Monday, March 31, 2008

There's no "W" in Opening Day

by Matthew Taylor

The O's are 0-1 after losing the home opener at Camden Yards to the Rays,

Biggest positives:

-Matt Albers: no base runners in 2 2/3 innings.

-Brian Roberts: 2-for-2, two walks, 2 BB, 1 SB.

Some headlines about Monday's game that you're not likely to see:

"One down, 20 to go - 1988 record still in sight"

"Curse of Gibbons takes hold"

"McPhail: See, I told you we'd be bad'"

"O's to celebrate 25-year World Series anniversary by making it 26 years without winning one"

"Birds up one in race for the AL East cellar"

And some of the real headlines:

New-Look Rays Top the Orioles 6-2
(Associated Press)

Huff booed in Baltimore, and he understands why
(Baltimore Examiner)

Despite predictions, Orioles fans celebrate baseball's return
(Baltimore Examiner)

Jay Gibbons Release Signals A New Era in Baltimore
(Bleacher Report)

Opener offers short look at long season
(The Sun)

Plenty of empty seats for a "sellout" (The Sun)

Rays 6, O's 2: So it begins
(Camden Chat)

Honoring Opening Day

by Matthew Taylor

I can't sport the Orange and Black today at the office, but Opening Day needs to be honored. I'm following baseball tradition and giving everyone at work nicknames.

Adding "ie" to the end of people's given names is a popular tactic among big leaguers, so I've followed suit this morning. It hasn't worked out so well. I came to work and greeted the "secretarie," which wasn't nearly as bad as calling my superior "bossie." The subsequent slap on the butt didn't help things any.

Here's hoping the Birds have better luck than I've had.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

March Madness in Birdland

Baseball might not be the only thing on these players' minds

By Matthew Taylor

With the NCAA Tournament set to resume this evening, Roar from 34 got to wondering what March Madness looks like in the O's clubhouse. Here's a rundown of the colors - other than the Orange and Black - that the Birds bleed.

Top Dogs

Who on the O's roster can do the most woofing so far about the brackets?

Two Orioles players can boast about their respective college teams having a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament; one can brag on a No. 2 seed with tournament victories over two of his teammates' schools; and a lone O is riding high as his No. 3 seeded team continues to advance in the Big Dance.

The No. 1 seeds belong to Jon Leicester (Memphis) and Brian Roberts (North Carolina).

Leicester received bad news this week about his assignment to Triple-A Norfolk. He can always take comfort in his Memphis Tigers, who advanced to the Sweet 16 over the weekend with a 77-74 victory over Mississippi State.

Leicester could've given grief on his way out the door to former Southern Miss Golden Eagle Chad Bradford, whose college team lost to Memphis in the Conference-USA Tournament, 69-53.

If Bradford needed a comeback (other than the fact that he's still on the Major League roster while Leicester is not), he could always brag about his team's hard partying coach, Larry Eustachy. Eustachy, you'll remember, did his best Georgie Porgie imitation at Iowa State by kissing girls at college parties. No word on whether said girls cried. We can only assume that they did.

Brian Roberts, meanwhile, has loyalties to the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Durham native's college is listed on MLB's web site as South Carolina. However, Roberts, a graduate of Chapel Hill High School, played two years at UNC, winning ACC Rookie of the Year and National Freshman of the Year in 1997, setting multiple UNC records in the process. He transferred to South Carolina after his father was fired as the Tar Heels coach following the 1998 season.

Despite his college team holding a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, former Texas Longhorn Brandon Fahey might well have the most bragging rights around the O's clubhouse. Fahey, a Dallas native, can pester teammates Jamie Walker and George Sherrill, both of whom attended Austin Peay. Texas defeated Austin Peay 72-54 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker and Sherrill make up half of half of Austin Peay's all-time representation in Major League baseball. Walker is also a proud member of the Austin Peay State University Athletic Hall of Fame. Sherrill can't lay claim to the same honor, but it's a heck of a story of how he took the long route from Austin Peay to the Majors.

Aubrey Huff, a former Miami student, can commiserate with Walker and Sherrill. Huff's Hurricanes also lost to Fahey's Longhorns, 75-72.

Rounding out the top seeds is Jeremy Guthrie, a Standford product whose No. 3 seeded Cardinal beat Marquette in overtime, 82-81, to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. O's fans can only hope that Guthrie, who led Stanford to within a game of a berth in the national championship game, eventually matches the success of former Oriole and Stanford ace, Mike Mussina.

Another Clubhouse Rivalry

Their respective teams aren't playing basketball any longer this season, but Rocky Cherry and Luke Scott still have plenty to talk about as rivals from Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, respectively.

Scott can take pleasure in Oklahoma's blowout loss to Louisville, 78-48, in the NCAA tournament's second round, but Cherry will surely remind him that Oklahoma State lost to Southern Illinois in the first round ... of the N.I.T.

A Final Intriguing Loyalty

Houston native Matt Albers may not have much to brag about when it comes to the NCAA tournament, but his connection to San Jacinto Community College in Texas still offers him plenty of basketball bragging rights, especially in this region.

San Jacinto, an NJCAA powerhouse, boasts two former ACC stars and current NBA players, both of whom have Maryland connections: former Terps superstar Steve Francis and Dunbar High graduate Sam Cassell.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Saying Nothing but Good Things About the Yankees

by Matthew Taylor

Speaking of Matters Serious ...

Division rivals or not, the Yankees organization demonstrated a lot of class on Tuesday with its visit to Virginia Tech for an exhibition game. A friend - and fellow O's fan - who works at Virginia Tech mentioned the visit to me several weeks ago and spoke of how much it means to the University. Kudos to the Yankees.

"From beginning to end, the visit Yankees owner George Steinbrenner promised moments after seeing the tragedy unfolding on television last April 16 was one to remember.

The Yankees had made a $1 million contribution to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund, created to cover grief counseling, memorials and other costs for the victims and their families after Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people in two campus buildings before committing suicide.

The Yankees presented the donation to school president Charles Steger last May in New York, but said the visit to Blacksburg was a key part of the assistance.

Rodriguez said starting out at the on-campus memorial was powerful.

'There are certain things that happen that are so devastating that time stops,' he said, comparing the shootings to the terrorists attacks in 2001. 'For me, this is one of them. This is probably the proudest day I've ever [had] to wear a Yankee uniform.'

Hearing that, Hokies coach Pete Hughes said, 'knocks you on your heels.'"

Is anyone familiar with efforts that the O's and/or Nationals (beyond sporting VT hats) have made to support the Virginia Tech community? If so, post the info in the comments section.

and Those in Fun ...

"We understand that you have an agreement with the Houston Astros organization and wish you much success in the future. However, if your situation changes and you are willing to relocate to the North Alabama area we would like to offer you the opportunity to join our staff."

So begins a letter from the Huntsville Stars Minor League club to Rogers Clemens. I'll appreciate the Yankees in a completely different way if Clemens takes the Huntsville Stars up on its offer to work as the team's mascot.

"If he accepts the offer, Clemens, as ‘Rocket,' would dress as an astronaut and interact with fans and assist in on-field promotions during the team's 70-game home schedule when Homer the Polecat is not available.


Rogers said that Clemens' contract in Huntsville might not be as lucrative as his former Major League contracts, but it would contain incentives.

In addition to his $25 per game salary, he would receive meal vouchers redeemable at the concession stands for one hotdog and one soft drink each night, and a 15 percent employee discount at our team's souvenir store, The Backstop Shop."

The full invitation letter to Clemens is posted on the Stars' web site.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

This Day in Orioles History

By Matthew Taylor

March 18, 1999 -
Eddie Clarence Murray joined former GM Frank Cashen as the newest inductees to the Orioles Hall of Fame.

Murray batted .294 with 343 home runs during more than 12 seasons with the Birds. He hit career home run No. 500 at Camden Yards in 1996 after returning to Baltimore in a trade with Cleveland for Kent Mercker.

The switch-hitting Murray was the American League Rookie of the Year with the Birds in 1977, won a World Series with the team in 1983, and made it to the All-Star Game eight times (seven with the O's). Murray hit a home run in his last at-bat as an Oriole, in the
8th inning of the 1996 ALCS.

Murray finished his 21-year career with a .287 batting average, 504 home runs, and 1,917 RBIs. He retired as one of only three players (Willie Mays and Hank Aaron are the others) with 3,000 career hits and 500 career home runs. Rafael Palmeiro has since matched the feat. Murray is the only one of the group to get his 3,000th hit before his 500th home run.

Eddie Murray was inducted into the
National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.

Cashen was
with the Orioles from 1966 to 1978. He is perhaps best known as one of the guys who hired Oriole and National Baseball Hall of Famer Earl Weaver.

"It took a lot of guts," Weaver said during his own Cooperstown induction speech. "If they knew how nervous I was, they might have had second thoughts."

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Good Story All the Same

Hold your nose if you must, but it's worth reading this piece by a Red Sox fan

By Matthew Taylor

Normally I wouldn't be interested in reading a fan's fond reminiscence of Clay Buchholz's no-hitter last season against the Orioles. However, I've made an exception for Ira Fritz's piece on ESPN Page 2. Buchholz's no-no was the first game for Fritz's five-year-old son, Daniel. Even better, the kid almost saw a no-hitter in his second game - John Maine's near-miss against the Marlins - as well.

My soft spot for father-son baseball stories and my own childhood memories of believing the home team won games for me are stronger than any distaste I have for our division rival. Besides, that's two O's connections (not necessarily good ones, mind you, but connections all the same) in one article.
"That afternoon, while walking around Faneuil Hall and eating a vanilla ice cream cone larger than his head, Daniel told me the Red Sox were going to win. His reason was simple: They knew he would be at the game, so they couldn't let him down.


'On the ride home, a sleepy voice rose up from the back seat ... 'Did Clay Buchholz make that no-hitter for me?'

My wife and I looked at each other. She nodded toward me as if to say, 'This one's all yours ...' I decided to go with the truth.

'He sure did, Daniel. He sure did.'


On the way home from Shea Stadium, Daniel and I talked about how amazing it all was.

'Hey, Daddy ...'

'Yes, Daniel ...'

'Can we go back to Fenway for our next game?'


'Maybe Big Papi will hit 10 home runs ...'

'Ten? Why not 11?'

Come on ... what else could I say?"

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Touch 'Em All: Four Random Thoughts for Thursday

By Matthew Taylor

Baseball fans count the days until pitchers and catchers report. Basketball fans count the days until March Madness. Fans of both sports simply multi-task.

You can place me in the latter category. If you are as well - and you likewise happen to be a Baltimore-area native - you can't help but be excited by the success of the locals.

Mount St. Mary's
clinched an NCAA berth last night, winning the Northeast Conference tournament final over Sacred Heart, 68-55.

The UMBC Retrievers will
play for an NCAA bid this Saturday at noon on ESPN2.

Now as for the Terps ....

So are spring training games to be taken seriously or not?

First, the Yankees got all lathered up about the fact that the (don't say Devil) Rays' Elliot Johnson ran over catcher Francisco Cervelli in a spring training game, breaking Cervelli's right wrist in the process. Cue the self-righteous commentary.
Says Joe Girardi: "It's just disheartening. It's spring training, I just don't understand. I told all my players to play hard, but when you do something like that you take your chances that you will get someone hurt.”

He adds: "I want you to play hard. I want you to hustle, but to me it's not the time to do it."
But retaliation won't happen because it's just spring training, right? We're not taking things seriously.
Girardi: "To me, it's a non-issue right now. We're beyond that. Sometimes opinions are going to vary."

Adds Shelley Duncan: "There's going to be no evil intent to carry over, but what it does just adds a different type of fire to your gut when you play that team. You understand how they’re playing the game and what their mind-set is."
Fast forward to Wednesday's re-match, featuring a retaliatory hit batsman followed shortly thereafter by Shelley Duncan's spikes high slide and baseball's obligatory bench-clearing shoving match.
Says Duncan (with a straight face, no less) of the play that Rays Manager Joe Maddon termed "borderline criminal": "I'm pretty sure the spikes weren't that high. They were pretty much going straight at the glove. I've done it before. Never had a reaction like that."

(Judging from the photo to the left, Rays shortstop Akinori Iwamura must keep his glove in his crotch.)

Girardi, meanwhile, "was unapologetic, adding that he would have to see a replay to determine if the play was dirty."

For good measure, Duncan turned the knife a bit on Thursday: "I saw it a couple times. I still don't understand why they were as upset as they were," later adding, "I go out there and I try to play the game the right way."

Okay, so let me get this straight: spring training games
are to be taken seriously, and you should always "play the game the right way," correct? Looks like we're finally on the same page: spring training is a serious time.

Or maybe not ... "Comedian Crystal lives dream, plays for Yankees."


When it's all said and done the Yankees - Rays spring training brouhaha ultimately benefits Tampa Bay. The "bad blood" storyline has to be good for at least one game of the week and endless SportsCenter "analysis." Bonus points if someone actually notices that the Rays are playing better baseball along the way.

Haven't baseball players learned anything from politicians? Make nice with the media and they'll love you; shun them and they'll vilify you. Ain't that right, Peter Schmuck? ("Throwing in the towel on Cabrera.")

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Trembley Saying All the Right Things

With O'Malley Gone, Trembley's the One Trying to Make Baltimore "Believe"

By Matthew Taylor

I thought he was crazy when he optimistically stated that the interim tag didn't apply to his title as manager of the Orioles following the Sam Perlozzo firing. Joe Girardi was waiting in the wings and the O's weren't just floating a trial balloon, they were letting Girardi fire the blast valve. Then Dave Trembley - with an assist from Girardi, who rightly sensed that better options would soon be available - proved me wrong.

The guy with no Major League playing experience seems to have earned Major League respect after a career spent proving wrong people much more knowledgeable than I. Kevin Millar is a fan ("I mean, let's talk about Dave Trembley for a minute. You love to see what this guy's doing. You're excited for him. Last year, he was our bullpen coach. How do you not respect this guy? He brings tears to his eyes in every meeting. That's got to make you feel good as a player, because his job is even tougher than ours. Everyone wants to do well for Trembley."), and according to Wednesday's Associated Press story so is Joe Torre.

The AP story - headlined in the International Herald Tribune, "Trembley: I'm not intimidated by anybody" - is required reading for any O's fan who still cares about the team when every indication says to feel otherwise. If you've decided to stick with the Birds, you need to have a guy like Trembley at the helm to believe there's still some good left in the franchise, and I'm not talking about skill.

I get the sense that Trembley really believes what he's saying; he's not selling lemons, he's mixing the ingredients for a tall, cold glass of lemonade. They ought to play the Monkees - "I'm a believer" - every time the guy walks out of the Camden Yards dugout.
Dave Trembley's first spring training as a major league manager has been an exercise in efficiency. No fundamental has been overlooked, and even the most mundane drill is run crisply and promptly.

He waited two decades for this opportunity, and Trembley has left nothing to chance. And just to show that he doesn't consider himself to be above the players he commands, Trembley often runs with them during workouts and always rides on the team bus, even though the lengthy trek would be much more comfortable in his big, plush Cadillac rental.

Camp Trembley also features an open-door policy that was rarely employed by the last four managers of the Baltimore Orioles, none of whom could coax a winning season out of this staggering franchise. If someone has a complaint, even one concerning a perceived lack of playing time, all he has to do is walk into the manager's office and strike up a conversation.

"My philosophy is communicate and prepare. No one is better than anyone else; don't think anyone is above anyone else," Trembley said. "This is our team. I don't go through my coaches if I have a problem with a player. I go to the player himself. I make myself accessible to the players. I want them to come and tell me what they think, what I can do for them." ....

Here is a sampling of some other great Trembley quotes (from other sources) during this year's camp:
"People have been following the O's for the last 10 years, and they say, 'Here we go again.' I'm asking for people to just try one more time. Let's see if there's a difference or not, because I know the guy who's in charge [Andy MacPhail] of this thing is going to make sure it happens and I'm going to do my part to make sure it happens."

"We need to establish a new foundation, and I think you do that a number of different ways - the way you go about doing things, your approach bringing other people in, making people feel like they are a part of what's going on," he said. "You have to make everyone feel like they are important and everything they are doing is important. I know in spring training, the games don't mean anything, but the approach matters."

"Guys are doing the two things I've asked: showing responsibility and accountability. That's everybody. There's nobody above the approach we're taking."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More About the Bullpen

It's not just about Randor Bierd, but he remains an intriguing prospect

by Matthew Taylor

On the heels of Roar from 34's most recent posting - "Profiling the Pen: Randor Bierd" - the bullpen continues to be a hot topic of O's-related discussion. Both The Sun and The Post wrote about the unit on Tuesday, with The Post using Bierd as its focus.

My favorite parts of The Sun's article are Dave Trembley's assessment of last year's bullpen experience - "It wasn't tough, it was miserable" - and the final rundown on the misery produced once we got past the starters:
The Orioles lost leads in 120 of 162 games last year and dropped 16 games in which they led after the seventh inning. Orioles relievers -- and 21 different ones were used -- finished last season with a 5.71 ERA, the second worst in the major leagues and the fifth highest over the past 51 seasons.
Meanwhile, The Post continues the conversation about Bierd's mystery pitch:

Meantime, Bierd has emerged as one of the most intriguing candidates for a bullpen slot.

'He's got a little deception which helps and hitters don't take good swings off him,' Kranitz said. 'I think he's an interesting guy, no question. He's come in and for a guy who's just played in Double-A, he's got some moxie about him.'

Bierd, Baltimore's choice in the Rule 5 draft, hasn't allowed a run in three appearances since surrendering two runs in his first spring outing on Feb. 29.

'Randor Bierd has been a very pleasant surprise,' Trembley said. 'He has a swing and miss pitch for a young guy, he's come in some situations that he's thrown strikes, shown very good focus. He's got a little deceptiveness in his arm action.'

On Monday, he worked out of trouble against the Los Angeles Dodgers with a pair of strikeouts. One came on his so-called mystery pitch; he maintains it is simply a very good change-up with movement.

'Some people say, 'You can throw a split,' ' he said. 'But it's a change-up. Straight change.'

Monday, March 10, 2008

Profiling the 'Pen: Randor Bierd

I'm no Whitecap Wendy, but I like Randor Bierd all the same

By Matthew Taylor

One of the Orioles' biggest off-season stories last year was the team's
$40 million investment in its bullpen. In 2008, the bullpen is getting a face lift - in part due to injury, but you should never underestimate the role of ineptitude in the reconstructive effort.

Having trouble recognizing the new look bullpen? Allow Roar for 34 to help. Here are some details about one of the likely new residents of Dave Trembley's seven-member 'pen, Dominican Republic native Randor Bierd.

(Unwritten - until now - Roar from 34 Rule: Don't get comfortable until your biography appears on the team Web site; Bierd's isn't there at the time of this writing.)

Man in the Middle

USA Today
pegs the 6'4", 190-pound Bierd as a solid middle reliever:
"One of the better bets to stick, Bierd, 23, made a successful jump from low-A ball to Double-A last season, posting a 3.35 ERA and a 52/10 K/BB ratio in 45 2/3 IP with Erie. He doesn't have closer-type upside, but he could be adequate in middle relief right away."

First Inning tracks his stats with West Michigan, Lakeland, Erie, and Oneonta.

What's in a name?

After the Birds acquired Bierd from the Detroit Tigers in December's Rule 5 draft Roch Kubatko commented that the young pitcher's name "sounds like a villain in a James Bond flick." I'll take Bierd's villainous name over the decidedly less-intimidating surname of the guy Pittsburgh drafted in front of him: Evan Meek.

Kubatko notes that the team is also having trouble naming the youngster's pitches:
"Randor Bierd was throwing one pitch between 85-88 mph, and nobody can figure out exactly what to call it. We'll go with Trembley's description of a split and changeup combo."

Bierd says the pitch is a straight change-up he learned from Pedro Martinez:
"He taught me the changeup -- and to keep working hard -- around three years ago. He said that people have more experience than I do, but to enjoy what I do and not let pressure get to me. Do what I know and don't be pressured."

Whatcha Got?

Speaking of pitches, Baseball America runs down Randor's stuff:
"While Bierd has a swing-and-miss 90-93 mph sinking fastball, his solid-average slider also gets a lot of ground balls. And he has the makings of a third pitch with an average changeup."

Odd man out

If The Detroit News is to be believed (You know how the saying goes: "Don't believe everything you read ... unless it's on a blog that doesn't do original reporting."), the Tigers will miss Bierd. Lynn Henning writes that Bierd was the team's "key loss" in the Rule 5 draft. She quotes Team President Dave Dombrowski, who called Bierd the Tigers' "41st man."

Six Degrees of Randor Bierd Separation

Bierd joined Alan Mills in setting bullpen records last season for the Erie SeaWolves. Bierd, in 45.2innings pitched, held opponents to a .188 batting average, the lowest in team history. Meanwhile, Mills, a mid-season acquisition, converted 23 saves, the third-highest total in SeaWolves history.

If his connection to Alan Mills doesn't win him any friends in the Birds' clubhouse, Bierd can always trade stories about life in
West Michigan with fellow Whitecaps alums Ramon Hernandez (1996) and Scott Moore (2003). He also knows Daniel Cabrera from winter ball. Memo to Randor: It's fine to be friends with Cabrera; just don't follow his lead high and outside the strike zone.

I'm Your Biggest Fan

I c
ould see myself myself developing an affection for Randor Bierd, much like the feelings I once had for Chito Martinez. However, I'll never be so foolish as to suggest to Randor, "I'm your biggest fan." Hands down, that honor goes to Flickr fanatic Whitecap Wendy, who loved Mr. Bierd before I even knew him.

If You See Randor on Friday...

Wish him a "Happy Birthday." He was born on March 14, 1984.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Let's Get Physical

No guarantees of health on the trade market

By Matthew Taylor

After all that nonsense with physicals that held up the Erik Bedard trade, it's the Tejada deal with the Astros that produces an injured player. Troy Patton is done for the season with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. I suppose things move more quickly when you're dealing a guy who's about to be named in the Mitchell Report.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Touch 'Em All: Our Four Favorite O's Utility Players

A utility posting (it's all over the place) about utility players

By Matthew Taylor

Scott Moore has been in the news this week for his efforts to find a spot on the Birds' roster ("Healthy Moore Is Drawing Attention," O's Moore improves chances with versatility). More importantly, he's vying for a spot in O's fans hearts as the team's utility man.

Maybe it's the underdog spirit of the fan. Perhaps it's easier to relate to - and picture yourself as - a guy on the margins of the game than one who's in the heart of the lineup. Or it could just be that the expectations are so much lower for these guys that every accomplishment becomes a memorable one. No matter the reason, utility players are a magnet for fan affection.

The attention paid to Scott Moore's Spring Training efforts offer the perfect opportunity to look back at some of our favorite Orioles utility players.
We went deep (into the memory bank), so now it's time to Touch 'Em All as we share our top four part-time O's players.

Jeffrey Allen Reboulet (1997-1999): The defining aspect of Jeff Reboulet's brief tenure with the Orioles was his curious ability to hit well against Randy Johnson. Reboulet, he of the 20 home runs in 12 Major League seasons, went deep against Johnson in Game 4 of the 1997 ALCS, a 3-1 O's victory; it was his only hit in five plate appearances during that series. Reboulet faced Johnson 21 times more than any other pitcher during his career, batting .273 with an .811 OPS in 66 plate appearances. He had two career home runs off of Johnson, matching his highest total against any one pitcher (he also had two home runs off of Ricky Bones) . The O's re-signed Reboulet in January 2003 before realizing (tongue-in-cheek) that Randy Johnson was no longer pitching in the American League; Reboulet was gone by March. Co-founder of the Reb Baseball Academy and a member of the Alter High School Hall of Fame, Reboulet won a poll on Orioles Hangout as the favorite "bad Oriole."

Mark Tremell McLemore (1992-1994): Back in college I was one impulse buy at the local Sports Authority away from having a Mark McLemore poster hanging in my dorm room; that's how much I liked the guy. McLemore made his first $1 million with the Birds in 1994, jumping up from salaries of $325,000 and $345,000 in '92 and '93. Like Jeff Reboulet, McLemore made a brief return to the Orange and Black toward the end of his career, signing with the club as a free agent on Feb. 4, 2004 before being released on April 3, 2004. McLemore's career highlights for the O's included looking great in a pair of shades, posting two consecutive seasons of 20 or more stolen bases (although he was caught 15 times in 1993), and providing 11 sacrifice hits in 1993, the eighth-highest total in the AL. McLemore was so popular during his later stint in Texas that the parents of a Houston Astros pitcher named their son after him. (Okay, not really.)


Rene Adrian Gonzalez (1988-1990) - You can say this about the guy: his average never dipped below the Mendoza line. For three seasons Gonzalez batted about .215; he added four home runs for good measure during that period. In the tradition of many great utility players, Gonzalez earned his keep with his glove rather than his bat. Just consider this anecdote from Tim Kurkjian: "Rene Gonzalez, a highly skilled infielder for several teams, used to carry his glove around in a Wonder Bread bag. Why? 'Wonder's slogan for their bread is 'No Holes,'' he said. 'I figured 'no holes in the bread, no holes in my glove.' You don't take chances with your glove.'" In an interesting bit of coincidence that ultimately means very little, Baseball Reference lists the player "most similar by age" to Gonzalez at ages 34 and 35 as ... Jeff Reboulet. Since his playing days ended Gonzalez has helped run the Line Drive Baseball Academy in Santa Clara, Calif., and has managed the Arizona League Brewers. He has not, however, started singing religious songs in Spanish.

Lenn Haruki Sakata (1980 - 1985) - Lenn Sakata may be the most successful O's utility player in team history; he's certainly the most well remembered. Sakata played for the 100-win 1980 Orioles, the 94-win 1982 team that lost the division to the Brewers on the final day of the season, and the 1983 World Series Champions. He was the last Oriole to play shortstop before Cal Ripken took over the position. However, Sakata's best known for his role in one incredible midweek game during the summer of 1983; August 24, to be specific. That's when manager Joe Altobelli, who was out of other personnel options, moved Sakata from second base to catcher in extra frames. It turned out to be one of the most famous half-innings in baseball as Tippy Martinez picked off three separate Blue Jays in the top of the 10th. Sakata, whose base on balls was part of the Birds' two-run, ninth inning rally, then homered in the bottom of the inning to give the Orioles an unforgettable 7-4 victory. It was Orioles Magic at its best. Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus vividly recounts the events of that evening at Futility Infielder. Jaffe lists Sakata in his Wall of Fame, but here's guessing that Lenny is more proud of his spot in the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame.

Extra bases: Check out this interesting tribute to lesser known O's utility man Jeff Huson.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Bird on a Wire

Multiple O's references have cropped up on David Simon's hit show

By Matthew Taylor

Chris Littman of The Sporting Blog has a great post about sports scenes from "The Wire," including the show's multiple references to the Orioles. It's definitely worth a read.

It's a real shame that Sunday's episode of "The Wire" will be the last one. Considering the amazing job that David Simon has done chronicling crumbling Baltimore institutions,
the Orioles would've been a natural focus for Season Six. But who would play the role of Peter Angelos?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The YouTube Debates: Orioles Edition

Roar from 34 - Strengthening democracy one posting at a time

By Matthew Taylor

2008 presidential election introduced the nation to the concept of YouTube debates. It's about time that our country dealt with some issues weightier than those presented by the likes of the talking snowman. Therefore, Roar from 34 proudly presents the first-ever YouTube Debate: Orioles Edition. Let the enlightened conversation begin (in the comments section).

Question 1: Which "Evening Magazine" fan profile is better, Wild Bill Hagy or Pat "The Bugler" Walker

Wild Bill Hagy

Pat "The Bugler" Walker

Question 2: Who was the better pitchman, Boog Powell or Jim Palmer?

Boog Powell

Jim Palmer

Question 3: Which is the more random player tribute, Luke Scott or Brady Anderson?

Luke Scott

Brady Anderson

Question 4: Which is the better episode of "Orioles Everyday," Devil Rays or Red Sox?

Devil Rays

Red Sox

Question 5: Which is funnier, the Orioles-themed church sign or the Earl Weaver tirade?



Question 6: Which is the better nostalgic O's video, Orioles Magic or Orioles Magic? (Sorry, no room for democracy on this one.)

Orioles Magic

Orioles Magic

Monday, March 03, 2008

Another Optimistic Story About a Struggling Franchise

If they're optimistic in Pittsburgh, there's got to be room for hope in Baltimore as well

By Matthew Taylor

"I'm getting sick of being a part of it. Each one of us wants to be remembered as being the ones associated with stopping the streak."


"This is the 122nd year of playing baseball in Pittsburgh. While some in the press like to focus on the past 15, most of those 122 years, the Pirates played some pretty good National League baseball.

"I'd like to return the pride and passion here."

Either the Pittsburgh Pirates have hired an amazing PR director or there's actually some hope in the Iron City. CBS Sportsline has joined The New York Times in writing about the hopes of the once-proud franchise that might as well be our sister city for baseball.

Earlier Roar from 34 postings about the Pirates - Orioles connection:

Just Don't Compare Natty Boh to Iron City Beer

We're Not Alone O's Fans

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Quick Thought: How About "None of the Above"?

It seems a bit early to be sick of baseball blow hards

By Matthew Taylor

"Red Sox Nation?" What a bunch of [expletive] that is. That was a creation of the Red Sox and ESPN, which is filled with Red Sox fans.

After Hank Steinbrenner's inflammatory comments in Play Magazine, ESPN asked "Sports Nation" the following question: "Is America a 'Yankees Country' or a 'Red Sox Nation'? I'll answer a question with a question: "Who cares?"

The regular season hasn't even started and I'm already tired of coverage of the Yankees - Red Sox rivalry; it gets even more exposure than Kevin Millar in The Sun. I can only imagine how baseball fans outside of the AL East must feel.