Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Your Orioles Midweek Special featuring Jeff Tackett

Need some cheering up in the middle of the week? Head on over to YouTube and check out former Orioles catcher Jeff Tackett (1991-1994),  seen previously in such movies as "Dave" and "Bob Roberts," doing a karaoke version of The Romantics' "What I Like About You" at an Orioles Fantasy Camp.

Unfortunately, embedding is disabled, so you'll have to follow the link. But it's worth it.

What other baseball player can lay claim to having homered in his final at-bat, appeared in two movies, and karaoked like it was his job?

Jeff Tackett. Yeah, he's one of ours.

[Note: A quick search shows that Camden Chat covered this karaoke ground two years ago. Certainly it's worth another look.]


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Get your streak on

The last time an Orioles win streak lasted longer than its worst losing streak was 1999. 

Here's a sentence I never thought I'd write this season: The Orioles enter Tuesday night's game riding the longest win streak in baseball.

A four-game change of tide won't right the ship in Baltimore the way extended win streaks have helped correct course in 2010 for the Chicago White Sox (11 games), Atlanta Braves (nine games), and New York Mets (eight games). Real Fake Sports suggests a 54-game win streak may be necessary to do that.

All teams experience highs and lows in a given season. Remember just a short time ago when many thought the Rays would run away with the East leaving the Red Sox on the outside looking in come playoff time? Tampa Bay now trails Boston by a game.

The problem for the O's for more than a decade now is that the team's win streaks don't offset its losing streaks. This could ended up being the fourth season since 2000 where the Birds' longest losing streak is at least twice as long as its longest win streak.

The last time an Orioles win streak lasted longer than its worst losing streak was 1999. Back then, the Birds won 13 straight games between Sept. 7 and Sept. 22 to top the 10-game losing streak they experienced between June 23 and July 3.

One of the worst runs, given the circumstances, came in 2004 when the O's followed up an eight-game win streak in early August with a 12-game losing streak later that month. The eight-game effort had pulled the team to within three games of .500; they finished the season 78-84. The team's run of consecutive losing seasons could have ended before it reached double digits.

Here's a look at the Birds' longest winning and losing streaks since 2000:

Win Streak (4 - current)
Losing streak (10 -May 26 to June 5)

Win streak (5, twice - May 25 to May 29 and June 17 to June 21)
Losing streak (13 - Sept. 17 to Sept. 30)

Win streak (6 - April 2 to April 8)
Losing  Streak (10 - Sept. 17 to Sept. 26)


Win streak (6, twice - May 26 to May 31 and July 22 to July 28)
Losing Streak (9, twice - June 9 to June 19 and Aug. 22 to Aug. 30)

Win streak (4 - Aug. 16 to Aug. 19)
Losing streak (5, twice - May 3 to May 7 and Aug. 9 to Aug. 15)

Win streak (8 - April 22 to May 1)
Losing streak (9 - Sept. 18 to Sept. 26)


Win streak (8 - Aug. 3 to Aug. 10)
Losing streak (12 - Aug. 16 to Aug. 28)

Win streak (6 - July 17 to July 22)
Losing streak (9 - Aug. 24 to Sept. 2)

Win streak (4 - Five times)
Losing streak (12 - Sept. 18 to Sept. 29)

Win streak (5 - May 20 to May 27)
Losing streak (10 - Sept. 1 to Sept. 19)

Win streak (6, twice - April 15 to April 22 and June 10 to June 16)
Losing streak (9 - June 17 to June 25)

Missy Elliott - "Get Your Freak On"


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Anatomy of a sweep - Orioles beat Nationals, who beat themselves

For as much as they're supposed to be an Orioles rival, the Nationals sure acted friendly during their weekend visit to Camden Yards as they gave away games to the home team.

With enemies like these, who needs friends?

The O's are now riding a season-long four-game win streak following their sweep of the Nationals. It was the Birds' second sweep of the season following May's successful three-game effort against the Red Sox.

Here are three factors that helped the Orioles beat the Nationals, who also beat themselves:

The RISP Factor: If baseball stat sheets were Monopoly boards, the Orioles would have built multiple hotels on the Baltic Avenue side of Runners in Scoring Position by now. The team has owned the low-rent district whenever runners reach second base, placing last in baseball for average, hits, RBI, runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS.

However, the Orioles passed go and collected a .406 (13-for-32) average with runners in scoring position during their weekend sweep of Washington. They batted .435 (10 for 23) during their sweep of Boston earlier in the season.

With the improved effort, the Orioles moved out of last place in three RISP categories: hits, runs, and RBI. They remain in last place for average (.001 behind Seattle), on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS.

It's not exactly the type of stuff that earns a team a ticker-tape parade, but for one weekend at least the Orioles performed in the clutch.

Error Prone: True to form, the Nationals were anything but clutch in the field.

Washington leads the major league in errors with 68 miscues in 76 games. The Nationals committed five errors in three games in Baltimore, including four on Friday night when they allowed the O's to rally from six runs down.

The winning run on Friday came via a throwing error. Saturday's winning run scored on a wild pitch.

Bullpen Blues: The Nationals got off to a good start this season partly because of their bullpen, which has struggled more of late but still ranks seventh in the major leagues in ERA from the seventh inning on at 3.42. The Orioles, meanwhile, are next-to-last in baseball from the seventh inning on with an ERA of 5.53 (only the Diamondbacks are worse).

The teams did a role reversal during this series: Washington allowed six runs in the seventh inning or later while the Orioles allowed none.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Beltway Baseball = Dibble in Baltimore

Beltway Baseball means a mixed booth on MASN. It's Rob Dibble & Jim Palmer for the first two games, Dibble & Dave Johnson for the final game.

Perhaps things will go more smoothly between pitchers talking baseball than it did between a certain pitcher and third baseman.  [H/T Can't Stop the Bleeding]

Have a thought on which player-turned-MASN-personality is toughest? Vote in the poll on the sidebar.


Flashback Friday: "Homers will do it for you every time"

"It is typical of the Orioles' recent progress, from gutty strugglers to strongmen, that they have produced waves of young, and unpublicized players, many of whom have done better in the majors than in the minors." 

-Thomas Boswell, The Washington Post

The Orioles are welcoming back members of the 1970 championship team on Saturday for a 40th anniversary celebration of their World Series victory. Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson will be on hand, just as they were on June 24, 1979, when the franchise held its Silver Anniversary Celebration of 25 years playing in Baltimore.

Brooks and Frank were the top two vote-getters that year in balloting among fans at Memorial Stadium for the Silver Anniversary Team. Brooks, who had retired just two seasons prior, received 50,295 votes. Frank, who played his final season in Baltimore in 1971, received 45,142 votes. The all-time greats had plenty of constituents as the Birds chased attendance records that season.

The four-game weekend series that culminated in the Silver Anniversary Celebration attracted 122,470 fans, the third-largest draw in team history at the time. More than 41,000 of those fans showed up for the celebration, boosting the team's season total to a franchise-high pace of 577,508 fans in 29 home dates.

Those who arrived two hours prior to the game's three o'clock start saw their top two Silver Anniversary vote-getters join with former teammates including Gus Triandos, Jim Gentile, Mike Cuellar, and Don Buford, for an otherwise scoreless old-timers game that was decided by an Elrod Hendricks two-run homer.

Orioles Manager Earl Weaver, who was in the midst of guiding his squad to 102 wins and the American League championship, made this somewhat expected observation about the old-timers game: "Homers will do it for you every time. Every time."

Though their 45-22 record was the best in baseball, Weaver's Birds failed to produce a win that afternoon, losing 6-4 to Sparky Anderson's Tigers. The loss ended a season-long nine game win streak for Baltimore. Dennis Martinez was seeking his 11th straight victory, but instead ended the day 10-3.

Martinez, working under the tutelage of teammate Jim Palmer, explained his quick start as a result of not wasting pitches.

"Last year, I had more strike'-emouts, but now I'm winning more," Martinez told The Washington Post. "I've learned not to waste your best pitches for strikeouts when you don't need it . . . save the good pitches.

"I thought that 'learning the hitters' meant learning to throw a perfect pitch in a perfect spot for a strikeout," he continued. "Now I know that it means finding a pretty good pitch that gives you an easy fly ball or grounder."

The Orioles went on to win seven of their next eight following the loss to Detroit. The Birds finished 23-6 in the month of June. The 24-year-old Martinez, meanwhile, lost four straight and ended the season 15-16. He led the league with 18 complete games.

Martinez joined 1978 Team MVP Eddie Murray, Gary Roenicke, and Sammy Stewart among a young Orioles core that, as Post columnist Thomas Boswell observed, wasn't even born when the team played its first game at Memorial Stadium.

In summing up the young team's success, Boswell hinted at elements of what we now call "The Oriole Way."

"It is typical of the Orioles' recent progress, from gutty strugglers to strongmen, that they have produced waves of young, and unpublicized players, many of whom have done better in the majors than in the minors," Boswell wrote.

"The four youngest Birds, all under 25, exemplify Baltimore's method of nurturing, improving and refining talent at the big league level - a sort of baseball finishing school.

"This graduate school of hardball - the toughest kind of on-the-job training - has been a desperate force-feeding remedy for a team whose nest has been rifled by free agentry. Baltimore, however, has proved uniquely ready to take young players under its wing - and win immediately."

[Posted on Camden Chat on Thursday.]


Boog Powell discusses plate discipline and the Orioles' struggles

One of the nice things about the Orioles' 40th anniversary celebration of the 1970 World Series championship this weekend is that it puts the players who made this franchise so great back in the spotlight for at least a few days.

I sometimes wonder what goes through these players' minds when they consider the current state of a team that was once a consistent winner.

Boog Powell offered his thoughts on both the past and the present during an interesting interview earlier this week with 105.7 The Fan.

Here's a rundown of some of the more telling excerpts:

Having a plan at the plate

Powell discussed the current Orioles in light of Nick Markakis' recent comments about the team's struggles. Powell emphasized "knowing exactly what you want to hit when you walk in the batter's box, especially with runners in scoring position." 
"I'm seeing a lot of guys just taking way too many pitches with runners in scoring position. I mean pitches right down the middle. And they're acting like, okay, I got you right where I want you right now. Actually the pitcher's got you right where he wants you. That's what it boils down to." (5:54 mark)
It sounds an awful lot like what Markakis had to say last week.
"Sometimes, guys are going up there and it looks like they have no idea what they're doing ... You need guys in there who have a plan, who have a clue and who know how to execute that plan and get on base. We don't need every guy in this lineup trying to hit home runs. We're paid to get on base and figure out how to score and drive in runs.
It's not just about taking pitches for the sake of it or solely to drive up a starter's pitch count. Smart pitchers will punish you for doing so. Rather, it's more about forcing the pitcher to either throw you a decent pitch or put you on base. 

The next question guided Powell back to reminiscing about the 1970 Orioles. However, he returned to a discussion of the current team later in the interview in relation to his low career strikeout total.
"If you strike out and you've got a runner in scoring position you have no chance to drive him in. And I was very intent on not striking out, especially with runners in scoring position."
"Some of the time I'd let it rip, I had a pretty big swing most of the time, but I would cut that swing down with two strikes just to keep from striking out because, you know, I couldn't help the team by striking out." (8:35 mark)
Cutting down on your swing. That's music to many fans' ears.

I checked the stats after listening to Powell's interview and was surprised to find that the Orioles have the fourth least strikeouts in baseball with runners in scoring position. 

Otherwise, they're at or near the bottom of baseball for most RISP categories. Here's where they're the worst:  hits (124), runs (166), average (.215), RBI (160), on-base percentage (.297), slugging (.293), and OPS (.590).

Plate discipline

Powell continued with the theme of having a plan at the plate, especially with runners on base.

"It took me a while to catch on to what pitchers were trying to do in those situations, where you had a runner on first and second or you had a runner on first base. You know they're going to throw something down around your knees, and as a hitter you have to be disciplined enough to make them bring the ball up and know exactly what you want to hit, and that will keep you from hitting into so many double plays." (9:33 mark)
This is definitely a problem for the Orioles, who have grounded into the third-most double plays in baseball with runners in scoring position. 

Powell had somewhat jokingly suggested earlier in the interview that it would've been better for him to strike out if he was going to ground into a double play instead. The key issue, as he stated, is plate discipline. And the numbers indicate that the Orioles don't have it. 

More concerning than the fact that the Orioles aren't producing with runners in scoring position is that they aren't putting nearly enough runners into scoring position. 

Baltimore has had the third least opportunities (668) of all teams to bat with runners in scoring position. The team's total is higher than only Toronto and Houston. 

The top six teams in the category are having themselves some pretty good seasons: Atlanta (first place), Yankees (first place), Rays (second place), Rangers (first place), Red Sox (third place), and Mets (second place). 

The state of the franchise

Numbers aside, Powell addressed the emotional side of the argument in response to a question about how much it hurts to see the team struggling for so long. 
"I feel for the people that come up there every night, especially when we've got big Boston crowds and the Yankee crowds and there's more Yankee fans standing around, and it seems like the crowds are predominantly Yankee crowds and stuff like that. Baltimore has just a wonderful base, a wonderful fan base.
The same people year after year after year I see come out to say 'What are we gonna do? What are we gonna do? Why don't you come back?' And I say well yeah I could come back. I says I can still hit, do you want to run for me. I'll pick somebody. I say if I do it right you won't have to run very hard. You know, I just kid around with people about it all the time.
You know, deep down inside, it's kind of a pride thing, and I'm really hoping that we get this ship turned around. There's some really good young ballplayers in the organization. I think it's just a question of just shoring up some loose ends. You know playing the game, learning how the play the game a little bit. Hitting and running and bunting and defense, that's part of the game, too, it's not just offense." (10:08 mark)
As fans we feel we deserve better than what we're getting. More importantly, Orioles legends like Boog Powell deserve better. 


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Who else will be blogging from the Orioles' press box?

Thanks to everyone who followed along with my live blogging efforts from the Camden Yards press box on Tuesday night. The Orioles are considering developing a credentialing process for bloggers, and they're using this homestand as a kind of test case.

Here's a rundown of the other bloggers who will be in the press box in the coming days.

June 23 – Zach Wilt, Baltimore Sports Report

June 25 – Stacey Long, Camden Chat

June 27 – Chris Stoner, Baltimore Sports and Life

June 29 – Neal Shaffer, The Loss Column

June 30 – James Baker, Oriole Post

July 1 – Daniel Moroz, Camden Crazies

Be sure to stop by their sites for some first-hand perspective on the games.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Quick Recap: Marlins 10 - Orioles 4

It's difficult to know what you'll get with Jeremy Guthrie these days. He hit two batters on Tuesday night. No surprises there. He allowed no home runs in six innings of work. Now that is a surprise. This was Guthrie's 15th start in 2010; he'd allowed 14 home runs coming into this evening's action.

Guthrie kept the ball in the park but gave up six runs in six innings of work. And as difficult as it may be to believe, he actually minimized the damage after putting so many runners on throughout the night. The Marlins left nine men on base while the Orioles left six.

Anibal Sanchez did give up the long ball, but he also recorded a quality start. The Orioles continued to bail out Marlins pitchers with long fly ball outs. Meanwhile, Florida slowly tortured Baltimore, and the team's fans, with extended rallies.

Final score: Marlins 10 - Orioles 4.

As if the results weren't depressing enough for O's fans, consider that just 12 years ago, on June 22, 1998, Mike Mussina tossed a two-hitter for the Birds and retired the last 22 batters he faced as part of a 7-2 victory. Back-to-back second-inning homers by Brian McRae and Butch Huskey were the Mets' only hits.

Of course, the '98 season started the 13-year slide that's still in progress.

Check back tomorrow for a look at my first trip to the Orioles press box (outside of ballpark tours, of course).

Thanks for following along.


Marlins 10 - Orioles 4

Looking on the bright side, the Orioles got this one over with in less than three hours.


Forget a big bat, give me some guys who can hit line drives

More fan comments (because you can hear them). This one directed toward Matt Albers, who left with the bases loaded, no outs, and the game about to get very ugly in the ninth: "Go back to Triple-A."

The Marlins have demonstrated this inning how you put together a run-scoring effort (they scored three runs in the ninth to extend the lead to 10-4). Jorge Cantu is a great example. Batting second in the inning with a runner on first and nobody out, Cantu went with a decent off-speed pitch by Albers and hit a soft liner to right field. An Uggla single loaded the bases, and the Marlins were back in business yet again. Guys deserve just as much credit for properly setting the table as they receive for clearing it.

This Marlins effort, which knicked the Orioles repeatedly to produce three runs and effectively put the game out of reach, came a half-inning after the Orioles spoiled a golden chance to get back into the game. The Birds went from the possibility of bases loaded and nobody out in the meat of the lineup to two outs with a runner on third and only one run scored. What a contrast it presented.

What did Nick Markakis say about batters not having a strategy and always trying to hit home runs? Lots of fly balls off the Birds' bats tonight.


Ain't too proud to beg

A woman seated near the press box summed up this evening, and essentially the season, when she let out a pleading "Come on, guys" during the eight inning.

The Orioles had a good chance to rally with runners on first and third and nobody out. Ty Wiggington struck out as Nick Markakis stole second. Luke Scott flied out to left-center to plate a run and move Markakis to third. Adam Jones flew out to right to leave Markakis at third. One run scored. Feels like it should've been more.

"Come on, guys."

Marlins 7 - Orioles 4 after eight.


Markakis is a lone bright spot

Nick Markakis made a nice grab up against the out-of-town scoreboard to end the eighth inning. You really can't get a full appreciation for how good this guy is in the field until you see him in person.

For my money, Markakis should get his first All-Star nod this season. The fielding is what makes the difference. Wiggington's bat has leveled off, and he leads the team in errors. Markakis is sporting a steady bat and playing his typically efficient defense in right field. All, unfortunately, for naught. An All-Star bid would at least be something.

This will likely be the fifth straight season the Orioles have had just one All-Star selection, the ninth time since 2000. The player to represent the team most often as a lone All-Star is Cal Ripken Jr., who did so four times (1988, 1991, 1995, 2001). Two of those times Ripken was named the game's MVP ('91 & '01)


Jake Fox almost gets it done

Orioles trail 6-3 after seven innings. In his first at-bat for Baltimore, Jake Fox nearly sent the crowd into a frenzy with a deep drive to center that would've tied the game. Instead, it was a warning-track out that moved the O's no closer. The fans still gave Fox a hearty hand for his effort. Long-ball outs are reason for excitement in Baltimore these days. At least when they come from a new face.

Shortly after applauding Fox, the first wave of early departures took to the gates. There's still a healthy portion of the crowd remaining in Baltimore; however, I don't sense that anyone's expecting Orioles Magic.


Sanchez barely makes it past the seventh inning stretch

Anibal Sanchez is done for the night. He leaves with two runners on and one out in the bottom of the seventh inning.The Orioles got to him for seven hits and three runs. It's a quality start for Sanchez, par for the course for teams facing the Birds.

What wasn't par for the course in 2006 was a no-hitter. Sanchez's no-no on Sept. 6 of that year against Arizona ended the longest no-hitter drought in Major League Baseball history; there had been 6,364 consecutive major-league games without a no-hitter following Randy Johnson's perfect game on May 18, 2004.

There have already been three no-hitters in 2010: Dallas Braden's perfect game on May 9, Roy Halladay's perfect game on May 29, and Ubaldo Jimenez's no-hitter on April 17. And then of course there's Armando Gallaraga, who should have had a perfect game on June 2.


Apologies in advance for getting mushy

Unrelated to baseball: There's a "Happy Anniversary" message on the Jumbotron in center field right now. Makes me think of my wife, who's in D.C. tonight for work. Miss you, babe.


The Marlins' version of the ballpark takeover

T-shirt Tuesday drew 14,820 fans to the Yard this evening. The Marlins must feel like they're playing at home. 

Florida has the second-worst attendance numbers in baseball with an average of 16,376 fans per game. Cleveland is last at 16,343. The Orioles rank 19th with 23,719.


Guthrie's done for the evening

Jeremy Guthrie leaves the game down 5-3 in the seventh inning following a run-scoring double by Gaby Sanchez with no outs. He won't get the win tonight and may in fact add a loss to his 3-8 record coming into the night.

Guthrie's final line was an ugly one: six innings pitched, seven hits, six earned runs, two walks, three strikeouts, two batters hit by pitch. He tossed 108 pitches, 68 of them for strikes.

Forget 20 games, could the Orioles go without a 10-game winner this season?

Guthrie is the only Orioles pitcher to reach double-digit win totals for the past two seasons. Guthrie won 10 games for the Birds in 2008 and 2009. His three wins this season are tied with Brad Bergesen for the team lead in 2010.

Now compare that to the Marlin's stable of young arms. Every member of the starting rotation has at least four wins led by Josh Johnson (8-2, 1.80 ERA). So the Orioles' top pitchers in terms of wins would be at the bottom of the Marlins' rotation in the category.

Of course, Marlins pitchers do get more run support than Orioles starters. Josh Johnson (6.3 runs per nine innings) and Anibal Sanchez (5.33) are in the NL Top 20 for run support. But I think it's fair to say that's not the lone difference. Consider, for example, the Marlins' team ERA (4.01) against Baltimore's (4.98).


Something to cheer about

Hats off to Orioles fans, who have done the right thing by baseball standards and applauded nice efforts by the Marlins' defense.

Uggla's stab at second base early in the game and Chris Coghlan's running catch that sent him into the stands in the sixth have earned applause from the Oriole faithful. Were it not for the bright orange shirts, all the empty seats, and the absence of baseball's best hitter, I'd almost think I was in St. Louis.

The O's did hit the ball hard in the bottom of the sixth as I expected. Markakis advanced as far as third following a one-out double. However, I was wrong about runs being scored. Coghlan's grab in left retired Ty Wiggington, and Luke Scott got fooled on an off-speed 3-2 pitch to end the inning.

The score remains Marlins 4 - Orioles 3.


T-Shirts are better than ... wait for it ... vuvuzelas

The Fan of the Game award went to the folks behind home plate who brought along a "House of Wiggington" banner on Ty Wiggington T-shirt Tuesday. I'm sure glad they gave out T-shirts rather than follow the Marlins' lead with the vuvuzelas.

The Marlins gave out 15,000 vuvuzelas this past weekend during their series with Tampa Bay. Dan Uggla was one of many players who wore ear plugs. He was clearly not a fan of the promotion. Here's how he responded: “This isn’t soccer. I know the World Cup is going on, but this is baseball. That was the worst handout or giveaway I’ve ever been a part of in baseball.”

Cody Ross called them "awful." And manager Fredi Gonzalez had a mix-up with home plate umpire Lance Barkdale, perhaps the result of the buzzing cacophony.
When Gonzalez went out to make changes before the ninth inning he intended to place Brian Barden in the ninth spot in the batting order. But Barksdale somehow got it wrong, leading to an out instead of a lead-off walk.
"It's an embarrassing thing and it's an unfortunate thing," Gonzalez said. "But whether we won the game or lost the game because of that, I don't think so."
And here's what the crew chief had to say.
Crew chief Tom Hallion:" It was the most uncomfortable baseball game I've been a part of in a long time because of that. Whether that had anything to do with it, I don't know, but it could have. When's the last time you heard something like that at a baseball game? Never. You don't see this kind of stuff at baseball games."
Here's an idea of what it sounded like.

Five and O

Another scoreless inning. Marlins 4 - Orioles 3 after five.

I'd be surprised if the Orioles make it through the next inning without scoring some runs. Yes, you read that correctly. Anibal Sanchez has struggled of late to get deep into games. That helps explain why, after a 4-0 May that saw him post a 1.96 ERA, he's 1-2, with a 4.34 ERA, and 1.714 WHIP in June.

Meanwhile, the Birds have the heart of the lineup, including two left-handed batters, coming up in Markakis, Wiggington, and Scott. The ball's lively tonight and should be jumping off the bats come next inning.


Having pity for the Orioles?

Top of the fifth was a quiet half-inning for the Marlins. Among the batters retired without threat was Cody Ross, who may just feel pity for the Orioles. Surely he can relate to their struggles.

Ross played for the 2003 Tigers team that went 43-119. Juan Samuel was a coach for the 2003 team. At least Ross gets to leave town at the end of the series.

Marlins 4 - Orioles 3 headed to the bottom of the fifth.


Must be something about that June air in Baltimore

The ball is carrying well at Camden Yards tonight, specifically toward left-center field. Luke Scott almost matched Matt Wieters with a "high pop-up that just keeps carrying and ends up a home run" in the bottom of the fourth inning. Instead, Cody Ross made the grab on the warning track.

June is a good month for home runs in Baltimore, and not just at Camden Yards. Tonight is the 48th anniversary of Boog Powell's 469-foot homer against the Red Sox at Memorial Stadium in 1962. It was the first ball to clear the center-field hedge at Memorial Stadium and went more than 500 feet on the roll.

For context, the longest home run in Camden Yards history is Daryl Strawberry's 465-foot blast to the ivy in center field on June 17, 1998. That's four feet short of Boog's effort in 1962.

With Guthrie on the mound, the ball carrying well, and Dan Uggla in town, we may seem some more blasts before the night is over.

Four in the books. Marlins 4 - Orioles 3.


So we meet again

For the third time in as many at-bats, Hanley Ramirez came to the plate with at least one runner on in the fourth inning. After winning out in a tough at-bat against Guthrie in the second inning, the first-pitch swinging Ramirez was retired easily this time around.  

Guthrie has put runners on in three of four innings this evening. Must like pitching from the stretch.

Score remains 4-3 Marlins heading into the bottom of the fourth inning.


Marlins getting defensive

The Marlins are playing good defense in the early going, particularly on the right side of the infield. The team has the second-most errors in baseball with 58, which is four behind the Washington Nationals. Nevertheless, Uggla made a fine play to his right on a sharply hit ball by Nick Markakis in the first inning only to be matched by first baseman Gaby Sanchez going to his left on a shot by Corey Patterson in the third.

The Orioles, perhaps surprisingly, are 21st in the majors for errors with 40. I expected a number much worse before I checked. Ty Wiggington leads the team with 10 errors. Minnesota is baseball's most error-free squad with only 21 errors. Isn't the term "pitching and defense" pretty much trademarked by small market Minnesota?

Marlins went quietly in the top of the third. Orioles made a little noise with a one-out Miguel Tejada single in the bottom of the third, but he advanced no farther. Ty Wiggington fought off several two-strike pitches after getting behind 1-2 but eventually flew out to right field. Wiggington has batted .065 when he has a 1-2 count on him this season (31 at-bats). He sure looked tough against Sanchez in that situation, but the result won't help the final number any. 


Wiggington and Wieters get the bats going for the O's

Ty Wiggington - who else - got the Orioles started strongly in the bottom of the second. He must've been inspired by all the Wiggington jerseys in the stands. Yes, it's Ty Wiggington T-Shirt Tuesday in Baltimore.

Surprisingly given their track record this season, the O's immediately have some fight in them. Adam Jones' one out broken-bat single to left put runners at the corner for Matt Wieters, whose 383 foot opposite field home run plated three for Baltimore. Wieters' homer looked like a long pop-up to left-center, but it just kept carrying.

Luke Scott got to running down the first base line after hitting a towering pop-up to right field prior to Wieters' long ball. Scott tossed his bat in disgust but must've remembered Juan Samuel's admonition from the last homestand when he jogged following a similarly high pop-up to right. The ball dropped in that night and Scott advanced to second when he could've had more. Palmer and Thorne were all over Scott on that game's MASN broadcast. And Samuel was all over Scott - well, sort of - in the dugout. Not tonight.

Two innings in the books. Marlins 4 - Orioles 3.


Mike Stanton's (sort of) a winner

Guthrie struggled with the bottom of the Marlins' lineup in the top of the second, which set up trouble once things turned over. He ended up with Hanley Ramirez - .286, 11 HR, 40 RBI - at the dish with two on and two out.

Guthrie got behind Ramirez 2-0. Both pitcher and batter did solid work in moving to a 3-2 count with Ramirez fouling off two-strike pitches. Ramirez ultimately got the best of Guthrie with a double down the right field line to give the Marlins a 4-0 lead. Guthrie then hit Jorge Cantu with a pitch and the ump warned both dugouts.

The trouble really began earlier in the inning when Guthrie allowed a single to number seven hitter Mike Stanton that moved Cody Ross to third base following a lead-off walk. Guthrie should know that the rookie Stanton's a winner ... at least for half a season.

Stanton played for the Marlins' Double-A affiliate, the Jacksonville Suns, until getting the call for Florida's June 8 game against the Phillies. The Suns clinched the first half title in the Southern League South Division on Sunday. In other news, the team will hold a Michael Jackson Tribute Night, featuring a Michael Jackson impersonator, on June 25. Now that's worth getting sent down for.

In addition to Ramirez's clutch, two-out hit, the Marlins got RBI singles from number eight hitter Wes Helms and leadoff man Chris Coghlan, a Maryland native.

Bottom of the second: Marlins 4 - Orioles 0.


Markakis and Sanchez have a history

Nick Markakis is one of the few Orioles with a history against Anibal Sanchez in tonight's Interleague game. Markakis batted against Sanchez when he was with the Frederick Keys and Sanchez took the mound for the Wilmington Blue Rocks. The short history didn't pay off thanks to a nice stab by Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla going to his right. O's go three up-three down.

It wasn't a total loss for Markakis in his first AB of the night. After having never faced a pitcher with the last name Sanchez during his major league career coming into the 2010 season, he's now done so twice in the past week. Markakis went 0-for-3 with a walk against the Giants' Jonathan Sanchez last week. And that, my friends, may be the most random fact you read all night.


Middle of the first - No damage done

Orioles came out in the orange batting practice unis for tonight's Interleague match-up. Guthrie was working ahead of batters but still wound up in a jam with two on and one out after hitting Hanley Ramirez with a pitch. Good thing Joe Girardi no longer manages the Marlins. He would've had a fit.

June was not kind to Guthrie last season. He had the least innings pitched (25), the second-highest ERA (5.76) and the fewest strikeouts (12) of any month. So far in 2010 he's 0-3 in June with a 4.43 ERA, 20 hits in 20 IP, 10 earned runs, four home runs.

Guthrie's 3.64 ERA at the end of May was among the league's best and put him ahead of the likes of Felix Hernandez and C.C. Sabathia. He is now 26th in the American League with a 3.97 ERA and trails both players.


Ceremonial pitches to soon give way to the real thing

First ceremonial first pitch was a little inside. Poor guy was out there in this heat with a long sleeve dress shirt and khakis, but he still offered a quality toss. Second ceremonial pitch (I'm confused too) was bounced to the plate. And that guy was in short sleeves. Rick Kranitz caught the first pitch, Jake Arrieta got the second one.

We've heard a lot about the Orioles' "calvary" of young arms, including Arrieta, coming to save the team. Jeff Zribiec tracked their progress this morning in The Sun. Turns out the Marlins have a calvary of their own. And they, too, were led by Kranitz, who had the same role for Florida in 2006 and 2007.

In 2006, Florida was the first team to have four rookies win at least 10 games. Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez - tonight's starter - are still in the Marlins' rotation. The fourth pitcher, Dontrelle Willis, has since been traded. Sanchez enters tonight's game 6-4 with a 3.22 ERA.

It's not Palmer, Cuellar, Dobson, and McNally winning 20 games a piece in the same season, but a foursome of rookies all notching 10 wins is impressive nonetheless. The feeling would be considerably different in Baltimore this season if the O's had four rookies chasing the Marlins' record-setting wins mark.

I suppose the horses in Baltimore's calvary travel a bit more slowly than Florida's.


The Kids Table

Turns out that even with my caution I still wound up away from my assigned seat. No longer in the front row, but still prime territory. I don't know if it's fair to call it the kids table anymore given that it's the row with Mark Viviano. Then again, maybe he's the one who's supposed to keep me from tearing down the curtains.

By the way, the tag in front of my spot reads "Oriole Blogs." We are many but one.


Strolling to the ballpark

I arrived earlier than expected to the ballpark tonight and therefore decided to park on Lombard Street in one of my dad's favorite free sidestreet spots rather than pick up the parking pass provided by the team.

On one hand, this decision gave me the opportunity to stroll through downtown and take in what sights and sounds there are left on a summer baseball night in Baltimore - a smattering of fans grilling over by the Babe Ruth museum, a father in his Brook Robinson T-shirt with his young son in tow, parking attendants collecting the dollars left to be had from suburban sports commuters. I don't remember lots two blocks from the stadium going for as cheap as $8. Times have changed, but if you strain your eyes enough. Scratch that. You're better to just go off memory of a thriving baseball town.

On the other hand, my dad's free sidestreet spot at Memorial Stadium resulted in my being mugged several years ago after a night game with the Minnesota Twins. Here's hoping I have better luck this evening. All they really got away with that night was my buddy's St. Louis Browns hat. Either the perpetrators were big into baseball history or they got the raw end of the deal. Since there's no cheering in the press box I'm not wearing any O's gear, but something tells me it'd be good repellant from would-be thieves on the walk back to the car.

Aware that I'm an outsider entering sacred journalism territory, I decided to ask a press box employee, Joe, for advice on choosing a seat. Ever been to dinner at someone's house for the first time and mistakenly sat in the father's seat? The press box regulars - Zrebiec and Connolly from The Sun, for example - are the dad tonight. So I suppose I'm at the kids table, but it's a darn nice kids table. 

Joe helped me establish a wireless connection and now the evening's work begins. Doesn't pay much - not a thing, actually - but so far I like this gig.


There Goes the Neighborhood

Blogging from the press box is like preparing for a final exam

Ever had one of those dreams where you show up for the final exam unprepared? I experienced a version of that scenario a few nights ago after having learned that I'll be blogging from the Camden Yards press box during Tuesday night's Orioles game with the Marlins.

The basic set-up of the nightmare - it qualifies as a nightmare, because it put me in a panic - was that I showed up to the stadium with my dad and brother only to discover that none of us had a laptop for me to use. There wasn't enough time to race home and get a computer, and my efforts to focus everyone's thinking on an alternative solution were blocked by Oriole great Rick Dempsey, who was having a very friendly extended conversation with my dad.

Here's hoping things go a little more smoothly this evening than I've imagined them in my sleep. I've been preparing for the opportunity as if it is a final exam. Thankfully, it's an open book test with Google and Baseball Reference readily available.

Be sure to visit Roar from 34 throughout tonight's game for updates. And if you don't see anything posted on this site, you can blame Rick Dempsey.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Baltimore's bullpen is blowing it for the team

Baltimore's bullpen, the Russian Roulette Relievers that they are, have blown an astounding 12 of 24 save opportunities this season. The team's 50 percent save percentage stands well below both the American League (68 percent) and National League (66 percent) averages.

The team has shared the poverty as each of the eight pitchers who has had at least one save opportunity has a blown save, led by Jim Johnson (three blown saves in four opportunities), Michael Gonzalez (two blown saves in three opportunities), and Matt Albers (two blown saves in two opportunities).

As you might guess, bad bullpens are a consistent trait of last place teams. Every last place team with the exception of Washington has a save percentage below its respective league average:

Nationals - 10 blown saves in 32 changes (69 percent)

Pittsburgh - 8 blown saves in 23 opportunities (65 percent)

Seattle - 10 blown saves in 26 opportunities (62 percent)

Indians - 8 blown saves in 19 opportunities (58 percent)

Arizona - 12 blown saves in 26 opportunities (54 percent)

Meanwhile, each first place team except Atlanta (65) has a save percentage of 70 or more: Cardinals (76 percent), Rangers (72 percent), Twins (72 percent), Padres (71 percent), and Yankees (70).

The Orioles' Off-Season Wish List continues to grow as the losses mount. Unfortunately, buying a bullpen is no easy task.

Consider the 2007 Orioles. The team invested more than $40 million in the bullpen (read all about it if you can bear to do so), which paid dividends for the first month or so of the season. Then the bottom fell out.

The Orioles lost leads in 120 of 162 games in 2007 and dropped 16 games in which they led after the seventh inning. Twenty one relievers were used (21!) and together compiled a 5.71 ERA, the second-worst in the major leagues and the fifth highest over the previous 51 seasons. And yes, 2007 was the year of 30-3.

One year earlier, Baltimore relievers had the second-highest ERA (5.27) in baseball and were worst for slugging percentage (.478) and home runs allowed (86).

So there's a valid explanation for that stomach pain that takes over every time the bullpen gates open. It's just another case of classical conditioning.

The Orioles may not be able to settle on a closer, but the bullpen theme song is a no brainer. Cue the Four Tops, because it's the "same old song."


Related reading: Quality starts not leading to quality outcomes in Baltimore

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Re-Post: The Wally Backman tirade goes viral

The Wally Backman Independent League tirade from a few years ago has gone viral. The video was captured as part of the "Playing for Peanuts" series, which I reviewed - with a focus on former Oriole Curtis Goodwin - in March 2009. I love Goodwin's use of the phrase "bushy" to describe the league in the video below.

Here's the original post.

An Oriole in his early 20s, a South Georgia Peanut at age 35. What is Curtis Goodwin's story?

Don't blink or you might miss Curtis Goodwin. Such a thing could be said of Goodwin's speed on the base paths or of his brief tenure with the Birds, but in this case the words reference the player's appearance in the reality series/documentary "Playing for Peanuts."

Goodwin first appears, seemingly from out of the blue (were this a fictional baseball movie, he would've emerged from a corn field), in the eighth of 10 episodes on the 3 DVD "Playing for Peanuts" series. The outfielder, as portrayed, is full of personality and confidence as Peanuts creator/director John Fitzgerald focuses on Goodwin's tendency to talk ad nauseum about his experiences in the bigs - one scene shows him chattering in the outfield during game action about facing knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

Goodwin is largely absent from the DVD in the final two episodes of the series, with his name and related game highlights popping up only briefly during the Peanuts' championship run in the now-defunct, independent South Coast League.

Viewers can learn a bit more about Goodwin in the "Meet the Peanuts - Again" segment on the "Playing for Peanuts" blog, but his back story, like that of many other players in the series, is left largely unexamined, which contributes to a sense that the series leans more toward its Reality TV billing than its documentary side. It seems like a missed opportunity, but perhaps for a good reason.

It's fair to assume that Fitzgerald faced a sizable challenge in trying to get mostly young, 20-something ballplayers to engage in any level of self-examination, much less to do so on camera. Perhaps with this in mind, or even having tried to take on the task, Fitzgerald ultimately chooses to use Wally Backman's journey through the professional and minor league ranks as a player and as a manager as one of the series' predominant narratives. 

The consistently colorful Backman rarely disappoints, and Fitzgerald captures some telling moments along the way, most notably an obvious discrepancy between the media re-telling of a Backman tirade and the reality of the day's events as captured on video. Fitzgerald also focuses on the overall struggles of the start-up league and its Keystone Cops umpiring crews.

Interestingly, Fitzgerald notes the following of Goodwin on the Peanuts blog: "Curtis suffered from a weird strain of camera shyness - he never wanted to do interviews, but he would jump in front of our cameras whenever he could - mostly during games or batting practice. I had to work extra hard to get Curtis to sit down for this interview and he didn't disappoint."

What does it mean to not know if you're single, as Goodwin states in the interview? What convinces a guy to "kind of retire" at age 26 and then re-emerge in his mid-30s in a start-up independent league? Why did Backman keep Goodwin waiting to be signed, and better yet, why was Goodwin so willing to wait? Sometimes lives left unexamined are that way for a reason.

I provided a brief bio on Goodwin and described meeting him before anyone really knew who he was in a September 2008 Roar from 34 posting.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Did Baltimore change its road jerseys again? Meet the "Woeful Orioles."

It took 36 years to change the Birds' road jersey from "Orioles" to "Baltimore." Now, in less than two seasons, it appears the the team has made another change, replacing "Baltimore" with the word "Woeful."

At least that's what you'd think if you've been reading the papers this month.

San Francisco Chronicle, June 15: Giants beat up on woeful Orioles, June 14: "The Giants look to hand the woeful Orioles their ninth consecutive road defeat as the teams meet Monday night for the first time in six years.", June 12: "The Mets opened a three-stop tour of American League ballparks with a 5-1 win against the woeful Orioles on Friday night at Camden Yards.", June 9: CC "Sabathia did what he had to do -- beat the woeful Orioles -- but bigger challenges remain, writes Wallace Matthews."

The Middletown Press, June 7: "In April everyone was throwing dirt on the corpse. Uhhh, there’s been a resurrection. It’s a long season and no one has ever lost anything in April. That is, except the woeful Orioles."

Denver Post, June 5: Woeful Orioles fire Trembley as manager, June 5: "The Jays are 10-9 against AL East opponents. They’re 6-0 against the woeful Orioles, and just 3-9 against the Red Sox and Rays."

New York Post, June 2: "And with holes in the starting rotation and possibly at second base if Luis Castillo can't stay healthy, the woeful Orioles could provide some answers for them if they decide to make some moves."


Friday, June 11, 2010

Flashback Friday: Sammy Stewart sets the record that Stephen Strasburg tied on Tuesday

"The most amazing thing was the velocity on his fastball, his poise, and the fact he threw strikes."

-Earl Weaver, on Sammy Stewart's first game.

Bob Costas ran down a Rolodex worth of pitchers' names during Stephen Strasburg's debut in Washington this week in an effort to provide historical context. Jim Palmer was the only Oriole on the list. By the end of the night, Sammy Stewart's name should've been mentioned as well.

Stewart accomplished a rare baseball feat, one that Strasburg matched on Tuesday, by striking out seven consecutive batters during his rookie debut. The Sporting News ranked Strasburg's consecutive strikeouts to end his outing first among the game's "five most magical moments." Far less magical is Stewart's post-baseball life, which has been a tragic mix of drugs, crime, homelessness, and inevitably prison. But it wasn't always so.

On Sept. 1, 1978, a 23-year-old Stewart established a new rookie record when he struck out seven straight White Sox batters. Overall, he had nine strikeouts in 5.1 innings of work as part of a 9-3 Orioles victory in a doubleheader sweep at Memorial Stadium.

The Boston Globe recounted the event as part of a 2006 profile of Stewart (check out the Globe's photo gallery "The story of Sammy Stewart"):
"Rick Dempsey [Orioles catcher] said, 'Turn around. Look at the scoreboard,"' says Stewart, his eyes lighting up. "So I turned around and it said, 'Sammy Stewart has just tied a record by striking out six consecutive batters in his first major league appearance. The record was set by Karl Spooner of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954.'

"Well, I turned around and threw three of the hardest sliders I've ever thrown and I got the record, and that's 28 years ago, and I still got the record."
Until that night Spooner shared the record with fellow Dodgers pitcher Pete Richert, who tied the mark in 1962. Jim Deshaies later struck out eight consecutive batters as a rookie in 1986, but it wasn't during his debut. Stewart stood alone atop the mountain.

The burly right-hander drove to Baltimore from Rochester one day prior to his debut with his wife's car in tow. Then Red Wings manager Frank Robinson pulled Stewart from a scheduled minor league start on Wednesday and told him: "You're not pitching tonight, you're pitching Friday night. In Baltimore." 

After a rough first inning that included a wild pitch and an error, Stewart settled down to strike out the side in the second and third innings. He struck out White Sox shortstop Greg Pryor to start the fourth before allowing fly ball outs to Mike Squires and Ron Blomberg. Overall, he retired 13 consecutive batters before allowing another hit. His fastball topped out at 94 MPH.

Earl Weaver lifted Stewart after four consecutive one-out singles in the top of the sixth. Afterward, Stewart was succinct.

"I wouldn't know how to rate it," he said, "but it feels good."

"The most amazing thing was the velocity on his fastball, his poise, and the fact he threw strikes," Earl Weaver added.

Jim Palmer pitched seven solid innings for the Birds in the opener of the doubleheader before leaving with a stiff neck; Don Stanhouse finished off the 3-0 win. Palmer then coached Stewart on what to expect from the White Sox hitters in the nightcap.

Having benefited from Palmer's tutoring, Stewart returned to the clubhouse after the game to discover that his teammates had switched the nameplate above his locker with that of the three-time Cy Young winner.

"Just a locker room joke," Stewart said. "These guys don't stop. They're loose."

Stewart lost his second and final outing of the 1978 season to the Tigers on Sept. 29. He pitched in two World Series for the Orioles (1979 and 1983) and recorded six strikeouts in 7.2 innings of work.


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Rookie pitchers who posted double-digit strikeout games in Baltimore

During his electrifying debut in Washington on Tuesday Stephen Strasburg notched 14 strikeouts, the third-highest total for a rookie pitching in his first big league game.

You won't find eye-popping numbers like that in the Orioles' history books for a rookie's first game. However, multiple O's newbies have posted double-digit strikeout totals in games during their first season in the bigs.

Here are six memorable rookie strikeout efforts in Baltimore.

1. Mike Boddicker, Sept. 21, 1983
Complete game, 12 strikeouts
Orioles 6 - Tigers 0

Boddicker won 16 games and pitched a league-high five shutouts as a rookie for the 1983 World Series Champion Orioles. He finished third in Rookie of the Year voting behind Ron Kittle and Julio Franco. Boddicker was tops in the league for victories (20) and ERA (2.79) in 1984, which placed him fourth in that season's Cy Young voting.

2. Chuck Estrada, Aug. 25, 1960 
Complete game, 12 strikeouts,
Orioles 9 - Tigers 3

Estrada posted a league-high 18 wins in 1960 and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting. Baltimore rookies occupied the top three ROY spots: Ron Hansen, Estrada, Jim Gentile.

3. Rocky Coppinger - Sept. 8, 1996 
Seven innings, 11 strikeouts
Orioles 6 - Tigers 2

Tom Boswell is enthused about Strasburg's debut, writing on Wednesday: "From beginning to end, this evening's entertainment was guilty of false advertising. On this perfect night, Strasburg was not introduced to the major leagues, as so many said. Instead, the big leagues were introduced to Strasburg. It was a magnificent mismatch."

Believe it or not, Boswell was pretty high on Coppinger as well. Here's an excerpt from his July 7, 1996, column, headlined with one of many Sylvester Stallone-themed Coppinger cliches that ensued: "Technically speaking, Rocky's a knocout"
Sometimes, the changing of the guard, the succession of the generations, can be captured in one head-snapping fact. After Saturday's doings at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, we will reach the all-star break with this stat to ponder: Roger Clemens has three wins in half a season; Rocky Coppinger has four in a month. It's not time to reach any drastic conclusions. But Rocky has definitely arrived.

Coppinger's first 30 days in the majors have contained enough symbolic events to frazzle most rookies. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Orioles right-hander has started six games, left them all with a lead and has a 4-0 record. His "courage," "heart," "aggressiveness" and "enthusiasm" have, according to various teammates, inspired the entire Baltimore starting rotation to shape up and fly right for the past couple of weeks.
4. Mike Mussina - Aug. 14, 1991
Eight innings, 10 strikeouts
Orioles 10 - Rangers 2

Mussina, 22, earned his first big league win with 10 strikeouts in his third start. Five days later, also against Texas, he had eight strikeouts in 5.2 innings.

5. Erik Bedard - July 3, 2004
Seven  innings, 10 strikeouts
Phillies 7 - Orioles 6

Bedard's first double-digit strikeout effort wasn't enough to earn the O's the win in Interleague play. The game served as a dose of foreshadowing for future Oriole Kevin Millwood, who pitched for the Phillies that day. Bedard left after the seventh inning with the lead in tact only to watch the bullpen blow it in the eighth by allowing three Phillies runs.

6. Last, but most certainly not least is Tom Phoebus, who posted five double-digit strikeout totals during his rookie campaign in 1967. Three of those efforts came against the Yankees.

Phoebus was voted Sporting News Rookie of the Year after earning 14 wins, seven of which were complete-game efforts. Phoebus tallied 179 strikeouts in 33 games. 

Phoebus started three games in 1966 and became only the fourth American League pitcher to throw shutouts in his first two games. He also tossed the third no-hitter in franchise history on April 27, 1968.

(See The Sun's "Catching Up" with profile of Phoebus.)

May 22, 1967
Complete game, 11 strikeouts
Orioles 7 - Yankees 0

June 29, 1967
Complete game, 11 strikeouts
Orioles 4 - White Sox 1

July 17, 1967
Complete game, 10 strikeouts
Orioles 6 - Yankees 1

July 27, 1967
Seven innings, 10 strikeouts
Tigers 4 - Orioles 0

Aug. 16, 1967
Seven innings, 12 strikeouts
Orioles 5- Yankees 4


Friday, June 04, 2010

How have Orioles managers fared during their time in Baltimore?

With Dave Trembley being fired, here's a rundown of the record and average finish of every Orioles manager since 1954:

Dave Trembley (2007 - 2010) 187-283, .398, Average Finish: 4.8

Sam Perlozzo (2005 - 2007) 122-164, .427, Average Finish: 4.3

Lee Mazzilli (2004-2005) 129-140, .480, Average Finish: 3.5

Mike Hargrove (2000-2003) 275-372, .425, Average Finish: 4.0

Ray Miller (1998-1999) 157-167, .485, Average Finish: 4.0

Davey Johnson (1996-1997), 186-138, 574, Average Finish: 1.5

Phil Regan (1995), 71-73, .493, Finish: 3

Johnny Oates (1991-1994), 291-279, .519, Average Finish: 3.5

Frank Robinson (1988-1991), 230-285, .447, Average Finish: 5

Cal Ripken (1985, 1987-1988), 68-101, .402, Average Finish: 5.7

Earl Weaver (1968-1982, 1985-1986), 1480-1060, .583, Average Finish: 2.3

Joe Altobelli (1983-1985), 212-167, .559, Average Finish: 3.3

Hank Bauer (1964-1968), 407-318, .561, Average Finish: 3.2

Billy Hitchcock (1962-1963), 163-161, .503, Average Finish: 5.5

Paul Richards (1955-1961), 517-539, .490, Average Finish: 5.0

Jimmy Dykes (1954), 54-100, .351, Average Finish: 7.0

During the past two decades only Mike Hargrove has lasted more than three seasons in Baltimore. In that same time frame the Orioles have had eight managers. Among those eight, only Davey Johnson and Johnny Oates have left town with winning records.


Flashback Friday: Wes Stock's Record-Setting Two-Win Day

Former Orioles reliever Wes Stock got more wins in one day than the 2010 team does in a week.

Stock set the club record for wins in a day  on May 26, 1963, during a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians. Meanwhile, he earned his first big league save against New York back when the Orioles could actually beat the Yankees. Seems this guy was my kind of Oriole.

On his record-setting day, Stock entered the early game at Cleveland Stadium in the fourth inning and provide two innings of quality mound work. He struck out two, walked none, allowed no hits, and was the pitcher of record when the Orioles surged ahead of the Indians with three runs in the top of the seventh. Charlie Lau pinch hit for Stock during the rally, and the O's won 10-6.

Stock was again the good luck charm for the O's offense in the nightcap. The team scored three in the eighth inning and two more in the ninth to turn a 1-1 tie into a 6-1 victory. The right-handed reliever tossed three shutout innings, struck out one, walked one, and allowed one hit to earn his fifth win of the season.

Overall, Stock pitched five innings of one-hit, no-run baseball with three strikeouts, one walk, and two - count 'em, two - wins. His effort helped the Orioles win their seventh and eighth consecutive games in what ended up being a nine-game win streak. (Insert heavy sigh here.)

Stock finished the 1963 season 7-0 with a 3.94 ERA after having gone 5-0 with a 3.01 ERA in 1961.The Orioles, meanwhile, finished 86-76, 18.5 games behind the 104-win New York Yankees.

Not that the Yankees phased Stock. He earned his first big league save against the Bronx Bombers on April 25, 1959, by holding a 2-1 lead in the 11th inning at Yankee Stadium. The Birds took the lead on an RBI single by one of the coolest-named players of all-time: Chico Carrasquel. Stock then replaced the pinch-hitting Carrasquel on the lineup card and recorded three Yankee outs after a leadoff single by Mickey Mantle.

Stock played six seasons in Baltimore and compiled a 27-10 record in a relief role. The O's traded him to the Kansas City Athletics on June 15, 1964, for Charlie Lau, the same guy who replaced him in the lineup during the first game of his record-setting doubleheader. Lau's contract had since been purchased by Kansas City.

Stock was saddened by the move.

"It was tough on me because we were all raised together, and we had had parties together, cookouts together," he said. "Hoyt Wilhelm and his wife were like Mom and Dad to us. Gene Woodling and Walt Dropo had kept us all in line, telling us that, 'You dress like this in the big leagues.'"

A reliever who wins ballgames, shuts down the Yankees, and loves playing in Baltimore. Yup, Wes Stock was my kind of Oriole.

[Note: This story appeared on Camden Chat on Thursday.]


Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A good news/bad news situation ... but mostly bad

Happy June. We're one month closer to the end of the baseball season, which qualifies as good news for this O's fan. Here are some more good news/bad news situations from the past month.

Good news: The Orioles had twice as many wins in May as they did in April.

Bad news: They won 10 games in May after only winning five in April, but they still lost 18 games each month.

Good news: The Orioles completed two three-game win streaks in May (April 30 - May 2 and May 12 - 14).

Bad news: They followed each of those win streaks with matching three-game losing streaks (May 3 - 5 and May 15 - 17).

Good news: The Orioles swept the Red Sox to start the month.

Bad news: Following the sweep, the fifth-place Orioles were four games behind the fourth-place Red Sox. The fifth-place Orioles are now 13.5 games behind the fourth-place Red Sox.

Good news: Orioles batters are below the league average in strikeouts and rank ninth of 14 teams in the category.

Bad news: Where do I begin? Those same batters are last in walks, last in runs per game, last in runs, last in doubles (we miss you, B-Rob), last in RBI, and last in sacrifice flies.

Good news: People are talking about the O's ...

Bad news: ... as part of "MLB's Worst of May."

As always, No Gnews is Good Gnews.