Let The Bashing Begin …..

April 07, 2010 |

Well, it’s almost 7am …. on the morning following the Orioles first defeat of the season. No worries, there will be plenty more wins that “slipped away” before we tuck the 2010 season away in mothballs.

No, I’m not throwing in the towel on my prediction of 76 wins – I still think the birds will have a pretty decent season, as they continue in another chapter of Andy’s Rebuilding Project. But, last night’s game was a tough pill to swallow …..

Ugh, I’m also operating on two hours of sleep. I couldn’t get a wink, last night.

No, I don’t take Orioles baseball that seriously. I’m just excited to talk about last night’s pain, along with some renewed hope, this evening. After two months of bantering back and forth about incidental, debatable topics and vanilla-laden spring training updates, Ray Bachman and I finally have some real substance to discuss, at 2pm.

I’ll imagine many area baseball fans are chomping at the bit to complain about one thing or another. In fact, I’ve purposely steered away from Drew Forrester’s show (which KILLS me), because I don’t wanna hear any of the callers whom we share between both programs.

I’m sure some fans wanna blame certain members of the lineup – who failed to drive in 11 of 12 runners in scoring position …..

Fair enough, but that’s gonna happen. In fact, there will be nights when the very same lineup drives in 9 of those 12 runners.

Watch and see.

I’ll also agree the Orioles lineup is vulnerable with hitters ill-fitted for their spot in the order. I get it – but, it’s not the reason they lost last night’s game. They held a lead entering the bottom of the 9th, PERIOD.

Mike Gonzalez MUST eat this one, all by himself. He’s the guy who cannot surrender runs. His job is clearly defined and it pays quite handsomely for a reason – it takes composure and veins of “ice water,” as some old school insiders would suggest.

Regardless of what the guys swingin’ lumber do, a 9th inning lead must be protected. If not, the team and FANS are in for a season of gut-wrenching disappointment, and walk-off losses.

Look, as much as I’ve hated the last 12 seasons, I’ve understood the meaning behind 9-3 losses with box scores revealing the Orioles were beaten in every aspect of the game. Those are the easy losses to absorb – just chalk it up to playing a much better team.

Last night, Mike Gonzalez didn’t do his job. And, that has seriously destructive consequences …..

Wanna blame Miguel Tejada? Fine ….. he can go 0 for 5 and strand 6 runners. How about Brian Roberts, you wanna hang it on him? He can boot a couple balls and also strand a handful of runners. Yet, the team can still win if that stuff happens.

But, if Mike Gonzalez does not accomplish the ONE THING for which he’s employed, this team will lose each time he fails. Okay, they might pull a couple out …..

But, you get the point.

Last night’s observations of Gonzalez were stressful. He was clearly overthrowing and lacked poise. It appeared he was bent on dispelling the rumors regarding his supposed loss of velocity, in spring training.

While I was impressed by the quick strikeout of Pat Burrell, I also noticed Gonzalez fed him 3 straight fastballs of 91, 94 and 93 miles per hour.

He started off the next hitter, Sean Rodriguez, with another fastball. And for the record, all 4 of those pitches were above the knee caps and over the plate.

Note to Mike ….. YOU’RE GONNA GET RACKED THROWING 4 STRAIGHT BB’s DOWN THE MIDDLE. I DON’T CARE IF YOU’RE FLIRTING WITH THE 100 MPH BARRIER – MIX IT UP, MAN.

And, while we’re at it, lets point out the back to back hits, by Shoppach and Crawford. Mike, you can’t get by with “BOOBIE HIGH” fastballs in the American League. Where is that famed slider …..

I understand and sympathize with the concern over the Orioles hitters leaving so many runners stranded in scoring position. And, yes, that stuff will eventually come back to haunt them – but, saying “if we would’ve scored more runs, we would’ve won,” is ridiculous.

The Orioles lineup provided enough runs to win. Mike Gonzalez couldn’t provide enough outs to ensure it.

Yeah, the situational hitting must improve. And, it will. I wouldn’t be surprised if this lineup looks much different when July rolls around. Maybe it will take a little longer, but Adam Jones and Matt Wieters are gonna inherit the #3 & #4 slots in the lineup. Making such a switch will provide the freedom to move Tejada down to 5th or 6th, while also moving Markakis up to the #2 spot.

I know most fans think Markakis is the best hitter on the team. He’s not. He’s not the best outfielder on the team, either. And, seeing him draw those walks with such a disciplined eye, last night, really reinforced my hope for seeing him set the table for the bigger sticks.

It’s just one game, but stranding runners cannot become an epidemic for this team. And, I do think getting the better bats into the heart of the lineup will aid in downplaying such situations. They’ve gotta score runs.

But, make no mistake about it ….. Mike Gonzalez held last night’s game in the palm of his hand and he dropped it.

I’ll talk to you, this afternoon.

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