Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Remembering Former O's Farmhand Joel Stephens

Joel Stephens' varsity football coach has written a book about the Orioles' 1995 first-round draft pick, who died in 1998 at age 22 following a 10-month battle with colon cancer.

The Star Gazette in upstate New York interviewed Mike D'Aloisio about the book, "5 C Hero: The Joel Stephens Story," and the player he once coached.

Here's an excerpt from the interview:
"Eleven years ago, when Joel passed away, I felt a gap was created in my life, losing somebody so young who was such an inspiration to so many people and who was such a good person. I felt to fill that void, I would like to share the story of Joel Stephens, and the Joel Stephens I knew.

It took me a while to do it. I always knew what I wanted to write about, but it wasn't until two to three years ago that I started putting things down on paper. That was the first thing: I just wanted people to know Joel as myself and the people in this area knew him."
Stephens, a celebrated athlete in his hometown of Elmira, N.Y., joined the Orioles Gulf Coast League affiliate in 1995 as a 19-year-old outfielder, playing with the likes of O's prospects Calvin Pickering and Kimera Bartee (aka the "player to be named later" in the Scott Erickson trade with Minnesota).

The Orioles' ninth pick of the '95 draft, Stephens also played with Bluefield and Delmarva before his 1997 cancer diagnosis. He became the franchise's third player to be treated for colon cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the course of a year, following Eric Davis and Boog Powell. He tossed out the ceremonial first pitch before an Orioles exhibition game the following March. Stephens passed away on Sept. 30, 1998.

The Frederick Keys established the Joel A. Stephens Memorial Fund in 1999 to benefit children dealing with serious illness or bereavement due to the death of a parent or sibling. Learn more at the foundation's website. Meanwhile, the Joel Stephens Invitational Tournament has become one of the premiere senior-level baseball tournaments in the Northeast since its founding in 1998.

Image source: The Star Gazette story.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Adam Jones - Face of the Franchise?

The Orioles will need a face of the franchise - and de facto team leader, at least in the public eye - as they re-build and hope for a brighter future. I nominate Adam Jones.

Rule #1: A team leader must be quotable. And Jones sure is.

From Friday's Sun:

"I'm just sitting back here, watching it and loving it. I'm letting Andy do what he came here to do," Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said. "I'm letting him do his magic. He's in charge for a reason. I like all three moves, to be honest with you."


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Holliday In Baltimore

Matt Holliday should play in Baltimore for no other reason than that together with Felix Pie he would allow the Orioles to compete for having the most players with names that invite witty headline attempts.

Take, for example, this offering from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Holliday Intrigue: Orioles in, and a 'mystery team' arrives."

Just imagine the Holliday Inn Express possibilities. I'm picturing Jumbotron videos that rival the 2008 Kevin Millar Orioles Magic fare.

Baltimore: We do humor better than baseball! Have a laugh at our team on and off the field.

The Post-Dispatch story is worth reading for more than just the headline. Derrick Goold rightly points out that this script mirrors the media narrative for Mark Teixeira last off-season. In other words, some folks might just be getting played (again) by Scott Boras.

Writes Goold:
This Courtship of Holliday is following a familiar script: Mark Teixeira, Take 2.
Last season, the Orioles were interested in signing Teixeira because he had Maryland roots and they had an opening at first base. The pursuit of Teixeira was, if you recall, positioned as a three-team derby, with the Los Angeles Angels looking to re-signing him and Baltimore and Boston vying to woo him back east. As Christmas approached, a word of a mystery team came and went, the talks seemed to delay and drag on. Then, out of the blue, came the New York Yankees, who swooped in with the $180-million offer.
The Garrett Atkins/Brian Roberts angle on this story - namely that Holliday is friendly with both players and was an FCA rep along with Roberts - fits with the Hot Stove Myths and Truths I discussed last off-season.
Narrative/Myth #1: We're an attractive destination for a top free agent because we have an "in" with him (aka "The Hometown Discount"/"Hometown Hero" Effect).

The thinking here is that a player's relationship to the city, the team, or its personnel will propel him to take a below-market deal with the Orioles. This favored narrative applies to cases where we're trying to keep a guy in the fold (i.e. the hometown discount) or to bring him into the fold (i.e. the hometown hero). Mike Mussina was an example of the former, Mark Teixeira is an example of the latter. A.J. Burnett, whose wife is from the Baltimore area and who has an off-season home in Monkton, could also fit into the latter category.
I would love to add  Matt Holliday's bat to the Orioles' lineup and to see what kind of trade that would allow the team to make from there. But, as was the case when Teixeira flirted with the Birds, I'm not getting my hopes up.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ballard Calls B.S. on Red Sox Nation and Moneyballers

Sports Illustrated's Chris Ballard uses the magazine's latest "Point After" column to call b.s. on the sports world, including Red Sox fans and Moneyballers. Read the piece in context before you form any conclusions.

Ballard's critiques are tough, but fair - and, for me, much appreciated - as they cut through the pretense that so often surrounds the otherwise simple joy - and if you're lucky, shared joys - of watching games being played at their highest levels.

Writes Ballard:
In fact, it's high time to call b.s. on lots of stuff in sports. It's the rare precinct in which we're encouraged to be ourselves, unburdened by the solicitousness and the affectations of polite society. In sports there should be no equivalent of obscure indie rock bands people say they love but never listen to, or Stephen Hawking books that are displayed yet never opened. No, this world is about winning and losing and loving and hating. This is no place for pretense.

So for starters, I call b.s. on Red Sox Nation. You are not a "nation." Your fandom and your suffering is no more or less important than anyone else's. To insinuate so is to insult all of us who passionately follow our teams. No, at best you are a province. Please stop migrating.
I know and like Boston fans who when it comes down to it are just good baseball fans. They enjoy talking about your team as well as their own. They respect the game and its history. They're easy to root for.

But then there are the others - the bandwagon jumpers, the BIRGers and CORFers, the never-lived-in-or-near-Boston-nor-knew-anyone-who-did-but-still-manage-to-live-and-die-by-the-Sox types - who give the "Nation" its numbers and its obnoxious qualities.

So Ballard is tough on Red Sox nation. But fair.

Key line: "Your fandom and your suffering is no more or less important than anyone else's." Fans who realize that fact - and they are out there - show a glimmer of the Red Sox mythology that at one time was actually endearing.

More from Ballard:
Moneyballers, come on down, because I'm calling b.s. Not on the stats revolution (valid) or Billy Beane (ahead of his time) or even the measures themselves (OPS is pretty damn useful). No, I'm talking about the holier-than-thous who profess to prefer a game predicated on driving in runs with walks, never stealing bases and acquiring a fleet of Scott Hattebergs. The ideas may have been enlightening, but we all know that when it's late at night and no one's around, you revel in watching Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval bushwhack his way on base and Rays outfielder Carl Crawford swipe second and third. You know why? Because sports aren't homework; they're entertainment.
After some initial skepticism, I've come to appreciate the value of the stats revolution in baseball. Heath at Dempsey's Army has helped me with that journey as he often provides valuable context to O's fans by playing the numbers game.

However, as Ballard points out, let's not allow slavish devotion to formulas to keep us from enjoying the bushwhacking and swiping of bases. After all, we're still fans, not GMs.

Key line: "Because sports aren't homework; they're entertainment."

In the end, I think that's the primary point underlying Ballard's entire column: sports are entertainment. So allow yourself to be entertained.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Alomar is Already in the Hall of Very Good; Will He Make the Hall of Fame?

He won't be an Orioles Hall of Famer; more likely a Blue Jays or Indians Hall of Famer. Or perhaps, given how many future nominees would benefit from such a thing, Cooperstown will create a new category for vagabond players, who won't be required to choose just one team's hat for their plaque.

Whatever the case, Roberto Alomar will be in the Hall of Fame regardless of which team claims him as its own. Maybe not first ballot - given, um, that incident I'm sure you remember - but he'll be there.

The Hall of Very Good sizes up Alomar's candidacy.
Alomar went to twelve straight All-Star games (nine as a starter), compared to Ryno’s ten. Incidentally, his ten Gold Gloves over a span of eleven years is the most ever by a second baseman.

His .984 fielding percentage is a hair behind Sandberg’s .989.

His 2724 hits (and career .300 batting average) is the most by any every day second baseman since Charlie Gehringer’s 2839. Gehringer was inducted in 1949. FYI…Sandberg finished with 2386 and a .285 batting average.

Even, Alomar’s OPS+ (a stat that I am not that high on, but some people are) of 116 is smack dab in the middle of the pack when you look at those already enshrined. For the record, Sandberg’s was 114. Joe Morgan...a surprising 132.

Alomar even slugged .347 in back to back World Series victories for the Blue Jays
And yes, for every “case for”…there is a case against:


Alomar was the type of player that, because he was so damn solid for nearly 17 seasons…people forget that he was a hitting machine. From his second year in the majors (1989) until 2001, Alomar hit under .295 only twice. He even had an impressive run of nine out of ten years where he hit .300 or better.

Open your doors for Robbie, Cooperstown, I’ll be watching...all the while knowing that the best second baseman I ever saw play is getting his just desserts.
Alomar seemed to dog it toward the end of his three-season stay in Baltimore when his numbers dropped accordingly. The fact that those numbers rebounded enough for him to finish third in the MVP voting in 1999 after returning to Cleveland only added to existing accusations that he played hard only when he really wanted to. Nevertheless, when Alomar gave it his all there weren't many who were better at the position.

I first saw Alomar play in Toronto, where he dominated the Blue Jays game I attended. It's not very often you walk away from a baseball game most impressed by a second baseman, but that's exactly what happened that night.

I went to Toronto to see the SkyDome; I left there talking about Robbie Alomar, a future Hall of Famer.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Hot Stove Wasn't Always So Tepid for the Birds

The Hot Stove season is likely to be a fairly tepid affair for the Orioles this year. Rather than comb the current class of free-agents and potential trade targets I revisited the team's moves headed into the 1998 season, when the the O's became the first team in baseball to post a $70 million payroll.

Take a minute and let that sink in: the O's were baseball's biggest spenders just a little more than a decade ago. In fact, Baltimore holds the distinction of being the last team to outspend the New York Yankees, who have had baseball's highest payroll every year since 1999.

Unfortunately, the end result for the Birds in '98 was a 79-83 record, the first of an active 12-season losing streak

Mo' money, mo' problems? Try mo' money, mo' intrigue.

Big bats, frontline pitchers, aging veterans - the O's chased them all back then.

[To be fair, much of the team's '98 payroll went to players who led the team to back-to-back ALCS appearances in 1996 and 1997, including Robert Alomar ($6.3 million), Brady Anderson ($6.2 million), Mike Mussina ($6.5 million), Rafael Palmeiro ($6.5 million), and Cal ($6.3 million).]

Here's a rundown on some of the Birds' 1997/1998 Hot Stove maneuverings:

-Fresh off a league-leading 45 saves in 1997, closer Randy Myers spurned the Orioles' two year, $11 million offer in November to sign with Toronto for three years, $18 million.

Myers recorded 28 saves in 41 games for the Blue Jays, who let him go in August when the Padres claimed Myers off waivers and inherited the remainder of his contract. Myers did not pitch again after the 1998 season.

-The Orioles chased future first-ballot Hall of Famer Paul Molitor, who ultimately signed with the Twins for $4.25 million in early December.

O's fans bummed about losing out on Molitor received good news days later when Brady Anderson signed a five-year, $31 million extension with the team

Here's what the Washington Post had to say on Dec. 8, 1997:
“The Orioles will be one of baseball's highest-spending teams next year. In the past eight months, though, Angelos has gotten the club's three cornerstone players -- third baseman Cal Ripken, pitcher Mike Mussina and Anderson -- to sign contracts below their free agent market values. Anderson, 33, agreed to receive $ 1.5 million of his $ 6.25 million  salary in each of the first four years of his new deal as deferred compensation without interest.”

"I thought the whole thing was cool," Anderson said. "I was surprised how concerned the fans were. They seemed to care a lot more than I thought they would. That's one of the reasons I got out of Baltimore. I thought I was getting ready to sign for whatever the Orioles were offering."

-On Dec. 12, the Orioles signed free-agent pitcher Doug Drabek to a $1.8 million, one-year contract that included $600,000 in performance incentives.

Drabek won 12 games for the White Sox in 1997. He went 6-11 with a 7.29 ERA in Baltimore.

-On Dec. 13, the team inked free-agent outfielder Joe Carter to a $3.3 million one-year deal. According to the New York Times the move "added another sizable bat to their lineup."

Carter hit 11 home runs in 85 games before being traded to San Francisco for Darrin Blood.

-Ozzie Guillen and Norm Charlton signed minor-league deals with the Birds in January.

Said Guillen: "I picked the Baltimore Orioles because I think they have the best chance to win." Both players finished the '98 season in Atlanta.

-In January, the Orioles also re-signed pitcher Scott Kamieniecki, who went 10-6 with a 4.01 ERA in '97, for two years, $6.2 million. Kamieniecki won four games in those two years.

-The intrigue continued into the spring when the O's retained the services of free-agent-to-be Scott Erickson by signing him to a five-year, $32 million extension in May.

When it was all said and done, the Orioles produced a payroll that was larger then ($70.4 million in 1998) than it is now ($67.1 million in 2009). The record-setting '98 figure would rank in the lower two-thirds among teams today. It's essentially what the Royals ($70.5 million) are spending these days.

Sherrill Being Shopped

I hope Erik Bedard and George Sherrill are renters rather than buyers; otherwise, they should be lauded for their efforts to stimulate the nation's real-estate market.

As you've surely heard, the O's have an interest in re-acquiring Bedard. Now Ken Rosenthal at Fox Sports reports that the Dodgers are shopping former Oriole closer George Sherrill on the trade market.

But when teams have inquired about those relievers, according to one rival executive, they have been encouraged to instead submit proposals for left-hander George Sherrill.
It appears that Sherrill is available for two main reasons: He's about to earn a raise (perhaps as high as $4 million) through salary arbitration; and he had a lousy NLCS against the Phillies.
The Dodgers are looking for a starter in exchange for Sherrill.

 Talk about short-term fixes.


Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Nets, The Orioles, and The Larry Sheets Family Amusement Center

So 'Duk - Kevin Kaduk - at Yahoo's Big League Stew blog has made the inevitable New Jersey Nets - Baltimore Orioles comparison now that the Nets have set the NBA's season-opening record for futility.

More importantly, though, 'Duk directs us to the website for the Larry Sheets Family Amusement Center.

In other words, there is baseball news this off-season, and it is decidedly good. 

Here's an excerpt from "The resurrection of the 1988 Orioles, courtesy of the Nets":
As you might remember, the 1988 Orioles lost their first 21 games of the season, setting a record for a pro sports franchise and becoming fodder for wise aleck columnists like Tony Kornheiser and a national punchline in the process. (If you're a certain age, you remember that Michael Jackson glove joke. If you're not, you've heard it about another team.)More than 20 years later, the '88 O's are still the standard bearer for downright bad debuts and will be the first team mentioned unless the Nets have four more losses in them before their first victory.
Am I the only one who has a strange appreciation for the 0-18 Sports Illustrated cover featuring Billy Ripken?

Mister Irrelevant also examines the Nets - O's comparison (and provides the 0-18 cover).


Monday, November 23, 2009

Jason Berken, the anti-Cy Young?

Joe Posnanski has awarded Jason Berken his "anti-Cy Young" award, noting that "Basically, the whole league was an MVP candidate when Jason Berken was on the hill."

Posnanski's says he's not giving up on the young O's hurler: "Berken was only a rookie, and there is reason to believe he still has a bright future ahead of him, maybe in the bullpen. So I'm not writing off his future by any means."

However, the writer had a hard time overlooking this line: "The league -- the whole league -- hit .327/.384/.522 against him."

Read the full article here

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Taking it back to the Old School

Your work day just became even less efficient.

Thanks to The Lost Ogle, I located the Internet version of RBI Baseball 2, where you can reunite many of the 1989 Why Not? Orioles.

Choose among Jeff Ballard, Bob Milacki, Dave  Schmidt, and Pete Harnisch for your starting pitcher.  (Where's the Pride of Middle River?)

Go with the regular starting lineup that includes Cal in the three hole, Mickey "Fruit Loops" Tettleton batting cleanup, and Joltin' Joe O offering protection in the five spot.

Or look to the bench for Steve Finley, Bob Melvin, Billy Ripken, Jim Traber, and Brady Anderson.

(Want another flashback? The Lost Ogle also  provides this YouTube clip from "Dream Team." Listen for the Ken Gerhart and Rene Gonzalez references.)

As if you needed another distraction.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembering One of Baseball's Military Veterans

Bob Neighbors of the St. Louis Browns appeared in seven big league games, totaling two hits in 11 plate appearances in 1939. One of those hits was the 21-year-old's lone career home run, a solo shot to left at Fenway Park on Sept. 21 against Denny Galehouse.

An estimated 598 fans saw the rookie's first hit. Fellow rookie Ted Williams, playing for the Red Sox, went 0-for-4 in the game Boston won 6-2.

Nearly thirteen years later, on Aug. 8, 1952, Neighbors, at age 34, was shot down during the Korean War. He was listed as missing in action and later declared dead.

Neighbors was the only major league player killed in the Korean War. Williams survived a crash-landing after his jet was hit during a bombing run.

Here are two profiles of Neighbors worth reading:

Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society - Bob Neighbors: A Hero Remembered, by Ronnie Joyner

SABR's Baseball Biography Project - Bob Neighbors, by Bill Nowlin

Image Source: Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Just Call Adam Jones Silence, Because He's Golden

Orioles center fielder Adam Jones was awarded his first Gold Glove on Tuesday, making him the team's second Golden Glove outfielder after Paul Blair who won eight.

The good news for Jones is that every Orioles Gold Glover - there are 12 others - has won the award more than once. And for multiple Gold Glove winners in Baltimore, consecutive wins are the norm.

Only Luis Aparicio, Blair, Mark Belanger, and Roberto Alomar won multiple Gold Gloves in non-consecutive fashion. The team's other winners are Cal Ripken Jr., Brooks Robinson, Davey Johnson, Bobby Grich, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Mike Mussina, and Rafael Palmeiro.

(See the detailed list of O's winners here.)

Blair set a high bar for Jones in the outfield; coming into today's announcement his career Gold Glove total trailed only five other outfielders: Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays (12 each), Ken Griffey Jr., Andruw Jones, and Al Kaline (10 each).

However, Torii Hunter and Ichiro each earned their ninth Gold Glove on Tuesday, bumping Blair down on the list.

As for the team record, that bar isn't even in sight for Jones. Only pitchers Greg Maddux (18) and Jim Kaat (16) have equaled or exceeded Robinson's 16 career Gold Gloves, which he earned at third base for the Orioles every year from 1960 through 1975.

However, Jones is already halfway to Ripken's two Gold Gloves, earned in 1991 and 1992.

Orioles shortstops have done well overall: Mark Belanger totaled eight Gold Gloves while Luis Aparicio earned nine, though only two - in 1964 and 1966 - came with the Birds. 

Among pitchers, Mussina won four of his seven career Gold Gloves with the O's. His total in Baltimore matches that of Palmer, who won the award each season from 1976 through 1979.

At second base, Alomar (1996 and 1998) won two of his 10 Gold Gloves while wearing the orange and black. Alomar's career total is tops among all second baseman, one better than Ryne Sandberg of the Cubs.

Other O's second basemen to win multiple awards at the position are four-time winner Bobby Grich (1973-1976) and three-time winner Davey Johnson (1969-1971).

Eddie Murray (1982-1984) and Rafael Palmeiro (1997-1999) each won three Gold Gloves at first base, although Palmeiro's final award came with Texas.

See The Sun's story about Jones' award here.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Happy Randy Milligan Day

It's Randy Andre "Moose" Milligan day in Baltimore.

Twenty one years ago today, on Nov. 9, 1988, the Orioles acquired Milligan from the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named later, who turned out to be Peter Blohm.

Milligan played four seasons in Baltimore. He hit for a .258 average, with 59 home runs, and 228 RBI. More impressive, he maintained a .388 on-base percentage. Milligan slugged a career high 20 home runs in 1990. Blohm, meanwhile, never advanced beyond the Triple-A level.

Milligan emerged as a central figure in the Birds' Why Not? season. His game-tying three-run homer at Fenway Park on Aug. 2, 1989 is a key highlight from that magical year. The clout helped the Orioles avoid a four-game sweep in Boston and extended the team's lead over the then-second place Red Sox to two games.

Like many O's fans, I have a soft spot for the Moose. Among other factors that made him so likable to me, Milligan hit a batting practice home run that landed in my teenage hands at Memorial Stadium. It's one of only two baseballs I caught as a kid. The other came off the bat of the Milwaukee Brewers' Dante Bichette.

Here are some appreciations for Milligan from the blog-O's-phere: Camden Chat, Orioles Card "O" the Day, Birds in the Belfry (an outstanding chronicle of the '89 season).

Image Source: Baseball Almanac.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Sure, it got the Yankees a ring, but what else does $423.5 million buy?

The Yankees spent $423.5 million during the off-season, and what did they get in return?
C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira, and a World Series ring.

That's nice and all, but have you considered what else you could buy for that kind of money?
-You could have your choice of 17 other MLB franchises, 18 if you ponied up an additional $3 million for the Seattle Mariners. The Yankees already treat smaller market organizations like their own farm teams. Why not make it official? 
-You could pay off Barack Obama's campaign debt and still have plenty left over to lobby on behalf of the Evil Empire. Given the team's lack of success with Republicans in the White House, it'd be a wise investment. 

-How about purchasing the stadium naming rights for two of the Yankees' three vanquished playoff opponents - the Phillies and Twins? Heck, maybe you can convince the Angels to sell their ballpark's name while you're at it.

-Perhaps you heard the Boston Globe was available this summer? I'm sure Red Sox fans would appreciate the gesture.

-Just because you're rich doesn't mean you can't be thrifty. Check out the McDonald's Dollar Value Menu. That kind of money is good for 423.5 million Hot Fudge Sundaes.

-A nice centaur painting can be had for $3,700. Those two over A-Rod's bed may not be enough to satisfy his ego.

-Derek Jeter can't get enough Minka Kelly. Take care of your franchise player with six million copies of the "Friday Night Lights" three DVD set.
-Oh, and A-Rod can't get enough of Kate Hudson. But he's an easy target regardless of how many post-season RBI he gets. Buy 36 million copies of "You, Me and Dupree" and ask him what he thinks of Owen Wilson's performance. 

-Mark Teixeira would make good use of four million Don Mattingly jerseys.

-Why not download 423.5 million copies of "My Way" on I-Tunes and see if you can ruin another Sinatra classic?
-While you're on I-Tunes, check out "Empire State of Mind"? Forget buying the song; buy the artist. Jay-Z's a veritable steal at $150 million. You can throw in Russell Simmons for a little Old School flavor at $110 million and house them each in their own Yankee Stadium suite.
Then again, the Yankees are traditionalists at heart. They believe in the purity of the game just like everyone else.

And $423.5 million buys a hell of a lot of peanuts and cracker jacks.

Former Orioles Sporting World Series Rings

Jerry Hairston played one season in New York, appearing in 45 games.

Mike Mussina played eight seasons in New York, starting 248 games.

Hairston has a World Series ring; Mussina never won one.

You can call it the "Curse of Mussina" or pair the former Orioles ace with Don Mattingly and pronounce the pair "the two unluckiest men to ever don the pinstripes"; Mike Mussina still says he has no regrets about retiring after last season.

Fair enough. But does he know about Josh Towers?

Towers, who started his career in Baltimore when Mussina left Charm City, pitched two games for the Yankees this season.

Yes, even he now has a World Series ring.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Flashback Friday: Baltimore's 1979 World Series Parade

In New York or Philadelphia, they will soon hold a parade to celebrate the World Series champions.

To the victors go the spoils. Usually.

On Oct. 18, 1979, Baltimore had a parade for its beloved Orioles despite the fact that the team lost the World Series in excruciating fashion to the Pittsburgh Pirates, blowing a three-games-to-one lead, including the final two home contests.

Wrote Malcolm Moran in The New York Times: "The sun came up here, as hoped, at 7:19 on the morning after. The victory parade started, as planned, shortly after 11:30. Earl Weaver, the manager of the Baltimore Orioles, reminded everyone that his team had won more games than any other team in baseball this season. And for a little while, thousands of people chose not to remember that the Orioles had lost the last one."

At City Hall, Rick Dempsey sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

Wild Bill Hagy led the O-R-I-O-L-E-S cheers that turned him into a local legend.

And the crowd chanted for its cleanup hitter, who batted .154 in the Series: "Ed-die, Ed-die, Ed-die."

An estimated 80-million people - then the largest audience in the history of televised World Series games - watched the Orioles' lose Game 7.

A day later, 125,000 Baltimore fans showed up downtown despite the outcome.

"It's the greatest parade I've ever seen," said Mayor William Donald Schaefer. "Never seen anything like it."

Perhaps the words emblazoned on a billboard near Memorial Stadium said it best: "We love you, Birds."
Image source: Here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

World Series Ramblings

-Two southpaws took to the mound at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night for Game 1 of the World Series, which speaks to the value of quality left-handed pitching. That's one of many reasons I love having Brian Matusz on the O's. It'd be great to have Erik Bedard back in (orange and) black as well.

-Perhaps the networks should look to Jeremy Guthrie for some perspective on Cliff Lee and C.C. Sabathia's time as Indians teammates. Guthrie played with the pair in Cleveland from 2004 to 2006.

Given each player's development since, it's hard to believe that a team with Sabathia, Lee, and Guthrie never made the playoffs. The Indians finally broke through in 2007, a season after Cleveland designated Guthrie for assignment.

Here are some other O's who played with Lee and Sabathia on the Indians: 

Arthur Rhodes (2005), Danys Baez (2002 & 2003), Nerio Rodriguez (one game in 2002), Sal Fasano (2008), Jorge Julio (2008), Jason Johnson (2006), Joe Borowski (2007 & 2008; Borowski played six games with the O's in 1995), Chris Gomez (2007), and David Dellucci (2007-2008; Dellucci played 17 games for the O's in 1997).

-Did you notice the Severna Park hat that Mark Teixeira sported in his Little League baseball photo during the MLB players-as-kids commercials? He was probably thinking about Don Mattingly when the picture was taken.

-Speaking of high-priced free agents, the Yankees have had the highest payroll in baseball every year since 1998 when they were topped by .... you can guess where this is going ... the Baltimore Orioles.

Here's an excerpt from a Rick Bozich column in the Courier-Journal
According to the baseball salary database compiled by USA Today, the Baltimore Orioles had the highest payroll in baseball in 1998. The Orioles were on the hook for $70.4 million.That was the last time the Yankees let that happen. In fact, this season the gap between the Yankees' $201.4 million opening-day payroll and the payroll of the number two team (the Mets at $149.4 million) was greater than the total payroll of the Marlins, Padres and Pirates.

Using the USA Today numbers, since 2000 the Yankees have spent about $502 million more than the Red Sox, the club with second overall payroll.
-On a related note, the Wall Street Journal's Allen Barra penned an interesting column about the 1994 baseball strike and "competitive balance" (tip of the cap - @TWeb):
The issue over which the strike was forced, said Commissioner Bud Selig, was "competitive balance"—the idea that the "big market" teams were dominating the "small market" teams.

Competitive balance, though, was just a diversion. By 1993, the Yankees hadn't won a World Series in 15 seasons, and the Mets had won just one (1986) in 24 seasons. The Dodgers, the biggest-market team in the National League, had taken only one World Series (1988) since 1965; the Angels, with whom they shared a colossal fan base, had never won a Series at all. In fact, the previous two World Series had been won by the Toronto Blue Jays, who, as former union executive director Marvin Miller shrewdly noted, "were labeled a small market team when they lost and a big market team when they won."
Ironically, the phony issue of competitive balance ended what was, by the standards of previous years, one of the most competitive seasons baseball had ever seen: Of 28 teams, just two had a won-lost percentage of over .600 and none were under .400. Baseball had been evolving towards equality for decades, and the advent of free agency in 1976 had accelerated that evolution along.
The sports press hailed the luxury tax as a victory for the owners, but ultimately what did it accomplish? For the 2009 season, the average player's salary was $3.26 million, or $2.06 million more than 15 years ago. And if the point of forcing the strike was to make smaller-market teams competitive against big-market teams, that, too has failed. The four teams that just finished playing for the league championships—the Yankees, the Angels, the Phillies and the Dodgers—represent baseball's three biggest markets.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Beware the Winning Season Hangover

If the O's post a winning season, are you prepared for the disappointment that may follow?

Two teams that embody what the Orioles are hoping to do in the near future are the Detroit Tigers and the Tampa Bay Rays. Both teams suffered 10 or more consecutive losing seasons before reaching the World Series in the years they broke their respective streaks - the Tigers in 2006 and the Rays in 2008.

Dare to dream, O's fans. 

Each team's turnaround was remarkable; to have it happen twice in the span of three years provides reason for hope. But beware of the Winning Season Hangover - a team's "morning after" season can give headaches to fans with suddenly elevated expectations.

[More after the jump.]

After 12 losing seasons, the Tigers won 95 games and the American League pennant in 2006. The following year they won 88, a seven win drop-off  that left the defending ALCS Champions on the outside looking in come playoff time.

Detroit hasn't returned to the postseason since its World Series appearance. The team suffered an excruciating collapse this year and came up short in their 163rd game, a winner-take-the-playoff-berth contest with the Twins.

The Rays, meanwhile, are observing the postseason from home this year after ending a run of 10 straight losing seasons in 2008 by posting 97 wins and winning the American League pennant. The team's drop-off during their hangover season was nearly twice as steep as that of Detroit: Tampa Bay went from 97 wins to 84 wins.

Milwaukee produced a less-celebrated turnaround than either the Tigers or the Rays; however, their encore performance was much the same as those two teams. Though their fans were less drunk with victory, the Brewers still fell victim to the Winning Season Hangover.

In 2005, the Brew Crew ended a streak of 12 consecutive losing seasons with an 81-81 record (okay, it's technically not a winning season, but it still counts). A six-game drop-off in wins in 2006 left the team with a 75-87 record and their 13th losing season in 14 years.

Milwaukee has posted winning records in two of the past three seasons but has only one playoff appearance to show for its efforts, a 3-1 Division Series loss to the Phillies in 2008.

Together, the Brewers, Tigers, and Rays averaged 91 wins in their turnaround season and 82 wins the following year. In other words, all three teams regressed to the mean after ending double-digit streaks of consecutive losing seasons.

So heed this advice, Birds watchers, should the O's turn it around soon: Enjoy the trip, and be sure to pack some aspirin.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Flashback Friday: Was Boog Powell "Slow Footed"?

Wikipedia never lies. Okay, maybe sometimes. More often, though, the truths in question are matters of interpretation.

Which brings us to the story of a town crier, an Orioles legend, and a disputed proclamation. Oh, and there's beer involved, too. 

Oyez, Oyez, Oyez. Harken, and take heed! It's Flashback Friday.

The story begins (and ends) on Oct. 8, 2009, at the "Opening Tap Celebration" for Baltimore Beer Week aboard the iconic USS Constellation.

Squire Frederick - the official town crier of Annapolis and Baltimore County, Md., and, I should note, my father - is in the midst of introducing one John Wesley "Boog" Powell to the not-yet-drunken masses via the colonial news medium known as crying.

Suddenly, a voice of protest arises from none another than the guest of honor himself.

At issue is the crier's Wikipedia-inspired description of the revered slugger as "a slow-footed third baseman and left fielder before switching to first base in 1965."

(Note: Other sources have adopted the same characterization of Powell. Wiki came first: the chicken or the egg?)

"I stole 21 or 23 bases," Powell doth counter. "Nine consecutive bases without being thrown out in 1968."

Wikipedia may occasionally lie, but statistics never do. Okay, scratch that. Once again it seems the truths in question are matters of interpretation.

But the facts are these: Boog Powell stole 20 bases in 17 major league seasons; he was caught stealing 21 times. The 1968 season was in fact his best in the category - he stole seven bases (four consecutively without being thrown out) and was caught stealing just once.

Therefore, be it resolved that you should draw your own conclusions on this matter. Just be careful who's listening when you do.

See video of Squire Frederick, Boog Powell, and the matter of the disputed resolution at the Baltimore Beer Week website and/or the Baltimore Sun's Toy Department blog.

Charles Ramsey Must Hate Baseball

Former D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey probably thought he had seen it all in the nation's capital, from handling the Chandra Levy investigation to "defusing" World Bank/IMF protests. However, he had yet to experience the likes of Philadelphia baseball fans.

Ramsey, now the commissioner of the Philadelphia Police department, appears briefly at the end of this clip, which focuses primarily on fans shooting bottle rockets at a jubilant Phillies reveler who climbed a tree in the city following the team's clincher earlier this week.

Am I the only one who thinks the commish looks sharp in riot gear?

To be fair to Phillies fans, Ramsey didn't seem concerned about the collective victory dance in the downtown streets based on this Associated Press quote: "It's OK. It's all right. People are having fun."

Surely it was an improvement over D.C.'s Pershing Park.

Victory celebrations weren't a problem for Ramsey in Washington --- just vehicle break-ins in the Nationals' players parking lot.

Charles Ramsey must hate baseball.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Examining the Longtime Boog Powell Record That Chase Utley Just Tied

Chase Utley tied Boog Powell's record on Wednesday for most consecutive postseason games reaching base. Utley walked in the first inning of the Phillies' NLCS clinching 10-4 victory over the Dodgers to reach base for the 25th consecutive playoff game, equaling the record Powell held alone for 38 years.

Boog established the original mark before there was even a League Championship Series much less a Division Series.

The streak began on Oct. 5, 1966. Powell recorded hits in each of the four games of the World Series including a 2-for-3 effort with a run scored and an RBI in Game 2. The starter that day was Sandy Koufax, the first pitcher to record four no-hitters, one of which was a perfect game in 1965.

[More after the jump.]

Powell continued reaching base through three games of the 1969 American League Championship Series (the first-ever LCS after the American League split into East and West divisions), five games of the 1969 World Series, three games of the 1970 ALCS, five games of the 1970 World Series, three games of the 1971 ALCS, and two games of the 1971 World Series.

The streak ended on Oct. 12, 1971, when he went 0-for-5 with a strikeout in a 5-1 loss to the Pirates in Game 3 of the World Series. Pittsburgh starter Steve Blass held almost the entire Orioles lineup in check with a complete-game, three-hit effort during which he struck out eight, walked two, and allowed one earned run. Frank Robinson accounted for two of the O's three hits on the day, including a solo homer leading off the seventh inning.

Given Powell's accomplishment it's ironic that he compiled a career .324 postseason on-base percentage, well below his career .361 mark. Utley's postseason OBP currently stands at .398; his career mark is .371.

Image source: Here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

East Coast Baseball

Here's an interesting tidbit from Tom Verducci about how West Coast teams - and the Diamondbacks - have struggled in the playoffs against East Coast teams, including the Orioles. Verducci examined match-ups since 1995 and discovered that "West Coast teams are 10-36 in East Coast Baseball venues, a .217 winning percentage."
Red Sox president Larry Lucchino has a term for playing in the intense conditions of the Northeast: East Coast Baseball. He is on to something. In Philadelphia, Boston and New York, almost every home game carries an intensity (from fans and media) that is a close facsimile to playoff baseball. And when you do get to October, the frequently cold, wet, blustery weather provides something else to battle, too.

[More after the jump.]

I started thinking about East Coast Baseball as I watched the Dodgers and Angels go 0-4 in Philadelphia and New York in the LCS, all the while looking like they were not up to the challenges of the crowd and the weather. And then I thought, is there something to West Coast teams not measuring up to East Coast Baseball in October?

So I looked at all the West Coast teams -- the Dodgers, Angels, Athletics, Padres, Giants, Mariners and, because they fit the criteria except for a nearby beach, the Diamondbacks -- who have played East Coast Baseball in the postseason in the wild-card era, since 1995. In addition to New York and Philadelphia, other cities that fit the definition of East Coast Baseball at the time they hosted West Coast teams in the playoffs were Boston, Detroit and Baltimore.

It turns out there have been 22 playoff matchups when a West Coast team ventured into East Coast Baseball. The result: the West Coast teams are 10-36 in East Coast Baseball venues, a .217 winning percentage. In other words, get them out of their laid-back, warm environment and into the nasty conditions in the East, and they're not even the 1962 Mets.

And it is not getting any easier. Since 2003 the West Coast teams are 3-17 in East Coast Baseball playoff environments. That's the kind of history the Dodgers are up against tonight when they play NLCS Game 5 in Philadelphia. Bundle up, Dodgers.

Sometimes it's Just Nice to be in the Race Regardless of Whether You Win, Place, or Show

By now you've likely heard the story of Stephen Krupin, the unfortunate Nationals fan who saw the team go 0-19 in games he attended during the 2009 season. (Here's some of the D.C. coverage: Dan Steinberg's D.C. Sports Bog; WTOP).

Any baseball fan who attends more than a game or two a season is familiar with the tendency to track the team's success in his or her presence, though we're all looking for positive outcomes when we do it. How many times have you been to O's games and thought, "Sure they're bad, but they seem to play better when I'm here"?

I appreciate Phil Taylor's take on the Krupin dilemma as he offers a fresh angle on a widely circulated story and personalizes it for most fans. The truth is, as Taylor states, that our teams are most likely to lose when it's all said and done, because at the end of the day only one team wins it all. It's the cost of doing business as a dedicated fan of a particular team.

[More after the jump.]

Here's an excerpt of Taylor's column, "Unluckiest Fan in America."

Maybe you weren't as unfortunate a fan as he was this season, but you probably have more in common with Krupin than you realize. To root for a team is to experience varying degrees of misery, whether you're devoted to a club that hasn't won a World Series in generations or one that just missed the playoffs or, like last-place Washington, one that muddles along so deep in the cellar that first place seems to exist only in a galaxy far, far away.

Those giddy, exuberant baseball fans we see on our television screens this time of year, the ones waving their white towels and clapping ThunderStix as they cheer for their teams in the postseason, are the outliers, like the swimsuit models and the guys with six-pack abs on magazine covers. They are the fortunate few, hardly representative of the masses. It's much easier to relate to Krupin because for the overwhelming majority of fans championships are, at best, occasional. Losing is universal.


Only in sports would a consumer keep patronizing the same establishment despite never getting satisfaction. What Krupin did is like continuing to have dinner at the same restaurant even though it burns the entrée every time.
O's fans in particular can relate to this message, but let's face it: not all losing is created the same. There's a difference between losing the Wild Card down the stretch and never being in the race at all. You may not always win, but it's still nice to place or show every once in a while.

Giddy-up Orioles.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Eutaw Street Chronicles: Jim Thome - July 26, 1996

Mike Mussina surrendered one Eutaw Street home run during nine seasons pitching at Camden Yards. The lone batter to reach the famed walkway against him was a player with whom he would become very familiar: Jim Thome.

Only four pitchers faced Thome more often than the 59 times Mussina did so. One of the most memorable match-ups came during a July 26, 1996 game in Baltimore.

[More after the jump.]

With speedy Indians lead-off man Kenny Lofton on second base and one down in the first inning, Thome clubbed a Mussina offering 440 feet for the 10th Eutaw Street home run in Camden Yards history.

Thome finished the day 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBI. His Eutaw Street blast was the 20th of what would briefly be a career-high 38 home runs. (Thome stroked 40 home runs in 1997 and 52 in 2002.)

The young third baseman hit 25 home runs and 73 RBI the previous year; his stock continued to rise in 1996 as he barreled toward his only Silver Slugger award at the position. Thome moved to first base following Cleveland's acquisition of Matt Williams.

The Indians defeated the Orioles 14-9 to pin the Birds with a five-game losing streak and send the team below .500, at 50-51, for the first time in 1996. The O's fell 11 games behind the Yankees and struggled to stay afloat amid a rising tide of trade rumors.

"Our pitchers are just not holding up their end," said Manager Davey Johnson.

Mussina took the loss - his eighth - after surrendering 11 hits and eight earned runs in 3.2 innings pitched. It was the first time in his career that he lost three straight decisions. He allowed a career-high 31 home runs on the season, seventh most in the American League behind teammate David Wells.

The fledgling ace won 19 games in 1995, but a repeat performance seemed unlikely as he had an 11-8 record following the loss to the Indians.

"I always felt, from the beginning, we had the players here to win, but we haven't put it together, and it's hard to understand why we haven't" said Rafael Palmeiro. "This is the low point in the season right now."

Things soon changed.

Mussina followed up his brief losing streak with an 8-1 record to finish fifth in the Cy Young voting. The Orioles went 38-23 down the stretch and earned the A.L. Wild Card. The discouraging four-game set in Baltimore had therefore served as an unlikely preview of the American League Division Series. Sort of.

Having lost three of four against the Indians in July, the Orioles turned the tables in October and won the ALDS in four games. Meanwhile, Thome faced Mussina three times: he walked, struck out, and grounded out.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Forget the Babe, Blame the Orioles Instead

It's all gloom and doom in Boston again, "back to the bad old days" according to Dan Shaughnessy.

In keeping with what used to be an annual rite in New England, the Red Sox experienced a letdown when the games mattered most. However, the Babe is no longer a convenient scapegoat in this post-2004 Boston baseball era.

Apparently the Orioles must now share in the blame.

Again from Shaughnessy (emphasis added):
There was nothing fluky about this outcome, folks. It was a three-game sweep, a Boston beatdown in which all of the locals’ flaws were exposed. Just as we feared, the 2009 Red Sox were artificially enhanced by home-field dominance (56-25 at Fenway) and a lot of games against the Triple A Orioles. Ultimately, the Franconamen were a team with too many holes to win a World Series.
Triple A - Yes, the Orioles are now held in that low of regard by the Boston faithful.

The Red Sox mediocrity against teams outside of Baltimore was a point of local concern even before the postseason, as I noted in a previous post. Here's hoping the Orioles can help Red Sox fans develop more realistic expectations in the future.

With apologies to my friends who are loyal to the Red Sox, Boston's final meltdown couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. Looks like there won't be any RiverDancing from Jonathan Papelbon this season.

Speaking of Papelbon, O's Minor League Pitching Coach Mike Griffin likes how Chris Tillman, Brad Bergesen, David Hernandez, and Jason Berken stack up against the likes of Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen and Clay Buchholz.

Here's an excerpt from Steve Melewski's article on

Griffin has a track record of developing Major League pitchers. While in the Boston organization he worked with the likes of Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen and Clay Buchholz.

He said the Orioles' foursome he worked with the last two seasons, compares quite well to that Boston group.

"This group right here is ahead of that (Boston) group. Because they are learning faster. They are getting the things they need to get done quicker. That's why they are in the Majors quicker."

So can the O's foursome turn out to be as good in the Majors as those Boston hurlers?

"Probably, I sure as heck hope so. Let's put it this way, they're in position to do it. Now it's up to them at this level to take the work ethic, apply it, get Kranny's help and use it up here."

Here's some other quality off-season O's reading:

-Heath at Dempsey's Army keeps you up to speed on the Arizona Fall League. The man is a dedicated baseball fan if ever there was one.

-Domenic Vandala at FanHouse wonders, on the heels of Barry Levinson's fantastic look back at the Baltimore Colts Marching Band, if the Orioles would ever leave town. Vandala credits Peter Angelos for his loyalty to Baltimore.

-Paul Francis Sullivan of Sully Baseball so believes there should be a Division Series Most Valuable Player that he has retroactively named the MVPs from 1995 to present. B.J. Surhoff and Mike Mussina take home the imagined hardware for the 1996 and 1997 ALDS, respectively.

Finally, a hearty congratulations to Camden Chat for winning a Baltimore Sun Mobbie as Maryland's Most Outstanding Orioles blog.

Image source:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

An O's Fan Observes the PostSeason

Here are a few baseball-related thoughts that occurred to me while watching bits and pieces of baseball's division series:

-First it was Jerry Hairston. Then came Felix Pie. Young, unproven Orioles players who were rebuked by opposing teams for their overly enthusiastic displays on the diamond.

Granted, baseball doesn't need to become the NFL where routine regular season plays produce choreographed histrionics, but isn't there some room for emotion in the national pastime?

Give me Yorvit Torrealba clapping frenziedly at second base following his clutch two-run double against the Phillies.

Give me Jayson Werth celebrating at first base a half-inning later following an equally clutch hit that served as the proverbial final nail in the Rockies' playoff coffin.

The best part is no one has to worry about getting a pitch in the ear for showing some genuine emotion.

I'm glad the etiquette of post-season baseball allows players to be excited.

-Speaking of emotion, baseball should establish a rule that any fan who sits behind the dugout during a playoff game, wears a suit, and fails to stand up during critical eighth and ninth-inning sequences is no longer welcome at the ballpark. Ever.

There were at least a handful of fans at Coors Field on Sunday night who qualified for ballpark banishment.

-Instant replay? No way.

I'm no inflexible traditionalist.

I know replay seems like the right thing to do following Joe Mauer's fair-called-foul ball against the Yankees in extra innings of Game 2 of the ALDS.

I still don't want to see replay ruin the flow of baseball games the way it's doing in pro football.

Sure, there are some cases of clear umpire error like the Mauer hit, but for every clearly blown call there are several times more instances where slow motion look-backs only serve to confuse the issue further.

How many times have you seen NFL announcers watch a replay from several angles, fail to come to a definitive conclusion about what happened, and ultimately fall back on the old line about "indisputable video evidence"?

Rarely are close calls indisputable no matter the speed at which you watch them. The ones that are produce great outrage and calls for unnecessary measures like, well, instant replay.

Umpires make tons of judgment calls throughout a game. Only rarely does one of those calls dramatically affect the outcome. When it does, fans, players, and the media alike all have to deal with it and move on. Either that or harbor a well-earned grudge for eternity as I'm doing with Jeffrey Maier.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Eutaw Street Year in Review

With the regular season behind us it's time for some baseball recaps. At Roar from 34 that means the Eutaw Street Year in Review.

Batters reached Eutaw Street four times in 2009. The baseballs traveled a combined 1,663 feet; had they all been hit straight upward they nearly could have summited Stone Mountain in Georgia.

The four Eutaw Street home runs in 2009 represent the fourth-highest total in Camden Yards history (tied with the 2003 and 2004 seasons). Eight balls reached Eutaw Street in 2008, seven did so in 1996, and five made it there in 1999.

Aubrey Huff (April 21), Adam Dunn (June 28), and Luke Scott (July 11 & Sept. 1) were this season's bronze bombers.

Huff became the second player to hit Eutaw Street with two different teams. His first Eutaw Street home run came on Aug. 21, 2003 with Tampa Bay. Lee Stevens reached Eutaw Street with the Angels (May 23, 1992) and Rangers (May 30, 1998).

Depending on his free-agent fortunes this off-season Huff could return to Camden Yards in 2010 with the opportunity to become the first player to hit a Eutaw Street home run for three different teams.

Scott, meanwhile, provided an encore to his 2008 effort when he reached Eutaw Street twice in the same season. The other players to do so are Jason Giambi in 2008 and Rafael Palmeiro in 1997. Palmeiro is the only player to hit two Eutaw Street home runs in the same game (April 11, 1997) -- consecutive at-bats, no less.

Having hit the final two Eutaw Street home runs of the 2009 season, Scott has initiated a consecutive-bronze-bombs streak for Orioles batters. It has happened three times before.

The Orioles put four straight balls on Eutaw Street without an opponent doing so in a period from Aug. 14, 1996 to April 11, 1997. The team did it three straight times between June 8, 1995 and April 27, 1996, and consecutively between July 24, 1998 and April 29, 1999.

Overall, Orioles batters clouted three of this season's four Eutaw Street home runs, the second-highest total for O's batters behind the four bronze bombs that the team tallied in 1996.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Will the Nationals Have a Winning Season Before the Orioles?

Will the Nationals have a winning season before the Orioles? Blogger Allyn Gibson guarantees it.

Third, this morning’s Baltimore Sun had an article on what the off-season might bring to the beleaguered bottom-dwellers of the American League East. The general impression of the article? Don’t expect much in the way of free agent signings, and trades are unlikely as that would give away the pieces still developing. The funniest part of the article? Mentioning Prince Fielder as a trade possibility. Sorry, I don’t see Prince Fielder coming to Camden Yards, though there is a Dunkin’ Donuts about six blocks from the stadium for all his donut needs.

And that brings me to my personal prognostications.

I’m going to say it.

The Washington Nationals will post a winning season before the Baltimore Orioles do.


Maybe not next year. But certainly by 2012. The Nationals will post a winning season before the O’s.

I agree with Gibson's assessment that the O's won't bring Prince Fielder to town. Otherwise, I don't think the Baltimore resident pays close attention to the Orioles.

Granted, the Nats have an easier path to .500 playing in the N.L. East. However, Gibson's assuming at least three more losing seasons for the Orioles, which frankly isn't going to happen. They'll be a .500 club within three years. Guaranteed.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Cal in Pinstripes? He Thought About It.

Orioles fans have lived through plenty of nightmares in recent history - 12 straight losing seasons, Camden Yards being overrun by Red Sox bandwagon jumpers, 30-3, Jeffrey Maier - but nothing as bad as this: Cal Ripken Jr. in pinstripes.

Ripken told Dan Patrick that the Bronx - where I heard No. 8 booed late in his career - was a consideration for him following the disastrous 1988 season:
-- Dan asked Ripken the poll question about franchise players joining another team at the end of his career. Ripken said he actually did consider Toronto, Atlanta and the Yankees at one point, but couldn't leave Baltimore, his hometown.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Four-Game Win Streak? That's Music to O's Fans' Ear

There's plenty of time to break down the Orioles' late-season slump, the team's disappointing overall record, and the things that need to happen in the off-season to continue the process of turning the Birds into a contender.

For now, let's enjoy the fact that the O's swept the Blue Jays and cobbled together a four-game win streak to end the season. As The Sun states, things ended on a high note.

In the spirit of feeling good and loving the home team warts and all, let the most pressing question you ask yourself today be this ...
Which song played at Camden Yards do you prefer - "How I Love My Maryland" by Damion Wolfe or "A World of Orioles Baseball" by Jason Siemer?

Vote in the Roar from 34 poll and then defend you answer in the comments section.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

An Open Letter to the Ghost of the A.L. East Past

To: The Ghost of the A.L. East Past

From: Roar from 34

Re: The Curse of the Early '80s (aka Sorry for creating the Rockies, Marlins, and Rays)

Dear Ghost,

You're not one for subtlety, are you? Consider your point well taken.

Clearly you hated the idea of expansion in the '90s, and realignment wasn't really your thing either. Major League Baseball broke up your division, and you've been taking out your frustration on some former A.L. East teams ever since.

I'm an Orioles fan. As you know, you've put me and my fellow loyalists through quite a bit of suffering lately. I'm waiting for the team to sign Job as a utility infielder. Guess we'll leave that to the baseball gods. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

It all started when you humbled the 1982 A.L. East champion Milwaukee Brewers with a dozen consecutive losing seasons starting in 1993. That was the year baseball expanded in Colorado and Florida.

Next you came after the 1984 A.L. East champion Detroit Tigers who, like the Brewers, suffered a dozen consecutive losing seasons. Their run started in 1994, the same year that baseball introduced the Central divisions via realignment.

And you currently have the 1983 A.L. East champions, my beloved Orioles, in your grip. As with the Brewers and Tigers, your message has come in the form of a dozen consecutive losing seasons. The madness started in 1998, another expansion year.

Bah-humbug to those who suggested you were but a bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese... more of gravy than of grave. Clearly the Ghost of the A.L. East Past is real.

Now that we've witnessed your steroid-free power, I implore you to leave us O's fans alone. Besides, there were other teams in the old A.L. East who could use some humbling.

Perhaps you've seen that they have a different stadium in New York these days; looks like the 1981 A.L. East Champions could use some new ghosts. I hear their owner is a real Scrooge.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

For Most of the '89 Orioles, Postseason Baseball Remained a Dream

As part of its package revisiting the final dramatic push of the Orioles' 1989 "Why Not?" campaign The Sun provides quotes from players, fans, and general managers (including then Minnesota GM Andy MacPhail) who either were involved with or were following the exciting late-season action.

Among the most interesting of those quotes, at least to me, is the simple, telling wisdom of catcher Mickey Tettleton.

Said Tettleton in '89: "It's a lot of fun. You don't know as a player or as a fan if you're ever going to be in this situation again. Why not enjoy it?"

Most of the 1989 Orioles - 30 players from the 40-man roster - did not make the postseason later in their careers.

Tettleton, then in his sixth season and his second with the Orioles, played 14 years in the bigs. He appeared in the postseason just once in his career, as a member of the 1996 Texas Rangers team that lost the Division Series 3-1 to the New York Yankees.

At age 35, Tettleton served as a designated hitter in the Division Series, going 1-for-12 in four games with five walks and seven strikeouts. He had a .353 on-base percentage despite batting .083 in the series. His lone hit was an RBI single that plated Dean Palmer in the Rangers' 6-4 Game 4 loss.

The list of players from the '89 Orioles squad who would see post-season action later in their careers included the following:
-Brady Anderson ('96 and '97 Orioles)
-Chris Hoiles ('96 & '97 Orioles)
-Cal Ripken ('96 and '97 Orioles)
-Rene Gonzalez ('91 Blue Jays, '96 Rangers)
-Gregg Olson ('99 Diamondbacks)
-Jamie Quirk ('90 & '92 A's)
-And unlikely 1995 NLCS MVP Mike Devereaux, who also appeared in the 1996 playoffs with the Orioles.
The two players who would see the most post-season action were part of the regrettable Glenn Davis trade:
Steve Finley ('96 & '98 Padres; '99, '01 & '02 Diamondbacks, '04 Dodgers, '05 Angels) and Curt Schilling ('93 Phillies, '01 & '02 Diamondbacks, '04 & '07 Red Sox).
Only six players entered the 1989 season having already played post-season baseball:
-Brian Holton ('88 Dodgers)
-Mark Huismann ('84 Royals)
-Keith Moreland ('80 & '81 Phillies, '84 Cubs)
-Bob Melvin ('87 Giants)
-Quirk ('76 & '85 Royals)
-Mark Thurmond ('84 Dodgers).

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Eutaw Street Chronicles: Mo Vaughn - July 7, 1996

Mo Vaughn entered his last game before the 1992 All-Star break wondering if he belonged among the game's greats who would play in Philadelphia later that week.

By the end of the night there was no doubt.

Vaughn had threatened to skip the All-Star game with an injured finger after going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in a 4-3 loss to the Orioles one day earlier. The o-fer extended a streak of 13 games (57 at-bats) without a homer for Vaughn.

The streak ended immediately on July 7 as Vaughn's first-inning home run traveled 419 feet to Eutaw Street and gave the Red Sox a 2-0 lead. Vaughn was the ninth bronze bomber in Camden Yards history.

[More after the jump.]

The celebrated power hitter book-ended his first-inning blast with a 457-foot three-run shot in the ninth that made a loser of Orioles closer Randy Myers. Myers had been 18 of 21 in save opportunities including two saves in the Independence Day weekend series with the Red Sox.

Vaughn's two home runs traveled the combined length of roughly three football fields and padded the first baseman's substantial first-half numbers: .346, 26 home runs, 78 RBI.

"It took my breath away," said Red Sox manager Kevin Kennedy of the ninth-inning home run into the upper reaches of the center-field bleachers. "I knew it was gone, but I just didn't know how far."

The 7-5 loss sent the Orioles into the break with a 46-39 record, six games back of the Yankees. The Red Sox improved to 36-49.

The uneven Orioles looked to have their own feel-good effort in hand in the late innings of the game after rallying from a 4-1 deficit. As they so often did during a season when they broke the 1961 Yankees' record for home runs with 257, the O's powered their way to the lead.

Brady Anderson brought the Birds to within one run in the seventh inning with his major-league leading 30th home run, a two-run shot off Tom Gordon.

Chris Hoiles then hit a two-run homer of his own in the eighth inning, this one off Joe Hudson, to stake the O's to a 5-4 lead.

Hoiles arrived back in the dugout to a phone call from Alan Mills, who took off his cap and waved from the bullpen where the call was placed. Mills could relax after O's starter Scott Erickson did the set-up work on his own with eight innings of seven-hit, four-run work.

Enter Myers, who would finish the season with 31 saves.

The closer retired pinch-hitter Alex Delgado and center fielder Lee Tinsley in the ninth before enabling Vaughn's heroics by walking Jeff Frye and allowing a John Valentin single. Having induced a game-ending flyball from Vaughn just three nights earlier, Myers left a 1-0 fastball over the plate that the Boston slugger devoured.

Vaughn's game winner was the second-longest home run in Camden Yards history at the time and still ranks fourth in the ballpark's history. He hit a career-high 44 home runs in 1996, which was the second in a string of six straight seasons of 30 or more home runs for Vaughn.

Myers, meanwhile, established a new Orioles record in 1997 with his league-leading 45 saves.

Click here for past editions of The Eutaw Street Chronicles.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What Would Wild Bill Say?

Legendary fan Wild Bill Hagy was known to turn down cab fares from Yankees and Red Sox fans.

Legend has it he also dropped these folks off in questionable neighborhoods on occasion.

At least Hagy was picking on someone his own size.

A school teacher and devoted Red Sox fan in Van Buren, N.Y., forced one of his fourth-grade students to turn his C.C. Sabathia T-shirt inside out.

Here's a bit of the story:
Van Buren Elementary fourth-grader Nathan Johns thought his teacher was kidding Wednesday when he instructed him to go to the bathroom and turn his Yankees T-shirt inside out.

The blue shirt read “New York No. 52” on the front and “Sabathia” for the New York Yankees’ pitcher CC Sabathia, on the back.

“ I thought to myself ‘Is he serious or is he kidding,’” said Nate, 9, a student in Peter Addabbo’s fourth-grade class. “But he had this look like he wasn’t kidding at all.”

Nate complied, and said he was later told to wear it that way until dismissal. At lunch, Nate said the fifth-graders made fun of him because he wearing his shirt inside out. “It was such a horrible day.” Nate said. “I don’t ever want anything like to happen again.”

I'm guessing Wild Bill would conclude that both parties were in the wrong - the teacher for being a Red Sox fan and the student for being a Yankees fan.

Image source: Here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Looking Back on Better Days ... with Chris Hoiles

The Hall of Very Good has posted an interview with Chris Hoiles that serves as a nice reminder of better days in Birdland.

Hoiles reflects on Ripken's streak, Harold Baines Hall of Fame candidacy, homering off Randy Johnson, hitting two grand slams in one game, and hitting a grand slam while down three with two outs and two strikes.

There's also some steroids talk in there, but I'm trying to keep things positive this week.

An excerpt follows. Follow the link to the full article for an interesting read.
HOVG: And if that wasn’t big enough…you kinda became known for some big ones while with Baltimore. In 1998, you became only the ninth player to hit two grand slams in one game. Walk me through that. It has to be a thrill.

HOILES: Well, the two grand slam game was special to me, because I went from playing every day to part-time with Lenny Webster. I hadn't played in a few days, and that was my first start in a while. Plus it was in Cleveland, where I have a lot of friends and family come to because of where I grew up. The first one was a 2-0 count split finger from Charles Nagy and the second was a 3-2 fastball from Ron Villone. Very special night, especially after it was all over and I found out that I was only the ninth person to do it. Three of the nine were Orioles and I was the first catcher to do it.

HOVG: Two year prior (May 17, 1996), you ended a pretty crazy game with what some call the “ultimest” grand slam. Full count, two outs, base loaded…down three. What was that like?

HOILES: It was an awesome feeling, knowing that the game was on the line when I came to bat. Nothing like it.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Looking Back on Better Days: They Were Still Asking "Why Not?" in '89

This week's effort to remember some September bright spots in Orioles history amidst the team's current discouraging September run continues with a look back 20 years to the O's celebrated "Why Not?" season.

On Sept. 23, 1989, the O's defeated the New York Yankees 10-2 behind strong hitting from the lower half of the team's lineup.

The Birds' number five hitter, Randy "Moose" Milligan, went 2-for-3 with two runs and a stolen base (one of only 16 in his eight-year career), and the remainder of the lineup followed suit:

6. Craig Worthington, 2-for-5 with a double and a home run;

7. Stanley Jefferson, 3-for-4 with a double and three runs;

8. Jamie Quirk, 1-for-3 with a sacrifice, RBI, and run scored;

9. Roberto Kelly, 2-for-3 with an RBI.

Bob Milacki picked up his 13th win of the season for the Birds with seven innings of work against the Yankees. Milacki, who won a career high 14 games in 1989, allowed seven hits and two runs while walking six and striking out four.

The Saturday evening match-up of division rivals - the O's penultimate home game of the year - attracted 48,308 fans to Memorial Stadium. The Orioles closed out the season on a six-game road trip that ended, fittingly, in Toronto.

With the win the Orioles moved to within one game of the first-place Blue Jays, who lost to Milwaukee. It was the closest the team would get for the remainder of the season.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Looking Back on Better Days: The Orioles' First Pennant

Forty-three years ago today, on Sept. 22, 1966, the Orioles clinched their first American League pennant with a 6-1 victory over the Kansas City Athletics.

It was the modern Orioles' first-ever pennant, and the franchise's first pennant since the St. Louis Browns won their only one in 1944.

Jim Palmer, then in his second year in the majors, picked up a complete-game victory for the Birds, allowing five hits and one earned run while striking out eight and walking one against the A's.

It was Palmer's 15th and final regular-season victory. He went on to pitch a complete-game shutout in Game 2 of the 1966 World Series against the Dodgers.

Four Orioles batters registered multi-hit days against the Athletics' Lew Krausse, led by Frank Robinson's 3-for-5 effort with two doubles and two RBI. Russ Snyder, Boog Powell, and Davey Johnson picked up two hits a piece.

The O's outlasted Minnesota for the pennant, finishing nine games ahead of the Twins.

For a pleasant change of pace from current times, the Yankees finished in last place in the 10-team American League in 1966 with a record of 70-89. New York was a half-game behind the ninth place Boston Red Sox.

Image source: Here.