5 W’s and 1 H

June 22, 2009 | Luke Jones

The Orioles certainly didn’t show the Phillies any “Brotherly Love” by completing a three-game sweep this weekend.

I attended the first two games of the series on Friday and Saturday night and had a great time.  Citizens Bank Park may lack the charm of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but the wide-open concourse is an excellent feature for those wanting to grab a snack or cold beverage without missing a pitch.

It was a pleasure meeting many of the rabid Orioles fans on the WNST/Miller Lite Bus Trip, and it was even better high-fiving and celebrating the closing moments of Saturday night’s comeback win with them!

Here are the 5 W’s and 1 H for the week:

1.  Who will be the best player not named Blake Griffin to come out of this year’s NBA Draft?

The 2009 NBA Draft takes place on Thursday night, and the Los Angeles Clippers have already committed to taking power forward Blake Griffin (Oklahoma), the surest thing in this year’s draft class, with the No. 1 pick.

After Griffin, there is plenty of talent but many question marks.  From Connecticut’s Hasheem Thabeet to international point guard Ricky Rubio to Davidson’s Stephen Curry, there is potential, but none are regarded as a sure thing.  Some NBA executives are calling this one of the worst drafts in recent memory.

If I had to choose a rookie from this class other than Griffin, I’d take a chance on Curry.  His heroic run in the 2008 NCAA tournament put him on the map, and he followed it up by leading the nation in scoring last season (28.6 points per game).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9vmoQ5WABU[/youtube]

Though Curry lacks the ideal size (6-3) and athleticism for the NBA, his strong pedigree—he’s the son of former NBA player Dell Curry—and fundamentals will allow him to become a successful pro.  He won’t become an All-Star, but Curry will be a solid addition to an NBA team.

2.  What was the best Orioles game you ever attended?

Saturday night’s win has to be one of the top five or six Orioles games I’ve ever attended.  Yes, that’s pretty sad, but when you consider I was two weeks old when the Orioles last won the World Series, you can probably begin to understand.

My choice for the best game I’ve attended was a 7-5, 10-inning victory over the New York Yankees on June 3, 1997.  The Orioles were in the midst of their wire-to-wire run for the American League East title, and Rafael Palmeiro hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to put the Orioles ahead by 8.5 games in the division.

Walking out of the ballpark while gloating among the Yankees fans was a great feeling—and is nearly a forgotten one 12 years later.

3.  Where is the best starting rotation in the Orioles’ organization?

Though the starting pitching in Baltimore has improved, I am still eagerly looking at the rotation in Triple-A Norfolk.  The Tides currently have four of the top pitching prospects in the organization with Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, David Hernandez, and Troy Patton.

While it’s doubtful that all four will crack the starting rotation by season’s end, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these four, along with Brad Bergesen, making up the starting rotation by this time next season.  Obviously, there’s no guarantee—and it’s quite unlikely—they’ll all become successful big league starters, but it’s clear the Orioles have come a long way from the days of counting on one prospect like Rocky Coppinger or Matt Riley to save the rotation.

We’ve heard quite a bit about these names over the last two years, so it’s exciting to see them at the Triple-A level and on the verge of making the jump to the big leagues.

4.  When was the last time the Orioles earned an interleague sweep on the road?

Before this weekend’s sweep of the Phillies, the Orioles last completed an interleague road sweep against the Atlanta Braves in June 1999.

The Orioles completed the three-game set by beating the Braves, 22-1, on a nationally televised Sunday night game.  This was Cal Ripken’s famous six-hit game that earned several standing ovations from the Turner Field crowd over the course of the night.

Mike Mussina earned the win over Atlanta’s John Smoltz, capping off one of the few highlights of the 1999 season.

5.  Why did Dave Trembley allow Danys Baez to pitch to Ryan Howard in the seventh inning on Saturday night?

I certainly was celebrating the exciting comeback win on Saturday night, but it didn’t excuse Trembley’s terrible decision to pitch to Howard with a base open and two outs in the seventh inning.  Yes, walking Howard would have put the go-ahead run in scoring position, but the pitcher’s spot was on deck, and the Phillies sent Carlos Ruiz to the plate after Howard’s three-run shot.  Howard is hitting .299 against right-handed pitching, so the matchup against Baez wasn’t favorable in that regard either.

Just a hunch, but I’d take my chances facing Ruiz with the bases loaded instead of Howard.

I was sitting with Nestor Aparicio and my friend Mike—two of the most knowledgeable baseball fans I know—and all three of us immediately said it was the wrong move.  A few moments later, Howard confirmed our fears.

Saturday’s win was a great example of a team bailing out its manager.  The decisions to allow Gregg Zaun and Oscar Salazar to hit in the ninth inning worked out, but they did not cancel out the decision to pitch to one of the best power hitters in the game—whether he had the flu or not.

I hope Trembley personally thanked Brian Roberts for saving his bacon.  Regardless of the big win, it was the wrong decision.

6.  How likely are the Ravens to make a serious play for Brandon Marshall?

Not very.

John Harbaugh, Ozzie Newsome, and the Ravens are very serious about avoiding players with questionable character, and Marshall—regardless of his immense talent—fits that description.  When you also consider the team would have to surrender high draft picks and doesn’t have the salary cap room to afford the $7-9 million per year Marshall is seeking, it really becomes an easy decision.

Marshall’s dispute with the Denver Broncos is different from quarterback Jay Cutler’s, because it is not based on a conflict with new head coach Josh McDaniels; it simply comes down to wanting more money.

The Pro Bowl receiver is scheduled to become a free agent after the season, but an uncapped year in 2010 would change his status dramatically.  Since an uncapped system would change the number of years before free agency from four to six, Marshall would remain under the Broncos’ control for two more years—as a restricted free agent—and would not become an unrestricted free agent until after the 2011 season.  The Broncos hold all of the leverage in this situation, so Marshall desperately wants a new deal before that happens.

When you consider all of these factors, I would be surprised to see Marshall in Baltimore—or anywhere else other than Denver—this September.

*****

I hope all of the fathers out there had a great Father’s Day.  This is a tough day for me after losing my dad in 2004, but I have numerous great memories—many centering around the Ravens, Orioles, and Terps—to cherish.

He deserves more credit than anyone for cultivating my passion for Baltimore sports.  I’m sure he would have loved this weekend in Philadelphia.

Have a great Monday.

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