Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Around the Horn: The O's Are Smoking, Have Been For a Long Time

What do Earl Weaver, George Lopez, and Tike Redman have in common? They're all in this post.

by Matthew Taylor

"I remember one guy came in with jeans and a Baltimore Orioles jersey. He was an African-American and he was playing Double-A. I'd never seen a professional jersey. He came and said we should stay in school and be true to ourselves and dream we could be anything we wanted to be. I've never forgotten that somebody did that."

The Birds ended the Rays’ six-game win streak on Tuesday night, beating Tampa Bay 7-4, which was a fine way to mark the anniversary of the O's ending their record-setting 21-game losing streak in 1988.

(Be forewarned if you click on the "winning 7-4" link : The Sun has gotten out of control with its pop-up-over-and-around ads, which manage to elude even the trustiest pop-up blocker.)

Camden Chat notes that Wednesday's O's game offers the Birds an unexpected opportunity to perch at the top of the division after a month of baseball.

"If the Birds win tonight and Boston loses, then we'll have finished April in sole possession of first place in the AL East. For a team that was supposed to lose 95-100 games, that's pretty good. And it's been a lot of fun to watch this team play hard and win some ballgames."

Oriole Post drums up some business for Luke Scott’s visit to the ESPN Zone on Wednesday and rightly mentions that “Luke Scott has become a fan favorite amongst hardcore fans of the Orioles.” I'll say. A female friend who follows the Birds is happy that she shares Luke’s last name because she hopes to marry him.

From the unexpected file, I'm mentioning Tike Redman in the same sentence as Brooks Robinson. Their common bond is the York White Roses/Revolution. The York Daily News offers the scoop on the minor league team's extensive history.

"June 3, 1955: Second baseman Brooks Robinson made his professional baseball debut for the York White Roses in front of 939 fans at Memorial Stadium. Robinson went 0-for-1.

Aug. 9, 2007: Tike Redman reaches the major leagues with the Baltimore Orioles after starting the season with York. He is the only player who started the season in the Atlantic League to reach the majors in 2007. He finishes the season batting .318 in 40 games for the Orioles."

There’s no smoking in baseball! Or is there? Paul Lukas singles out O’s managers, from Weaver to Mazzilli, in his piece about sports-related smoking. Be sure to check out the picture of Earl’s jersey.

"Managers/Coaches: Bobby Cox is hardly the only smoking skipper out there. The undisputed champions in this category are the Baltimore Orioles, who for years have taken the extraordinary step of equipping their managers with a custom-tailored inner jersey pocket for stashing a pack of smokes. The most famous of these smokers was Earl Weaver (who nicknamed erratic 1970s closer Don Stanhouse "Full Pack" because that's how many cigs Weaver supposedly went through during one of Stanhouse's tight-wire appearances) -- you can see the secret compartment sewn into one of his jerseys here, and his not-so-hidden cigarette pack is clearly visible in this shot. Cal Ripken Sr.'s jerseys were similarly accessorized (which, unfortunately, might help explain why he died of lung cancer at the age of 63), and a game-worn Lee Mazzilli jersey that recently showed up for sale on eBay shows that Baltimore managers were still pulling the hidden Pall Mall trick just a few years ago. It's not clear whether current O's skipper Dave Trembley also has the inner pocket but, if so, he's part of a very long tradition: According to the next-to-last paragraph on this page, the practice might have originated with Jimmy Dykes, who managed the O's way back in 1954."

George Lopez was once inspired by an Orioles minor leaguer.

"I remember one guy came in with jeans and a Baltimore Orioles jersey. He was an African-American and he was playing Double-A. I'd never seen a professional jersey. He came and said we should stay in school and be true to ourselves and dream we could be anything we wanted to be. I've never forgotten that somebody did that."

The O’s have a connection to the “Amherst baseball network.” In fact, the Birds got it all started.

"The Amherst baseball network began when Harry Dalton ’50 joined the Baltimore Orioles organization in 1954. Dalton in turn offered Dan Duquette ’80 his first job in baseball, and Duquette subsequently hired Huntington as an intern right out of college. “The network perpetuates itself,” said Duquette, who served as the General Manager of both the Montreal Expos and the Boston Red Sox, among other positions in Major League Baseball. As a direct result of the work Head Coach Bill Thurston has done, “Amherst is well-respected in the baseball world.”"

[George Lopez image source:; link provided by clicking on picture]

Monday, April 28, 2008

One Burning Question Has Been Answered!

Trembley had strong words for the Seattle fans who took the field last week

by Matthew Taylor

"I wish I could have taken them in the back room myself. I would have beaten the snot out of both of them.''

I shared my curiosity on Friday about what Dave Trembley said to the fans who ran onto the field during the O's thrilling 8-7 win over the Mariners at Safeco the night before. Trembley was clearly agitated when MASN showed the "perp walk" past the O's dugout. Sports Illustrated has provided a sense of the manager's comments, if not an outright answer.

"It's embarrassing to baseball,'' Trembley said Friday night before a game against the White Sox. "I wasn't happy because I'm a big proponent of respect. I think that's the epitome of disrespect, when two idiots run onto the field like that.

"They came up from behind two of my players. ... I wish I could have taken them in the back room myself. I would have beaten the snot out of both of them.''

More reason to love Dave Trembley.

Free Agent Follies are the Norm When Acquiring Pitchers

MacPhail is right to want to pluck bats, rather than arms, off the market

by Matthew Taylor

Dan Connolly observed in The Sun this past weekend that AndyMacPhail prefers to build pitching from within rather than go the free agency route. It's a refreshing read. This is unquestionably the direction the Birds must take.
When Orioles club president Andy MacPhail dealt two of his stars this offseason for 10 players, there were rumblings that he should have netted more hitters.

Of the bounty he received for Miguel Tejada ( Houston Astros) and Erik Bedard (Seattle Mariners), seven were pitchers. Of the Orioles' top 20 prospects as ranked by Baseball America, 13 are pitchers.

MacPhail's philosophy is to collect as many good pitchers as possible, building a staff primarily through the farm system and eventually supplementing any offensive holes through free agency.
I learned early on - largely from listening to my grandfather bemoan the state of the Orioles' pitching staff whenever we asked him, "How 'bout dem O's?" - that it starts with pitching. My grandfather saw the likes of the 20-game gang - Palmer, McNally, Cuellar and Dobson - so it must've been particularly painful to watch any O's pitching staff after that. It wasn't until recent years, however, that I really came to appreciate how futile it is to attempt to build a staff from outside the organization. (Perhaps I'll one day tell my grandkids, "We need pitching, but it should come from the farm!")

Consider the O's last winning run - in '96 and '97 - when the likes of Jimmy Key, Scott Erickson, David Wells, and Scott Kamieniecki took the hill for the Birds. The Birds had a nice short-term fix, but there was little organizational strength to plug the holes that quickly developed in the starting rotation. Doug Drabek (remember him in Orange and Black?) and Juan Guzman certainly weren't the answer from the outside, and Rocky Coppinger, Jason Johnson, and Sir Sidney couldn't patch the slow leak that later sunk the ship. Mike Mussina was the home-grown thoroughbred, which is why, at least for me, he'll always be remembered favorably despite signing with the hated Yankees.

Consider also some of the big bucks, free-agent arms the O's have tried for since '96 and '97 - Kevin Millwood, Carl Pavano, A.J. Burnett etc. - and it's clear why acquiring pricey pitching is a risky proposition. The Birds will need to spend the bucks on a front line starter at some point, but only after they've solidified the foundation to support such an acquisition.

There are signs that the O's are making the right moves when it comes to creative acquisition of pitching. Randor Bierd, Jeremy Guthrie, and - as Dempsey's Army pointed out in a comment on Roar from 34 - Brian Burres are all potential examples. Rule 5, the waiver wire, and trades are all good sources for the young arms the team needs.

Here's hoping The MacPhail Way continues to have shades of The Oriole Way.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Somebody Must've Put Something in Their Starbucks

Buzzing about the win; Do we really have to wait until August to play Seattle again?

by Matthew Taylor

O’s 8 – Mariners 7

The O’s are fun to watch again, and for this franchise that really means something. In recent years a 5-0 deficit would’ve been enough for me to tune out and save myself the aggravation. Something told me this one could be different. And it was.

Some thoughts on last night’s enjoyable victory.

-How do they eat their words in Seattle? My guess is that they toss them over a counter first. Perhaps we should ask Mariners blogger Rally Fried, who noted the following at the outset of season: “The schedule-making gods sure smiled on the Mariners this season. First the Rangers, then the Orioles, followed by the Rays. How long will it be until the M’s start facing some real baseball teams?”

Head-to-head wins: Orioles 6 – Mariners 1.

-Perhaps I’m just oversensitive after last season, but for me the O’s early season success is a direct function of the bullpen. As The Sun notes in its game story (linked above), “They improved to 7-1 in one-run games after going 13-31 in such games last season.” That stat speaks for itself.

-Speaking of the bullpen, Roar from 34 favorite Randor Bierd put up another solid night for the Birds: 2 Innings, 1 hit, O runs. However, I (jokingly) think Dave Trembley’s expectations are getting to be a bit much. I know the guy hasn’t given up any runs this season, but is it fair to pull him as soon as he gives up a hit?

-G-“O” Down Fighting

Roar from 34's chosen narrative for the overall 2008 O's season gets a bit more fuel with the Birds' ninth come-from-behind victory. Of course if the O's keep winning there may not be any “down” in the “G-'O' Down.” No matter, it's all about the team's fighting spirit.

Trembley: “I made a couple of trips to the mound and the guys said, 'Hey, let's get some outs here because we are going to come back and score.'”

Roberts: “I mean, I know it's early. But we were down 5-0, and it was kind of like, ho-hum. It's not like we knew we were going to win or anything, but there was no panic at all.”

More Roberts: “It's a fun team to be a part of right now because we play all 27 outs. If you beat us, we tip our hats, but we're not going to quit, we're not going to die. I think some of our young guys are gaining confidence by the second and some of the older guys are coming up with big hits. It's a lot of fun to be a part of.”

Gary Thorne also believes in the O's fighting spirit, noting optimistically throughout the game that the O's were on the doorstep of a comeback.

-I cursed Jamie Walker as much as the next guy after he blew the O's first lead of the game, but it's hard to not appreciate his honesty afterward.

“That pitch should have been hit out,” said Walker, who has given up game-tying homers in three of his last six outings. “[Heck], my son could of hit that ball out. If we had lost, I'd have probably chewed my arm off. But that said, we won the game and that's all I give a [damn] about.”

A proposal: The next time that Walker allows a game-tying homer he actually does have to chew his arm off. Can I get a ruling from the kangaroo court?

-Despite his perfect conversation rate on saves, George Sherill makes me nervous. With that in mind, it's hard to overstate the importance of the ninth inning, 4-6-3 double play the Birds turned against Ichiro. And they did so almost on cue after Jim Palmer noted how unlikely such an occurrence would be.

-Burning question after last night's game (believe it or not, it doesn’t deal with Adam Loewen): Just what did Dave Trembley say to the fan who ran on to the field in the ninth inning? Trembley clearly had some words for the guy, who security paraded past the O's dugout.

-Burning question No. 2 after last night's game (again, no mention of Loewen): Should the Birds break up the team at the trade deadline if they have a shot at ending the run of losing seasons? Roar from 34's answer: Still a yes.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Around the Horn: Scott Erickson the filmmaker, the Wild Card O's

From the Netherlands to Cumberland, a sampling of things interesting, enlightening, and downright curious

by Matthew Taylor

Sometimes the most interesting info has little to do with the game itself. Scott Erickson is making films with the Fonz and Dante' Maddox (who?) is anticipating a Birds - Yankees showdown in the AL East. Put down the pine tar and join Roar from 34 for some "Base Hits."

-Does anyone in Baltimore really feel bad for Texas after the Rangers gave up 11 runs in an inning on Wednesday against the Tigers? Even the Birds didn’t have an inning that bad when they lost to Texas last season. Need I mention the score of that one?

-WillieBill is blogging about the Birds. The catch? He’s from the Netherlands. If Free Online Translator is to be believed, his blog description reads something like this: “Ok√©, here will I the Orioles keep up as from the day that the pitchers and catchers report to Springtraining. Perhaps are it the one day a photograph, kleinstukje, sometimes soundbite or rumour. I see, however.”

-I hope he knows his baseball as well as he knows his comics. Dante’ Maddox has picked the O’s to compete with the Yankees for the division. And from the sounds of it, he’s got us as the Wild Card.

The Red Sox collapse - Big Poppies April has flat out sucked, and the Yankees will need a few more months of that if they want to win the AL East. This will be a horse race with a Baltimore Orioles team that will be in the hunt all year. The Yankees should be the most consistent team in the field and should win a wild finish. The wild card will also come out of the AL East.

-Can Daniel Cabrera and Hideki Matsui teach the Washington crowd a thing or two about playing nice? This op-ed writer thinks so.

Daniel Cabrera, the towering Baltimore Orioles starter, plunked Yankee left fielder Hideki Matsui twice Friday night. The second hit smelled bad. Matsui grimaced in pain both times, but by the time he got to first base he chatted amiably with the voluble Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar.

The presidential hopefuls could learn something from Matsui's grace under fire.

-Scott Ericks
on and his wife will be hawkin’ (or should I say, “JetHawkin’) a feature film at a Single-A game. The loveBirds produced the flick A Plumm Summer,” which stars Henry Winkler (yup, the Fonz) as “Happy Herb.” Who’s in for a viewing party? Just contact group sales at, I kid you not,

The Lancaster JetHawks, Class A Affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, will welcome 17-year Major League veteran Scott Erickson and actress/reporter Lisa Guerrero to its Sunday, April 27 game at Clear Channel Stadium. The husband and wife pair will meet fans and sign autographs during pre-game, as well as discuss their upcoming feature film “A Plumm Summer”.

-Kud-O’s to Aubrey Huff and Kevin Millar for their attendance at the Howard County Special Olympics Inspiration Walk on Saturday.

That was quite the crowd that came out on a beautiful day this last Saturday morning for the Howard County Special Olympics Inspiration Walk. County Executive Kenneth Ulman, state Sen. James Robey and state Del. Guy Guzzone were on hand along with Baltimore Orioles players Aubrey Huff and Kevin Millar. Since the Inspiration Walk began six years ago, it has earned upwards of $325,000 for Special Olympics.

-In light of John Smoltz’s recent accomplishment, USA Today lists Orioles great Jim Palmer among its five greatest pitchers never to strike out 3,000 batters.

4. Jim Palmer, Baltimore Orioles: Had 2, 212 strikeouts. From 1970-78 won 20 games seven times. Had a lifetime earned run average of 2.86. Won 268 games. An odd statistical fact: In 19 years never gave up a grand slam. He was 8-3 in the post season.

-Racist taunts? You stay classy, Boston.

Hunter told the Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Calif., that until the last couple of years, he regularly heard racist taunts when visiting Fenway as a member of the Minnesota Twins.

“I’ve been called whatever they call me - a lot - since I was a kid,” Hunter told the newspaper. “My first five or six (years), I was ‘That N-word.’ Some people would chant that out, some people would throw beer or whatever . . . batteries.”

-Speaking of Boston, can we start calling Camden Yards a "Green Monster"? (As if Red Sox fans need another reason to feel comfortable here.)

In Maryland, officials are eyeing Oriole Park at Camden Yards among hundreds of state-owned buildings with so-called green strategies that could yield $10 million annually in energy savings.

The energy efficiency fixes, such as automatic-flush toilets, motion-sensing lighting systems, efficient heating and cooling systems, window sealants and compact fluorescent light bulb replacements, would eliminate an estimated 545 million pounds of carbon emissions each year -- the equivalent of removing 45,000 cars from the region's roads.

-Who is this Bill Pemstein you speak of? The former O’s employee, who must still follow the team given his comment on Roch Kubatko’s blog, is now a sportswriter in the Midwest.

The first account executive in Baltimore Orioles history has now settled (17 years) into his chosen role as a sportswriter in the Midwest. His specialties include golf, baseball, softball, volleyball, basketball and football. He’s especially proud of the Pioneer Press Foursome Golf Tournament that he began in 1998.

-If you’re not reading Mike Burke - he of the exclusive Perlozzo interview shortly after Sam got fired last season - you should be.

As we know, Leo Mazzone loves to talk (and we love to listen). Last Saturday the former Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles pitching coach hit the mother lode, actually getting paid real American dollars to talk about a baseball game he was watching as he made his debut as an analyst for MLB on Fox, calling the Indians-Twins game with play-by-play announcer Matt Vasgersian.

As expected, things went well and Fox called Leo this week with his second assignment: May 31, Braves at Reds. Hopefully, the Dodgers at Mets game, which Fox is also scheduled to carry, will be rained out that day and area viewers can catch Leo's work.

Naturally, we feel Leo belongs back in the dugout very soon, but until that happens, this gig with Fox would appear to be a perfect fit for him. Who knows? There might be an egg salad sandwich in his future as well.

Nah. It would probably be pasta.

-Stairways for the Stars – a Frederick business owner touts his O’s connections, among others.

Eric Glass, co-owner with wife, Audrey, of The Taney Corp. said he has enjoyed interacting with Cal Ripken Jr., Wayne Newton, Mario Andretti and the late Edward Bennett Williams, former owner of the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Orioles.

Glass's Allendale Lane showroom is filled with sample stairs and stair accessories for potential customers to examine.

Twenty-five years ago, he built a sample for Ripken to review, but a staffer said Ripken couldn't visit the plant because he wouldn't be able to make up his mind, Glass said.

Glass took the sample and visited Ripken's Greenspring Valley home in Baltimore County.

Ripken ended up buying two circular stairs for Glass to install.

At one time, Glass also owned an airline charter business at Philadelphia Northeast Airport. He also owned an airplane.

In 1982, Edward Bennett Williams was sitting with Glass at the airport listening to an Orioles game.

"Mr. Williams wanted to buy my airplane. He said that if the Orioles won, he would buy my plane; if they lost, he wouldn't," Glass said.

"I don't know if he was kidding or not, but he bought the plane."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Business of Baseball: Comparing the New Stadiums

Is there such a thing as the "New Ballpark Bump"?

by Matthew Taylor

Sixteen teams have opened new ballparks since the Orioles indirectly facilitated a stadium renaissance with Camden Yards' debut in 1992. Much is written about baseball's attendance figures. However, the relative success of teams with new ballparks at attracting fans is less explored. And this has occurred despite an abundance of examples from which to choose.

We've read about the O's declining attendance numbers, the effect of D.C. baseball on the Baltimore market, the annual Camden Yards takeovers when either of the Evil Empires is in town, and - to some degree - Major League Baseball's fleecing of Big League cities for public money (see, for example, S.L. Price's Sports Illustrated column on Nationals Park, where he notes, "At a time when the civic burden for stadium construction was usually between 60% and 70%, D.C. agreed to pick up a whopping 97% of the tab.") But what can be learned by taking a step back and looking at the ballpark construction craze through a wider lens?

The topic invites many intriguing questions. What does a new stadium do for a team's attendance numbers? There's the Colbert Bump, but is there such a thing as a "New Ballpark Bump"? If so, how long does it last? Are sellouts the norm when the gates first open in baseball's newest cathedrals? How long does it take before the novelty wears off? Does a team's recent history of wins and losses and/or its current performance factor into the equation?

These and other related questions are relevant to baseball fans nationwide. However, they should be of particular interest to game watchers in the Mid-Atlantic region where baseball's two Major League franchises, the Orioles and the Nationals, serve as the current bookends of the building boon. We have the O's attendance figures from 1992; the Nationals figures are marked "in progress." Nevertheless, it's not too early to look at the numbers for these two teams and the fifteen other franchises that have built stadiums in between them to see what patterns emerge.

To start the conversation, Roar from 34 examined the attendance figures from all 17 teams that have introduced new ballparks since 1992. The focus of this initial exercise was simply to see how well each team attracted fans through its first seven home games (the Nats have played seven contests at home heading into Wednesday's game, thereby providing the benchmark for this comparison.) While factors like stadium size, wins and losses, and the respective climates of the cities examined can affect how many fans visit the park, the early season numbers offer a starting point for a continued discussion of the New Ballpark Bump.


Below is a rundown of the early season numbers for each team that has opened a new stadium since 1992. Teams are listed in descending order by average attendance. The year the team's new stadium opened is listed in parentheses, followed by the team's average attendance through the first seven home games of that season (not the current season, except for the Nationals). Commentary is offered for each of the four groupings.

Group 1: The Top Four

Diamondbacks (1998): 45,964

Orioles (1992): 44,219

Mariners (July 1999): 44,005

Giants (2000): 40,930

Comment: Our beloved Birds fair very well in this comparison. Here's hoping the team can bring the locals back to Camden Yards with some winning seasons. The Diamondbacks, a new franchise when their park opened in 1998, drew the highest seven-game average to the largest of the new ballparks (49,033). Perhaps the charm has worn off a bit in the interim considering the team couldn't sell all of its playoff tickets last season. The Mariners are the only team among those examined to open a new stadium in the middle of the season, which presumably made it easier to draw fans (better weather, school's out, etc.). The Giants deserve the most credit for two reasons: 1. They were the only team to sell out each of its first seven games. (If you've been to that beautiful ballpark, where sitting in the upper deck is a treat given the view of the Bay, you know why.) 2. The stadium formerly known as Pac Bell is the first privately funded effort since Dodger Stadium opened in 1962.

Group 2: Five Through Eight

Cardinals (2006): 40,843

Phillies (2004): 39,430

Astros (2000): 39,149

Padres (2004): 38,805

Comment: Commonly known as the best baseball town in America, St. Louis perches at the top of the second tier. Busch Stadium is the second-youngest ballpark among the crop of newbies. The rival Astros, with a quirky, considerably less traditional park, fall slightly behind the Cards in more than just the NL Central standings.

Group Three: Nine through Twelve

Rangers (1994): 38,697

Braves (1997): 37,453

Rockies (1995): 36,300

Indians (1994): 34,551

Comment: You could make a case for weather being a factor in the comparatively small early season gates for Colorado and Cleveland. That doesn't explain the Braves, who seem to suffer a bit from their own regular season success and post-season flame outs when it comes to drawing crowds. If you can't sell out during the playoffs, chances are you're not going to do so during the regular season.

Group Four: The Rest

Brewers (2001): 32,135

Pirates (2001): 30,044

Nationals (2008): 29,269

Reds (2003): 28,719

Tigers (2000): 25,526

Comment: Ask a college student about Natty Light and he or she thinks about beer. Ask a baseball fan about Natty Light and he or she may well think about the Nationals' attendance figures. The official numbers show that the Nats didn't fill each of the new stadium's 41,000+ seats on Opening Day, and it hasn't gotten any better since then. However, success can quickly change a team's attendance fortunes. Just ask the Tigers, who bottomed out on this list but have since recovered. While PNC Park is sometimes dubbed baseball's best ballpark (beg to differ - see numbers two and three on the linked list), Pittsburgh fans haven't exactly flocked to the stadium. As the numbers show, it's been that way almost from the get-go. It might have something to do with the losing (see, for example: Camden Yards, 2008).

Friday, April 18, 2008

Good News for Joba and His Dad

by Matthew Taylor

Looks like good news for Joba Chamberlain and his dad right as the Yankees get to town.
"After several difficult days, my father is feeling much better," Chamberlain said in a statement issued by the team from Baltimore, where the Yankees were to play the Orioles Friday night. "He is still in the critical care unit of the hospital and more tests await him, but he is off the ventilator and breathing on his own. Each day he's acting more and more like himself, and he's even giving people grief -- myself included -- because the hospital doesn't carry Yankees games on television."
Here's the original Roar from 34 post detailing why O's fans should hope for the best for a player from an otherwise hated division rival.

Another Comebacker

It could only have been better if the "Sox" were Red

by Matthew Taylor

If the 2008 edition of the Birds is going to struggle overall, at least the team is going to "G-'O' Down Fighting."

Roar from 34 discussed the G-"O" Down Fighting narrative earlier this month when the hometown heroes rallied for three runs in the ninth to beat Seattle. Well, the O's were at it again last night, scoring twice in the ninth against Bobby Jenks with two outs to tie the score and then winning in extra frames, 6-5.

There is a lot of good to be said about Thursday's game, and Dave Trembley was careful in his post-game presser to emphasize "team." It's particularly encouraging that Nick Markakis and Adam Jones - two key's to the O's future - played such vital roles in the comeback.

With Aubrey Huff at third, Melvin Mora at short, and Adam Loewen and Steve Trachsel swinging bats in the indoor cage, last night's contest was starting to provide reminders of 1983's Tippy Martinez - Len Sakata special.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Luke Scott Likes Bratwurst ... And What About That Cal Rumor?

by Matthew Taylor

Gun-Totin', .500-home-batting-average-having Luke Scott appears in this week's edition of Sports Illustrated's "Pop Culture Grid." Among other tidbits, Scott shares his love of bratwurst and reminds us that real men don't lie, cheat, or steal. Judging from his five career stolen bases, I'm inclined to believe that he practices what he preaches.

In other "news," Cal's recent appearance on NPR featured some discussion of "The Night the Lights Went Out" at Camden Yards. No mention was made of the associated "Cal beats up Kevin Costner" rumor. UmpBump gives the rundown, and here's the NPR clip (discussion begins at 23:51).

Rockin' Randor

Sorry to jinx the guy, but have you noticed those zeroes behind his name?

by Matthew Taylor

Roar from 34's infatuation with Randor Bierd continues. In his longest outing of the young season Randor pitched 2 2/3 innings of shutout ball on Wednesday, walking none and striking out one. He still has yet to give up a run after 10 innings pitched. Here's hoping he doesn't get worn down by the starters' inability to go deep in games.

Typically the only relievers who generate much fan interest are the closer and potentially the set-up man if the duo is dynamic enough (think Rivera to Wetteland). But with a name like Randor, a number like 51, and a .211 split against lefties/.125 against righties, there's a lot to like about Mr. Bierd. And besides, after last season O's fans should have a much greater appreciation for any guy who can come out of the pen and retire batters. When is Randor's T-shirt Tuesday?

So one of the O's top relievers at this point (most innings, least runs allowed) is a Rule 5 pick-up, and the No. 1 starter, Jeremy Guthrie, was claimed off of waivers. If the O's ever do turn this thing around, those two pick-ups might well be termed "shrewd moves."

Bierd, who Tigers President Dave Dombrowski called the team's "41st man," was considered a "
key loss" for Detroit. And that was before the season when the injury bug had yet to hit the team's bullpen. Think they miss him now?

Guthrie was rated by Baseball America as the 11th best overall prospect entering the 2002 draft.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Don't "Blame Canada," Blame the Beer

A good-natured riot? Fighting and (sort of) streaking in Toronto

by Matthew Taylor

Here's hoping that Bird watchers at Camden Yards know what they're getting into if they decide to taunt Jays fans during this week's two-game set with Toronto. Two dollar Tuesdays - the Blue Jays' answer to "T-Shirt Tuesdays" in Baltimore - showed that our Canadian, baseball loving friends have a little fight in them. Make that "a lot of fight."

Fighting Fans jeopardizing Jays $2 Tuesdays

Paul Godfrey, the team president and chief executive officer, said yesterday that alcohol sales would be banned from the $2 sections for this season's three remaining promo nights and that, if the unruly behaviour persisted, the program could be scrapped entirely for the future.

"This is not some Saturday night bar," Godfrey said before last night's game against the Oakland Athletics.

"We were disturbed by the excess drinking, both opening day (Friday night against the Red Sox) and Tuesday.

"We want to make it perfectly clear we're not going to tolerate this. We're not going to have a few ruin it for the fans here to see a ballgame.

"If (the alcohol ban) doesn't work, $2 Tuesdays will be gone."

Jays Notebook: $2 Tuesdays beer ban in effect

Fights interrupted the game for a large portion of the upper deck stands in right-field during Tuesday’ game against Oakland. Similar violence erupted during the game against the Red Sox, which also featured two partially-clad patrons running across the field.

While nobody needed medical attention as a result of the various scraps on Tuesday, Godfrey said the team will be halting alcohol sales on the 500 level of the Rogers Centre and in the 200 level outfield seats on the $2 promotion nights.

“If it continues to cause the fans who are interested in baseball a disturbance or a lack of enjoyment in the game, then I’ll consider scrapping $2 Tuesdays,” said Godfrey. “It’s unfortunate because it’s a good way to attract people.”

Godfrey offered no apologies to fans who might resent the policy.

“They don’t have to come,” he said. “That’s why we’re going to tell them in advance.”

Brawls jeopardize $2 Tuesdays
"We're not going to tolerate that kind of behaviour,'' Godfrey said before last night's game. "You don't associate that with Toronto and you don't associate that with this ballpark. It's not going to continue.'' There were also several melees in the stands during Friday night's home opener against Boston, video of which has found its way on to YouTube. About 100 fans were ejected that night and another 100 fans were tossed Tuesday. Both times the trouble was in the upper 500 level of the Rogers Centre and was "alcohol related'' according to Godfrey.
And now to the video ...

Somehow it seems fitting that this happened while Boston - home of the stereotypical drunken baseball fan - was in town.

Ten Cent Beer Night
... Disco Demolition Night ... and now $2 Tuesdays? Where does this rank in the history of baseball promotions gone wrong?

A Special Father-Son Relationship

Hoping for the best for Joba Chamberlain's father, Harlan

by Matthew Taylor

(photo source: Sports Illustrated. Click on link for original photo and article)

Sad news today for a division rival. Roar from 34's thoughts and prayers go out to Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain, whose father collapsed at his Nebraska home on Sunday night.

According to "Joba Chamberlain's sister called the Yankees during the eighth inning of New York's 8-5 loss at Boston on Sunday night. The newspaper said the reliever spoke with his sister after the game and broke into tears, and manager Joe Girardi tried to console him."

Perhaps more than any other sport, baseball is about fathers and sons. In October
Sports Illustrated chronicled the special relationship that Chamberlain shares with his father, Harlan, who raised his son on his own despite the debilitating effects of the polio he contracted as a child.

Of course it's limited. How long can it last? Not Joba's arm or his success. What really matters: his time left with his dad. That's all the boy could think of when he got that call just after last season, a weak voice on the phone rasping, "Help me... help me...." He raced home from a nearby restaurant to find his father shaking from the pain of an appendix that would burst minutes later on the operating table, setting off a series of complications that stemmed from the polio and came within a whisker of ending his life.

They made it through, together. Through nine days on a ventilator, two weeks in intensive care, five months in the hospital. Through the staph infection and the abscessed ulcer. Scared the hell out of the kid, seeing his dad scared for the first time in his life.

And so, after a life of never missing even the tiniest moments, his 56-year-old dad has to miss the biggest moments. Has to remain at home, still unable to travel a year after the surgery, watching his son fulfill the dream a thousand miles away, on a TV screen.

Finally, no matter how many times Joba calls him on their cellphone walkie-talkies for their good-night ritual, or text-messages it from a faraway hotel and tries to update him even on takeoffs of the Yankees team plane -- Wheels up. Love! -- the distance grows too much to bear. Harlan gets a doctor's clearance, packs up on the first Friday of September and drives the three hours of cornfields to Kansas City....

Place the crippled Native American orphan on his new candy-red scooter in the on-deck circle of a major league ballpark during batting practice, his cellphone jangling with calls from media across the country, and one Yankees star after the next -- A-Rod, Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte, Torre -- introducing himself and praising him for the job he did raising his son.

Place the son on the grass nearby, loving every minute of it.

Place the father in the handicapped section in Level 3 of Kauffman Stadium two hours later, his extended family and friends seated just in front of him, watching the Yankees enter the seventh inning with a 3-2 lead over the Royals.

Place the son in the outfield grass, jogging toward the mound as the P.A. announcer booms, "Your attention, please! Now pitching for the Yankees...."

Place the father's hands on the scooter's handlebars, squeezing them tighter and tighter, as if the thing's hurtling backward a hundred miles an hour. Watch his daughter, Tasha, hug him and say, "This is it, Dad," as his family and friends leap and scream.

Watch the son turn his back to the plate, look to the sky and hold his Yankees cap over his heart. Watch the father remove his Yankees cap and do the same as the tears stream down his cheeks....

You know by now, of course, what it is that has been assembled and what JO-BA! really means. It's the thing hammered into the father all his life, and thundering now in these late-summer skies over Yankee Stadium. The glory of hope at the death of expectation.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Two Down, to Tampa We Go

Texas fails to score 30 runs, providing the Orioles with a moral victory to go with two losses

by Matthew Taylor

The bad news is that in one day the Birds lost more games than they had all season: Rangers 3 - Orioles 1; Rangers 5 - Orioles 4. The good news is that the Birds are still in first place, and who honestly thought we'd be saying that at any point this season?

Thursday's games were perfect for fans who prefer walks over strikeouts. And who doesn't?

No starter recorded more K's than free passes. Adam Loewen had four of each; Steve Trachsel issued four walks against two strikeouts; Kevin Millwood offered five walks to two strikeouts; and Kason Gabbard walked two and struck out just one.

When it comes to pitching the big story of the game involved Roar from 34 favorite Randor Bierd, who in Thursday's nightcap recorded his first two strikeouts as a Big Leaguer. Somewhere right now Whitecap Wendy is smiling.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

This Day in Orioles History - April 10, (1968 & 1970)

Opening Day: Time for The Brooks Robinson Show

by Matthew Taylor

There must've been something about home openers for Brooks Robinson, especially when those openers fell on April 10.

April 10, 1968 - Brooks hits his third straight Opening Day home run in a 3-1 win over Oakland. Brooks finishes the day 1-for-4 with the eighth-inning round tripper being his only hit for the day. Tom Phoebus gets the win for the Birds; he would finish 15-15 during the 1968 season. Eddie Watt records the save, his first of 11 on the year. The streak of opening day homers ends for Brooks in 1969 as he records an o-fer in a 5-4 loss to the Red Sox.

April 10, 1970 - Brooks drives in Frank Robinson in the bottom of the 10th inning for a 3-2 win over the Tigers. The victory is part of a five-game Birds win streak out of the gate that kicks off the 1970 championship season in style. Brooks finishes the day 3-for-4 with a walk and the aforementioned RBI. Thirty-nine-year-old Dick Hall picks up the win after pitching four strong shutout innings that see him give up only two hits, no walks, and strike out four.

Who's on First?

O's order up a T-bone for 2008 season

by Matthew Taylor

In a nod to tradition, Dave Trembley invited Orioles legends including Mike Cuellar and Rick Dempsey to spring training this season to work with the team's young talent and remind current players of the organization's proud past. Trembley will continue the effort moving forward; he's extended invites for next year to Cal and Brooks. In the meantime, the Birds simply need to get on base to connect with a World Series champion.

John "T-bone" Shelby is manning the coach's box on the first base side this season. A two-time World Series winner ('83 with the Birds, '88 with the Dodgers), Shelby was drafted by the O's with the 20th pick in 1977 and made his first major league appearance with the team in Sept. 1981. The slight center fielder batted .444 (4-for-9) in the '83 Series and had the game-winning RBI in Game Four.

Shelby made his major league debut on Sept. 15, 1981, but would have to wait nearly a full year to record his first major league hit, a double off of Yankee Shane Rawley, on Sept. 14, 1982. His first home run came during a home game against the Milwaukee Brewers on Oct. 1, 1982. Mike Caldwell was pitching.

A Lexington native, Shelby spent parts of 11 seasons with the Orioles' organization, playing most often in center field. However, he also made appearances at the corner outfield positions, in the designated hitter's role, and once in the infield - he recorded an assist while playing second base for a game during the 1985 season.

As part of his current role with the O's, Shelby works with the team's outfielders.

"Like I told all those guys, I would be observing them and if I didn't think there was anything to give any input on, I wouldn't. I would tell them to keep doing what they were doing."
T-bone previously served as a first base coach for the Pirates and Dodgers. He also spent five years as a minor league manager, compiling a 291-335 record overall.

Shelby has six children. One of his sons, also named John, is currently playing minor league ball
with the Single-A Winston-Salem Warthogs. John Shelby III helped lead the University of Kentucky to a school-record 44 wins in 2006 and is now a top prospect in the White Sox organization.
Shelby, whose father, John, played 11 major-league seasons for the Orioles, Dodgers and Tigers, hit .301 with 16 homers and 79 RBIs in 488 at-bats for Kannapolis of the Class A South Atlantic League.
The official White Sox site offers a full profile on the younger Shelby.

If baseball lineage counts for anything, then Shelby might have a leg up on other Minor Leaguers. John T. Shelby, nicknamed T-Bone, played for three Major League teams from 1981 to 1991. He played all but one of his big league games in the outfield, with that one exception finding Shelby at second base for Baltimore in 1985.

Although the elder Shelby now works for the Orioles, he still finds plenty of time to talk baseball with his son. There was a lot to talk about concerning the 2007 season turned in by John Shelby III, who hit .301 with 16 home runs, 35 doubles, nine triples and 79 RBIs for Class A Kannapolis. He also threw in 19 stolen bases, 83 runs scored and just 77 strikeouts in 488 at-bats.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

O's and Nats: The Protons and Neutrons of Baseball

Teams produce opposite results when they play on the same day

by Matthew Taylor

You know about the O's six-game win streak, but have you noticed the Beltway Baseball Streak taking shape during this young season?

On the five occasions so far when the Orioles (6-1) and Nationals (3-5) have both played on the same day, the two teams have produced opposite results all but once, that being their first shared game on April 2. Fortunately for O's fans the Birds are on the positive side of the ledger thus far.

April 2

Orioles - Won vs. Tampa Bay, 9-6

Nationals - Won vs. Philadelphia, 1-0

April 4

Orioles - Won vs. Seattle, 7-4

Nationals - Lost vs. St. Louis, 5-4

April 5

Orioles - Won vs. Seattle, 6-4

Nationals - Lost vs. St. Louis, 5-4

April 6

Orioles - Won vs. Seattle, 3-2

Nationals - Lost vs. St. Louis, 3-0

April 7

Orioles - Won vs. Seattle, 5-4

Nationals - Lost vs. Florida, 10-7

That's a four-game streak of opposite results "if you're scoring at home - or even if you're alone" (credit: Keith Olbermann).

In other Orioles news ...

Jeff Zrbiec reports that one of Roar from 34's favorite former O's, Mark McLemore (he ranks among our Top Four utility players), is mentoring Adam Jones.

Monday, April 07, 2008

G-'O' Down Fighting

It's a slogan that's more determined than defeatist

by Matthew Taylor

The O's rally for three runs in the 9th inning to defeat the Mariners, 3-2, and I'm thinking, "Cue the 'Orioles Magic.'" Turns out that's just what they did: "Sweet music to Orioles' ears."
So when a keyed-up Orioles team returned to the clubhouse after the inspiring victory, how did it celebrate? By blasting "Orioles Magic" as loud as it could on the clubhouse stereo.


Led by club DJ Kevin Millar and his stone-faced sidekick, "Master G" Jeremy Guthrie, several players got into the mood by banging their fists against the wooden dining table to the catchy rhythm.

"Orioles Magic, baby," Millar howled. "First-place Orioles."
And so the O's spend another day in first place. This year, each of those days counts for something.

As the team searches for its identity, The Sun's Dan Connolly has hit on what could well be the narrative for the 2008 season: "This team will lose its share and likely will finish last in the American League East, yet there's a hint they will go down fighting, something we haven't seen in years here."

I'd have few problems with that storyline (Does it have to be last place, though? How about an inspired run that keeps us out of the cellar?), especially if it involves some spoiler games with the Red Sox and Yankees down the stretch.

Orioles Magic? Perhaps we should update the slogan for '08.

G-'O' Down Fighting, Birds, G-'O' Down Fighting.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The View from the Top

Carpe Diem, O's fans - Let's enjoy it while we can

by Matthew Taylor

Sure it's three games into the season. Sure it's a three-way tie. And sure it's due in part to alphabetical order. But in a rebuilding season you have to take the victories - large, small, and moral - wherever you can get them.

So "throw your hands in the air and wave them around as if there are no repercussions" (credit: Kenny Mayne), Birds fans, because your Baltimore Orioles are in first place in the AL East after Friday's 7-4 victory over Seattle. will record for all posterity that there indeed were (or was, as the case may turn out to be) "Days in first" during the 2008 season.

The last time the O's were over .500 was April of last season.

AL East Standings

Baltimore 2-1 .667
Tampa Bay 2-1 .667
Boston 3-2 .600
New York 2-2 .500
Toronto 2-2 .500

On a serious note, here's a real positive for the team: "The Orioles bullpen had gone 11 innings without allowing a run before the ninth." (source: The Sun)

You'll remember that the bullpen looked particularly sharp - and received plenty of plaudits from the local press - at the start of last season But here's guessing that Dave Trembley will be a bit more careful than Sam Perlozzo was about going to his relievers, if only because Perlozzo's gotten beaten up so much for his bullpen (over)usage.

The View from the Pacific Northwest

A quick look at what the fans are saying out in Seattle

by Matthew Taylor

It's fitting that the forecast calls for rain as we prepare to welcome our friends from Seattle. Thankfully, we've got the good Adam Jones, so we don't have to worry about any efforts to "make it rain."

Here’s a look at what some Seattle Mariner bloggers are saying as we head into an intriguing weekend series with familiar faces in new places for both teams.

Bleeding Blue and Teel

“I was really looking forward to watching Bedard strikeout former Mariner outfield prospect Adam Jones, but unfortunately I'll be out of town this weekend and unable to watch the games. Enjoy the series!”

Look Out Landing

Well thank god we missed Steve Trachsel named Jarrod Washburn the 4th starter over Miguel Batista because otherwise we might have had the misfortune of being forced to witness a Trachsel-Batista matchup, a game sure to rival only curtain shopping with a woman in terms of pointless standing around waiting for something to happen.

Luis Hernandez makes me embarrassed for Oriole fans. Adam Jones makes me homicidally angry. Nick Markakis makes me drool. The Orioles outfield is solid with a legit star in Markakis, a solid Jones and a unspectacular Scott, who's likely to find himself exposed against southpaws as a full time player.

Rally Fried

The schedule-making gods sure smiled on the Mariners this season. First the Rangers, then the Orioles, followed by the Rays. How long will it be until the M’s start facing some real baseball teams?

And finally, this one’s not a Series preview, but Mariner Housewife offers some thoughts about O’s fans in light of the Bedard trade.

The one thing I have gained from this experience is a deep and abiding respect for Orioles fans. It's bad enough to be in the same division as attention hogs like Boston and New York, but then this guy comes along and ruins any good that was left. I mean, we may get mad at Bavasi, but he can be fired, or he can resign. This Angelos guy is their owner. Those poor folks in Baltimore are stuck with him.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

This Day in Orioles History - April 1, 1998

The '98 season started with an Opening Day loss, but things got better quickly

by Matthew Taylor

Monday's loss to Tampa Bay ended a seven-game Opening Day win streak for the Birds.
In fact, the O's had won eight of their previous 10 openers headed into the 2008 season. The good news is that in the game following those two Opening Day losses since '98 the Orioles recovered with a victory, beating the Cleveland Indians in Game 2 during the 2000 season and Kansas City in the second game of the 1998 season. The latter game, in which the Orioles defeated the Royals 10-1, was an historic one on multiple counts.

Here's what happened on April 1, 1998:

-Scott Erickson's complete game, one-run performance earned him career victory No. 100. Erickson struck out five and walked one.

-Cal hit the eighth grand slam of his career, a first-inning shot, while Lenny "The ball tipped his bat" Webster enjoyed his first-ever two-homer game as a big leaguer.

-And Ray Miller notched his first victory as O's manager, his first overall victory since 1986 when he was with the Minnesota Twins.