Monday, December 29, 2008

O's Draftee to Play in Bowl Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Night Before Christmas

The latest headlines:

Teixeira sold out to the highest bidder

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

Some holiday cheer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Our Long National Nightmare

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

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

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

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mark Teixeira is Baseball's Middle School Crush

And Curt Schilling wants to be the school's bully

by Matthew Taylor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 12, 2008

Boswell on Teixeria

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

by Matthew Taylor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 11, 2008

More Hot Stove Quick Takes

Teixeira to the Nats would change the whole ballgame

by Matthew Taylor

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

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

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

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

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

Mets acquire Putz

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hot Stove Quick Hits

by Matthew Taylor

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

Aubrey Huff named top DH

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

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

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

Ramon Hernandez to the Reds

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

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

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

C.C. to the Yankees

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 08, 2008

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

by Matthew Taylor

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Speaking of Shortstops - Evolution and Solutions

by Matthew Taylor

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Literary Love for the O's

Writer's Almanac features a poem about the 1988 Birds

by Matthew Taylor

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