have been saying that Cabrera and Brett Gardner would compete for the center field job, but the acquisition of Cameron gives them a veteran presence at the position. (New York Daily News)"
This move greatly disappoints me, if only because it deprives me of the opportunity to hear Rick Dempsey refer to Melky Cabrera as "Milky" during the MASN post-game show following Yankees - Orioles match-ups.

Mets acquire Putz

"One day after signing closer Francisco Rodriguez, the Mets have acquired J.J. Putz in a three-team, 12-player trade with the Indians and Mariners. The Mets ship right-hander Aaron Heilman, outfielder Endy Chavez, lefty Jason Vargas and three minor leaguers to the Mariners for Putz, center fielder Jeremy Reed and reliever Sean Green in the first trade by new Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik."
Does this mean the J.J. Putz bobblehead I got at a Mariners game last season will go up in value or down in value?

On the face of it the Mets seem to be doing the right thing by shoring up their bullpen, but O’s fans know all too well that assembling a high-priced bullpen is a tricky deal that doesn't always turn out as expected. In this case, it's not so easy to shift a closer to a set-up position and get the same results. It's like using George Sherrill in a non-save situation; he just doesn't pitch as well without the pressure.

The Mets should take a look at what happened with the Birds' $42 million bullpen during the 2007 season.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hot Stove Quick Hits

by Matthew Taylor

Some tongue-in-cheek instant analysis as the Hot Stove, um, heats up. (Certainly that must be the most overused off-season cliche? Any other nominees?)

Aubrey Huff named top DH

An Orioles player topped a Red Sox player at something? Now that's news. I'd be excited if Aubrey Huff beat David Ortiz in a game of checkers much less at DH.

How about selling high? It's too bad Tampa Bay hasn't come knocking for a trade as Huff loves the Tampa nightlife.

If the Rays are going to consider Giambi and Griffey, why not Huff? As long as they're going to make a bad move, it may as well benefit Baltimore in the process.

Ramon Hernandez to the Reds

Apparently it’s not just football where players “hear footsteps.” Matt Wieters is creating thunderous echoes for any and every Baltimore catcher as he marches toward Charm City.

With the multidimensional (read: not overly talented at any one position) Freel in the fold, the O's are going to have back-ups for their back-ups in the outfield. May as well grab Felix Pie while we're at it.

Luke Scott must indeed have strong faith if he thinks he'll have a full-time role in 2009.

C.C. to the Yankees

The Yankees appear to have settled on a new organizational philosophy. Rather than overpay for old, injury-prone pitchers, they’re now overpaying for youngish, injury-prone pitchers.

With this new Yankee free-agent philosophy in mind, could A.J. Burnett be far behind?

How long do you suppose it will be before Sabathia changes the “About" section of his web site (pictured above), so it no longer reads as follows: “Baseball is his passion. Family is his life. The Brewers are his team.”

C.C. should also consider re-working his even-more-dated bio: “When all is said and done, there’s no reason not believe that CC can continue to pile up the wins in front of the amazing fans on the lake. Sabathia is spearheading the Indians’ resurgence in one of America’s great baseball cities. CC knows what’s at stake for the city and for his team and yearns to be a part of a championship with the organization where he started his career. So he puts every bit of his 6’7”, 290 pound frame into every pitch that he throws.”

Monday, December 08, 2008

It Ain't a Crime to Cheer for Your Team ... Or Is It?

by Matthew Taylor

A recent news item making the rounds reveals that cheering "O" during the national anthem in Baltimore actually violates a city ordinance. Thankfully, City Councilman James Kraft is on the job.
"Baltimore Orioles fans could soon be able to shout "O" during the national anthem without breaking the law.

A little known city ordinance requires that "The Star Spangled Banner" must be sung without altering or embellishments. Violators could face a $100 fine. The ordinance was adopted in 1916 and is one of several laws that City Councilman James Kraft hopes to erase from the books."

Perhaps those cell phone fans who invaded Camden Yards following the stadium's construction in the early '90s were just ahead of the curve with their apathy.

I'll admit to having taken a certain satisfaction from hearing the "O" at the few Nats games I've attended. The cheer also pops up occasionally at other non-Camden Yards events, including minor league games. When do you cheer "O" during the national anthem? Vote in the Roar from 34 poll.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Speaking of Shortstops - Evolution and Solutions

by Matthew Taylor

Tom Verducci's "Inside Baseball" column on holds many items of interest for O's fans, particularly for those concerned with the team's search for a viable, everyday solution at shortstop. Verducci focuses on the glut of undersized, underwhelming free-agent shortstops and views it as a sign that the "big hitting, big bodied shortstop revolution" never truly came to be.
"It's hard to remember a time when more teams needed a shortstop and more are available, though almost none of them are very good.

The used-shortstop lot includes free agents Orlando Cabrera, David Eckstein, Adam Everett, Rafael Furcal, Cesar Izturis, Edgar Renteria and Omar Vizquel and trade options Khalil Greene, Jack Wilson, Bobby Crosby and Julio Lugo. Outside of Furcal, it's buyer beware. The Orioles, Tigers, Cardinals, Dodgers and Blue Jays need somebody to play the position and six other teams already have made changes.

What happened to baseball's glamour position?"
Verducci also considers a possible correlation between the age of a team's everyday shortstop and that team's playoff chances, nothing that "None of the past 56 playoff teams and only two of the 112 playoff teams in the wild card era used someone 34 or older as their regular shortstop (Omar Vizquel of the 2001 Indians and Cal Ripken Jr. of the 1996 Orioles)."

A final item of interest in Verducci's column is his discussion of less-considered aspects of Mike Mussina's Hall of Fame resume, which lead him to conclude (rightly, in my humble opinion) the following: "When you judge Mussina against his peers, he never had the peak of Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson or Roger Clemens. But his durability and elite consistency in a hostile environment makes him worthy of Cooperstown."

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Literary Love for the O's

Writer's Almanac features a poem about the 1988 Birds

by Matthew Taylor

On Nov. 25, Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac featured Baron Wormser's poem, "The O's," an ode to a dying father holding out for an Orioles win during the 1988 season. Much like Doris Kearns Goodwin's classic memoir "Wait Till Next Year," Wormser's poem offers a literary take on family relationships as seen through a baseball lens.
"My grandfather is lying in the hospital bed
Listening to the radio every night.
It's the second week of the season; he's an Orioles fan
Ever since the O's came to Baltimore
In 1954—but it's 1988 and they lose game
After game after game after game after game ...."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hot Stove Myths and Truths

In the words of Public Enemy (and Jim Thome), "Don't believe the hype"

by Matthew Taylor

"The Baltimore Orioles plan to pursue several high-priced free agents ... at baseball's winter meetings. Orioles executives are looking to add a top-notch starting pitcher and a power hitter in the lineup."

Sound familiar? It should. That's what was being reported by the Associated Press on Dec. 8, 2004, when Carlos Delgado (a power-hitting first baseman) and Carl Pavano (a presumed ace) topped the Birds' off-season wish list. Replace the surname Delgado with Teixeira. Now replace the surname Pavano with Burnett. You've just described the O's 2008 off-season.

So it seems the more things change, the more they stay the same, and not just when it comes to the Orioles' free-agent needs. The stories of how the team might acquire players to meet those needs often remain the same as well, and they tend to take on the form of Hot Stove myths.

Fans following the Birds' off-season efforts to bring Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett into the nest would be wise to remember a couple of favored narratives that consistently occupy the front burner of Hot Stove sports coverage.

Hot Stove Myths

The Hot Stove season is to baseball what the draft season is to the NBA or the NFL - an off-season event that generates lots of excitement and armchair general managing. Fans focus intensely on an extended period of non-action and journalists fill the void with extended analysis based on a collection of rumors, tidbits, leaks, and occasionally even firm information.

Sports reporters find themselves in a role similar to that of the TV anchor in a 24-hour news cycle who tries to piece together news as it happens or, in many cases, before it happens. Faced with this circumstance, journalists rely on familiar narratives and over time myth-making occurs.

You could argue that fans prefer these familiar narratives and myths because they provide reason for optimism even as they obscure the true business side of the equation. We therefore have good reason to continue following the free-agent sweepstakes on every sports site's Hot Stove page and to employ the logic of Lloyd Christmas: "So you're telling me there's a chance."

Here are two common Hot Stove narratives that are used in Baltimore to examine our chances for success with top-notch free agents and to explain our failure with said free agents after the fact.

Narrative/Myth #1: We're an attractive destination for a top free agent because we have an "in" with him (aka "The Hometown Discount"/"Hometown Hero" Effect).

The thinking here is that a player's relationship to the city, the team, or its personnel will propel him to take a below-market deal with the Orioles. This favored narrative applies to cases where we're trying to keep a guy in the fold (i.e. the hometown discount) or to bring him into the fold (i.e. the hometown hero). Mike Mussina was an example of the former, Mark Teixeira is an example of the latter. A.J. Burnett, whose wife is from the Baltimore area and who has an off-season home in Monkton, could also fit into the latter category.

One need only look back to the 2004 offseason to see an example of the failed logic of the hometown hero narrative, and it applies to Burnett, no less. Here's what The Washington Post had to say
on Dec. 16 of that year about the O's prospects with Burnett:
"A safer choice may be Burnett, who would require less in a trade than Hudson, but is also a free agent after next year. The Orioles and Florida Marlins have begun preliminary discussions for Burnett, who has close ties to the Baltimore area and said, through agent Darek Braunecker, that he would be open to signing a contract extension. Burnett's wife is from Baltimore and the couple rented a house near the area this offseason.

'They spent the entire month of November in Baltimore and he loved it,' Braunecker said. 'There was a certain comfort level with the area.'"
Mussina left Baltimore, Burnett still isn't here, and Teixeira remains a longshot. Kids may dream of one day playing baseball in their home city, but Major Leaguers tend to replace the stars in their eyes with dollar signs.

The "having an in" theory goes beyond hometown connections. Consider again the 2004 off-season, this time with Carl Pavano.

From The Post, Nov. 5, 2004:

"If the Baltimore Orioles were looking for any kind of advantage with prized free agent pitcher Carl Pavano, they may have found it in agent Scott Shapiro, a diehard Orioles fan virtually since birth and a friend of owner Peter Angelos. The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, the two wealthiest franchises in baseball, are expected to bid on Pavano.

'I know that Carl and I have talked about [the Orioles],' Shapiro said. 'The Orioles are a team he thinks are building a winner. He thinks he could be a part of that. . . . The Orioles are going to be one of the teams we'll be spending a lot of time with. The Orioles are a franchise that we're
interested in exploring the possibilities.'


Pavano, from New Britain, Conn., has close ties with a couple of people in the Orioles organization. In the mid-1990s, Kenney, then a member of the Red Sox' minor league department, helped develop Pavano as a prospect.

'He was always a prospect from the day we drafted him,' Kenney said. 'Pavano, he's a big man with big legs and a strong body and a great arm.'

In 1998, Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Jim Beattie, then the Montreal Expos' general manager, traded Martinez to the Red Sox for Pavano and pitcher Tony Armas Jr.
Who is the source for this information about Burnett and Pavano? Their agents! Agents love to play the media if it means earning more money for their client. Two words: bargaining chip. The Orioles remained in the running for Pavano's services, which helped fuel and even bigger payday in ... New York.

Another example of the "having an in" theory is Leo Mazzone, who, according to conventional wisdom, was going to attract a bevy of free-agent pitchers to Charm City because they had success with him in the past.

From The Post, Oct. 19, 2005, when the O's were courting the pitching coach:
"Under Mazzone, Atlanta's pitching staff ranked either first or second in ERA in the majors each year from 1992 to 2002 and was first in 2004. Mazzone's hiring also could help Baltimore in the free agent market. Free agent pitcher Kevin Millwood, the American League's ERA leader with Cleveland, worked with Mazzone in Atlanta.

'It would probably make anyplace more attractive to a pitcher,' an agent of a prominent free agent pitcher said."
The O's got Mazzone and two of his proteges: Russ Ortiz and Jaret Wright. Conventional wisdom fails once more.

Narrative/Myth #2: We lost out on [name of free agent] because we play in the A.L. East.

After weeks of speculation and optimism, the Birds can't seal the deal. So what happened? A much-relied upon answer goes something like this: "Free agent pitchers avoid Baltimore because they don't want to hurt their numbers by pitching in the A.L. East."

This logic has applied to the Birds' free-agent failures for at least the past decade as pitchers were initially
afraid to pitch against the mighty Yankees; then they feared the Yankees and Red Sox; perhaps now we can add the Rays to the mix. Any way around, the explanation is inadequate. [Note: This thinking sometimes applies to hitters as well, but it seems to be a more popular logic relative to pitchers.]

A free-agent pitcher does have to weigh concerns about run support and the defense that will be backing him up and what those factors could mean to his overall numbers; however, it's an insult to a fan's intelligence
to continually be told that a guy was "really serious about playing in Baltimore" only to be scared off by the prospect of playing against quality competition. The theory holds less water than a broken-down mule.

Once again, current
free agent A.J.Burnett provides an easy example to counter the conventional wisdom. According to The Sun, Burnett has four of the five A.L. East teams on his short list. Apparently his experience pitching in Toronto wasn't enough to scare him away from the big, bad A.L. East.

Major League players didn't reach the peak of their profession by being timid. These guys want to play on the biggest stages the sport has to offer, and they want to cash in as they do so.

What's a guy (or gal) to believe?

These are the truths of free agency
, as I see them, relative to the Orioles:

-Most Major League teams are competing for the same small pool of elite free agents. Demand outweighs supply.

-Free agents know they're in demand, so they use teams like the Orioles as an added bargaining chip to drive up their asking price.

-The Birds aren't going to be a truly attractive destination for free agents until they end the run of losing seasons, put fans back in the seats, and get the media exposure that represents the fruit of their collective labor.

-It will continue to be an uphill climb with free agents, and we're not likely to get the top guys on our wish list very often.

-Even if we land a top-tier free-agent, it won't start a flurry of signings, much less an avalanche.

[See, for example, Miguel Tejada, 2003. The thinking was that Tejada would attract more stars to the Baltimore skyline, particularly Latin players. Tejada signed in 2003, and USA Today had the following to say:
"The Baltimore Orioles, who made the biggest news at baseball's winter meetings by signing free-agent shortstop Miguel Tejada to a $72 million contract for six years, are continuing to negotiate with three other big-name players: Outfielder Vladimir Guerrero and catchers Ivan Rodriguez and Javy Lopez.

'Given the sluggish market, general managers around baseball think the Orioles appear have a chance to get Guerrero, who hit .330 with 25 home runs for the Montreal Expos last season, and one of the catchers.'"
We all know what happened there.]

-Free agents aren't the answer ... yet. The Birds are going to have to continue building a solid foundation before free agency makes a truly discernible difference in their fortunes. In other words, free agency is best used to fix the leaks rather than to replace the plumbing.

Feel free to add you own Hot stove myths and truths in the comments section.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Offseason Odds and Ends

Mussina retires, Erin Andrews interviews Teixeira, and more

by Matthew Taylor

A roundup of interesting O's-related topics ...

-"Flashback Fridays" ended with the last pitch of the season, but a tip from Stephen Johnson allows Roar from 34 to revisit the tradition in brief.

Johnson is the creator/executive producer of "Gettysburg Eddie" and the producer of the long anticipated "Forgotten Birds." He notes that Hall of Famer Eddie Plank, a longtime Philadelphia Athletic and the subject of his latest documentary, has an O's connection: "In 1901 on May 13th, Connie Mack called for the bullpen and Eddie Plank ran to the mound. He came in to mop up a game with the Baltimore Orioles. So a future hall of famer (1946) started his pro career in Baltimore."

It's also worth noting that Plank finished his career with the St. Louis Browns, a precursor to the Birds, and therefore appears on the Baltimore Orioles' all-time roster.

-Mike Mussina has decided to call it a career. Buster Olney, who covered Mussina as an Oriole and as a Yankee, offers a nice coda on his blog. It says a lot about Mussina that even after he left the Birds for the hated Yankees, many O's fans still hold him in high regard. I'm one of them.

-Bleacher Report considers a hypothetical Ryan Theriot-for-Brian Roberts deal between the Cubs and Birds.
"Does the name 'Brandon Fahey' ring a bell? I doubt it...unless you're a fan of the Baltimore Orioles. Fahey, who will turn 28 in January, is projected to be the Orioles' starting shortstop on Opening Day 2009—which is great if you're related to Fahey.

He hit .228 in 58 games last year, including 25 strikeouts in 106 at-bats. Comparatively, Theriot struck out 58 times last year in over 500 at-bats.

So do you think an enormous upgrade at shortstop would be enticing to the Orioles?"
-Mark Teixeira did a sideline interview with Erin Andrews (poor guy) during Thursday night's ESPN game between Miami and Georgia Tech. Andrews mentioned the Red Sox and Yankees, but the O's name never came up. The circumspect Teixeira noted that (I'm paraphrasing here), "the East Coast is my home." Make of that what you will, but it seems like the "hometown" radius has grown considerably.

-I admittedly have not been following the Orioles' spring training saga. Nevertheless, it's nice to see some positive things written about the team, no matter the motivation. Doug Holder of the Florida House of Representatives has this to offer:
"This is the opportunity we have with the Baltimore Orioles organization -- one of the most successful teams in Major League Baseball history, winning the World Series three times and the American League pennant six times. But perhaps sometimes we focus too much on the aspect of the game of baseball and overlook the business side of bringing a new team to Sarasota County for spring training."
-Sad to see the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards struggling so much. If you haven't been there, it's worth a visit.
"The Maryland Board of Public Works has approved $440,000 in debt relief for the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards.

Mike Gibbbons, the museum's executive director, says the facility has been hindered by diminishing attendance at Baltimore Orioles games. Gibbons says the nearby Babe Ruth Museum also could suffer without help."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Losing Is What We've Got

With apologies to Sublime, losing is what we've got ... for now

by Matthew Taylor

Obviously, free agent talk is topic number one, two, and three now that we've officially entered the Hot Stove season. Sports Illustrated provides a through dousing of cold water with its assessment of what the O's have, what they need, what they're likely to do, and what they should do.
"If the Jays should look beyond 2009, the same goes doubly for the 68-win Orioles, who employed the fifth-oldest lineup in the league, one in which only Jones and Nick Markakis were on the right side of 30. For far too long the O's have been in denial about their plight, which now extends to 11 straight losing seasons. A typical winter's patchwork involves trying to get them to 75 wins, a level that the Orioles have actually reached just once in this millennium. This only forestalls a more extensive rebuilding effort; they need to face the music and clean house. Take the rotation -- please. The unit's ERA as a whole was an MLB-worst 5.51, and Jeremy Guthrie was the only member with at least a dozen starts and an ERA below 5.25; in that light perpetually maddening Daniel Cabrera starts to make sense because of his ability to eat innings. The Orioles need another arm or two to stabilize a corps of not-so-young and none-too-effective pitchers like Radhames Liz and Garret Olsen, but they shouldn't overpay for name-brand studs on long-term deals, because they're a couple of years away from a credible run at .500, let alone the division flag. Paging Odalis Perez...."
My assessment of the team's future is a tad more optimistic than this one. What, no mention of the improving farm system? Not even a word about Matt Wieters? However, the overall age of the roster is easy to forget if, like me, you focus on guys like Jones and Markakis.

Even with last year's successful off-season maneuvering, the team hasn't provided a definitive indication of how long the latest, greatest rebuilding effort will take. What happens in the coming weeks should provide a hint of the team's thinking in that regard.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The New Look Orioles

Team pulls off a successful off-season marketing effort

by Matthew Taylor

So the O's finally put Baltimore back on their road jerseys and revealed some other uniform alterations in a Wednesday afternoon press conference that was quite similar to the Ravens' uniform unveiling at the same location more than a decade ago. Perhaps the Ravens' example served the Orioles well as, for the most part, the team hit a marketing home run with this effort.

The only major downside to the Birds' marketing of their new unis was that they let word of the hat change leak out weeks in advance only to make a very minor - and unnecessary - adjustment that simply seems like an effort to pull in more merchandising bucks. Otherwise, the team handled this thing well. At noon, the official O's web site looked no different than it did all season; by 12:15, as the uniform ceremony was wrapping up, the site featured the new logo along with a link to purchase an updated jersey. Clearly, a well-coordinated effort.

Overall, the O's turned the news of their uniform change into a true off-season event, one that generated some buzz for the team and gave fans a reason to be excited soon after another losing season ended. The ceremony itself was quick and to the point, featured an appropriate tone of cautious optimism (okay, mostly cautious - Melvin Mora did announce his plans to drive in 130 runs in 2009), and gave a nod to the team's more celebrated past. And that's not even to mention that the biggest change - the addition of the Baltimore script - addressed a long-running fan demand.

If those aren't reasons enough to convince you that the team did things the right way, just consider some of the alternatives they could've gone with:

-Jim Palmer makes an appearance at the uniform unveiling and provides a true "flash"back to the team's past ... in his Jockey briefs.

-Team announces its intention to have all position players wear gold gloves in '09 to protest the snubbing of Nick Markakis.

-Eye patches instead of uniform patches.

-Jim Hunter stays at home, leaving the emceeing responsibilities in the hands of Rick Dempsey and Melvin Mora.

-Team sells advertising space on the new unis, starting with Southwest's "Wanna Get Away?" promotion.

-Terry Mathews appears and proudly announces, "Gray is slimming."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Cause Worth Supporting

O's fan advocates for ALS-Lou Gehrig day next season

by Matthew Taylor

He grew up in Queens in the '60s but rejected the Yankees to become an Orioles fan. He's even attended the Birds' fantasy camp, where he heard Dave Trembley's story of trying to get tossed from a game without cussing and choosing the term "den mother" to fill the space for expletives. But those aren't really the reasons you should appreciate Michael Goldsmith. Instead, you should appreciate Goldsmith's efforts to draw attention and funding to the fight against ALS, a disease he's been fighting since 2006.

Goldsmith, 57, wrote a "My Turn" piece for Newsweek at the beginning of the month.

"I received my death sentence in September 2006 when doctors told me I had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressively paralyzing neuromuscular disorder. There is no cure. Commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease after the Yankee Hall of Famer who died of it, ALS is so uncommon that medical researchers consider it an 'orphan' illness—so few people have it that pharmaceutical companies lack financial incentive to invest in finding a cure.

The public also pays scant attention to ALS. (May 2008 was ALS Awareness Month. Who knew?) Public attention and contributions understandably go to more widespread killers like cancer, heart disease and diabetes."

He has since been profiled in other outlets, including the New York Times. In other words, the message is starting to spread and should continue to do so.

"After playing baseball in Queens as a child, Goldsmith later picked it up in his 30s in an amateur league, against former college and minor league players, learning to switch-hit and becoming a better player than he had ever been. Early this year, he attended a fantasy camp run by his favorite team. The former Orioles Jeff Tackett and Bill Swaggerty worked with Goldsmith, pushing him onward with basic ballplayer humor: 'They never let me get maudlin,' Goldsmith said."
But there is more than just a good story to tell here. Goldsmith's trip to the O's fantasy camp has inspired him to advocate for making July 4, 2009, ALS-Lou Gehrig Day in baseball.
"At some point, we talked about what Major League Baseball could do to fight ALS, and I realized that next July 4 will mark the 70th anniversary of Lou Gehrig's famous farewell speech at Yankee Stadium. Since his retirement, more than 600,000 Americans have shared Gehrig's fate, as medical science has made virtually no progress toward finding a cure. Through the years some players and a few teams have occasionally helped raise funds, but Major League Baseball has never taken comprehensive action against ALS. Defeating ALS will require the same type of determination, dedication and drive that Gehrig and Cal Ripken demonstrated when they set superhuman records for consecutive games played. With this in mind, why not make July 4, 2009, ALS-Lou Gehrig Day? Dedicate this grim anniversary to funding research for a cure; every major- and minor-league stadium might project the video of Gehrig's farewell, and teams, players and fans could contribute to this cause. An event of this magnitude has the potential to raise millions, dwarfing the relatively scant sums that ALS walks, rides and similar small-scale efforts have produced."
As the Orioles start to do a better job of fan relations, this is one cause they'd be wise to support in any way possible. Consider this one resounding vote in favor of Goldsmith's effort. Here's hoping the Birds' game at Anaheim on July 4, 2009, is part of ALS-Lou Gehrig Day. Fans can also help the effort by contributing money and/or time directly to the ALS Association.

[Image source: The New York Times (courtesy of Michael Goldsmith). Click photo for original.]

Friday, November 07, 2008

Top Ten List

And it has nothing to do with David Letterman

by Matthew Taylor

Baseball America's list of the Top 10 Oriole prospects has garnered some attention this week, as you might expect it would for a team whose future hopes rest in the hands of prospects to develop or deal.

I'll leave the serious analysis to others who follow the farm system more closely; however, I will offer this much: it's encouraging that six of the 10 players listed are pitchers. Pitching and defense, pitching and defense, pitching and defense. You can always find a good bat on the free-agent market, but acquiring solid pitching is a considerably more risky and pricey endeavor.

One other note: Has there been a more anticipated O's prospect in recent history than Matt Wieters?

On to the list.

1. Matt Wieters, c
2. Chris Tillman, rhp
3. Brian Matusz, lhp
4. Jake Arrieta, rhp
5. Nolan Reimold, of
6. Brandon Erbe, rhp
7. Billy Rowell, 3b
8. Troy Patton, lhp
9. Brandon Snyder, 1b
10. Kam Mickolio, rhp

Some reaction to the Baseball America list:

-Seattle Times columnist Larry Stone
"Baseball America came out Wednesday with its list of the Baltimore Orioles' top 10 prospects, and it's another painful reminder of the Erik Bedard trade. No. 2 is pitcher Chris Tillman, and No. 10 is pitcher Kam Mickolio, both of whom came over from the Mariners for Bedard, along with reliever George Sherrill, who made the All-Star team last year, Adam Jones, the Orioles' starting center fielder, and pitcher Tony Butler."
And of course the localized angles (i.e. "He's one our ours") ...

-Tri-City Valley Cats
"Former Tri-City ValleyCats pitcher Troy Patton was named the Baltimore Orioles eighth best prospect according to Baseball America on Wednesday. Patton was the eighth former ValleyCat to reach the Major Leagues when he made his debut with the Houston Astros on August 25, 2007."
-Frederick Keys
"Six former Frederick Keys dotted the listing of the Baltimore Orioles top-ten prospects in Baseball America's annual listing released Wednesday afternoon. C Matt Wieters (#1), RHP Jake Arrieta (#4), OF Nolan Reimold (#5), RHP Brandon Erbe (#6), 3B Billy Rowell (#7) and 1B Brandon Snyder (#9) made the list. The Orioles most recent first round pick, and possible future Frederick Key, Brian Matusz ranked third on the list."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"Closing in on Respectability"

So says Baseball Prospectus, which also proposes a unique scenario involving Brian Roberts

by Matthew Taylor

Baseball Prospectus, via Sports Illustrated, offers up some potential "creative deals" for this off-season, including one non-trade scenario (at least in the short-term) involving Brian Roberts.
"The Orioles move Brian Roberts from second to shortstop. Roberts, playing his walk year in 2009, was Baseball America's National Defensive Player of the Year at shortstop in college. The O's didn't have a reliable shortstop in 2008, and given their farm system and the players on the market, they aren't likely to have one in '09. Roberts (right) would be better than the available options and allow Baltimore--which is closing in on respectability--to sign one of many stopgap second basemen (such as Ray Durham and Mark Grudzielanek). If successful, the move would give Roberts even more trade value, something the team needs to maximize."
What do you think of moving Roberts to short? Vote in Roar from 34's poll.

*Update: Roch Kubatko says it ain't happening. At least that's what Dave Trembley tells him.
"Brian Roberts is an All-Star caliber second baseman and premier leadoff hitter. I leave him there at second," Trembley said. "No one from our organization has ever talked about moving Brian back to short. I got questions about moving Adam Jones to short last spring, but he's our center fielder."
Of course, the article in question expressed an intriguing hypothetical. The writer never claimed that the O's had discussed the move.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Wanted: Sports Owners

I recently received an email from the folks at Project Franchise who are hoping to buy a professional sports franchise and let the fans make decisions about the team. They sent me such a nice email - going so far as to pretend that they read Roar from 34 on a regular basis - that I figured I'd give them some free publicity with all five of my readers (Note: figures reflect regular-season viewership; off-season numbers not available by design).
"ProjectFranchise is just bringing this power to the people: we're buying a more affordable minor league team, bringing on 20,000-30,000 other like-minded sports nuts to become the 'PF Team Players', actually asking for only pocket change and then letting the PF Team Players vote on decisions that a real-life elected Team Captain will execute on. We’re just going to make it more fun by having people vote on every decision big or small – so the PF Team Players will not only be able to pick a new roster, but also decide if we serve spicy or yellow mustard with our hot dogs."
Project Franchise even managed to generate some non-low-level-blog publicity in the form of a humorous New York Times column.

"Enter Joe Scura, the mind behind Project Franchise, a group with a mission to buy a sports team and let the fans vote on every decision.

Yes, every decision. Next time Fox wants to advertise its hilarious new cop-and-dog buddy flick behind home plate, it may have to poll the fans.

'Something like this has been a long time coming, but the Internet has finally made it feasible,' Scura said. 'Fans are more than just piggy banks/hot dog receptacles.'

For $5, fans can buy a vote and act as the collective general manager, deciding on everything from personnel to team colors. That could have helped the Tampa Bay Devil Rays when they decided that pastels belonged in a logo. The Rays have since rebranded in dark green and dropped the devil from their name. Word has it the devil himself no longer wanted to be associated with the team.

This isn’t merely some 'leave Britney alone' Internet lark. The leadership of Project Franchise consists of lawyers, Web gurus and business school graduates who probably have more sports skill than, say, a shipbuilder."

Perhaps Project Franchise involvement is worth considering. It's certainly a fun idea. Nevertheless, I'd rather put my money toward helping a Ripken-led ownership team buy the Birds (not that they'd need my $5).

Friday, October 31, 2008

MASN in North Carolina, Sammy in the Dominican Republic

by Matthew Taylor

Two recent items of interest:

-First, the MASN dispute continues in North Carolina, a designated "home territory" for the Birds and Nats. Lots of interesting angles here for anyone interested in the business side of baseball and the economic realities facing the Orioles as they compete in a division with two teams that have the most successful regional sports networks (RSNs).

"In part because Major League Baseball has designated the Orioles and Nationals as the home teams, for the purposes of TV, in the Triangle and Eastern North Carolina, Desai rejected Time Warner's argument. The O's and Nationals also are considered two of four home teams -- along with the Atlanta Braves and the Cincinnati Reds -- in the central region, which includes Charlotte, Greensboro and Winston-Salem.

'We also find unconvincing TWC's evidence purporting to show a low demand for MASN's programming among North Carolina residents,'Desai wrote. 'Although disputed by the parties, the Orioles appear to have a longstanding fan base in North Carolina. ...'

As a recent transplant to North Carolina, I'd like to think that "longstanding fan base" in the Tar Heel state will grow. If the Democrats can turn North Carolina blue during election season, why can't the Birds turn North Carolina Orange and Black during baseball season?

One factor that isn't discussed in the article is the possibility that the Triangle area of North Carolina could become home turf for the Rays. The team's Triple-A affiliate, the Durham Bulls, is located in the Triangle and is pushing hard to produce new Rays fans. As an example, the Bulls offered discounts at a local bar during playoff games for fans wearing either Durham or Tampa Bay gear.

Minus - or maybe even with - a strong MASN presence in North Carolina, Triangle-area baseball fans will have an easier time connecting to the Rays than the Birds. Consider that the great majority of players on the Rays' World Series roster cycled through Durham on their way to the Big Leagues. Oh, and then there's that whole winning thing as well.

Some past Roar from 34 postings on the MASN issue: In Praise of Peter Angelos?; Dempsey in Durham.

-Next, Sammy Sosa has been named the Dominican Republic's ambassador of foreign investment. There's a joke in there somewhere, probably even more than one.
"The president of the Dominican Republic has appointed Sammy Sosa the country’s ambassador of foreign investment. Sosa, 39, who has said he plans to announce his retirement from baseball soon, will be responsible for attracting U. S. investors to the Caribbean country for project development. 'I am very proud of this designation,' Sosa said. 'I hope to contribute greatly.' Sosa has 609 home runs and 1, 667 RBI in his career with the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers. He last played in the major leagues in 2007 with the Rangers, when he hit. 252, with 21 home runs and 92 RBI."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Off-Season Intrigue ... Sort-Of

For this Birds fan, uniform changes and managerial pontifications qualify as intrigue

by Matthew Taylor

Off-seasons? They are no off-seasons in baseball. Well, actually there are, but The Sun is giving O's fans some interesting things to think about these days. Some required off-season reading comes in the form of Dan Connolly's column "O's should follow Series' leaders" and Peter Schmuck's scoop on the unveiling of the new Baltimore road jerseys ... and new Bird logo?

A quote from Connolly's column:
"If Trembley isn't the right man for this Orioles team, then get a new team, or most of a new one anyway. Find one that he can teach fundamentals to, one that will appreciate his honesty and his dedication. Find one that mirrors his strengths.

That's what Tampa Bay and Philadelphia did."
Amen, Brother Connolly.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Infamous Fans with O's Connections

by Matthew Taylor

The Sporting Blog has ranked Sports Most (In)Famous Fans, and the list includes two O's connections:

Jeffrey Maier
"It’s one thing to lean over and catch a foul ball that costs your team a precious playoff out. It’s another thing altogether to lean over the fence and turn a probable out for your team into a playoff game-tying home run. Especially if you’re a 12-year-old whippersnapper out late on a school night. Maier’s grab gave Derek Jeter a round-tripper that tied game one of the ’96 ALCS. The Yanks went on to win the game, and then the series, and then the World Series, inaugurating the Torre era of dominance. Orioles fans still say Maier’s grab unfairly altered history. Bronx fans say, yeah, but whaddya gonna do?"
And Morganna the Kissing Bandit.
"Mmm ... Morganna. For a boy who reached the height of puberty during the height of her fame, let me tell you that the impossibly buxom Kissing Bandit was a subject of some considerable fascination. Her first conquest was Pete Rose, and she went on to kiss some of the best of the era in baseball: George Brett, Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken, Johnny Bench and Steve Garvey among them. Sadly, she’s been in retirement since 1999. How I’d love to see her back in action. Nobody did it better. (Below, she ambushes Charles Barkley.)"
Roar from 34 detailed Morganna's Cal Ripken kiss in last week's "Flashback Friday."

Crawford Shows Shades of Paul Blair

by Matthew Taylor

Carl Crawford's five hits in Tuesday night's ALCS Game 4 - including two doubles and a triple - matched the effort of former Oriole Paul Blair,
according to ESPN.
"Crawford joined Paul Blair of the 1969 Baltimore Orioles and Hideki Matsui of the 2004 Yankees as the third player to amass five hits in a League Championship Series game, and Aybar chased Wakefield from the game with a gargantuan homer onto Lansdowne Street in the third."
Blair trailed only Brooks Robinson (.500 average) in batting for the O's during the 1969 ALCS, hitting .400 with a .471 on-base percentage and a .733 slugging percentage. Blair's five-hit day came in the Game 3 ALCS clincher against the Twins that the O's won 11-2. He finished the day 5-for-6 with a home run, two doubles, and five RBIs.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Flashback Friday: Looking up at the Division

Despite all the recent losing, the Birds hadn't finished in last place in 20 years

by Matthew Taylor

With the sudden ascendancy of the Tampa Bay Rays, the O's finished the 2008 season in last place in the American League East. This week's Flashback Friday recalls the last time that the Birds found themselves looking up at all of the other teams in the A.L. East - 1988. That's right, the Orioles marked the 20th anniversary of the worst season in Baltimore team history by finishing in last place for the first time since then.

The O's, fifth out of five teams in the 2008 A.L. East, have finished fifth since 1988. It happened in 1990 under the direction of former Oriole great Frank Robinson; however, there were seven teams in the division at the time. Milwaukee and the Yankees finished behind the O's.

The O's have even finished in sixth place since 1988. It happened in 1991 under the direction of Frank Robinson and Johnny Oates. Again there were seven teams in the A.L. East at the time, and only Cleveland finished behind the Birds. (The Yankees still weren't very good. They finished 20 games out, just four games ahead of the O's.)

However, only once in 20 years dating to this season had the Orioles finished behind all of their competition. The infamous '88 Birds lost 21 straight games to open the season, fired Cal Ripken Sr. after only six games, and finished the year with a post-St. Louis Browns franchise-worse 107 losses.

[Note: The list of most losses overall in franchise history includes the 1910 and 1911 Browns (107 losses), the 1937 Browns (109 losses), and the 1939 Browns (111 losses ... in only 154 games played).]

On a positive note, the 1988 season also featured "Fantastic Fan Night," where 50,402 fans - including Morganna, the Kissing Bandit - showed up at Memorial Stadium on May 2 to welcome home their 1-23 team.

Here's what The Washington Post had to say on May 3, 1988 ...

They were the true believers. Forget the record-setting losses. Forget the doubters and curiosity seekers who drew perverse satisfaction from the Baltimore Orioles' poor performance.

Tonight, the Orioles saluted their loyal fans with a 9-4 victory over the Texas Rangers here at Memorial Stadium.

The team's diehard followers, who turned out for a homecoming billed as "Fantastic Fan Night," shouted, yelled, cheered, stomped, performed the wave and found still more ways to invoke the return of luck to their team.

When the shouting was over, the Orioles had their second win in 25 decisions since the season started April 4.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

At Camden Yards They Used to Call Them Cell Phone Fans

by Matthew Taylor

A very interesting, timely story from Sports Illustrated, "The changing face of the sports fan," relates the rise of bandwagon fans at Fenway with a construction boon facilitated by the opening of Camden Yards.

If you've recently heard a native Bostonian lament "Fenway isn't Fenway anymore," you're not alone. Though the charming 96-year-old edifice has survived amid rumors of a Yankee Stadium-type reconstruction (and yes, the prospective blueprint, abandoned in 2005, included twice as many luxury boxes), the atmosphere nowadays still seems palpably different from a decade ago. Less authentic, even.

At Fenway -- as elsewhere around the country -- surging ticket prices and the team's success have seemingly drained institutional memory, bringing in wealthier fair-weather fans and ushering out the diehards. The addition of Green Monster seats in 2005 was an endearing gesture, to be sure, but it also created some of the priciest tickets in the house. That's no accident: Ever since Baltimore's Camden Yards ignited the stadium-building revolution in 1992, the architectural designs of arenas have precisely targeted a demographic that wears pinstripes -- and not the ones on a replica jersey.

The Sun has tackled this specific topic before: "The influx of those Washington-area fans, though, has contributed to the perception that Camden Yards ushered in the era of the cell phone-toting, three-piece-suited "fan" who goes to the park because it's the place to go."

The full SI story, which deals with the overall economics of sports, is worth reading beyond the O's connection.

Baseball Cards, Bandwagon Fans, and Hot Stove Rumors

Just another trip around the blogO'sphere

by Matthew Taylor

Billy Ripken and Sammy Sosa? Must be another baseball card list. This one - the 15 funniest baseball cards ever - comes courtesy of The Max.

Other interesting blog posts:

-Konerko to the Orioles? Eli's MLB Rumors thinks its possible.

-Baseball Prospects looks at the O's Top 10 (minus three) prospects for 2009.

-More forward-looking O's discussion at Rounding the Bases With TheMarkSmith.

-Camden Chat identifies some O's in the post-season, including a couple that Roar from 34 left out.

-The Mets Are Better Than Sex considers the O's a good trade partner.

-Connolly's Corner Sports Bar re-opens the Mussina talk with a twist: Is he worth a multi-year deal? Something tells me Wayward O has a strong opinion on this one.

-Speaking of Wayward O, he correctly predicted two of the four LCS teams. (Editor's Note: Make that three. I read the post too quickly and looked at the wrong list. Thanks for the correction, Wayward O.) However, his overall winner, Boston, is still in the mix. Meanwhile, The Loss Column's Neal Shaffer got one of four and had the Angels winning it all. How many predictions did Roar from 34 get correct? Umm ... zero. Clearly, it's just easier to evaluate other people's picks after the fact.

-Anthony Amobi wisely wants Markakis under contract now.

-The Diatribe
wouldn't mind having Brian Roberts in an Indians uniform but doesn't see a deal happening. (There's a recent precedent for an O's second baseman going to the Indians, albeit by free agency: see - Alomar, Roberto.)

-Evan of The Parker Family left the O's fold to join the Red Sox bandwagon, but he's proud to have done it before many others - in 2003. There's loyalty for you.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Flashback Friday: Meet Me in St. Louis

Remembering the first World Series appearance in O's franchise history

by Matthew Taylor

It's fitting that the Judy Garland musical "
Meet Me in St. Louis" was made in 1944 because in October of that year the two best teams in baseball did just that. The St. Louis Browns faced off with the St. Louis Cardinals in the last World Series to date to be played entirely in one stadium - Sportsman's Park.

This week's Flashback Friday revisits the first appearance in modern baseball history by a team associated with the Orioles' franchise, the
1944 World Series in St. Louis. The Gateway Arch wouldn't be designed for three more years, the Browns' Pete Gray - who played with only one arm - had yet to make it to the majors, many of professional baseball's best players were off at war, and the clean-up spot in the Cardinals' and the Browns' lineup was anchored by a catcher (Walker Cooper) and a shortstop (Vern Stephens), respectively.

The Cardinals defeated the Browns in the '44 World Series, four games to two, after first falling into a two-games-to-one hole. Only three home runs were hit in the series, two by the Cardinals (
Stan Musial and Danny Litwhiler) and one by the Browns (George McQuinn). Denny Galehouse pitched two complete games for the Browns - striking out 15, walking 5, giving up 13 hits and 3 runs - but picked up only one win. He lost Game 5 to Morton Cecil Cooper, who tossed a complete game shutout with 12 K's against only two walks. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Oct. 10, 1944, tells the story:
"Superior hitting, pitching and defense by marvelous Marty Marion swept the St. Louis Cardinals, eight times champions of the National League, into their fifth World Series title.

This was convincingly shown today in the statistics of the six-game series as the 1944 baseball classic passed into history, leaving half of St. Louis happy, the other half sad."
Somehow I think the nickname "Marvelous" went better with Marty Marion than it ever would with former Oriole Marty Cordova. Then again, Marion batted only .227 in the 1944 World Series with two more hits (5) than strikeouts (3).

It's all part of the Orioles' story as at least one professional sports team formerly known as the Browns has a history that belongs to Baltimore.

[Image source: Click photo for original.]