Friday, January 29, 2010

Wieters Listed Among "25 Stars 25 and Under"

Andrew Simon of "Hitting the Cutoff Man" has provided his first installment of the series "25 Stars 25 and Under." Matt Wieters makes the list at catcher. Adam Jones gets a mention in the outfield but comes up short in competition with the Cardinals' Colby Rasmus.

Here's an excerpt:
C – Matt Wieters, BAL, 23. Wieters came up last season with tremendous hype, and while his performance wasn’t awe-inspiring, it was solid and encouraging for a 23-year-old catcher getting his first taste of the Majors. Even with his inexperience and position, he was about a league-average hitter.


OF – Colby Rasmus, STL, 23. Adam Jones and Denard Span also were great options here, but Rasmus wins via music video tiebreaker. Rasmus is already a top-five defensive center fielder, so it’s just a matter of his bat developing after an unspectacular rookie season. More patience and a better performance against lefties would help, but Rasmus did show his power potential with 16 homers in 474 at-bats.
Image source: O's on Deck.


The View from Sarasota

Here are some photos of the Orioles complex in Sarasota, courtesy of one of the city's local baseball advocates, Norman Schimmel.

Architects presented their re-design plans for Ed Smith Stadium on Tuesday.

Orioles Vice President of Planning and Development Janet Marie Smith is overseeing the re-design effort. Smith, an architect and urban planner, worked for the team in the same role from 1989-94 during the design and construction of Camden Yards.

Starting in 2002, Smith served as senior vice president of planning and development in Boston, where she spearheaded improvements to Fenway Park and its surrounding neighborhoods.

The Biz of Baseball profiled Smith back in September when she was hired again by the Orioles. A month earlier the site lauded her efforts in Boston.

Here's an excerpt of the latter article:
The completion of the Fenway Park renovations adds another blue chip sports facility project that Smith has seen through to completion. Prior to the Fenway Park renovation, she worked with current Red Sox president Larry Lucchino on Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and prior to that, changing the Atlanta Summer Olympic Stadium into what is now Turner Field.

Luminaries in Boston are already feeling the loss of Smith. As reported in the Boston Globe:

“We’re going to miss her in Boston,’’ Mayor Thomas M. Menino said of Smith, a Mississippi native. “When she started, I thought she was just another of these smart architects. And she was a smart architect, but she also knew how to get the job done.’’

Thursday, January 28, 2010

If I Was King for Just One Day, I Would Give it all Away

The University of Kentucky men's basketball team rolled out its version of a "We're No. 1" T-shirt on Monday. On Tuesday, they lost to South Carolina.

Looks like the T-shirt jinx is more powerful than even the SI cover jinx.

This got me to thinking: What if the Orioles had created their own poorly timed "We're No. 1" T-shirt during a brief perch atop the A.L. East standings?
Believe it or not, there have been opportunities during the past 12 seasons - other than 1999, 2001, 2002, or 2007 - for just such a design. 

Perhaps the most ironic time to have created an Orioles T-shirt to cover one's torso during a premature round of chest thumping would have been 2005.

Yes, that "memorable" 2005 season (Thanks, Raffy!) when the O's spent more than 60 glorious days in first place. A June 23 loss to the Blue Jays started a free fall that ended with the Birds in fourth place, 21 games behind the division-winning New York Yankees.

A 2003 T-shirt would be particularly amusing. That season, the O's held and lost the division lead before April showers had even started (March 31). One week later they were in last place.

Here are the other candidates from the O's current streak of losing seasons:

2009: Final day in first place - April 14

2008: Final day in first place - April 29

2006: Final day in first place - April 6

2004: Final day in first place - April 23

2000: Final day in first place - April 9

1998: Final day in first place - April 19

Cue the Thompson Twins!


Sunday, January 24, 2010

B12. Bingo! Tejada an Oriole Again

Miguel Tejada is an Oriole again. Personally I think it's A-Team Andy MacPhail rubbing salt in other teams' trade wounds. Haul in a package of players one year, reacquire the original player another.

Consider yourselves warned Seattle: Andy's on the jazz, and he's coming for Bedard next.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fans, Please Stay Off the Grass

Orioles head groundskeeper Nicole Sherry offers some turf maintenance insight in the article "Major League grass for sale," which details an effort by Scott's to cash in on insane fan loyalty by marketing grass seed blends used at baseball stadiums.

An excerpt:
Maintaining a lawn for the highly compensated guys in spikes to tear up requires a lot of work. Nicole Sherry, the head groundskeeper at the Baltimore Orioles' Camden Yards, puts in 16-hour days during the season. Of course, she's got three acres of Kentucky bluegrass to mow and manage.
"People think that we just take care of the grounds and that there is no science involved," Sherry told "But keeping this field perfect is a full-time, year-round job."
O's fans will have to wait to develop their very own patch of Camden Yards goodness. The product debuts in Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and St. Louis.

Meanwhile, fans in Tampa can get ahead of the pack by tearing up their grass and replacing it with carpet.

I probably wasn't the only kid who came away disappointed each time I tried to cut my parents' lawn like they do at the ballpark. It wasn't until I read Nine Innings years later that I realized you need Kentucky Bluegrass, which is shiny on one side, to pull off the effort. tells the detailed story of the new product and offers the obligatory "Field of Dreams" reference. They got their first, so they get the credit for quoting Shoeless Joe: "I'd wake up at night with the smell of the ballpark in my nose, the cool of the grass on my feet. The thrill of the grass."

Did I really just write a piece about grass? Must be the off-season. And I don't even have a new ballpark as an excuse like the guys over at Twinkie Town, who provide a detailed breakdown of the Target Field sod.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's Time to Start Calling the Orioles the A-Team

It's time to start calling Andy MacPhail's Orioles the A-Team.

John Tomase of has unintentionally cast MacPhail as Hannibal Smith with the recent article "Andy MacPhail's plan coming together for Orioles."

Cue the Hannibal Smith catch phrase: "I love it when a plan comes together."

Clearly Tomase has A-Team on the brain as he describes how the Orioles "have very stealthfully, and quickly, laid the groundwork."

Stealthfully? Quickly? Sounds like a certain group of '80s pop culture mercenaries to me.

Besides, there's a certain literal irony to calling the mid-market Orioles "soldiers of fortune" as they work to take down the free-spending Red Sox and Yankees.

Be it decreed: Solid personnel moves in Baltimore will now be greeted by the phrase "Andy's on the jazz."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Franchise in Review: The O's vs. the Yankees and Red Sox

Part 2 of Roar from 34's "Franchise in Review" considers the O's performance over time against New York and Boston

In 1954, their first year in Baltimore, the Orioles went 11-11 against the Red Sox. It was the team's best record against any opponent that season.

The O's fortunes against the Yankees, however, were squalid that year -- 5-17, the team's second-worst total against any franchise. (Baltimore was 3-19 versus Cleveland, which won 111 games in 1954.)

And so began the longest-running division rivalries in Orioles history.

Of the seven other teams in the 1954 American League, only New York and Boston have shared a division with Baltimore for the franchise's entire modern history.

In other words, the Evil Empires of the American League East have been thorns in the Orioles' side from the get-go.

Here's a rundown of how the Birds have fared through the years against the Yankees and Red Sox:

[More after the jump.]

-Overall, the Orioles have done slightly better against the Yankees than they have against the Red Sox. Unfortunately, they don't hold a winning record against either franchise.

The Birds are 412-497 (.453) all-time against the Yankees and 408-495 (.452) all-time against the Red Sox.

-The O's have had 18 winning seasons against the Yankees and three seasons ('61, '73, '07) where they earned a series split. Baltimore's best showing against New York came in 1966 when the team went 15-3 in head-to-head games.

-The O's have had 17 winning seasons against the Red Sox and five seasons ('54, '68, '71, '75, and '98) where they earned a series split. Baltimore's best showing against Boston came in 1960 when the team went 16-6 in head-to-head games.

-The Orioles' worst season against each franchise came at different times, but the record was the same each time. The O's were 1-12 against the Yankees in 1985 and 1-12 against the Red Sox in 1987.

-Bring back the '60s and '70s. The Orioles posted winning percentages of .603 and .549 against the Yankees and .571 and .509 against the Red Sox in those successive, successful decades.

The O's did not lose a season series against the Yankees for 11 straight seasons from 1964 through 1974. Meanwhile, the Birds did not lose a season series against the Red Sox for eight consecutive seasons from 1964 through 1971.

-The 1960s were the only decade when the Orioles won 100 or more games against both franchises. Conversely, the 2000s were the only decade when they lost 100 or more games against both franchises.

By the way, the 2000s were every bit as bad as you remember them: 62-116 (.348) against New York, 64-114 (.360) against Boston.

-Finally, as if you needed a reminder, Baltimore's last winning season against the Yankees came in 1997 when they went 8-4 against New York (note: the O's did split with the Yankees in 2007); Baltimore's last winning season against the Red Sox came in 2004 when they went 10-9 against Boston. 

Here's to rivalries in the 2010s that look more like those of the '60s and '70s Can you dig it, man?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Fenway Park South, M&T Bank Stadium North, & the Visting Team Takeover

Albert Breer of The Boston Globe took notice of the large number of Ravens fans in Foxboro for Sunday's Patriots game, writing "Fenway Park South, meet M&T Bank Stadium North." Ah, yes, another case of the all-too familiar visiting team takeover.

How many times have Baltimore fans heard a quote like the one below from the Patriots' Vince Wilfork during baseball season?
"It felt like we were playing an away game, that’s what it felt like," said sixth-year Patriot Vince Wilfork. "Even if we’d moved on from here, we probably would’ve played two away games, back-to-back. I’m telling you, for all this team’s done in the past … I don’t understand it."
If memory serves, Brian Roberts and Aubrey Huff - among others - have said similar things about fan support at Camden Yards when the Red Sox are in town. So Sunday's Foxboro takeover could be viewed as a form of payback for jilted Orioles fans.

While it's nice to see the Ravens get solid fan support on the road, the "revenge" motif isn't all that satisfying for me. I'm more concerned with defending the home turf regardless of season. Here's hoping the O's can fill Camden Yards with hometown fans again sometime soon.

Still, you can add Wilfork's quote to the taste-of-your-own medicine cabinet alongside Kevin Youkilis' complaint last spring regarding the lack of fan support for Team USA baseball.
“It definitely hurts a little bit to know that you’re always the away team in your own country,” he said. “There are some good people out there, but it would be nice to have a lot more of those people chanting ‘USA,’ holding up American flags. That’s the one thing we didn’t see much of the other night – there were more Puerto Rican flags than American (flags).”
Regardless of the uniform he wears, no player likes to feel like a visitor in his home park.


Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Franchise in Review: A Historically Bad Decade for the Orioles

The Orioles are preparing not only for a new season but also a new decade of baseball in Baltimore. Roar from 34's "Franchise in Review" series will consider how the past decade stacks up against the ones that came before it.

Allow me to speak for O's fans everywhere in saying I hope we never again experience 10 seasons of baseball like the ones just completed in Charm City. The results were anything but charming.

When it comes to the 2000-2009 Orioles, optimists and pessimists can agree, albeit in a different tone of voice: "It's never been this bad."

With a 64-98 record in 2009, the Orioles completed their worst decade of baseball since the St. Louis Browns - "First in shoes, first in booze, and last in the American League" - relocated to Baltimore in 1954.

Overall, the O's compiled a 698-920 record during this period. The team's .431 winning percentage was worse than the previous low, a .438 mark recorded from 1954 through 1959.

However, these dispiriting totals are not in keeping with the team's otherwise proud tradition of success on the diamond. Consider that this was the first full decade in which the Orioles compiled a losing record. It's never happened before.

The team's high-water mark came in the '70s when the O's tallied a .590 winning percentage. The Birds had a .566 percentage in the '60s and a .512 percentage in both the '80s and '90s.

Here's to the return of winning baseball to Baltimore.

 Some other items of interest:

[More after the jump.]

-The Birds' current run of 12 losing seasons is one short of their record streak for consecutive winning seasons --13 straight from 1968 through 1980. Five of those 13 seasons included 100 or more wins.

-The Orioles have won 100 or more games five times. Only once has the team won 100 games and failed to make the World Series. The 1980 O's finished second in the American League East to the New York Yankees, who won 103 games but lost to the Royals in the ALCS.

-This was the second consecutive decade in which the Orioles neither won nor lost 100 games in a season following four straight decades where one, the other, or both happened.

The O's lost 100 games in 1954; won 109 games in 1969; won 108 games in 1970, 101 in 1971, and 102 in 1979; won 100 in 1980 and lost 107 in 1988.  

Up next for "The Franchise in Review" - How the Birds have fared against their two longest-standing rivals: the Yankees and the Red Sox.

The Night Cal Ripken Saved Baseball, and the Democrats

We've all heard about how Cal Ripken Jr. saved baseball following the 1994-95 strike with his consecutive games streak, but did you know he saved the Democrats on Sept. 6, 1995, as well? 

Former Rep. Martin Frost, a Texas Democrat, writes in The Hill this week about how Cal indirectly helped raised $150,000 for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on his record-breaking night.

Here's an excerpt from Frost's column, "Politicians might look to sports to lift their spirits":
For months I had been harassing Maryland Democratic Reps. Ben Cardin (now a U.S. senator) and Steny Hoyer (now House majority leader) to put on a DCCC fundraiser in Baltimore. They had multiple excuses about why it wouldn’t work, but I did not give up.

Finally, one day in the middle of the summer, they approached me on the floor of the House and said they had an idea. What about a fundraiser at Camden Yards the night Ripken broke Gehrig’s record of 2,l30 consecutive games played? The owner of the Baltimore Orioles was a big Democrat and had offered to provide a 75-seat party box in left field for our use that night.

It was an inspired idea. So, on Sept. 6, 1995, the DCCC held a fundraiser at Camden Yards. It was a spectacular evening. Ripken hit a home run to left field (near our box) in the fourth inning and then did a victory lap around the perimeter of the field (passing just under our box) at the end of the fifth inning, when it had become an official game.

We raised $150,000 for the DCCC, and people called me the next morning to thank me for having a fundraiser at the park that night.
Ben Cardin has longstanding Oriole loyalties. On April 4,1989, he introduced a Congressional Resolution honoring the Birds following the team's Opening Day victory over the Yankees. It read, in part, as follows: "The Sun is shining, the flowers are blooming and the birds are singing. Of course, I am talking about the birds of Baltimore. The Baltimore Orioles are back where they belong, in first place in the American League East."

See this "Flashback Friday" post about Cardin's 1989 Congressional Resolution.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Interesting Baseball Reading

It's a bitter cold January, the Hot Stove doesn't have much heat left to provide, and Rick Dempsey has packed away the Santa suit (until next year?).

Don't despair, O's fans, there's still some good baseball reading to be done.

Stephen Brunt of the Globe and Mail details Roberto Alomar's brilliance during his pre-Orioles playing days in Toronto. "Hero, Heartthrob, Goat, Target ... Let's Start Over" discusses Alomar's rock star status in Toronto when the city functioned in concert with its chart-topping Blue Jays. We O's fans aren't the only ones to witness the decline of a once-mighty baseball town.

Did you know that Orioles third base coach and three-time All Star Juan Samuel - he of the .259 career average and 161 home runs in 16 seasons - received multiple first-ballot votes for the Hall of Fame? Paul Francis Sullivan of Sully Baseball runs down the idiosyncrasies of Cooperstown voting in "Hall of Fame Ballot Insanity"

Finally, Real Clear Sports brings us a fun, retrospective read, "The Top 10 Erroneous Columns of 2009." Included on the list are two mistaken A.L. East-related prognostications:

1. Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated, in the April column "Some Semi-Bold Predictions Entering the 2009 Season," envisioning a post-season without the Yankees.

2. Dan Shaugnessy of the Boston Globe, in the September column "Things are falling into place," predicting a Red Sox World Series victory.


Monday, January 04, 2010

Adam Jones, Award-Winning Shortstop

Adam Jones has been voted as the top shortstop on the Single-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers' 15th Anniversary Team.

The honor and Jones' time with the Wisconsin minor league outfit connect him historically with the likes of Earl Weaver, Boog Powell, and Cal Ripken Sr., each of whom were associated with an earlier incarnation of the club that used to serve as an Orioles affiliate.

But first, the team's website makes the case for Jones:
The Stats: .267 average (136 hits in 510 at bats), .314 OBP, .717 OPS, 23 doubles, 7 triples, 11 home runs, 72 runs batted in, 8 stolen bases

The Facts: Seattle Mariners 1st round draft pick in 2003 out of Morse (CA) High School;  Opening Day Age: 18

The Case:  Young and multi-talented, Jones is the best defender of the group and leads the candidates in home runs and RBI.
Jones, who played shortstop during the 2004 season in Wisconsin, won with 44 percent of the vote, which was otherwise divided between Ramon Vazquez, Ramon Valera, and Matt Tuiasosopo. Among Jones' memorable days with the Timber Rattlers was July 31, 2004, when he homered twice and drove in five runs.

The Orioles star center fielder moved to the outfield in 2006 with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers.

Previous incarnations of the Timber Rattlers included the Appleton Foxes, who were an Orioles affiliate in the early '60s. Earl Weaver led the club to a league championship in 1960, the team's first year connected to the O's, behind the bats of Boog Powell, who hit.312 with 100 RBI, and League MVP Pete Ward, who hit .345.

Ward played eight games with the Orioles in 1962 before being sent to Chicago as part of the Luis Aparicio trade. Ward came in second for Rookie of the Year honors in 1963 with the White Sox.

Meanwhile, Cal Ripken Sr. earned Manager of the Year honors with the Wisconsin club in 1962 at the age of 26. Ripken was in his second year as a manager, having been at the helm of the Leesburg Orioles in 1961.