Tag Archive | "Boston Red Sox"

< 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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Some rambling Orioles observations ….

Posted on 11 March 2011 by Rex Snider

As we approach another weekend, we’re also seeing the second week of Spring Training action coming to an end.  Can we really predict what lies ahead for the 2011 Orioles, based on a couple weeks worth of exhibition baseball?

 

That depends …..

 

I’m certainly not willing to get overexcited about the prospective successes of Jake Fox (although, I like him), Nolan Reimold and Ryan Drese on the heels of competition against lineups concocted of mixed Major League talent and “camp bodies”.

 

But, I think some discernable conclusions can be made on what we’ve observed, since the birds landed in Sarasota, a month ago …..

 

-  Brian Roberts is by all means the figurative piece to this Orioles lineup.  It’s much more vulnerable without him.  The O’s had a winning record when Roberts played; 30-29 (with him) and 36-67 (without him), in 2010.  While most of Roberts’ games occurred after Buck Showalter took over, just remember the manager doesn’t play the game.

 

So, how important is a true leadoff hitter?  Just look at the Red Sox, without Jacoby Ellsbury, in last year’s lineup.  Does the optimism surrounding this Orioles team really weigh heavily on the health of Brian Roberts’ back?  In a word …. YES.

 

-  Vladimir Guerrero has made a career on being a “bad ball hitter.”  If you have any questions regarding this phrase, just watch last night’s homer against the Pirates – low and away …. and he launched a bomb to leftfield.  He’s gonna have a nice summer …..

 

-  I never, EVER profess to know more than the very men who’ve made their life working in the game of baseball.  But, I questioned bringing back Koji Uehara, specifically due to his fragile injury concerns.  So, while I’m disappointed that he’s sidelined, I’m not surprised.

 

-  According to USA Today, 7 of the Top-10 amateur prospects are pitchers.  The Orioles have the 4th overall selection, in the June draft.  With a minor league system desperately in need of positional depth, I’ve got a very uneasy feeling …..

 

-  If you could nominate one person to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in the home opener, on April 4th, who would it be?  I think it’s an easy choice – just pick a random KID and make their day.  No more dignitaries or so-called celebs.  Give the ball to a kid …..

 

HAPPY FRIDAY !!!!!

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Better than the Monday paper: It felt good to cover the Orioles again

Posted on 06 March 2011 by Drew Forrester

I’ve been saying for the better part of six weeks now that the Orioles are going to threaten the .500 mark in 2011, so a week spent hanging around the players isn’t the impetus for a new barrel of enthusiasm on my part.

Sarasota confirmed what I’ve been thinking all along.  Barring major injuries to a few key players, this edition of the Orioles will be the best one we’ve seen since the club won 78 games in 2004.  I’m almost willing to bet on that.  I’ve said this over and over and will continue to stand by it:  If this year’s team doesn’t go at least .500, you can label it a failure.

While I was in Sarasota last week, I got the feeling the Orioles are thinking the same way.  Even though Andy MacPhail said the team has “higher aspirations” than finishing .500, I’m sure he’s realistic enough to know that winning at least 81 games this season would be a significant accomplishment for a team that hasn’t won more than 74 in six straight campaigns.

Player after player seemed genuinely enthused.  Getting better teammates will do that, I suppose.

There were light moments along the way, as the Orioles started out 3-0 on the week.  Even though it’s “only spring training”, most players would tell you that winning games, under Buck Showalter, is much better than losing.  I even got the chance to rib Jake Fox a little bit, as you’ll see below.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKfUqreEs9A[/youtube]

My week in Sarasota also confirmed something else.  I miss covering baseball with the same fervor and energy that I cover the Ravens.  This isn’t the time and place to go into the recent history of a relationship-gone-bad between yours truly and the Orioles front office…so I won’t.  Anyone who has followed my show and the life-and-times-of-WNST knows most of the details by now.  We’ve been “on the outside” for a while.  Anyway, a month ago, I submitted a request for spring training credentials and – somewhat to my surprise – it was approved, so I headed off – with Glenn Clark in tow – to Sarasota to do four hours of radio per-day down there and do my best to secure as many interviews and get to know as many of the 2011 Birds as I could.

It was a great week.  And that’s an understatement.

Without getting into specifics, name-wise, there were individuals with the team’s front office who treated me ultra-professionally all week.  They know who they are, because I sent them a personal note of thanks on Friday once I was finished the 2-6pm show.  Their cooperation and assistance made the week in Sarasota not only productive for me, but they made it a bonus for YOU, too, since you were the beneficiary of the 25 or so interviews we were able to do during our five days in Florida.  You learned something about J.J. Hardy and Kevin Gregg, part of the “new crew”, and you were able to hear other conversations with Orioles veterans like Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis and Jeremy Guthrie.  You heard 18+ plus minutes of Andy MacPhail.  And every interview was done without interference from a team staffer.

I can say without question that last week in Sarasota was as memorable as any week of football coverage that I’ve done over the last five years in which I’ve done radio from the site of the Super Bowl.

Then again, I love baseball.  I always have.  And ever since I was old enough to play catch with my dad in the front yard of our house in Glen Burnie, I’ve loved the Orioles.

Last week was also very special because my family joined me mid-week and Ethan – my 3-year old boy – took in the Red Sox/O’s game in Sarasota on Saturday.  We’ve been to Orioles games in Baltimore before, but this was our first outing together in spring training.  And just like there’s something special about taking your son or daughter to a professional major league game in the cathedral of a stadium where big league games take place, there’s something equally enthralling about soaking in a game in a spring training park.  It’s almost as if that’s how baseball really SHOULD be played, where the players hang out in the fenced in area just down the right and left field lines and where you can shout their name, throw a ball to them, and they’ll sign it and pass it around to the other guys…while the game is going on!

Spring training games are where players perfect that lazy walk that only professional ballplayers own…you know, the one where it takes 7 minutes to shuffle to the dugout from the opening in the right field wall.  Ethan watched as Joe Mahoney and Caleb Joseph slowly walked across the field, some 50 yards in front of him, and said to me, “Daddy, what are they doing?”. The answer wasn’t “walking to the dugout”.  The answer was, “Soaking it all in”.  But I didn’t know how to explain “soaking it all in” so I just went with the much-easier-to-understand “walking to the dugout”.

Ahhh, the life of a baseball player.  Nothing beats it…especially in the spring, when the games don’t really matter, unless you’re trying to impress the boss and make the opening day roster.

Think of how much fun your place of employment would be today if you went in and the results of the day REALLY didn’t mean anything.  Add to that the fact that your job moves to south Florida for 7 weeks and the results don’t matter while you’re there.

No wonder most of the players have so much fun in Sarasota.

I had everything you could possibly want last week in Florida.  Baseball, family and even some occasional sun when I wasn’t working and could enjoy it for a moment or two.

Oh, and I got paid to do it all.

Anyone with a son or a daughter knows this much is true:  Nothing beats a sunny day at the ballpark with your child. Nothing.  It must be the combination of sun, warmth and love.  Having a baseball player – his name and years of service don’t matter, if he has a uniform on, he counts – toss a baseball to your child and the ensuing smile from your youngster is just about the best thing you can ever see if you’re a parent.

I had it all last week in Sarasota.

And on top of all of that, the Orioles treated me well.

All of them.  I didn’t get the stink-eye from anyone.  Then again, I didn’t see “EVERYONE” in the organization…but those that I did come in contact with were extra-special-kind to me.

It’s easy to work in those conditions.

Now it goes without saying that I’m not going to sacrifice my natural “right” to critique the Orioles, both on and off the field. If they do something dumb, like charge people more money for tickets on the day-of-the-game, I’m going to say it was dumb. And if they start off the season 2-16 and essentially throw in the towel, like they did a year ago, I’ll call that one as I see it as well.

Like I’ve said for a long time, when the Orioles do good things, I’ll compliment them.  When they do bad things, I’ll be critical of them.  It’s no secret the Orioles haven’t liked when I’ve been critical of them, but there’s not much I can do about that.  Over the last 8 years that I’ve been with WNST, they’ve done far more bad than good.  And I’ve been forced to note that stuff.

But last week in Sarasota, they did a bunch of good things.  And I’ve noted those here.

Last week, the Orioles treated me the way I expect to be treated.

Hopefully those of you who paid attention last week saw the effort we put in to bring you the best coverage of the Orioles that you could possibly get.  There’s more of that to come as far as I’m concerned.

You saw, for five days anyway, what steps I’ll take to cover the team as long as I’m allowed to do so.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that what transpired in Sarasota is a precursor to the regular season and that I’ll be afforded that same professional courtesy at Camden Yards.  I’m hoping I’ll still have that same access to players.  I’m hoping to share that with you and everyone else who loves the Orioles.  I’m hoping…hoping that for the first time in a long time, listeners of WNST and readers of WNST.net will get in-depth information on the Birds from me…and the rest of the gang at the station.

For a variety of reasons, the 2011 season could be a memorable one for the Orioles.  And for WNST.

You know the old saying:  Hope springs eternal.

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