Wednesday, September 29, 2010

This Orioles fan is seeing red

Cincinnati Reds fans have waited longer than Baltimore Orioles fans to watch their team in the post-season. The Reds' last playoff appearance came in 1995, and they failed to make the post-season in 1999 despite winning 96 games.

Cincy fans have endured nine consecutive losing seasons (remember when nine seemed like a lot?).

And they're forced to cheer for T.O. on football Sundays.

So it's hard not to appreciate this.

If you're like me, watching Jay Bruce's division-clinching, walk-off homer against the Houston Astros sent you to daydreaming. It's pretty easy to turn those "Bruuuuuce" cheers into "Luuuuuuke."

Hats off to the Reds, including former Orioles pitcher Arthur Rhodes.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What they're saying about the Orioles ... Facebook edition

Readers of The Sun are familiar with the semi-regular media roundup known as "What they're saying about the Orioles." Thanks to Openbook, I can now do a similar feature of my own. It's called "What they're saying about the Orioles ... Facebook edition."

Here's a rundown of Facebook updates from the past eight hours that have included the word "Orioles." It seems Facebook users are most interested in attendance woes at The Trop, the anniversary of Ted Williams' final hit in a game against the Orioles, and the frustrating fact that the Rays weren't able to clinch the division against the last place Orioles.

Here's what's been said today on Facebook:
Randi Muller Dixon  GO RAYS Ferg is GIVING AWAY 50 free tickets to tonights Rays v Orioles  game. Be on the patio here at 6:30pm sharp. Participate and win. We'll test your knowledge of the Rays, baseball and who knows what...? FREE TICKETS! See you on the patio at 6:30pm. Don't be late.

[RF34 Note: Bag the trivia. It'll be hard enough to find 50 people who want to go to the game without jumping through hoops first.]
John Crowley  Note to the Rays: I know that you're upset of the lack of attendance but seriously concentrate on winning games especially you Price, concentrate on beating the Orioles.

Eric Geiple  wants to go to the Rays/Orioles game! It makes me sad that they could clinch the playoffs and only 10,000 people are showing up.. Obviously you haven't sucked since 1998.

Joe Aro  Tampa Bay doesn't deserve to have major league baseball. As good as that team is and nobody cares. Camden Yards would be packed every night (will be soon) if the Orioles were closing in on the A.L. East Title

Jim Miller  Watched the Tampa bay Orioles game. ALL 10 People at the game saw a great Orioles  win. Can't believe they can't draw more people to a Major League team in contention for a division crown. Oh well I wouldn't go either unless they were playing the YANKS.

Grant Holly  Ok, looking good this month Baltimore Orioles. Let's finish up the season on a high note!!

Rick Dennis  being a cubs and orioles fan I often forget baseball is still being played this time of year!

Rod Reder You are making multi millons per year, you are a grown man, get over it. 90% of the tri county population is struggling, it's on TV, it's the Orioles, it's a 6 hour day to travel from Pasco...etc

[RF34 note: This is in relation to Longoria griping about the lack of fans at Tropicana Field.]

Matthew Daniel Aragon III  The orioles will be good when the orioles get rid of Kevin Millwood and put Brian Matuz at ace. He is one the best underrated young pitchers who doesn't get noticed cuz the o's aren't doing anything special.

Michael Pizarro  O's win vs Tampa Bay! wat a game! 4-0! Baltimore Orioles 4 Tampa Bay Rays 0! Go O's! Go Showalter! Go Matuz! I'd rather see Tampa Bay win n da Yankees loose than the Boston Red Sox try 4 da post season! :)

 Scott Andrews  we cant beat the orioles, really ???? wtf

[RF34: Haven't been watching many games lately, have you Scott?]

Matthew Holding  seriously, can the orioles cap trend die, the iron man must be turning in his grave

Lee Weldon  Do I root for the Orioles to lose so that the Yankees don't get the penant? What a quandry!

[RF34 Note: Never actively root against the Orioles. Passively, maybe.]

Courtney St Amant  so the rays got shut out by the orioles?!!! we're obviously not ready for the playoffs if we cant even win against the orioles! kiss ass tonight boys!

[RF34 Note: See earlier comment in response to Scott. Oh, and I think - hope - you meant "kick."]

Joe Lourenco  Did the spankees lose again, to bad they dont play the Orioles everyday and CC can win more games against them lmao

Tim Reilly  9-28-1960, Ted Williams hit a home run in his last career at-bat as his team, the Boston Red Sox, defeated the Baltimore Orioles 5-4 at Fenway Park. Nice to see that nothing has changed in 50 years.

Rebecca Roberts  Can see the city and the ocean from her balcony. What a view to wake up to. Going to the Salty Dog for some deep fried hotdogs and later to see the Rays play the Orioles!

John Gorman  When I was 3 or 4 my parents bought me a number 9 T-shirt. Ted Williams was my first hero. It was 50 yrs. ago today. The place: Fenway Park. The Red Sox were playing the Baltimore Orioles. Ted Williams took what would be the final swing of his long career for a home run. It remains the greatest finale in sports. The greatest hitter, Ted Williams, online autobiography. Baseball Hall of Famer, US Marine, fighter pilot & fishing Hall of Famer. Hitting tips, fan letters, ...

Jim Hilliker  Cmon Tampa Bay....beat by the Orioles ??? The Yankees want you to win !!!! At least the Red Sox won......

Jay Kelley 9/28/1960: Ted Williams hits a HR in his last career AB as the Boston Red Sox defeated the Baltimore Orioles 5-4 @ Fenway Park.

Eric Harris  12,446 fans at the Orioles/Rays game last night - totally embarrassing for a first place team in late September

Bruce Wallick  Looking forward to attending "Yeardley at the Yard" this Friday evening to benefit Notre Dame Prep through the "One Love Foundation" in building a turf field, Orioles v. Tigers!

Sharon Poore  Dang it! C'mon Tampa Bay! We just need 1!!! Those dang Orioles  have been kicking everyone's asses lately...what the hell happened? Are they juiced? lol oh well, at least NY Yankees lost too! RAYS are still #1!!!! dang! Phillies won too! dang! Now, let's go RAYS!!!!

Michael Sakata  Im calling it Baltimore Orioles 2011 AL East Champions no joke...

[RF34 Note: Any relation to Lenn, Michael?]

Monday, September 27, 2010

Baltimore: Football town or baseball town?

The Sun's Kevin Van Valkenburg penned a feature on Sunday that daydreams about what it would be like for Baltimore fans to have two competitive teams for which to cheer in September.

The article, "In this Charm City fantasy, late September means football and baseball," includes comments from fellow Blog-O's-phere members Stacey Long of Camden Chat and Chris Stoner of Baltimore Sports and Life as well as yours truly.

Here's what I had to say:
"I've thought a lot about whether this is a football town or baseball town," said Matt Taylor, who grew up an Orioles fan and started a blog, Roar From 34, in 2006 so he could vent. "I think what I've I settled on is that it's a sports town. The fans are willing to get behind any team as long as it's competitive. If one team struggles as badly as the Orioles have, people are going to lose interest. I think it wouldn't take much, just a .500 record, and people would still be talking about the team even when Ravens training camp started. The passion is there, but it's hard not be a little cynical."
So what sayeth you, dear reader? Given two competitive teams, would Baltimore be considered a football town or a baseball town? Vote in the poll in the sidebar.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Can Aubrey huff, puff his way into the post-season?

"Dress for the job you want, not the job you have." Ahem.

From his purple checkered pants to his red thong, former Oriole Aubrey Huff certainly doesn't dress for the job he has; whether he's in fact dressing for the job he wants is anybody's best guess.

Huff did not return a request for comment prior to the Roar from 34 deadline. [Note: I didn't actually contact Aubrey Huff.]

Sartorial savvy aside, Huff is making news these days for things that actually have to do with the game of baseball. As fans in Baltimore well know, that's not a taken-for-granted type thing.

Here are a few tidbits about Huff's chase for the post-season, his big numbers on bad teams, and his prospects for next season.

-Turns out that Huff was the losingest player of the 2000s. Playing for the Orioles will do that to a guy. Washington Post
Huff has played in 1,470 regular season games, which means he trails only Texas's Michael Young and St. Louis's Randy Winn among active players who have appeared in the most games without a playoff appearance. But neither Young nor Winn has suffered quite as acutely as Huff. He was the losingest player of the 2000s, which he spent primarily with the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles, appearing in 776 losses. (Winn was second, at 771.)

When I asked Huff if he has allowed himself to imagine that moment when the Giants clinch a playoff berth he said, "Oh, God, absolutely. How could you not? All that hard work, the mental grind, the misery, finally paying off? There's still a long way to go here, and there could still be a bad ending, but hopefully this is the year for me."

-Rays third baseman Evan Longoria recently became the fourth player in franchise history to tally consecutive 100 RBI seasons. The others: Fred McGriff (1999-00), Carlos Pena (2007-08-09) and Aubrey Huff (2003-04).

-Like the Orioles, the Cubs need a first baseman for the 2011 season. The Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan raises Huff's name as a possibility. Chicago Tribune
Paul, what are the chances that the Cubs resign Xavier Nady as their first basemen, instead of wasting money on Adam Dunn? Do they try to go value with Nady at first, if it would allow them to splurge on Carl Crawford? -- Chad, Kansas City. Mo.

Nady's agent, Scott Boras, is probably working on a 20-page mission statement regarding the value Nady has provided with his strong finish since Derrek Lee was traded and he got regular time at first. I like Nady, but his slow start while recovering from Tommy John surgery was one of the problems early on in 2010. The Cubs need a power hitting first baseman, preferably a left-handed hitter. If not Dunn, then perhaps a short-term, one-year fix like Aubrey Huff until they get more payroll flexibility in 2012.
-Finally, here's a USA Today profile from last week about Huff considering the prospects of playoff baseball.


Baltimore Orioles

Flashback Friday: Steady Eddie Doubles Down

Earlier this week, Nick Markakis become the third major league player to hit 43 or more doubles in four consecutive seasons. The other two players are Hall of Famers: Joe Medwick and Tris Speaker. There's another Hall of Famer, an Orioles legend, who made history by doing half as well for five times as long.

Fourteen years ago this week, on Sept. 24, 1996, Eddie Murray doubled in a 13-8 loss to the Boston Red Sox. Murray, who two weeks prior hit his 500th career home run, became only the second player to have 20 or more doubles in 20 consecutive seasons. The other was Speaker. Murray hit 560 doubles overall.

Speaker is Major League Baseball's career leader for doubles. The lefty outfielder totaled 792 doubles in 22 seasons with Boston, Cleveland, Washington, and Philadelphia. Speaker had 50 or more doubles in a season five times as well as five additional seasons where he hit 40 or more. His single-season best was 59 doubles in 1923.

Cal Ripken Jr. is the Orioles' career leader in the category with 602 doubles, the 13th most overall. Had it not been for the strike-shortened 1994 season, during which he hit 19 doubles, Ripken would have had 20 or more doubles in 18 consecutive seasons. His single-season best was 47 doubles in 1983.

Ripken is followed on the O's career doubles list by Brooks Robinson (482) and Murray (363). Brian Roberts currently trails Murray by 32 doubles.

Steady Eddie never had a 40-double season in 21 years in the bigs. His career high for a season was 37, set in 1985 and matched in 1992.

Murray had two RBI in the 1996 Boston game where he stroked his 20th double, and he added another on Sept. 27 to finish the season with 79 RBI. It was his 20th consecutive season with 75 or more RBI, which broke Hank Aaron's record of 19 straight seasons.

As is the case with doubles, Murray trails only Ripken and Robinson for career RBI in an Orioles uniform. And, as is the case with doubles, Roberts is the current Orioles player closest to Murray for RBI. Roberts trails Murray in career RBI for Baltimore by 766.

[This article also appeared on Camden Chat.]


Baltimore Orioles

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Who is Baltimore's best bunter?

Baltimore's baseball players have been getting on base without hitting the ball very far since the late 19th century. Back then, with the help of the groundskeeper and some tightly packed dirt, the Baltimore Chop turned into the stuff of legend.

Before becoming Baltimore's baseball franchise, the St. Louis Browns made a name for themselves by allowing short hits to Nap Lajoie - bunt singles, to be specific - as part of an infamous doubleheader that shaped the 1910 batting race.

(Jon Wertheim tells that story in the recent Sports Illustrated article, "The Amazing Race").

All this to say that Baltimore - the home of pitching, defense, and the three-run homer - also has some small ball in its blood. Just ask Adam Jones.

A little more than a month after he won a game with a walk-off bunt in the 11th inning, Jones plated the Orioles' first run on Sunday against the Yankees with yet another two-out RBI bunt single. In the process, he tied Cesar Izturis for the team lead in bunt hits with seven. Both players are tied with Ichiro for fifth place for bunt hits in the American League.

Overall, the Orioles have the sixth most bunt hits in the American League and are in line with the league average of 20.

Though he has played in roughly 50 fewer games than either Jones or Izturis, Corey Patterson currently has the third-most bunt hits on the team with five. That should come as no surprise to anyone who follows this stat, which means that anyone reading this is now surprised.

Patterson led the team in bunt hits in 2006 and 2007; his 17 bunt hits in 2006 are the most ever recorded for an Orioles player (the stats go back to 1988).

If Patterson is the master of the bunt hit in Baltimore, Melvin Mora is surely his apprentice. Mora led the Orioles in bunt hits for three consecutive seasons (four times overall) and finished second to Patterson in the category in 2006. He had 16 bunt hits in 2001.

As if all this information weren't trivial enough, here's your final piece of bunt hit trivia: 1991 American League MVP and All Star Game MVP Cal Ripken Jr. tied Brady Anderson for the team lead in bunt hits that season with four.

On to the numbers:

2010 American League Leaders - Bunt Hits

1. Erick Aybar - 16
2. Julio Borbon - 13
3. Elvis Andrus - 11
4. Juan Pierre - 10
5. Ichiro Suzuki - 7
5. Adam Jones - 7
5. Cesar Izturis - 7
8. Ben Zobrist - 6
8. Sean Rodriguez - 6
8. Cliff Pennington - 6
8. Chone Figgins - 6

Baltimore Orioles team leaders in bunt hints, by season

Brian Roberts, 2009 - 3
Melvin Mora, 2008 - 6
Corey Patterson, 2007 - 12
Corey Patterson, 2006 - 17
Melvin Mora, 2005 - 12
Melvin Mora, 2004 - 7
Melvin Mora, 2003 - 6
Jerry Hairston, 2002 - 7
Mevlin Mora, 2001 - 16
Luis Matos, 2000 - 3
Gene Kingsale & Mike Bordick, 1999 - 3
Roberto Alomar, 1998 - 5
B.J. Surhoff, Mike Bordick & Roberto Alomar, 1997 - 2
Roberto Alomar, 1996 - 9
Curtis Goodwin, 1995 - 5
Brady Anderson, 1994 - 5
Harold Reynolds, 1993 - 8
Billy Ripken & Joe Orsulak, 1992 - 3
Cal Ripken & Brady Anderson, 1991 - 4
Steven Finley, 1990 - 6
Phil Bradley & Brady Anderson, 1989 - 3
Rick Schu & Brady Anderson, 1988 - 4

Related reading:

"Walk-off bunts are nothing new in Baltimore" (Camden Chat)

"Bunting for a Hit with 2 Outs and a RISP from the 4 Hole" (Baseball Reference Blog)

"The Amazing Race" (Sports Illustrated)


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Is there room enough in the A.L. East for everyone to win?

The Orioles' inspired play under Buck Showalter has reignited hopes in Baltimore that the team's prolonged chase for a winning record can mercifully end sooner rather than later. While the ultimate goal - the dream, really - is to reach the top of the division ladder, playing .500 baseball or better over the course of a full season is the first rung on that climb. After all, it hasn't happened for 13 consecutive seasons.

But would a .500 record be satisfying for fans if it still left the Birds in last place? It's entirely possible - though perhaps not probable - that such a thing could happen. 

Only once since Major League Baseball introduced the Central Division in 1994 has every team in a division finished .500 or better. The Washington Nationals finished in last place in the N.L. East in 2005 with an 81-81 record.

The Nationals essentially had as good a chance at winning their division in 2005 as they did at winning the Wild Card. The entire N.L. East was separated by only nine games in the standings that season while the Nationals finished eight games off the Wild Card pace.

On five other occasions there have been divisions where four teams finished .500 or better: the 2000 N.L. West, 2003 N.L. East, 2007 N.L. West, 2008 N.L. Central, and 2008 A.L. East. The Blue Jays (73-72) are chasing a sixth occasion, but the Orioles are making it difficult for them. It seems every division series offers the O's a chance to play some version of a spoiler role here down the stretch.

Would you be satisfied with a .500 record in 2011 if the Orioles still finished in last place? Vote in the poll on the sidebar.


Baltimore Orioles

Division Races with four or more teams playing .500 baseball or better

2000 N.L. West
San Francisco Giants       SFG     97     65     .599     --
Los Angeles Dodgers       LAD     86     76     .531     11.0
Arizona Diamondbacks   ARI      85     77     .525     12.0
Colorado Rockies             COL     82     80     .506     15.0
San Diego Padres             SDP     76     86     .469     21.0

2003 N.L. East
Atlanta Braves           ATL     101     61     .623     --
Florida Marlins          FLA        91     71     .562     10.0
Philadelphia Phillies  PHI        86     76     .531     15.0
Montreal Expos         MON     83     79     .512     18.0
New York Mets         NYM     66     95     .410     34.5

2005 N.L. East
Atlanta Braves             ATL         90     72     .556     --
Philadelphia Phillies     PHI         88     74     .543     2.0
Florida Marlins             FLA        83     79     .512     7.0
New York Mets            NYM       83     79     .512     7.0
Washington Nationals WSN        81     81     .500     9.0

2007 N.L. West
Arizona Diamondbacks     ARI      90     72     .556     --
Colorado Rockies               COL     90     73     .552     0.5
San Diego Padres              SDP      89     74     .546     1.5
Los Angeles Dodgers        LAD     82     80     .506     8.0
San Francisco Giants        SFG     71     91     .438     19.0

2008 N.L. Central
Chicago Cubs             CHC       97     64     .602     --
Milwaukee Brewers MIL       90     72     .556     7.5
Houston Astros        HOU       86     75     .534     11.0
St. Louis Cardinals   STL        86     76     .531     11.5
Cincinnati Reds        CIN         74     88     .457     23.5
Pittsburgh Pirates   PIT         67     95     .414     30.5

2008 A.L. East
Tampa Bay Rays      TBR      97      65      .599      --
Boston Red Sox        BOS      95     67     .586     2.0
New York Yankees  NYY     89     73     .549     8.0
Toronto Blue Jays    TOR     86     76     .531     11.0
Baltimore Orioles     BAL      68     93     .422     28.5

Friday, September 10, 2010

Was Meatloaf right: Two out of three ain't bad?

This week's Flashback Friday post on Roar from 34 revisits the last time the Baltimore Orioles swept the New York Yankees in the Bronx. It happened back in 1986 and woulda, coulda, shoulda didn't happen earlier this week thanks to a Nick Swisher walk-off home run.

It's not just the road where the O's have struggled to complete a sweep of the Yankees. Baltimore hasn't swept New York at home since the final three games of the 2000 season. So while two out of three ain't bad, and the games don't really mean anything in the standings for the Birds, it still would've been great to take that third game in New York this week.

All this got me wondering where Wednesday's loss ranks in terms of missed sweep opportunities against the Yankees. At the very least it's the worst sweep-averting Yankees win since 2001, but to my mind it's easily the worst sweep-averting Yankees win this decade, and century for that matter.

Since 2000 the Orioles have entered the third game of a series against the Yankees with a chance at the sweep 13 times. They've won that third game exactly once. Three of the 12 losses have come by one run, and three of the twelve losses have come by 10 runs (the score was 13-3 each time).

On only two occasions before Wednesday had the Orioles lost a "sweep game" in the ninth inning or later. Both times it involved a bases loaded walk.

In 2004 Jorge Julio issued a bases loaded, ninth inning walk at Yankee Stadium in a game the Birds lost 4-3. In 2001, Willis Roberts failed to hold the lead for the O's at home in the ninth inning, surrendering a sacrifice fly that tied the game at four. The Yankees then won the contest in the 10th inning on a bases loaded walk by John Parrish.

Here's the full rundown of potential sweep games against the Yankees since 2000.

April 6 to 8, 2009 @ Home - Lost the last game 11-2
Sept. 11 to 13, 2009 @ NY - Lost the last game 13-3

April 18 to 20, 2008 @ Home - Lost the last game 7-1
May 26 to 28, 2008 @ Home - Lost the last game 4-2
July 28 to July 30, 2008 @NY - Lost the last game 13-3

June 26 to 28 @ Home - Lost the last game 8-7
July 27 to 29 @ Home - Lost the last game 10-6

April 6 to 18 @ Home - Lost the last game 13-3

Sept. 3 to 5 @ NY - Lost the last game 4-3

Aug. 23 to 25 @ NY - Lost the last game 5-2

June 25 to 27 @ Home - Lost the last game 3-2

Sept. 21 to 23 @ Home - Lost the last game 5-4

Three game sweep to end the season, Sept. 29 to Oct 1. Scores: 13-2, 9-1, 7-3


Flashback Friday: Sweeping the Yankees in the Bronx has never been easy

The Orioles came tantalizingly close to sweeping the New York Yankees this week. It would have been the Birds' first three-game sweep in New York since 1986 when they shut down the Yanks in a series from June 6th through 8th.

Scott McGregor, Mike Boddicker, and Ken Dixon picked up the wins for Baltimore that weekend in a trio of games the O's won by scores of 5-2, 7-5, and 18-9, respectively. Don Aase earned the first two saves of the series while Tippy Martinez finished the sweep with the last of his 115 career saves, his only one during the 1986 season.

Sunday's wild finale in 1986 may as well have been Old Timers Day at the ballpark. The 36-year-old and soon-to-retire Martinez pitched 3.1 innings, allowed three runs on six hits, struck out two, and walked one. His line was better than that of 43-year-old Tommy John, who went three innings, allowed four runs on seven hits, and recorded no strikeouts or walks.

Both pitchers entered the game due to unique circumstances.

Martinez was Weaver's only rested relief option when he came into the game with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth. Weaver was limited to eight available pitchers for the weekend series due to Mike Flanagan's trip to the disabled list and Nate Snell's bruised foot that kept him back in Baltimore.

Tippy wasn't particularly stressed about the prospect of impressing his manager and ending the O's meltdown.

"I knew he'd be patient with me," he said of Weaver. "He didn't have anyone else."

The lefty promptly struck out Yankees third baseman Mike Pagliarulo, who homered the previous night, to stifle a New York rally that closed a 7-1 gap to one run. Former Oriole Gary Roenicke drew a bases loaded walk earlier in the Yankees' five-run sixth inning. The offense provided Martinez an extra seven runs of insurance to work with in the top of the seventh inning. All of the runs came at the expense of 23-year-old Yankees rookie, and future Oriole, Doug Drabek.

The O's bullpen had been key to the team's success during a 20-6 run they enjoyed prior to the Sunday finale. The group posted a 7-0 record with 11 saves and a 1.66 ERA.

Aase, who had spent nearly two full seasons on the disabled list following reconstructive elbow surgery in 1982, led the bullpen charge as he worked toward a career-high 34 saves and his lone All Star appearance in 1986. One night earlier he made his 25th appearance of the season and earned his 16th save.

"He's the biggest difference in this team," Lynn said after the Saturday win. "We're playing well and getting some big hits but, right now, we've got that guy to come in and shut the door. That means so much to a team. You start believing you're not going to lose in the late innings."

Tommy John took the loss on Saturday after giving up six runs - three of them earned - in four innings of work. He then became the fifth Yankees pitcher on Sunday when he appeared in relief of Al Holland, who pulled a hamstring after tossing five pitches to Lynn.

After two fleet contests that each ended in well under three hours, Sunday's series finale turned out to be the longest-nine inning game in American League history. The game lasted four hours and sixteen minutes, not including a 40-minute rain delay along the way. The total topped the previous longest game by five minutes.

"A record, huh?" Weaver asked afterward. "Does it go to the Hall of Fame or the Hall of Shame? The thing is, how would you like to sit through something like this and go home a loser?"

Lee Lacy made sure that didn't happen. Lacy, who emphasized after the game that he was a "line-drive hitter," ripped three home runs, the third of which caused Rick Dempsey to feign fainting in the dugout. Larry Sheets added a blast into the black center field bleachers at Yankee Stadium on what was in fact Bat Day in the Bronx.
Overall, the Birds totaled 22 hits.

The sweep was the Orioles' first against the Yankees since Aug. 8-10, 1980, and put some early distance between the second-place Birds and the third-place Yankees. Not that Weaver was doing any celebrating.

"I told my players if they ever miss curfew again, they're going to have to watch a tape of this damn game," he said. "I've been around a long time. Hell, I was around a long time today."

Perhaps Weaver knew what was coming.

Baltimore finished the 1986 season in last place in the seven-team American League East with a 73-89 record, 22.5 games behind the first-place Red Sox. The 90-win Yankees finished in second-place by 5.5 games.

[This post appeared Thursday on Camden Chat.]


Baltimore Orioles

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Thirty home runs used to mean something. It still should.

Luke Scott has never truly received the appreciation he deserves during his time in Baltimore, in part because his feast-or-famine routine at the plate leaves him starved for hits for extended stretches. As full seasons go, 2010 has been Scott's most impressive effort over the long haul as he continues adding to a career-high home run total that currently rests at 26. Hitting 30 would move him into some elite Orioles company and hopefully earn him some acknowledgment.

Baseball's steroids era inflated home run expectations among fans. At this time in 1998 Mark McGwire was busy burying Roger Maris' single-season home run record and in the process making 30 homers appear pedestrian. Consider, though, that only 14 players in O's history have hit 30 or more home runs in a season, led by Eddie Murray who did it five times.

Gus Triandos was the first Oriole to pass the 30 homer mark. He did so in 1958.

The '60s brought a relative power surge to Baltimore as the O's had batters with 30 or more home runs in six different seasons. Meanwhile, Jim Gentile and Frank Robinson became the franchises' first 40 home run hitters. Gentile whacked 46 in 1961, Robinson 49 in 1966. The 1990s Orioles matched that effort with 30 home runs in six different seasons, topped by Brady Anderson's 50 in 1996 and Palmeiro's 43 in 1998.

On the flip side, Boog Powell and Ken Singleton were the only Orioles to break the 30-homer mark in the '70s. Powell (1970) and Singleton (1979) each totaled 35 home runs in a season. Baltimore has never had fewer 30 home run seasons in a full decade.

So Luke Scott will have accomplished a fairly rare feat in Baltimore should he hit four more homers this season, but unfortunately it's not likely to make him much more memorable. After all, can you name the last three Orioles to hit more than 30 home runs? [See the chart below for the answer.]


Related Recommended Reading: Dempsey's Army - "Luke Scott: An Appreciation"

Baltimore Orioles 30 Home Run Seasons By Decade

2008 - Aubrey Huff 32
2004 - Miguel Tejada 34
2002 - Tony Batista 32

1999- Albert Belle 37
1998 - Rafael Palmeiro 43
1997 - Rafael Palmeiro 38
1996 - Brady Anderson 50, Rafael Palmeiro 39
1995 - Rafael Palmeiro 39
1991 - Cal Ripken 34

1987 - Larry Sheets 31, Eddie Murray 30
1985 - Eddie Murray 31
1983 - Eddie Murray 30
1982 - Eddie Murray 32
1980 - Eddie Murray 32

1979 - Ken Singleton 35
1970 - Boog Powell 35

1969 - Boog Powell 37, Frank Robinson 32
1967 - Frank Robinson 30
1966 - Frank Robinson 49, Boog Powell 34
1964 - Boog Powell 39
1962 - Jim Gentile 33
1961 - Jim Gentile 46

1958 - Gus Triandos 30

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Interview with "High Heat" author Tim Wendel - Part Three

The third and final installment of my interview with High Heat author Tim Wendel considers hard-throwing closers and the brotherhood that develops among baseball's hardest throwers.

Why do you suppose that more of these guys don’t end up as closers with it being so difficult to put it all together when you have this gift?

I think it’s somewhat the money involved. It’s funny because one of the major characters in High Heat is David Price, and I caught up with David last year, because David was kind of the phenom of last year, and he was kind of going through some of the things that Strasburg and Chapman are going through now. At one point he was down at Durham in Triple-A, which ironically is where Bull Durham is set and things kind of came together on that end, and at one point he’s talking and he says “Maybe I should just go to the bullpen, maybe I could get up there quicker.” But I would’ve been really surprised if the Rays would’ve had him do that in part because I just think once there’s so much money involved and starting pitching is at such a premium then if somebody can make it as a starter you’re probably better off having them do that.

Ironically, I think one of the best closers around these days, Jonathan Papelbon with the Red Sox, went against that grain. It’s kind funny at times in doing this book how certain eras and things are kind of clicked together. Norm Sherry caught Koufax and was very close to when Koufax literally turned his career around in like about two to three weeks during spring training. In interviewing Norm I asked him “Who do you like watching today? Who really lights up your circuits?” And the first guy he named was Papelbon, which I found amazing because Sherry lives out in Southern California, but he watches the games and as he says, “I try not to miss Jonathan Papelbon. He really gets me excited.”

It’s interesting, at times we think everything in baseball is happening right now, but whether it’s Norm Sherry, or Bob Feller, or even Nolan Ryan, they’re all kind of watching who’s coming along and who’s the next fireballer, because they can really relate to them.

Even within this summer we’re kind of seeing the gift and the curse at the same time where Strasburg comes out and is doing so well so far, but then you’ve got someone like Zumaya who’s struggled with injury, and who knows what happens with his career. Do you think that’s fair, do you think there’s an accurate parallel there?

[Note: We conducted this phone interview one day after Joel Zumaya fractured his elbow on June 28.]

Yeah. You know It pained me to see what happened with Zumaya, because Zumaya made the list of maybe the top dozen fireballers in High Heat in part because more of the potential and the promise more than anything he’s done so far. I guess it shows how fine the line is and how much stress, and torque, and punishment the arm takes when you’re talking about throwing this hard. At times we tend to take a lot of this for granted as fans or maybe people who cover the game.

Strasburg, for example, is doing phenomenal right now. I think he certainly has proven he’s more ready for prime time than the eight other guys he’s taking the field with half the time. I was watching the game when he was in Cleveland and he was having trouble with the mound and at one point he slipped and you just go “Oh!” All it takes is something like that and there goes a career.

Will Joel Zumaya ever throw as hard as he once did? I don’t know after watching the tape of what happened last night. You talk about Sandy Koufax who went literally in three weeks from a journeyman to all world and being able to suddenly spot his fastball and suddenly gain control of his curve. You look at the price he paid in terms of what it did to his arm, the arthritis, the types of medications he was taking just to get through those last couple seasons. Even someone like Nolan Ryan who could probably go out today and throw, I don’t know, probably 92 or 93, still just the mental anguish he went through.

I think sometimes we just kind of think “Oh yeah, somebody like Stephen Strasburg, he’s got it made” or somebody like Sandy Koufax, “Yeah, Hall of Fame,” and you don’t see the price and you don’t see the real things they had to go through. They all know this next pitch might be my last one. You had to think that’s what ran through poor Joel Zumaya’s head last night.

Is there anything else you’d like to highlight?

Once these guys get to this point, or even if they get close, I think they realize they’re part of a brotherhood, and they really take pride in that. There are so many different ways you can look at baseball. You can follow the great teams, you can follow the different eras – the Deadball Era and that goes to the Golden Era before and after World War II, etc. – I think another key thread you can follow through the game is just following the fastball pitchers. And these guys, even the contemporary ones, they kind of know that to a certain extent.

Again, I’m back to Tim Lincecum a little bit. Tim Lincecum is not a baseball historian. You ask him “Gosh, 1975 World Series,” and he’ll just kind of be looking at you like “Who played?” and “What happened?” and “Oh, that was Carlton Fisk? Okay, yeah, I think I kind of know him.” But then the thing is you start talking about the names we were just talking about, the names that are through High Heat. Okay, Walter Johnson, Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax, JR Richard, Nolan Ryan, etc. And all of the sudden he knows all those people. He may not be in contact with them, but he knows at least in broad strokes what they were about and what they did. And it’s funny you get him talking about his windup or his delivery and a great many of these guys they’ll go “Oh yeah, I do a little bit like Koufax did here, and I then I do a little like Nolan Ryan did here, that was my stride to the plate,” whatever it may be. So early on, and I think it starts way back when they’re at a pretty young age, they start hearing these names, and part of it is I better start knowing their stories, because maybe if I start knowing the stories well enough of the guys that I’m hopefully trying to follow in the footsteps of then maybe I can succeed, too. That was a pretty cool thing to find in doing High Heat.