Tag Archive | "Boston Red Sox"

Yankees swindle a 23 year old kid who loves baseball …..

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Yankees swindle a 23 year old kid who loves baseball …..

Posted on 11 July 2011 by Rex Snider

Indeed, we are upon that time of summer when Baltimore’s baseball fans must start looking elsewhere for compelling storylines and boxscores.  I suppose spinning the recent Orioles vs. Red Sox series into a “beanball war” might drum a little interest, but do any of us really think the birds were a formidable opponent?

Of course not …..

But, as I’ve suggested, plenty of intriguing stories did result from a mid-July weekend of baseball.

Perhaps, the most notable was the goodwill gesture emerging from Yankee Stadium.  After weeks of awaiting the historical significance of Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit, it finally happened on Saturday night.

And, as if the moment was written from fictional lore, #3000 came in the form of a homerun. 

Oh yeah, it gets even better – schmoozier and more heartwarming …..

The fan who caught the ball, Christian Lopez, quickly came to grips with the most fitting destination for the historical baseball …..

Cooperstown?  Nope.

The Lopez family keepsake collection?  Nope.

A safety deposit box?  Once again, no.

Mr. Lopez decided the baseball was destined to be personal property of Derek Jeter, because “he worked so hard for it …. The ball should be his.”

I don’t deny, nor dispute Christian Lopez’s love for the game of baseball and the purity that accompanies being a fan of the sport.  But, I do question if he made the right decision and if the process in rendering such a quick conclusion is prudent for all parties involved.

That baseball is worth a LOT of money.  Conservative estimates by notable collectable experts valued it at a minimum of $250,000 or a cool quarter of a million bucks …..

That’s serious cash, huh?

Yet, in the spontaneous passion of the moment, the 23 year old man who coincidentally donned the same hat worn by Jeter, decided to hand the keepsake over to the Yankees shortstop.

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In exchange, he received tickets for the remainder of the season, along with articles of memorabilia.

Was it a fair deal?  That’s up to Christian Lopez …..

But, I’ll assert one very important consideration – it’s a deal and agreement that should’ve been discussed the following day.

Too many emotional and perhaps, personally inhibiting factors exist in the immediate moments following such a historical incident.

The fan is caught up in the massive celebration that accompanies the moment.  Such recipients are quickly sequestered from the ensuing bombardment of fellow fanatics.  That’s a good decision, because somebody will do everything in their power to steal that baseball.

I’m absolutely in support of ushering guys in the shoes of Christian Lopez away from the masses of gawkers, hawkers and stalkers …..

But, a more intriguing reason for getting the guy away from others is team officials want to “negotiate” or lean on them for a quick exchange of the ball for some trinkets and fodder.  Why not toss in a few bottles of whiskey and some beads, too?

After all, that’s the legitimacy and hoodwinking credibility that goes into such a transaction.

I’m not privy to Mr. Lopez’s financial status, although, he said he has plenty of time to make the money and he doesn’t really need it …..

Really?

How many 23 year olds (or thereabouts) do we know who couldn’t tangibly benefit from a $250,000 windfall?

Marston Hefner?  Taylor Swift?  Sam Bradford?

I look at a select group of young men who I would put into a situation just as Christian Lopez found himself on Saturday evening.  I’ll consider WNST’s Ryan Chell, Luke Jones and Glenn Clark …..

These guys love sports.  Heck, they eat, sleep and breath sports.  And, I can picture all three of them being caught up in a moment of significance at a sporting event.  Furthermore, I can reasonably picture each of them coughing up a valuable memento in the HEAT OF THE MOMENT.

They love Baltimore and the Orioles, for better or worse.

But, each of them could greatly benefit from $250, 000 …..

Better yet, $250,000 could and would impact their lives to a much greater extent than any gesture of gratitude from the Orioles or a legendary player.

Name it, buying a first house, paying off student loans or simply getting ahead in this dismal economy, each of these young men would be far better off by selling such a keepsake.  But, in the moments following their nabbing of history, I can envision them getting swindled – by a tugging of the heartstrings.

What are the chances Christian Lopez had a couple beers on Saturday evening – prior to the big moment?  I would reckon such odds are pretty good.  If so, a whole new can of worms opens up, if you get my drift …..

Let’s just call it like it is …..

The moment was a true piece of history.  That’s why Major League Baseball manufactured “special baseballs” when Jeter stood in the box for his 3000th hit.  That’s why a World Series atmosphere existed at Yankee Stadium on a muggy Saturday, in July.

The Yankees brass, like any other organization, knew the best chances of getting that baseball from the grip of Christian Lopez was RIGHT THEN and RIGHT THERE.  So, they took advantage of the circumstances.

In reality, and in legitimate surroundings, a “cool off” period should exist …..

The team should make contact with the fan and go thru the measurable steps to ensure the ball is secured.  They should even offer to put it in a safe deposit box for 24 or 48 hours.

If the fan really feels the player should have the ball, than so be it.  Will a “cool off” period change such heart driven feelings?  I wouldn’t think so.

What’s wrong with Yankees officials urging Lopez to talk with his parents?  Yeah, I know he’s an adult, but how many 23 year olds still seek the wisdom of a mother or father under such weighty situations?

Call it like it is, Saturday night’s festivities might appear to be one of those legendary fan and player symbolic exchanges.  But, the truth is the Yankees took every advantage of a 23 year old kid who loves baseball.

And, that’s wrong.

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Orioles Demoted to Double-A Bowie

Posted on 10 July 2011 by Jay Trucker

On Friday, the Orioles demoted pitcher Zach Britton to Double-A Bowie. Today, the rest of the Orioles have also been demoted to Double A Bowie.

“We just think the Orioles have a few things to work on,” said President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail. “Like pitching and hitting. And also fielding.”

Sources say the Orioles were nearly sent to AAA Norfolk, but there were concerns about their ability to compete in the difficult International League South division.  “I’ll be honest.  Given the nature of the current salary structure, it’s difficult to compete against big markets like Gwinnett and Durham,” stated MacPhail.

The Orioles are disappointed in the move, but they understand that this is not necessarily a permanent demotion. “We learned a lot from our time in the bigs,” said the Orioles. “It was a wonderful experience to have spent some time with big league clubs, like the Red Sox, Yankees, and Pirates. We will definitely take what we picked up from them and continue to develop.”

Buck Showalter has announced that Vlad Guerrero will bat cleanup when the Orioles resume play against the Richmond Flying Squirrels after the Northeast Delta Dental Eastern League All-Star break.

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O’s vs. Yanks: No Heart, No Hope, No Surprise

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O’s vs. Yanks: No Heart, No Hope, No Surprise

Posted on 20 May 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

One of the funny things about being a sports fan is the opportunity to check your perspective at the door. At the beginnings and endings of every season it seems that we are able to see things mostly logically, and are able to understand that you simply can’t win them all and that the teams who find success may not always be the most talented but in the end prove themselves to be up to the task when it counts most. None of that historical perspective though is likely to keep fans from jubilation over every good win and outright panic when things go badly. It’s an exercise in madness.

In baseball for example, there’s a long standing and tried and true theory that with few historical exceptions every team can be expected to win and lose at least 50 games, and what teams do in the other 62 games will ultimately decide their fates. Given the ease with which that philosophy has been universally accepted; maybe it’s time, for the sake of our mental health as fans, to expand on those expectations.

 

Within those 50 anticipated wins and losses surely it’d be wise to expect a few to come in the very late stages of games; ones that were all but won only to unravel or all but lost only to see an improbable victory somehow come to pass dramatically. We should expect (even hope) for the closer to blow a few saves along the way, if for no other reason simply to get them out of the way. After all who wants to go into the postseason with a closer who has YET to blow a save? Sooner or later these things are bound to happen, and in some cases maybe it’s best to get them out of the way early.

 

In every season though, we as fans should learn to expect a couple of specific types of disappointments without resorting to outright panic. Maybe 5 games given away over the season by your closer should be seen as an acceptable number. While your at it, throw in 5-7 more games where the offense never gets going and maybe 10 or more where the pitcher throws well and gets no support, or where the offense explodes but the pitching allows the opposition to do the same. Maybe, again for the sake of maintaining our sanity, we should establish acceptable benchmarks for these types of anomalies so that we don’t spin into full-fledged panic with each and every instance.

 

Additionally we should expect to rain on a couple of other teams bullpens along the way, or spoil great efforts from their pitchers without expecting that these instances in any way signal a reversal of fortune or provide an indication of the talent at hand. Maybe we have to learn to simply accept a shutout performance from a guy like Brad Bergeson without proclaiming his spot in the rotation saved or expecting him to come back with a similar level of effectiveness the next time out.

 

That said, the Orioles’ efforts in both Monday and Wednesday nights’ games were frustrating but my no means an indication that the sky is falling around this team. Thursday’s effort (or lack thereof) however might be another story altogether. If adversity is an expectation at some point during a 26-week season, than dealing with that adversity would seemingly become essential to teams maintaining their own sanity and trying to stay on course for a successful season.

 

For all of the reasons over which to be concerned with this Orioles team, their apparent inability to bounce back from adversity may be the most glaring, and also the most difficult to overcome.

 

There were plenty of reasons to be encouraged over Monday’s loss to the Red Sox, end result notwithstanding. The 5-run meltdown that set the stage for the Red Sox’ comeback was glaring, but if not for Chris Tillman’s ability to pitch himself out of  trouble, and some flashy early leather in support of his efforts, the O’s would have likely seen that one out of hand early, leaving them safe at least from the dramatic 9th inning heartbreak they ultimately were subjected to.

 

On Wednesday the O’s limited one of the best offensive teams in baseball to a single (unearned) run over 14 innings. Zach Britton appeared no worse for the wear despite the disappointing wasted effort that came before it; he’ll need a similar resolve going forward it appears safe to concede at this point. The O’s offense was summarily stifled by Bartolo Colon who may have been considered washed up prior to this season, but based on his stat lines so far, the O’s are clearly not the only team that has been befuddled by the renewed version of Colon. If not for an improbable run against the game’s best ever closer, it simply would have been a disappointing 1-0 loss against a hot pitcher in a game without their 1st and 3rd hitters. Instead it was a stinging heartbreak that O’s fans won’t likely be able to let go of anytime soon.

 

For all of the frustration that the O’s have managed to heap on themselves and their fans this week, the most disappointing outcome so far was their 13-2 trouncing by the Yankees on Thursday. After calling out the Yankees to begin the season Buck and his O’s stand at 0-6 against the team from the Bronx so far, with a pair of blowouts and a pair of late inning heartbreaks to show for their efforts. By virtue of their 2 cancellations against New York so far, Mother Nature seems to be the only “player” offering any encouragement to the O’s against the Yanks.

 

On Thursday, amidst a myriad of interesting and arguably “cute” roster machinations the O’s needed something from Brad Bergeson. They didn’t need him to back up his best performance in recent memory, although they surely would have taken it. What they did need though were innings. They needed Bergeson to go out and gut through 6 innings or more no matter what kind of “stuff” he took to the mound. They needed badly to rest a bullpen that had been called on 13 times (14 if you count Guthrie) in the previous 2 games. They got none of that.

 

What the Orioles got on Thursday was a gutless and apparently (outside of possibly Adam Jones) disinterested effort against team that they thought they had no reasonable chance at beating anyway. What the Orioles got was an effort similar to the way that they meandered through their early 8-game losing streak, and an outcome similar to every other Yankees outcome this season.

 

The Orioles and success will somehow (improbable as it may seem now) cross paths again this season. History not only suggests it, history outright declares it. Unfortunately history also mandates more hardships on the horizon for the O’s and every other team in baseball, maybe more for the O’s than most…but nevertheless, struggles lie ahead for everyone at some point. If these O’s really hope to turn any sort of proverbial page this season, they’d better start dealing with such adversity better than early indicators seem to suggest that they have and will. If indeed the O’s expect us to take an interest in their efforts, it surely won’t happen until they show some interest in their own efforts.

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Could Post-Steroid Era Equal Yankees Demise?

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Could Post-Steroid Era Equal Yankees Demise?

Posted on 16 May 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

The Major League Baseball season has reached the quarter pole (more or less) and so far it’s been quite a ride and realization. The AL East, despite our sincerest beliefs to the contrary remains at this point very much up for grabs with only 3 games in the loss column separating first and last place. Orioles’ fans were expecting to be moderately encouraged and summarily frustrated with their team all at once and so far that’s been the case. Improved offense however hasn’t been the case for the O’s. It can be argued (and has) that statistically, this year’s team isn’t much better than last year’s version, if at all; and while the pitching has been encouraging, lights out hardly comes to mind when assessing the O’s, whose team ERA ranks 13th in the AL as of Sunday.

The fact that the Orioles remain competitive themselves is seemingly the byproduct of luck and timing (2 proven essentials in baseball success) more than any marked improvement from last year to this. While the expectation that the bats will eventually come around and bring with them even more chances at victories is feasible, recent history suggests that things could just as easily begin to unravel as the weather begins to warm.

 

Even without our modest hopes for a successful season, the respective struggles of the Red Sox and Yankees have added an extra layer of enjoyment to the season so far. Safe money might suggest that market corrections of sorts may be due for both of them soon too.

 

The Red Sox, despite their marked improvements from last year to this and the return of a healthy regime of incumbent stars have stumbled mightily out of the gates. While it’s conceivable that their sweep of the Yankees over the weekend and return to .500 could mark the worm turning for the Sox, there are still lots of questions and potential concerns surrounding a team that many had penciled in as the AL’s best to begin the year.

 

And while the Yankees have probably played above the expectations that followed their most disappointing off-season in recent memory, they too may have seen the worm begin to turn at the hands of the Red Sox last weekend. The Yankees have also, so far been the beneficiaries of an inordinate number of home games to begin the season.

 

After missing out on a few of their apparent earmarked bounties in free agency and while seeing the Red Sox make bold moves to improve themselves at the same time, the most disappointing part of the Yankees off-season might be the lingering contentiousness that they created in negotiations with Derek Jeter. Now that some of that contentiousness may have reached the locker of Jorge Posada too, it may begin to become a bigger distraction than the team would have invited.

 

The Orioles once went through a bit of this themselves. As much as we might point to the ambitious spending that followed the 1999 fire sale as the ultimate demise of competitive Orioles baseball, the devolution of the 1997 team into 1998 probably went much deeper than that. The “Ripken Rules” as they were described and his preferential treatment by the team had been earned no doubt, but surely there were times over the course of the Davey Johnson era where deference to aging superstars had to supersede the best interests of the team. Not just deference to Ripken as was much publicized, but to the wealth of stars past their primes on the O’s roster at that point. Maybe the Yankees too are now reaching that point.

 

While we all waited and hoped against hope that the Yankees and Sox might spend themselves under the table, perhaps it’ll be other market factors that could potentially contribute to their respective downfalls…or at least their returns to Earth.

 

Steroids and the steroid era certainly changed baseball, and they still arguably are changing baseball. If the dramatic effect that widespread steroid use had on the game has now been realized, then surely we are entering an era where the impact of their absence is beginning to be felt as well. How that shapes the next era in baseball is anyone’s guess, but whoever figures it out first, and positions themselves on the forefront of it will see the early benefits as a result.

 

While we can surely measure the impact of steroids and the lack thereof from game to game and intimate the return of pitching dominance to Major League Baseball, the more important impact of the absence of steroids in baseball from a team building standpoint is likely related to career longevity. Steroids not only enabled players to put up insane homerun numbers from year to year, but they also seemingly allowed them to do it at a much more advanced age than had been previously feasible. As a result the realization of value in free agent commodities went up and so did the standard length of free agent contracts.

 

If we go back to 1986 or so, after baseball got their billion dollar CBS contract and $3 million contracts became the gold standard, free agency in baseball was a risky proposition. Teams who endeavored into free agency thereafter, at higher and higher prices, did so at their own risk and more often than not seemed to come up short value wise. Before Randy Johnson with the Diamondbacks and Manny Ramirez with the Red Sox, the list of big named free agents who led their teams to the Promised Land was a short one. More often back then, successful teams were built through homegrown talent and astute trades, usually capitalizing on players trying to build their resumes for free agency.

 

After being controlled by their original teams for 6 seasons or more under baseball’s rules, free agents reaching the market at or near 30 years old likely won’t be seeing 6 and 7-year contracts once teams begin to realize the downside of these contracts and move forward more cautiously. Surely those players can no longer be expected to have primes that extend beyond the age of 35.

 

While the Yankees and Red Sox are unlikely to spend themselves under the table anytime soon, the compilation of aging players, and at times the deference to their years of service over their immediate impact on the team may lead the big spenders down an interesting path in the not too distant future. The Yankees may be halfway there already. While the values being realized between the contracts of both Jeter and Posada might be enough to sink most franchises, that’s probably not the biggest issue as the Yankees see it. The fact that both are feeling slighted by their treatment in this the twilights of their respective careers threatens to be a much bigger problem than simple economics for the Yankees.

 

Expect A-Rod to take them down a similar path before all is said and done, and Sabathia is poised to hold the team hostage for a contract that will pay him handsomely for far longer than he projects to be effective at season’s end.

 

Yeah…with or without genuine expectations for their own team this season, it’s sure shaping up to be an interesting season for Orioles fans anyway; and in some way, for the future of baseball.

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50 words or less …. Thursday, April 28th

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50 words or less …. Thursday, April 28th

Posted on 28 April 2011 by Rex Snider

Welcome to what promises to be a pretty busy Thursday in the Baltimore sports community. The Ravens are primed to welcome their newest member of the fold and the Orioles are hoping to break out a broom on the Red Sox.

But, challenges exist.

There will be 25 obstacles standing in front of Ozzie Newsome and company and the birds lineup must deal with Boston ace, Jon Lester …. while Adrian Gonzalez and his lineup mates will face a likley easier task in figuring out Brad Bergesen.

Here’s today’s edition of “50 Words Or Less ….”
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The Forgotten Piece ???
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A daily conversation revolving around the Orioles always seems to regard the hitting attack or young starting pitching. I get it …. it’s “sexier” than discussing defense, baserunning and the bullpen.

But, last night served as another reminder that this team does not have a SHUT THE DOOR closer, nor do they have that coveted formidable 8th and 9th inning tandem. It’s a weakness that’s plagued the Orioles for a number of years.

Ask yourself this question …. were you comfortable heading into the top of the 9th inning with a 5-4 lead, last night?
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That’s “Mr. Cover Model”
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Well, Twitter certainly served as the ideal “LET’S PILEUP ON PEYTON HILLIS” social format, yesterday afternoon. As soon as news broke of the breakout back’s throttling of Michael Vick in the Madden-2012 cover matchup, the detractors and haters surfaced …..

“One Shot Wonder” …. “Overrated” …. “Another Mistake By The Lake” …. indeed, we saw and read it all. I think it’s kinda funny. A process that allowed people to manipulate results is what availed Hillis and Vick to reach final consideration in the first place.

Hey, it’s just a video game and a very popular one. Nobody buys it for the cover anyway. But, rest assured, there are some relieved souls in EA Sports hierarchy today.
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Reaching Rock Bottom
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Yep, today’s the day. It’s the 23rd anniversary of the one distinction the Baltimore Orioles would rather forget. On April 28, 1988, in the artificial confines of the Metrodome, the birds set a new mark for frustration and failure.

0-21

We always hear Dimaggio’s 56 game hit streak and Ripken’s 2,131 consecutive game streak will never be broken. Well, you can probably toss this distinction behind both of those marks. I can’t foresee another team doing it …..
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With The 26th Pick …..
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I’ll say it again, NOBODY really knows what the Ravens will do during tonight’s 1st round of the NFL Draft. But, plenty of opinions exist …..

Peter King – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Drew Forrester – Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

Matt Bowen – Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple

Glenn Clark – Mike Pouncey, C, Florida

Brian Billick – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Who do I side with? King has NFL connections … Drew has LOCAL connections … Bowen played the game … Glenn is a “Ravens Insider” … and the coach possesses all four qualities.

I’m gonna trust Glenn. He was right on the money with Sergio Kindle, in 2010. And, he thought the Ravens would drop down to snag him. That’s money …..
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Greatest Debut Album
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I’ll start this rant by admitting my feelings are still smarting. One of these days, I might be considered for the MORNING REACTION’S Hall Of Fame. I’ve only been listening and contributing, in one way or another, for 7 freakin’ years …..

Regardless, I’ve gotta offer an opinion on yesterday’s conversation about the “Greatest Debut Album”. The Cars’ self-titled debut album bests the original Van Halen offering?

Come on …..

The truth in simple sports-related terms; The Cars couldn’t carry Van Halen’s jock. The Cars debut album sold 6 million copies and Van Halen’s debut has sold nearly 11 million issues. But, let’s forget sales and talk about the music …..

Would you rather listen to “My Best Friends Girl” or “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” ???

Case closed …..
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Keep An Eye On …..
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Yeah, I’m finishing up with more NFL conjecture. If Blaine Gabbert slips past the Buffalo Bills at #3 overall, will Marvin Lewis grab him? It’s an interesting debate, especially given the Bengals’ fractured relationship with Carson Palmer.

Many expert minds believe Gabbert is the best “NFL quality” quarterback in this class. I think they’re onto something. The talent is untapped and unrealized, but I don’t like the potential prospect of facing the next Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, twice a year, for the next decade.

So, I’m hoping Buffalo doesn’t screw this up. But, they probably will …..

Happy Thursday …. I’ll chat with you at 2pm

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50 words or less …. Wednesday, April 27th

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50 words or less …. Wednesday, April 27th

Posted on 27 April 2011 by Rex Snider

Hey, it looks like this Britton kid is gonna be pretty damn good. After last night’s victory, he’s just the 5th rookie to win 4 games in April. Admittedly, one month does not make a career, but he’s a phenomenal talent to watch.

Things will be tougher over the next couple days, with Josh Beckett and Jon Lester staring down from the mound. But, the birds bats are due for a breakout …..

Here’s today’s “50 Words Or Less” …..
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Yo, Gimme A Slice …..
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I really like Tom Zbikowski, and if there is ever a case where a urinalysis test is found to be tainted, I’m hoping his recent positive result for THC is such a situation. Zibby seems to be a good-character guy and while it’s illegal, I don’t view marijuana as a drug that really corrupts anything.

His lawyer, Mike Joyce probably summed up the situation best, “the guys I know that smoke pot are all big fat guys that have the munchies …. Tom doesn’t even eat pizza”. Now that’s funny ….
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The Switcheroo
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JUST STOP. To everyone who tries to rationalize a hitter’s transition from the National League to the American League as a “struggle”, simply because of some substantial acclamation, JUST STOP …..

The list of hitters who have made the seamless transition or EVEN HIT BETTER is long and storied. Such names of success, include Bobby Abreu, Josh Hamilton, Miguel Cabrera, Bobby Bonilla, Jason Bay and many, many more.

If a player like Derrek Lee is struggling, it’s simply because of that …. he’s struggling.
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Baltimore’s French Quarter ???
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It looks like a war is “brewing” in Federal Hill. Over the past decade, the amount of watering holes in South Baltimore have certainly increased to proportions never realized in the past.

Are residents of the area fed up with less than sober visitors? Umm …. according to an assembled group of neighbors, this indeed appears to be the case. Hey, if we’re gonna pick on Kegasus, we must be fair about the subject. Here’s the STORY
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You’re Wrong
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I don’t care how much football knowledge the national or local experts possess, there is NO WAY of being near accurate in predicting the 1st round of the upcoming NFL Draft.

While such lists help us in familiarizing ourselves with the top talent, Mock Drafts can only be taken seriously for that purpose. Trust me, I’m right on this one …..
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Congratulations
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Please just get married and GO AWAY …..

While the American public endures increased gas prices and a continued stymied economy, the British royals dominate many headlines because of a certain wedding. What’s the big deal? It’s freakin’ wedding ceremony …..

And, they’re stealing some magic …. as they’re getting married on the 13th anniversary of my wife becoming the luckiest girl in the world – at the Little Church of the West, in Las Vegas.
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The Proof Is Right Here
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Perhaps, Axl Rose said it best …. “all we need is just a little patience”.

Through 21 games, the Baltimore Orioles have collectively walked just 52 times, while striking out 136 times. Slice the numbers any possible way, this K/BB ratio translates into bad baseball.

Have a GREAT Wednesday …..

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O’s put Sox on the other…foot(x)?

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O’s put Sox on the other…foot(x)?

Posted on 27 April 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

It may not qualify as a monkey off of their back just yet, but last night’s 4-1 win by the Orioles over the Red Sox has to be seen as encouraging on a number of fronts. Another strong outing for rookie Zach Britton has him all alone in rarified Oriole air for April wins by a rookie, the O’s seemingly exacted revenge over years of frustration on Red Sox’ starter Clay Buchholz and in the process the team, at least temporarily, put the brakes on another depressing skid in these early days of the 2011 season.

In addition to reversing their AL East mojo, the Orioles have also put themselves in a position to reverse another disturbing trend with just one more win in the next two games. As the world was beginning (or hoping) to draw some sense of panic from the Red Sox based on the way that they stumbled out of the gate this season, we might fairly guess that the Sox and their fans (at least the few who aren’t prone to panic) were circling this series against the Orioles as the unofficial official beginning to their season.

 

In each of the last two seasons, to different degrees, the Red Sox have seemed to struggle out of the gate only to right themselves against the O’s. Last season the Red Sox stumbled into their first series of the season against the Orioles at 6-10; banter about the demise of David Ortiz bat was persistent at that point too. In giving 2 of 3 to the Sox the O’s not only seemed to give them the boost of confidence they needed to right things, but in the process the Orioles awakened the bat of Ortiz as well. The Red Sox went on to win 89 games despite prolonged injury issues for a lot of their key players and Ortiz enjoyed a robust offensive campaign. In 2009 (albeit a smaller sample size) the Sox stumbled into their first series against the O’s at 4-6 and swept them in 4-straight on their way to 95 wins on the year.

 

Maybe it was the Red Sox fault that things didn’t start well for them in Camden Yards. They after all took it upon themselves to win 5 straight including a 4-game sweep of the Angels in Anaheim, after a dismal 2-10 start before arriving in Baltimore. Winning 1 more in this series would put an end to this trend, and leave the O’s with at least 5 wins in the 10 games they’ve played against the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox this month. It could also put the team in a legitimate position to get back to .500 before the end of the month. Given the schedule they’ve dealt with in April, that’d be a strong month for any club in baseball. Add to that the stats generated in getting there and the anticipated market correction for lots of players on the horizon and the future could still be bright; especially for those afraid that the team’s days above .500 have already come and gone for the season.

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For Struggling O’s Things SHOULD Be Worse

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For Struggling O’s Things SHOULD Be Worse

Posted on 25 April 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

As evidence continues to mount that the 2011 Orioles may not be quite who we hoped that they would be, as fans we can at least take solace in the fact that we’ve been down this road before, all too often in fact these days. And for as bad as things in Birdland seem to be these days, we don’t have to look back too far to realize that things could be much worse for this team. In fact it’s arguable that as things stand today, 20 games into the 2011 campaign, not only could things be worse for these Orioles, but they should be worse…arguably much worse.

Consider first that no matter how anxious any or all of us may have been to buy in to the perception that this team would be much improved, you still had to squint a bit to see these O’s as legitimate contenders. The expectation was more likely a run at .500 (which typically means wildcard contention through July) and respectability while playing some entertaining baseball in the process…for a change.

 

Even for the most pie-eyed of optimists the April schedule must’ve looked daunting. The first month of the season charged this team with facing the big 3 in their own division (2 series with NY, 1 with BOS and 1 with TB) along with the defending AL champion Rangers, and the 3 teams (CWS, MIN & DET) that look to be fighting it out for the central (and perhaps the wildcard) when the dust settles on this season. The Indians looked to be the O’s only April reprieve, and we all saw how that turned out too.

 

At 8-12 the Orioles should be counting themselves as fortunate. Couple the daunting April schedule with the statistics that the team has managed to produce, the injuries and illnesses that they’ve been forced to deal with and suddenly 8-12 (3-4 in the division) looks nothing short of miraculous.

 

-         Brian Roberts currently leads the team in HRs (3) and RBI (15)

-         Adam Jones is batting .229 and is still one of the team’s most productive bats

-         Luke Scott (who will carry the team at stretches) is hitting .214 with 4 RBI

-         Derrek Lee is hitting a Garrett Atkins-like .211 with 2 RBI

-         Nick Markakis is not seeing many pitches and is batting .209

-         Mark Reynolds is hitting .179 and striking out nearly 1 in every 3 at bats

-         Robert Andino leads the team in batting average

 

If all of the above persist, it’s fair to say the Orioles will be playing much closer to their record from last year than the 8-12 they’ve played to so far.

 

-         Jeremy Guthrie has already had to be skipped a turn in the rotation due to illness

-         JJ Hardy has been out and seemingly took all of the team’s momentum with him

-         Brian Matusz has yet to make a start

-         They can’t find at bats for Jake Fox

-         No one is trying to win the job in left field.

-         Their most credible closer is dealing with a murder wrap and is currently in extended spring training

-         The back end of the bullpen is a mess

-         Koji’s durability still can’t be counted on in an important role

-         The only suspect April opponent (CLE) swept the O’s

 

All things considered it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a team producing those stats to be closer to 4-16 like the O’s were last year after 20 games than the 8-12 that they are currently.

 

Most of the issues laid out above have a way of correcting themselves over the course of 162 games; others may require more creativity in solving. It stands to reason though that as the level of competition goes down and the numbers go up, these Orioles could still be a scary proposition at some point. If they’ve managed to stay near afloat through this tough first 3 weeks of the season, they’re bound to be scary as the hits begin to fall.

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Orioles: Sky Isn’t Falling But Expectations Are

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Orioles: Sky Isn’t Falling But Expectations Are

Posted on 18 April 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

That giant crashing sound that you may or may not have heard as the Orioles wrapped up their 7th consecutive loss on Sunday afternoon wasn’t the sky falling, instead it was likely the expectations of a fan base starved for any modicum of hope to cling to, crashing collectively back to Earth in the face of another season of likely disappointment. Pennants, they say, can’t be won in April but they can surely be lost there, and although there were few if any envisioning pennants for this Orioles team, they still, despite their recent struggles haven’t lost themselves the pennant. In fact, even in the face of this most recent batch of Orioles turmoil there are reasons to be even more encouraged now than at the beginning of the season.

First, the juggernaut that the Red Sox projected to be has not yet materialized, nor have the Yankees or Rays gotten off to world beating starts. Despite their 7-game skid, the O’s still find themselves in 3rd place in the division, 3 games out of first, and still ahead of the Red Sox and Rays who they expected to be looking up at in the standings with or without their own recent struggles.

 

The O’s can count themselves as fortunate to have gotten off to the start that they did at the expense of Tampa, and Detroit. As a result they still find themselves in the thick of the AL East even though the bats haven’t gotten warmed up yet. Sooner or later those bats will start coming around, and hopefully Brian Matusz and JJ Hardy will return too adding some depth to the rotation and credibility to the bottom of the order. Hanging around until that happens would say a lot about this team.

 

A look at the April schedule before the season began should have led most to temper their expectations. The season’s first month brought with it dates against the division’s big three Yankees (twice), Red Sox and Rays, in addition to the Tigers, Twins and White Sox who all project to fight it out for the Central crown and the defending AL Champion Rangers. If there appeared one place on the schedule where the O’s could hope to catch a breath in the first month it was in Cleveland last weekend. That breath, if taken, turned out to be ill advised.

 

Expectations and baseball though have a funny way of disagreeing. The Orioles return to Baltimore reeling but look to have an opportunity to get well against a Twins team that’s dealing with it’s own share of early disappointments. In addition to their struggles in the win column, the Twins come to town without the services of Joe Mauer, with Justin Morneau sick with the flu, and with the back end of their bullpen in disarray. That and some good old-fashioned home cooking could be just what the doctor ordered for these O’s.

 

Sooner or later adversity was bound to strike this team. While their talent is clearly improved from seasons past, they certainly didn’t give the appearance that they’d be above struggles. How they respond to those struggles (these struggles) will be the real measure of this team. So far the response hasn’t been great, but if it were to come now the timing couldn’t be better.

 

If the O’s can salvage 6 wins in 10-games on this home stand, and then split with Chicago in the first two games of their four game set, they can still finish April at .500. If they do any better than that, they could find themselves back atop the standings before they leave town again. Given the daunting appearance of the April schedule, .500 still supports high expectations. Additionally the O’s are currently 3-2 (all on the road) against the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox; their record in the 54 games staged against those 3 will probably make or break their season overall.

 

Remember that the 1983 Orioles had 2 separate 7-game losing streaks on their way to 98 wins and a World Championship. Remember too though that these aren’t those Orioles, so keep expectations realistic. These Orioles will make (or lose) their own fortunes, for better or for worse, perhaps beginning today against the Twins.

 

Disappointment against the Indians is nothing new to O’s fans. It was a disappointing end to the 1997 season against Cleveland that set this franchise into a tailspin from which they still haven’t managed to recover. We’ll see if that scenario played out again in microcosm last weekend. For now though…

 

Bring on the Twins…Bring on the Wins!!!

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Losing streak now at 8, Orioles in need of wins and a leader

Posted on 18 April 2011 by Drew Forrester

It’s gut check time at the baseball stadium.

Too early in the season to have a “must-win series”? Maybe. After all, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

But even the most ardent supporter of the Orioles can’t help but recall that it was roughly this time last year when the Birds were in the beginning stages of throwing-in-the-towel en-route to a woeful 3-16 start to the 2010 campaign.

From the call-it-like-it-was file: Last year’s edition gave up under former manager Dave Trembley. I know professional athletes don’t like the use of the “Q word”, but the truth is that last year’s club called-it-quits 19 games into the season.

I assume this year’s team isn’t going to pull off the same stunt.

But it’s up to them to prove it.

I also assumed they weren’t going to get swept in Cleveland.

Wondering whether or not the Orioles might be on the verge of one of those memorable months of losing where they drop something like 13 of 14 isn’t a crazy consideration. Especially if you’ve watched the team over the last, say, 10, 12 or 13 years.

Anyone who has heard me on the radio over the last 8 years knows my #1 sports axiom: “The toughest thing to do in sports is to stop losing.” That’s why they need to get out of this funk quickly.

And they get their chance starting tonight when the Twins visit Baltimore for a 4-game series. After that, it’s the Yankees and Red Sox in town for a little American League East test. This 10-game homestand will go a long way in proving whether or not our orange feathered friends really ARE better than they were a season ago.

The O’s are 6-8 after a horrific offensive weekend in Cleveland that saw them lose three straight to the team most folks in baseball figured would be the worst team in the American League in 2011.

In fairness, 6-8 is about what I figured the Birds would be through the first 2-plus weeks of the season. But they started 6-1, of course, and that led many of us – *ahem*, including me – to wonder if this first month of the season might be one in which the O’s jump out to a nice start and send shockwaves across the American League.

Evidently not.

But a 6-8 start could quickly become 9-9 if the Birds take 3 of 4 from the offensively-challenged Twins. And 9-9 with the Yankees and Red Sox coming to town would be interesting enough to keep our attention intact over the weekend.

But what if they throw in the towel again? Do they have it in them to give up again?

What if, somehow, the Twins win 3 of 4? (and do NOT say “oh, that can’t happen”, because I’ll remind you they just got b-slapped by the freakin’ Indians of all teams three straight times). What if the Twins win 3 of 4 and then the Yankees come buzzing in over the weekend with Sabathia and Burnett both scheduled to face the Birds in Baltimore?

Last year’s team was as soft as a 4-year old girl’s Easter dress because they didn’t really have a leader, no one respected the manager and, naturally, they lacked good, quality players.

This year, the manager has most, if not everyone’s respect. The off-season additions cost the team $20 million more than they spent in 2010 and were at least good enough to warrant winter enthusiasm with the fan base.

But who leads this bunch?

That element of the 2011 team is nearly identical to last year’s club.

Who leads?

It might be a tad too early to have a “players only” meeting on the heels of the weekend sweep in Cleveland, but what if (continued)

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