5 W’s and 1 H

June 29, 2009 | Luke Jones

31-62.

No, it is not the Washington Nationals’ current record (22-51), but it’s the Orioles’ record against the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards since 1998.

And despite what many would have you believe, the fans donning pink and green Boston hats and representing The Bandwagon Red Sox Nation haven’t hurled a single pitch or hit a single home run in those 62 losses.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as frustrated as anyone to see Camden Yards invaded by Red Sox or Yankees fans 18 times every season, but pleas to Orioles fans to buy those tickets are a waste of words.  Nothing will change until this becomes a winning organization again.

Because of their strong national following, the Yankees and Red Sox have a strong representation wherever they go, whether it’s in Baltimore, Kansas City, or Los Angeles.  The only way to contain—not eliminate—the number of Red Sox or Yankees fans is to field a winning team that fans want to pay to watch.

Just look at the Ravens’ annual war with the Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.  In the years in which the Ravens are competitive and in the playoff hunt, the number of Steelers fans is considerably lower than the years in which the Ravens struggle.

It’s plain and simple; yes, Orioles fans could buy those tickets snatched up by Boston fans, but with a .333 winning percentage against the Red Sox since 1998, why exactly would they want to?

Trust me, I’ve been to plenty of these Orioles-Red Sox encounters over the last decade.  It’s typically a pretty miserable experience.

If Orioles fans are going to take back the Yard, the baseball team needs to make it something worth taking back.

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

1.  Who will be the Orioles’ representative(s) at the All-Star Game in St. Louis?

Remember early in the season when we thought Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis were all sure things for the All-Star Game?  Seems like a long time ago.

That’s not to say the three aren’t having good seasons, but their numbers have certainly leveled off since early May.

With no Oriole threatening in the fan voting, we’ll have to see whom Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon chooses to represent the Orioles.  Markakis or Jones would still figure to have a decent chance of being selected as a reserve, but the most deserving candidate might be closer George Sherrill.

After a rocky start, Sherrill has been outstanding, earning 16 saves while posting a 2.05 ERA.  In fact, since his blown save against Toronto on May 2, Sherrill has pitched to a 0.45 ERA and is 12-for-12 in save opportunities.

He’s my pick for the Orioles’ representative in St. Louis.

2.  What NBA trade will have the biggest impact next season?

While Shaquille O’Neal being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers stole the headlines, the trade bringing Vince Carter to the Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic might make a bigger difference next season.

The Magic sent Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston, and Tony Battie to the New Jersey Nets for superstar Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson.  It’s hard to remember a team so close to an NBA championship making such drastic changes to the makeup of its roster.

In addition to trading these three to New Jersey, the acquisition of Carter also means the end of Hedo Turkoglu’s stay in Orlando.  The 6-10 forward has already notified the team of his plan to opt out of his contract this summer.

The Magic hopes Carter can provide the veteran scoring presence the team sorely lacked against the Los Angeles Lakers in The Finals, but will he be willing to play the strong defense expected in Orlando?

This deal smells like a high-risk, high-reward situation.  It could either bring a championship to Disneyworld, or it could kill the mojo of the Magic’s run last season.

Shaq playing with LeBron James in Cleveland will grab the headlines, but I’m not sure the big man clogging the middle will be conducive to James’ slashing style of play.  Though he had a good season in Phoenix, he wasn’t exactly a difference-maker there.

3.  Where should the Orioles turn to help their abysmal base running?

The name that immediately came to mind was baseball’s all-time stolen base king Rickey Henderson.  Rumors are circulating that Henderson would accept a framed $2 million check as compensation for his services.  Rickey won’t even cash it!

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

If Rickey isn’t your cup of tea, how about Ruben Rivera?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFJlT2ic1uw[/youtube]

Players will just need to keep an eye on their gloves and bats—just ask Derek Jeter.  Of course, if you don’t trust Rivera, the Orioles could always contact Billy Beane in Oakland to inquire about this guy:

Jack Cust

4.  When will Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs sign a long-term contract?

With Suggs’ revelation that he is close to signing a new deal with the Ravens and hopes to report to training camp on time, fans were undoubtedly excited to hear the news.

“We are close to an agreement. We just have a few little things to work out,” Suggs told The Baltimore Sun last week. “I don’t want to go into great detail, but it’s things like the years of the agreement and incentives, but the basic framework has been done.”

Call me a pessimist, but the years of an agreement and incentives are not “little” details, especially when considering how a signing bonus will be applied to the salary cap over the length of a deal.  While I do believe the Ravens will reach a new deal with Suggs before the July 15th deadline, he might be using the media to turn up the heat on the Ravens just a little bit.

5.  Why should we care about Brett Favre?

I typically roll my eyes at any Favre speculation in the offseason, but the report of Favre being spotted seeing a doctor in Minnesota last week really grabbed my attention.

After doing some more research, I’ve discovered reports of Favre wearing Fran Tarkenton pajamas to bed, watching a Twins game on TV, and having dreams of being a Viking—just like The Simpsons’ Ralph Wiggum.

Ralph Wiggum

6.  How impressive is the career of Mariano Rivera?

The 39-year-old closer joined Trevor Hoffman as the second member of the 500-save club on Sunday, just adding one more accolade to a brilliant career.

It’s amazing that Rivera has had such dramatic success in New York—the toughest place to play in the world—and by really only relying on one pitch, the devastating cut fastball.

The closer might be an overrated role in baseball, but a dominating closer like Rivera does not fit this description.  Having been the team’s closer since 1997, his run as the top fireman in baseball cannot be praised enough—even if he IS a Yankee.

In contrast, the Orioles have had at least eight regular closers during that time period—with many of them struggling.  Rivera is the epitome of consistent domination.

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