Friday, May 29, 2009

Flashback Friday: April 7, 1977

Revisiting the start of Eddie Murray's Hall-of-Fame career

"The O's aspiring everyday players - Rich Dauer, Eddie Murray, Dave Skaggs, Kiko Garcia, Larry Harlow, Billy Smith and Tom Shopay - are the sort of players who in time may reach the same level of acceptable mediocrity as Bumbry and DeCinces. The alarming thing about them is that they are all currently on the O's 25-man roster."

-Thomas Boswell
The Washington Post, April 12, 1977

It's difficult to properly contextualize the excitement surrounding Matt Wieters' MLB debut. Perhaps there should be an anticipation statistic, one that factors in draft position, prospect rank, attendance at the player's first home game, team's number of consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance and/or number of consecutive losing seasons, available media outlets in existence, etc.

By any measure, the Wieters debut would be at or near the top of Baltimore's
"Notable O's debuts." This week's Flashback Friday revisits the Oriole debut of one such notable player, Eddie Murray (see photo 4 in the "Notable O's" linked gallery).

As evidenced in Tom Boswell's writing (excerpted above), it's fair to say the expectations for Murray weren't the same as they are for Wieters.

The Orioles drafted Murray in the third round of the 1973 amateur draft and signed him on July 1 of that year. After four minor league seasons divided between the Bluefield (1973), Miami (1974), Asheville (1974 and 1975), and Charlotte and Rochester (1976), Murray started his Hall of Fame career in Baltimore on April 7, 1977, before 31,307 fans at Memorial Stadium.

Murray, batting from the five spot, finished the day 1-for-4, with a seventh inning infield single off of Bert Blyleven. He struck out once in a game that Jim Palmer and the Orioles lost to the Rangers 2-1 in 10 innings. Think the game was different back then? Consider that both starting pitchers tossed all 10 innings.

Murray's first home run came seven games later during a 3-for-4 day that carried the Birds to a 4-3 victory over the Indians. If anyone tells you they were there for Murray's first home run, ask for proof; only 6,466 fans attended the Monday evening contest at Memorial Stadium.

Murray's Opening Day performance followed a spring training where he tallied a two-run homer against the Braves (March 18), a sacrifice fly off of Luis Tiant (March 23), and a three home run, six RBI performance against the University of Miami (March 31). During the March 18 Braves game Murray became the ninth player - in what was then a 27-year history - to hit a ball over Miami's center-field fence.

Texas swept the Birds to open the '77 season, but Baltimore took seven of its next eight, including a six-game winning streak, to right the ship. Overall, the team won 97 games to tie Boston for second in the AL East, 2.5 games behind the Yankees. Ninety-seven wins weren't enough to qualify for the playoffs much less win the sizable division.

For his part, Murray played 160 games in 1977, the third most in the American League, with 611 at-bats, the league's ninth-highest total. Murray used those at-bats to tally a .283 batting average with 27 home runs and 88 RBIs. He was named American League Rookie of the Year, earning 43 percent of the vote to second-place Mitchell Page's 32 percent of the vote. (Page was out of baseball following the 1984 season.) Andre Dawson took the National League's Rookie of the Year award.

This Speaks for Itself

Headline: Orioles getting younger, winning, and having fun.


1 - "When you win, it's just a whole lot of fun. And the last inning I saw nine guys on the top step and on the rail," manager Dave Trembley said. "For the guys who have been here—Roberts, Nicky—it's a blast for them seeing Oriole guys come up through the system. That's fun for them."

2 - "Everybody is jumping around. Everybody is happy. Everybody has smiles on everybody's faces," center fielder Adam Jones(notes) said. "The team is getting a little younger, but it is getting more interesting. Everybody is enjoying it."

3 - How long can this continue?

"As long as we keep winning," Jones said. "I guess Wieters will be here tomorrow, so hopefully we can pie him."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thanks, MASN

What do you get when you gather several Orioles bloggers at Camden Yards and treat them to a behind-the-scenes look at MASN's operation?

(No, not a lot of empty basements at mom's house.)

You get an O's win and a loss for every other A.L. East team. I like to think it's not an accident, but rather some form of new media, reverse Sports Illustrated jinx (which of course wouldn't make it a jinx at all).

As already well chronicled by the likes of The Loss Column, Camden Chat, Baltimore Sports and Life, and even Roch Kubatko, MASN held its Orioles Blogger Night at Camden Yards on Tuesday. The reviews are in, and the bloggers are happy.

Special thanks to Todd Webster and Kristen Hudak for making the unique event happen.I encourage you to read any of the aforementioned accounts to get a feel for the evening.

(Edit: A lunchtime trip through the blog-O's-phere turned up more rundowns of the event: Wayward O, Dempsey's Army, Oriole Magic, Baltimore Sports Report, Orioles Card "O" The Day, and Oriole Post.)

It was a pleasure to meet other O's writers who share a passion for the team regardless of game outcomes. We each have our own motivations for writing, which are reflected in the content of our respective blogs.

For me, Tuesday night's event presented the opportunity to engage multiple of my interests, from talking about the business side of the game - including MASN's efforts to expand its audience in the face of obstinate cable providers and Major League Baseball's control of game rights and the related use of highlights - to sharing in the sense of community among the most passionate members of a larger, somewhat dormant fan base. As I tell other fans I encounter these days, "There are still a few of us left."

However, regular Roar from 34 readers (hi, Dad!) know that this site is fueled by a healthy sense of nostalgia. I was born into this thing of ours, quickly learned that "How bout dem O's?" was a an automatic conversation starter, and in equally prompt fashion came to understand that lamenting the lack of pitching was almost always a proper response to the requisite inquiry.

Among other pleasures, Tuesday's event satisfied my sense of nostalgia when I chatted briefly with 1983 World Series MVP Rick Dempsey.

Surely, Dempsey and other former players hear a healthy share of stories from fans about this or that meaningful moment, as if it's supposed to mean something to them as well. Thankfully, Dempsey was exceedingly gracious as I related the tale of a letter I received from my grandfather in October 1983 that included his sketch of Dempsey piloting an orange-and-black hot-air balloon over Memorial Stadium (pictured above). Written in the bottom left corner were the words, "When you're up, you're up. How about those Birds?"

Several days earlier I had watched my father spontaneously bound from the house to exhaust the horn on our 1976 Volvo after the Series' last out reached Cal Ripken's glove. Those moments made an indelible impression on a certain 8-year-old fan.

In 1983, it took several days for the note my grandfather penned in Schenectady, New York to reach my home in Catonsville, Maryland. E-mail, much less blogging, wasn't even an imagined thought.

Nearly 26 years later, thanks to these newer forms of communication and the passion that those sorts of moments fostered in me, I was able to relate the story to the man who unknowingly made it possible. Better yet, I was able to do so using a form of communication that never goes out of style: face-to-face conversation.

I appreciated the opportunity.

Matt Wieters is Dreamy, but Can He Dance?

So perhaps you've heard about this Wieters kid who's making his debut on Friday? Word is he's pretty good, and the fans are pumped.

Okay, so it's impossible to avoid the hype, and even to join in. To borrow a familiar, upbeat, Orioles phrase - Why Not? It's nice for O's fans to have something to get excited about.

Wieters' debut seems to be inspiring lists, including The Post's rundown of, ahem, the best catchers in Orioles history. No pressure, Matt. You're just another one of the guys.

Duly inspired, Roar from 34 has produced its own Matt Wieters list, one that addresses a critical, yet seemingly under-addressed topic: Songs Matt Wieters could use for his plate appearances.

Here are seven possibilities:

Number One



"All that pressure you applyin' its time to ease off"

"I am number one - no matter if you like it, Here take it sit down and write it."

: Reflects Wieters' standing as baseball's No. 1prospect; has a beat you - but definitely not I - can dance to; no room for modesty with Wieters until the post-game press conference.

Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

Fleetwood Mac

Key Lyrics:

"Don't stop, thinking about tomorrow,

Don't stop, it'll soon be here,
It'll be, better than before,
Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone."

: A good run by Wieters will only increase optimism about the team's future; connections to aged band and Bill Clinton's presidential campaign potentially problematic (after all, this is the post-music-partisan, Will.I.Am Obama era).

Brand New Day

Joshua Radin

Key Lyrics

"It’s a brand new day

The sun is shinning
It’s a brand new day
For the first time
In such a long long time
I know
I’ll be ok."

: In keeping with the future theme but with a more updated feel; after a dozen years of losing, a new day is what it's all about.


Foo Fighters

Key Lyrics

"There goes my hero

Watch him as he goes
There goes my hero."

: He's already a hero to many fans without even having swung a bit in the bigs; Foo Fighters version is an upgrade over hero-themed lyrics from Enrique Iglesias, Mariah Carey, and yes, even Bonnie Tyler (great Jumbotron video, problematic lyrics, as discussed in a 2006 Roar from 34 post).

The Greatest

Kenny Rogers


"He makes no excuses, He shows no fears

He just closes his eyes and listens to the cheers."

: Again, no need for humility until the MASN post-game interviews; some already have Wieters' name in the conversation for "The Greatest"; ancillary benefit - a Kenny Rogers guest appearance at the ballpark, a la John Denver, would give fans a chance to see if Rogers' surgery-riddled face melts in the afternoon sun.

Enter Sandman


Key Lyrics
: None

: Just to piss off Yankee fans.

You Dropped the Bomb on Me

The Gap Band


"You dropped a bomb on me, baby

You dropped a bomb on me."

: Hopefully Wieters will drop many bombs in Orange and Black; serves as a nod to former O's TV guy Michael Reghi and his fondness for the phrase "unleashes a bomb."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Reimold Gets His First "Defining Moment"

So who's going to record the Noland Reimold "Defining Moments" commercial? Not bad for two weeks in the bigs, huh?

Defining Moment, Orioles Magic ... call it what you want; the bottom line is the O's won 12-10 in extras on Wednesday afternoon to sweep the Jays.

I sense a spirited game of "Can You Top This?" coming on between Reimold and Matt Wieters.
Come Friday, Wieters is on the clock for his own initial "Defining Moment." Given the expectations, it ought to take Wieters approximately one at-bat.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Off Week

Roar from 34 will not have any new posts until after Memorial Day. Should the Birds suddenly catch fire and win all of their games during the hiatus, I may have to consider putting an end to my blogging efforts.

Go O's!

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Eutaw Street Chronicles: April 3, 1996

A game full of firsts includes Palmeiro's first Eutaw Street home run

Rafael Palmeiro's accomplishments with the Orioles came into question immediately following his suspension in 2005 for steroid use. However, the uncertainty surrounding Palmeiro's first long ball visit to Eutaw Street has nothing to do with steroids. Rather, the question surrounded whether the ball actually made it to Eutaw Street.

Writers from The Sun and Washington Post - Buster Olney and Mark Maske, respectively - indicated that Palmeiro's second-inning home run bounced off of the fence in front of Eutaw Street in right-center field and bounced back toward the stands. However, Bill Wagner of the Annapolis Capital indicated that the ball bounced off of the canopy for Boog's Barbecue.

It seems the decision makers at Camden Yards sided with the latter telling; the towering 412-foot blast is marked with a bronze plaque on the sidewalk and therefore stands as the first of Palmeiro's four Eutaw Street home runs. No other hitter has reached Eutaw Street as often.

Palmeiro's homer off of Mark Gubicza on April 3, 1996, was the second consecutive Eutaw Street home run by an Oriole after Kevin Bass became the first Bird to do so the season prior. Brady Anderson would extend the O's bronze bomber streak to three just a few weeks later, during a busy 1996 season. Seven Eutaw Street home runs were hit that year, a mark that is second only to the eight that were hit in 2008.

Including Palmeiro's April 3 home run, all but one of the first four Eutaw Street shots came during multi-homer innings. Roberto Alomar and Palmeiro hit back-to-back homers in the second inning of the Birds' 7-1 victory over Kansas City. Alomar's home run was his first as an Oriole.
Cal Ripken, B.J. Surhoff, and Bobby Bonilla also had RBI hits for the Birds on the day.

David Wells picked up his first win for the O's with seven strong innings of pitching that included six strikeouts, three walks, five hits, and one earned run. Wells finished the 1996 season, his only year in Baltimore, with an 11-14 record. His 5.14 ERA was the third-worst mark in his 21 major league seasons.

One of the few Royals highlights on the evening was a seventh-inning triple play, as described below by The Sun.
The Orioles had the game well in hand in the seventh, when Alomar singled and moved to third on a single by Palmeiro. Then Bobby Bonilla slashed a grounder toward third; Joe Randa gloved it and stared at Alomar, chasing him back to third, then threw to second. Bip Roberts forced out Palmeiro at second and threw to first to nip Bonilla (although TV replays showed Bonilla might have been safe).

As Roberts threw to first, Alomar broke from third. First baseman Bob Hamelin fired home to catcher Sal Fasano, who planted his left foot in front of the plate. Alomar beat the throw, but reaching around Fasano's foot, he never touched home, and was called out by home plate umpire Rick Reed, the first time the Orioles were the victim of a triple play since Aug. 30, 1993. Replay also showed Fasano never tagged Alomar.

"If it was close," Johnson said, "I might've argued more. I'm still not sure he touched him."
Palmeiro finished the 1996 season with 39 home runs and 142 RBIs, a club record for left-handed batters.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Minor Improvements

The Buffalo News tells the story of former Buffalo Herd Manager and current Orioles Director of Minor League Instruction Brian Graham.

The Norfolk Tides are in first place in the International League South and they have several good prospects who should help the Baltimore Orioles soon.

That makes former Bisons manager Brian Graham a happy man. Graham, the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer who is the Herd's all-time leader in managerial wins, has been in town to check out the Tides in his role as Baltimore's director of minor league instruction.

The Tampa Bay Rays' run to the 2008 World Series gives the Orioles hope even though they've struggled through 11 straight losing seasons.

"It gives you a model to measure your own club after," Graham said Sunday in Coca-Cola Field. "There's an emphasis now on defense and catching the ball and that's what the Rays did last year that made them so good. They caught the ball.

"They pitched well and swung the bats but their emphasis on defense is something we're doing here as well. To see a team like the Rays play like they did last year gives you hope."

A recent Camden Chat Fanpost by SilverStadium highlighted the fact that "Minor league baseball is where it's at for O's fans this year." Having seen the Norfolk Tides play in Durham with plans to do so again later in the season, I agree that there's excitement to be had down on the farm.

The improvement of the minor league system is one of the biggest underlying stories of what hopefully will become an O's turnaround and return to respectability. With that in mind, it's fun to get to know some of the guys behind the scenes who are helping to make it all happen.

Baltimore's Baseball Bargain

A recent Yahoo Sports story about baseball bargains focuses heavily on Camden Yards and the Orioles' "Birdland Stimulus Package."

Yet Section 334, high above home plate, was humming—large groups of college-age kids, elderly couples, families with small children in Nick Markakis jerseys. And most of them had paid an almost quaint price for their seats: $8.

This is what baseball promotions look like during an economic meltdown: The one in Baltimore was called the Birdland Stimulus Package.

Despite all the talk about the platinum-card seats at Yankee Stadium, the prix-fixe menus, microbrews, martinis and dry-aged beef, the classic ballpark experience is still available for less cash than it takes to see a movie.

You just have to hunt for it.

“They say it costs, what, a hundred bucks, 150, to take your family to the game?” said David Adden, a self-employed graphic designer who snapped up Baltimore’s $8 Tuesday night seats for himself and his 7-year-old son.

“But that’s with the cotton candy and the jersey for your kid, all that. This is really all you need, this view.”
I particularly appreciate the article's focus on the fact that it doesn't cost much to simply watch the game. (Emphasis added in the excerpt below.)

Take Camden Yards. On just the five-minute walk from the park’s Eutaw Street entrance to the seats up behind home, you can stop to buy any of the following: An Orioles giant orange foam finger ($9), a hand-drawn caricature of yourself ($10 to $25), a Markakis bobblehead doll ($25) or a foot-high, Orioles cap-wearing garden gnome ($35, plus the untold psychological damage to your children).

All of which cost more than an actual upper-deck ticket on Stimulus Package night. And all of which have little, if anything, to do with the one thing that hasn’t changed as player salaries have swelled and the economy has soured—the simple pleasure of watching the game itself.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

MASN's Casting Call

MASN is holding virtual and real casting calls for its "Defining Moments" advertising campaign. It only seems right that one of the diehards from the Blog-O's-sphere would appear in an ad. Who will answer the call?

From MASN:
MASN, the local leader in live sports entertainment, will conduct open auditions for future spots in the network's Defining Moments advertising campaign. The innovative campaign, which launched at the beginning of the 2009 season, features real, everyday fans describing their favorite memorable baseball moments - in their own words. Fans of both the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles can audition at Nationals Park on May 23rd and at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 30 to star in a MASN commercial later this summer. Fans may also submit their Defining Moments videos and blogs at for consideration.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Heyman Gives Huff a Thumbs Up

SI's Jon Heyman not only approves of Aubrey Huff's fist-pumping impression of Joba Chamberlin, he thinks Johnathan Papelbon should be next on the list for such treatment.

Aubrey Huff is my new hero after mocking talented, immature Yankee Joba Chamberlain with a couple fist pumps to celebrate a homer off Chamberlain. Someone needs to tell Joba to tone it down. I'm not sure this will work. But hey, it's a start.


Jonathan Papelbon should be the next target of hitters. Paps' celebrations are downright nutso. His gyrations after getting out of a recent Rays jam were much greater than when he closed out the World Series two years ago. If Huff tries to mock that one, he'll wind up on the disabled list.

I was wondering when Papelbon's name would come up in this discussion.

If hitters are in fact bothered by these pitcher antics, so much so that a team like the Orioles would discuss Chamberlin's behavior amongst themselves, Papelbon would certainly have to be on a short list for "mock trotting," as I like to call Huff's antics. The problem is that you actually have to hit a home run off the guy first.

As for Chamberlin, it seems times have truly changed in the Bronx. O's fans may remember that in the not-too-distant past - late '90s, early 2000s - the Yankees, the self-appointed arbiters of proper baseball behavior, were angry with Jerry Hairston for being too cocky and too demonstrative.

Judge for yourself whether Buster Olney's description of how the Yankees once viewed Jerry Hairston sounds at all like Joba Chamberlin.

But Hairston and Wright were similar, in that they were both young, generally unproven, cocky and demonstrative -- and for a bunch of veterans like the Yankees, these were abhorrent characteristics.

Brooks Robinson and the Fight Against Cancer

For all the excitement surrounding the O's 7-5 victory over the Rays on Wednesday night, Brooks Robinson's disclosure that he has prostate cancer obviously trumped the importance of any game outcome.

Robinson shared the news publicly for the first time during an American Cancer Society event promoting the Patient Navigator program.

Robinson is one of an estimated 192,288 American men who will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009, with 3,580 of those cases occurring in Maryland. Prostate cancer accounted for 25 percent of new cancer cases in men in 2009 making it the leading site of male cancer diagnoses. (Breast cancer is the most common site of new cases among women.) Men have a 1-in-6 chance of getting prostate cancer during their lifetime. (See: 2009 American Cancer Society Facts & Figures.)

The good news is that prostate cancer survival rates are favorable. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 90 percent of all such cases are discovered in the local and regional stages, for which the five-year survival rate is nearly 100 percent. The five-year survival rate for all stages of prostate cancer combined has improved over the last 25 years from 69 percent to almost 99 percent. These improvements have been attributed in part to earlier diagnosis and improvements in treatment.

Brooks Robinson's diagnosis is a reminder to men of the importance of regular health check-ups. When it comes to most any kind of cancer, prevention and early detection are key.

There are many dispiriting cancer stories, and much work remains to be done in the fight against this disease; however, through the efforts of the American Cancer Society (disclaimer: I used to work there and continue to volunteer for them) and other worthwhile organizations, cancer can become a chronic illness rather than a terminal disease.

Robinson is working to produce positive results from a negative situation by drawing attention to the American Cancer Society's Patient Navigator program, which provides patients with support and resources to assist with the oftentimes disorienting process of treating cancer.

Said Robinson at Wednesday's ACS event: When you are diagnosed with cancer, your only focus should be on getting better. If you don't know where to go for help, you can't get it. If you know what questions to ask, you can't get the answers."

For more information on the Patient Navigator Program, visit this site. To make a donation to the American Cancer Society, follow this link. To learn about the American Cancer Society's partner advocacy organization, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), which encourages legislators to support important programs like Patient Navigator, go here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Best of Times, Worst of Times for Baltimore Sports has ranked Peter Angelos as the worst owner in baseball. Meanwhile, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti ranks as the fifth-best owner in football.
When the Baltimore lawyer took control of the team in 1993, it was a year removed from its Camden Yards debut with a stacked roster Angelos allowed former GM Pat Gillick to build. The O's went on to make the first of two consecutive ALCS appearances just three years later. Then Angelos began his notorious meddling, firing popular manager Davey Johnson, burning through another five managers, killing trades proposed by his GMs and stripping down one of baseball's proudest franchises. The O's haven't finished above .500 in 11 seasons since their last playoff appearance.
SI describes its method as follows: "Among the criteria used to evaluate owners was the willingness to spend money to improve the team; the stability and capabilities of the front office and management; the amenities at the team's venue; and the club's culture and interactivity with fans. Of course, weighing heavily in the decision was the team's success or failure on the field."

Feeling a Draft

Jon Heyman writes in this week's Sports Illustrated that 2005 may rank as the "best ... draft ... class ... ever.

Rays righthander Matt Garza, member of the vaunted 2005 draft, was throwing a no-hitter into the seventh inning last Thursday—until, that is, he faced another alum from what well may be the best... draft... class...ever. And there went Garza's bid for history. Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (the No. 23 pick) legged out an infield single against Garza (No. 25), Boston's only hit that night.

Garza was the ALCS MVP in 2008, and Ellsbury was a World Series hero the year before, yet neither was considered even close to the cream of the '05 bumper crop. "That first round, especially the first half of that first round, is amazing," says acting Nationals G.M. Mike Rizzo, who as Arizona's scouting director that year took outfield superstar-in-waiting Justin Upton with the first pick. "I can't remember one draft with more big names or more impact. It's like a Who's Who of amateur players."

Six players from that class—Upton, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz—appeared on the cover of SI's Baseball Preview last year (inset). But there are dozens more where they came from: Of the 30 players selected in the regular phase of the first round, 20 have already reached the majors.
The O's picks from the 2005 draft included the following (most of the links go to O's on Deck "Predict the Future" profiles):

Brandon Snyder,

Garrett Olson (a supplemental pick),

Nolan Reimold,

Brandon Erbe,

David Hernandez,

Chorye Spoone.

Oh, and don't forget about Jeremy Bloor, the 1487th pick who was taken in the 50th round. I dont' know about you, but I'll always consider 2005 the Jeremy Bloor Draft.

Monday, May 11, 2009

It's Officially a Rivalry

Last season the Rays brawled with the Red Sox on the field, outlasted them for the A.L. East title, and ultimately beat them in a dramatic ALCS, all of which signal a brewing rivalry. I guess the only thing that's left on the list is for fans to start fighting at games.

A Boston Red Sox fan is accused of attacking a Tampa Bay Rays fan ... at Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg police said.

According to a police report, this is what happened:

Near the end of the game between the Rays and the Red Sox, John Thaddeus Ritter, 19, 1280 38th Ave. N.E., St. Petersburg, exchanged words with Red Sox fan Joseph Michael Norton, 30, 8102 Sheldon Road, Tampa, as they were walking down the outside ramp at Gate 6 as they left the stadium.

According to witnesses, Norton ran up behind Ritter and "sucker punched" him in the back of the head, causing Ritter to fall forward on the sloping concrete. Ritter's head hit the pavement, causing a concussion and serious head injuries. He has since been released from the hospital.

I guess that makes it official: Rays - Red Sox is an honest-to-goodness baseball rivalry.

This latest episode comes after Red Sox Super Fan Chris Sciesinski decided to "
strike back for Red Sox Nation" at the end of last season. Both events took place in St. Petersburg. It's like a traveling carnival!

To (mis)quote Michael Scott from the classic "Business School" episode of The Office: "Baseball is always personal. It's the most personal thing in the world."

Koji's Got Soul

Uehara has turned in five straight quality starts, allowing 11 earned runs, walking just two batters and striking out 29 during that span. However, he's 0-3 with two no-decisions in those starts.

This time he didn't
take a baseball to the sternum, just another proverbial punch to the gut.

Koji Uehara now ranks second in baseball for tough losses (losses suffered by a pitcher during a quality start). He is one behind Oakland's Dallas Braden who has four this season.

From The Sun: "Uehara has turned in five straight quality starts, allowing 11 earned runs, walking just two batters and striking out 29 during that span. However, he's 0-3 with two no-decisions in those starts."

Somewhere in Japan a bitter Koji fan is asking, "Why didn't he sign with the Yankees?" to which I would respond, "He may not have the wins, but at least he still has his soul." It's a slogan that belongs on a T-shirt: Koji's Got Soul.

Koji took the latest disappointing outcome with characteristic grace. That is, if his translator is to be believed.
"It's all about the team," Uehara said through translator Jiwon Bang. "Whether I win or lose doesn't matter as long as the team wins."
Perhaps Jiwon Bang is just putting everyone on and the real translation reads more like this: "These guys are killing me. I can't believe I flew more than 9,000 miles for this crap!"

Koji is good for baseball, good for Baltimore.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Flashback Friday: A Rainy Game Day - July 20, 1987

Revisiting another 4-1 rain-shortened victory, this one from 1987

"We found some funny ways to lose. There's a rain delay for a strikeout and then a rain delay for a double play."

-White Sox Manager Jim Fregosi, following a 4-1 O's victory in 1987

The Orioles defeated the Twins 4-1 on Wednesday night in a rain-shortened game that was called in the top of the sixth inning. This week's Flashback Friday revisits another rain-shortened 4-1 victory that was called in the sixth inning. It happened in Chicago on July 20, 1987, against the White Sox.

In 1987, Mike Griffin played the role of the 2009 Mark Hendrickson, a struggling starting pitcher who briefly braved the elements to register an encouraging performance. Griffin pitched four innings, giving up six hits and one earned run with one strikeout and two walks, to earn the win (box score). It was Griffin's second victory since 1982; both came against the White Sox.

Griffin, who pitched one season in Baltimore, finished the year with a 3-5 record and a 4.36 ERA. Two years later he made three relief appearances for the Cincinnati Reds in his final major league stint. Griffin currently serves as the Norfolk Tides' pitching coach.

On the offensive side, the O's scored all of their runs in the top of the fifth inning off of starter Neil Allen and reliever Bobby Thigpen. Thigpen relieved Allen after the right hander loaded the bases on a single to third baseman Ron Washington and walks to right fielder Larry Sheets and second baseman Billy Ripken. (Washington, like Griffin, played just one year with the team.) Cal followed with a tapper to the mound that forced Sheets at the plate, but an Eddie Murray walk, a Ken Gerhart two-run single, and a Mike Young RBI single accounted for all of the Birds' runs.

O's reliever Doug Corbett, yet another one-year player for the patchwork O's, picked up the save when he induced Harold Baines into what amounted to a game-ending double play. Billy Ripken, who had been called up to the O's on July 11, turned the 4-3 double play. With Cal Sr. managing and Cal Jr. at shortstop, it was the first time in major league history that a manager had two of his sons on the same team.

Billy's contributions were needed after Alan Wiggins, who was acquired by the team in a trade prior to the 1986 season, struggled on the field and in the clubhouse, where he was said to have sparred with Sheets.

The bottom of the fifth inning included two rain delays - lasting 29 minutes and 48 minutes, respectively. Thigpen pitched to two batters in the top of the sixth before a third rain delay, lasting 1 hour and 17 minutes, led to the game being called.

After the game, White Sox Manager Jim Fregosi may not have been as irritated as Ron Gardenhire was this past week, but he was frustrated nonetheless.

Said Fregosi: "We found some funny ways to lose. There's a rain delay for a strikeout and then a rain delay for a double play."

[Image source: Click image for original.]

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Strike One

Something seemed strange when Thursday's game story about the O's win over the Twins carried the byline "a Baltimore Sun staff writer." Turns out that the anonymous authorship is part of a one-day byline strike.
A guild release says the strikers include "reporters, photographers and other bylined content producers," who are "protesting layoffs and heavy-handed tactics by owner Tribune Co."

The staff members told managers today that they would withhold their bylines to protest last week's layoffs that reduced the staff to 148 employees, "a fraction of what it was in 1999 when the Chicago-based company acquired The Sun, which then boasted a newsroom staff of about 420 employees."

The release noted that some employees last week were fired while they were in the midst of writing and editing stories, including four who were covering a Baltimore Orioles game.

Minor Musings

I visited Durham Bulls Athletic Park this weekend, which gave me a chance to see former Oriole Chris Richard belt a two-run homer and former Red Sox-turned Expos-turned Nationals-turned Brewers-turned Blue Jays-turned Columbus Clippers pitcher Tomo Ohka pick up a win after six innings of controlled, mostly less-than-90 MPH pitching. (Ohka, who was once referenced on The Simpsons, is the Greg Maddux of the minors.)

Columbus, the Indians' AAA affiliate, defeated Durham, the Rays' affiliate,
10-6. Sunday's real story, however, was on the mound for the home team - David Price, baseball's No. 2 prospect. (Who's No. 1 again? Some catcher from Georgia Tech.)

Price, whom the O's will see often, struggled through 3.2 innings of work and took the loss after giving up six runs - two of which were earned - on four hits, three walks, and one strikeout (box score). Price's velocity was strong, with fastballs that topped out in the 96-97 MPH range; Columbus typically tallied hits on his off-speed stuff, which rested in the upper-80s.

The runs surrendered by Price could be excused, in part, by the poor defense being played behind him; two first-inning errors allowed Columbus to load the bases and score four unearned. More concerning regarding Price's performance were the lefty's struggles to hold runners on base. Columbus stole two bases on Price and made a deliberate effort to send runners - either for stolen bases or running starts - against the 6'6" prospect.

Price's struggles to hold runners with his long frame reminded me in part of Daniel Cabrera's problems in that regard, though as a lefty Price has less of an excuse.
(Note: That's the only time you'll see Daniel Cabrera and David Price in the same sentence unless it's to say, "Daniel Cabrera is no David Price.") Here's hoping Brian Roberts can wreak some havoc on the base paths when Price gets the call from the Rays.

Baseball Madlibs - Minnesota Twins Edition

It's time to play Baseball Mad Libs.

First, choose a noun. Next, select another noun.

Now insert both words in the sentence below.

"Someone screwed up. My team paid a price because we lost a game. This was (Word 1). There's (Word 2) on that weather radar and we still tried to play. Wrong, that's a bad thing, I don't want to talk about anything else."

Congratulations! You've just helped fill in the blanks on Ron Gardenhire's post-game press conference. My own selections can be found here and here. (For anyone interested in some juvenile fun, click on the audio pronunciations for each word. The attention given to proper diction would make Bob Sheppard proud.)

Needless to say,
Gardenhire was a bit unhappy that Wednesday night's game was played. Nevertheless, the O's weathered the storm for six innings to pull out a shortened, 4-1 win over the Twins.

I can't say I blame Gardenhire. After all, we went through this sort of thing last season when a rain delayed game on June 28 was re-started just long enough for the Yankees to put up a four spot amid a downpour to turn a 6-4 deficit into an 8-6 lead.

Given Wednesday's outcome, Stacey from Camden Chat offers a humorous solution to the O's woes: all games should be five innings.
"I really think the 5 inning game is the secret to the Orioles success. Think about it. Koji would be the best pitcher in the league if the games were 5 innings. We'd rarely have to see George Sherrill. Even Mark Hendrickson looks good in 5 inning games!"

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Bear Market for Sherrill

It seems George Sherrill's stock is falling outside of Baltimore as well. Cliff Corcoran of has ranked the 2008 All-Star as the 26th best closer in baseball.
After emerging as a LOOGY (or Lefty One Out Guy) in Seattle, Sherrill was acquired by the Orioles in the Erik Bedard-Adam Jones trade as a stop-gap closer while Chris Ray recovered from Tommy John surgery. Despite a high ERA and walk rate, he acquitted himself well in the role last year, converting 84 percent of his save opportunities, but Ray is now healthy again, as is Danys Baez, and Dave Trembley just announced Monday Sherrill will have to share the job.
Paging Chris Ray ... and Jim Johnson.

Boo A-Rod?

Peter Schmuck is calling for O's fans, who took a beating from Colin Cowherd and others for jeering Mark Teixeira on Opening Day, to boo A-Rod when he returns to the Yankees this weekend.
It's not as if you need an excuse to boo the Yankees, who already represented a lot of what has gone haywire in pro sports. I'm just remembering the enthusiasm with which Orioles fans blasted Teixeira, whose only real sin was not wanting to accept less money to play for a losing team near his boyhood home. It'll be interesting to see whether the anti-A-Rod sentiment that bubbles up in the stands will match the provincial passion that created so much energy at Camden Yards during the first series of the regular season.
Won't this just invite more unreasonable Baltimore bashing? Cue up the Palmeiro, Tejada, "aren't those fans hypocrites" talking points for the sports radio shows. I'm reminded of a friend, likable despite his Yankee loyalties, who just a few short pre-Mitchell Report years ago quizzed me about what was happening in the O's clubhouse with steroids.

Baseball these days involves all kinds of hypocrisy, so who knows if O's fans will get flogged for booing A-Rod, though he seems like a safe target simply because most fans and media types don't like him.

The Local Angle on Billy Rowell

Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer provides the "local boy makes good" (or tries to make good) story of Billy Rowell.

His current address is the same as last year's, with the Orioles' advanced single-A team, the Frederick Keys.

Rowell hasn't enjoyed a meteoric rise in the farm system, but there has been tangible progress. Still, he has had to be patient.

"It's not what you expect out of high school, and it's a lot different," Rowell said before last night's rain-delayed doubleheader against the Winston-Salem Dash.

"I love what I'm doing, but it's a grind and a marathon, and there is a lot to get used to. But I am feeling comfortable with the lifestyle."


Rowell was part of what has become a highly celebrated first-round draft class in 2006; it included last year's American League rookie of the year, Evan Longoria of Tampa Bay, and last season's National League Cy Young Award winner, Tim Lincecum of San Francisco. Both were college players, with Longoria taken third out of Long Beach State and Lincecum drafted one spot behind Rowell, at No. 10, out of the University of Washington.

It would be natural for Rowell to look at his first-round brethren and put extra pressure on himself. He says that isn't necessarily the case.

"I don't feel pressure from outside sources, but I expect a lot from myself and put a little pressure on myself to do well," he said. "There isn't any added pressure by that [first-round] label."

This is Rowell's second season at Frederick. Last season, he batted .248 with seven home runs and 50 RBIs in 375 at-bats.

Rowell ended last season hitting in 11 of 13 games. Entering last night, he had a nine-game hitting streak and was batting .286 (24 for 84) with seven doubles, a home run, and eight RBIs.

Roar from 34 checked in on Rowell last June. His is an intriguing story given that the success of other 2006 picks like Longoria and Lincecum. The Birds passed on Lincecum in favor of Rowell because they were concerned about the pitcher's susceptibility to injury given his forceful delivery.

Steele Recounts Being Fired While Covering the O's

A week after he was unceremoniously laid off by The Sun while covering an O's game, David Steele speaks his piece in "How the Baltimore Sun Fired Me."

My editor greeted me, paused, took a deep breath. “David, I’m sorry you have to be told this way …"

I actually doubled over. It wasn’t a sharp pain, and it wasn’t like I was about to get sick. It was more like a knot in my stomach. I know I said, “Aw, shit,’’ but I don’t know how loud I said it, apparently not loudly enough for my editor to take note of it. The rest is a little fuzzy, something about just now getting the list and the union and not wanting me to hear it from someone else and getting paid through the end of May and severance and human resources and return your possessions to us and thank you for your hard work and professionalism and blah blah blah.


For some reason, I stuck with it, moved around some more, worked my way up to columnist, then made it to the paper less than an hour up the road from where I grew up, the paper I felt I knew all about even if I didn’t see it every day, the paper I knew so many people at long before I ever started working there. A paper that got into huge trouble soon after I got there – and by “got into huge trouble,’’ I mean, “was bought by a so-called financial wizard who deserves to spend the rest of his life in jail’’ – but one I felt more attached to than any other one I’d been at.

And just like that, I was unattached, by phone, while on an assignment.

The next couple of hours were a flurry of shocked expressions and reactions, condolences, bitterness and dread, plus lots of phone calls to family members and friends whom, ironically, I didn’t want to hear the news from someone else. Rick – who is roughly the age I was when the National sank – looked as if someone had drained all the blood from his body.

The overriding theme from all concerned: “They couldn’t tell you to your face?’’

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Franchise Values

Forbes recently released its valuations of all 30 MLB clubs, which rank the Orioles as the 17th most valuable team, worth $400 million. That number is up $227 million from when Peter Angelos purchased the club for $173 million in 1993, a 131 percent increase in value that's obviously nothing to sneeze at.

However, applying a broader lens to the overall figures suggests that Angelos has not profited nearly as much as have other owners.
Consider the figures for the six other teams that competed with the Orioles in the A.L. East when Angelos acquired the team.

While the Birds are currently worth more - and therefore rank higher on the Forbes list - than three of those 1993 A.L. East clubs (the Blue Jays, Brewers, and Tigers),
every team from the former division has experienced more growth in its overall value in the interim than have the Orioles.

(Team - 1993 value/2009 value - percent change)

Blue Jays - $150 million/$353 milllion - +135 percent

Milwaukee Brewers - $96 million/$347 million - + 261 percent

Detroit Tigers - $89 million/$371 million - +316 percent

Cleveland Indians - $100 million/$417 million - +317 percent

Boston Red Sox - $141 million/$833 million - +490 percent

New York Yankees - $166 millioni/$1.5 billion - + 803 percent

Most telling about these numbers is that they reveal how much the game has changed
from a financial perspective over the course of 16 years. Namely, disparity has taken over.

In 1993, the difference between the most valuable club (the Yankees) and the 10th most valuable club (the A's) was $52 million; in 2009, the difference between the most valuable club (still the Yankees) and the 10th most valuable club (the White Sox) is $1.05 billion. Meanwhile, the difference in value between the A's and the Yankees has grown to an astounding $1.18 billion.

Also of note, four of the seven teams that played in the A.L. East in 1993 have built new stadiums since 1993. The Blue Jays and Orioles both opened new stadiums prior to 1993, in 1989 and 1992, respectively.

Clearly, the decision to buy a baseball team
in the early '90s was a pretty good one.

[Note: 1993 valuations are based on figures available at Baseball Chronology.]

Beleaguered Birds Produce

The losing streak is over. O's win, O's win.

Birds 8 - Rays 4

Think Tampa fans are frustrated (all 12,658 who showed up, that is)? The Rays looked to be getting back on track by winning three of four against Boston, but a loss in the opener to the O's puts them just a half-game out of last place.

Not to overlook the contributions of should-be-All-Star Nick Markakis (3-for-5, HR, 3 RBI, SB) or the revitalized Brian Roberts (2-for-4, HR, 2 RBI, SB), but Monday night belonged to the most beleaguered Birds.

George Sherrill - no longer guaranteed the closer's job - shuts the door after nearly turning the ninth inning into a save situation and forcing the awkwardness of Trembley pulling him for Chris Ray.

Felix Pie - whose "days are numbered" - makes a diving grab in left to end things.

And the much discussed bottom third of the lineup (note: Luke Scott played most of the game for Pie) goes 4-for-12 , including Gregg Zaun's 2-for-4 night and a key eighth-inning sequence that set up Roberts to provide some insurance runs.

The Birds have lost 10 straight games decided by two runs or fewer, but Monday's win over Tampa demonstrated that smaller contributions can help contribute to big wins.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Ask Roar from 34

I've long wondered what it is that qualifies a person to write an advice column. It likely requires the same credentials necessary to be a blogger, namely none. With that in mind, I've decided to merge my unqualified worlds. Enjoy the result, my (imagined) advice column, "Ask Roar from 34."

Dear Roar,

I fear that my boss is losing faith in me. He may even want to replace me with one of my co-workers. Just this past week he told me that he wants to take a look at the situation and do what's in the best interest of the organization. That sounds a lot to me like corporate doublespeak. Sure, there are others who could do my job, but I want to be the guy to do it. I really want the opportunity to work things out on my own. Any advice on how to convince my boss to let me do so?

-Flat Brim

Dear Flat Brim,

It's always tough to face competition in the workplace, especially in an economy like this when options for new jobs seem so limited. Have you considered doing your job more effectively? Bosses tend to like that sort of thing.


Dear Roar,

I've experienced a lot of loss lately, and it's starting to make me a bit temperamental. I've even gotten tossed out of a couple of places, not that I've deserved it. Anyway, do you have any advice on how can I keep it together?

-Depressed in the Dugout

Dear Depressed,

Perhaps you should channel your disappointment in a more positive way. Do you have any hobbies? Yoga, maybe?

Perspective is always very important, so try to remember that no matter how bad things might seem, there's always someone who has it worse than you do.


Dear Roar,

With the Birds headed to Tampa Bay for a two-game set, now is a good a time as any to ask - Are the O's this year's Rays?

-Diehard in Downtown

Dear Diehard,

Yes ... the 2007 Rays.


Friday, May 01, 2009

Flashback (or Flashforward?) Friday: Markakis on the Mound

Looking back on Nick Markakis' potential as a pitcher

First it was
Nick Swisher. Then Jonathan Van Every. Could Nick Markakis be next?

Clearly there's a pattern of A.L. East right fielders taking to the mound this season, which has inspired a Flashback Friday look at Nick's past days on the mound. The results suggest that a flashforward to a future relief appearance for the O's would be no laughing matter.

(Insert your own obligatory "Back to the Future" reference here so I have an excuse for posting the photo of Biff that accompanies this post.)

Nick Markakis' name appears
so frequently in the Young Harris College record book that at a minimum he ought to receive credit as a co-author.

Among other notable single-season pitching performances at Young Harris, Markakis had the college's top season for strikeouts (160 in 2003), third best ERA in a minimum of 40 innings pitched (1.68 in 2003), and second-highest win total (12 in 2003). In the latter category he trailed only Billy Buckner, currently of the Arizona Diamondbacks' organization

[Billy is not related (second source) to the more infamous Bill Buckner, even though Wikipedia claims that he's the "
the sixth cousin once-removed by marriage".]

The Cincinnati Reds were impressed enough with Markakis' performance on the mound that they twice drafted him to play the position, first in 2001 and again in 2002.

Prior to the 2003 draft, the scouting report on Nick the pitcher reads as follows:
A lefthander with tremendous arm strength for pitching and excellent hitting skills...Compiled a 12-0 mark with one save and a 1.68 ERA this past season...Walked 33 batters, but had 160 strikeouts...Teams hit just .182 against him...Best pitch considered his fastball, as he was clocked early in 2003 at 96 mph...Breaking ball in the low 80's
You read that right: 96 miles. per. hour.

When the O's obtained Markakis in the 2003 draft then-Scouting Director Tony DeMacio said of the dual-threat pitcher-outfielder, "We feel like we've got two players in one."

Outside Pitch tells the rest of the story, including the sad detail that the once-aspiring-pitcher chose No. 21 to honor his childhood idol, Roger Clemens.
Because he grew up in Georgia as a big fan of pitching great Roger Clemens, Markakis wore Clemens’ number—21—on his back when he he played for Young Harris Junior College in 2002 and 2003 (he now also wears No. 21 on his Oriole uniform). At Young Harris, Markakis was a star pitcher as well as a superb hitter and outfielder. He decided to set a goal for himself in his second and final year at the junior college.


Markakis did have a great final year at Young Harris.
As a pitcher, he went 12-0 with a save and a 1.59 ERA in 15 games, along with 160 strikeouts. And as a hitter he batted .439 with 92 RBIs and 19 steals in 20 attempts. But with a single game left in his college career, Markakis had yet to reach his ultimate goal. He’d hit only 20 home runs. He went homerless in the game going into his final at-bat as a college player. And then, with the dramatic flair of a man destined to reach the major leagues, the left-handed hitting Markakis lofted a home run over the fence in his final at-bat, giving notice that he was a ballplayer to be reckoned with.


The Orioles made Markakis their No. 1 selection in the amateur player draft of 2003, a year in which he was named the second best junior college prospect (behind only another Oriole signee, Adam Loewen). Despite his extraordinary talents as a pitcher, the Orioles decided to develop Markakis as a hitter and outfielder. The team has had little luck (or acumen) over the past two decades in drafting hitters who’ve been able to contribute at the major league level.

Former Oriole Flirts with No Hitter in Minors

Garrett Olson,the Birds' Minor League Player of the Year in 2006, is again making noise in the minors, this time with the Tacoma Rainiers, Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.

Garrett Olson is finding his groove in a new organization, and he's making the transition look easy.

The left-hander tossed 6 1/3 no-hit innings Thursday night as the Tacoma Rainiers cruised to a 6-1 victory over the visiting Fresno Grizzlies.

Olson, a supplemental first-round pick by the Baltimore Orioles out of Cal Poly in 2005, finally yielded a single to the Grizzlies' Matt Downs with one out in the seventh inning. He finished his night having allowed a run on one hit with six strikeouts in 6 2/3 frames.


But on Jan. 18, the Orioles traded him to the Chicago Cubs who flipped him to the Mariners just 10 days later.

The change of scenery seems to be suiting him well, and Olson said his new coaches have encouraged him to keep things simple and just pitch.

"I'm just trying to get on top of the ball and manage the game one pitch at a time rather than one at-bat or one inning," he said. "I've found a way to be more consistent getting on top of the ball this season."