Friday, May 30, 2008

Flashback Friday: Former O's Join the Revolution

You'll pay more for gas than you will for dinner with some former O's

by Matthew Taylor

You've already missed Joe Orsulak, but thanks to the York Revolution you can still grab a hot dog with the likes of Billy Ripken, Rick Krivda, Davey Johnson, Mickey Tettleton, Al Bumbry, Boog Powell, and Mike Bordick.

Just head up to Pennsylvania on a Tuesday night with $30 in your pocket; the money will get you a ticket to the game and a buffet with a former Bird.
Can you really pass up a chance to ask Krivda about those nine glorious wins he earned with the Birds?

The team's press release provides the details.

On all Tuesday home dates this season the Revolution will offer fans the chance to have an all-you-can-eat dinner with a former Oriole for the price of 30 dollars apiece, 27 dollars if purchased in advance of the game. This unique event for local Oriole fans to dine with their heroes will begin on May 13 against the Newark Bears, when Joe Orsulak visits Sovereign Bank Stadium. Currently, eight former Orioles are scheduled to appear (schedule and player availability subject to change.) Highlighting the schedule are all-time greats Boog Powell and Davey Johnson, in addition to York Revolution fan favorite Al Bumbry.

No word yet on whether the buffet includes Froot Loops.

A visit to Sovereign Bank Stadium this summer will also offers glimpses of Chris Hoiles (York's manager - read Dempsey's Army and then ask Hoiles about the '93 season), Tippy Martinez (pitching coach) and Sam Snider (assistant coach). Tippy might even keep his eyes open for your photo (see above).

[Image source: The York Revolution. Click on link to see original.]

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

An Evening Worth Remembering: Birds 10, Yanks 9

Roar from 34 offers a recap of the game's final, memorable moments

by Matthew Taylor

Orioles 10, Yankees 9

It had become a game where each at-bat could deliver the multifaceted evening's final, defining storyline. The Orioles laid waste to the "Damn Yankees" narrative in the bottom of the 11th inning with Aubrey Huff's game-tying double. With Huff now on third, advancing an extra base on Derek Jeter's relay home, it seemed the next solid crack of timber would become the most telling in the game's re-telling.

The winning run creeped closer to the plate as Huff took his lead from third base.
Luke Scott dug in against LaTroy Hawkins, ready to offer the game's writers an easy out should he deliver Huff home. One week ago, to the very day were it not for the clock having already passed midnight, the emotional pitcher, Hawkins, threw too high, too tight, too intentional for Scott to allow the moment to pass without an exchange of less-than-pleasantries. This night's pitches likewise had meaning, though of a different variety; a free pass was issued. Scott took his base the easy way and the revenge motif jogged its way down the first base line.

Kevin Millar strode to the dish. Here again was a good story waiting to be told. A third round tripper by the aging veteran and de facto team leader would be best, turning an ordinary spring game into an unforgettable Orioles moment, one forever committed to fans' memory banks and to the team's highlight reels. Instead, Hawkins offered another intentional walk, setting up the force at home and a potential double play. The echoes of one fan's exhortations could be heard on the game's broadcast, an encouragement to Millar to take a cut instead of a free pass.

Thus it fell to
Alex Cintron to cap an evening where the Birds, having twice rallied from four-run deficits, having outlasted the rain and Yankee closer Mariano Rivera, put together one final push to secure an 11-inning, 10-9 victory. The dramatic contest ended with the team's reserve shortstop delivering what was officially a single but in truth served as a glorified sacrifice fly with the outfield playing shallow to cut down the winning run at the plate. For all of its individual dramatic moments, the run-on sentence of a game that stretched from Tuesday into Wednesday fittingly ended with a period rather than a exclamation point.

The second game of the Orioles' three-game set with the Yankees would not allow itself to be reduced to an individual moment. And rightly so. The gritty, go-down-fighting Birds gutted out another morale-boosting win, this one made greater by its timing and by the uniforms worn by the vanquished opponent.
Images told the story better than words, with Ramon Hernandez's extra-inning belly flop into second base and an exhausted Melvin Mora's tumbling dive to the plate with the tying run serving as appropriate, metaphoric visuals for the team's effort.

Baseball may not hand out any trophies in May, but the game does deliver its share of small, memorable victories. For one Spring night, the O's rewarded their fans' patience.

[Image source: The New York Times (click link for original photo)]

Monday, May 26, 2008

Streakbusters! O's Win Over Yanks Ends Two Streaks

Birds give the Yankees their good, better, and best efforts

by Matthew Taylor

Good, better, best - it’s always good to
beat the Yankees, better to do it when it breaks an O’s losing streak and a Yanks win streak, best when it allows the teams to flip places in the standings.

The O’s started a critical home stand with a resounding 6-1 Memorial Day victory. Here are some specific elements from the game that also rank as good, better, and best.


-The O’s touching up LaTroy Hawkins for three runs in 2/3 of an inning less than a week after Hawkins went
head-hunting in the Bronx. That’s much sweeter revenge than returning deliberately errant fire. When combined with Luke Scott's late-game blast last week after Hawkins got tossed, the O's have had the last laugh on this one.


-Nick Markakis, a linchpin to the O’s offense,
swinging a good bat, going 3-for-4 with a double, home run, and two RBIs. But that’s to be expected when he faces Darrell Rasner. Markakis came into the game batting .875 against the Yankee right-hander (7-for-8). If facing Rasner is what it takes to get Markakis on track, all the better.

-More from Markakis. His eighth outfield assist, best among AL outfielders, cut down Johnny Damon at the plate in a key sequence. As Markakis
said after the game: "It always feels good to hit the ball out of the park, but it's not all about hitting. You have to play defense, too. Good teams play good defense. That's what I try to do."


-Garrett Olson pitching a gem: 7.0 IP, 3 hits, 0 runs, 4 BB, 7 Ks.

After tossing breaking balls that the Yankees battered in the Bronx last week for six runs in three innings, Olson returned to the mound against the same team and gave a stalwart effort. The outing could well be a key moment in Olson’s development, an effort that speaks to the young southpaw’s maturity and ability to make adjustments. Spencer Fordin of offers
a good read on Olson.

Pitching must be the foundation of the O’s future. Right now, it’s what’s keeping this team from freefalling below .500 and providing reason for hope in the future.

From Charm City to the Emerald City - A Visit to Safeco Field

Take yourself out to the ballgame in Seattle. You'll be glad you did

by Matthew Taylor

My affection for the Seattle Mariners began in the 259th minute of Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS. That’s when Edgar Martinez doubled off of Jack McDowell to score Joey Cora and Ken Griffey, Jr. The pair of runs secured an extra innings win, 6-5, and a series victory over the hated Yankees. The enemy of my enemy is a friend.

Nearly thirteen years after that rousing playoff victory, the Mariners have moved from the Kingdome to Safeco Field. The names on the backs of the uniforms have likewise changed. Nevertheless, the city of Seattle hasn’t forgotten its history, nor has it forgotten its heroes. A visit to one of baseball’s best ballparks, located on the corner of First Avenue and Edgar Martinez Drive, supports both points.

During our recent vacation, my wife and I toured Safeco on a sunny and therefore atypical day in the Emerald City. Later that evening we attended the Mariners’ Interleague game against the visiting San Diego Padres. The nice weather allowed us to enjoy an open-air environment throughout the day and evening at the ballpark that features baseball’s only “retractable umbrella” (an opening above the left-field bleachers when the roof is closed keeps the stadium from ever truly being a dome).

Our tour began alongside the home team’s dugout, just a drag bunt away from the very Kentucky bluegrass that has been in place since the park opened on July 15, 1999. Even the grass has stories at Safeco.

Because of its shine on one side, the bluegrass can produce the alternating pattern that’s a staple at all Major League parks. However, groundskeepers in Seattle have to know more than just how to create patterns in the grass. During the Jay Buhner years the right-field blades were to remain higher than the rest of the grass in order to protect Buhner’s knees, left tender from so many years playing on the Kingdome’s Astroturf.

After taking in the amazing field-level views and sitting in the home team’s dugout, we proceeded through the stadium’s innards. Few people actually have the opportunity to view the Mariners’ enormous clubhouse, and things were no different on this spring day.

The regularity with which Seattle players appear in the clubhouse on game days and non-game days alike prevents all but a handful of visitors from seeing the luxurious accommodations. Blame Edgar Martinez, who still has a locker at the ballpark and pays regular visits to his old battleground. Or if you’d prefer, point a finger at Ichiro, whose unparalleled work ethic brings him to the park frequently enough that the M's could justifiably charge him rent.

Should you run in to Ichiro, having a conversation with him might not be as difficult as you’d imagine; Ichiro reportedly speaks great English. However, baseball’s record holder for hits in a single season decided to do interviews exclusively in Japanese after being misquoted in the U.S. press.

Other stops on the Safeco tour included: the umpires’ room, which (perhaps) ironically features Braille on the outside door marker; MLB’s second-largest press box, an expansive enclosed area, randomly dotted with damage from screaming foul balls, where approximately 30 Japanese beat reporters cover Ichiro’s every move; the owner’s box; and the team’s hangout for big spenders, the Diamond Club, with its extensive collection of rare baseball memorabilia.

Among the memorabilia in the Diamond Club are an autographed team portrait of the 1927 New York Yankees; a rare photo of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig fishing together (the pair later had a falling out, rumored to have resulted from Ruth’s comments and/or actions toward Gehrig’s wife); and Babe Ruth’s contract with the Yankees. The Yankees’ owner at the time predicted that no baseball player would ever earn more than Ruth’s $80,000. Little did he know that several decades later A-Rod would walk by that very contract as a member of the Mariners, and perhaps have a laugh.

Jim, an affable tour guide with a storyteller’s manner, brought the trip through Safeco to life with an historian’s knowledge of the game and a demonstrable passion for the home team. The experience wasn’t complete, however, until we did what the team’s majority owner, Minoru Arakawa, has yet to do – attend a Mariners home game. Arakawa, the former president of Nintendo, will make his first visit to Safeco, traveling by boat rather than plane due to his fear of flying, should Seattle ever appear in the World Series.

Regular season visitors to Safeco can find one of the most family friendly and fan-friendly environments in all of baseball. To some, such a statement would suggest a less-than-passionate fan base, a description that clearly doesn’t apply to Mariner loyalists.

Substantial lines formed outside of Safeco as many as four hours before the 7:05 p.m. start on this evening, which happened to be J.J. Putz Bobblehead Night. From inside the stadium during the game, to the streets of Seattle afterward, to the hotel’s valet stand at the end of the evening, local residents were roundly interested in the game’s outcome. These Mariner fans could perhaps best be described as invested without being impolite.

The team makes it easy for fans to remain engaged during games with a centerfield scoreboard that continually lists the team lineups, provides more detailed information about the current batter, and offers the proper scoring after each play is completed. Meanwhile, additional scoreboards throughout the park provide running summaries of plays, pitch speed and type, and batting information for the current inning (i.e. what each batter has done).

Our seats in the left-field bleachers kept us from viewing Safeco’s out-of-town scoreboard. However, the Mariners’ West Coast location takes the pressure out of scoreboard watching since most Major League games are either finished or near completion by the time Seattle starts playing. The team broadcasted the final innings of one such game, the A’s and Braves match-up, during batting practice.

Jim, our friendly guide, explained during the stadium tour earlier in the day that Safeco combines elements from the best of baseball’s other ballparks, mentioning Camden Yards by name as part of that conversation. Rejecting the word “steal” as a descriptor, Jim alternately explained that Safeco “borrows the best features from other stadiums and improves upon them.”

Safeco clearly features a mix of such ballpark gems as Camden Yards, Jacobs Field, and Wrigley. The stadium immediately ranks in the highest grouping of my own personal favorites list, running neck-and-neck with Pac-Bell/AT&T Park and, of course, Camden Yards. Gazing down the left-field line with my eyes set toward home plate, I absorbed the crowd's anticipatory energy and connected with the rising sense of enthusiasm that permeated these truly friendly confines. Wistfully, I recalled better days in our own home park.

Seattle is one baseball town that's easy to love. This time around it didn’t take a victory over the Yankees to make that point.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Gone from Baltimore, Rleal Now Barnstorming

After one MLB season, Sandy Rleal looks to resurrect career in Atlantic League

by Matthew Taylor

He appeared seemingly from nowhere and then disappeared just as quickly. But former O's reliever Sandy Rleal hasn't vanished; he just went to Pennsylvania.

Rleal is currently a member of the Lancaster Barnstormers team in the Atlantic League. Jason Guarente
tells his tale.
Few players have Sandy Rleal's story. The hard-throwing righthander was in the big leagues two years ago and appeared to be part of the Baltimore Orioles' future.

Today, no major league organization is willing to give Rleal a chance. He came to the Lancaster Barnstormers after not even getting invited to spring training in February.

How did Rleal's fortunes change so quickly?

"I don't know, man," he said with a smile. "The game is crazy sometimes. I'm going to give it 100 percent and I'm confident I can get back to the big leagues. If I do a good job here, I'll sign somewhere."
Rleal pitched one season for the Orioles, in 2006, and put up some pedestrian numbers - 4.44 ERA, 46.1 IP, 19 Ks, 23 BBs. The team expected more from the young hurler coming out of camp, as detailed by Jorge Arangure, Jr. of The Washington Post.
But it is Rleal who has appeared practically out of nowhere. Last season he had a 2.04 ERA for Class AA Bowie and saved 16 games after Ray was called up to the majors. A wicked change-up has made him a sensation this spring. Though Rleal throws 91-93 mph, relatively tame by major league standards, he deceives hitters with the change-up, a pitch he can throw for a strike in any count. Rleal is fearless with the pitch.
Despite those expectations, Rleal's Major League disappearing act is still something of a mystery. Baltimore-area baseball fans can catch him in action again when the Lancaster Barnstormers visit Brooks Robinson's Southern Maryland Blue Crabs June 20 through 22 and again Aug. 8 through 10.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Flashback Friday: The Origin of the Baltimore Chop

Flashback Friday has to go way back for this one; specifically, 1894

by Matthew Taylor

Most discussions of O's history begin with the St. Louis Browns' move to Baltimore in 1954, which gave birth to the modern franchise. However, as Orioles Baseball observes, "Since the 1880’s in one league or another there was a team from Baltimore called the Orioles."

Some 114 years ago, on May 23, 1894, one of the earliest incarnations of the Baltimore Orioles (pictured above) lost to the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, 5-1. Check out the original box score from that game, as seen in The New York Times.

The 1894 team was a rough-and-tumble bunch, known to do anything to get an advantage, fair or otherwise. Thus was the "Baltimore Chop" born. David R. Haus, Jr., of Bowling Green University explains the origin of the phrase:

The National League was concerned about the rough play and actions of its players during the 1890s. Fights broke out between players and umpires, fans and players, and fans and umpires. Players cheated, threw games for money, swore, spit, and much more. The champions of such behavior were the Baltimore Orioles.

The Baltimore Orioles paid off their groundskeepers to hide cement slabs in front of home plate. The resulting high bouncers came to be know as the "Baltimore chops." Fans used mirrors to reflect sunlight into the eyes of opposing batters and fielders. Fans were also given dead . After a foul ball would go into the stands, the fans would throw back a deadened ball. Players would elbow, trip, punch, and hold base runners, taking advantage of the fact that there was only one umpire. They would cut second base on the way to third if the umpire was not looking. Players would hide baseballs strategically in the tall outfield grass. The Baltimore Orioles would do anything to win whether or not it was legal.

The 1894 Baltimore Orioles finished 89-39 and won the National League pennant. The team included the likes of catcher Wilber Robinson, first baseman Dan Brouthers, second baseman Heinie Reitz, third baseman John McGraw, shortstop Hughie Jennings, leftfielder Joe Kelley, centerfielder Steve Brodie, rightfielder Willie Keller, pitchers Kid Gleason, Bill Hawke, and Sadie McMahon, and "closer" Tony Mullane. McGraw, Jennings, Kelley, Brouthers, Robinson, and Keeler were Hall of Famers along with manager Ned Hanlon.

Think today's rivalries are fierce? Consider the 1894 rivalry between the teams from Baltimore and Boston (information originally drawn from "The People's Almanac").
In May, 1894, the legendary John McGraw, then with the Baltimore Orioles, got into a fight with Boston's third baseman. Soon both teams were battling, and the warfare spread to the stands, which were promptly set on fire. The entire ballpark burned to the ground, along with 170 other Boston buildings. The memories of that incident were so bitter that when the New York Giants--with McGraw managing--won the National League title in 1904, McGraw refused to play in the world Series against the American League champion Boston Braves.
The National League eliminated this early version of the Baltimore Orioles in 1899. Two years later the Baltimore Orioles were given new - albeit short - life. The latter team was purchased by New York for $18,000 on Jan. 9, 1903 and became the Yankees.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hawkins' High Heat Another Case of Subjective Baseball Etiquette

The game's unwritten rules are misunderstood and unevenly applied

by Matthew Taylor

"I tried to throw the fastball a little bit in and the ball moved too much. So that's why I maybe hit him. But they know I didn't do it on purpose."

-Daniel Cabrera

The problem with baseball's unwritten rules is that no one has bothered to write them down. If someone had, Jim Palmer certainly would’ve offered a more accurate prediction when Gary Thorne inquired during Tuesday night’s game as to whether the Yankees would retaliate for Daniel Cabrera hitting Derek Jeter with a pitch during a 10-0 ballgame.

Shortly after Palmer explained that it would be ridiculous for the Yankees to bean an O’s player in response to Cabrera’s errant pitch, LaTroy Hawkins started tossing balls at Luke Scott’s head. If anyone should know the proper conduct on the mound it would be Palmer, which underscores the subjective nature of that ridiculous concept known as baseball etiquette.

There are many examples that demonstrate this subjectivity.

-A-Rod yelling “I got it” on the base paths last season to distract Howie Kendrick violated baseball etiquette. That is, unless you asked Tommy Lasorda, who defended Rodriguez’s distraction in the press as an effort to gain a competitive edge.

-Ben Davis breaking up Curt Schilling’s perfect game in 2001 with an 8th inning bunt was a clear violation of baseball tradition, so much so that Diamondbacks Manager Bob Brenly referred to the move after the game by using a compound word synonymous with poultry excrement. But, as this Ron Cook column shows, some viewed Davis’s late-inning bunt as a shrewd effort to manufacture runs in a tight, 2-0 ballgame.

And the list goes on. For a good read on the topic, and additional examples, check out this 2001 SI article by Stephen Cannella, who writes, “there has been enough contention … over how the sport’s unwritten code of etiquette has evolved that perhaps the fine points do need clarifying.”

Ultimately, what bothers me most about baseball etiquette is that the judgments rendered about potential violations are often made relative to the player involved. Baseball justice is not blind.

Consider bean-ball-throwing, bat-tossing Roger Clemens. Celebrated during his playing career for his toughness, defined in part by his willingness to drill batters for even the most minor of perceived infractions, Clemens appeared in a Sports Illustrated cover story titled “Chin Music” that ran during the spring of 1999.

Several months earlier, in the fall of 1988, the magazine took a decidedly different tact in its treatment of Armando Benitez. SI joined in the vilification of Armando Benitez for hitting Tino Martinez between the numbers and touching off an ugly brawl at Yankee Stadium. Granted, Benitez shouldn't have thrown so high, but Clemens was equally as dangerous with his actions over the course of his career.

Or try out the example of Manny Ramirez. Ramirez is regularly excused by fans and journalists alike for actions including posing at the plate and generally acting like an idiot because, well, it’s just “Manny Being Manny.” Such was the case again last week when Ramirez slapped hands with a fan in the front row at Camden Yards following a running catch. Said Jon Lester: “That was a great play. It definitely saved that inning. That’s Manny being Manny. He’s talking about the Gold Glove and playing better defense and he’s showing he can.”

Compare that to the reaction when Lastings Milledge shared his enthusiasm with the fans after going deep for the first time: “When Milledge hit his first major league home run in June 2006, tying a game against the Giants in the bottom of the 10th inning, he high-fived Mets fans at Shea Stadium as he jogged to right field. That didn’t ingratiate Milledge with his angry manager, Willie Randolph, or some of his teammates, one of whom placed an infamous ‘Know Your Place, Rook!’ sign on Milledge’s locker.”

I suppose “Lastings Being Lastings” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Flashback Friday: Classic O's Baseball Cards

From Aase to Weaver, this week's "Flashback Friday" brings you a collection of past Orioles' baseball cards, including the infamous Billy Ripken card. Okay, so Eddie's isn't a card, but the photo's too good to pass up.

Have a favorite? Let us know why in the comments section, and don't forget to vote in the Flashback Friday poll.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Sports Illustrated Ranks Baseball's Greats by Number

Cal, Eddie, and Palmer are givens, but who else made the list?

by Matthew Taylor

NumerOlogy must love this. has ranked its “Best Baseball Players by Number.” Here’s a rundown of where former O’s – long-timers and short-timers alike – landed on the list.

The Best by Number

Cal Ripken – No. 8. How many Baltimore-area Little Leaguers proudly sported No. 8 during Ripken’s career?

Eddie Murray – No. 33. “Ed-die, Ed-die, Ed-die.”

Jim Palmer gets No. 22. Jimmy Key and Will Clark “worthy of consideration,” according to, but Palmer gets the easy nod.

Albert Belle – No. 88. Somewhere Rene Gonzalez softly weeps. NumberOlogy notes that three Birds have sported a pair of eights.

Roberto Alomar – No. 12. One of the all-time greats when he came to play.


Luis Aparacio - No. 11. "Little Louie" handled everything that came his way as part of the Birds’ first-ever World Series championship team.

Worthy of Consideration, according to SI

Harold Baines - No. 3. The Maryland native was all hit, no run. But boy could he hit. That’s why every Jan. 9 is “Harold Baines Day” in St. Michael’s. Hard to make a case for anyone over Baltimore-native Babe Ruth, no matter your loyalties.

Brooks Robinson - No. 5. It’s hard to compete with Joe DiMaggio, but surely Brooks rivals Johnny Bench for the runner-up spot.

Paul Blair - No. 6. How many students at Catonsville High School knew that their substitute teacher, Blair, was among baseball’s best? Blair substituted at CHS in the '90s.

Reggie Jackson - No. 9. You were thinking Brady Anderson, weren’t you?

Miguel Tejada - No. 10. Think ESPN will challenge Tejada on this number as well?

Davey Johnson - No. 15. I wonder if Peter Angelos has registered his disagreement with this decision.

Scott McGregor - No. 16. Smooth lefty in good numerical company with the likes of Whitey Ford, Hal Newhouser, Doc Gooden, Bo Jackson, and Frank Viola.

Sammy Sosa - No. 21. Fair to say this has nothing to do with his performance in Baltimore.

Fred Lynn and Dave McNally - No. 22. Fred Lynn played fewer than four seasons in Baltimore, but I remember him as an O. Why? Sitting in the leftfield bleachers at Memorial Stadium I learned a thing or two about fan etiquette thanks to a Fred Lynn multi-homer game. The locals gave the outfielder a standing ovation as he made his way to the outfield following the second blast.

Jesse Orosco - No. 47. Three cheers for the snap dragon, Orosco’s go-to pitch with the Birds.

Mike Boddicker and B.J. Ryan - No. 52. Like Lynn, Boddicker split time between Baltimore and Boston. Unlike with Lynn, Birds fans have more of a claim to Boddicker, who had his lone 20-win season in Baltimore and won a World Series with the O’s.

Arthur Rhodes - No. 53. Roar from 34 loves Arthur Rhodes, but perhaps a lack of competition factored into this decision.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Coulda, Woulda ... Shoulda?

It depends which pitcher you're talking about

by Matthew Taylor

Aside from providing the gritty details about the Birds' disappointing result on Monday night, a 2-1 loss to the Athletics in 10 innings, this morning's box scores offered some interesting "coulda beens" for Baltimore fans.

What Could Have Been:

Ervin Santana, 2008 numbers: 6-0, 2.02 ERA, 38Ks, 9BBs

Monday @ Kansas City: 9 IP, 4 hits, OER 9 Ks, 0 BB

From the archives:

O’s reject offer of Santana, Aybar for Tejada

The Orioles have rejected the Angels' seemingly compelling offer of top young pitcher Ervin Santana and shortstop prospect Erick Aybar for superstar shortstop Miguel Tejada, has learned.

And while Baltimore remains engaged in trade talks with the Astros and Rangers, the Angels appear out of the hunt and the chances for any trade involving Tejada are diminishing ....

What Could Have Been:

Kevin Millwood, 2008 numbers: 2-3, 4.94 ERA, 29Ks, 18BBs

Monday @ Seattle: 3 IP, 9 hits, 7ER, 2Ks, 1BB

From the archives:

Report: Orioles Make Offer to Byrd


The Orioles spent last winter looking for a more experienced starter to support their group of young starting pitchers, but never got one -- and they're looking once more this offseason.

Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan told The Sun that the Orioles have talked with Byrd's agent, Bo McKinnis, but did not confirm or deny that an offer was made. The Sun also said that the Orioles are going to go after Nomar Garciaparra, a shortstop who finished last season playing third base, and catcher Ramon Hernandez.

The paper also reported the Orioles will take a shot at starter Kevin Millwood, regardless of what happens with Byrd, and have talked with first baseman Paul Konerko's agent ....

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Good News: ESPN Covers the Orioles

The Bad News: ESPN Covers the Orioles

by Matthew Taylor

Will the O's win again before 2012? ESPN's Jonah Keri doesn't think so.

Keri looks at franchises with long streaks of losing seasons, a topic Roar from 34 has addressed before, and doesn't see an end in (near) sight for the Birds. According to the article, the Royals, Pirates, and Rays will top .500 before the O's do. The Nats will arrive on the positive side of the ledger at the same time as Baltimore.

Perhaps Kevin Millar can post Keri's article in the clubhouse for motivation.

Here's the O's analysis from the article:


Length of streak: 10 straight losing seasons
Last winning season: 98-64, 1997
General managers: Pat Gillick (1998), Frank Wren (1999), Syd Thrift (2000-2002), Jim Beattie/Mike Flanagan (2003-05), Flanagan (2006-07), Andy MacPhail (2007-)

Five bad moves
1. Firing Davey Johnson. Yes, he has an ego, and there's a long list of owners and front-office people who've struggled to get along with him. But all he's ever done is win, in New York, in Cincinnati and, yes, in Baltimore. The year before Davey Johnson took over, the Orioles finished two games under .500. The next season, they won 88 games and the wild card, followed by a 98-win season and a division title. The O's cut him loose, and they haven't sniffed .500 since. But sure, Peter Angelos, you go right on losing games and watching your attendance dwindle. At least you showed everyone who's boss.

2. Signing Albert Belle to a five-year, $65 million contract. For all the Orioles' losing, no one could ever blame Angelos for being cheap, and this contract was Exhibit A of the owner's largesse. Belle had one of the best career peaks in baseball history, putting up gigantic numbers. But in giving him such a massive deal after the 1998 season, including a no-trade clause for the first three years, the O's were betting that Belle would stay healthy and hugely productive well into his mid-30s. Instead, Belle played just two more years before a degenerative hip injury forced him to retire.

3. Hiring Syd Thrift, Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan as GMs. Thrift was years past his prime as a talent evaluator, while Beattie and Flanagan owned lackluster track records and did little to move the team forward during their tenure as co-GMs. Of course in Baltimore, a willingness to say yes to the big boss usually transcends a winning résumé.

4. Trading for Sammy Sosa. In the final, $17 million season of a ginormous contract, Sosa had a .221 batting average, a .295 on-base percentage and .376 slugging. He hit 14 homers and played just 102 games. The trade didn't cost the Orioles any impact prospects. But it was a classic example of the kind of short-sighted, money-wasting moves that have plagued this team for more than a decade.

5. Nearly everything else they did in 2005. The O's jumped out to an early division lead in 2005, holding first place for 62 days. By season's end they'd lost 60 of their final 92 games, squandered $17 million on Sosa and fired yet another manager. The coup de grace came from Rafael Palmeiro, who started the year by testifying in front of Congress that he'd never used steroids, cracked his 3,000th hit on July 15, then got suspended 15 days later for testing positive for steroids.

Lowest moment: Facing the Texas Rangers at Camden Yards on Aug. 22 of last year, the Orioles gave up 30 runs, setting a modern-era record for a single game. The O's actually led 3-0 early in the game before allowing 30 straight runs in the 30-3 loss.

Favorite whipping boys: Peter Angelos. Every player, manager, GM and hot dog vendor who failed to do the job in the past 10 years is an extension of Angelos' reign of error.

Notable quotable: "This is something freaky. You won't see anything like this again for a long, long time." --Rangers outfielder Marlon Byrd, after hitting one of Texas' two grand slams in the Rangers' 30-3 annihilation.

Hope for the future? The 15-13 start is nice, but the Orioles probably won't see a winning season for a while. Nick Markakis and Adam Jones are great building blocks in the outfield, Luke Scott is an above-average player as the third outfielder, Brian Roberts and George Sherrill should fetch some interesting loot in a trade, and Matt Wieters is a potential franchise player a year away from taking over at catcher. After that, the closet is nearly bare, with a severe lack of pitching the biggest problem.

ETA for next winning season: 2012.

So what can be made of this analysis? It's tough to defend the many moves over the past decade that have contributed to the O's futility. However, Keri paints in broad, generalized strokes when talking about the past, so there's not much to suggest that he's given the team's future any serious thought either.

A few quick examples to defend the broad brush accusation:

-Trading for Sammy Sosa. It's an easy target, a symbolic example that any fan can quickly comprehend, but it's hardly among the five worst moves the O's have made during the decade of futility. Keri leads with the flashy $17 million numbers but fails to mention that the Cubs picked up a significant portion of the tab.

Under terms of the addendum to Sosa's contract that he signed Wednesday, the Cubs will pay $16.15 million of the $25 million Sosa was still owed under his $72 million, four-year agreement, according to details obtained by The Associated Press.

Baltimore is responsible for just $8.85 million of Sosa's $17 million salary this year, with the Cubs paying the rest. Because Sosa is paid on a 12-month basis and already had received $1,307,692 of his salary this year, that amount was credited to what the Cubs owe Baltimore, meaning the Orioles will receive $6,842,308 in cash from Chicago.

Granted, it's tough to defend the Sosa acquisition as anything more than a PR move to put fans in the seats, especially in light of the results. However, Keri far overstates its role in the franchise's misery. And he misstates the facts in the process. The O's hadn't "squandered $17 million on Sosa" as he writes. Again, it's a symbolic example that only scratches the surface of the problem.

As an aside, the move would actually have been defensible had the O's rested within a stone's throw of contention, making it worthwhile to take a flyer on a bargain-priced, aging slugger. Instead, the move reflected a desperate attempt to grab some headlines and fill extra seats while ignoring the underlying problem of player development.

-The Albert Belle signing. It's fine to list the Belle signing in this ignominious top five, even with Albert's monster numbers from the previous season in Chicago (.328, 49 homers, 152 RBI), his anticipated home run totals in hitter-friendly Camden Yards, and the fact that a fluke injury ended his career. But it's the bigger issues that Keri misses: the guaranteed money that stayed on the O's payroll after Belle retired and Peter Angelos' early obsession with the Yankees, whom he was trying to block from signing Belle.

Just as it's not a good relationship strategy to try and block the wealthy, handsome guy at the end of the bar from taking home the attractive girl, it's not good baseball strategy to build a baseball franchise by trying to block your wealthy, historic division rival from acquiring the biggest name players. You've got to compete on your own terms. By trying to compete with the Yankees, Angelos got strong-armed into a deal with too much guaranteed money. Think there's a reason our fair owner is so concerned about player physicals (see, for example: Bedard trade, 2008) these days?

Keri jokes that Peter Angelos is the city's favorite whipping boy ("Every player, manager, GM and hot dog vendor who failed to do the job in the past 10 years is an extension of Angelos' reign of error."), but offers little insight to the owner's role in the slide. Again, it's an overly broad analysis.

-What, no mention of the 1996 season? Keri throws in "Nearly everything they did in 2005" as the final of his "five bad moves." How about some discussion of the 1996 season instead? Consider: Angelos blocks the team's efforts to trade for prospects at the All-Star break, the Birds rally for a Wild Card appearance, and a monster is born. The O's mortgaged their future for two playoff appearances followed by complete misery after the rotisserie method of player acquisition fell through.

In talking about the team over time I've found that most baseball fans don't really know why the O's are bad, other than to offer simple, generalized answers. Should the O's start winning again any time soon, the answers will likely be oversimplified as well. It's called conventional wisdom. But conventional wisdom, just like Jonah Keri, falls short of providing good answers.

The bottom line is this: few people outside of Baltimore know what's happened with the Orioles. Even sports writers. And when the team is good again (before 2012), people will quickly have to figure out reasons why. Once again, the answers will lack depth. However, I'm pretty sure those explanations won't include the words "overnight success."

Major League Sellout ... Again

I've heard of tough opponents, but how can the Birds expect to take down Indy?

by Matthew Taylor

It appears that the Washington Nationals are playing Indiana Jones on May 22. There's only one problem - so are the Orioles. And every other Major League team, for that matter.

MLB has either screwed up its scheduling, or they've once again sold out to a Tinseltown corporate sponsor. No need to be "Smarter Than a Fifth Grader" to figure this one out.

Other fans have noted the common opponent.
Remember Spider-Man on the base paths? Now we have a sequel. Thanks, MLB.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Flashback Friday - Featuring Brooks Robinson and Earl Weaver

by Matthew Taylor

Going back into the YouTube vaults for some classic O's videos.

First, a Brooks Robinson commercial from the '70s.

Next, an Earl Weaver clip that includes a highlight reel of his tirades and some interviews with umpires who compare him to hemorrhoids and comment that, “He’s gone a little goofy.”