Tag Archive | "Boston Red Sox"

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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< 50 words …. Wednesday, April 13th

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< 50 words …. Wednesday, April 13th

Posted on 13 April 2011 by Rex Snider

It’s Wednesday, and it’s still RAINING. No possibilities of a drought in the near future …. unless, you’re the Boston Red Sox. Rack up those losses boys, there is nothing like seeing a $145 million TRAINWRECK in the making …..

Rainout? Advantage O’s
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I hate rainouts. But, there can be hidden advantages in postponements …..

Facing an abbreviated two game series, the Yankees will stick with Burnett and Hughes. However, the Orioles will skip Brad Bergesen and go with Tillman and Arrieta. Yes, I hate rainouts, but this one (minus Bergesen) probably benefits the birds.
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Money For Nothing
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I called this one a couple months ago …..

What were the Angels thinking when they traded for Vernon Wells and his $81 million in remaining salary? He’s hitting .091 and was finally benched last night. Somebody could lose a job over this move, but it won’t be Wells.
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I Thought Boxers had Rhythm
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I don’t watch reality shows – I’m too busy living my reality. But, on Monday evening I walked past the television as my wife ogled over “Dancing With The Stars”.

I noticed Sugar Ray Leonard bumbling through some routine with the grace of a bricklayer. He was eliminated last night …..
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Left Out, Again
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What do Grady Sizemore, Ryan Reynolds, Shia Labeouf, Bruno Mars, Aaron Rodgers and Terrence Howard have in common?

They are among People Magazine’s “Most Beautiful of 2011″ …..

Even with a full head of hair, I couldn’t make the cut. Life is unfair, and then we die …..
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Heir Apparent?
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Washington Huskies quarterback, Jake Locker, just spent two days visiting the Patriots. Could he be groomed to replace Tom Brady? It’s hard to imagine Bill Belichick using one of his coveted three picks (in the first 33 overall) on a guy who holds the clipboard for 5+ years.

Something’s up …..
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Stay Strong, Mr. MVP
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Yesterday, Josh Hamilton broke his right humerus bone diving into the plate. I have broken my humerus and the pain was just a notch below broken ribs. It was hell …..

Everyone knows Hamilton’s addiction battles, which grew from painkiller dependence. No doubt, he’s battling his discomfort “cold turkey”. God love him …..

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

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

Posted on 11 April 2011 by Ryan Chell

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

Adrian Beltre

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

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

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

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

Jeremy Guthrie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A-Rod

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

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

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

-Chell

ryan@wnst.net

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The premiere of my newest blog; < 50 words

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The premiere of my newest blog; < 50 words

Posted on 10 April 2011 by Rex Snider

Welcome to the trial edition of my new daily blog, < 50 words …..

Last week, I brainstormed a concept of doing a weekly blog aimed at covering a handful of people/topics, while devoting “20 words or less” to each specific subject. I enjoyed doing it and based on the emails, phone calls and Facebook comments, it appears a distinct number of readers liked it.

As mentioned in last Thursday’s piece, I have realized a growing number of readers want specific, concise blogs that do not require a lot of time. And that’s the purpose behind this concept …..

However, last Thursday’s piece also served up a pretty good lesson; it’s downright difficult to express an opinion in less than 20 words. Thus, I’m expanding the dialogue, while still committing to the objective of not overwhelming the reader.

I’m going to commit myself to this new platform for a few weeks. On a daily basis, my blog will reference 6 different people/topics, while keeping my thoughts limited to a maximum of 50 words on each of them.

The spirit of my opinions will primarily be of the lighthearted variety. After all, it’s pretty tough to be descript and opinionated in such a limited format.

I’ll still write the semi-regular typical blogs, that emphasize on delivering a strong opinion or analysis on given subjects. Trust me, I will devote several hundred words to Manny Ramirez within the next couple days.

If you like this new < 50 words format and style, let me know. Positive opinions will keep the theme alive …..
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Digging A Fox-Hole
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Welcome to BUCK’S DOGHOUSE. The skipper’s cryptic comments following last night’s loss, suggested the catcher called a bad game. His remarks also wiggled Jake Arrieta off the hook of accountability.

Regardless of a strong spring, I’m betting “Fox” will be advertised across the back of another jersey very soon.
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He’s Baaaack
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Well, he’s hinting that he’d like to make a final return to the big leagues, while finishing his career …. in Boston. In an interview with the New York Times, Pedro Martinez said he would like his HOF plaque to represent Beantown. I hope Theo Epstein gambles on him …. and loses.
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Happy For Hef
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Yesterday was Mr. Playboy’s 85th birthday. While he might’ve celebrated in grand fashion BACK IN THE DAY, I have difficulty imagining any drug or elixir that keeps an 85 year old awake ’til the early morning hours.

Then again, he’s made it this far while pushing the limit …..
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2nd Coming Of Stephen
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Well, ESPN’s Buster Olney floated out the idea, earlier today. He tweeted “Zach Britton has a chance to become what Stephen Strasburg was last year: Must-see TV” …..

Heck, I hope not. If Britton needs Tommy John surgery, by June, I’m never reading one of Buster’s columns, again.
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Just When You Thought Brett Favre Was Old News
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You can’t blame Brett Favre for keeping his name in conversations, but you can credit Jenn Sterger for doing it. This week, she will spill her tears to Barbara Walters in a primetime interview.

The price? According to the New York Post, ABC is giving Sterger a job. Nice, huh?
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The Saga Of Manny
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Millions in the bank, and HOF credentials …. but he still uses performance enhancing drugs, and gets busted a second time? Manny Ramirez needs to play a sport with easier testing restrictions.

Bet on it …. a year from today, MLB will have HGH testing and the NFL will not.

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My views, in twenty words or less

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My views, in twenty words or less

Posted on 07 April 2011 by Rex Snider

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When listeners and readers speak, I hear them. Regardless of the spirit of their message, I’m all ears. It can be a compliment, complaint or hybrid mixture of both extremes and I will do my best to absorb it, while considering such valued input.

I’ll be blunt and sincere; your opinions matter to me. To that extent, an overriding message I commonly hear is our blogs are too lengthy. While the WNST writer may have a specific point or opinion to share, the reader desires a more concise finished product.

I absolutely understand the point – you’re at work, eating breakfast/lunch or just catching a break and you don’t have time or an interest in reading a novel …..

With such plights in mind, I have developed my newest blog “Twenty Words Or Less”. In this blog, I’ll just reference a handful of people or topics and provide my view or resulting opinion in twenty or less words. Ready? Here we go …..
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Miguel Cabrera
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It’s shameful he’s not serious about health and conditioning. Better than Pujols? YES … but not as dedicated; that’s the difference.
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John Harbaugh
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He’s the 10th best coach in the NFL, according to ESPN. Mrs. Snider thinks he’s #1 … in a GQ way.
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President Obama
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Nope, no politics here. Just a guarantee for future “Twenty Words Or Less” blogs.
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Boston Red Sox
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Every bit as good as we originally thought. They can erase an 0-5 start in a week’s time.
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Matt Wieters
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He’s taking charge on the field. We are about to see the player we expected.
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Allen McCallum
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He was crabby, this week. And, he made a BOLD prediction regarding Nick Markakis and April 30th.
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Texas A&M Ladies Basketball Team
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Who? Seriously …. who?
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Mount Everest
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Why in the HELL would anyone climb a snowy mountain …. and pay $100 thousand to do it?
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HAPPY THURSDAY !!!!

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The Sweep Smell of Victory

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The Sweep Smell of Victory

Posted on 04 April 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Regardless of anything else, hold your chin high today

Posted on 04 April 2011 by Rex Snider

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

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

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

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

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

But, today, is NOT their day.

This is your day, BALTIMORE ORIOLES FAN.

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

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

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

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

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

Be optimistic.

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

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

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

Zach Britton and Chris Tillman possess big league potential.

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

Matt Wieters is still maturing.

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

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

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

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

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Putting the ‘O’ Back in Expectations

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Putting the ‘O’ Back in Expectations

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Thyrl Nelson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A “tough love” message about Orioles baseball

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A “tough love” message about Orioles baseball

Posted on 28 March 2011 by Rex Snider

A little more than a week ago, Nestor approached the WNST bloggers with an idea about conveying our LOVE for the Orioles and Baltimore baseball; through our writings in the week leading up to Opening Day. To boot, he granted each of us with a specific day to feature our words regarding the spirited topic.

Today is my day …..

Since I’m on the big stage, I will not waste the grand opportunity, nor will I spare the feelings or emotions of anyone who reads this piece. From readers and listeners, to my very brethren at WNST, everyone is fair game for my message and view on the unconditional value attached to actually loving something or someone.

For me, the expression of LOVE is not always a warm and emotional message. Nope, it’s not typecast in a Valentine’s Day greeting or heart shaped box of candy. Call it what you will, but loving anything can be frustrating, if not a heart-wrenching experience.

Love can be tough …..

But, “tough love” has opened the eyes of many misguided or conflicted souls. It has also caused many good people to accept and realize their current path is not productive. Indeed, dolling out a good dose of our toughest brand of love has saved many relationships and lives.

Today, you’re gonna get TOUGH LOVE and the intent behind it. If you’re my friend or foe, co-worker or colleague, boss or blood, it doesn’t matter – I’m heaping every single soul who proclaims a love for this city and its baseball team into one collective crowd.

If you don’t like such a stance or preached words, just stop reading. But, a message must be conveyed, and it’s quite simple:

STOP BITCHING ABOUT THE LAST 13 YEARS OF LOSING

STOP GRIPING ABOUT THE PAST FRUGALITY OF OWNERSHIP

And, for God’s sake, please take these words to heart:

STOP BASHING THE ONE MAN WHO IS TRYING TO CHANGE THINGS

Everybody who colors their baseball loving soul in black and orange understands how frustrating its been to wander aimlessly through more than a decade of misdirection and defeat. It has been an era none of us will ever forget in the totality of our lifetimes.

But, beyond our collective and personally observed memories of such a downtrodden time, what value can be found in continuing to dwell on it?

One of the primary lessons to be learned through the history of anything, including sports, is that yesterday has no real bearing on tomorrow. Tomorrow can still be affected, and yesterday cannot be changed, period.

Yet, as we welcome the start of a new baseball season and immediate era brimming with a true optimism, some of us are unable or unwilling to leave yesterday – the one thing that will never, EVER change, in the past.

We know such predictable pessimism when we see it, too …..

If you want a prime example of how a decade of dysfunction can grip ahold of someone’s soul, just look at the way some of Baltimore’s faithful sports souls are turning their teeth on Buck Showalter, because of comments he made in a recent Mens Journal article.

I get it, the Orioles skipper made some controversial remarks about the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Such statements about baseball’s most prestigious and relevant franchises will reap rebuttals from national media, as well as Bronx and Beantown supporters.

But, the criticisms of Showalter have emerged from Baltimore, as well. We’ve encountered such ramblings in blogs, message boards, web articles and social forums where “140 words or less” are the mandate.

Have those who’ve taken the Orioles manager to task even read the article? Probably, not. After all, there has been no mention of additional article highlights, which include Showalter’s obsessive preparation for umpiring crews, 4-5 weeks in advance, or his whiteboard session in the days that followed his acceptance of commanding this team.

Here is a question for the doubters …..

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