Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Unlucky versus the Orioles, Okajima will now try to stem the Tides

The Orioles have reassigned a handful of relievers to the team's minor league camp, including veteran lefty reliever Mark Hendrickson. However, the bigger bullpen pitching news related to the Orioles comes out of Red Sox camp where former Birds reliever Matt Albers (11-12, 4.60 ERA, 1.529 WHIP, 5.8 SO/9, 4.3 BB/9 in three seasons with the O's) won a spot in the Boston pen while Hideki Okajima was sent to the minors.

The Orioles have fared well - very well - against the otherwise steady Okajima (16-8, 3.06 career ERA, 1.239 WHIP,  7.9 SO/9, 3.1 BB/9). Against Baltimore, Okajima is 0-4 with a 5.76 career ERA in 29.2 innings pitched.

Some of Okajima's memorable meltdowns against the Orioles include the following:

May 14, 2008
Orioles 6 - Red Sox 3
Jay Payton hits a grand slam on Okajima's second pitch after the reliever entered the game in the seventh inning with the Red Sox leading 3-2.
Okajima: BS, 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 HR

June 2, 2008
Orioles 6 - Red Sox 3
Okajima enters with a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning and leaves with a 6-3 deficit.
Okajima: 0.2 IP, 4 H, 4 ER

June 10, 2008
Orioles 10 - Red Sox 6
Okajima relieved Josh Beckett after six innings and turned a 6-4 lead into a 7-6 deficit. Said Dave Trembley: "You have to wait him out."
Okajima: BS, 0.1 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 2 BB

June 30, 2009
Orioles 11 - Red Sox 10
What would an Orioles slugfest be without Okajima? Most of the damage on this day comes when Takashi Saito and Jonathan Papelbon fail to clean up Okajima's mess in the eighth inning.
Okajima: 0.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER

April 25, 2010
Orioles 7 - Red Sox 6
Tim Wakefield hands Okajima a 4-1 lead with one runner on base in the seventh inning. The Orioles quickly even up the game with a run-scoring double by Nick Markakis and a two-run homer by Miguel Tejada.
Okajima: BS, 1.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 HR

June 6, 2010
Orioles 4 - Red Sox 3
Nick Markakis' walk-off single off Okajima in the bottom of the 11th inning wins it for the O's.
Okajima: L, 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 2 BB

Albers appeared for the Orioles in at least half of the aforementioned games.

And speaking of the Red Sox, here are three photos from the Orioles' 4-3 win against Boston on Sunday. 

copyright: Schimmel

copyright: Schimmel

copyright: Schimmel

Related Reading:

Okajima pitches like he belongs in the Baltimore bullpen (Roar from 34)

Hideki Okajima to minors (Boston Herald)

Classy Hendrickson ponders options, returns to clubhouse to say goodbyes (The Sun)


Monday, March 28, 2011

Will the Orioles have a 20-20 player for the first time in more than a decade?

The Orioles should have a 30 home run season from a player this year for the first time since Aubrey Huff stroked 32 homers in 2008. They may even match or - dare to dream - exceed the club record for number of players with 30 or more homers in the same season, which sits at two (Brady Anderson and Rafael Palmeiro, '96; Larry Sheets and Eddie Murray, '87; Boog Powell and Frank Robinson '66 and '69).

It's unlikely, however, that the O's will have their first member of the 30-30 club, or even the 20-20 club for that matter in 2011.

Baltimore is one of three teams in the American League East - Boston and Tampa are the others - to never have had a player in their lineup hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season. Toronto's had two (Shawn Green '98, Jose Cruz Jr. '01) and New York's had three (Bobby Bonds '75 and Alfonso Soriano '02, '03). It's a much more common accomplishment in the National League where it has happened 38 times, compared to 15 times in the American League.

The Birds' best - albeit still unlikely - candidate for a 30-30 season may be Mark Reynolds, who hit 44 homers and stole 24 bases in 2009. While those numbers would fall short of the 30-30 club, they would give the Orioles their first 20-20 player in more than a decade.
20-20 vision?

Brady Anderson was the last Oriole to post a 20-20 season when he hit 24 home runs and stole 36 bases in 1999. Brian Roberts (16 home runs, 30 stolen bases in 2009), Nick Markakis (23 home runs, 18 stolen bases in 2007), and Corey Patterson (16 home runs, 45 stolen bases in 2006) have come closest to 20-20 since then.

Anderson sits alongside Barry Bonds as the only players to record a 50-homer season as well as a 50-steal season during their careers. Anderson had 53 steals in 1992 and 50 home runs in 1996. Bonds had 52 steals in 1990 and hit 73 homers in 2001.

On the face of it Anderson would seem to have been the O's most likely candidate in recent memory for a 30-30 season; however, he was never closer than that 24-36 season in '99. Anderson stole more than 30 bases only  three times in his career (53 in '92, 31 in '94, 36 in '99); he hit more than 30 home runs just once (50 in '96).

Nevertheless, he is still the last Orioles player to post a 20-20 season. Chances are things will stay that way through 2011.

Of Note

-There are four members of the 40-40 Club: Jose Canseco (1988), Barry Bonds (1996), Alex Rodriguez (1998), and Alfonso Soriano (2006).

-Former Oriole Albert Belle is the only player in major league history to have 50 homers and 50 doubles in the same season. He did so in 1995.

-Brian Roberts had four consecutive seasons (2006-2009) with 30 doubles and 30 stolen bases. The 50 stolen bases-50 doubles club has two members: Tris Speaker (1912) and Craig Biggio (1998).

Orioles Stolen Bases Leaders since 2000

2010: Corey Patterson 21
2009: Brian Roberts 30
2008: Brian Roberts 40
2007: Brian Roberts 50, Corey Patterson 37
2006: Corey Patterson 45, Brian Roberts 36
2005: Brian Roberts 27
2004: Brian Roberts 29
2003: Brian Roberts 23
2002: Jerry Hairston 21, Chris Singleton 20
2001: Jerry Hairston 29
2000: Delino DeShields 37

Related Reading:

Powerball in Baltimore (Roar from 34)

Thirty homers used to mean something. It still should. (Roar from 34)


Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Macho Man, the Hatchet Man, and classic Orioles baseball

A-Ha! (image:Where's Randy Savage?)
Imagine having the Macho Man at catcher and the Hatchet Man behind him calling balls and strikes. It's the stuff made for either pay-per-view television or a minor league promotion, but it could just as easily have happened at a major league ballpark.

Before "Where's Randy Savage?", "Snap into it," or even "Oh yeah," legendary professional wrestler Randy "Macho Man" Savage played minor league ball in the Cardinals organization. Mel Proctor and John Lowenstein discussed Savage's brief baseball career during the July 15, 1989, Orioles broadcast, which MASN showed on Wednesday as part of its "Orioles Classics" series.

After the Macho Man's name emerged, Proctor and Lowenstein moved on to discuss umpire Ken Kaiser, who covered first-base duties for the July 15 game. Kaiser, a former bouncer, once wrestled under the name "The Hatchet Man."

During his wrestling days, Kaiser wore a black hood and carried an ax. Some (many?) would say he had an ax to grind with Earl Weaver and Eddie Murray as he feuded regularly with both Orioles.

Weaver feuds with "The Hatchet Man." (image: The Sun)

Back to Savage. Second only to Hulk Hogan among '80s wrestlers, Savage (real name Randy Poffo) had 16 home runs in four minor league seasons spent between the Rookie and A levels. He had a .254/.292./.391 overall slash line. In other words, wrestling was a wise choice.

Here's a photo of a retired Macho Man attending a Braves-Mets game. (Notice he's checking his cell phone - He would've fit perfectly at Camden Yards in the late '90s and early '00s).

The baseball-wrestling connection goes beyond the Macho Man and Hatchet Man. Consider:

-Babe Ruth was once asked to serve as a guest referee for a pro wrestling watch.

-Current Independent Wrestler "Always Trending" Tyson Tyler played minor league baseball in short-season A ball. Tyler's real name is Brian Barnett. Baseball Reference has his minor league stats.

-"Mr. Baseball" Bob Uecker and all-time hits leader Pete Rose are members of the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame.

-White Sox conditioning coach Dale Torborg, son of former player and manager Jeff Torborg, used to be a professional wrestler. His dad, meanwhile, holds the distinction of having caught Sandy Koufax's perfect game as well as two no-hitters, the second of which was Nolan Ryan's first no-no.

Image sources: "Where's Randy Savage?" and The Baltimore Sun.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Off Topic: Sarasota Journalism

With Sarasota on most Orioles fans' minds, here's an excerpt from a quirky Sarasota Herald-Tribune job listing for an investigative reporter (original post on A Few Tasteful Snaps):
But if you’re the type of sicko who likes holing up in a tiny, closed office with reporters of questionable hygiene to build databases from scratch by hand-entering thousands of pages of documents to take on powerful people and institutions that wish you were dead, all for the glorious reward of having readers pick up the paper and glance at your potential prize-winning epic as they flip their way to the Jumble… well, if that sounds like journalism Heaven, then you’re our kind of sicko.

For those unaware of Florida’s reputation, it’s arguably the best news state in the country and not just because of the great public records laws. We have all kinds of corruption, violence and scumbaggery. The 9/11 terrorists trained here. Bush read My Pet Goat here. Our elections are colossal clusterfucks. Our new governor once ran a health care company that got hit with a record fine because of rampant Medicare fraud. We have hurricanes, wildfires, tar balls, bedbugs, diseased citrus trees and an entire town overrun by giant roaches (only one of those things is made up). And we have Disney World and beaches, so bring the whole family.

(H/T Jeremy Ashton)


Sarasota Update: Brian Matusz, Nick Markakis, Cliff Lee & More

Ever planned a trip specifically to visit a ballpark or other athletic facility? If so, you might enjoy Stadium Journey, where writers review and rate their experiences at venues nationwide based on factors including atmosphere, food and beverage, fans, and ease of access to the location.

Here's a portion of Stadium Journey's favorable take on the refurbished Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota.
It's all-but-brand-new, so what do you expect? The seats are immaculate (fun fact: every seat in the house was brought in from Camden Yards, refurbished, and installed), every detail is gleaming, and the landscaping both inside and out is well-maintained. The stadium itself is a little out of the way for those wanting to go to downtown Sarasota and the beach areas, but otherwise, it's pretty close to perfect.

The scoreboard in right-center is large, easy to read, and even includes oriole-shaped weather veins on-top. The audio system is definitely audible; loud enough to hear over the crowds, but not enough to cause your ear drums to implode.


Even though it was built in 1989, a renovation was badly needed to keep Ed Smith Stadium a viable option for Major League teams. Thankfully, the Orioles organization were open enough to make their own, custom upgrades to this park. They obviously put a lot of care and thoughtfulness into the redesign, and it shows in every minute detail.

Sarasota now has a stadium they can be proud of again; since the team isn't going anywhere for a while, you'll definitely have a chance to see this new jewel in the crown of the Grapefruit League. Come on down and see the new Ed Smith; it shines brightest in March.
 And here are some recent action photos from inside Ed Smith -

The Present, The Future
(copyright: Norm Schimmel)

Markakis with chew (?) in the back pocket.
(copyright: Norm Schimmel)

Luke Scott - From DH to left field to first base.
(copyright: Norm Schimmel)

(copyright: Norm Schimmel)

(copyright: Norm Schimmel)

Postseason Performer
(copyright: Norm Schimmel)


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Who will the Orioles players be following in the Big Dance?

I've chosen a March Madness-themed post over a St. Patrick's Day-themed post for today. Feel free to chime in on your favorite Irish Oriole in the comments section. In the meantime, check out the college hoops loyalties of some members of the Orioles roster based on where they attended college.

Matt Angle has to be feeling good about March Madness as his Ohio State Buckeyes are the tournament's number one overall seed.

Brian Roberts split time between UNC and South Carolina, but the Durham, N.C., native maintains his Tar Heel loyalties and tends to attend a game or two in Chapel Hill during the off-season.

Joe Mahoney had a solid spring in Orioles camp. Now the former Richmond student will get to see if his college can make good as a popular 5-12 upset pick.

Jake Fox is focused on winning a roster spot behind Matt Wieters, and based on his numbers, he's clearly locked in. Hopefully he can take a break to watch his Michigan Wolverines end an extended tournament drought. Or to cheer against those Uncle Toms at Duke.

Jason Berken's college made the "First Four," but is unlikely to appear in the "Final Four." Berken's a Clemson guy.

Other Orioles with college affiliations:

Mark Reynolds - Virginia. Here's hoping Reynolds didn't watch the ACC tournament, or at least not the final 42 seconds of regulation.

Luke Scott - Oklahoma State. I wonder if Luke had any thoughts about Oklahoma State's win over Harvard in the opening round of the NIT?

Matt Wieters - Georgia Tech. Tourney talk is fun, but so too is guessing who the next coach will be.

Craig Tatum - Mississippi State. Tatum's school fell short of the tournament but still had plenty of fight in 'em.

Brian Matusz - San Diego. Not much to talk about for the Toreros on the hardwood this year other than a victory over one of last year's Sweet Sixteen darlings, St. Mary's.

Jeremy Guthrie - Stanford. Guthrie always has the Cardinal women's team to brag on.

Jake Arrieta - TCU. Basketball? The undefeated Horned Frogs won the Rose Bowl. And you expect them to care about basketball?

Jeremy Accardo - Illinois State. Accardo's ready to party like it's 1998.Unfortunately, his Redbirds are not.

Mark Hendrickson - Washington State. Sure, his Cougars aren't in the NCAA tournament, but he's the only guy in the clubhouse who can watch March Madness and say "Been there, done that."


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Look for Roar from 34 on MASNSports.com

I'm pleased to report that I'll be serving as a guest blogger on MASNSports.com during the first half of the 2011 baseball season. Look for the Roar from 34 perspective on MASN during the weeks of April 11, May 9, June 6, and July 4.

MASN announced the guest blogger arrangement this afternoon:
Beginning April 4, Orioles Buzz will feature guest bloggers every weekday. MASNsports.com recognizes that the blogosphere contains all sorts of opinions on the O's, and bloggers following the orange and black are a particularly hearty breed of fan. What they say is increasingly relevant and how their present their perspective has become more and more savvy.

Since the Orioles now credential selected bloggers on a game-by-game basis, we thought you'd be interested in reading what some of the most rabid Internet-based O's faithful has to say. And Orioles Buzz is a perfect platform for sharing their thoughts, ideas and reminiscences.
The list of Orioles guest bloggers includes some of my favorites: Dempsey's Army (Heath), Camden Chat (Stacey), and Orioles Post (Anthony). It should be a fun project. Thanks to Pete Kerzel and MASN for the opportunity.


Friday, March 11, 2011

What difference can one letter make? A big one for these former Orioles.

Turns out we've all been saying and spelling Angels first baseman Kendry Morales' name wrong. It's actually Kendrys - with an "s" - Morales. Think one letter in a first name doesn't make a difference? Just consider what it would do for these former Orioles.
Bully Ripken - Bully Ripken thinks you're a F*** Face, and he's not afraid to tell you. That's what bullies do.

Early Weaver - A man before his time, Early Weaver was using stats to inform his decision-making before anyone had even heard of Moneyball.

Meltin Mora - Benching this guy was a sure recipe for a meltdown. Just ask Dave Trembley.

Job Orsulak - Talk about suffering, he played for the '88 Orioles as well as the Pirates, Marlins, and Expos.

Done Aase - He saved 23 games in the first half of the '86 season, induced an All Star Game-ending double play with runners on the corners, and once held the record for most Orioles saves with 34, which also were the most ever for a last place team. For a time, the game was Done once Aase entered from the bullpen.

Learry Bigbie - Players would've done well to be a bit more leary of Bigbie, whose name appeared 93 times in the Mitchell Report and who accused Brian Roberts of steroid use.

Stove Finley - He was part of what in hindsight was perhaps the worst Hot Stove move in Orioles history, the Jan. 10, 1991, trade that sent him, Pete Harnisch, and Curt Schilling to the Astros in exchange for Glenn Davis.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Who was the last Orioles player to have a pinch-hit walk-off home run?

Earlier this week my trusty Orioles calendar included the following trivia question: "In an Aug. 24, 1988, game against the Mariners, he became the last Orioles player to hit a pinch-hit walk-off home run. Who is he?"

Answer: Larry Sheets

Here's some more information about Sheets' pinch-hit heroics during the worst season in Orioles history.

Sheets, pinch hitting for third baseman Rene Gonzalez, entered the game with one on and two out in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Orioles trailed the Mariners 3-2. 

Outfielder Fred Lynn started the inning with a line-drive single to right and was replaced by rookie Brady Anderson. Anderson was acquired less than a month earlier in a trade that also brought Curt Schilling to Baltimore and sent Mike Boddicker to Boston.

After a Jim Dwyer fly out, Anderson stole second and advanced to third on a Jim Traber ground out. It was Anderson's third of six stolen bases in the month of August. Sheets then took a 2-2 offering from Mike Schooler deep for his eighth home run of the season. 

Mark Williamson picked up the win for the Orioles with two perfect innings in relief of starter Jeff Ballard.

The Orioles won the nightcap of the doubleheader, also by a score of 4-3, on a 12th-inning sac fly by Joe Orsulak that plated Ken Gerhart. Sheets led off the inning with a walk. 

The Mariners were the only team the 107-loss Birds beat in a 1988 season series. The O's went 14-15 in August, which was the team's best month of the season.

Related Roar from 34 posts:


Friday, March 04, 2011

Hope Springs Eternal - Jim Palmer's comeback attempt (1991)

There are plenty of good Spring Training updates out there along with projections for player and team performance headed into 2011. For something different, I figure it's interesting to revisit stories of seasons past when, as seems to happen nearly every year, "Hope Springs Eternal" for players and teams. Last time I focused on Sammy Sosa's arrival in Baltimore. This time it's Jim Palmer's attempted comeback in 1991.

If nothing else, Jim Palmer's attempted comeback with the Orioles during Spring Training in 1991 gave us one of the all-time great newspaper ledes: "Jim Palmer can still pitch underwear but he can no longer pitch baseballs."

Already in the Hall of Fame, Palmer, the noted Jockey spokesman, attempted to defy age in the pre-HGH days by returning to O's camp at age 45, one year older than Roger Clemens when he retired and one year younger than Nolan Ryan was at the time of his retirement.

Palmer's fastball topped out at 75 MPH during his lone Spring Training game, some seven miles per hour faster than Ryan's first pitch in Arlington during the 2010 World Series. Palmer allowed two runs on five hits, a walk, and a balk in two winnings of work against the Red Sox with Boston batters missing contact only once in 15 swings.

Despite stating after his lone exhibition outing that it would be "premature to quit now," Palmer's comeback attempt indeed ended due to a hamstring injury he suffered while running wind sprints prior to facing the Red Sox. He likened the sound he heard to a Rice Krispie pop. In an earlier intrasquad game, Palmer tossed two innings and allowed two runs on four hits, one of which was a wind-assisted home run by catcher Chris Hoiles. 

Sports Illustrated chronicled Palmer's efforts - along with those of other aging pitchers like Goose Gossage, Steve Howe, and fellow Orioles camper Mike Flanagan, age 39 - in the March 11, 1991, article "Hope Flings Eternal."

Here are a couple of excerpts from that piece:
Because Palmer remains a legend in Baltimore, the Orioles felt obliged to find out. They sent scouts to see him three times, including minor league pitching instructor Dick Bosman, who beat Palmer for the American League ERA title in 1969. Although none of the observers required surgery to have their eyes put back into their sockets, the Orioles invited Palmer to their camp in Sarasota. There he has failed to excite either ridicule or astonishment. He's in fabulous condition, no question. But no matter whom he lines up with on the row of practice mounds, there is more pop in the gloves of catchers other than his.

At a locker near Palmer's, Flanagan struggles with that dilemma of whether to leave gracefully or leave at all. Flanagan, the 1979 American League Cy Young winner as an Oriole, appeared to have erred on the side of leaving ugly when the Toronto Blue Jays unceremoniously cut him last May. But Flanagan faulted the strike-shortened spring training for his performance and decided to work his arm back into shape and try again. "And by September I felt like I was throwing too good to stop," he says. A chance meeting with Hemond at the Hall of Fame ceremonies in August encouraged Flanagan to visit with the Orioles. "Some guys get to the point where enough is enough," says Flanagan. "And some guys just love the game." And some guys are lefthanded pitchers, which gives Flanagan more than a sentimentalist's chance to make it.

Related Reading:

Hope Springs Eternal: When Sammy Sosa came to Baltimore

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Ed Smith Stadium opener in words & (mostly) pictures

A sellout crowd, an orange bird of paradise flower for each female fan in attendance, local construction workers honored on the field, and many rave reviews. The Birds opened their renovated Spring Training home on Tuesday but couldn't wait to leave the sparkling new yard in a 12-6 victory over the Rays that featured five home runs in the first two innings.

Here's a look at the new Ed Smith Stadium in words and pictures.

Big League Stew - "Renovations turn O's home from pit to palace."
Though the taxpayer-funded repairs sparked a good amount of dissent in the area and the initial facelift was completed in only eight months, there was no arguing with the results. Ed Smith Stadium now has amenities that are equal to other spring homes. In many cases, they're even better. While I would have told you to skip Sarasota as a stop in previous years, it's now something you should circle if you're doing a tour of the Gulf Coast parks.

Opening day began with local construction workers taking the field to a round of applause — though it did rain while they did so ... figures — and ended with a 12-6 O's victory as everyone walked around and checked out the stadium's new features.
Big League Stew includes a brief photo essay as part of its story. You can also see some great photos of the game and the stadium at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune website. Meanwhile, The Sun has added new photos from Tuesday's opener to its overall Spring Training gallery.

[Edit: Another photo link from a commenter, this one to ABC7 in Florida.]

Finally, here's my contribution, some on-the-scene pictures from Sarasota Friend of the Blog Norm Schimmel.


O's Quotables

 This may be my favorite Orioles quote for the 2011 season:
“Stealing bags isn't part of my repertoire. We may mix in a few surprises here and there, but I prefer to trot around the bases."

-Luke Scott
The quote comes courtesy of Franklin Sports, which provided Roar from 34 with Spring Training interviews of Scott and J.J. Hardy.

I'm still forming my impressions of new Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy. One thing's for sure,  from now on I'll associate him with these words: "I take a lot of pride in my Ping Pong." 

Here's the full quote:
"My dad was a professional tennis player, and he still teaches for a living, and we grew up around it and I have a brother who is about 17 months older than I am, we played Ping Pong growing up and it was a sport that we kind of clicked at, and having someone as good as I was at it, and me as good as he was, kind of kept us getting better. I take a lot of pride in my Ping Pong."

-J.J. Hardy

Tuesday, March 01, 2011