Monday, June 30, 2008

SI Recognizes the Anniversary of Murray's 3,000th hit

by Matthew Taylor

June 30 is the anniversary of Eddie Murray's 3,000 hit, which occurred on this day in 1995. Sports Illustrated recognizes the occasion as part of its "Back in Time: June 30" photo gallery. Click on the photo to link to the original gallery.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Flashback Friday: Rick Dempsey's Rainy Days

Jones' antics in Detroit bring back memories of "Baseball Soliloquy in Pantomime"

by Matthew Taylor

Thanks to the Tigers' Todd Jones, shown in the rain delay video above, this week's Flashback Friday could only be about one thing: Rick Dempsey's "Baseball Soliloquy in Pantomime."

Daniel Okrent describes Dempsey's efforts:

He was an intense man, who concentrated mightily on the game. For relief from baseball pressures, he would take it upon himself to be the club entertainer. The son of two former vaudevillians, he had a knack for performance, and was particularly renowned for his 'Baseball Soliloquy in Pantomime.' It was a comic turn he'd occasionally perform during rain delays, stuffing his uniform with padding and prancing around a soggy tarpaulin performing exaggerated parodies of hitters, pitchers, umpires. It was genuinely funny, and while impatient fans waited for the rains to end, they'd applaud Dempsey lustily. His teammates and members of the opposing team would stand in the dugouts and applaud with the fans, especially when Dempsey concluded his routine with a mammoth belly-flop slide into home plate on the infield tarp, his momentum carrying him for yards, a rooster tail of rainwater behind him.

Weaver enjoyed 'Soliloquy' and came to enjoy even more the defensive skills Dempsey developed. He had the best record in the league at throwing out base stealers, and had mastered the rest of a catcher's defensive repertory as well. At the 1980 winter meetings, while Harry Dalton was trying to sort out the complexities of his trade with St. Louis, Baltimore general manager Hank Peters told Whitey Herzog, 'We wouldn't trade Dempsey and [then backup] Dan Graham for Simmons even up.' Meanwhile, the rest of the Oriole offense was generating enough runs to let Weaver, after platooning Dempsey with Graham in 1980, learn to live with Dempsey's mild bat (Dempsey knew Graham was a good hitter, but also felt 'Danny couldn't catch his own butt with both hands'). He called a good game, too, even if not good enough for the headstrong Palmer, who insisted on calling his own, using the signs only as a medium that would guarantee both pitcher and catcher knew what the next pitch was.

But still there was a conflict with Weaver. The manager not only seemed constantly to be searching for a catcher who could hit home runs (ideally from the left side of the plate); he also, until 1981, pulled Dempsey for pinch hitters rather more frequently than Dempsey preferred. They quarreled over how to pitch to batters and over virtually any other subject.
Source: Okrent (1985), "Nine Innings: The Anatomy of a Baseball Game," p. 246.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Randor to the Rescue?

Injuries in the pen, inconsistent starts raising concerns in Charm City

by Matthew Taylor

Pitching, especially out of the bullpen, has been the Birds' great strength this season. The efforts from the pen have been a particularly welcome sight given last year's $40 million relief corps debacle, and they've played a key role in the team's G-"O" Down Fighting spirit, enabling Oriole Magic at multiple turns. So more than a few eyebrows were raised in Charm City when Matt Albers left Wednesday's game with shoulder discomfort after recording just a single out.

One night after George Sherrill took O's fans on the wildest of relief pitching rides, the bullpen is the top topic once more, only this time the tone is less cheery. Writes
Jeff Zrebiec: "Albers has been used to make spot starts, in long relief and more recently, to get key outs late in games. His abbreviated outing last night put an enormous strain on the Orioles' bullpen, but his long-term absence would create even bigger problems."

Relief for the relievers could come in the form of Adam Loewen - he tossed another scoreless inning in Bowie last night and is scheduled to throw for Norfolk on Saturday - and Roar from 34 favorite Randor Bierd (Remember him?), who will continue his rehab tonight in Frederick. details Loewen's rehab and his season thus far. As for Randor, well he simply needs to continue being Randor.

While Albers' early departure has placed the focus squarely on the O's relievers, there's still plenty to think about with the team's starting pitching. Birds in the Belfry offers a great analysis of how the Birds' thrilling wins in late May and early June have masked some rather pedestrian efforts by the starters.

If you haven't stopped by the Belfry in a while, there's other good reading to be had there, including
Kerry's Calculus on where the team heads next after a surprisingly successful start to the season.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Striking Out the Side on the North Side

The O's, minus Payton, sport Sherrill victory cap after nervous ninth

by Matthew Taylor

"He's unbelievable," Roberts said. "I've never seen anything like it. Our saying is, 'Never in doubt, Georgie, never in doubt.' But gosh, I'm starting to doubt. He's killing me out there, he's killing all of us. But shoot, it's fun. I don't think he ever doubts himself, and that's all that matters."

The look on Brian Roberts' face said it all. Grinning widely, his hat flipped up Sherrill victory-cap style as he slapped hands with his victorious teammates, Roberts took on the demeanor of a giddy Little Leaguer as he mouthed the word that best described Tuesday's nerve-rattling finish: "Wow."

Roberts is having fun. The O's are having fun. And the fans are having fun. Of course, a game that once featured a 7-1 Birds lead could've been even more enjoyable had George Sherrill not flirted with disaster once more.

Dempsey's Army
summed it up best last week in a great posting about Sherrill's ulcer-inducing tendencies and where they rank in comparison to O's closers. The post references Don Stanhouse as a comparison point. Tom Davis and, fittingly, Rick Dempsey likewise focused on Stanhouse during MASN's "O's Extra" following the game. And Roch makes the reference this morning. So it's unanimous. (Roch also mentions Jay Payton not flipping his cap after the game. Payton similarly refused to do so last week, pushing the bill back down after Roberts flipped it up.)

You can say this much for Sherrill: he has a flair for the dramatic. Three straight strikeouts, including flailing swings from Kosuke Fukudome as the thundering crowd chanted the rookie right fielder's last name. All this after loading the bases? Wow, indeed.

[Image source: AP. Click photo for original.]

***Update - Roch Kubatko later provided an explanation for Payton's unwillingness to flip the bill of his hat:

If George Sherrill collects another save tonight, don't touch Jay Payton's cap. He's not flipping the bill. But he's also not being a malcontent.

Payton says he doesn't want to ruin a good thing by joining the party late and perhaps jinxing Sherrill the next time he takes the mound. Payton finds the ritual quite amusing. He just enjoys being a spectator instead of a participant.

Also, Payton and Sherrill apparently perform their own ritual after saves that we haven't noticed. Payton won't reveal it. Has anyone seen it?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bird Bloggers Taking Shots from Cubbie Loyalists

Wrigleyville 23 brings the heat in blog roundup

by Matthew Taylor

"My main beef with Oriole blogland is these people are all still fans of the Orioles, even though there is no way any rational person should still be on board with this Peter Angelos-run franchise. "

It helps to have a sense of humor when you're an O's fan. A sense of humor also comes in handy when you're blogging about the team. With those things in mind, Roar from 34 had a laugh while reading the thoughts shared by Wrigleyville23 in its Round Up of O's blogs headed into this week's series Interleague series.
My main beef with Oriole blogland is these people are all still fans of the Orioles, even though there is no way any rational person should still be on board with this Peter Angelos-run franchise. My second complaint is almost all of them are baby poop orange in some way or another.

Other than that, there seem to be some decent blogs here.

Roar From 34 checks in with Brewers blogs - but ignores Chuckie Hacks and never once calls Prince Fielder fat. Come on, guys, we have rules when it comes to dealing with the Brewers. They also don't seem to object to Brewers fans pondering trades for the O's best players. Odd.

Dempsey's Army uses the old phrase Oriole Magic. You'd think magic would get them to better than two games over .500.

Card O The Day is playing with baseball cards. Orioles cards, to be precise.

Of course, there is also the SBN blog and MVN blog doing what they do. Oh, and the Orioles Hangout, where the Orioles hang out.
Baby poop Orange? It's original, I'll say that much. Just for fun, I checked out Sherwin-Williams' color visualizer; Energetic Orange, Daredevil, Obstinate Orange, Knockout Orange - they're all there. But alas, no Baby Poop. Which color most accurately describes the Birds? Vote in Roar from 34's poll.

Another gem from an earlier Wrigleyville23 posting, this one a tad bit sharper: "The Baltimore Sun has a story on the trade that wasn't - and concludes that both the Cubs and Orioles are happy ... In other words, the Cubs are the best team in baseball and the Orioles remain a mediocrity, which is all they will ever be with Peter Angelos in charge."

You'd think a Cubs fan would know a thing or two about loyalty.

You're on notice, Wrigleyville23. Heed the words of Kevin Millar: "I'm guaranteeing a 2008 World Series; everybody else is. I'm going on the record right now. We're going to shock the world. I don't know who Dempster is in Chicago, but if he thinks he's going to win the World Series, he has to come through us first."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Thoughts from Brewers Nation ... or Is It "The Brewer Nation?"

Brewer bloggers - some with very similar blog names - weigh in on the weekend series

by Matthew Taylor

The Birds' Sunday blues continued this weekend as the O's dropped the series finale - and the three-game set - to Milwaukee. Final score: 7-3.

The Brewers, a franchise that in 2005 ended its run of 12-straight losing seasons, are in the playoff chase, which has the team's fans thinking about the O's as both an opponent and as a potential trade partner.

Here are some thoughts from the Brewer blogs:

A very complimentary Brew Crew Pub liked what it saw this weekend from Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis. However, Roberts is more of interest to Brewers fans than is Markakis thanks to former Sun columnist Ken Rosenthal.

Brian Roberts displayed why fans were intrigued by Ken Rosenthal's article about a straight up trade for Rickie Weeks. This switch hitting second baseman put on a show in the field and at the plate. Ultimately, he set the table for guys like Huff and Markakis and scored all three runs for the Orioles on Sunday. He may be over 30, but the guy can play and continues to have a good career ahead of him.

If the Orioles bottom half of the lineup was a cause for concern, their 1-4 part of the lineup is something worth cheering about. Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts are straight ball players. These guys have an exceptional awareness of the strike zone, can steal bases and can hit for power. It's the recipe for consistency, and why the Orioles will have no trouble moving these guys if they ever wanted to. Roberts might get the heave-ho, but Markakis will get himself another three years of Orioles baseball and is not a bad guy to start building around. Though it's pretty difficult to build a monster that's good enough to take on teams like the Yankees and Red Sox on a regular basis.

The Brewer Nation offers its take on the Rosenthal article.

It was reported that Roberts' contract does not expire until the end of the 2009 season which really makes the deal more interesting since Roberts is a proven lead off hitter that is also a switch hitter which brings another left-handed bat into the everyday lineup to balance the lineup a bit.

Another factor is the age difference. Brian Roberts is 30 while Weeks in only 25. That's not too bad if you ask me. Also, when Weeks struggled down in the minors, he fixed whatever problems he had offensively and this year, we have seen a marked improvement on the field. The only problem with Weeks is that he appears to be regressing offensively. Can the Brewers afford to wait for Weeks to turn it around if they are seriously making a post-season push?

We might not have enough time to wait. If I was Doug Melvin, I'd give this some serious thoughts especially since the Cubs threw just about everything at the Orioles this off-season to obtain Roberts. There's nothing nicer than trumping the Cubs.

Don’t confuse "The Brewer Nation" with Brewers Nation. Yes, the team is just that popular; there aren't enough blog names to go around.

If Coca-Cola can call out Coke Zero for taste infringement, Brewers Nation can and does call out The Brewer Nation for name infringement. Nevertheless, Brewers Nation is excited about the team's rising attendance on the road and at home, a fact that also has Right Field Bleachers abuzz (or should it be "buzzed"?).

I can't tell you how nice it is to go to a Brewers game and see the seats filled with people. And those people are wearing Brewers' gear, not Packers'. It's a different era for baseball in Wisconsin and it's looking good. It took a little while to earn the fans' trust again after fielding uncompetitive teams for over a decade, but I think the Brewers are really building a strong fan base again. It seems especially strong with younger people, which is encouraging for the future of the club.

Finally, is excited about Seth McLung’s performance this weekend.

Seth McClung ran his list of consecutive excellent (not quality) starts to four by dominating the Orioles tonight. McClung has now carved out a beach head on Legit Island. The last man on the pitching staff when camp broke in Arizona, Seth has seized a strong hold on a rotation spot with his side-step from thrower to pitcher. Nobody would have predicted that McClung would suddenly start doing what he is now executing. You have to love the game of baseball.

Sports Bubbler is written by Milwaukee Brewer broadcaster Jim Powell, a fact that should come as no surprise; only a sports broadcaster, or a teenager imitating a SportsCenter anchor, would use the phrase “carved out a beach head on Legit Island.”

Friday, June 20, 2008

Flashback Friday: One of the "Forgotten Birds"

Newspaper profile of Al Cihocki invites curiosity about Baltimore's forgotten baseball past

by Matthew Taylor

Happy Flashback Friday, O's fans. It may as well have been Flashback Week at Camden Yards.

On Tuesday evening, the team celebrated Wild Bill Hagy Night, a throwback to the team's glory days at Memorial Stadium.

On Wednesday, following the Birds' 2-1, 10th inning win, I found myself whistling the tune of "Orioles Magic" on the concourse at Camden Yards, only to realize that the guy next to me was doing the same thing.

These are indeed good times in Baltimore.

This week's Flashback Friday item also harkens back to the Birds' glory days, though this collection of days came well before Orioles Magic, before the city even had a major league team. Today, Roar from 34 remembers Al Cihocki and the International League Orioles.

Earlier this week, ran a feature on former International League O Al Cihocki. Cihocki, 86, had a brief stint in the majors with the Cleveland Indians; however, some of his best baseball years came with the Orioles. The article identifies Cihocki as an Orioles Hall of Famer, though his name doesn't appear on the Oriole Advocates' official list.
Cihocki spent seven years with the Orioles’ organization, all before the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore and became the major league Orioles in 1954.

He was a fan favorite and is enshrined in the Orioles’ Hall of Fame. He was dubbed Baltimore’s Ironman, years before a fellow named Cal Ripken Jr. would take that mantle. The second baseman played every inning of all 154 games in 1946, despite the lingering pain in his eye.

He played the most games (850) in Class AAA Oriole history. He remembers seeing full-size cardboard cutouts of himself throughout the city, and seeing his face on the sides of city busses.

His grit and determination which won him fans, and his ability in the field which won over his teammates.


And still, whenever Cihocki finds himself in Baltimore, he’s recognized and gets special treatment, according to Al, Jr.

“One time he took me and my buddy, Jerry, to a game,” Cihocki Jr. said. “Jerry liked (Hall of Famers) Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio with the (Chicago) White Sox. Dad took us down to a game in Baltimore. We met Aparicio right on the field, and he and Fox signed balls for my buddy.”
Among Cihocki's claims to fame is that he appeared on the field for the Indians on Aug. 24, 1945, Bob Feller's first game back from the war. Cihocki's own service includes time in the Coast Guard, as detailed on the Baseball in Wartime web site.

More of Cihocki's story will be told in "The Forgotten Birds: The True Story of the International League Orioles." An April 11, 2007, article from the City Paper provides details about the filmmakers' shared quest to rekindle Baltimore's collective memory of its once dominant minor league franchise.
The Forgotten Birds will be received like a lost ark of local sports history when they (hopefully) complete it this June. "Why were they forgotten?" Johnson asks rhetorically. "I'm doing this because I love the game. It's so obvious what they did for this state and brought [major league] baseball back [to Baltimore]." Johnson points out that it was the minor league Orioles' robust following that helped Baltimore convince major league baseball to sanction the move of the St. Louis Browns here to become the modern incarnation of the Baltimore Orioles.

Unfortunately, the International O's were stranded in Baltimore between the current franchise and the Champion Orioles, regarded as one of the top teams of the 19th century. The International Orioles were equally successful; apart from their seven-pennant winning streak, the team also won pennants in 1908 and '44. It took titles by 20 games in 1920 and 19 in '24. Babe Ruth, pitcher Lefty Grove, and five other future Hall of Famers wore the International Orioles uniform.

[Image Source: Click photo for original.]

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Comeback Win No. 20; No. 16 from Two Runs or More

by Matthew Taylor

Orioles 6, Astros 5

The Birds celebrated Wild Bill Hagy Night at the Yard in fitting fashion, working some more of that Orioles Magic of old to beat the Astros, 6-5.

The G-"O" Down Fighting O's continue to be a fun bunch to watch, which makes baseball's trade deadline loom even larger for the die hards. We Oriole fans may have to take our medicine in July as the front office breaks up the band and - reluctantly, but rightfully - keeps an eye on the future of the franchise. It's hard to do when the present is so much fun.

After last night's game we know the following:

1. Dave Trembley still doesn't like blogs,


2. The team that many picked to lose 100 games (Roar from 34 believed the "hype") would have to finish out the season 27-66, a .290 winning percentage, for that to happen.

Here's the rundown of Wild Bill-related game stories:

In an interesting coincidence, two groups of summer travelers visited Camden Yards for Tuesday's game. Ztrip 2008 and Baseball Stadium Tour 2008 offer their thoughts about visiting Charm City to catch a baseball game.

-The hometown blogs have also weighed in:

Oriole Post

The spirit of 'Will" Bill Hagy stayed alive last night as the Orioles pulled yet another come-from-behind win last night as they beat the Houston Astronauts (ok, the Astros), 6-5. The nail for the coffin for Houston came in the 8th inning, as Melvin Mora came through in the clutch -- with two outs, nevertheless -- hitting a double in the gap that would bring the Orioles back from a 5-4 deficit.

Orioles Hangout

Wow. What more can you say about this team? How is it possible for one team to pull off so many thrilling late-inning comebacks? And how fitting that this one happened on Wild Bill Hagy T-shirt night, a man who embodied Orioles Magic. Melvin Mora was the hero this time around with his two-out, two-run double off the Astros' closer in the eighth inning to turn the tables. Kudos also to George Sherrill, who bounced back from his rough Pirates series to seal the deal with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

Sixteen Gold Gloves

Tonight was Wild Bill Hagy night at Camden Yards. There was only one appropriate way to honor him besides giving away t-shirts and that was by finishing the game with a come from behind win. If Jones had surrendered his number 10 jersey to Terry Crowley, and Crowley had driven in several RBIs, it couldn’t have been more reminiscent of those days of magic with Wild Bill leading us. What’s even better than the magic of the seventies is that this team, this year, is just as much fun to watch as they have ever been on the heels of one of their worst years ever (their worst year, surely?).

-And the rest:

WJZ-13: Hagy Honored As Orioles Rally For A Win

Meanwhile, before the game, it was Wild Bill Hagy night in Baltimore.

Wild Bill Hagy is a Baltimore legend.

"I just loved going to the games when I was a little kid and he'd be up in section 34 getting the crowd riled up," said Eric Kearney.

"People on the other side of the stadium would be looking up, waiting for Wild Bill to start leading those cheers. It was just fantastic," said Bob Brandenburger.

The people who were there with him in the 1970s and 80s came together on what would have been his 69th birthday. They remembered those great games and great memories.

Wild Bill fans chose 312 to sit in to honor their friend because section 34 in Camden Yards is nowhere near here. In Memorial Stadium, this is the view they were used to.

His closest friends knew what the biggest cheerleader would want.

"We sang Happy Birthday. It was the first time I sang Happy Birthday to a dead man in my life," said Danny Dimarino.

There was a saved seat, his hat and a stadium of fans showing their Orioles pride, just like in the good old days.

"By the way, if anyone wanted to know where section 34 came from, it was because right below was the men's room," Dimarino said.

The Sun: Reviving Spirit of Section 34

It wasn't the heat of a pennant race in Section 34 of Memorial Stadium, but rather a balmy late spring evening in Section 312 of Camden Yards. And the man who contorted his body in support of his beloved Orioles a generation ago had passed on.

But, for one night, the magic of Orioles baseball was back, as a few hundred of Wild Bill Hagy's closest friends gathered to salute his memory, reminisce about those special times and do the most famous cabdriver-turned-cheerleader proud last night to mark his birthday.

"He was a 150 percent Orioles fan," said Don Cross, 66, of Owings Mills. "He worked as a cabdriver. He worked his butt off, and he'd come to the stadium and had a good time leading the people on. That's what made Baltimore."

Hagy, who would have been 69 yesterday, died Aug. 20, and, in his honor, the Orioles issued bright orange T-shirts to fans with Hagy's name and 34, the number of the Memorial Stadium section where he led cheers and created an aura not seen in baseball stadiums before or since.

USA Today

Orioles fans may have been disinterested in Miguel Tejada because they were enjoying "Wild Bill" Hagy night. Wild Bill was famous in the '70s and early '80s for leading cheers at Memorial Stadium during some of the Orioles' best seasons.

Hagy, a cab driver from Dundalk, Md., died last August. He was honored last night at Camden Yards. Hagy would spell out ORIOLES with his body as he led the crowd in a cheer from section 34. He stopped attending Orioles games in 1985 when the team began prohibiting fans from bringing their own beer to games. On the day before the ban, Hagy told the Baltimore Sun, he drank nine or 10 beers and hurled his cooler onto the field in protest.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

When is Glenn Davis Bobblehead Night?

Tejada's the story for this series, much to Roar from 34's chagrin

by Matthew Taylor

"I'm not really concerned with how [the fans] respect me," Tejada said. "I don't play for them anymore."

The Birds are in the thick of the not-as-interesting-now-that-the-novelty-has-worn-off Interleague portion of the schedule, which means two things: 1. Three straight promotional nights at Camden Yards, and 2. A search for interesting storylines between two teams with little shared history.

The most obvious storyline for Houston's visit to town is, of course, Miguel Tejada's return to Baltimore. Cheer? Boo? Who cares? What I want to know is why the O's aren't giving away Glenn Davis bobbleheads, or at least letting the guy toss a first pitch. You wanna talk history? That's shared history.

Strap on your Steve Finley, Pete Harnisch, and Curt Schilling throwback jerseys, O's fans, as Roar from 34 takes a look at what's being said about the other, more popular storyline that's dominating the headlines for this series.

USA Today

Tejada makes his first trip back to Camden Yards on Tuesday night when the Astros try to snap a season high-tying five-game skid in a matchup with his former club.

Tejada signed a six-year, $72 million contract with Baltimore in December 2003, and the Orioles hoped he would spark a turnaround for a franchise that had suffered through six straight losing seasons. In his four years with the team, however, Tejada failed to help end that streak, and the Orioles sent the four-time All-Star to Houston for five players during the offseason.

''I feel very happy with this trade, because it's something that I've been really looking forward to,'' Tejada said at the time.

Eleven weeks into the 2008 season, however, Tejada still isn't playing for a winner. The Astros (33-37) have lost 14 of 17, including five in a row for the second time in that stretch.


The Orioles are back in action Tuesday after failing to complete a sweep of the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates over the weekend.

The Orioles are back at the .500 mark and are in fourth place in the AL East after losing 5-4 on Sunday.

They'll return to the field Tuesday for the first of three games against Houston.

It's Houston's first trip to Baltimore since the Orioles traded shortstop Miguel Tejada to Houston for five players, including outfielder Luke Scott and relievers Dennis Sarfate and Matt Albers.

Brian McTaggert of the Houston Chronicle reports that Miggi is looking forward to being back in Charm City.

"If I said no I'd be lying," he said. "I really want to go back there and say hi to all my teammates and all the people I know over there and get a chance to play there again."

And anticipating the fan reaction, "I always had a good relationship with the fans," said Tejada, who remains under FBI investigation because of ties to performance-enhancing drugs. "They were like family there, and they liked the way I played. I hope they keep liking what I do."

The Astros team site showed a bit more realistic expectation for Tejada’s welcome back to town understanding that he may not be greeted as a hero after all the whining and trade demands.

“I'm not really concerned with how [the fans] respect me," Tejada said. "I don't play for them anymore.”

“I think the best thing for the team was for me to go somewhere else and for the team to get what they got," Tejada said. "They should be happy with what they got."

Connolly’s Corner Sports Bar

But Tuesday’s primary Think Special is an obvious one.

Miggy’s back.

Shortstop Miguel Tejada returns to Camden Yards Tuesday with the Houston Astros after four years as the Orioles’ best and most expensive player.

We’re having a cerveza special here at Connolly’s in honor of the old No. 10 in your scorebooks. Buy one Presidente beer at regular cost, get the next four for 10 cents each. Be warned, however, the fifth and sixth will cost you $24 million or five solid major leaguers/prospects.

Miggy is slated to meet the Baltimore press at 4:30 Tuesday, and I’ll tell you what’s going to happen. He’ll be soft-spoken and cordial, and he’ll talk about how he loved Baltimore and how he has no hard feelings toward the organization and the fans. He’ll then say he is an Astro now and couldn’t be happier being in Houston.

Tejada’s not the type to trash anyone – he’s too nice of a man. If he’s uncomfortable answering a pointed question, he’ll just shrug it away and look for something easier.

The interesting part will be how you, the fans, react to him. Will he be remembered as a team leader and tremendous talent, with a contagious smile and plenty of time for the fans? Or was he the most glaring example of a club that didn’t do things the right way and got paid handsomely to finish fourth?

Would you boo him? Or applaud him? Or offer no reaction at all?

Camden Chat

Tomorrow night former Oriole Miguel Tejada makes his triumphant return to Charm City, his first appearance since being traded to the Astros this past winter. One would think that unlike his former teammate Erik Bedard, Miggi won't be faking any injuries to get out of facing his old team.

Since his departure, Miggi has been through quite a bit. The tragedy of losing his brother in a motorcycle accident, his appearance in the Mitchell Report (and the subsequent federal investigation), and the revelation that he is actually two years older than he'd claimed his entire career.

Despite all that, Miggi has responded well to the change of scenery. He's currently batting an even .300 with 9 HR, 41 RBI, and an OPS+ of 112. It's not surprising, really. Though Miggi's luster had faded a bit by his fourth year in Baltimore, he left us an above average player worn down by years of losing, unfulfilled promises, and clubhouse controversy.

Most of the Astros' staff is pretty unfamiliar with the Orioles.

They last played the American League team in June 2005.

But if manager Cecil Cooper needs help preparing for the three-game road series in Baltimore on Tuesday, shortstop Miguel Tejada may be able to help

Tejada played in Baltimore for four years before being traded to Houston in December 2007. The trip will mark his first time in Maryland since his relocation.

The shortstop said he is eagerly anticipating the visit with old teammates and friends.

Oriole Magic

There has been a lot of discussion online about return of Miguel Tejada as the Houston Astros come into town Tuesday-Thursday at the Yard. Anyhow, he was signed to a monster deal in 2004 to a piece of the puzzle to vault the Orioles back into contention.

He had a career season in ‘04, driving in 150 runs and slamming 34 homers; however, in the years after, he was very productive, but did not come close to his numbers the first year in an Oriole uniform.

Let’s fast forward to 2008 — he’s now two years older than originally thought; he’s gotten slower, and has been ensnared into the whole Mitchell Report mess.

All that above is the least of his problems.

He could be indicted for apparently lying to the Feds about his involvement in the Rafael Palmeiro affair, as well as his alleged drug use.

When he was with the Orioles, he was the offense force, but yet also perhaps was a detriment to the team through his constant trade demands, whining, also earned the ire of fans based on his play at shortstop — which had started to decline in his tenure with the Orioles.

There have been a few articles in the Sun (here, here) and also Roch has opined about it, but what do you all think?

One more question, do we cheer or boo him?

[Image source: New York Daily News. Click photo for original.]

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Start of Rookie League Ball in Bluefield

by Matthew Taylor

"It gives us something to do here in Bluefield, so it's a good thing. I think that we've got a nice group of boys here and I think we'll do good this year."

A Meet and Greet picnic with the team? This is the sort of stuff that makes minor league baseball, or in this case rookie league ball, so great. The
dispatch from Bluefield.
"Before a picnic dinner was served, first-year manager Orlando Gomez formally introduced himself to the assembled fans. Gomez is excited to be in Nature’s Air-Conditioned City.

'Everybody that I've talked to, they have some wonderful things to say about Bluefield, and I was looking forward to it here,' Gomez said. 'People so far have been nice. They love the game and make the players and even myself get involved.'

Linda Krondon was ready to begin the season. The Bluefield resident and president of the Bluefield Orioles Booster Club is coordinating the yearly adopt-a-player program where the athletes get food and shelter with in area households.

'It gives us something to do here in Bluefield, so it's a good thing,' Krondon said. 'I think that we've got a nice group of boys here and I think we'll do good this year.'"
WVNS provides a brief write-up of the event and some video coverage to boot.

This 2004 story from The Sun details the love affair between Bluefield and its "Baby Birds."

[Image source: WVNS. Click on photo for original.]

Friday, June 13, 2008

Flashback Friday: Of Brother Lo and "Jesus Christ Superstar"

Daniel Okrent captures the essence of an Oriole favorite

by Matthew Taylor

"When he was with Cleveland, the Municipal Stadium organist took to playing a different 'theme' for each Indian player, and signified Lowenstein with 'Hava Nagila'; instructed that Lowenstein wasn't Jewish, the organist switched to 'Jesus Christ Superstar.'"

This week's "Flashback Friday" features Daniel Okrent's colorful description of John Lowenstein from the classic book, "Nine Innings."

Perhaps the most enduring visual image of Lowenstein features the platoon outfielder, arms raised triumphantly to the sky, drawing a rousing ovation from the home crowd during the infamous 1980 stretcher incident, a highlight I watched several times as a young fan at Memorial Stadium. Words don't do it justice, but blogger Urban Shocker offers a description of that night, as does Lowenstein himself in John Eisenberg's book, "From 33rd Street to Camden Yards."

Okrent's narrative about Lowenstein's general mien serves as an enduring complement to the classic video. Okrent does with words what the Memorial Stadium highlight reel did with images; namely, encapsulate the unique character that was "Brother Lo."

"There were two outs when Weaver reached into his tool kit for the last of his outfield parts, John Lowenstein.

If Dwyer was valuable because of his varied attributes, Lowenstein was priceless. If Dwyer was rare - because of his dedication, his itinerant career, his accounting degree, his uncomplaining willingness to adapt - Lowenstein was unique. He was a beak-nosed man of 35 and had played in more than 100 games only twice in his eleven-year major league career. When he was with Cleveland, the Municipal Stadium organist took to playing a different 'theme' for each Indian player, and signified Lowenstein with 'Hava Nagila'; instructed that Lowenstein wasn't Jewish, the organist switched to 'Jesus Christ Superstar.' By the time he had his three hundredth major league at-bat, Lowenstein had played every position but pitcher and catcher. He had a B.A. in anthropology from the University of California and was without question the wittiest man in the American League, the ready supplier of cogent and clever quotes for any desperate writer. And he had the engaging quality, desperately rare in baseball, of self-deprecation, ready to turn his wit on himself. In the middle 1970s, he had given an interview to the Wall Street Journal in which he made the case for mediocrity in baseball, citing himself as a model example. That was around the same time that Lowenstein, having discouraged some Clevelanders from forming a fan club in his honor, instead gave his blessing to a 'John Lowenstein Apathy Club.'

But Lowenstein was more than a pleasing ornament to baseball; he had become a fine player, too. He had always had speed, and had employed it well by mastering the walking lead off first base, enabling him to steal bases by surprise and to reach third on routine singles. He knew how to play the outfield, could fill in virtually anywhere else, and had become an able hitter. In 1979, his first Baltimore season, he hit 11 home runs in only 197 at-bats. (By way of comparison, that 1-HR-in-18-at-bats ratio stood up well to, say, Gorman Thomas's 1:17 ratio in 1981, or to the fact that Eddie Murray had only once in his prodigious career exceeded a 1:20 ratio.) In 1980, Weaver used Lowenstein so well that he hit .311 in 104 games. And thus far in 1982, with the season less than one third over, Lowenstein already had 11 home runs while still serving as a platoon player." (pp. 196-197)

[Image source: Baseball Almanac. Click photo for original]

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Around the Horn: Talkin' Baseball, From the Beltway to Billings

Montana remembers McNally, and other O's odds and ends

by Matthew Taylor

A day after word spread about Jay Gibbons’ letter to all 30 major league ball clubs, it looks like the former O might be back in business. ESPN has the story.

"According to the report, Gibbons said he will sign with a New York- or New Jersey-based team in the eight-team Atlantic League, a circuit largely made up of former major and minor leaguers looking for another chance to get back into affiliated baseball. Four of the league's eight teams are in or near New York or New Jersey -- most notably the Long Island Ducks, whose roster has included John Rocker, Juan Gonzalez and Jose Offerman and currently includes Carl Everett and Donovan Osborne."

Oriole Post offers a reaction to Gibbons’ effort to get back in the game.

"I think he's served his punishment by just the embarrassment factor alone. He was hung out to dry by Major League Baseball, and was pretty much tried and convicted by most fans on the 'net, sports talk radio as well as the press.

In the end, I only wish Jay Gibbons the best of luck getting a spot back into the sport, as I believe he's truly sorry, wants forgiveness, and a chance to play again -- unlike some of the others who have been implicated, who have either lawyered up or refused to talk."

They’re still bitter up in Toronto. An op-ed from Digital Journal reflects as much.

"I went to the ball game last Friday night with a colleague from work who happens to be an Orioles fan. Yes, they do exist."

D.C. fans are also a bit bitter these days. To be fair, though, they were baited on the WTOP message boards.

"We didn't ask for you to inject Baltimore's baseball team on Washington. Why? Because we don't like you. And we don't want to hear about your baseball team. The Nationals are Washington's team.

And by the way, the Washington Nationals draw more people each game than the Baltimore Orioles do. Look it up. And without Washingtonians coming up to watch the Yankees and Red Sox when they visit Camden Yards, the Baltimore Orioles would be drawing less than most minor league teams. Baltimore only survives as a franchise because they play both the Red Sox and Yankees a couple dozen times a year. It's the fans of those teams that keep the Baltimore Orioles afloat.

Keep watching those moving vans circling Camden Yards, especially at night. They're back from Indianapolis and are ready to move another of Baltimore's teams."

Finally, a reason to take a road trip to Montana; a “larger-than-life” statue of former Bird Dave McNally is going up outside of the Billings Mustangs’ stadium, according to the Billings Gazette.

"Those items include larger-than-life statues of Billings native Dave McNally, who pitched for the Baltimore Orioles for 13 years, and Hall of Fame American Legion coach Ed Bayne, who led the Billings Royals to 14 consecutive state championships and 20 overall. The statues will be placed near the main entrance of the new stadium, which sits at the corner of North 27th Street and Ninth Avenue North."

More feel good news generated by The Ripken Foundation.

"The West End House boys baseball team earned its first win of the season in the Allston-Brighton Little League. The 12-and-under Pirates won their first game on Thursday, May 29, a 10-4 win over the Athletics. This is the first year that the club has been able to enter a team in the Little League, thanks to the Ripken Foundation. Sixteen West End House boys make up the Pirates baseball squad, coached by West End House staff Terry Cineus and volunteer James Perry.

The West End House Boys a recipient of a $29,182 Ripken Foundation grant, which includes an equipment package valued at $4,182 and a cash award of $25,000. Thanks to these monetary and equipment grants, 30 West End House kids will have the opportunity to play on a structured team this spring. The Ripken Foundation also is providing the means for equipment, program training, staff, and other funding to bring Badges for Baseball to our young members as well as youth from 25 cities and towns across Massachusetts. The foundation will also send children to the Cal Ripken Academy in Aberdeen, Md., this summer for a weeklong baseball camp."

It’s (almost) official: Brooks is the all-time greatest defensive third baseman. The York Revolution will make it official on July 1.

"In the 50 years the Rawlings Gold Glove has been awarded to the best defensive players at each position in baseball, only three players in the game's history have amassed an eye-popping 16 Gold Gloves. Brooks Robinson, for whom the plaza outside of Sovereign Bank Stadium is named, is universally recognized as the greatest defensive third baseman of all-time. Such a distinction will be made official on Tuesday, July 1, before the York Revolution take on the Newark Bears at 7:07 p.m.

Robinson will be honored as the third baseman of the 'All-Time Rawlings Gold Glove Team' at the home of the Revolution, where he is already immortalized with a statue on the Brooks Robinson Plaza."

Lots of stories out there about O’s prospects taken in the draft. Roar from 34 is a sucker for the “local guy makes good” angle.

News about L.J. Hoes from The Gazette

"L.J. Hoes frequently attended Bowie Baysox games when he was younger. After all, Prince George’s Stadium is just 15 minutes from his Mitchellville home, and he and his father would get a discount if he wore his team jersey.

Now, Hoes could be on track to return to his hometown ballpark. The Baltimore Orioles made him the 81st pick in the third round of the Major League Baseball draft last week, and he said he expects to bypass his commitment to the University of North Carolina and sign with the club in the coming days."

… and from

"Tar Heel baseball signee L.J. Hoes informed on Wednesday evening that he has decided to bypass college and will sign a contract with the Baltimore Orioles.

'I plan on meeting with the Orioles and signing my contract on Saturday,' he said.

Hoes, an outfielder at Washington (D.C.) St. John's, was a third-round selection (81st pick overall) by Baltimore in last week's Major League Baseball draft.

'The Orioles are a local team and their farm system has a [team] right by my house,' Hoes said. 'I thought I would have gone a little earlier, but I was very happy to be picked by the Orioles.'"

On the blog beat, SC of Camden Chat really loves Jim Johnson, but he’s willing to share the love as well in his “Top Five Most Birdland.”

"1. Jim Johnson: Never lets you down! 1.31 ERA! Pretty crappy strikeout-to-walk ratio (shhhh!) but no one is getting any hits off of him.

2. Nick Markakis: Uh oh, someone's gotten red-hot.

3. Jeremy Guthrie: Also never lets you down. No, he's probably not going to contend for Cy Youngs with gaudy numbers, but dude's looking like he can legit anchor a staff.

4. Daniel Cabrera: Hasn't been very good at all in three of his last four starts, but hold on loosely. And don't let go.

5. George Sherrill: Seems like he has a tendency to make it exciting, but the numbers are rock solid. 2.83 ERA, a WHIP just over 1, and a sub-.170 BAA? I'll take it."

No word yet on a “Top Five Least Birdland.” Chances are, though, that it won’t include Kevin Millar. More “Millar Loves Boston” talk, this time courtesy of The Loss Column.

"As Andrew pointed out in the Amber thread, Kevin Millar spent his Sunday night taking in the Celtics game (scroll down) with some other Boston sports luminaries. As one would expect, he showed up on the big screen and received quite the ovation.

I don’t know what to make of this. On the one hand it’s just some dude enjoying an off night among friends. On the other, it just looks bad.

Basically I think it comes down to this: Millar is kind of a big oaf, and he knows not what he does. Some of the best years of his life were spent in Boston and he probably really does wish he was still there. I don’t doubt that he gives the Orioles 100%, but he’s not now and will never be “one of us” (for lack of a better way to put it). He’s just a warm body at first base, holding a place for Mark Teixeira or whoever else we settle on to man that position for real.

It’s a shame, though, because I’d like to like him. As it stands, the best I can do is just not really care one way or the other."

[Image source: Life in Legacy. Click on photo for original.]

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Jay Gibbons Makes His Pitch to Get Back in Baseball

by Matthew Taylor

ESPN's Buster Olney offers the full text of Jay Gibbons' letter to every major league team, in which he pleads for a chance to get back into the game he loves.

Gibbons offers to donate his entire minor league salary - and a significant portion of his major league salary should he be promoted - to a charity chosen by the team that signs him. A brief excerpt of Gibbons' writing is included below. Follow the link above for the complete letter.

"Writing this letter is both painful and humiliating. It has been almost six weeks since my release from the Orioles and I am still unable to land any opportunity at a second chance to play the game that I love.

I am young, healthy and determined. I have acknowledged and apologized for the mistake that I made and writing this letter should be proof enough that I have indeed suffered for my mistake.


All I need is a chance -- any chance -- anywhere. I am more than willing to begin the process of proving that I can and will be a productive major league player by playing in the minor leagues."

[Image source: The Sports Truth blog. Click photo for original.]

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Business of Baseball: In Praise of Peter Angelos?

Not quite, but let's at least give credit where credit is due

by Matthew Taylor

Regionalism. For years now it has been a dirty word in Baltimore, understood by locals to represent an effort to drain the Orioles' organization of its local identity. Regionalism meant business suits and cell phones in Camden Yards; it referred to the absence of the city's name on the team's road jerseys.

Now that D.C. has its own new stadium and team, and Oriole players will soon sport "Baltimore" across their chests whenever they leave the friendly confines, even die-hard Bird watchers should be willing to consider the bigger picture.

The time has come to redefine the word regionalism in our local vocabulary and give it a more positive meaning. Because for as much as Adam Jones, young arms, and 5-for-1 player deals are central to the O's future on-field success, regional appeal - fostered through broadcast rights - is ultimately what will fuel the organization's financial solvency and success.

With this in mind, Oriole fans should have a keen interest in Monday's ruling by a federal arbitrator that Time Warner Cable must carry MASN in North Carolina, a decision that serves as another indicator of the revival of this proud franchise. Tim Lemke of The Washington Times provides a brief overview of the ruling's significance.
First, an arbitrator in North Carolina has ordered Time Warner Cable to carry the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, allowing more than 1 million cable subscribers to begin getting Nationals and Orioles games. The ruling essentially expands MASN's coverage area to nearly all of North Carolina all the way up to parts of Pennsylvania.
The Birds' regional appeal has typically been measured in strict relation to the D.C. and Northern Virginia markets. However, North Carolina and Pennsylvania are in fact two key target markets that have been getting, and will continue to get, marketing attention from the O's.

Take, for example, the presence of Oriole promotions and personalities at Durham Bulls games, including last summer's MASN-sponsored visit by Rick Dempsey to Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Roar from 34 noted at the time: "It's a shrewd move by MASN to strengthen its ties to the North Carolina market. The Birds were the nearest Major League Baseball team until the Nats started playing ball in D.C., and O's games are regularly televised in the state."

Sure, fans from these areas could just as easily gravitate toward the Nationals given that MASN broadcasts both teams' games. Either way the Orioles will benefit. Remember that sweetheart of a deal Peter Angelos got from MLB when the Expos relocated to D.C.? The Orioles currently have a 90 percent stake in MASN, a share that will reportedly decline to a still favorable 67 percent over the next 23 years.

The bottom line is eyeballs, a million or more pairs of which could in theory be trained on MASN should the network continue to hold serve in its battle with Time Warner, thus creating a strong regional sports network (RSN) for the Birds. Keeping up with the big boys of the AL East, those Evil Empires to the north, will forever require the type of financial backing that a strong network can provide.

Consider the insight on RSNs offered by
Kurt Badenhausen, a senior editor at Forbes, during a Q&A with the excellent blog "The Biz of Baseball."

Bizball: RSNs have become an incredibly important part of the revenue streams for many clubs. How big of a factor are they, and do they create a have and have-not environment for those clubs that are in markets where they are unable to take full or partial ownership of one?

Badenhausen: We don’t include the value of RSNs in our calculations of team values. From a revenue standpoint, we only include the rights fee that the RSN pays the baseball team. These are supposed to be arms-length transactions to adhere with MLB’s revenue sharing regulations. But there is no doubt that the Yankees and Red Sox are getting below-market rights fees from their RSNs. While we don’t include RSNs in the value of teams, they are an important factor driving the business of the teams that have them. The Yankees and Red Sox collect stars to help fuel ratings on YES and NESN respectively. Both RSNs are extremely profitable allowing the teams to dole out high salaries and potentially lose money on the team itself, while making it up with RSN profits.

Earlier this season, in an article titled "The failure dynasties," ESPN's Jonah Keri snarkily stated, "Every player, manager, GM and hot dog vendor who failed to do the job in the past 10 years is an extension of Angelos' reign of error." Keri accurately identified Angelos as the fans' favorite whipping boy.

By contrast, this is one case that calls for a begrudging acknowledgment of, and a tip of the cap to, the owner's business acumen.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Blog Round-Up: There's Anger in the Air in Toronto

Jays bloggers do what their team couldn't - bash the O's

by Matthew Taylor

Two out of three ain’t bad, but it clearly wasn’t good enough for Dave Trembley on Sunday following the Birds’ 5-4 loss to the Jays.

Know who else wasn’t feeling too happy this weekend? Jays fans. Here’s a round-up of some blog reactions to the O’s visit to the Rogers Center:

Drunk Jays Fan sounds, rather fittingly, like an angry drunk. Saturday’s game? A “piece of [excrement]." But DJF’s disgust isn’t limited to this series:

“Sure … the jays won back-to-back World Series in the early 90s. But the point is, I was too young to drink and therefore appreciate it properly. Is it too much to ask that we be [sh**faced] when we witness these events?”

Hmmm … is anyone else suddenly reminded of those $2 Tuesday YouTube videos from back in April?

The Mockingbird notes that A.J. Burnett has “the maturity of a two-year-old Chihuahua,” following Burnett’s mock tipping of his cap on Saturday. And to think, we could’ve had this guy in Orange and Black. Burnett, that is; not The Mockingbird.

KP Wee of Jays Nest is no fan of the “last-place Baltimore Orioles,” a team he considers “inferior” to the Blue Jays. But that’s nothing compared to Wee’s opinion of “baseball’s worst team,” a designation he reserves for Toronto’s next opponent, the Seattle Mariners.

Finally, Hugo of Blue Bird Banter, in a posting titled “This City’s a Mess, This City’s a Mess, This City’s a Mess,” notes that “the Jays can’t afford to keep losing, particularly against Baltimore.”

Roar from 34's take on the weekend - Sure, a sweep would've been ideal, especially considering the 4-2 lead Radhames Liz gave the bullpen on Sunday. However, Friday's amazing comeback and Saturday's battering of A.J. Burnett should offset any major disappointment among O's fans. The Birds leave Toronto with a .500 record, just a half-game out of third place. This is fast becoming one of the most entertaining O's seasons in recent memory.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Flashback Friday: "Doubleheader Don" Aase

Former O's closer holds two unique doubleheader distinctions

by Matthew Taylor

Former Oriole Don Aase’s name re-emerged this baseball season when Fausto Carmona and Cliff Lee of the Indians each tossed nine shutout innings in a May doubleheader; it was the first time that two pitchers pulled off the feat since Aase and Reggie Cleveland did so for Boston in a 1977 doubleheader against Toronto.

Aase gave up three hits, struck out four, and walked two at Exhibition Stadium that Monday in 1977 (box score) to improve his record to 4-1 and get the doubleheader started off right for the Sox. Aase made his MLB debut in July of that season and earned his first win on July 26, 1977 (box score) against the Brewers. He ended his rookie year with a 6-2 record and a 3.12 ERA in 13 starts.

However, Aase, pitching for Boston and California during his first four big league seasons, wouldn’t last as a starter. He became a reliever in 1980, a role he would reprise following his return to the majors in 1984 after nearly two seasons on the shelf following elbow surgery.

The Orioles signed Aase as a free agent in 1985, and he rewarded the team by going 10-6 with 14 saves. Aase earned a then-club record 34 saves in 1986, a season in which he made his first and only All-Star appearance.

UPI’s coverage of the 1986 All-Star game follows.

Lou Whitaker hit a two-run homer Tuesday night and the American League held the National League to five hits and its fewest runs in 18 years in a 3-2 victory in the All-Star Game.

The AL, with Don Aase entering with runners on first and third and one out, staved off a ninth-inning rally by getting Chris Brown to hit into a game-ending double play.

The outcome gave the AL its second victory in the last 15 All-Star Games. The AL last won in 1983 and trails the series 36-20-1.

Whitaker's second-inning homer backed hometown hero Roger Clemens, who opened the AL pitching assault with three perfect innings and was awarded the victory. The Boston Red Sox right-hander was named the Most Valuable Player.

The game also featured an outstanding performance by Dodgers left-hander Fernando Valenzuela, who tied the 52-year-old record of Carl Hubbell by striking out five consecutive batters.

Aase’s 34 saves in 1986 also set a then-major league record for saves earned with a last place team.

Late in '86 season Aase earned a unique spot in O’s history, another feat connected to doubleheaders. On Aug. 28 he became the first Birds pitcher to lose two games in the same day when he gave up game-winning hits, first to Dave Kingman and later to Carney Langsford, against the Athletics (Game 1; Game 2).

Following post-Oriole stints with the Mets and Dodgers, Aase retired following the 1990 season (career stats).

[Image source: Click on photo for original.]

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Checking In on Billy the Kid

2006 draft pick Billy Rowell doing farm work in Frederick

by Matthew Taylor

Thursday is MLB’s draft day, which offers a fitting opportunity to check in on O’s prospect Billy Rowell.

The Birds took Rowell with the ninth pick in 2006, a draft that is already starting to bear fruit for some major league teams. Rowell came off the board one slot ahead of current Giants fireballer Tim Lincecum; 12 ahead of the Yankees' Ian Kennedy; and six slots behind Tampa Bay’s “Mr. Everything” Evan Longoria. Rowell was the highest pick among high school position players selected in the 2006 draft.

So far Rowell is best known for his legendary 480-foot home run in Aberdeen in 2006. The Pennsauken, NJ, native's power from the third base position has drawn comparisons with the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman, though injury is their most common shared trait at this point in their young careers; Rowell sat out the start of the '07 season with a strained oblique.


William Rowell, 3B: We compared Rowell to a young Ryan Zimmerman, boldly proclaiming there would be a big debate in the not-too-distant future as to who is the better third baseman. OK, so maybe Rowell got a little excited when he saw the memo. It's not like he had a bad year, hitting .273 with nine homers and 57 RBIs for Class A Delmarva of the South Atlantic League. He missed the first month and a half with an injured oblique muscle and never really seemed to get in a tremendous groove. He fanned 104 times while drawing only 31 walks. Bear in mind, he turned 19 last month.

Billy Rowell, 3B: The injured oblique kept Rowell on steady ground, preventing him from moving up or down in the eyes of many. Obviously, the talent and the promise that comes along with said talent are still there. But he'll need to have a bigger, better and healthier '08 to make the move up a few rungs. rated Rowell as the AL East's top-rated third base prospect heading into the '07 season. He was a 2006 Rookie League All-Star.

Earlier this year The Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec fielded a question on Rowell’s progress as part of his regular O’s Q&A.

Rich, Tampa, Fla.: How is Bill Rowell progressing and what is the rough estimate for when he projects to play in the big leagues? Is the goal to have Rowell replace Melvin Mora when his contract expires or will that be too soon?

Jeff Zrebiec: Rowell didn't severely regress last season, but he certainly didn't take the next step either. He was slowed by the ever popular oblique injury and wound up hitting .273 with nine homers and 57 RBIs at Single-A Delmarva. He also struck out 104 times in 352 at-bats, which is rather alarming. He is still very much a work-in-progress defensively at third base, and some scouts feel that his future position is across the diamond at first base. So, I think it's a little early to anoint Rowell as the successor to Mora, whose contract is up after the 2009 season. Unless he breaks out with a truly monster year in '08, I still think 2010 is the absolute earliest you'll see him in the majors. Club officials still really like him and there's no question about his power. And he's still only 19. But this is a big season for him. This is a big season for several Orioles minor leaguers, including Brandon Erbe and Brandon Snyder.
Rowell is currently batting .246 for the Frederick Keys with 2 home runs, 22 RBIs, and a .677 OPS. He has 38 K's (in 37 games) against 12 walks. The bright spot among Rowell's current numbers is his production with runners in scoring position: .394 avg., .475 OBP, .485 SLG, .960 OPS.

Some useful resources to look back on past drafts:

-The Birds' draft results from 2006 (and other years) on

-ESPN's list of the Orioles' first round draft picks through the years

-Overall first-round draft results from 2006

[Image source: Click on photo for original.]

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Road to Minnesota

Twins offering unique, timely promotion

by Matthew Taylor

As the O's take to the road to face the Twins, fans who get on the road to see the game are finding some relief from gas prices. Minnesota has started a "Tanks from the Twins" promotion that offers a ticket discount equivalent to the national average price for a gallon of gas. Visitors to the Metrodome for the O's three-game set will have an extra $3.98 burning a hole in their pockets.

I thought they only did this sort of thing in the minors. Kud-O's to the Twins for a unique promotion.

[Image source: Minnesota Twins. Click on picture for original.]

From Rally Caps to Sherrill Caps

O's late-inning efforts fit the bill against the Sox

Orioles 6, Red Sox 3

After 56 games the 2008 Orioles have the same overall record as the 2007 edition of the Birds: 27-29. However, numbers can lie, and they do, especially in baseball.

The truth about this year's team is that they're anything but a retread of last year's unit, as Monday night's late-innings, comeback victory over the visiting Red Sox, another
evening worth remembering against one of the division's Evil Empires, showed.

There's a new No. 10 in town this season, and each of his big hits, like last night's bases-clearing double, offers hope for the future. There's a revamped bullpen that keeps the team in games right when the wheels are ready to fall off, allowing the go-down-fighting Birds a chance to rally; for the second straight series, the O's pen induced a bases-loaded double play to minimize late-inning damage. And there's a lighthearted, nothing-to-lose spirit that suggests these guys are actually having fun playing the game.

Has the decade-long question of whether fans of this constantly "rebuilding" team would rather watch a patchwork of veteran free agents or a core of young talent finally been answered?

If you must use numbers to make your case for the 2008 Birds, the best place to look might be the team's performance in one-run games. The O's have 12 wins this year in those situations against eight losses; last year's team put together just 13 victories all season in one-run games and suffered 31 losses. Monday night's game didn't come down to one run. It did, however, come down to one at-bat.

Said Adam Jones: "He threw a good pitch up and in [when it was] 2-1. I just laid off of it and was patient. It wasn't me that was under pressure; it was him."

[Image source: The Baltimore Sun. Click on link for original.]