It’s really kind of funny,
The O’s got out of Tampa having taken 2 out of 3 games and now sport a 4-2 record against the AL East, and 5-1 against teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year. Getting two of three from Tampa seems like a minor accomplishment, except for the fact that left handed pitching has simply stifled the O’s this season and they were facing two lefties in Casey Fossum and Scott Kasmir. After being shut down by Fossum on Tuesday, things weren’t looking great for the O’s coming into Wednesday’s game against Kasmir, who can be dominant at times.
Let’s also not discount the fact that Monday’s win was a fantastic comeback effort and further evidence that this is a team that will not hang it’s head when things aren’t going well. John Knott is looking good in two games so far, and hit a moon shot in loss on Tuesday. Also worth noting is that Jay Gibbons and Kevin Millar are both batting in the .270’s. Considering the amount of injuries that we’ve had to deal with up to this point, O’s fans can’t be unhappy with the club on the field.
Off the field however is another matter entirely. I wonder if the owner noticed the “Free The Birds” signs posted behind home plate on Tuesday. I wonder about a lot of things when it comes to ownership these days.
The bad publicity continually generated by the current front office is mind-boggling. For the first time in what seems like an eternity for O’s fans, we finally have a good product on the field. And this year, seemingly even more than in years past, the front office generates PR nightmare after PR nightmare. I used to think that the bad publicity was simply a by-product of the substandard play on the field. I figured that once the team became exciting again the fans and media would turn their attention back to the field.
And I think it would have happened too, except that the team has alienated nearly every media outlet in town. Even those who are in business with the Orioles have had their ability to cover the team inhibited by ownerships mandates and restrictions.
Speaking of what I used to think, I used to think also that Angelos was driving the fans away on purpose. I bought the theory that he was driving fans away to keep a team out of DC. It’s an out there theory, I know, but it made perfect sense. The Orioles had every reason to want to keep the team out of DC, they were already at a disadvantage in their division economically, and this would only widen the disparity. Secondly, this was a fight in which Angelos had no allies. Comcast was looking to get rich off of bringing another team into their region, or so they thought. The State of Maryland surely saw an opportunity to try and have the team play in Maryland, or so they thought. So Peter went to drastic measures to try and fight this fight on his own.
The evidence was all in place, after disassembling the 1998 team, the O’s continually put a sub standard product on the field, refused to hire a definitive general manager, stopped employing simple marketing strategies to sell tickets that had been used for years, stopped talking to the media, and generally gave everyone a bad feeling about the club. It was all too calculated to be coincidental. With that said, the DC matter is resolved, and yet the team is trying harder than ever to push the fans away. Why?
The front office, perhaps despite the best efforts of ownership has delivered us an exciting team, and one that is fun to watch. In fact, if you were listening to Baltimore sports talk in the late 90’s, you will remember that most who called were asking the club to blow up their aged, high priced, prima donna roster and give us a young club that played with some heart. We knew that there would be struggles; building through the farm system in the AL East hasn’t been an effective strategy since the late 80’s. But the team clearly needed a new direction.
That’s what we finally have on the field, if Angelos had delivered us a roster like the O’s present roster, back in 1999 and 2000 when we were asking for it, he’d probably have a statue by now. Instead he has delivered it nearly a decade too late to restore the faith that we have all lost in him since then. And I will take the wait and see approach in reference to whether he will be ale to keep this nucleus together or add the pieces necessary to make them a real contender.
And yet, fans hungry for their O’s are in danger of falling in love with their team all over again, despite the best efforts of ownership. So this year, one in which the O’s can be not only competitive but also captivating, a year in which they could win some young fans and hold onto them as long as they are able to keep this young nucleus of talent together. So how else do you explain the barrage of negative publicity that he O’s have created for themselves through the local media? I am not just talking about WNST here, everyone’s access has been cut, the club has made it impossible for anyone to cover the team objectively and maintain access. Imagine if the Ravens banned Mike Preston from their locker room.
So, why? If the team had not started this flame war, we’d only be talking about the club. If Nestor was given access, what could he really say about this team? They re playing well, they are fun to watch, they seem to have a bright future. All we ever asked for was a competitive team, perhaps this team. Regardless, the current wave of bad PR is further “evidence” that the club is doing everything it can to alienate it’s fans. Is their any easier way to get bad publicity than by pissing off the media?
Angelos clearly does not want you to come top the ballpark. I refuse to believe otherwise, he has been way too bad, way too regressive for this not to be intentional. It obviously has nothing to do with keeping baseball out of DC anymore. So I want to know why he doesn’t want you at the park. He clearly doesn’t. Maybe he is going to sue MLB, or maybe the state, or the stadium authority, or the Ravens. There is simply no denying the fact that this is a concerted effort.
If you know why, or totally disagree and have another theory, I’d love to hear about it. Shoot me e-mail at email@example.com and I will address as many as I can here in this forum, or on the show on Saturday from 4-7pm.
Brooms and Umbrellas
The O’s completed a rain aided sweep of the Royals on Sunday when the game was cancelled due to bad weather. An extra off day in April can’t be a bad thing, as the O’s do have a horrid schedule to begin the season, but you hate to see this momentum stop. The O’s pitching has been lights out so far for the most part, and although the bats have been much maligned, they certainly are coming around too. The O’s did have 12 hits on Thursday despite only 2 runs, and the bats came alive over the weekend to the tune of two grand slams.
The O’s are back to .500 and two games behind the Red Sox and one behind Toronto in the loss column. After starting the season 0-3, the O’s should be happy to be back to .500 so quickly and have a lot to be pleased with themselves about. This is clearly a resilient bunch, after dropping 3 to open the season they came back and took 2 out of 3 from the Yankees, they rebounded from a brutal defeat last Saturday at the hands of A-Rod and the Yanks and came back to beat them the following day. And after dropping a heartbreaker to Detroit on Wednesday in extra innings, they came back to pull out an extra inning contest the following day against KC.
The bullpen has been amazing, and it seems the O’s did at least one thing right this off-season. If you were wondering who was going to be the O’s biggest pleasant surprise this season, look no further than lefty reliever John Parrish. Perhaps he was challenged by the fact that he had become an afterthought in this bullpen, whatever it is that John Parrish is doing differently this time around it sure is working. He seems to be the O’s best spot reliever, and has been excellent at keeping inherited runners on base. Parrish isn’t the classic strikeout pitcher, but has been racking them up so far this year and is currently 5th in the majors at just over 15.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
I have been complaining a lot about the weather and number of weather related delays thus far. There were six more rainouts on Sunday, especially unfortunate since Sunday was the day that players all over MLB were going to wear the number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson. I haven’t heard whether those deprived because of rainouts will have an opportunity to wear their number 42’s.
I wrote previously that MLB might want to start front loading the schedule with warm weather and dome games, this would decrease the number of potential weather related cancellations early in the season. There are only 30 days in April and most teams didn’t start to play until the second. At the most we are talking about 27 or 28 games for most teams. With over 130 games remaining, it would not be difficult to make up the difference without those teams having a disparate September schedule. This tactic could also be used to insure that extremely hot locales like Texas and Miami could get lighter home schedules in the dog days of summer.
At the very least MLB should insure that games being played in the first month of the season be conducive to being made up. Scheduling the Cleveland Indians to play 10 out of their first 13 games at home was foolish. The other 3 that they had were in Chicago by the way. But to have the Mariners come into Cleveland for four games in April was simply an accident waiting to happen. This was Seattle’s only scheduled trip into Cleveland this year, and they only share a handful of common off days. If this series had been against a division foe, the effect would be nearly nothing; the teams would have had over a dozen options on how to make up those four games. If either the Indians or Mariners find themselves in contention this year, how can this not be a huge disadvantage?
So far 17 games have been cancelled, or 34 team games in two weeks of baseball. This doesn’t include the makeup games that were subsequently cancelled again. Most affected are the aforementioned Mariners who have 5 games to make up already, all on the road. Of course they’re road games because the M’s play in a dome at home. The Indians who have 4 games to be made up, all with the Mariners, may have to play at least one of those four games on the road. The Tribe was also forced to move a 3 game “home set” against the Angels over 400 miles to Milwaukee.
AL East Notes
The Yankees are stumbling and lost a couple of tough ones this weekend in Oakland. Sunday’s game was one in which Mariano Rivera blew a 4-1 lead after recording 2 quick outs in the ninth. Even more discouraging from the Yanks perspective are trips to the DL for both Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano. They join already injured starters Chien Ming Wang and Jeff Karstens there, and the Yanks now boast a rotation of Andy Pettitte, Darrell Rasner, Kei Igawa, and Chris Britton a name familiar to most O’s fans. One would have to think that Yankees prospect Phillip Hughes would be called on to take the fifth spot if necessary, but if he were ready for the majors he’d probably be there by now for the pitching poor Yanks who are already down to their 8th man on the depth charts in Britton.
I must admit that I was happy to see BJ Ryan blow a couple of saves for the Blue Jays this week, now I feel horrible knowing that it was due to an injury. The Jays are looking dangerous; they obviously have a very talented front of the rotation, as evidenced by Roy Halladay’s 10-inning gem on Friday. But the Jays pitching overall has been below average at best so far, yet they are setting the world on fire with the lumber. The Jays currently lead the American League in batting avg. (.298), OPS (.853), slugging pct. (.454), and are second in OBP (.359). The severity of Ryan’s injury remains to be seen, and the Jays will likely move Jason Frasor from setup man to closer in the meantime. The Jays called up Jaime Vermilyea a right-handed reliever from triple A to take Ryan’s roster spot.
The Red Sox sit atop the division by a game over the Blue Jays and 2 games over the O’s in the loss column. The Red Sox have been dominant on the mound, leading the American League in ERA (2.79), BAA (.207), OPS (.585), WHIP (1.07), and quality starts with 7 in 10 games. The Sox are relatively healthy so far and their play is showing it. Their bats have been a bit sluggish thus far, but they haven’t really needed them. It remains to be seen whether the Sox can remain healthy for the whole summer, as they seem to have more players with significant injury histories than most. It also remains to be seen whether performances against KC, Texas and Seattle are an accurate gauge of the Red Sox real potential.
The Week Ahead
This will be an important week for the O’s with 6 games all in the division. Despite a mere .500 record the O’s are refreshingly 2-1 against the AL East so far, and 3-0 against teams who didn’t make the playoffs last year. Holding serve in our own division will obviously be paramount to the success of this club, and beating the teams that you’re supposed to beat is a characteristic of all good ball clubs. The O’s should be looking to sweep the Devil Rays to start the week, but that will be a tall order. The pitching matchups look favorable on paper, but the O’s have struggled thus far against modest left handed pitching which is what they’ll be seeing in Casey Fossum on Tuesday, but Scott Kasmir who the O’s will face on Wednesday is an electric lefthander, and it will be up to Eric Bedard to keep the O’s around in that one.
It looks like we’ll have the good fortune of missing Roy Halladay this weekend, as he appears to be starting on Thursday against Boston. The O’s will get the talented but struggling AJ Burnett on Friday, and likely Gustavo Chacin and Josh Towers on Saturday and Sunday, all right handed. Both the Blue Jays and Devil Rays are swinging the sticks well right now, and should provide another stiff test for this pitching staff.
I haven’t heard anything of significance on the injury front, hopefully Ramon Hernandez will be joining the team and taking batting practice when they arrive in Tampa, and Jay Payton appears to be making progress in extended spring training, but neither seems likely to return immediately when they are eligible. I, like everyone else am waiting anxiously to hear the news on Jaret Wright, given the team’s track record at projecting players to return so far in this young season, I am not optimistic that Wright will only be missing 2 starts.
I must admit that I was not elated about the Jaret Wright acquisition this off-season. But given the current state of the Orioles, and the way that Wright has pitched so far, I am now on pins and needles hoping that he returns soon, and wondering if Hayden Penn will ever live up to the hype that has surrounded him over the last two seasons. At this point he clearly seems to be unlucky at least.
Speaking of unlucky, the rainout on Sunday prevented the O’s from facing the Royals young right-hander, Zack Greinke. The Royals have a lot of good young players despite their poor performance in Baltimore this weekend, but none perhaps with as much talent as Greinke. This 23 year old right-hander was considered a can’t miss prospect in most baseball circles just 2 years ago. He missed most of last season with a social anxiety disorder, and left the team late last week to attend the funeral of his maternal grandparents. It seems that both died within hours of each other shortly after traveling to watch Zack’s last start against the Boston Red Sox. Although he was scheduled to pitch on Sunday without missing a start, you’d have to believe that the team will be keeping a close eye on Greinke in the short term.
It will be curious to see how Greinke’s career continues from here. He obviously has all of the talent in the world, and could easily put together a couple of dynamite seasons. It will be interesting to see how the market in general treats a pitcher who has publicly announced having such a condition. Hopefully he will be able to put it all together this time around.
To Rick who wrote me, and took exception to my comments regarding the Ravens schedule, I understand where you are coming from. Rick pointed out that a team with all of it’s games on Sundays at one o’clock is usually a bad team, and so in wishing for such a schedule, I deserve to be cursed with bad football. This is a very good point, I will be at the games regardless however, and was simply stating my personal preference. I am one of the fans who go to every game and never leaves early, just go to section 552 and yell my name the next time we are getting blown out with less than a minute left. I promise I’ll be there to answer you.
The NFL left Baltimore for just long enough to create a generation gap between the old Colts fans and the new Ravens fans, although there are plenty of people who could be categorized as both. The Colts left town when I was 10, by the time the Ravens came to town I was a fantasy geek, and had trouble getting used to not being in front of my TV and the ticker on Sundays. I still went to the games though, and I am glad that I did.
It probably wasn’t until the end of the last game at Memorial Stadium that I fully understood what it meant to be a season ticket holding fan. It means getting up early even when you overdid it the night before, and sometimes having to start the day with some hair from the dog that bit you. It means sitting through blowouts and bad seasons because that is what makes the good ones feel better. Unfortunately it also means sitting amongst an abundance of the other teams fans on a number of home dates, because of other fans’ practice of selling their tickets on the Internet, a practice that is now encouraged by ownership. It means upsetting my wife on Christmas or New Year’s if there are home games. And it means that my phone will ring off the hook anytime that the team is playing well, because everyone wants a ticket, and not being able to give tickets away when the team is bad and the games are meaningless.
Believe me Rick I understand all of what you are saying, and was simply stating a preference. I like one o’clock home games because my seats are always warm, and I am typically home in time to see the second half of the 4 o’clock games plus the primetime game. And I can still get to bed at a reasonable hour to sleep off the day’s celebration, put in a full day at work on Monday and be up until the early hours of the morning to watch the Monday night game. But I will be there regardless, come and check me out, I promise.
If you haven’t gotten signed up for WNST’s text messaging service yet, then you are not as informed as you should be. What are you waiting for? Get in the know now, there is no charge for the service and we will never spam you, we promise.
Make sure you join Nestor and Eric DeCosta at Putty Hill Station on Monday at 7 pm. The pre draft party is a phenomenal event, and a must attend for you draft-niks out there. I am going to be in attendance, as I need to brush up on the draft, I hope to see you there too.
As always please send any questions comments, thoughts ideas etc to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will address as many as possible here in this forum.
That’s all for now.