Tag Archive | "AL east"

After Scott’s injury, Orioles should look even harder at trading Guthrie

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After Scott’s injury, Orioles should look even harder at trading Guthrie

Posted on 23 July 2011 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — With the trade deadline only a week away, the Orioles have a very difficult decision to make when it comes to the future of Jeremy Guthrie, who could be making his final start with the club at Camden Yards on Sunday afternoon.

Do you trade your most consistent pitcher — even with an ugly 4-13 record — and further destroy a starting rotation sporting a 7.88 earned run average over its last 23 games entering Saturday’s action? Or do you retain your lone veteran presence on a club still hoping to develop the likes of Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta, and Brian Matusz and forgo any potential return of younger players for the future?

The trade winds have whispered Guthrie’s name for a few seasons now, but the Orioles ultimately viewed their de facto ace as more valuable to them than any other team trying to pluck him at the deadline. Despite a 42-61 record in five seasons with the Orioles, Guthrie has a career 4.10 ERA over that span, including three seasons in which he finished with an ERA below 3.85.

By no means should the Orioles simply send Guthrie to the first taker, but perhaps a look at the unfortunate case of Luke Scott should make president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail think long and hard about trading the 32-year-old pitcher. Scott was once again placed on the disabled list Saturday with a torn labrum in his right shoulder and will miss the rest of the season as he opts to either undergo surgery or go through a lengthy rehabilitation program.

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A year ago at this time, Scott was in the midst of becoming the team’s most valuable player when he hit 27 home runs and posted a .902 OPS. Instead of trading Scott at last year’s deadline or moving him in the offseason, the Orioles abstained and now face the decision of what to do with the 33-year-old power hitter in his final year of arbitration and making $6.4 million this season. While a team-friendly offer is within reason this winter, it would be unwise to offer arbitration and to pay Scott upwards of $7 million with his health being such an uncertainty at age 34 in 2012.

Instead of moving Scott — who has a .826 OPS in his four seasons in Baltimore — when they had the chance to get younger value in return, the Orioles now face the prospect of allowing a declining Scott to walk for nothing.

“My heart’s desire is I’m going to be here when the organization makes that turn to get back to where we need to be,” Scott said. “But that’s out of my hands. All I can do is just get ready for this challenge that’s coming up to get myself ready for next spring training and to bring to the table what I bring to the table when I’m healthy. The rest is the Orioles’ decision. The good Lord has control of my future, and my hope is it will be here.”

The comments are unsurprising and echo the thoughts of Guthrie whenever the pitcher’s been asked about his desire to remain with the Orioles amid trade rumors the last few seasons. The Stanford product has done everything asked of him and has always said the right things during his time in Baltimore, with very little in return in the way of run support and accolades.

However, Guthrie will also enter his final year of arbitration this winter after making $5.75 million in 2011. He will be 33 years old next season and will likely seek a three-year contract and relatively substantial dollars. With the Orioles mired in last place with a 40-57 record, does Guthrie really fit the profile of a pitcher who will still be productive by the time the club might — and that’s a major hypothetical at this point — be ready to compete?

It’s not smart to offer multi-year deals to 33-year-old pitchers when you’re not close to contending, which is where the Orioles will likely find themselves a year from now.

As tempting as it is to simply maintain the status quo — you know what you’re getting from Guthrie every fifth day — perhaps it’s time to grant him his release from baseball purgatory. There’s little doubt the right-hander could be of great help to a contender looking for an effective third or fourth starter. In return, the Orioles will hopefully fetch a player or two close to being ready to contribute at the major league level.

While no real fault of his own, Guthrie hasn’t made the Orioles a winner, and it isn’t likely to change anytime soon as he approaches his mid-30s. Failing to get good returns for productive older players has happened far too often over the last 14 years, and it’s really no excuse if you’re trying to eventually contend and not just concern yourself with being a .500 team the following season.

Are the Orioles worse without Guthrie in the immediate future? Yes.

Will Guthrie put them over the top if the Orioles find themselves on the cusp of being a contender? Doubtful.

As brutal as it might be to the current starting rotation should Guthrie be dealt, it’s far more painful watching Scott limp away from his 2011 season with the Orioles knowing the possibility of getting something for him is all but gone.

If the right opportunity arises — a fair trade for the pitcher’s services — MacPhail and the Orioles need to make a deal.

If they decide not to, I hope we’re not thinking back to this conversation again next summer.

And wondering what might have been had they decided to pull the trigger.

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Celebrating Alomar and Gillick with Top 10 96-97 O’s Moments

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Celebrating Alomar and Gillick with Top 10 96-97 O’s Moments

Posted on 22 July 2011 by Glenn Clark

On Friday’s edition of “The Mobtown Sports Beat” on AM1570 WNST, Thyrl Nelson and I celebrated Sunday’s Cooperstown Hall of Fame inductions of Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick with a four hour tribute to the 1996 & 1997 Baltimore Orioles.

During the show, I named my Top 10 moments during that special run in O’s history. As I explained last week, these Birds represented “The Only Magic I’ve Ever Known.”

(I didn’t include Jeffrey Maier or the season ending games in either season on this list. These were the memories we WANT to remember.)

10. Ripken passes Kinugasa (June 15, 1996)

ripkenkinugasu

When Cal Ripken played in his 2,216th consecutive game in Kansas City, he already owned the record for consecutive games played.

If he had stopped at 2,210 consecutive games, there would have been no argument that he didn’t hold the record.

With no offense to Sachio Kinugasa, but nothing that happens in Japan can be fairly compared to anything in Major League Baseball. When Ripken surpassed Lou Gehrig in 1995, the record was his.

That being said, the fact that Kinugasa was able to attend the game at Kauffman Stadium made the warm June night pretty special. The evident connection between the two men made the night even more fun for baseball fans.

If you ever get the chance to chat with CSNBaltimore.com writer (and longtime Baltimore Sun columnist) John Eisenberg about this night, please do. The stories are a LOT of fun. I’d tell you myself, but they aren’t my stories.

9. Mussina NEARLY perfect (May 30, 1997)

moose

I have never been more captivated by watching a baseball game than I was that Friday night.

At the time, Home Team Sports (HTS) was still a premium channel on Comcast in Baltimore County. Friday night games however were regularly available over the air (most on WNUV 54), allowing 8th graders like myself to sit at home and watch the games instead of hanging out with our friends.

I’ll never forgive Sandy Alomar for the hit that he managed off Mike Mussina in the 9th inning that night. His brother is my baseball idol, but his name is evil in my mind.

There’s been only one Orioles no-hitter in my lifetime (a combined effort from Bob Milacki, Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson in 1991), never a solo no-hitter. I’ve seen the Orioles no-hit themselves a couple of times, but I’ve never seen an Orioles pitcher throw a no-no.

I really thought I was going to that night.

8. Wire to wire (September 25, 1997)

aleast

With their 9-3 defeat of the Blue Jays at the building formerly known as SkyDome, the O’s clinched their first AL East title since 1983.

More significantly, they became only the sixth team in MLB history to win the division title going “wire to wire”, in first place from Opening Day to Game 162.

It was a remarkable run for the Birds, although 14 year old Glenn Clark may not have fully realized how significant it was because he was too worried about playoff matchups and hoping to avoid the Yankees in the ALCS.

He got his way. Unfortunately it didn’t end up making much of a difference.

7. Brady gets 50 (September 29, 1996)

bradya

The legacy of Brady Anderson’s 50 home run season in 1996 can certainly be labeled as “clouded” at best.

That being said, whether the 50 home run campaign (which concluded with a dinger on the season’s final day in Toronto) was aided by substance or simply a result of a former leadoff hitter “reaching his athletic opus”, it still stands as the only time in Orioles history a player has reached the mark.

(Frank Robinson previously held the team record with 49.)

Despite the rumors, following Brady’s home run exploits in 1996 was fun for Orioles fans-especially the stretch were he lead off four straight games by going yard.

And no matter how we felt about it, there’s little chance the Orioles make a run to the ALCS in 1996 without those 50 home runs.

6. A walk off slam (May 17, 1996)

hoiles

Anderson’s “moment” was a season in the making. The Ripken “moment” was nearly 14 years in the making.

Hoiles’ “moment”? Roughly one swing in the making.

The Orioles trailed the Seattle Mariners 13-10 in the 9th inning. What happened next was something I had practiced in my back yard roughly 160,000,000,000 times.

With two outs, the bases loaded and a 3-2 count (of COURSE it was a 3-2 count), Chris Hoiles hit what can only be described as the MOST ultimate of “ultimate grand slams.”

Thank God I hadn’t stopped watching that night.

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Remembering Only “Magic” I’ve Known

Posted on 15 July 2011 by Glenn Clark

I know just how frustrating the 2011 season has been for Baltimore Orioles fans.

I also know how frustrating the 2010 season was. And 2009. And 2008. And 2007. And 2006. And…I think you get the point.

I was born on September 6, 1983. Just over a month later (October 16) the O’s vanquished the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 5 to claim their third (and still most recent) World Series title. Despite being alive for 40 days when it happened, I’m ashamed to say I have no memories of the title.

The 1989 Birds were a special group. I’ve watched the “Why Not” video a number of times in my life, mostly thanks to my friends BJ and Chris Appel. While they finished short of winning the American League East crown, the team has left many folks in Charm City with special memories.

Unfortunately, I had just turned six years old when the season was cut short. My memories of the ’89 Orioles are extremely limited, and the team itself really didn’t mean much to me as a baseball fan.

I’ve made it quite clear that I am much more of a lacrosse person than I am a baseball person. I’ve made it obvious that certain things about baseball in recent years have made me turn from the game. That’s been made worse by the fact that the team here in Baltimore has given me almost nothing to enjoy for nearly 15 years now. Like many other fans in this city, the demise of our own team has lead to a lessened interested in the sport in general.

That wasn’t the case in 1996.

My 12th birthday was September 5, 1995. It was a special day to be an Orioles fan (like I need to tell you) as Cal Ripken passed Lou Gehrig by playing in his 2,131st consecutive game. My parents were kind enough to purchase me EXACTLY what I wanted for my birthday that year-an oversized Orioles “Starter” brand jacket.

(I know I wasn’t the only one who wore a Starter jacket at the time.)

I’m pretty sure I didn’t take that jacket off for two years-even in the summer.

Baseball was my most significant love in 1996. The Ravens came into existence during the offseason but wouldn’t “take over” the city for another three to four years. In fact, as rabid as we were in Baltimore for the return of the NFL, there were multiple games between Memorial Stadium and what was then known as PSINet Stadium in the early years of the Ravens’ existence that were “sold out”, but featured less than empty crowds.

It was a baseball town, and I loved the Orioles more than I even loved girls.

One of the most exciting moments of my life was the day I found out Home Team Sports (HTS) had been moved from the “premium” tier of Comcast programming in Baltimore County and instead became a basic cable channel.

I was that crazy about the Orioles.

In 8th grade, I was often caught not paying attention to teachers in class. While other kids were writing love notes, I was found to be drawing miniature baseball diamonds and impressing my friends with my ability to name the starting nine for every other team in Major League Baseball.

I was a complete and total nutjob when it came to baseball.

I’m not sure I can fairly explain how much those 1996 & 1997 teams meant to me as I hit puberty. My entire attitude was determined by what the Orioles had done the night before.

I still remember coming home from Perry Hall High School one late fall afternoon in 1995 to have my dad tell me the Orioles had signed Roberto Alomar. I didn’t believe him at first, but ultimately celebrated as if I had received straight A’s on my report card.

The 1996 & 1997 Orioles gave me some of the happiest memories of my life as a sports fan. They also of course gave me some of the saddest memories of my life, as they failed to advance past the ALCS in both years.

As far as “Orioles Magic” is concerned, the only thing I REALLY know about “magic” for the Orioles franchise happened during those two seasons.

I’ve explained my excitement about Alomar’s impending induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame many times. Part of my identity as a Baltimore sports personality is tied to my affection to the man who will take his place in Cooperstown next weekend.

I find it fitting that as Alomar enters the Hall of Fame, he will share the stage with the architect of those Orioles teams, former General Manager Pat Gillick. Gillick’s career is directly tied to Alomar, having brought the second baseman to the Toronto Blue Jays, where the pair would win two World Series titles. Gillick would go on to bring Alomar to Baltimore, where he would lead the O’s to their only Wild Card playoff berth and their first AL East crown in 14 seasons.

My guess is that most of the coverage surrounding next weekend’s induction ceremony will be about the time Alomar and Gillick shared with the Jays. But for Orioles fans, next weekend’s ceremony will be a reminder of a special (albeit short) era of success in Baltimore.

It’s with that in mind that I am happy to announce that Thyrl Nelson and I have come together to dedicate next Friday’s (7/22) edition of “The Mobtown Sports Beat” to the 1996 & 1997 Baltimore Orioles.

We’ll use the show to congratulate Alomar and Gillick on entering the Hall of Fame, as well as to honor the teams that were truthfully the most special in my lifetime.

We’ll talk to players, coaches, broadcasters and even fans who were around those teams. Some interviews will be live, some will be taped earlier in the week. As guests continue to confirm, I’ll do my best to pass them along.

Older Orioles fans might not look back on the ’96 and ’97 with the same fondness that I do. But this is all I’ve known of winning baseball in Baltimore…well…ever.

It’s going to be a lot of fun. I hope you’ll tune in next Friday to AM1570 WNST or online at WNST.net to join in the celebration. I hope you’ll chime in with calls, emails, Tweets (@WNST or @GlennClarkWNST on Twitter), Facebook messages and other memories of those teams.

It’s the only “Magic” I’ve ever experienced, and it doesn’t look like it will be changing soon.

(Eds. Note: A previous version of this post mistakenly stated the Ravens had experienced “multiple blackouts” in their early years.)

-G

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Orioles Series Preview: Away vs. Yankees April 12th- April 14th

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Orioles Series Preview: Away vs. Yankees April 12th- April 14th

Posted on 11 April 2011 by John Collingsworth

The Baltimore Orioles (6-3) battle against the New York Yankees (5-4) in a 3-games series beginning Tuesday.

These two teams have not a played a meaningful series in New York (in the Orioles eyes)… well… since This tragic moment in Baltimore history.

With the first full week of the MLB season in the books, it is still premature to make predictions, but the Orioles have impressed many around the league and may even break the 13-year consecutive losing seasons this year (who said it was too early to make predictions). Oh yeah, here is one more prediction… This ‘Already’ retired player will be the next to be linked to steroids… can’t you tell!!!

The Birds enter the mid-week series atop of the AL East, and the Pinstripes in second place. But with superb outings by their young starting pitching, timely hitting, and strong defense, it is no coincidence that the O’s have an early 1-game lead.

RHP Chris Jakubauskas joined the Orioles 25-man roster as the club sent RHP Brad Bergesen down to AAA-Norfolk Saturday. Jakubauskas is in the running to make his first 2011 start this Wednesday against the Bronx Bombers. He made only one start in 2010 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and went 6-7, with a 5.32 ERA in 35 games for the Seattle Mariners during the 2009 campaign.

SS J.J. Hardy is inevitably heading to the 15-day DL, mostly likely early Tuesday, with a strained left oblique, leaving INF Cesar Izturis and INF Robert Andino to hold down the position during his absence. Buck Showalter has said that the two will split time until Hardy returns. The club plans on bringing up another pitcher to fill the roster spot left by Hardy, many are speculating that RHP Brad Bergesen, who was just sent down to AAA-Norfolk, is the choice and the front-runner to start Wednesday’s contest.

(6-3)                                                                              (5-4)

 

 

Tuesday, April 12th 7:05pm EST

Orioles @ Yankees- Yankee Stadium

Chris Tillman (0-0, 3.38 ERA) vs. AJ Burnett (2-0, 4.09 ERA)

 

 Wednesday, April 13th 7:05pm EST

Orioles @ Yankees- Yankee Stadium

Chris Jakubauskas (0-0, 15.00 ERA) or Brad Bergesen (0-1, 4.91 ERA) vs. Phil Hughes (0-1, 16.50 ERA)

 

 Thursday, April 14th 7:05pm EST

Orioles @ Yankees- Yankee Stadium

Jake Arrieta (1-1, 8.68 ERA) vs. Ivan Nova (1-0, 6.10 ERA)

 

 

Baltimore Orioles Projected Lineup and 2011 STATS

1. Brian Roberts- 2B

.189 AVG. / 1 2B / 2 HRS / 8 RBIS

2. Nick Markakis- RF

.250 AVG. / 1 2B / 1 HRS / 3 RBIS

3. Derrek Lee- 1B

.219 AVG. / 1 2B / 1 HRS / 2 RBIS

4. Vladimir Guerrero- DH

.270 AVG. / 1 2B / 1 HRS / 3 RBIS

5. Luke Scott- LF

.167 AVG. / 1 2B / 0 HRS / 0 RBIS

6. Adam Jones- CF

.212 AVG. / 0 2B / 2 HRS / 5 RBIS

7. Mark Reynolds- 3B

.241 AVG. / 3 2B / 1 HRS / 8 RBIS

8. Matt Wieters- C

.192 AVG. / 1 2B / 0 HRS / 2 RBIS

9. Cesar Izturis- SS

.167 AVG. / 0 2B / 0 HRS / 1 RBIS

 

 

New York Yankees Projected Lineup and 2011 STATS

1. Brett Gardner- LF

.167 AVG. / 1 2B / 0 HRS / 2 RBIS

2. Derek Jeter- SS

. 206 AVG. / 1 2B / 0 HRS / 2 RBIS

3. Mark Teixeira- 1B

. 182 AVG. / 0 2B / 4 HRS / 10 RBIS

4. Alex Rodriguez- 3B

.321 AVG. / 2 2B / 3 HRS / 5 RBIS

5. Robinson Cano- 2B

.324 AVG. / 4 2B / 2 HRS / 5 RBIS

6. Nick Swisher- RF

.219 AVG. / 1 2B / 0 HRS / 6 RBIS

7. Curtis Granderson- CF

.172 AVG. / 1 2B / 2 HRS / 3 RBIS

8. Jorge Posada- DH

.138 AVG. / 0 2B / 3 HRS / 6 RBIS

9. Russell Martin- C

.300 AVG. / 1 2B / 3 HRS / 8 RBIS

 

 

 

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For upstart O’s, chance to rebound and make presence in AL East comes against Yanks

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For upstart O’s, chance to rebound and make presence in AL East comes against Yanks

Posted on 11 April 2011 by Ryan Chell

The Orioles recently finished their first home-stand of the early 2011 season, finishing 3-3 overall after dropping the final two games against the American League champion Texas Rangers by a combined score of 16-1.

Adrian Beltre

But, with the rest of the AL East struggling at this point-the Orioles still remain atop first place in the division with a 6-3 record with a pivotal three-game series coming up against the second-place New York Yankees.

The Orioles really showed a lot in the weekend’s series against the Rangers,  and despite the bats cooling down late in the series, the Birds showed that their pitching-when managed correctly-can keep them in a game or two.

Orioles rookie Zach Britton built on his debut in his first ever home start on Saturday, pitching into the eighth inning and keeping a potent Rangers lineup(which showed up in the second game of the double-header) off the scoreboard.

Jeremy Guthrie then piggy-backed on Britton’s performance on Sunday, and after having been on IVs only days earlier, pitched six strong innings while only allowing one long bomb to third baseman Adrian Beltre.

Jeremy Guthrie

Those two showed that even if fellow starters Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, and Brad Bergesen struggle every other start, manager Buck Showalter for now can at least sit down in the dugout without having to pace back and forth every two out of five games.

And let’s not forget. Even with Arrieta struggling Saturday night, the Rangers came into Saturday as the league’s only undefeated team before Britton handcuffed their lineup.

They were the defending AL Champs for a reason, and a team that already had a potent lineup with MVP Josh Hamilton Beltre, and one of the hottest hitters in the league in OF Nelson Cruz.

The O’s were competitive for the relative length of the series-at least until they threw Chris Jakubauskas to the wolves in Saturday’s late game to keep the rest of the bullpen fresh.

The Orioles also learned first-hand that Texas could also maybe have the best left-handed starting rotation in the league, and they didn’t even see C.J. Wilson.

Traveling to Yankee Stadium for the first time this season could be a big opportunity to prove they’re here for the long haul, especially with New York reeling after losing two of three to Boston, giving the Red Sox their first two wins of the year.

It’s another opportunity for the Orioles to break away from the pack in the AL East (with Toronto and the Yankees 1GB at 5-4) and put more quality wins on their resume building on the momentum of their early success.

We’ve seen the MASN commercial where Showalter says the Yankees and the Red Sox don’t get three runs to start off the game.

Let’s see how that goes with Tillman, likely Bergesen, and Arrieta slated to start the three games in the Bronx.

It’s true…the Yankees can’t start off the game with three runs like Showalter said, but with the home team batting in the bottom of the inning combined with the way Tillman, Bergesen, and Arrieta all pitched in their last starts, the Bronx Bombers could very well get three runs by the start of the second inning.

A-Rod

And if the Orioles are to lose the series to the Yankees, let’s do it the way the team has played in eight of the nine games this year where the Orioles didn’t throw in the towel-or as my colleague Drew Forrester says-”don’t lay down on their back like Paris Hilton and just take it”.

Plus, the Orioles need every win they can take before taking on the powerhouse Cleveland Indians (7-2 record, 2nd best in MLB) this weekend.

Can’t look past the Yankees because of the anticipation of taking on those “winners” in Cleveland.

-Chell

ryan@wnst.net

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The Sweep Smell of Victory

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The Sweep Smell of Victory

Posted on 04 April 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

The Orioles did their best to minimize the impact of the first stage of what still looks to be a daunting April schedule by completing a 3-game sweep of the Rays on Sunday, sending the team home, undefeated record intact and alone atop the AL East…for the time being anyway. Bolstered by their pitching despite the untimely loss of Brian Matusz due to injury, the O’s rolled through Tampa, and for 3 games at least, looked more like the team that should be the objects of expectations than their overmatched hosts.

Perspective being called for, pennants can’t be won in April but they can be lost there. Given the difficult appearance of the O’s April schedule, the cache of wins that they picked up over the weekend in Tampa should at least help in their efforts to stay above .500 for the season’s opening month.

 

It occurred to me during the opener that the O’s perspective on the start of the season must have been at least a bit skewed going into the weekend series at the Trop. The early start to the season, along with not leaving the state of Florida must’ve made this feel to some degree like spring training continued. Whether that wound up being a benefit that served the team during their sweep, or just one more obstacle that they had to overcome in getting there is debatable, the end result though is not.

 

I wrote a blog a few months ago with a section titled “Baseball Math” that basically sought to reiterate a couple of proven baseball “formulas”. The first being that a single hit per week amounts to about 40 or 50 points in batting average (Crash Davis logic) was meant to illustrate that for all of the machinations and strategizing inherent to a baseball season, at the end of the day, luck and timing can play a much bigger part in baseball than it does in other sports. The second (taught to me by my father, but time honored too) is that every baseball team no matter how good or bad (with few historical exceptions) can expect to win 50 games and lose 50 games in every baseball season. What teams do in the remaining 62 games determines where they finish their seasons. So for their efforts, the O’s have made 3 games worth of headway into their 50 win destiny and at the same time laid 3 big early losses on one of the division’s favorites.

 

What’s really important in that scenario (if any importance at all can be drawn from an April series) is the divisional aspect. Between the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox (the 3 favorites to fight it out for the division) the Orioles will play 54 games this season. If they hope to stake their own claim to a share of the division, they’ll have to expect to go at least .500 in those 54 games. Picking up 3 of those 27 needed wins early accounts for 11% of that total, and they got them on the road. With 9 more such games in April, if the O’s can win just 4 of them they’ll finish the month with 7 wins against the divisions big 3 and just 5 losses. If they do any better than that in those games, they’ll be well on their way to the 27 wins they’ll need to have a realistic shot at being a divisional factor. And all of that before they’ve even unpacked their suitcases from spring training.

 

That after all is the most important thing to remember. Perhaps as I was marveling at the O’s ability to stay focused in the face of what must’ve felt like being held after school for spring training, we should wait and see if coming home on Sunday night, presumably for the first time in months and turning around for a Monday home opener proves to be even more of a challenge. Something tells me the impact of their travel will only be felt to the extent that Jake Arrieta is able to keep a tough Tigers lineup in check, and I’m guessing that Arrieta got an early pass home, ahead of his teammates to curb any such effect on his performance at least. The atmosphere at the yards will be electric for sure given the way they played this weekend. I wonder if anyone went out to greet them at the airport.

 

Another interesting (albeit less useful) baseball stat, or factoid, that my Pop laid on me was when the 1984 Tigers were out to their 35-5 start. At that point he surmised that at 30 games above .500 already, simply playing .500 baseball from there out all but assured the Tigers of a trip to the post season; this in the 4-division, no wildcard era. To that end if the O’s could simply play .500 ball from here on out, they’ll be guaranteed a winning season. That’s a start.

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Regardless of anything else, hold your chin high today

Posted on 04 April 2011 by Rex Snider

If your workplace is populated by a fairly representative group of baseball fans, there is a good chance supporters of the Yankees and Red Sox exist within it, right?

In fact, some local businesses are dominated by fans of the AL East’s most popular and successful franchises.

While some such souls are imports and understandably loyal to their HOMETOWN team, a substantial number of local Yankees and Red Sox “so called” faithful are natives of Baltimore, who committed to selling their souls and allegiance, years ago.

Some people can’t handle losing, so they start backing winning organizations, until …. those teams start losing. While the Yankees and Red Sox are both riding a wave of success in this latest era, nothing lasts forever – NOTHING.

For the Baltimoreans who traded in their orange – or for those who’ve never really worn it with pride and unconditional loyalty, God bless ‘em …. they have just as much right walking into Camden Yards as anyone else …..

But, today, is NOT their day.

This is your day, BALTIMORE ORIOLES FAN.

If you’re fortunate in having an Opening Day experience at the ballpark awaiting your arrival, have a great time and enjoy the renewal of the greatest sport returning for another season. It’s going to be a warm and dry day for ushering in the home schedule.

However, if you’re among the greater contingent who must work today, seize this opportunity to hold your chin even higher as you walk past both the authentic and fabricated fans of the OTHER teams. Your co-workers who root for the Yankees and Red Sox will be waiting for you – but, don’t crumble !!!!

You’ll likely hear some negatively-spirited banter aimed at breaking the will of the weak-hearted. No problem …. you’ve made it through 13 years; there is nothing weak about you or your devotions. Just know you’re going to hear something like this:

“Yo, it’s just 3 games …. don’t print playoff tickets.”

To a point, they’re right. But, don’t allow yourself to cave. Take the high road and resolve yourself to knowing the Baltimore Orioles are a better, stronger organization than the product of just a mere six months ago.

Be optimistic.

While only 3 of 162 games have evaporated from the Orioles schedule, the team has displayed the very strengths of organizations that win with consistency; solid starting pitching and great defense.

Indeed, if the birds would’ve taken 2 of 3 against Tampa, with scores of 11-7 and 9-8, I would be a little less buoyed, this morning. But, they’re continuing a trend that arrived with 57 games remaining in last year’s schedule – they’re throwing strikes and converting fielding opportunities.

Are the Yankees and Red Sox still better, as we sit here on Opening Day, in Baltimore? Yes …. and throughout 162 games, the more talented teams emerge atop the division. But, this past weekend has delivered proof of some daunting realities:

Zach Britton and Chris Tillman possess big league potential.

Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis are different hitters with Derrek Lee and Vlad Guerrero behind them.

Matt Wieters is still maturing.

Can the wheels fall off this machine and a return to failure realized? Yes, because anything can happen. However, this Orioles team is now 60 games into a new era and some true consistencies are evidenced. They’re playing good, fundamental, disciplined baseball, and it’s refreshing to witness.

They’ve only played one series, but this Orioles team has that different, better swagger about it. No doubt, the Yankees and Red Sox will offer a more challenging and potentially punishing offensive perspective against this young pitching staff.

But, don’t allow their fans to squash your hopes and desires.

It’s Opening Day, in Baltimore. This is YOUR day …..

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Superb opening win for Guthrie, Orioles marred by Matusz injury

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Superb opening win for Guthrie, Orioles marred by Matusz injury

Posted on 01 April 2011 by Luke Jones

Even with an excellent on-field start to the 2011 season, the Orioles couldn’t escape a swift kick to the gut on Opening Night for the second straight year.

Jeremy Guthrie pitched eight shutout innings in a 4-1 win over star pitcher David Price and the Rays on Friday night, but the positive vibes dissipated quickly with the news of Brian Matusz being placed on the disabled list. A strained intercostal muscle will reportedly sideline the young lefty for three to six weeks, leaving a huge hole in the starting rotation.

Last year, it was Mike Gonzalez blowing a ninth-inning lead in a 4-3 loss to the Rays, but this year’s buzzkill may prove to be more costly. Chris Tillman will start in Matusz’s place Saturday while top pitching prospect Zach Britton will be called up to make his major league debut Sunday afternoon in the series finale.

The news ruined a perfect start to the season for the Orioles as Guthrie turned in one of the finest pitching performances of his career. Effectively using his off-speed pitches to keep Tampa Bay hitters guessing all night, the Orioles’ lone veteran starter allowed just four baserunners while striking out six before being lifted after throwing 94 pitches in eight innings. Guthrie attacked the strike zone aggressively, throwing first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 27 batters he faced.

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Despite the seemingly annual criticism for his de facto ace status and his not-so-impressive peripheral stats, Guthrie continues to prove doubters wrong. The soon-to-be 32-year-old picked up where he left off in the second half last season when he went 8-4 with a 2.76 earned run average in 14 starts.

Guthrie received all the run support he needed from the Orioles’ two longest-tenured position players, as Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis each drove in two runs. Markakis’ opposite-field single plated the first run of the game in the third, and Roberts’ two-run triple drove in Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy in the fifth. In one night, the Orioles quadrupled their run output against Price to that of a season ago when the power-throwing lefty allowed one run in 15 innings against Baltimore.

The only blemish on the field came when reliever Jim Johnson gave up a solo shot to Ben Zobrist on the first pitch of the bottom of the ninth, ending the Orioles’ bid for a shutout. Johnson recovered to retire the next three batters to finish off the victory and erase the memory of Gonzalez’s collapse in the opening game a year ago.

If that had been the final newsworthy occurrence of the night, Orioles fans would be feeling just fine. It doesn’t count any more — or any less — than the next 161 games, but it sure feels good winning on Opening Day.

But reality sets in Saturday night with a big dark cloud hanging over the starting rotation.

A group already short on experience with veteran Justin Duchscherer starting the season on the disabled list will now look to Tillman and Britton — two young men who were vying for the fifth starter job in spring training — to match up against James Shields and Wade Davis, two stalwarts in the Tampa Bay rotation. Tillman’s struggles are well documented, and we’ve yet to see him come close to living up to the hype created by his impressive minor league numbers.

On the other hand, Britton’s debut creates much excitement due to his fantastic spring and being voted the club’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2010. History says the sinker-throwing lefty will face some bumps in the road before he figures it out in the big leagues, but his early promotion will definitely grab attention.

It will also start his service clock, something the Orioles were trying to avoid until later this month to maintain an extra year of control down the road.

We’ll see if the young pitchers are up to the challenge now that the headliner of the group is sidelined for the next month. Fortunately, there’s a far more potent lineup behind them this season.

Because it won’t be easy.

Make no mistake, Orioles fans can — and should — feel good about Friday night’s result. A win on Opening Day is good for the baseball soul, especially in Baltimore.

It’s just a shame it came with an all-too-familiar dose of bad news.

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Trip to Arizona Reminds Me 2011 Orioles Just Need to Win

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Trip to Arizona Reminds Me 2011 Orioles Just Need to Win

Posted on 30 March 2011 by Glenn Clark

When Nestor Aparicio told me Wednesday would be the day I would scribe my Baltimore Orioles preview piece, I chuckled a bit. I’m sure he had no idea of the symbolism involved.

If you listen to “The Morning Reaction” on AM1570 WNST (and you certainly should), you probably know that Wednesday marks the first time I’ve taken a vacation since returning to the Charm City airwaves in 2008.

I’m headed to Phoenix, which is where I lived and worked for two years after leaving CBS Radio here in Baltimore.

Just before departing CBS for the Valley of the Sun, I heard that Nasty was organizing an event called “Free The Birds”. I will admit now that upon hearing of the event, my thoughts (in my head and on-air) were along the lines of “what a blowhard.”

It wasn’t until I got to Arizona that I truly understood what Nestor was doing.

My only full season of MLB coverage in Arizona came in 2007. I was there for the end of the 2006 season and half of the 2008 season-but ’07 was my only full year of covering baseball-specifically the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It you’ll remember, 2007 was the year the D-Backs went on an improbable run to the NL West crown and a trip to the NLCS (where they would ultimately be dismissed by the Colorado Rockies).

The 2007 Diamondbacks were a special group. They were a young team (CF Chris Young, RF Justin Upton, SS Stephen Drew, 1B Conor Jackson and 3B Mark Reynolds were all at the beginning of their careers) with a few “journeymen” type veterans (1B Tony Clark, 2B Orlando Hudson and LF Eric Byrnes) sprinkled in.

Their pitching staff (led by stars Brandon Webb and Randy Johnson) was clearly what carried them to October, but even that group included some journeymen, as Doug Davis and Livan Hernandez held down rotation spots.

They were a fun team that found success from Opening Day until the postseason, and it made the entire summer in Phoenix sort of magical.

Every game in every series at Chase Field (and away from Chase Field) mattered. Every game had a story line. Every game had underlying drama.

Every game was discussed by sports fans the next day on radio, around water coolers and on social media accounts (MySpace was the most popular at the time) throughout the state.

chasefield

As someone who wasn’t from Phoenix (and who actually went to Chase Field for three games in June looking like the above and below pictures), I had no emotional ties to the D-Backs. Yet as the season continued, I found myself more and more emotionally invested as the city where I resided came down with a case of Diamondbacks fever.

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I even found myself in a public fight with Diamondbacks President/CEO Derrick Hall before NLDS Game 1 against the Chicago Cubs-arguing with him that the team shouldn’t play “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the 7th Inning Stretch because it would give too much encouragement to the Cubs fans in attendance.

I REALLY didn’t care in my heart whether or not the Diamondbacks won the series. My team (the O’s) had just polished off their 10th consecutive losing season. Yet for some reason, the magic of the Diamondbacks’ accomplishment had touched even a dyed-in-the-wool Birds fan like myself.

It was then…in October of 2007…that I finally understood what Nestor (and company) were trying to say.

I hadn’t experienced that type of feeling as an Orioles fan in a decade.

I haven’t experienced it since then of course either.

The last time a meaningful game was played in Baltimore was in October of 1997, when Tony Fernandez crushed both Armando Benitez and the dreams of every 14 year old kid at Perry Hall High School like myself.

I at least got to see a meaningful game as a high school freshman. We’re now approaching a time where area kids will enter high school having not been alive for a single meaningful baseball game.

It’s real.

After seeing the Diamondbacks’ magical run and the way even a transient city like Phoenix was carried away by a season of baseball-I knew that “Free The Birds” was about the desire to finally see the city of Baltimore again experience the same thing.

And we all know just how much the city of Baltimore really needs to experience something like that.

That brings us to the 2011 Baltimore Orioles.

What’s happened with this franchise since 1997 isn’t the fault of President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail, Manager Buck Showalter, DH Vladimir Guerrero or any other player, coach or front office member…with one glaring exception-but we’ll leave Peter Angelos alone this time.

Just because the past 13 seasons aren’t the fault of the overwhelming majority of the principles involved in 2011 season doesn’t mean that the issues surrounding the past 13 seasons can suddenly be ignored.

Whether they like it or not, the 2011 Baltimore Orioles carry the burden of the failures of recent teams.

Just as the 2010 Baltimore Orioles did…and the 2009 Baltimore Orioles did…and the 2012 Baltimore Orioles will if this team doesn’t succeed.

The team (and most notably CF Adam Jones, who recently made some colorful comments to the Baltimore Sun) will be reminded of that when they report to Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Friday, April 22nd to open a six game homestand against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

It will be a somewhat painful reminder that what happened between 1998-2010 is still very much an issue to fans in Baltimore today.

The 2011 Baltimore Orioles will have to accept the desperation of a fanbase deprived of a winner for 13 cities every time they step on a baseball diamond.

We’ll find out over the next six months whether or not they can handle the responsibility.

The early returns have been questionable. Jones has popped off about the fanbase, Showalter took time in an interview to worry about the money Red Sox GM Theo Epstein is spending and how Yankees SS Derek Jeter stands at the plate.

The Orioles (and Orioles fans) cannot afford to waste their time this season worrying about anything other than winning baseball games.

They’re fighting a battle that won’t be easy. While most pundits agree this team is better than they have been in recent years-few believe they will be better than the Yankees, Red Sox or even the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East. Few believe that meaningful games will return to OPACY after the All-Star Game this season.

The Orioles will look to do their best to prove those pundits wrong, and it won’t be easy.

In the meantime, they’ll have to try to win back an entire city. There will always be a group of hardcore fans that will support a team emotionally and economically no matter what the results are-but this team will look to re-establish a broader level of support beyond that group.

To do so-the only thing they can concern themselves with is winning.

In fact, the Orioles would be wise to channel Al Davis and consider a “Just Win, Baby” mentality for 2011.

If they do so-Jones won’t have to worry about who is in the stands when the Yanks come back to town this August. Showalter won’t have to worry about how much money any other team in Major League Baseball spends.

The 2011 Baltimore Orioles just need to worry about winning.

Nothing else.

If they can win even enough to have their name on the Wild Card race list when the Yanks visit this August-the feeling at those games will be even more special than what I experienced at playoff games in Phoenix in 2007.

-G

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Putting the ‘O’ Back in Expectations

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Putting the ‘O’ Back in Expectations

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

As spring slowly begins to unfold in all of its glory and the NCAA basketball tournament heads inevitably toward its conclusion, the harbingers of baseball season are now all present and accounted for. And while the excitement and enthusiasm that are inherent to this time of year begin once again invading our sports consciousness, it’s fair to say that from an O’s fan’s perspective at least, this particular brand of enthusiasm is different than in recent seasons past. It’s different because in addition to the simple excitement that we typically draw from the beginning of another potentially historic Major League Baseball season, O’s fans, for the first time in a long time can actually look forward with encouragement and anticipation that their team will be playing a brand of baseball worth watching and talking about throughout this campaign.

It’s hard to say whether 13 straight losing seasons have left fans more or less realistic about the team’s chances to be competitive this year. Cynics will say that we’ve heard this all before and to no real avail, and will doubt the potential of a number of key players to remain healthy throughout the season, holding back their enthusiasm. Others, perhaps buoyed by a sheer desire to believe that things have to get better at some point, will point to the marked improvement the team made in their brief stint under Buck Showalter last season, and the seemingly significant talent boost from last year’s team to this as easy reasons for encouragement.

So which category do I fall into? Put me firmly (and conveniently) in the middle.

As the off-season unfolded and the O’s seemingly made improvement after improvement, I like the cynics I spoke of above felt a reluctance to buy in. However, when I sat down a month or so ago, and looked position by position at the AL East, I found it tough to argue the O’s potential. Here is that comparison.

In addition to the merits of their own off-season work, the O’s fortunes are certain to be molded by the collective work of their divisional contemporaries too. It seems pretty clear that the Red Sox are markedly improved from last season to this, add to that the brand of competitive baseball they managed to maintain throughout most of last season despite a slew of injuries and disappointments, and it’s hard not to look at them as likely winners of the AL East, or the AL overall for that matter. The Yankees and Rays are both left licking their proverbial wounds to some degree after this off-season, but much like the improvement of the Red Sox, I think the anticipated impact of the respective demises of the Yankees and Rays may also have been greatly overstated going into this season.

I expect the Red Sox to win the AL East, somewhat easily as long as they can remain relatively healthy. I’d also expect that despite the fact that they have an encouraging young array of talent themselves, the Blue Jays will run away with last place in the division. As for the remaining three, nothing would surprise me. It could be a real dogfight for 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the division this year.

If the O’s can remain relatively healthy (110+ games from Roberts & Lee) and develop some of their budding young talent in the process (Wieters & Matusz especially) I’m stuck on the notion of 85 wins (or between 84-86). With the way that the Yanks and Rays are looking now, I think that could be second place in the division this year. If second in the East creeps as high as 90 or more wins, I think the Yanks or Rays have a far better chance at getting there than Baltimore. My best guess is that it won’t though, and that the wildcard will likely come from the AL Central this season.

Of course any team is capable of making another move or two to get some talent before the trade deadline, if that team is the O’s it’ll be a summer to remember (one way or another). For now I’ll expect to be still talking interestedly about the O’s if and when NFL camps begin near the summer’s end. I’ll call that progress, and for now I’ll call .500 a success, but that success is relative to this season only and where they go from there is still anyone’s guess.

Do the 1-year answers in Lee and Guerrero position the O’s to make legitimate runs at Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder or any other potential free agent at season’s end? Would a good showing through June compel them to look into prospective free agents before we get to the off-season?  Or are those 1-year contracts a sneaky way of creating “artificial depth” in the minors this season?

Andy MacPhail’s stated goals from day one included stocking the farm system and developing the talent therein. While their have been encouraging byproducts of that effort evidenced on the Major League roster, the team found themselves taken to task this winter by various media outlets over the now bare cabinet that their farm system had quickly become. Surely the relegation of Nolan Reimold to AAA (by way of the Guerrero acquisition) makes that picture a little more robust. Although the Duscherer signing didn’t quite work out that well, if it had allowed the team to begin the season with either Tillman, Arrieta or both in the minors along with Britton and Josh Bell who were expected to be there…well suddenly the cabinet doesn’t look quite as bare as had been stated previously.

For my money, before they play a single game, the O’s have earned my enthusiasm once again. Let’s face it, as a 38-year old O’s fan, successful seasons in my lifetime have been few and far between. No matter how this plays out, I get the sense that the front office (as best they could) is trying to appease the fans with a competent Major League product, even if it’s contrary to what they’re doing in building toward the future. To that end I am already satisfied. The real questions for me, will be answered on draft day, and through the trading deadline if the O’s begin this year either much better or worse than expected, and perhaps most importantly in free agency.

The April schedule is brutal, if the O’s simply survive it near .500 I’ll be even more encouraged than I am right now…for now. Becoming a sustainable contender going forward is still tough to picture from here though, especially in this division.

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