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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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Boos for Teixeira and the ghost of Jeffrey Maier spark O’s to 10-5 win over Yankees

Posted on 06 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Well, whatever they did to keep away the New York fans and somehow get orange-colored sweaters into the seats worked. It was a major victory for the Orioles front office, keeping Opening Day from being ruined by a sea of pinstripers.

Then, of course, the outcome, a 10-5 win over the Yankees, didn’t suck either. And the WAY they won, right? A stolen home run with all of the imagery of Jeffrey Maier. They chased the Yankees big-money starter C.C. Sabathia in the fifth inning. The bullpen folded just to the brink of collapse but the offense led the way late in the game. It was a blueprint for how they’re going to win this year (if they’re going to win). Get a solid start. Give way to the bullpen. Hit the ball. Don’t kick the ball around. And take their chances.

No reason to do play-by-play here – I’m assuming you watched the game. Doesn’t everyone watch Opening Day? But the most compelling part of today’s game was the ability to stay into the game and it was a good dramatic start to the season and it gave Orioles fans everywhere some pride, a nice beatdown of the Yankees and Mark Teixeira on Opening Day.

My favorite memory will undoubtedly be the Teixeira boo birds. It was a classic “Welcome Home” for Tex, who said he didn’t expect anything like what he saw from his “neighbors” today.

Every time Mark Teixeira came to the plate, the crowd killed him. It was perhaps the most brutal “welcome” for a player in Oriole Park history. I don’t ever remember a specific player getting hammered quite so lustily by the crowd.

Here’s a couple of close ones, this side of John Elway, Denver, circa 1983: the night Pedro Martinez got the “whose your daddy” chant for the Opener in 2004, the night in 2004 when we brought 2,000 fans into the right field bleachers to razz Vladimir Guerrero (I think he had three hits and 6 RBIs that night) after he signed with the Angels, maybe Bill Hasselback after the fight, certainly Cito Gaston anytime after the 1993 All-Star Game. Sammy Sosa certainly got the great signs and scorn as a Cubbie when he came in town after getting popped with the “Scarlet S.”

But the Teixeira raspberries were right up there on Opening Day. It was well done by the disgruntled Orioles fans, even if you and I probably would’ve done the same thing and signed with the Yankees given the circumstances and the money involved and the notion of being an Oriole and working here with a perennial doormat team. But the Mt. St. Joe star got the ultimate “Baltimore cheer” at the ballpark today. Good for the fans!

Today’s win was a recipe for 2009 success. Get a decent starting effort – let’s say six innings or more. Be opportunistic on offense, even when you aren’t hitting home runs. Today, the Orioles strung together hits and walks and aggressive baserunning (did you see that Ty Wigginton tag on a fly ball to Johnny Damon in left field?) to beat the highest-priced team money can buy. Oh, and a few big late hits from Cesar Izturis and Aubrey Huff sealed the fate of the 0-1 Yankees.

They’ll need more efforts like today’s over the course of a long 162-game season. They outplayed the Yankees today, even without the help from that kid in left field who will be 2009’s Jeffrey Maier.

My favorite gaffes, events or notable random notes:

Jim Hunter, direct quote: “We’ve already experienced a lifetime of great memories here in this grand ballpark at Camden Yards.”

We have?

Speaking of Hunter, his predecessor was twice caught on camera by MASN, which must’ve flipped out the upper management.

First, Jon Miller was caught in the shot with Joe Angel and Fred Manfra, canoodling with his old chums before taking the ESPN assignment. Then, Miller was with Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer the instant the camera was on them like 60 seconds later. It was crazy and Miller twice went scrambling out of the shot so he didn’t piss anyone off. We all know he should’ve never left to begin with…

Early in the game, when Teixeira was getting mercilessly booed, the MASN HD cameras panned to a women who was nursing a Bud Light and clearly mouthing the words: “a—–hole”…kinda funny!

The “Yankees Suck” cheers early in the game were a nice sound to hear emanating from Camden Yards…

Is it just me or does Dave Trembley look like William Shatner in those goofy MASN commercials where he’s scolding “the media” with his wife as the audience in his living room?

So much to talk about. And it’s just the beginning. A great start to what we all hope is an interesting season for the Orioles.

And the best part? The return of “Oriole Pride” at least for a day. The crowd was eaily 80 percent orange, a major upset.

At least tonight Orioles fans go to bed in sole possession of first place in the AL East.

Let’s see what Koji Uehara can bring on Wednesday.

You really couldn’t ask for much more on Opening Day.

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A gloomy forecast — today and for the ’09 Birds

Posted on 06 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

The sky is gray across the horizon in downtown Baltimore this morning as the Orioles kick off their 2009 campaign amidst a city full of Yankees fans and the inaugural appearance for Baltimore’s homegrown Mark Teixeira as a pinstriper. It was a dark day even before the clouds and scattered showers moved in from the south.

The Orioles, who haven’t played a meaningful game since October 1997, appear to be about to put another 162 insignificant games into the record books as the “dark era” of Birds baseball continues, the longest stretch of inepetitude in the history of the storied franchise. The Las Vegas oddsmakers have the Orioles “win/loss” total at 71 1/2, which means if the Orioles play just “18 games under .500″ you win the bet.

I’m not a betting man, but based on what I’ve seen for six weeks in spring training regarding their pitching, I’d be jumping at the “under” on this proposition. That said, I like this team, these position players and the quality of the character it appears Andy McPhail has assembled.

I want to cheer for Brian Roberts. I like Luke Scott and Adam Jones. I’m interested in Felix Pie, although I think he’ll probably be this year’s version of Jeff Stone. I think Aubrey Huff looked inspired for six months last summer and I’m not convinced he won’t rebound with another big year. I’m not sure what to make of Melvin Mora at this point in his career and I think Cesar Izturis will be fun to watch field the ball. And Nick Markakis is just a solid ballplayer, almost a throwback.

On the rare nights that the bullpen will be delivered a 7th inning lead, it’ll be fun to see if they’re as good as advertised.

Some things I’m watching for this season:

When will Matt Wieters arrive for good and how will he perform? It’ll be the biggest franchise mid-season debut since Ben McDonald, which was a very, very big deal.

Let’s be honest: these current starting pitching is a joke and if Jeremy Guthrie, Koji Uehara, Mark Hendrickson, Alfredo Simon and Adam Eaton are the real five starters we’ll use all season, this team is probably 10 games under .500 before Memorial Day and then it becomes a “what to do?” for McPhail.

How will Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman do on the farm this year, especially before the All-Star break. If the current O’s veterans are as bad as we think they’ll be, which of these guys will be heatlthy, effective and ready to promote?

And will the Orioles start the M.L. service time on any of these kids with a summer call up? Or will McPhail allow the current veteran group to get their heads beaten in night after night? Or will Danys Baez or Brian Bass or David Pauley step in and perform? Or not?

That’s why we watch and certainly I’m poised to talk baseball every single day on WNST and AM 1570.

I just hope in these tough economic times, perhaps the people of Baltimore will return to baseball this summer and come to care again about the Orioles, if not in the stands perhaps on their TV’s around town. Of course, it would help if the franchise actually did its fair share and “came back to the people.” During the last six months, the team did exactly two events to promote their team. One of them was two days ago.

They continue to do foolish, selfish and mindless things that almost go unnoticed by the media that is in the business of making excuses for their sins so they can benefit financially.

Today’s starting pitcher — their No. 1 guy and big “hope” for the season — had his paycheck cut by 15% four weeks ago. Happy Opening Day, Jeremy Guthrie!

They continue to ban free speech, even daring their current players to not speak out about unsafe playing conditions in spring training.

We’ll see how much “progress” the organization has over the next six months. Let’s see how the puppies do on the farm. Let’s see how the young emerging stars perform in a mostly empty stadium and with starting pitching that no one can takes seriously as a team that will compete in the AL East in 2009.

But, let’s see how the season goes. My prediction: 65-97. Probably worse if someone doesn’t come in and save the rotation by July.

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Drinking the orange Kool Aid at Fan Fest

Posted on 04 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

There are two types of Orioles fans left in the Baltimore area and they are distinct groups:

Those who drink the Kool Aid…

And those, like me, who have examined the big picture of what’s happened to this franchise over the past 13 years and are pretty angry about its impact on our fun, our lives and the community.

With Opening Day looming, everyone who has EVER loved baseball perks up and pay attention. Even if it’s only to notice: “Hey, its’ Opening Day!” Most people in Baltimore realize this team won’t contend but if you love baseball you’ll at least open one eye on Monday afternoon to catch the score. I’d venture to say that 75% of the city will wake up Tuesday morning at the office and know whether the Orioles won. (That number used to be more like 98% in 1998!)

Those who unconditionally still drink the orange Kool Air or “want” to drink the Kool Aid probably went down to Fan Fast today at Camden Yards. I opted to not give Mr. Angelos any more money that he won’t spend to get the team a quality spring training facility.

Instead, I’m sitting here watching the Fan Fest festivities on MASN HD television and getting some of my WNST “CEO work” done and thinking about baseball season and how it’s going to go for the Orioles and Matt Wieters and these young players and what inevitable drama will unfold.

The only real “punishment” I’m getting for not having a press pass is being “banned” from knowing the Orioles players, which is almost ludicrous because as you saw last week, Jeremy Guthrie and Brian Roberts were happy to chat with me at the World Baseball Classic at Dodger Stadium. Charley Eckman would’ve called them “right guys” and they are decent, solid dudes. (As an aside, I also exchanged pleasantries with Davey Johnson, which is always fun.)

As a media member – well, at least I was for about 23 years until I was banned – I got to know so many of the players and what kinda guys they are. So I guess that’s my “price to pay” — I don’t get to report to you what good people the Orioles have on their team this year. Or not…

While it looked a tad bit chilly and windy at Camden Yards, the event was a “made for TV” informercial/season preview with interviews between co-workers Jim Hunter, Jim Palmer and the like of Andy McPhail, Aubrey Huff, Adam Jones, Dennis Sarfate and Ryan Freel.

They did a nice job with “get to know you” chats with these players and  I especially like that I can see Jim Palmer in high def. For a well-compensated network to finally “discover” HD in 2009 tells you all you need to know about the vision people at MASN.

But I digress…

Here are a few observations, because my seat is the same as yours at this point, which is its own unique point of view watching Jim Hunter and Amber Theoharis and others interview their co-workers in black hats that say “O’s”.

I honestly didn’t know what Ty Wigginton or Koji Uehara looked like until today. Ditto Freel, who really seemed to be a pleasant “aw, shucks” kinda guy. He reminded me of Bob Backlund back in the late 1970’s when he was a baby face.

Freel freely thanked the fans several times and seemed genuine. (As an aside, why doesn’t the owner of the team ever do that? Just come on the TV and say “thanks” on his own network that he’s making over $100 million this year on?)

Andy McPhail did a stand up with Jim Hunter and said all of the right things. He made it clear he expected a big improvement in Adam Jones. He also talked a lot about character and what kind of players — “gamers, blue collars guys, character guys” — he wants on the team. Fair enough.

I like hearing that the Orioles want good people in their organization. From what I know of the 2009 Orioles, they’re pretty good guys and they clearly dislike Angelos’ management and ownership style as much as the rest of us. (Again, this is one of the reasons the Orioles banning legitimate media isn’t a good thing for the fans. The fans never get to know the truth unless, like yesterday in The Sun, they speak out.)

I’ve known Gregg Zaun for 17 years. I’ve cheered – VERY hard – for Zaun for 17 years through his days in Kansas City, Florida, Toronto and Houston. He’s a great person and loves Baltimore and the Orioles. That’s an upgrade there no matter how you look at it and he’ll keep the seat plenty warm for Matt Wieters, whenever the Orioles decide to promote him to the bigs.

Even today on TV, a couple of the young players talked about what a cool guy Zaun is for them to be around and how he tells great stories (which he does!)

I must say that I didn’t envy Buck Martinez’s press pass today, interviewing his co-worker, Japanese pitcher Koji Uehara, whose only word in English was “Thank you!”

Uehara had an interpreter and the answer to the first question regarding Camden Yards was this: “Right field is pretty shallow.” That was the first of several laughs.

Honestly, it was like I needed an interpreter for his interpreter. It was borderline hilarious. It reminded me of my four days in Tokyo where communication was definitely at a premium.

I don’t care how much Uehara speaks. The Orioles need him to be a rock star if they’re going to win 75 games. But he seemed pleasant enough and thrilled to be at Camden Yards in a big-league uniform. Good enough for me.

If the only “communication” I’m going to have with the players is to see their co-workers ask them questions I might as well think they’re nice guys. Even if they’re complete turds, at least this won’t spoil it for me.

I’m ready for Opening Day. I’m ready to get to Hooters and have a Bud Light. I’m ready for baseball.

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Orange fireworks: Players and Trembley flip Peter Angelos “The Bird” today in The Sun

Posted on 03 April 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

I’ve been saying for years that Fort Lauderdale Stadium and the Orioles’ sub-par Florida spring training situation is by far the biggest sin of all of their many sins and finally the folks over on Calvert Street are doing some “investigative journalism” with the orange birds. The club’s No. 1 promise to the public is that it’s doing everything possible to commit all of its resources to fielding a winning team.

That’s the goal in baseball: winning a championship. You always want to give your team the best chance to compete.

The Angelos family hasn’t done that for the entire tenure of their ownership in regard to the significance of spring training as anything more than a line item expense. The mere fact that they’re the only organization in the sport to have “two camps” in Florida that sit three hours apart is telling enough. It’s bad business. It’s bad baseball. It’s just inexcusable, unacceptable and dumb.

Fort Lauderdale Stadium is a dump. It’s a disgrace. It’s been a disgrace for the entire balance of the 15 years they’ve played there. I’ve worked many, many a morning and pulled many 12-hour days at Fort Lauderdale Stadium doing radio and covering baseball back when I was a “real” media member. I’ve spent 100 days of my life at that facility over the years before the team banned me from having a press credential.

Most of the fans here in Baltimore never make it there and it’s not like the team does anything to market having fans come south with their off season efforts. So it kinda goes unnoticed and when I bitch about it – and again, I think it’s probably the most obvious and lousy “white elephant” of all of their many sins – the fans don’t really care or “get it” but it’s so bizarre and so blatantly “bush league” in the eyes of anyone who knows anything about baseball from management to players to coaches to the locker room attendants that it defies description.

Just the mere fact that the visiting teams come in and see the situation and don’t lay down negative comments day after day is astonishing. Apparently, according to The Sun, the situation over at the minor-league camp is even worse. I haven’t personally been to Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota since 1995. It was “amateur” then, but not in disrepair. It was “minor league” but it wasn’t “unsafe” as several of the opposing teams indicated in contacting MLB and refusing to schedule games against the Orioles farmhands.

But the quotes in The Sun aren’t from Nestor. Or Drew Forrester. Or the glowing crap you’ll hear on MASN from Jim Hunter, Fred Manfra and the “boys club” who all take their paychecks from Peter Angelos.

They’re from the players themselves, who also take their paychecks from Peter Angelos. And it’s precisely these types of stories that makes Angelos ban a guy like me from having access. Because the players would be talking my ear off to get their message heard in the public eye.

Today’s whoppers and haymakers from their best people and players are “instant classics” and are sure to have the Angelos family in “flip out” mode on this Friday before Opening Day. It’s almost like all of the players just got together and decided to give the team’s ownership a rectal examination of unprecedented proportions.

This morning, it’s like Brian Roberts, Aubrey Huff, Melvin Mora, Dave Trembley and Jake Arrieta are on the front page of the local newspaper wearing FREE THE BIRDS shirts!

Here come the quotes:

Dave Trembley: “I think we’ve finally reached the point where it’s fish or cut bait. We’re in the business of developing players. What would enhance that development is a facility that is more conducive to us all being all together and being on an even playing field with the other clubs.”

Brian Roberts: “I think most of us would be lying if we said this is what any of us would expect from a major league organization.”

Aubrey Huff: “When you have a big-league team that has a weight tent with rented weight equipment located in the parking lot, that’s pretty sad.”

Melvin Mora: “That’s the worst field I’ve ever played on in my life and I’m from Venezeula.”

Chris Ray: “I don’t know what to say about the facility other than that it just needs to be leveled and rebuilt. It’s a shame. You draft someone, hype them up and then they go to that facility and they’re like, ‘Wow.’ I think that’s a little bit embarrassing.”

Jake Arrieta: “We’re all very blessed to be in the situations that we’re in, but it also comes with the territory that you expect to have nice facilities to work out in. Not that we’re tired of Twin Lakes, but I all think we deserve something better.”

And here is my favorite, from a minor-league farmhand named Mike Costanzo, who was given the “Nestor treatment” by the franchise: “We were told to not say anything about the field, but if nobody says anything, it’s never going to get fixed. It’s tough to get quality work in here.”

I guess Nick Markakis must’ve been in the shower or “unavailable for comment” on this one.

Costanzo’s quote is almost poignant to me because that’s EXACTLY what FREE THE BIRDS was all about.

“If nobody says anything it’s never going to get fixed.”

It almost brings a tear to my eyes. I’m a BIG Mike Costanzo fan all of a sudden. I’ll be monitoring that young man, who showed some big-league bravery for that quote but will undoubtedly be in the corporate “doghouse” for life after that one.

Aside from being quality journalism by Jeff Zrebiec and Dan Connolly, it’s the kind of story in this economy that will piss off Angelos so much that you might even see the fireworks ads get pulled from the May editions. Mr. Angelos reads The Sun every day and will be ripe and randy today, no doubt about it.

I can hear him now…

“The insubordination. These ungrateful millionaires. How dare they speak this way about our franchise to the media!”

There’s one thing Peter Angelos hates the most and that’s hearing the unfiltered truth about how bad this franchise is in so many ways in print or in the media. Seeing his highest-paid employees flipping him the bird in the morning fishwrap – well, that’s gonna make for an interesting weekend.

Of course, Angelos and his son John declined to speak about the “Fort Lauderdale situation” in the media.

The worst part are the paper-thin and almost silly quotes from Orioles spokeperson and huge WNST fan, Greg Bader, who knows less about P.R. than any P.R. person I’ve seen in 25 years of doing journalism for a living.

Now, apparently, a baseball expert and groundskeeper, Bader officially deemed the field in Sarasota “perfectly safe and adequate” after a handful of visiting MLB teams refused to show up and play games there.

I’ve only met Greg Bader twice, but my guess is that he never played an inning of baseball in his life. Or pitched on unmeasured mounds? Or caught a two-hopper after it hits a rock in the dirt? Or had to work out to get into shape for a 162-game Major League grind that baseball demands.

(As an aside, the first thing I learned when I began doing sports radio in 1992 and hanging around baseball players was how HARD the job was. As a kid it sounds like a fun gig, but being a Major League Baseball player is HARD, HARD work. These guys make millions of dollars and if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Baseball players live pretty difficult, complex lives from April 1st through October 1st. I have great respect for the work they do, which can only come when you see it first hand.)

Bader also said the club has “always had the urgency” to find a new home. That is just a stupid, silly thing to say. Urgency? They’ve had 15 years and roughly 80 percent of the MLB teams in South Florida have relocated or found better situations since the Orioles landed in Fort Lauderdale by sheer accident in 1996, after going several years in weird and bad situations in Miami and St. Petersburg.

They’ve been offered at least five sites that I can think of over the years – from Sarasota to Orlando to Vero Beach to Jupiter to Winter Haven — and have never done anything to rectify the combination of the major and minor league camps, which should have been done in 1997 or 1998 at the latest. No other team would DREAM of having a split camp and say they’re serious about a winning organization. It’s just unconscionable.

The 2009 season has already gotten off to a rocky, rocky start.

They have absolutely zero starting pitching. Jeremy Guthrie has been dreadful. Koji Uehera certainly bears watching but the rest of the retreads from Adam Eaton to Mark Hendrickson to Rich Hill to Danys Baez to the soon-to-be-celebrated Alfredo Simon are just arsonists of varying degrees at this point.

Brian Roberts isn’t healthy.

They’re still banning free speech in the media and being miserable and unprofessional to deal with at every level.

And now, every level of their organization from manager to players to minor leaguers are popping off in the morning newspaper about how “bush league” their ownership is in regard to spring training and a commitment to winning. It’s like a scene out of “Major League” but the Orioles have become the Indians.

Next Saturday’s game against Tampa Bay still doesn’t have a starting time and the Ravens are expecting 20,000 people at M&T Bank Stadium that morning and afternoon for an Inside Lacrosse doubleheader and no one in the city knows what the parking situation might be. The game is eight days away. You’d think they’d announce to the Tampa Rays, their season ticket holders and their employees when the game will be played. (Again, this kind of management is just unheard of in professional sports in 2009.)

Oh, and the Yankees are bringing 30,000 obnoxious fans into town on Opening Day to cheer for Baltimore’s greatest homegrown player in a generation as he takes the field at Camden Yards wearing pinstripes.

Oh, and advance ticket sales have been abysmal and they’re having a “Fan Fest” tomorrow that feels like a rumor around town.

Other than that, things are just fine in Birdland.

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Christmas deadline for Teixeira? Not really…

Posted on 20 December 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Want the craziest true story I’ve heard in Dallas in my first 24 hours? Apparently, I missed running into Mark Teixeira and Scott Boras in the lobby of the Ravens team hotel here in “Big D” by 15 hours. As much as we’re following this Teixeira situation at WNST as a major Baltimore news story – it has been the most followed, camped-out  Baltimore media popcorn trail since Jayne Miller chased Jobie Palczynski through my old Dundalk stomping grounds of Berkshire (the neighborhood I played little league, in no less) back in 2000 – I never though I’d almost cross paths with the pair of them at their “Texas” hideaway when I boarded the plane.

(I’m even getting people angered by giving them what I feel are “breaking news” stories on the Teixeira trail. Hey folks, news is news and we’re doing our best to be honorable as well. But who knows where the honor is amongst these baseball people who all lie as their lips move in these negotiations that involve crazy millions of dollars.)

Here’s the worst part: I’m a lifelong reporter and journalist and had I bumped into “Tex” I don’t know if I would’ve even recognized him and I have no idea what I’d even say or ask. Or whether I’d believe anything any of these cats would tell me.

Would I say, “Hey dude, how bad do you really want to play for the Orioles?” Or, “Why in the world would you not sign in Anaheim or Boston knowing what you know about this seemingly eternal mess?” And most viscerally, “Why did you hire Scott Boras as your agent?” But after thinking about it, I’d probably simply say this: “Do you care about Baltimore and Baltimore baseball and if you do what will it take to get you to be an Oriole and want to fix this for your hometown?”

(And that’s assuming that I’d actually be given the opportunity to ask questions in order to get lied to by them. The Orioles deny legitimate journalists from asking questions like these. And they resent me pointing out when they lie. But they DO lie. So do the agents. So do the general managers. So do the other owners, like John Henry.)

Maybe Tex would actually look at me with tears in his eyes – the way Mike Flanagan once did – and say, “I’m coming to Baltimore because things need to be changed and I’m the guy to do it!” Now of course, if Teixeira DID say that, I’d be the first guy buying a season ticket and singing the praises of Peter G. Angelos as making a significant change in the direction of the ballclub.

This thing has gone from the ridiculous to sublime for me. All of the effort I put into Free The Birds and my efforts to shed legitimate light on whether this ownership group really cares about Baltimore and baseball in Baltimore comes down to “tipping points” in their stewardship of the franchise like this one right here, right now.

As Third Eye Blind would ask: “How’s it gonna be…?” Are you going to step up and make this franchise real again and make people like ME  — and there are thousands of people like me…more who feel the way I do than don’t that’s for damned sure based on the empty seats alone and the empty city on all of those summer nights – want to come back to the ballpark consistently and live, eat, breath, sleep and DIE Orioles baseball?

Honestly, there were 60,000 of us who sat in 15-degree windchills to watch the purple football team play two weeks ago. The city is on “buzz alert” on a holiday Saturday night with purple fever.

When’s it gonna be like that for the Orioles again? When can we be proud to be Orioles fans again and have some civic pride instead of the mournful and deep shame and anger and “numbness” so many of us sadly feel and desperately want to change.

Signing Tex would say two things:

1.    It would tell me the Orioles are serious about competing for a championship just for stepping up and winning the first competition — the offseason. There is no “second place” here for the Orioles. If they can’t get a kid who played his high school games in the shadow of the lights of Camden Yards in a glorious era to want to come home and wear a gray sweater at Yankee Stadium that says “BALTIMORE” across the crest, then who the hell will they EVER get to take their “Confederate” money? More than anything, whatever he’s worth to Boston or Anaheim or Washington, he’s worth at LEAST 25% more to this franchise right now. Especially considering all the money they have from their TV deal at MASN. And the way they’ve slashed payroll waiting for a “tipping point” player. Teixeira is a game changer (in perception anyway) for them because it’s their ONE chance to win back the fans. Their money would be well-spent for the buzz factor alone. This hot stove conversation during the holidays and Ravens playoff drive is GREAT for them. People want to “buy in” to Orioles baseball. I want to “buy in” to Andy McPhail and the new regime. But I need to see changes. This is the Orioles franchise saying: “Come back! We’re all in!”
2.    From the player side, it would say that Teixeira really IS in Baltimore to “fix things.” Teixeira — unlike Kevin Millar or Jay Payton or Omar Daal or Aubrey Huff or Adam Jones or Luke Scott or Matt Wieters – has a choice in where he’ll play for the rest of his career. Picking Boston or Anaheim (or even Washington if the dough were right) would be what virtually every free agent in MLB would do. The only one who didn’t choose elsewhere in the past decade was Miguel Tejada, and the Orioles overpaid by at least $12 million to get him and there’s no doubt that Miggy has second-guessed his decision because he told me as much himself. Make no mistake about it: if the Orioles snag Teixeira it’ll say as much about HIM as it will about them. They don’t deserve him, really, no matter what they pay. But maybe he is that special guy who will be teary-eyed about Baltimore and wanting to return the Orioles to glory. That alone will brand him as a “Ripkenesque” figure (and then the heavy lifting will begin civic-ly for him). Honestly, his first phone call should be to Ripken and reach out by aligning himself as closely as possible with Cal. (As an aside, I DID get some inside “community” information on Teixeira. He’s a major donor to his alma mater, Mt. St. Joe, donating a “seven-figure” number to the school over his first six years in the bigs. ANOTHER reason to think Teixeira would be a “right guy” as Eckman would say about his commitment to Baltimore via being an “Oriole for life.”

So here’s the Teixeira and Baltimore “passing in the night” story for you:

Several Ravens staffers and fans, in town early to sharpen their golf skills, checked into Dallas a day early. Word is Teixeira and Boras stood in the lobby of  what has become the Ravens’ team hotel in Las Colinas and looked up at the ESPN scroll on the bar TV and Teixeira said something to the effect of: “Well, they found out about this pretty quickly in Boston!”

No doubt Boras “leaked” the “covert” meeting. But that’s the game. Stir up the masses and use the media as a weapon.

The plotline thickens daily. But I’m not convinced Teixeira needs to sign anything before next week or any self-imposed “Christmas deadline.” Because Boras’ words and deadlines slip. And Red Sox owner John Henry’s media negotiating tactics sharpen. And all the “Peters” twist in the wind, writing blogs and quoting unnamed sources who openly lie to everybody about everything. It’s so bad that John Schuerholz (as fine a guy as I know and an old-schooler who John Steadman so admired) has taken to name calling.

(And by “Peters” I meant: Peter Schmuck, Peter Gammons, Peter King and Peter Pascarelli. Feel free to insert your Dick jokes here.)

I don’t think there’s any deadline. I think Boras has this thing right where he wants it. The media is trailing, fueling the fire. The fans are into it. It’s the ONLY game Baltimore fans have had to play in years. It’s like a pennant race that money CAN buy! The Baltimore fans are killing the Orioles to drive up the price. John Henry is playing poker. Arte Moreno is laying low because he’s got a pretty damned good offer as well. And the Nationals are an outsider with a big need and a big offer.

The only thing better than having four suitors is having five. Who knows if the Yankees will want to play?

Boras has negotiated Mark Teixeira into the stratosphere with this salary drive pitting four cities and four fan bases and four ownership groups into “crisis” mode. It’s a true hot stove bonanza amidst financial crisis in the “real” world. Kudos to Boras! It’s gonna make Teixeira plenty rich but it’s not gonna make him a “right guy.”

Only he can decide what that means and where his “heart” lies. Or his wallet. And why he’ll choose wherever he chooses.

If he doesn’t come to Baltimore and play for Peter Angelos’ Orioles in 2008, I really can’t blame him. But god help him and the Orioles if they can’t work this out because they’ll both get crushed by the fans. And Teixeira will have three cities where he’ll get lustily booed next season.

Pass the popcorn…

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Why all of the noise about A.J. Burnett?

Posted on 26 November 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s another offseason, another free agency period for the Baltimore Orioles and the fan base – or what’s left of it – is stirred up about whether the club will sign pitcher A.J. Burnett sometime soon. Apparently, he lives locally in Monkton (who knew THAT before this week?) and has made some overtures toward the team that he’d actually like to play here in his “hometown” as an Oriole.

So writers are writing about it, Baltimore fans are talking about it, the Yankees are bidding for him and in my own mind I’m saying what any self-respecting Orioles fan should be saying: “Here we go again!”

Are they really going to spend ANY money this offseason? Is anyone worth a damn REALLY going to say: “YES, I’d dying to play for the Orioles and I’ll take less money to do it?”

First, the Orioles are making millions and millions of dollars of “free money” via MASN. Whatever else that comes out of their mouths to the contrary – as usual – are lies. They are absolutely printing money via that TV network. Now, whether they’ll continue to pocket the money or spend it is entirely up to them. (Or, they’ll say it’s totally Andy McPhail’s call, but who honestly believes that?)

So, having the money isn’t the issue. It’s whether (and where and to whom) to spend it at this point.

Are they trying to win? Are they trying to get people to care about the team again? Or are they trying to make more money? I’m never really sure what their direction is because every fall and into winter we get more lies, more “close chases” with marquee free agents with “Confederate money” and ultimately wind up with the bottom of the free agent barrel. Sometimes, as was the case with Aubrey Huff this year, it works out. Most of the time – and you can fill in any name this side of Albert Belle or Omar Daal or Marty Cordova – they wind up taking on another Sidney Ponson-like turd who steals their money and contributes nothing to the team on the field and even less off of the field.

Needless to say, the risk is heightened anytime a pitcher’s name is brought into the equation.

It’s the new Oriole Way. Losing and losers…we’re going on 12 consecutive years of it and if anyone thinks that this organization is one pitcher or one player away from being the Tampa Bay Rays they’re crazy.

Back to Burnett and the current fiasco, circa 2008…

The Orioles have never given a pitcher a huge deal, certainly nothing more than a 3-year deal. I think this is a good policy if you don’t want to waste money, but the Orioles will never get a marquee free agent by employing this Angelosian policy of frugality.

This nonsense of “he wants to play here because of his wife” and “he might take less money” all sounds good on WNST Radio and in the local fishwrap, but if the Yankees are truly offering Burnett a 5-year deal and $80 million I can’t fathom any scenario where he’ll be on the mound at Camden Yards unless it’s in pinstripes.

And you know what? That’s OK, too.

I wouldn’t give a guy whose only 200-inning season in the last four years was last year that kind of dough. He’s also 32 years old and has had a number of seasons where he’s been an “incomplete” on the scorecard. Burnett has already made $38 million in the big leagues and has won just 87 games in 10 years. Is he really good for going 18-10 and 200 innings every year over the next five years? And even if he DOES hit those numbers, is he worth $80 million to a team that’s just praying to play .500 baseball one of these years before I die?

If the price of poker is a four or five-year deal and anything over $50 million I think you have to politely pass on a risk this large. Even at $10 per year, is A.J. Burnett going to be a difference maker in Baltimore?

Even if going in you know your stadium is going to be empty and your team’s starting rotation is a mystery coming into Spring Training 2009.

The money would be better spent on Mark Teixeira, who might actually sell you a handful of tickets and make it look like you’re trying to get better rather than getting a very expensive, risky once-every-fifth day starter, who has never been a No. 1 pitcher in his career.

Word out of the Warehouse that I get is that many of the sponsors have started to tilt on the team and they’re saying the economy is an issue for them. The economy is an issue for all of us. (And we don’t wake up on Jan. 1st having millions of guaranteed dollars streaming in from the cable companies the way they do!)

I can’t imagine that signing Burnett is the tipping point for them to being successful on the field in 2009 and beyond. Monkton resident or not, I’d pass on A.J. Burnett.

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How Much Is $26 Million Confederate?

Posted on 21 November 2008 by Thyrl Nelson

I’m guessing that Peter Angelos and Andy MacPhail are probably two of the biggest Ravens fans in town these days. Although it’s been speculated that the two clubs have enjoyed a somewhat frosty relationship in the past, the O’s have been doing more to reach out to their next-door neighbors in the past few seasons. But moreover, as it pertains to this particular football season, and coincidentally baseball free agency season too, the more attention that the Ravens can draw away from the O’s in the headlines and the local consciousness, the better for the Orioles.

 

Although their 2008 season went off much as expected, there were enough bright spots on the Orioles this season to make the fans hopeful for the future. The budding fruits of the Eric Bedard deal, the growing legend that is Matt Wieters, and the resurgent offense of this year’s club have done enough to excite the fans about the future, and to make this feel like a critical off season in Baltimore. Even before all of the above came to light, Orioles fans had already been looking to this off-season as a big one. The inevitable off-season when the O’s would have their chance to make a run at bringing homegrown superstar Mark Teixeira into the employment of the team that he cheered for as a kid.

 

So with free agency in it’s early stages and Teixeira clearly positioned as the prize of the free agent market, the O’s are absolutely at a public relations crossroads. Installing new scoreboards, restoring Baltimore to the road jerseys and broadcasting more games in HD are all steps in the right direction, but all are low risk options. They certainly improve the product of Oriole baseball, but they do nothing for the on field product.

 

Now it’s time to navigate the dangerous and costly waters of free agency and hot stove baseball. Here the stakes are substantially higher, and the opportunities for failure, even potential disaster are much greater when big money contracts are on the line.

 

On the surface, Teixeira looks like a “can’t miss” proposition. But you certainly don’t need me to list the big time, “can’t miss” free agents that haven’t lived up to expectations. A list that might be tougher to make however would be a list of the big money free agents who went on to lead their teams to championships. If you consider that in recent years, free agents have been mostly “pilers on”, it makes the prospect of signing them that much scarier. When you consider all of the big time free agents who have jumped on to playoff caliber teams just recently, yet never got those teams to a world championship, it’s a wonder teams continue to try to build this way.

 

Although recent history shows that you can, and probably should look to contend by building through the draft and developing your own young talent, the prospect of signing a player the caliber of Mark Teixeira is often too much to resist.  Especially when despite all of the small market success stories, and low budget contenders in MLB, the free spending Yankees and Red Sox have run roughshod over the AL East for a decade until Tampa found some magic this season. And although those two clubs have come up short more often than not overall in the last decade, they’ve certainly been a major roadblock to the playoffs for the rest of the division.

 

The other big difference between the Yankees, Red Sox and a select few others, and the vast majority of Major League Baseball is that a few bad contracts, even really big ones, won’t hamstring their payroll for years to come like it would for most clubs. Trying to spend freely like the big boys has thrown many franchises into spirals that have taken years to recover from.

 

Signing Teixeira could be great for PR, but little else in my opinion. The O’s were not lacking in offense last season, and although Teixeira would certainly be an upgrade to the lineup, I doubt that he’d have as much impact on the win column as a solid defensive shortstop and a few legitimate starting pitchers. The O’s it seems, have a number of pressing needs, and while first base is one of them, throwing $20 million + to Teixeira despite all of the other obvious needs of this team would be a huge oversight on the part of the front office.

 

If the O’s want to look at Teixeira, they should look at the difference between what the Braves gave up to get him, with a season and a half remaining on his contract, and what they got in return for him with just a half season remaining before free agency. Every day that Brian Roberts remains on this team, without a long-term deal, or even the prospect of one it would seem, the less valuable Roberts becomes to the O’s, or in a potential trade. If the front office wants to make a big signing this week, it ought to be Brian Roberts, to a long-term deal.

 

If Roberts needs to see more from this team before he feels comfortable signing, then it’s time to ship him out. If he hasn’t gotten that good vibe by now, it’s unlikely he’ll feel it before his own free agency is here. While they’re at it, they should be shopping Aubrey Huff too, his value will likely never be higher than it is right now. With all of the closers on the free agent market, there probably won’t be much offered for Sherrill, so I’d hold on to him for now.

 

Unless they get some pitching, 9 Teixeira’s won’t be enough to get this team over the hump, and if Teixeira sees it that way too, he’s likely to spurn the O’s offer anyway. As I said, big time free agents tend to be “pilers on”. That’s another slippery slope that the O’s will have to climb. If they put their best foot forward and Teixeira tells them “thanks but no thanks”, it’s be a crushing blow to the team and their fans.  After all, if they couldn’t convince him to come here, why would anyone else want to?

 

Actually, that’s probably the million-dollar question. Why would you want to come to Baltimore now? The upstart Rays are poised for an extended run of contention, the Red Sox are seemingly as strong as ever, with a good young core and money to spend too, and we all know how the Yanks are poised to break the bank. The O’s were looking at contending 2 to 3 years from now, and should probably stay that course. If for no other reason, the division looks to be power packed for the immediate future.

 

This is probably not the time to change directions and start bagging free agents, and I suspect the front office feels the same. As long as the Ravens keep winning, they’ll keep the fans reasonably distracted until MacPhail can do something with Roberts. Even if the Ravens went into freefall at this point, the O’s interests would be served, as we’d still be distracted by the meltdown. Or should I say distracted from the meltdown? The O’s have been one for quite some time now.

 

If the O’s do anything this off-season in free agency, I hope it’s to drive up the prices for other teams on big time contracts. They might as well bid it up, no one wants to come here anyway, and so no one will likely call their bluff. Plus, as we all know they’re spending confederate money.

 

Peace,

T

(thyrl@wnst.net)

 

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The A.L. East Race

Posted on 23 September 2008 by Bryan Powell

The Tampa Bay Rays took a 2.5 game lead over Boston last night and there was a key play in each game that could help decide the race.

In Baltimore the O’s had a key baserunning mistake that was part of the reason they lost. With one out in the bottom of the sixth with Aubrey Huff on second and Oscar Salazar on first Ramon Hernandez hits a fly ball to center that was obviously going to be caught.

For some reason both baserunners take off when the ball is hit and the Rays could have doubled off either runner. Huff was the one they chose. End of inning. End of rally.

Meanwhile at Fenway with Jason Varitek on first and Jason Bay on second Jeff Bailey hits a ball down the third base line. The ball looked headed for the left field corner. Unfortunately for the Red Sox the ball hit the 3rd base umpire. The third base coach assumed the ball was in the corner or banged off the wall that jets out behind third base so he waved Bay around but when Bay saw the ball hit the umpire he stopped between third and home.

Meanwhile Varitek had the play in front of him. He saw that both the shortstop and third basemen had chased the ball so he kept on coming to third. Once Jamey Carroll retrieved the ball he threw to Kelly Shoppach who tagged out Bay after a brief rundown ending the threat. Althought the Sox had chances each of the last 4 innings to score you will not see a stranger play.

I predict the Rays will clinch before they leave Baltimore and these two plays will be the icing on the cake for the Rays division title.

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An Eye-Popping Stat

Posted on 09 September 2008 by Mark Mussina

While the sports world has turned to football, one of the greatest athletes of our generation is about to accomplish something that has to be considered astounding. Greg Maddux is less than ten innings away from reaching 5000 for his career. That’s right 5000!
I think innings pitched may be one of the most underappreciated stats in all of sports. It’s not like at bats, or pass attempts, or even attempts fromm the field. To record innings you must actually get people out. Think about that. It’s not the number of pitchers a guy throws, nor is it the number of batters that he faces. It’s about how many outs a pitcher gets, and Maddux has got them more often than about anyone.
In the 20-year span from 1988 to 2007, Maddux reached 200 innings 18 times. He even threw 202 innings in 1994 when the strike occurred in mid-August. And the two years that he didn’t reach 200 innings, in ’02 he had 199 1/3, and in ’07 he had 198. Even now, as a 42-year-old, he’s over 175, with maybe four starts to go. His record of 7-12 is not very Madduxesque, but his ERA is still in the low fours. A lot of 32-year-olds would take that.
But as much as I’m in awe of the innings total, he has another stat that may even be more impressive. He has yet to walk 1000 men in his career. Right now he sits at 999. Let’s put it this way. Tom Glavine, who, like Maddux, is known as a control/finesse pitcher, is next on the active innings list with just over 4400. He has walked exactly 1500 guys.
When talking about pitchers of this generation, we’ve had a few guys who had impressive stretches: Johan, Pedro, Randy, and Clemens. But when you look at what Maddux did from ’92-’98, his stretch is as good as anyone’s. Someday we’ll be able to tell our grandkids that we saw the last guy get 350 wins and 5000 innings.

P.S. You do realize that Aubrey Huff leads the American League in total bases.

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