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More Koji-coddling in 2010?

Posted on 07 September 2009 by mike3505

When I E-mailed Nestor early this year to see if he was a like mind on how the O’s were treating Koji, I had no idea that  that would turn into a springboard for me getting on the ol’ WNST barstool.  So, I thought that I would just briefly mention my previous thought regarding our erstwhile import for anyone who may have had a similar feeling.

When Koji was still in our starting rotation, despite my excitement at his initial signing and my wish for him to be successful here, I became more and more frustrated with the excuses being put out by the warehouse as to his lack of durability and overall success. I cannot recall the exact sequence of events, but I do recall such words and phrases as “humidity too high”, “too many innings”, “too much workload”, and finally the ubiquitous “arm fatigue” until finally they shut him down  for what is starting to look more and more like the remainder of the season, despite the team’s regular assurances.

I couldn’t help but wonder even then if his interpreter, his agent, or someone who had his ear right before signing that two-year, $10 million deal pulled him aside and said something like, “Bro, do you realize what you’re signing up for? You’re used to pitching a few innings every six days in climate-controlled domes. What are you going to do in Baltimore in July and August when its 97 degrees with 97 percent humidity in a 5-man rotation pitching regularly against the greatest hitters in the world?” I suppose they didn’t, because even speaking through an interpreter, Koji seemed downright surprised at what was required to be successful here.

With 2009 nearly in the books (insert sarcastic comment here) our thoughts must turn toward the make-up of the team in 2010..particularly the various options on the pitching rotation. Are the Orioles going to open up and admit that they may have made a mistake in slotting this guy for the rotation and move him to long relief where he seems much more suited? Or, are they going to be a slave to their pride and put him in the rotation to get pummeled after the fifth inning every fifth day because they don’t want word to get out that we’re paying $5 million a year for a long reliever, historically the unsexiest position on the team?

I’d like to think that the Orioles are capable under the leadership of Andy MacPhail to do what’s best for the team,  take the hit, and put him in the bullpen for next season to shore up a very unsteady long-relief choir (going into next year with Albers and Bass again doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence). However, the Orioles of the past dozen or so years don’t exactly have the reputation of admitting to mistakes, so we may have to endure even more “short term pain” until this contract expires. Let’s just see what the Hot Stove  season brings…

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Adam Jones wins one: Orioles outlast Nats 4-2 in 12 innings

Posted on 23 May 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Somewhere, there’s a Bob Hope like joke here somewhere. Ya know, “What the only thing worse than watching two last place teams play for nine innings?”

Of course, deadpanned: “Watching them play for 12 innings.”

But that’s what I did tonight as the Orioles and Nationals pitching staffs combined to duel well into the night in a 2-2 deadlock until Adam Jones hit a two-run double, improbably scoring pitcher Danys Baez who also vultured the victory in Washington D.C.

Nolan Reimold got the “Battle of The Beltway” started with a homer in the first inning off of rookie starter Jordan Zimmerman but that was all of the offense the O’s could manage before the 12th inning.

O’s starter Rich Hill was decent, going 5 2/3 innings and allowing just three hits although he walked four Nats as well. Manager Dave Trembley used four members of the bullpen — Matt Albers, Jim Johnson, Baez and George Sherrill — so there will be an extra tax for the extra baseball tonight.

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The Orioles Weekend

Posted on 28 April 2009 by Neal Bortmes

Melvin Mora has been activated from the disabled list today which is surprisingly good news.  Ty Wigginton has been a butcher at third base so far this year and it may be because he needs to lose a little weight.  He rakes lefties but is much better suited to come off of the bench due to his lack of defense.  The return of Mora not only improves the infield defense but it also forces the Orioles to send Matt Albers down.  I think Albers’ slow start is due to choosing rehab for his labrum injury instead of electing to have surgery.  I still think that he is going to be a good reliever in the long run but he needs to get the surgery if he wants to return to form.

 

Over the weekend the Orioles lost a series against the Texas Rangers.  The Rangers are a team that contenders will routinely pound night in and night out because they lack pitching.  Losing 3 of 4 to the Rangers sums up the Orioles’ season thus far considering we hit well but couldn’t get anyone out.  I attended the game on Friday night and I was thoroughly impressed with the crowd.  The camaraderie in the stands was fantastic and it was evident that the town still loves the birds.  However, the strong showing probably had more to do with the great weather and ice cold beer than with Oriole magic, considering the amount of Yankee jerseys and apparel from teams not named the Baltimore Orioles seen around the yard.  There was a little too much alcohol flowing on this particular college night because a shirtless punk decided to run out onto the field, the game was delayed for a time but it was good to see the fans were at least paying enough attention to notice the idiocy. 

 

It is however apparent that George Sherrill is not a closer, he puts too many guys on base and he gives up too many hits.  Sherrill may have made the All-Star team last year but he is at best a situational closer as witnessed by his performance toward the end of last season.  Chris Ray needs to assert himself as the closer so that Sherrill can return to a more natural set-up role.  The fans deserve to leave the stadium in a good mood instead of departing with elevated blood pressure because Sherrill gives up a walk-off to Michael Young.  Having a lefty as a closer is tricky because they often face tough match-ups against good right-handed hitters at the end of the game and can be overmatched in that situation.

 

The offense is still clicking most nights which helps keep the game interesting especially if the Orioles are behind in the later innings.  How good is Adam Jones by the way, he is a complete stud and is rapidly approaching star status, his homerun on Sunday was only a harbinger of heroics to come.  I like the fact that we can slug it out with teams adept on offense, it’s truly a wonderful thing considering a couple of years ago Jay Gibbons was the power in the middle of the order.  But the truth is the O’s will not approach .500 until they get better effort from the starting pitchers.  I didn’t think I would ever say I am excited to see Rich Hill but I think he has a chance to improve the rotation when he returns.  Also, something appears to be wrong with Jeremy Guthrie and I hope that he does not have any residual effects from last season’s shoulder impingement.  Guthrie is no ace but he can pitch more effectively than what he has shown thus far.

 

The weekend didn’t go so well but hopefully they bounce back tonight against the Angels.  The birds have won all of their three game series this year so hopefully that trend continues.  Good luck to Adam Eaton, it would be great if he produced another miracle start just as he did on Thursday against the White Sox.  A sweep of the Angels would be nice in order to be in good standing heading into their match-up against Toronto. 

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O’s are slip, sliding away…

Posted on 28 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

It seems that no one noticed over the weekend while the NFL Draft was going on, but the Orioles are still playing baseball. And they’re actually fun to watch most nights. It’s been a strange start to the season in a lot of ways.

Just the crowds — one night there’s a “friends and family” gathering of 5,000 or so like last night, and then on Friday and Saturday night the place was almost full — are kinda strange. But so is the weather these last few days. Global warming at work, no doubt.

It’s 2:52 a.m. and I’m watching the end of the replay of the Orioles game in HD. I fell asleep on the game at 8:35 and again at 9:10 earlier this evening in low definition. I woke up, and it was the 3rd inning all over again, this time in HD.

They lost again. They blew a 4-0 lead again. With the “Number 1” starter on the hill in Jeremy Guthrie an early four-run lead wasn’t nearly enough. This time it was Matt Albers’ turn to take a spanking, getting shelled for 3 earned runs in just 2/3 of an inning.

Tonight the Angels come to town for two quick games. The Orioles have lost three of four and are now 9-11.

Matt Albers stood at his locker and took the heat. He seems like a stand-up kid (and I remember many nights in that locker room where “run and hide” guys were more the norm).

Guthrie’s pitch count — he was nearing 90 pitches in the fourth inning — did him in and he walked off the hill after the fifth with a slim 4-3 lead. Albers’ blow-up was only answered in the 9th inning when the Orioles threatened with two on and two out before Robert Andino struck out swinging. (He, too, answered questions after the game, which I respect.)

So it’s another night when they’ve blown a huge lead, which is becoming a trend en route to a habit. Look, no one expects them to go to the World Series, but at least play capably and keep it interesting for us in 2009!

But it’s so frustrating and bad, it’s almost comical. It’s like a Greek tragedy. You just wait on bad things to happen it seems after 12 years. And then — voila — once a week Adam Eaton will throw a gem or they’ll score 12 runs and hit four homers, and you’ll be shocked that they can win.

Every night you can count on the top of the lineup to hit the ball. Every night the pitching is an adventure. And even when they get behind, they have shown an ability to score runs 4 or 5 at a time. Even tonight, they were two runs down and Andino represented an opportunity to win the game.

But that’s part of the problem. This team has no “bench” to speak of, which is embarrassing. Opposing bullpens and managers never have to worry about any late-game adjustments. What decisions does Dave Trembley even have to make? Insert Felix Pie to pinch hit? Or Andino? Or Chad Moeller?

If the team were serious about winning this year they’d have Matt Wieters up here just to get his stick in the lineup so they could score more and so the fans will have a reason to go to the ballpark.

Brad Bergesen looked pretty ordinary on Sunday. Gregg Zaun is hitting .120. Pie, who they’re married to for a while it seems, is hitting .167. And virtually every pitcher on the staff has had issues along with the marvels of the rare gem, like Adam Eaton’s effort last Thursday.

I still think Koji Uehara is going to be pretty decent, which is saying something for any “outsider” who has ever come to the franchise. Most of the imports have just stunk. I think Koji will keep them in most games and won’t be taking third-inning exits as frequently as some of his co-workers.

But I’ve been watching and watching a lot. No one has been calling my show to even discuss the team, which makes me wonder if anyone is actually watching the games or just reading the boxscores. Or maybe not even noticing when they play or how they’re doing in the standings.

Tonight’s crowd was a disgrace by any measure, especially on a 80-degree “Short sleeves” kinda night.

It’s been a bit of a lost weekend for the O’s, even when the Ravens pimped them and spent a ton of cash buying more than 14,000 tickets for Saturday night’s game and providing only 10,000 of those fabulous purple hats. (Why they didn’t give away 45,000 of them, I have no idea…??)

Everyone in town was watching the draft and dissecting the selections on Saturday and Sunday.

But I’m still watching baseball and the Orioles. Sometimes, it’s on “DVR-delay,” like when I watched Bergesen pitch “Sunday Night” baseball after I caught up on the Caps and the NFL Draft, which have become a priority for me as a sports fan this week.

But I’m watching the Orioles. I care. Do you?

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O’s blow early 7-0 lead, lose 10-8 to Red Sox in Boston

Posted on 17 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

These are the losses that bust you up, the ones you never understand. Except that over the years, evenings like tonight have become so commonplace that they’re shrugged off en route to 90 losses. The Orioles blew a 7-0 lead tonight, allowing the Red Sox 10 runs on 12 hits and even sprinkling in a devastating error by Aubrey Huff to lose 10-8 at Fenway Park tonight.

The “BALTIMORE” jerseys were somehow absent tonight (good luck on the explanation for that one). The Red Sox were wearing bright red “warm up”jerseys and blue caps with the cartoon pair of Red Sox with white trim. They were sharp, but looked like a world championship softball team. But I’m sure they’ll sell some hats.

The Red Sox have suffered the first two weeks with an anemic offensive attack and yet while David Ortiz continues to struggle — he struck out three times tonight — Jason Bay and Dustin Pedroia led the way for the Sox tonight battering Jeremy Guthrie out of the game in the 5th inning and hammering the bullpen led by Danys Baez. Matt Albers got into hot water in the 8th but escaped like Houdini.

The Orioles are now 6-4 — not too shabby, all things considered but they are taking on all of the characteristics of a bad team. Orioles pitching has allowed 29 runs in the last 16 innings of baseball.

Not good!

My running blog below…

10:26 p.m. — Markakis flies out. Huff strikes out. Threat ends ugly and empty. Did I mention that they blew a 7-0 lead tonight with their ace on the hill?

10:19 p.m. –The Orioles are threatening in the eighth. Two on, Markakis up. It’s a “defining” moment. Iwajima is in the game. Lefty on lefty…

10:07 p.m. — They’re booing Big Papi…LOUDLY! Fenway Park sounds like a festival of the “Boo-g Powells.” Big Papi has now fanned three times. He looks like Little Papi in 2009 thus far. Alberts got Youkilis to ground into a double play. There’s still hope! They survived a bases-loaded, no out jam! This could be a “defining” moment, a turning point in the season. Or, maybe not…

10:05 p.m. — Matt Albers is in the game. The bases are loaded. Nobody out. And Big Papi is coming to the dish. Trouble?

9:58 p.m. — Someone just left me a comment about how Gawd-awful MASN’s in-house commercials are and how often we are subjected to them. Agreed. Just painful, and we’re only two weeks into the season! And now, after blowing a 7-0 lead, I’m subjected to Amber Theoharis smiling and giving us “minor league” pitching updates from Bowie, which will be a “good news” staple all season.

The biggest story in the Orioles’ universe tonight is their catcher of the future who should already be here tweaking a hammy in suburban Atlanta. I suppose it’s great that so many folks are interested in their farm system and they’re actually “marketing” these kids. I just hope to God a few of them can actually play come 2011. This is the biggest “sell job” the franchise has ever put on us while we watch pitching that has allowed 29 runs in the last 15 innings.

9:48 p.m. –I hear Danys Baez is a great guy. (I’ve never met him.) But he sucks as a pitcher. The Orioles have now officially blown a 7-0 lead with their ace on the hill against a division opponent that was reeling offensively before tonight.

9:35 p.m. — That Kevin Youkilis header was quite scary. Baez looked a little unglued. He clearly felt horrible about it. Always the scariest thing in baseball, next to the pitcher comebackers.

9:14 p.m. — The game is tied after Nick Green launched one over Adam Jones’ head. Guthrie is headed the shower. Even after being staked to eight runs of offensive support, he can only be the loser. He leaves the game with eight runs scored — no thanks to the Huff botching of a Bill Buckner-esque grounder — and two aboard. Enter Danys Baez. They call this “relief” pitching?

9:12 p.m. — Jeremy Guthrie was sailing through the fifth but all hell has broken loose with two outs. A triple, a couple of walks and then the Aubrey Huff snafu has staked the Red Sox to the brink of getting into the Orioles line of arsonists waiting out in the bullpen.

9:02 p.m. — The Matt Wieters “situation” is apparently nothing too serious, but the Orioles have been known to “fib” with their media relations. So, who knows? We’ll know more tomorrow.

8:48 p.m. — Lots of offense. Lots of bad pitching. Looks like another fun evening at Fenway Park is shaping up. At least Guthrie has survived the initial storm. More than we can say for Josh Beckett. Nick Markakis hits a salami. And Brian Roberts and Adam Jones continue to be the best 1-2 punch in MLB over the first two weeks.

Oh…and Big Papi looks sick. They’re on the way to a series lead. But then again, the bullpen will be called upon at some point.

7:12 p.m. — What the heck happened to “BALTIMORE” on the black road jerseys? Explanation anyone?

7:11 p.m. — Wow, those Red jerseys pop off the screen in HD. Just seeing Brian Roberts stroll up to the plate hitting .444 is pretty cool, especially when you consider how many times this organization dangled him out on the trade market. He’s rich. He’s cool. He’s community-oriented and an all-around good guy. And, he’s hitting .444. What’s not to like about BRob? One of the real reasons to go the ballpark if you do go…

I’m not going to blog inning by inning, but if you want to comment on the game at any point, feel free. I’ll approve them over the next hour during dinner. Looks like a beautiful night to be at Fenway for a game.

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How ’bout dem O’s!

Posted on 16 April 2009 by Neal Bortmes

The Orioles are continuing their modus operandi from the past few years and are teasing us with winning baseball at the beginning of the season.  If you are a true orange and black fan it is hard not to get excited at the start of a new season, especially when they have started off so well winning each of their first three series.  Opening Day was an incredible experience this year and it surpassed past years due to the uncertainty of the weather and the eventual payoff at the end of the game.  The clouds threatened to rain on our parade and one of the best parties of the year in Baltimore.  The sun peeked out for a while in mid-afternoon but the rains came again right before game time which seemed like an omen representing the big bad Yankees hanging over our heads.

 

As you know by now the game was not rained out after all and the Orioles were like a bright ray of sunshine cutting through the clouds.  The bats came alive for 10 runs that day and chased Cy Young award winner and 161 million dollar mercenary CC Sabathia in the 4th inning.  It was an absolutely fantastic day for baseball and it was made even better by the fact that loyal Orioles fans did not let the Yankee supporters in attendance drown out their cheers.  The infamous lets go Yankees chant that can be clearly heard at Camden Yards in the later months of the season as the seats turn from orange to green was overpowered by boos for Tex-liar.  For the first time in over a decade I could feel the camaraderie of O’s fans permeate the stadium.  The way the O’s dominated the majority of that game made the Boog’s BBQ and the ample amount of brew taste that much sweeter.

 

I have been impressed with the way the Orioles are swinging the bats this season.  Izturis capped off the great Opening Day win with his first and probably only homerun this season, but aside from that he is the only player who needs to significantly increase his offensive production.  He was signed to upgrade a poor up the middle defense and has been a drastic improvement over 2008’s garbage group barring last evening’s boot in the third inning against the Rangers.  Zaun has not dominated with the bat so far but as all O’s fans know he was signed to mentor Matt Weiters once he is called up, and Zaun has done an adequate job in his stead.  We are however waiting with bated breath for Weiters’ arrival.

 

Aubrey Huff has impressed me with his transition to full-time first baseman.  Like I said he will never be mistaken for JT Snow over there but he is serviceable, and a significant upgrade over Kevin “Red Sox” Millar.  Huff won a Silver Slugger at first base last year which is a significant accomplishment considering first base is typically an offense first position.  The way he has been swinging the bat lately I really think the O’s should try to sign him to an extension.  Three or four years might get it done and they don’t have anyone in the minors even close to ready to supplant him in the near future.  Gone are the days of guys like Calvin Pickering and Ryan Minor toiling in the minors waiting to get a shot.  Lets get over our huff about what Aubrey said (it really wasn’t all that bad to start with) and embrace what he has been doing for the ball club.

 

Speaking of toiling in the minors, the trade for Felix Pie, who has been yanked up and down by the Cubs over the last few years, was a low risk/high reward deal.  Pie represents a potential impact player on defense, and a capable offensive player with speed.  The only thing the O’s gave up was Garrett Olsen a below average lefty who had virtually no upside, and unless he pulls a John Maine and comes out of nowhere to be a decent end of the rotation guy this is a can’t lose scenario.  The mastermind of the Orioles recent terrific player personnel decisions Andy MacPhail has really outdone himself on his two biggest trades.  Trading a steroid using, older than he claimed to be, unhappy player with declining power and range for 5 players including Houston’s best pitching prospect in Troy Patton, Luke Scott our starting DH, as well as Matt Albers and Dennis Sarfate who are strong bullpen contributors has to be one of the biggest hoodwinks of all time.  It is only outdone by MacPhail’s other conquest over former Seattle Mariner’s GM Bill Bavasi.  A trade in which he dealt a disgruntled, no heart, only wants to pitch six innings crybaby who never lived up to the potential of his great stuff in Erik Bedard for 5 players including future face of the franchise centerfielder Adam Jones, as well as stud pitching prospect Chris Tillman and All-Star closer George Sherrill. 

 

O’s fans may not agree with everything MacPhail has done but no one can argue that this team has not improved significantly over past couple years, especially with building depth in the minor leagues.  The one complaint that I would raise is to question why they are starting guys like Adam Eaton and Mark Hendrickson who are guaranteed to have an ERA over 6.00 in place of young players like Brad Bergesen.  Bergesen could give up a ton of runs and be chased in the early innings just as easily, however Bergeson is in his early 20’s and actually has some upside.  With a little bit of experience he is almost destined to be better than those two stiffs.   Hendrickson was drafted by the 76’ers, 31st overall in the 1996 NBA draft, to quote EJ Pipkin’s 2004 campaign catchphrase “Who Knew?”  Maybe he should think about a return engagement with the NBA and put us out of our misery.  Prospect Radhames Liz is thought to be a starter and has recently been recalled; however he is a bullpen guy, period.  Liz has no upside as a starter but as a reliever he may find some late inning success.

 

The off-season signings of Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts seem like a harbinger of good things to come.  As the team continues to develop I hope that MacPhail will be able to sign our young players to long-term deals and keep the core guys together throughout their careers from the minors to major league success.  Let’s hope the O’s can continue to remain competitive for the remainder of the season, I want to see a game that matters in September for a change.

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Orioles hold on again, beat Yankees 7-5 to start season with pair of wins

Posted on 08 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

It shouldn’t have been so close in the end, but tonight was another “Oriole Magic” kinda night as the Birds jumped out to a big lead over the Yankees behind a nice starting effort from Koji Uehara and eventually held on to win 7-5 before a split crowd of orange and pinstripes.

Nick Markakis got three hits and the bullpen got sloppy at the end, but the Birds are 2-0 and coming back to Camden Yards at 1:35 tomorrow with a chance to sweep the Yankees to start the season.

Here’s my running blog from the game. As always, feel free to comment!

9:59 p.m. — Geez, not much has changed with Dennis Sarfate. Brought on to basically do a ninth-inning mop up, he’s now pushed my American Idol starting time back another 10 minutes and has forced George Sherrill into a game they’d probably rather have not used him. As my Pop would say, “the walks will kill ya!”

The Yankees lineup is dangerous — as Derek Jeter just showed. Jim Palmer is railing about the 27th out. The crowd gave Teixeira the rasberries and he just poked an RBI double into the gap and this has gotten frightening. Johnny Damon scored and here comes Hideki Matsui with the potential game-tying run at the plate. It’s a ballgame.

9:41 p.m. — The Orioles continue to just mow down the Yankees. They can’t hit the ball out of the infield. Danys Baez has retired six straight. Brian Roberts is flashing leather. Jim Palmer is talking ply-o-metrics. I might be catching up on American Idol by 10 p.m at this rate. Great game. Great start to the season. The Orioles are three outs away from bringing brooms back to the ballpark in the morning for a potential sweep by 4:30 tomorrow.

9:30 p.m. — Danys Baez just dropped Mark Teixeira to 0-for-8 on the season and 8-for-8 in post at-bat jeers, curses and boos. The crowd is relentless. It’s really kinda fun to boo him, I think. I’m squarely behind the effort but it’s kinda mindless when you really think about it. It’s NOT Teixeira’s fault the organization has become a national disgrace and no player of his caliber would want to play here. It’s Peter Angelos’ and the ownership group’s fault for seeing him in pinstripes. To even imply it’s anything less than that is just foolish. In 1996 and 1997, I have a feeling Teixeira dreamed of being an Oriole and being Cal Ripken. The reality of 2009 is that “deal” and “dream” isn’t remotely available for him. He made the right call for him. Maybe the fans get it? Maybe they don’t? Either way, it’s kinda fun and it’s what he gets for being a Yankee. Even if he wasn’t willing to take $50 million less to play here and lose for the forseeable future.

9:26 p.m. — Instead of an extra base hit, Adam Jones literally Paul Blair’d a ball into the left center field gap while blowing a bubble with his gum and, like Sheriff Buford T. Justice, “In HIGH SPEED PURSUIT.” Nice play. Two outs instead of a double and a guy standing on second. Defense. Nice!

9:20 p.m. — Gotta love the early-season boxscores with averages and ERAs. First, we had the Chris Ray 52.00 ERA yesterday. And now, after going 3-for-3 so far tonight, Nick Markakis is hitting .714. Of course, Chian-Ming Wang isn’t going to like his 17.18 ERA for the next four days either.

9:12 p.m. — Koji Uehara’s final line is more than acceptable: 5 innings, 5 hits, 1 earned run and 1.80 ERA to start the season. Gimme 31 more of those.

With a six-run lead, for now I’ll forgive Matt Albers his sins.

8:55 p.m. — I’m sure someone will tell Gary Thorne it’s BUILD me up buttercup, not FILL me up buttercup. So I won’t bother him with it. He should be doing hockey games anyway! The Birds are rolling. My boy Don has been sending me texts about how much fun he’s having…

Oriole Magic, feel it happen!

8:40 p.m. — Damn…3 2/3 innings, 9 hits, 7 earned runs, 3 walks…a bed-wetting of biblical proportions for Wang. The New York tabloid headline writers are hard at work right now…

8:38 p.m. — Call me old school, but I like the sacrifice fly and the bunt and the “hitting the cutoff man.” After Melvin Mora kicked a grounder and a base-running gaffe earlier by Aubrey Huff, this inning has been contained some Orioles Magic. Doubles, sacrifice flies and a giant tater from Nick Markakis and the Yankees are staring up at 0-2 and the Orioles are flying high. It’s 7-1 and the pinstripers have gone to the pen in the 4th inning. The Yankees’ No. 1 and No. 2 starters have been drilled. The “shaky” Orioles rotation has delivered two big mid-game leads. Baseball can be crazy at times.

8:29 p.m. — I’m unabashed in my affection for Gregg Zaun, whose presence on the team alone makes me a much bigger fan of the 2009 Orioles. I’ve known Zaun since the beginning. He’s a great dude. I think he’ll be a manager one day. He’s an asset to the franchise and he just doubled in a run off the wall.

8:20 p.m. — Cody Ransom just came two feet away from tagging Koji Uehara for his first big-league dinger. Just when he was on the verge of getting into “quality start” area, it’s now a mini-threat. Young Brett Gardner gets his chance to be a hero and tie the game. He gets jammed and Uehara only gives up one run. Not bad. Let’s assess:

4 innings pitched, 1 run allowed. I’ll take this every night, especially against the Yankees. Let’s see how far he can go. My gut says, he’ll get to the 7th inning. My gut says a kid who leaves Japan to come here has guts and some fight in him, especially at 34 years of age. His stuff doesn’t look dominating, but if the Orioles had five of this guy we’ve seen over four innings, they might be the 80-win team some of the Kool Aid drinkers think they can be.

Gotta go listen to Ty Wigginton. He’s in line to be my “favorite Oriole of 2009.”

8:13 p.m. — OK, So Gary Thorne says there will be 20 million watching the game in Japan. I hope whoever is counting them isn’t the one who announces the Orioles home attendance. But it’s pretty hardcore in Japan for sure. I wish every American baseball fan could go to Japan and see the deal there. It’s a like a whole country of Red Sox fans. They’re into Bobby Valentine and that crazy Hello Kitty thing. Did anyone see the ESPN Valentine special last fall? Pretty spectacular show, really. It was a well done and “reality” in the truest sense of the word.

8:11 p.m. — MASN is going “behind the scenes” with the Japanese broadcast after this commercial. Funny I just wrote about it. But this oughta be pretty good…

DAMN…these MASN commercials almost make me want to DVR the game and skip them…they’re just dreadful, phony…eeeeeeeewwww!!!!

8:09 p.m. — I want Aubrey Huff to whack it!

7:59 p.m. — Political correctness is out the window. How about “O’s wing Wang’s number”?

It’s the third inning. The game has been interesting. A sea of empty seats. Lots of Yankees fans. Not too many O’s fans but the ones there are crushing Teixeira, which is officially a “tradition” now after 48 hours. And while all of the passion in the stadium is for Tex, the real story tonight is how many Japanese folks (literally MILLIONS) are watching tonight’s game with a nationalistic pride that we give to things like the 1980 Olympic hockey team. When Uehara and Hideki Matsui face off, the Japanese media are at a fever pitch. Tokyo is at a fever pitch. I had Jim Traber on tonight to talk about baseball and Japan. The videos I shot at Dodger Stadium two weeks ago are pretty cool. Thousands of hardcore Japanese baseball fans who care more about their national players than they do whether the Yankees or the Orioles win. It’s kinda cool.

Brian Roberts just drew a leadoff walk in the 3rd. Nice start. A little rally would be nice…

7:40 p.m. — I was one of the many screaming for MASN to finally get into the 21st century and deliver these games in HD. Especially given how the public was completely hoodwinked into having to pay the Mister Angelos and Sons Network a cool $2.60 per month for Hawaiian League Baseball and reruns of the 1970 World Series that I already own on pirated DVDs. (Thanks to the person who provided these…)

Melvin Mora just botched a pretty routine grounder with a bad grip. Jim Palmer is telling old Brooks Robinson fielding stories. I like Jim Palmer’s old stories. I like when Gary Thorne is calling the games, even though he should be doing hockey games next week, which God created him to do. But, I’m happy to have him.

Koji Uehara has made it through a leadoff walk to Jeter and a second-inning jam unscathed. All is well.

The one thing I didn’t consider with MASN HD was seeing so many freaking Yankees fans in HD behind home plate. Bring back Home Team Sports! Or Super TV!

7:27 p.m. — What the hell was Aubrey Huff doing? Trying to steal third? Yikes! Finally the Yankees fans manage a cheer. A substantial cheer, unfortunately, tonight. Mora’s single would’ve scored Huff. They gave a run away. With their pitching issues, giving runs away against the Yankees is not advised…

7:23 p.m. — Nick Markakis just one-hopped one off the wall after Adam Jones roped one off of Chian-Ming Wang, and the O’s are up 1-0. There is nothing more dramatic than seeing how empty the stadium is after so many people were there 48 hours ago. Kinda sad, especially when I remember the nights when the ballpark would be crazy full tonight and the city would be rocking. I drove through downtown an hour ago and it was barely like there was a game. This crowd is tiny and Aubrey Huff just added to the pop with a double to right field. It’s now 2-0.

7:20 p.m. — Damn, they’re booing Teixeira every time he TOUCHES THE BALL! He IS Larry Murphy! It might be worth going to a game when the Yankees come to town JUST TO DO IT! It’s like a new dance, or something!

7:14 p.m. — Koji walked his first major league hitter, Derek Jeter. Now Mark Teixeira is getting HAMMERED by the handful of Orioles fans in what appears to be a sea of Yankees fans. Prediction: this will be ugly forever. This is the beginning of what I’ll call the “Larry Murphy” rule. Once Murphy left the Caps and went to the Red Wings he got “whooooped” until the end of time. Teixeira will come to Baltimore roughly 60 times over the next six years (Yankee-Orioles playoff games not included…but then again, I’m not exactly holding my breath on that!). He will be roundly, doggedly booed for “sport” until his dying day as a Yankee. It’s kinda “caught on.”

Koji Uehara had a solid first inning after the walk and his ERA is markedly better than Chris Ray’s first inning of the season.

7:05 p.m. — Ok, this’ll be my first crack at a live blog during an O’s game. Since most of us tend to watch the game on TV and the game of baseball lends itself to “instant” observations, this will be a lot of fun. I’m not sure how much to write, or how much you’ll participate, but at least I get to speak my mind and have some fun.

And, it’ll beat watching the game “alone.”

So far, I’ve been watching MASN HD for the last 20 minutes and I’ve been subjected to a pimp-a-thon by Greg Bader about every upcoming promotion and Rick Dempsey talking about his nephew Gregg Zaun, which is just a little weird, even though I like them both very much.

Koji Uehara has taken the hill and his first pitch is a strike. Nice start…

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Pre game notes

Posted on 02 July 2008 by caseywillett

Here are some notes from Dave Trembley:
 
          The Orioles have not heard from Dr James Andrews in regards to Matt Albers as of this afternoon. They are expecting to hear from him later today.
 
          Kevin Millar is getting the night off so that Jay Payton can get into play. Trembley pointed out that Millar’s 1-24 .042 career average against Meche is not the deciding factor, but is considered when he is making decisions. Millar has only struck out once versus Meche, and his only hit was in his first at bat against Meche back on 8-25-2003. Millar singled to center and was thrown out going into second.
 
 
          Adam Loewen will not be available for the Orioles tonight. Trembley said that Loewen will pitch back to back nights, but not after his first outing out of the bullpen. The original plan was for Adam to stay in the minors till the All –Star break, but he was progressing fast and with Jamie Walker going on the disabled list, there was a need for him.
 
          Ramon Hernandez is batting cleanup for the Orioles tonight and the reason is because Trembley says he did not want four left handed hitters batting in a row: Roberts, Markakis, Huff, then Ramon, followed by Scott. In case you were wondering, Ramon is 8-26 lifestime versus Meche.
 
 
          I asked Dave Trembley if he sees any similarities between the Royals and Orioles and what they are doing, and he said yes and added the Pirates in that equation also. Dave said he knows Royals manager Trey Hillman very well and what the Royals are trying to do is similar to what the Orioles are doing here.

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Pregame O’s notes

Posted on 01 July 2008 by caseywillett

Here are some notes from manager Dave Trembley’s meeting with the media:
 
          As the revolving door at short stop continues, the team is out looking for options outside of the organization for that position. Trembley said that Brandon Fahey and Freddie Bynum will play depending on who does what. I think the problem will be that there is not much out there on the free agent market or in trade.
 
          Matt Albers will go to visit with the famous surgeon Dr Andrews in Alabama tomorrow. Albers is going to get a second opinion on his torn labrum and whether surgery or rehab is the best option. I think having Albers go ahead and have the surgery would be the best for him and the team for the future.
 
          If the opportunity arises tonight, Trembley said he would go to George Sherill again in a save situation. Sherill is a very competitive guy and said it does not take him long to forget what happens. As for his glove that he tossed in the stands last night, he says he does not want it back and that it is not the first time he has done that.
 
          Jamie Walker did something last night that he has not done since 1999. Jamie sat in the dugout to watch a game as he is currently on the disabled list. Jamie told Dave Trembley it is a whole different game to see from the dugout compared to from the bullpen. There is some deal that Walker has with Chad Bradford and George Sherrill where if they come into the game, he goes out to the bullpen. My take is that Jamie could be a nice veteran asset to have for the young guys in the bullpen. He can talk to them about situations and different things. Trembley commented on how sharp and knowledgeable Jamie is and said that not much gets by him. Trembley pointed out that Walker could also help young guys like Liz, Olson, and other pitchers while they are sitting in the dugout.

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Back On The Blog

Posted on 06 May 2008 by Mark Suchy

Random baseball thoughts: The Baltimore Orioles are now back at .500 following last night’s 2 -1, 10 inning defeat in Oakland. How long until they’re 10 games below .500? 20 games? Even with the unexpected good start, wasn’t it just a matter of time before the Birds “found their level”? This team has a disturbing gap between up – and – coming stars like Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Matt Albers and veteran players who would be best used as role players on contending teams like Millar, Huff and Trachsel. The good news is that the Orioles can’t be considered real contenders, so Andy MacPhail can continue the rebuilding he started in the off-season by trading desirable veteran parts by the trade deadline (Mora, Millar, Payton, Walker, Bradford, Huff, etc.). The bad news is the ballclub is clearly headed for an 11th consecutive losing season (and quite realistically a 12th). How much more can one team’s dwindling fan base endure? We’ll find out by mid-August when Texas comes to town.

Speaking of attendance…I was cruising through the channels last week, catching some NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs and a little MLB, when I stopped cold in my tracks on MASN’s coverage of the Washington Nationals game. Here it was a pleasant spring night, early May, in a ballpark that just opened, and there were entire sections of blue seats visible in the background! For all the hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing we do around here regarding the lack of attendance at OPACY, just 30 miles down the road, in a $611 million taxpayer funded gem of a new stadium, the Nats couldn’t even sell out a Thursday night game! By my admittedly amateurish guess, the place might have been half filled. What gives? Wasn’t D.C. the handpicked market to relocate the Expos to because “they haven’t had baseball in 33 years in our nation’s capital and they’re just dying to have a team and it’ll be the best thing for the interests of MLB”? Could it be that Bud Selig miscalculated again? Was Peter Angelos correct in his argument that this Baltimore – Washington region couldn’t support two teams? Did the powers – that – be in the Washington baseball circles badly misjudge the location of the new stadium? (As crazy as it sounds, the best proposal was to put the ballpark out near Dulles Airport, because, ya know, people actually live in Northern Virginia and there’s plenty of ground available for parking and it’s not in Southeast D.C.) Call me a born and bred Baltimorean, but there is absolutely no way Camden Yards would have suffered attendance problems like this in its first year even if a team had existed in Washington in 1992. Here’s the truth: D.C. is a transient town filled with people from everywhere but there. And the natives who might be inclined to go to a baseball game either can’t afford it or aren’t willing to take the Metro night after night to reach such an inaccessible and blighted neighborhood. Mark my words: baseball will fail for a third time in D.C., and in about twenty years they’ll be left with a beautiful stadium and no team. If Cleveland Municipal Stadium was the “Mistake by the Lake”, then let’s call Nationals Stadium “It’ll Cost Ya on the Anacostia”.

Final baseball thought: Chase Utley is one helluva ballplayer and the best in the game right now.

Random football thoughts: Can everyone just wait to see Joe Flacco throw a pass in an actual game before declaring him a “reach” or a “bust”? I realize there’s no more criticized or scrutinized position in professional sports in our country than Quarterback for an NFL team, but let’s just give this a little time, shall we? Whether he played at Delaware or North Dakota State, the Baltimore Ravens decided that Flacco was their guy and therefore did what was necessary to draft him. Admittedly, the Ravens’ checkered history at the game’s most important position gives one pause. And if Ozzie & Co. are wrong this time, it could very well mean a front office shakeup would be justifiable in two or three years. But let’s all exercise a little restraint and patience while we await seeing Flacco in the exhibition season.

Ray Rice will contribute this year. Hopefully, so will Fabian Washington. As for the rest of the Ravens’ Draft Class ’08, who knows? My belief is the draft is a crapshoot anyway, especially after Round One. My resolution for next year is to ignore every Mock Draft I see (sorry, KZ. Don’t take it personally. It’s not you, it’s me.)

What the hell is going on with Marvin Harrison?

Somebody wake up Fred Davis and let him know there’s already a pretty good tight end in D.C. named Chris Cooley. Do you think they cover “Falling asleep at your first mini-camp” at the NFL Rookie Symposium?

Random horse racing thoughts: Big Brown was certainly impressive Saturday, but I’m left wondering how good his competition really is, because absolutely no other horse in the Derby even attempted a challenge. This does not bode well for the Preakness, from either a handicapping perspective or a casual fan’s view. If you eliminate Eight Belles’ second place, the closest any other horse got was Denis of Cork at almost 9 lengths back. And it’s not as if Big Brown was threatening any track records; he just ran away from what appears to be a mediocre field of three year olds. Let’s hope for a little more drama from Old Hilltop on May 17. But I’m not counting on it, especially given the fact that not even one horse from Kentucky will attempt to stop him at Pimlico. Better just bet an exacta box for the Preakness with Big Brown and “wheel the field”. Then hope one of the 35 – 1 shots grabs Place.

I’ll be heading to Pimlico a few times over the next week or so to cover not just the Preakness but also the general state of malaise of horse racing in our state. I’m certainly not the handicapper that Gary Quill is, or the railbird that Ed Frankovic and Jason Jubb are, but I do enjoy the tradition and the thrill that horse racing can provide. I’ll be taking the laptop and the digital camera, so look for some special “behind the scenes” updates from Pimlico right here on wnst.net. GQ, Ed and JubbyJubb, you need to contact me so we can give this some blanket coverage together. After all, we may only host one or two more of these things before Frank Stronach gives up and moves the Preakness to a Florida track.

A Big Congratulations!!! To my great friend and on-air sidekick Darren Rudham and his lovely wife Gretchen on the (finally!) arrival of their first son Maximus! Max checked in last night at a strapping 9 lbs. 9 ozs. and measured 21.5 inches. Yowza! Sounds like a 1st Round pick for the Ravens in the 2029 NFL Draft (Tight End from the University of Maryland, naturally!) Best Wishes to all three of the Rudhams! When Max starts walking, bring him over for some football with my three boys! They’ll teach him all he needs to know!

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