Record-low crowd watches Orioles sink even lower

April 12, 2010 | Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Orioles dropped another game 5-1 to the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but fewer people watched it than any other in the history of the beautiful 19-year-old ballpark.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

The picture, taken about 15 minutes before first pitch, says it all. Very few people entered the gates afterward as the the paid attendance of 9,129 was a record low, breaking the previous all-time low of 10,130 set on May 26, 2009 against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The number of actual people in the stands was far lower—probably around 4,000 by best estimation—but we’ve been through that discussion time and time again.

The excuses will start.

It’s April; the kids are in school.

The weather isn’t nice (It was only a frigid 66 degrees, after all).

Tampa Bay isn’t an attractive team to watch (It’s clear very few think the Orioles are either).

Did the small crowd bother the players?

“No, not at all,” said right fielder Nick Markakis. “We still have to go out and play. I could care less if there is nobody in the stands. You have to go out and play and can’t worry about that kind of stuff.”

Markakis’ words certainly don’t translate well to print, but I’ll give him a pass on this one. He lives in the community, is very charitable, and is clearly frustrated with the 1-6 start to the season. His underlying point was the need for the team to focus on improving and no other outside distractions.

A poor choice of words though.

Starter Jeremy Guthrie, who pitched well in a losing effort against Tampa Bay pitcher Matt Garza, took a more diplomatic approach in offering his thoughts about the crowd, citing the enthusiasm exhibited on Opening Day as proof that fans still care about the Orioles.

“I think if we do our part, [the attendance will] turn around.”

Quite frankly, the Orioles haven’t been a team worth forking over any amount of money for a ticket—plus the $2 day-of-game surcharge—in the first seven games of the season.

While Guthrie was strong for a second straight start to begin the season—pitching seven innings and giving up three earned runs—Garza silenced the Orioles bats over eight innings (allowing only a Felix Pie home run to lead off the bottom of the first) to pick up his second win of the season.

“He’s shown himself to be one of the better pitchers in the league,” said manager Dave Trembley.

Again, the Baltimore lineup was anemic, as the Orioles are now just 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position over their last three games and 9-for-57 (.158) for the season. The Orioles have scored three runs in their last three games. They’ve touched home plate in only two of their last 28 innings.

Must I go on?

Something needs to change quickly. From top to bottom—with a modest nod to Miguel Tejada and Matt Wieters—this lineup has been completely outmatched by numerous pitchers.

When asked about the possibility of shaking up the lineup, Trembley was receptive but offered nothing specific.

“Yeah, I probably should do something. Maybe just to show a different look.”

He’d better.

Whether he puts them in numerical order, alphabetical order, shortest-to-tallest, or takes a page from Billy Martin and draws names out of a hat, it HAS to be better than the look we’ve seen over these seven games.

Even using the already-low standards of the previous 12 seasons, it’s getting to be very difficult to watch.

All you have to do is look around at all the empty green seats.

Check out the final box score here.

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Good evening from Oriole Park at Camden Yards as the Orioles (1-5) prepare to take on the Tampa Bay Rays (3-3) in the first of a three-game set. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. with Jeremy Guthrie (0-1, 4.26) will take the hill against Tampa Bay starter Matt Garza (1-0, 1.13) in a rematch of the second game of the season in which Garza stifled the Orioles’ bats in a 4-3 Rays win.

The Orioles will try to rebound from a very disheartening three-game sweep at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays in the first home series over the weekend. The Rays most recently lost two out of three to the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field, including CC Sabathia’s flirtation with a no-hitter on Saturday afternoon in a 10-0 Yankees victory.

In a move surprising no one (especially if you subscribe to the WNST Text Service), the Orioles placed Brian Roberts on the 15-day disabled list with an abdominal strain. The organization has recalled infielder Justin Turner from Triple-A Norfolk to take his spot on the 25-man roster.

In Dave Trembley’s pre-game comments, he would not commit to a set starter at second baseman but said Turner will provide depth. All indications point to a combination of Julio Lugo and Ty Wigginton receiving a bulk of the starts in lieu of Turner, a career .307 hitter in the minor leagues.

I’m not sure how this move helps Turner, and if the Orioles are so desperate to receive an offensive lift from Wigginton or Lugo, the team has bigger problems than we thought.

In what might be a piece of good news for Orioles fans (Hey, just being honest…), Mike Gonzalez will not be with the club until tomorrow as he is with his wife in Arizona awaiting the birth of his daughter. Gonzalez is expected back tomorrow, so there is no chance of a Gonzalez meltdown this evening.

Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

Tampa Bay
SS Jason Bartlett
LF Carl Crawford
RF Ben Zobrist
3B Evan Longoria
1B Carlos Pena
CF B.J. Upton
DH Pat Burrell
2B Reid Brignac
C Dioner Navarro

SP Matt Garza (1-0, 1.13 ERA)

Orioles
LF Felix Pie
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
3B Miguel Tejada
C Matt Wieters
DH Luke Scott
1B Garrett Atkins
2B Julio Lugo
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Jeremy Guthrie (0-1, 4.26 ERA)

As always, please join us for our Orange Crust chat, hosted tonight by Bob Haynie and starting at 7:00 p.m. Remember to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) for the quickest updates from the ballpark.

Please check below for updates (time-stamped) leading up to the first pitch, after which I’ll be joining Bob and other WNST personalities in the chat room.

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6:25 p.m. — Here’s your strange stat of the evening. Tejada is 6-for-14 with a home run and six RBI batting with men on base and 0-for-11 with the bases empty.

At least he’s economical.

6:05 p.m. — Trembley said before the game that Roberts would not accompany the team on the upcoming West Coast trip and said the second baseman may received another epidural injection for the herniated disk in his lower pack (Updated: he has received a second epidural injection). Though Roberts is on the DL due to an abdominal strain, it’s clear the back is still very much a concern for the Orioles’ leadoff hitter.

Roberts is eligible to be activated on April 25, but it is unknown whether the second baseman will return on that date.

In his absence, Trembley mentioned Pie, Lugo, and Jones all as candidates for the top spot in the order as well as the light-hitting Izturis. Regardless of who it is, the Orioles will sorely miss Roberts’ plate discipline and tendency for two-baggers (56 last season).

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