Friday, October 31, 2008

MASN in North Carolina, Sammy in the Dominican Republic

by Matthew Taylor

Two recent items of interest:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Off-Season Intrigue ... Sort-Of

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

by Matthew Taylor

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Infamous Fans with O's Connections

by Matthew Taylor

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

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

Crawford Shows Shades of Paul Blair

by Matthew Taylor

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

Friday, October 10, 2008

Flashback Friday: Looking up at the Division

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

by Matthew Taylor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

At Camden Yards They Used to Call Them Cell Phone Fans

by Matthew Taylor

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

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

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

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

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

Baseball Cards, Bandwagon Fans, and Hot Stove Rumors

Just another trip around the blogO'sphere

by Matthew Taylor

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

Other interesting blog posts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Anthony Amobi wisely wants Markakis under contract now.

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

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

Friday, October 03, 2008

Flashback Friday: Meet Me in St. Louis

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

by Matthew Taylor

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

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

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

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

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

[Image source: Click photo for original.]

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Time to Catch a Passing Bandwagon?

An O's fan searches for some positive-minded postseason intrigue

by Matthew Taylor

It's as if I've woken up in the pitch dark confines of someone else's home, and I'm struggling to find a light. This baseball postseason has left me scrambling for illumination.

You see, for the past 13 seasons I've had my old reliable antipathy toward the Yankees to guide me through the murkiness of Oriole-free Octobers. During that span the playoffs didn't truly begin until New York lost, which means that four World Series effectively never happened because no one ever flipped the switch.

With my baseball mood defined as much by the ones I hate as the one I love, I find myself entering October in something of a subdued state. I'm not altogether emotionally absent from the postseason; perhaps emotionally tardy is a better descriptor. Love lost is difficult to handle, but so too is detest deferred.

It's easy to substitute the Red Sox for the Yankees - and I do - but like the kid who's forced to share a cookie I can't help but think that I'm missing out on something. Can't post-season baseball be fun? I don't always want to be negative just because my favorite team's win-loss deferential happens to be. Besides, the Red Sox are a seasonal flu; the Yankees are a pandemic.

So I went looking for some Oriole-related factors associated with this post-season. Give me something to cheer for! Here's a list of what I found:

-There are at least five former Orioles on teams that are playing fall ball. Two are on the 60-day DL (Tom Gordon of the Phillies and Curt Schilling of the Red Sox), one is on the 40-man roster (Jason Johnson of the Dodgers), and two are an active part of the playoff action (Jamie Moyer of the Phillies and Chad Bradford of the Rays). This sure screams intrigue, huh?

-There are multiple "would've-been Orioles" on one team: the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Count 'em: One-time flirtatious free agent Vladimir Guerrero (he of the third-highest batting average in baseball over the past five seasons) and two trade-baited players, Erik Aybar and Ervin Santana (sigh).

-Speaking of the Angels, K-Rod's history-making season has raised questions about his free-agent value and whether he could fizzle like others among the Top 10 save leaders before age 27 including ... Gregg Olson.

-And there's Evan Longoria, who's drawing comparisons to - gasp - Brooks Robinson. At least Jim Palmer's there to (sort of) straighten things out: "Of course, it's premature to put him in the category with Brooks Robinson. But he's on his way."

Interesting stuff? Perhaps. Exciting stuff? Not exactly.

I guess this year I need to find a passing bandwagon that won't make any stops at Camden Yards to gloat should things end well during the postseason. Go Cubs Go!