Tag Archive | "Boston Red Sox"

MSB Monday Market Watch

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MSB Monday Market Watch

Posted on 19 September 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

5 On The Rise

#1 – Tampa Bay Rays – The Rays took 3 of 4 from the Red Sox this weekend to close the gap in the AL Wild Card to 2 games with 10 games to go for each side. Whether the Sox can manage to hold off the Rays or not, they’re in trouble as injuries have taken another mighty toll on Boston this season. Still, after leading Tampa by 9 games as late as September 3rd, there will be no legitimate excuses for the Sox if they should somehow complete one of the worst late season collapses in modern baseball history.

 

If the Rays somehow find their way in, it’ll be to the chagrin of not just the Sox but of all of the AL teams who do make the playoffs too as the Rays formidable starting pitching has managed to keep them afloat as the bullpen and lineup have spent most of the year learning on the fly. Although it’s a small sample size, the Rays 11-4 record in their last 15 games suggests that they’re peaking at the right time.

 

Forecast: The schedule suggests that Boston is still in a pretty good place. Six of their 10 remaining games are on the road, but 3 of those and 7 overall of the last 10 are against Baltimore, against whom the Sox are 8-3 on the year. Their other 4 games are against the Yankees, who the Sox have owned to the tune of 11-4 so far this season. Tampa on the other hand has 6 of 10 games remaining at home and 7 of their remaining 10 against the Yankees, against whom they’re 5-6 on the season. Their other 3 games are against the Blue Jays, against whom they’re 10-5 so far.

 

With a magic number of 7 and 10 of their remaining 11 games against the Rays and Red Sox, the Yankees aren’t yet out of the woods either, igniting essentially 2 pennant races in the AL East when Yanks and Sox both appeared to be foregone conclusions just a couple of weeks ago.

 

 

#2 – The Atlantic Coast Conference – ACC fans have been waiting anxiously in the dark as the most recent round of Super-Conference manifest destinies began taking shape again. As all of the moves have seemingly been football driven, fans of the basketball first ACC sat hopefully expecting the conference to do it’s best to keep their 12-member alliance intact and maintain the status quo. Now it seems that the ACC may be on the fast track to becoming the nation’s first super conference as over the weekend news of the intents of both Syracuse and Pitt to join the ACC ranks began to spread.

 

At the very least, the 2 new members provide the conference with an insurance policy should the SEC come calling officially for Clemson and Florida State, but with UConn already rumored to be poised to follow, it seems but a mere formality that the ACC will add one more player to the mix and become an official Super-Conference with a giant TV network to follow. West Virginia, or on an outside shot South Carolina might be the best bets at #16.

 

Lost in the euphoria, but no less important this weekend, Miami upset #17 Ohio State, Clemson upset #21 Auburn and Maryland showed well (in the box score at least) against #18 West Virginia.

 

Forecast: So far so good it seems. Again, at the very least the ACC will be able to maintain 12 members should a couple succumb to the temptations of the SEC or some other budding Super-Conference and will be able to continue staging their own conference title games in football. At best, the ACC could win the race to 16 and become the first of likely many Super-Conferences. Keep in mind though that the most recent versions of ACC expansion didn’t exactly bring about the anticipated results or football credibility that seemed all but foregone at the time.

 

 

#3 – Cam Newton – The controversial Heisman trophy / National Championship winning quarterback turned controversial first round (first overall) draft pick of the Panthers unleashed his second straight 400+ yard passing performance en route to his second straight loss to begin his NFL career. Clearly he’d rather be winning and shining, but for now, he’s shining enough to have us all impressed, shocked and mesmerized. Shredding the suspect Cardinals defense in week 1 was impressive enough, that he was able to do it to the defending World Champs while keeping them against the ropes for most of the game after they had spent a week dissecting his tape is flat out amazing. If the youngster keeps playing like that, the wins will surely follow…as will more accolades.

 

Forecast: He’ll get a chance at the Jags next week and might be able to muster that elusive first win. After that, the schedule gets kind of hairy for a while. He’ll continue to sling it you can bet, and will learn some tough lessons along the way. The funniest thing may be that sooner or later teams will have to adjust to his ability to sling it all over the field, and when they do, Cam will get his chance to showcase the wheels that gained him so much notoriety last season at Auburn. It’s an unbelievable start to an NFL career, begging the simple question what will the kid do next?

 

 

#4 – Detroit Lions – The Lions picked up their second straight win to begin the season on Sunday and in so doing justified the faith of tons of pre-season prognosticators who thought the Lions to be on the rise. The interesting part of the Lions ascendance however is that so far it least it hasn’t been based on the brick wall that will be Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh when the rookie Fairley eventually gets onto the field; instead the Lions have been getting it done on offense with Matthew Stafford playing the part of polished veteran and Jahvid Best rebounding nicely from an injury plagued 2010.

 

Forecast: The Lions will have their work cut out for them in a contentious NFC North, and health has to be their biggest concern on the offensive side of the ball. When exactly the Lions official window might open is debatable, but for now they’re at least knocking on the door.

 

 

#5 – Robert Griffin III – He entered the season as a lightly regarded Heisman candidate from a lightly regarded Baylor program flying largely under the radar. He emerged from a week 1 shootout with TCU (on the back of 359 yards passing and 5 TD) as RG3 and at the forefront of the Heisman conversation. After a 15-day hiatus Griffin and the Bears returned to action on Sunday and RG3 backed up his performance with a 20 for 22 night for a modest 265 yards and 3 TD, while adding 78 yards on the ground for good measure.

 

Forecast: The Bears will be looking at the Big-12 portion of their schedule soon enough affording Griffin plenty of chances in the national spotlight. And while the Bears may not be able to hold their own against top notch foes (TCU would beg to differ) Griffin might, and the need to keep his foot on the gas could lead to some seriously gaudy numbers along the way.

 

 

5 On The Slide

 

#1 – Professional Boxing – The fact that Floyd “Money” Mayweather was fighting “Vicious” Victor Ortiz on Saturday night (for an outrageous pay-per-view price tag of $69.99) should be in and of itself another proverbial “black eye” for boxing. This is after all the 147 pound division, touted by most as boxing’s best, yet the best match-up they could muster on that night for the best boxer of his generation was a hard punching young southpaw just 2 years removed from quitting in the ring against a middling Marcos Maidana. That Floyd Mayweather has not yet fought Manny Pacquiao is an embarrassment to the sport of boxing and to the otherwise cleaned out by Mayweather 147-pound division. The action that took place in the ring…well that was kind of embarrassing too.

 

History will remember Floyd winning by a cheap shot, but that’s more likely as a result of our feelings about Floyd as a despicable human being than as a result of what actually happened in the ring on Saturday night. For 2 of the 3 full rounds Floyd landed easily and won decisively. In the middle round, Ortiz showed enough heart and offense to compel some to see it his way, but 2 of the 3 judges at ringside scored that one for Mayweather too. In the 4th Ortiz got aggressive, bullied Mayweather into a corner and then inexplicably charged him like a crazed bull with the crown of his head landing square in Mayweather’s face. That would be the fight’s only illegal shot, but not it’s last controversial one.

 

Immediately after butting Mayweather, as referee Joe Cortez attempted to step in and separate the fighters, Ortiz began apologizing to Mayweather. Ortiz hugged Mayweather and even kissed him on the cheek before being led to the center of the ring by Cortez to make the point deduction official. When the fighters got back together Ortiz again hugged Mayweather. Mayweather didn’t appear to reciprocate the hug and stood there arms out waiting to resume the action, which he did as soon as Ortiz backed away, landing a quick left followed by a crushing right that left Ortiz on the ground and unable to beat the count.

 

We’ll remember Mayweather’s cheap shot although his was legal, and forget too that he was dominating Ortiz in a way that suggested he’d end it sooner rather than later and that Mayweather may have been rightly enraged at Ortiz’ illegal and intentional head butt. What we won’t remember is a great fight or one that was worth the buy as neither was the case on Saturday.

 

Forecast: Mayweather will spend another year or so flaunting and burning (literally) the $25 million plus he made from this farce while we all wait anxiously for him to step in front of Pacquiao and into the beating that so many have been waiting to see him get. Mayweather will get paid again, likely beat Pacquiao too and continue to be a general A-hole. And we’ll keep giving him money.

 

 

#2 – Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens backed up their impressive week one domination over the Pittsburgh Steelers by being beaten in all three phases of the game by the Tennessee Titans and are now left to reevaluate their estimations of their own greatness.

 

Throughout the Harbaugh era these Ravens have been far too professional to overlook opponents, even when those opponents don’t seem to have much of a realistic chance at winning against them. Or maybe, as we look back at games like Carolina and Buffalo in 2010, perhaps Sunday was the first time that the Ravens paid the price for taking a second division caliber team lightly. Regardless, on Sunday the Ravens had their proverbial lunches eaten by the Titans and then were charged with cleaning up the scraps when their bully nemeses were through.

 

The Ravens will surely have to pick up those scraps quickly and put them to use against St. Louis as for now at least, the loss served to bring the Steelers back into a tie for the division lead (albeit only week 2). There are plenty of wins to be had on the Ravens schedule; the question may simply be whether the team is professional enough to go about collecting them.

 

Forecast: This should serve as the wake up call that a team as professional as these Ravens have been shouldn’t have needed in the first place. They’ll get St. Louis coming off of a short week before returning home for a slugfest with the Jets. The Steelers meanwhile get the Manning-less Colts next week.

 

 

#3 – Arian Foster – Last year’s improbable rushing champ started this season without the fullback who had cleared holes for him to run through last season and with company in the backfield in Ben Tate who the Texans envisioned as the starter before losing him to injury last year. He continued his trek by injuring his hamstring, calling fantasy owners concerned about his health for their own reasons sick, tweeted images of his MRI and proclaimed himself ready for week 1. He wasn’t.

 

Ben Tate though was, possibly compelling Foster to rush back to action this week against the Dolphins, where he rushed for 33 yards on 10 carries before re-aggravating the hamstring and coming out of the game for good. Ben Tate in the meantime has gone over the century mark on the ground in each of the Texans first 2 games and will likely remain a big part of the mix with or without Foster.

 

Forecast: The smart thing would seem to be to rest Foster until his hamstring issues are clearly behind him. More likely though, Foster, gamer that he is, will continue trying to rush himself back and struggle with the injury all season. Either way, Ben Tate seems to be a viable part of the running game for the foreseeable future and for now a better option than Foster.

 

 

#4 – Chiefs, Seahawks and Colts – The Manning-less Colts looked terrible again, this time at home against the Cleveland Browns. The already injury riddled Chiefs suffered another embarrassing defeat and in the process may have been hit with their worst injury so far, apparently losing Jamaal Charles for the season with an ACL injury. And the Seahawks although mostly healthy look like they may be the worst team in football without Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback.

 

All three playoff teams from 2010 are off to 0-2 starts and looking like long shots to get back there.

 

Forecast: Count all three squarely in the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes.

 

 

#5 – The NBA Season – With each passing day, the likelihood of seeing an entire NBA season or any part of a season at all get bleaker and bleaker. The more concerning part, for the league and its fans, should probably be that no one really seems to care very much. Unlike the NFL lockout, which had us spinning and clamoring for updates daily, everyone seems resigned to the expectation that here simply won’t be an NBA this year. Folks were missing football despite the fact that we never actually missed any football at all. Judging by the attention or lack thereof to the NBA’s labor issues, basketball…we’ll see you when we see you.

 

Forecast: This isn’t getting better anytime soon. Check back in February.

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Selig Should Deal A-Rod Out for a Year

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Selig Should Deal A-Rod Out for a Year

Posted on 05 August 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

Playing poker with Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio may sound innocent enough on the surface. That probably explains why fans, at least to this point, have been largely dismissive of the latest A-Rod indiscretions (if true) and are expecting them to blow over quickly with little or no consequence. But while some will see this as just further indication that in his heart A-Rod pines to be a Hollywood jet setter, others will see it as Rodriguez worst indiscretion to date and grounds for a tough penalty from Major League Baseball. Put me in the camp of the latter.

Baseball has a long and troubled history with gambling and the criminal element, and Rodriguez has apparently already been apprised by Major League Baseball once that his participation in these types of poker games is unacceptable. In addition to the star-studded cast of characters we know about, we can bet that games of that caliber are typically hosted, attended and protected by criminals and high stakes professional gamblers. Therein lies the biggest issue, and likely MLB’s greatest concern.

 

Professional sports gamblers, good ones at least, typically have particular areas of expertise. Often, these areas of expertise are fortified with “inside information”, well placed contacts who can give information to gamblers that the general public has no knowledge of, information that could influence the outcomes of games and therefore information that when in the right hands could prove quite valuable.

 

It seems unlikely that Rodriguez would intentionally feed this type of information to that type of element, but without intending to do so, gossip and anecdotes told over a poker table could potentially yield invaluable insight to an unsavory element clamoring to discern it. For baseball, that would be a big problem.

 

Additionally, and more importantly, it would seem that most tales of athletes or insiders gone awry because of gambling, find themselves at the mercy of criminals because of their inability or unwillingness to pay back big losses from card games, bets on other sports or other gambling losses. No matter how much a person makes, coming out of big money is never easy. Michael Jordan’s alleged $1 million plus in golf gambling losses became an issue not because he couldn’t pay it, we knew about it because he didn’t pay it. Coming off of a million bucks isn’t easy for anyone…even Michael Jordan…allegedly of course.

 

While it’s unlikely that an athlete who’s made in the ballpark of half a billion dollars in his career could find himself in that kind of trouble, there are plenty of guys making half a million per year or less that easily could. As the poker craze continues to grow, MLB is in a position where, like it or not, they’ll be setting a precedent going forward. They’d better make it a strong one.

 

Most but not all of those who have been banned from baseball for gambling were implicit in the fixing of games, but on rare occasions simply consorting with a criminal or gambling element has led to action from baseball. George Steinbrenner was banned for 3 years after consorting with criminal Howard Spira to get “dirt” on Dave Winfield. One year for A-Rod would probably suffice if the accusations against him are true.

 

There are literally thousands of elements to sports that we the public can appreciate, celebrate, even demand, but without integrity in the games themselves the rest of those factors and elements become meaningless and all sports become pro wrestling. While A-Rod is a bad example of someone who could or should find himself in a bad way to a bad element; in the interest of those who are compensated far less, he needs to be made an example of.

 

Begrudge athletes and their salaries if you’d like, but one fact relative to those salaries seems clear: High compensation for professional athletes is supposed to insure integrity in the games. Gambling is a big enough business that gamblers would make athletes rich if their teams didn’t. That the teams do, is supposed to keep players (and officials) above those types of temptations and problems. And like it or not, in addition to the most insane top end salaries of any sport, baseball also seems to have more guys in important roles making half a million dollars or less per season than any other professional sport too. Surely they don’t want those guys sitting down and playing “Rounders” with actual whales, sharks and other sea creatures with unsavory intentions.

 

Speaking of “Rounders”, even if I’m wrong and baseball lets this whole episode blow over, I’d hope at least a 10-game suspension would come down from Yankees brass for losing his money to high profile Red Sox fans Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

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Apologists are taking gas, but Orioles swoon still isn’t funny

Posted on 12 July 2011 by Drew Forrester

It seems like we’ve been down this road before.

The Orioles stumble through a woeful first half and then, following an embarrassing loss or series – or perhaps a lengthy losing streak – the usually-apologetic fan base goes into meltdown mode.

It would be funny if not for the fact that the meltdown is always connected to a woeful period of Orioles baseball.

This week, following a horrible 1-9 road trip that saw them get b-slapped three straight in Texas and four more times in Boston, the orange kool aid drinkers have spiraled out of control.

Some of the media have finally figured it out — they’ve finally discovered that it’s actually OK to question the team’s inability to win and their methods of operation that have contributed to this 14-years of suffering.  A few folks in town still won’t opine critically on the team, but they’re now being exposed for what they are:  afraid to speak the truth.  I stumbled upon a “baseball pre-game show” on Tuesday night and one of the experts offered this outstanding analysis about Derrek Lee:  ”He might not be doing it on the field, but he’s SUCH a good guy.  You have no idea how good of a guy he is.  I mean, the players in that locker room just love him.  That means something.  It really does.”

What it means is that he’s not playing well enough to help the team win.

Nothing else about Derrek Lee really matters, no matter what that “expert” offered as analysis.

So there are still some folks in town afraid to speak the truth.  Or, perhaps, they just haven’t been around long enough to actually know the truth.  Either way, they’re not worth listening to, reading or watching.

Even Steve Melewski over at MASN.com – which makes him an employee-in-law of the Orioles, frankly – has been forced to face reality and question Andy MacPhail recently.  The area’s number one source for orange apology, the Oriole Hangout, has gone hogwild this week as well, spewing criticism and angry messages about MacPhail and the players who aren’t doing the job on the field.  Talk about a reversal in theory…it’s akin to cross dressing, I suppose, when the Hangouters are forced to swallow the vitamin-of-reality and question the very man and the very team they’ve spent so much time defending over the last 13 years.

I’ve received a bunch of emails from people this week practically begging me to LOL (laugh out loud) at the apologists in town, since they’re the ones for years who have painted WNST in a bad light as “haters” of the team.

I’m not going to laugh at the people at Orioles Hangout who have chastised me over the years for being “too negative”.  I’m not going to laugh for a couple of reasons, but the main one is simple enough:  Because it’s not funny.

None of it.

The 14 years of this junk isn’t funny.

The team’s June Swoon, which carried over into July just long enough to saddle the team with a 7-game losing skid heading to the All-Star break, is simply NOT a laughing matter.

I know the players are trying.  I’m certainly not questioning their professional and ethical approach to the games.  I can’t say I’ve seen anyone give up, per-se, although some of the stupid stuff last weekend, like throwing baseballs at players on the other team because they’re beating you, smells of disguised give-up.  You throw at guys and create controversy like that when you’re trying to take the spotlight off the real issue – and the real issue is LOSING.

A caller chimed in on Monday and said, “Even if we blow it up – again – where do we start?”

That was the question of the day.

I don’t know where you would start.  The farm system isn’t good enough to just “go young” and take our lumps for a year or two until everyone is game ready.  The O’s tried that with their young pitching – the so called “cavalry” – and look what that got them so far.  Maybe those arms came up too early, maybe they weren’t quite ready for prime time, maybe they’d be better if the team around them were better…maybe, maybe, maybe.  The only real, quality players under contract past this year worthy of trading — Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Nick Markakis to name the only three, are guys you’d rather hang on to if possible. But how do you “blow it up” and stand pat at the same time?  You don’t.

I look at the Phillies pitching and it strikes me they have a unique blend of guys who were acquired in various forms. Halladay was a winter trade acquisition two years ago, Cliff Lee was signed as a free agent in the 2010-2011 off-season, Roy Oswalt was a trade deadline pick-up last July and Cole Hamels was the team’s first pick in the 2002 draft.

The Phillies grew ONE arm.  They went about getting the other ones in whatever way they could.  They did that for one reason:  They wanted to win.

As Malcom X said:  ”By any means necessary”.

While the Phillies were busy complementing their staff by adding Cliff Lee last winter, the Orioles were busy filling their need for a veteran starting pitcher by inking Justin Duchscherer to a contract.

Enough said about who wants to win and who just wants to fill out the roster.

For the Orioles to turn this around – and that means, most likely, NEXT season (and we’ve heard that over and over for the last 13 years) – they MUST be free-spenders in the off-season this winter.  That will certainly go against the grain of everything the organization has stood for over the last decade, but it’s the ONLY way the team will have a chance at some sort of semi-massive improvement in 2012.  You’ve seen the minor league call-ups who have played this season, the likes of Blake Davis and Ryan Adams, and you’re probably aware of the young players waiting in the wings at Frederick and Bowie and even Norfolk.  Do you think this team can throw 4-5 of them to the wolves in 2012 and compete?  Right, I agree with you on that.  They can’t.

Spending money is so foreign to the Orioles, they have to look up the exchange rate to see what it all adds up to.

But that’s what they’re faced with this winter.

That is, if they want to try and win.

Prince Fielder, Michael Cuddyer…those are two names you’ll be hearing a lot about in November.  There are others, but one of those two would fill the Orioles need for a first baseman who can both field the position and offer production at the plate.

They won’t be cheap.

But they’re both better than any other option we currently have on the radar.

In the meantime, the malady lingers on, as Morrissey once sang, and the dog days of July, August and September will once again remind all of us – even the apologists who hate to admit it – that this losing will only stop when the organization makes that it’s NUMBER ONE priority.

When winning is all that matters, and I mean ALL that matters, the Orioles will start to see a change in their fortune.

In the past few years, the number one priority has ranged from stuff like “fiscal responsibility” to “growing the arms” to “buying the bats” (which still hasn’t happened) to “stocking the farm system” to “remaining patient”…but none of that has added up to a deep, soul-searching commitment to winning from the Orioles organization.

Last year when the Ravens gagged away a 3rd quarter two touchdown lead in Pittsburgh and once again became the Steelers au pair for the AFC Championship Game, I offered THIS opinion about our football team:  ”The only thing they should concern themselves with in 2011 is this:  How do we beat the Steelers?  Every player signing, draft pick and personnel decision has to be made with that question in mind.”

As for the Orioles, the ONLY question they should entertain going forward is this:  What can we do to win?  What players can we sign that will help us win now?  What can we do to get better than the Red Sox and the Yankees? (You’ll notice there wasn’t any mention of money in there…)

No more garbage from guys like Kevin Gregg about the Red Sox and their $180 million payroll.  Let’s get rid of the TV commercials with Buck in the spotlight where he basically tries to make fun of the Yankees.

Let’s just focus on one thing:  winning.

It’s all that should matter.

And that’s the summary of this whole missive.  The losing isn’t funny.

No matter what the cost, it’s time to win.

By any means necessary.

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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.

.

.

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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