Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Kids on the Mound Are All Right

At least Penn's arm wasn't injured; other rookie stars not so lucky

By Christopher Heun

Young pitchers can be fragile. Elbows may strain, ligaments can tear, rotator cuffs might fray. The phenom psyche is delicate, too.

For the Birds this year, the best example of great pitching promise wrapped in kid gloves is Hayden Penn, who must know that so many hopes rest on his 21-year-old shoulders. Penn has fallen victim this season to both a freaky injury and shaky confidence.

An appendectomy in late May postponed his 2006 major league debut for four months, and once he did make it back, his five September starts have been spoiled by poor command brought on, he concedes, by trying to be perfect. To top it off, a strained lower back sent him off the field in the bottom of the fourth Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, after he had allowed two runs in three innings. One more start on Sunday, the final game of the year, is in doubt.

The silver lining – if there is one to be found – is that his arm wasn’t injured. How good Penn will be next year – and if he is ready to crack the starting rotation – will go a long way toward determining the fortunes of the Birds.

If this has been the year that Erik Bedard, a 15-game winner, finally broke out of his shell, then 2007 will belong to Penn and Adam Loewen. That trio was a big reason why’s Keith Law, who spent four and half years with the Toronto Blue Jays as a special assistant to the general manager,
wrote earlier this month that “the Orioles have the best core of young pitching talent in the division. While some of those guys are still works in progress, the potential is there for one of the best pitching staffs in the American League.”

Unlike Penn, Loewen is ready to start every fifth day next year. Loewen, 22, has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 11 of his last 14 starts. In perhaps the greatest test of all, facing the Yankees, he’s 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA. The closest he has come to a major arm injury was a slightly torn left labrum that was discovered at the Orioles’ Fall Instructional League camp two years ago but fortunately did not require surgery.

Throughout baseball, this year's class of rookie pitchers has emerged to play a major role in the pennant races in both leagues. But many of the youngsters are throwing in September for the first time, and their health has suffered.

Here’s some who’ve suffered serious setbacks recently:

Francisco Liriano
Perhaps the biggest story of the upcoming playoffs – the possibility that the Twins could start two of the best pitchers in all of baseball, Johan Santana and Liriano, back-to-back in October – will have to wait till next year. Liriano, 22, walked off the mound with elbow pain Sept. 13 ending his season after going 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA and striking out 144 in 121 innings. He was one of a plethora of young arms competing for the A.L. Rookie of the Year award (a mad second-half finish by Nick Markakis notwithstanding).

Jonathan Papelbon
Another A.L. Rookie of the Year favorite, Papelbon is a converted starter who took over as closer for the Red Sox in April, saving 35 games in 41 chances. His season ended prematurely, too, on Sept. 1. In 68 and 1/3 innings, he struck out 75, walked 13 and allowed 40 hits. His ERA was a measly 0.92. Boston has said that next year Papelbon, 25, will join the starting rotation.

Justin Verlander

The story with Verlander is not about an injury but preventing one. Only eight rookie pitchers since 1995 have thrown 200 innings in their first season. (And the results the following year for all but two weren't good.) Verlander, 23, has thrown 186 and won’t pitch again till the playoffs. The Tigers have been skipping some of his starts (he made just four in July) or giving him extra days off in between. In 10 starts since Aug. 1, he’s pitched past the fifth inning only four times. Still, he’s 17-9 with a 3.63 ERA in 30 starts.

Josh Johnson
A Rookie of the Year candidate in the National League, Johnson, 22, went 11-5 with a 3.03 ERA as a starter for the Marlins. His ERA would rank fourth in the N.L., but he has just less than the minimum number of innings pitched to qualify. His season ended Sept. 12 because of a right forearm strain.

Phil Hughes
Technically not a rookie, Hughes, 20, was ranked by Baseball America at the start of the season as the top Yankees prospect. He was 6-0 with a 1.06 ERA in his last 13 starts for AA Trenton while the Yankees limited him to five innings every start the last two months of the season. After shoulder inflammation in 2005, he was injury-free this year.

When to Deal Them?

There’s another precarious phenomenon with young pitching to consider: often, you never know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

That’s certainly the case for the Red Sox this year. First they traded away
Anibal Sanchez to the Marlins last November for Josh Beckett. Most known for his Sept. 6 no-hitter, Sanchez is 9-3 with a 2.80 ERA in just 16 starts. Beckett, meanwhile, is 16-10 with a 4.82 ERA.

Then the Sox sent Bronson Arroyo to Cincinnati for Wily Mo Pena. And after the season started, they dealt
Cla Meredith, 23, to the Padres for knuckleball vacuum backstop Doug Mirabelli. A reliever, Meredith, 23, has allowed just 34 baserunners in nearly 50 innings to go along with a 0.72 ERA.

Orioles fans with a good memory may remember that A’s general manager Billy Beane wanted both Bedard and Penn two years ago for Tim Hudson. That’s at least one case where failing to pull the trigger – a big criticism of Mike Flanagan as GM – was a wise decision. Two young pitchers can be more valuable than an older, proven one.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Day that Bumblebee Went for Three

On this date in Orioles history, courtesy of my handy desk calendar ...

Sept. 22, 1973

"American League Rookie of the Year Al Bumbry joins roughly three dozen major leaguers in the 20th century who have hit three triples in a game, leading the Orioles to a 7-1 win over Milwaukee as they clinch the AL East title. In a strange coincidence, Bumbry is the fourth player to accomplish the feat on this exact date, following Mike Donlin of the Reds in 1903, Les Bell of the Cardinals in 1926 and Earle Combs of the Yankees in 1927."

More on Al Bumbry

This from Baseball Reference, including one erroneous statistic about the O's club record for steals. George Sisler (St. Louis Browns) and Brady Anderson stole more bases than Bumbry during their respective careers:

"The speedy Bumbry stole 254 bases during his career and set the Orioles' record with 252 lifetime. With 1403 Oriole hits, he left among the Birds' top five all-time. In 1973, he was the AL Rookie of the Year as he batted .337, and in 1980 became the first Oriole to get 200 hits in a season. The good defensive outfielder won a Bronze Star in Vietnam."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Getting Streaky: Who Stole Mora’s Power?

Another reason why signing Carlos Lee isn’t the answer

By Christopher Heun

Three players who may or may not be with the O’s next year are in the midst of some hitting streaks that make you wonder about what the future may bring.

Carlos Lee 2006 season

MIL 388 AB, 18 2B, 28 HR, 81 RBI, .347/.549/.896 OBP/SLG/OPS
TEX 198 AB, 16 2B, 6 HR, 28 RBI, .379/.510/.889 OBP/SLG/OPS

Some people in Baltimore, including many at The Sun, seem to think Lee is the answer to the black hole of futility in left field at Camden Yards. (Through last week O’s left fielders were last in the major leagues with a .681 combined on base/slugging percentage.)
After hitting 28 home runs in little over half a season in Milwaukee, Lee has hit just six in 50 games since coming to Texas in a July 28 trade. His slugging percentage has dropped because many hits that were leaving the ballpark in the National League are now falling for doubles. Still, he’s getting on base at a much higher rate with the Rangers, so his overall OPS is nearly identical.

Is this the big bopper the Orioles want in the middle of their lineup? Suddenly, he’s a glorified doubles hitter.

Kevin Millar 2006 season

Aug. 18: .235/.343/.379/.722 AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS
Sept. 20: .263/.362/.427/.789 AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS

With both Javy Lopez and Jeff Conine gone, Millar has been playing every day, which he cites as the reason for his recent hot streak. He’s hit in 12 of his last 13 games, batting .373 (19-for-51) with four doubles and four homers. That helped raise his average nearly 30 points since August 18.

Millar’s skills are working the count and getting on base; he’s second on the team in walks and on-base percentage. The problem is, for a first baseman, he doesn’t have enough power (14 homers in nearly 400 at-bats). Only three other teams have gotten fewer home runs from their first basemen this year.

He says he wants to come back next year. Sure, but not as the starting first baseman. He’s a pinch-hitter and reserve player, but he might not be ready to accept that role.

Melvin Mora 2006 season, by month

April 104 AB, 7 2B, 5 HR, 12 RBI, .364/.490/.855 OBP/SLG/OPS
May 111 AB, 6 2B, 3 HR, 16 RBI, .380/.468/.849
June 109 AB, 3 2B, 1 HR, 10 RBI, .320/.303/.623
July 103 AB, 1 2B, 3 HR, 17 RBI, .368/.388/.756
Aug. 99 AB, 3 2B, 1 HR, 15 RBI, .295/.283/.577
Sept. 64 AB, 4 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, .299/.469/.767

Total 590 AB, 24 2B, 16 HR, 78 RBI, .341/.397/.738

We love Melvin, especially when he rips his teammates for their losing mentality. But we’re no different than anyone else: we love him a lot more when he’s hitting 27 HR (which he did in 2004 and 2005) and slugging over .500, (which he did in 2003 and 2004). We defended his right to a big-bucks contract this spring, and now that he’s gotten it from owner Peter Angelos, he needs to hit like his old self.

The knock on the contract was that his best years were behind him, but did anyone think his bat would quiet as quickly as this? For three consecutive months this summer, Melvin managed just four extra base hits. Though he’s turned it around somewhat in September, his impersonation of Leo Gomez has got to stop.

Unlike Lee and Millar, there's no doubt Melvin will be an everyday player next season for the Birds. The question is, what kind of player he will be.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Interesting O's Facts

I didn't qualify for the fantasy baseball playoffs, but I still get a ton of e-mails from CBS Sportsline about how my players are performing in real life. Perhaps they're just rubbing it in that I wasted so much time this summer, only to finish with an even record. And I paid 35 bucks to do so. So I guess I wasted money, too.

There was a little bit of payoff from CBS Sportsline this week, as they provided the following interesting facts about our beloved Birds:

  • "Brandon Inge's grand slam on Friday was the 12th allowed by Orioles pitching, a franchise record. The Orioles, who have allowed 11 of the 12 on the road, have only hit one grand slam this season. " (Editor's note: The previous team record for grand slams allowed belonged to the 2000 Orioles, who gave up nine.)

  • "Brian Roberts stole his 34th and 35th bases of the seasonin the first inning Friday. The steal gave Baltimore 110 steals for the season, but just three in their last 14 games. The Orioles have been successful on 81 of their last 100 steal attempts and lead the American League with a 81.4 (110-for-135) success rate this season."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Moose Was a Great Bird

Mussina belongs in the Orioles Hall of Fame ... and an O's uniform

By Matthew Taylor

At the end of August, The Sun's Roch Kubatko posed an interesting question on his "Roch Around the Clock" blog. Having seen, if not heard, this year's induction ceremony for the Orioles Hall of Fame, Kubatko wondered, "Which former Orioles are next in line?"

Kubatko started with some soft toss, throwing out the names of fan favorites like Mike Bordick and B.J. Surhoff. Then he brought the heat: What about Mike Mussina?

Mussina committed a sinful act prior to the 2001 season, leaving the Birds to play for the hated New York Yankees. At the time, my instincts said it was a mortal sin: "To choose deliberately – that is, both knowing it and willing it – something gravely contrary to the divine law."

"Mike Mussina," I said half-heartedly at the time, "Go to Hell."

Six seasons later, I'm ready to consider a different possibility. Yes, Mike Mussina committed a sin. But perhaps it was more of a venial sin, "A moral disorder that is reparable."

The truth is, I've never been able to hate Mike Mussina. I've wanted him back in an O's uniform ever since he traded Orange and Black for pinstripes in 2001. But even if Mussina doesn't return home this off-season – and chances are that he won't – he still belongs in the Orioles Hall of Fame.

For one thing, his departure from the O's was due to the team's failings, not his. Then there's the fact that he was a truly great pitcher during his time in Charm City. Consider also that he's a hard luck guy who deserves better than he's gotten on the diamond, and one who demonstrates class off of it, and you can understand why Mike Mussina is a Bird that I want to return the flock.

So I agree with Roch Kubatko when he writes, "I can't imagine an Orioles HOF without Moose."

The Case for Mike Mussina

Many explanations have been offered for why Mike Mussina left the Orioles following the 2000 season – the inability to get a deal done during spring training or the early part of the season; disagreement over a "no trade" clause; the erroneous belief that Mussina would offer the O's the "home town discount" – but all of the reasons given reflect the team's mismanagement of the situation.

Mussina is one of the Orioles' all-time great pitchers (third in wins, second in strikeouts, fifth in starts). On two occasions he tied the team record for strikeouts in a game, setting down 15 batters on May 16, 1993, and July 5, 1997. Mussina also holds the team record for strikeouts in a season, 218 in 1997.

For the O's, Mussina was a clutch starter who nearly willed the Birds to the '97 American League pennant with 41 strikeouts in 29 postseason innings. He gave up just four runs in four playoff games, twice beating a considerably more dominant Randy Johnson (who went 20-4 and the AL with 12.3 strikeouts per 9 innings). Mussina pitched with such crisp efficiency in the playoffs that he earned the nickname "Mike Machine-a."

Even in his Game 6 defeat that year, he gave O's fans an "I Was There" moment – and I was in fact there – when he pitched eight innings of one-hit ball at Camden Yards with 10 K's and only two walks. This after he established a League Championship Series record with 15 strikeouts in Game 3. Baseball Library describes the dual performances as "two of the most valiant no-decisions in playoff pitching history."

The Wire-to-Wire '97 season and Mussina's postseason heroics are among the best of this 31-year-old's Orioles memories. However, Mussina's greatness extends well beyond that one dominant season. A cynic might point out that Mussina has never won 20 games and has never tossed a no-hitter, two mystical measures of baseball greatness. These facts are true. However, if Mussina were pitching horseshoes or grenades instead of a baseball, he would rank as one of the game's all-time aces.

This season, Mussina tied the American League record for most seasons with 10 wins by the All-Star break. He also became the first pitcher in AL history to win 10 or more games in each of 15 consecutive seasons. However, he has never won 20 games in a single season. He won 17 games three times ('97, '01, and '03) and 18 games three times ('92, '99, '02). Twice, he won 19 ('95, '96).

Consider this from Baseball Library:

"His failure to reach the 20-win benchmark had more to do with bad luck than bad pitches. The player's strike likely cost him a 20-win season both in 1994, when he had racked up 16 wins before the season abruptly ended in mid-August, and in 1995, when he won 19 games but was deprived at least three starts by the truncated 144-game schedule. In 1996 he couldn't nail down a final victory after hitting 19 wins with four starts left. In the penultimate game of the season he staked the Orioles to a 2-1 lead only to watch closer Randy Myers let in the tying run in the ninth inning. In 1999 he won 18 games but missed four starts in August and September after he was struck in the right deltoid by a liner off the bat of Brook Fordyce."

Then there's the issue of the no-hitters. Again, from Baseball Library:

"Equally frustrating were Mussina’s string of near no-hitters. On May 30, 1997 he retired the first 25 Cleveland Indians before catcher Sandy Alomar, Jr. lined a single to left field with one out in the ninth, denying him what would have been the first perfect game in franchise history. (The following May, Alomar would drill a single that hit just below Mussina’s right eye, bloodying his face, fracturing his nose and sending him to the DL for three weeks.) After fanning the last two hitters, Mussina settled for a one-hit, 10-strikeout shutout. Less than a month later he tossed seven no-hit innings at Milwaukee before Jose Valentin opened the eighth inning with a single. He flirted with perfection again the next season, setting down the first 23 Detroit Tigers on August 4, 1998 before giving up a two-out eighth-inning double to Frank Catalanotto.

His no-hit karma also followed him north. In a nationally televised Sunday night game on September 2, 2001, he tossed another near-masterpiece at Boston’s Fenway Park. When the Yankees finally broke a scoreless tie with an unearned run off veteran David Cone in the top of the ninth, Mussina needed only three outs to complete a perfect game. After retiring the first two batters of the inning, he got ahead of pinch-hitter Carl Everett 1-2 before the BoSox outfielder punched a high fastball into left-center field to ruin his bid at pitching immortality."

Beyond all of the on-field greatness, Mussina is a class act off of the field. I tried to cast the man to eternal damnation after he sold his soul to the pinstriped devil, but the truths are these:

  • Mussina is no Derek Jeter – an endlessly hyped cover boy who has no flaws, but only because sports announcers have airbrushed them from the picture.
  • He’s no Gary Sheffield – a surly talent who you’d allow to be your kid’s hero but not his baby sitter.
  • And he’s certainly no Jason Giambi – a rule breaker whom Bronx fans chastised then cheered based on performance rather than principle.

Mike Mussina is a likeable guy any way you cut it.

Mussina coaches his local Pennsylvania high school football team after the baseball season ends. He's an old school guy who, despite working in the big city, loves his home town (population: 5,000) and wants to return there when he retires. He even served as a board member for Little League Baseball.

Mussina fell decimal points short of being his high school's valedictorian and went on to graduate with an economics degree from Stanford in just three years.

Finally, Mussina's a guy who knows tragedy all too well after 21 of his Montoursville neighbors perished in 1996 on TWA Flight 800. Mussina returned home that year for as many of the funerals as he could attend.

To hate Mike Mussina is to truly be blinded by hate. (And, yes, I have seen the pseudo-sordid photos of him – 1, 2, 3, 4 – from On the DL.)

Here's hoping that the O's brass has enough vision to strongly pursue Mussina this off-season and to place him in the team's Hall of Fame after his esteemed career ends.

Should the Moose get into the Orioles Hall of Fame after he retires? Vote in our latest poll on the sidebar.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

R. Lopez Doesn't Know What's Good for Him

“I hope I can make another start so I can win 10 games,” he says

By Christopher Heun

In a move that should have been made months ago, struggling starting pitcher Rodrigo Lopez was removed from the rotation last week and sent to the bullpen. His response? To whine that he now might not record 10 victories this season.

Perhaps someone should inform him that he’s lucky to even have a major league job.

Let’s ignore, for a moment, the obvious facts that his
personal statistics mean very little on a fourth-place club, or that he could have earned his 10th win weeks ago if only he hadn’t been among the worst starters in the American League this year.

We can pile on the bad news in a minute. (There’s plenty of it, and his petulance means he deserves to get buried in it.) But first, let’s put on the rose-colored glasses. This move could be good for Lopez because the bullpen has been kind to him in the past.

He started the 2004 season as the odd man out of the Orioles rotation and was nearly unhittable, at one point holding batters to a .138 average, allowing just 17 baserunners in 23 2/3 innings and recording a 0.38 ERA. The Sun described him as “the most effective long reliever in the majors the first six weeks of the season.”

He was promoted to the rotation in May, went 2-1 with a 6.41 ERA in five starts, and was sent back to the bullpen. He wound up making 32 starts that year along with 14 relief appearances, and his 3.59 ERA was sixth best in the AL. His 1.277 walks and hits per innings pitched was 10th best in the league.

He put up similar numbers in 2002, his first year with the Orioles, when he also made five relief appearances. They are without question his best seasons. (For a more in-depth look at Lopez’s career, check out this
story on “The Orioles Warehouse.”)

Last year, he managed to win 15 games with an ERA of 4.90. This season, he’s been awful: 9-15 with a 5.95 ERA. His 15 losses and 115 earned runs allowed were tops in baseball as of Friday.

Lopez has not been giving up more walks than in previous seasons, and he's back to striking out 6.31 batters per nine innings after falling to about five per nine innings a year ago. His problem has been the long ball.

Michael Hollman of “
Inside the Warehouse” pointed out recently that “Lopez has seen a dramatic rise in his home runs allowed rate to 1.56 per nine innings. He's certainly seen his fair share of bad luck, but it's hard to excuse that many home runs.” Which is why it’s galling for Lopez to say this when informed of his demotion to the ‘pen:

“I am not happy and I don't think it's right. But I am trying [not] to be upset. I am just trying to pitch anywhere and I hope I can make another start so I can win 10 games.”
Don’t ask him to pitch in relief next year, either, he said. The Orioles have the rights to the pitcher for 2007.

"No, that's definitely not something that I want to do," he said. "If they are going to give a chance to new starters, that's OK for the team but not for me. I don't know what's going to happen. It's not something that I want to think about, but right now, it's not a good situation for me."

But it is a good situation for him – for him and his stats. Sadly, he’s ignorant of that fact.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Angelos House Needs a Makeover

And while he's at it, pay the help (no, not the players) better, too.

By Christopher Heun

Twice this summer I have made the trip from New York back to the house in the Baltimore suburbs where I grew up to help my parents prepare to sell it. There are 30 years worth of memories packed into that house, and they all have to go, along with an attic full of clutter.

The house was a fixer-upper when my parents bought it, and they spent nearly three decades in a state of perpetual rehab. Just when they managed to finish remodeling the upstairs bedrooms, the dining room needed more work. They’re still wrapping up a few final projects – a little painting in the basement, some fresh plaster on a couple of ceilings – before they hang the "For Sale" sign in the front yard.

At some point during all the moving of boxes out of the attic - possibly while I was rediscovering my baseball card collection - it struck me that the house is a lot like the Orioles, a project "with plenty of potential" as the realtors like to say but nevertheless demanding considerable attention and care.

If owner Peter Angelos ever decided to remodel his own home, he would take so long to replace the plumbing that all of the rooms would fall into disrepair. That scenario is playing out on the field, too. By the time the team’s young pitching matures, players like Tejada, Mora and Roberts will be past their primes.

Imagine if Angelos and the O’s were ever a guest on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." The verdict would be to dismantle the roster and rebuild it from scratch. Instead, the obstinate owner has made his bed and forced O’s fans to sleep in it. Snuggling at night with Angelos’ Gollum-like puss would give even the bravest soul nightmares.

Many fans have had enough. They’re not coming out to the ballpark any more. “Through 70 home games, attendance is down nearly 6,000 a game,” Rick Maese reported in The Sun last month. “The Orioles are almost assured of finishing the year with the biggest attendance drop-off in franchise history. About 450,000 fewer fans will have bought tickets to games this season.”

Tune in Sept. 21 to see how many people are so disgusted by Angelos that they’re willing to join a formal “Take Back the Birds” protest during a home game against the Tigers, asking him to sell the team. It seems this crowd is changing the "Extreme Makeover" catchphrase from "Move that bus" to "Move that owner."

The idea sounds like a winner until you realize it’s just a publicity stunt for a local radio station. And, it asks participants to buy a ticket to that day’s game, which makes you wonder if the Orioles promotional department didn’t have a say in organizing the event.

A different sort of Angelos protest, more worthy of support and media attention, has already been taking place at Orioles games. The United Workers Association, which organized a co-op of low-wage workers at Camden Yards, has been demanding a living wage for day laborers for three years.

The group protested outside Angelos's downtown Baltimore headquarters in June. The previous month, more than 40 cleaners and supporters gathered outside of Camden Yards to demand that Angelos approve a worker-owned cleaning company that UWA says “will pay workers a living wage without costing the stadium or Orioles a penny more.”

Last year, the United Workers Association convinced Knight Facilities Management, the company paid to perform janitorial work at Camden Yards, to sign an agreement adopting a code of conduct.

The Baltimore Independent Media Center reported:
“For the past eight years workers who clean Camden Yards after baseball games have endured working without pay, sexual harassment, no breaks, blacklisting, and gone without any mechanism to voice these grievances. The Code of Conduct signed by Knight Facilities Management recognizes their commitment to putting an end to these abuses.”

The organizer of the “Take Back the Birds” protest (who shall not be named here) acknowledges: “The Angelos group purchased the team. It is a business. They bought it fair and square and, sadly, it’s theirs to tear down, destroy or sell – fans and customers be damned.”

He's exactly right. And, for the time being at least, Peter Angelos isn't following my parents' lead by putting a "For Sale" sign out on Eutaw Street. So, rather than waste their time on Sept. 21, O’s fans with a mind for protesting would be better off joining the fight for a living wage. A janitor making $7 an hour just might thank them.

Further reading:

An interview with a former worker at Camden Yards who powerwashed the seats after O’s games.

The Saginaw News reported that Knight Facilities Management agreed give pay raises to UWA workers.

More details about Angelos blocking workers from forming their own cleaning subcontractor at Camden Yards.

And speaking of Rick Maese, he continues building The Sun's case for Cal to replace Peter at the top.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Sensing a Theme?

Is it sheer coincidence, or is The Sun subtly building a case for new ownership at the Warehouse? Perhaps Peter Angelos should talk to Governor Ehrlich about local newspaper relations.

First, an Op-Ed from Tuesday's paper:

Exasperated O's fans deserve better, on and off field (link to full article)
If you grew up loving baseball and cherishing the way it was played by the Baltimore Orioles, these dog days of summer are filled with sheer anguish and frustration. The "Oriole Way" that once produced 24 winning seasons out of 26, and a palpable spiritual bond between a city and its worthy team, has dissolved into history amid a disheartening run of ineptitude that, without a remarkable September turnaround, is about to produce a ninth consecutive losing year.

This accumulating record of failure, and the manner in which it has been achieved, has so ruptured fan relations that the only late-season rally being contemplated this year is a protest rally being promoted by a sports talk-radio station. That exercise is conceived not only as a show of passion for Orioles baseball but also as a communal denunciation of team management. Indeed, the stated goal is nothing less than to encourage the sale of the team to new ownership. Such is the state of exasperation of Orioles fans.

This sentiment is representative of the thousands of passionate Baltimoreans who grew up in the embrace of a baseball team that was shared across generations, neighborhoods, social classes and educational backgrounds.

Then, the paper ran this short piece on Wednesday about every O's fan's dream scenario:

If Orioles go on market, Ripken has an interest (link to full article)
Cal Ripken Jr. says he would consider purchasing the Orioles if owner Peter G. Angelos put the club up for sale.

"I think I could have value to a group, an ownership group," the former Orioles star said in an interview. "I like Mr. Angelos, and I don't know what's going to happen to his club, but if it were for sale, it would be interesting to explore."

Perhaps Thursday's Sun will document in excruciating detail Peter Angelos' tenure as Orioles owner.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

More on Markakis

Apparently, the Birds players agree with the majority of fans who have voted in our online poll: Nick Markakis does have a realistic shot at Rookie of the Year.

-O's want honor for Markakis (The Sun)
"He definitely [is getting overlooked], probably because he had such a slow start," Orioles closer Chris Ray said. "You look at this numbers, he definitely has to be the top rookie position player. His numbers are outstanding. The only person I canthink of that could beat him is [Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander]. With the Tigers being in the position where they are, that helps his case. But I think if Markakis keeps doing what he is doing, he has as good of a shot as anybody."

-Meanwhile, from CBS Sportsline:
OF Nick Markakis hit 10 home runs in August, the most by an Orioles rookie in a month. He's hitting .405 (30-for-74) his last 19 games.

"He deserves consideration for (rookie of the year) especially if he has another month like August," Manager Sam Perlozzo said. "He was sort of off everybody's radar until August."

-Baseballistic puts both Nick Markakis and Chris Ray in the running for Rookie of the Year.

-The Baseball Page ranks Markakis and MLB’s “Rookie Phenoms” No. 4 among its nine biggest surprises of the 2005 season.

-No surprise here, but the Most Valuable Network is casting its ballot for Markakis:

“And finally let me get my daily Nick Markakis love in. He slugged another pair of hits on Sunday. That’s a 5 game hit streak for the rookie, with 4 of those games have 2 hits each. All of this hitting has his average up to .301

He’s a rookie in the AL East and he’s hitting .301.

That’s disgusting. This kid is as real as they get. Look for him in rookie of the year voting. He’s got a real shot if they ignore all the pitchers.”

-Finally, here's a chance to see how much the perception of Markakis - as well as his stats - has changed since June. In evaluating the Rookie of the Year candidates, Baseball Notebook wrote of Markakis: “Clearly, this 22-year-old is more of a long-term project.”