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Orioles to play in empty Camden Yards this afternoon

Posted on 28 April 2015 by Luke Jones

Facing circumstances not witnessed in Baltimore in over four decades, the Orioles have announced changes for the remainder of their scheduled homestand, which will include a 2:05 game Wednesday to be played in an empty Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Due to the citywide curfew and continuing safety concerns after Monday’s riots, the Orioles moved their scheduled 7:05 p.m. first pitch to the afternoon on Wednesday. The game will be closed to the public but will still be televised on MASN, which will surely create a surreal atmosphere at the ballpark. This comes after the first two games of a three-game set with the Chicago White Sox were postponed due to safety concerns stemming from Monday’s riots.

It will mark the first time in major league history that a game will be played without a paying crowd, according to Major League Baseball historian John Thorn. The lowest-attended game took place in 1882.

After consulting with city and local officials as well as MLB, the Orioles have moved their weekend series with the Tampa Bay Rays to Tropicana Field. There had been discussions about the clubs swapping dates for a home series, but Baltimore will instead serve as the home team and will receive the gate for the weekend games in St. Petersburg minus costs incurred by the Rays.

“After conversations with the Orioles and local officials, we believe that these decisions are in the best interests of fan safety and the deployment of city resources,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with all those who have been affected by violence in Baltimore, and everyone in our game hopes for peace and the safety of a great American city.”

Ubaldo Jimenez and Jeff Samardzija will remain as the scheduled starters for Wednesday’s game.

The postponed games against Chicago will be made up as part of a single-admission doubleheader on May 28 beginning at 4:05 p.m. Tickets for Monday’s postponed contest will be valid for the doubleheader with fans unable to attend having the opportunity to exchange their tickets for any remaining home game this season. All those with tickets to games on April 29, May 1, May 2, or May 3 at Camden Yards may exchange their tickets for any remaining home game. All of these exchanges will be made on a “dollar for dollar” basis.

All tickets are subject to availability and exchanges must be completed by June 30.

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Tuesday’s Orioles-White Sox game also postponed

Posted on 28 April 2015 by Luke Jones

As Baltimore tries to recover from one of the darkest times in its history, the Orioles have postponed Tuesday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox.

Despite discussions about playing in the afternoon, the club elected to postpone a second consecutive game after consulting with state and local officials as well as Major League Baseball. Even if games can be played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards this week, start times figure to be impacted by the citywide 10 p.m. curfew beginning Tuesday night that is scheduled to last for the next week.

With law enforcement officials having so many more important matters to address in the Charm City, the involved parties ultimately made the right call not using resources for a baseball game so soon after Monday’s riots.

Safety remains the highest priority, but complicating matters is this being the only trip into Baltimore for the White Sox this season. The Orioles are off on Thursday, but Chicago will be beginning a series in Minnesota.

Like Monday’s postponement, no makeup date has been announced, but fans are asked to keep their tickets and parking passes until more information is available.

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Report: Orioles-White Sox day game being considered for Tuesday

Posted on 28 April 2015 by Luke Jones

As Baltimore deals with one of the darkest times in its history, the Orioles and Major League Baseball continued to ponder how to handle what remains of the current homestand.

After postponing Monday’s game due to ongoing riots through the city, MLB will decide by 9 a.m. Tuesday whether the Orioles will play an afternoon game against the Chicago White Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, according to USA Today. Speaking to media on Monday evening, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred acknowledged the possibility of the Orioles-White Sox series being moved to another location such as Nationals Park in Washington.

It goes without saying that the Orioles would prefer to play games at their home ballpark if at all feasible.

“We feel like we made the decision that would provide us the greatest possible security, in terms of protecting the fans, the players, the umpires, everybody involved,” Manfred said Tuesday evening. “We’re looking at every possible alternative in terms of completing the schedule in a timely way and making sure the games are played in a secured situation that’s safe for the fans. We’re going to look at every alternative.”

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced a citywide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. beginning Tuesday night that is to last for a week. Maryland governor Larry Hogan later declared a state of emergency and deployed the National Guard to help protect structures in the city.

Such developments would make it highly unlikely that the Orioles would be able to start games this week at the normal 7:05 p.m. first pitch — if they’re able to play in Baltimore at all.

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McPhee reportedly set to sign $40 million contract with Chicago

Posted on 09 March 2015 by Luke Jones

Of all the Ravens’ free agents scheduled to officially hit the market on Tuesday, linebacker Pernell McPhee was always considered the least likely to return.

It appears McPhee has found a new home with the Chicago Bears by agreeing to a five-year, $40 million contract that includes roughly $16 million guaranteed, according to multiple reports. The deal won’t become official until after the start of the new league year on Tuesday afternoon.

Despite playing in less than half of the Ravens’ defensive snaps in 2014 while backing up outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, McPhee emerged as one of the most efficient pass rushers in the NFL by finishing with 7.5 sacks in 540 snaps. The 26-year-old earned the highest grade of any Baltimore defensive player in 2014 from Pro Football Focus and received the website’s second-highest grade of any 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL behind Kansas City’s Justin Houston.

With the Ravens dealing with salary cap woes and having a number of other positions to address, McPhee was considered a luxury the organization would not be able to afford. The 2011 fifth-round pick is just the latest in a long list of young defensive players in Baltimore to find significant paydays elsewhere as others to depart in recent offseasons include linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe and defensive tackle Arthur Jones.

“If we were to go after the market on Pernell, how many other players would we not have on the Baltimore Ravens? That’s kind of the way we look at this thing,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said last month. “We have to look at how we can’t pay everybody market value, because it would hurt our roster overall in trying to retain other guys and then go out in the market and get other guys.”

Though listed as an outside linebacker, McPhee displays unique versatility as he was able to consistently pressure quarterbacks while lining up inside or outside along the defensive line. According to PFF, he led the Ravens with 35 quarterback hurries and 21 quarterback hits during the 2014 season.

It will be interesting to see how the Bears handle McPhee’s workload as the Mississippi State product has battled knee issues at various times during his career, which led the Ravens to be mindful about managing his reps in both practices and games. Chicago head coach John Fox likely has an expanded role in mind for McPhee with the organization making such a steep financial commitment.

In 60 career games with the Ravens, McPhee accumulated 92 tackles, 17 sacks, seven pass breakups, and three forced fumbles.

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Ravens hire former Bears head coach Trestman as offensive coordinator

Posted on 20 January 2015 by Luke Jones

On the same day Gary Kubiak was formally introduced as the new head coach in Denver, the Ravens officially hired his replacement at offensive coordinator.

Former Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman has been hired to become Baltimore’s fourth offensive coordinator in four years and continues head coach John Harbaugh’s trend of appointing former NFL head coaches to the position. Despite two disappointing years in Chicago, Trestman carries nearly two decades of NFL coaching experience and has long been regarded as one of the bright offensive minds in the game.

The 59-year-old has a strong reputation in working with quarterbacks — despite the failures of Chicago’s Jay Cutler this past season — and has guided the likes of Bernie Kosar, Steve Young, Jake Plummer, Rich Gannon, and even journeyman Josh McCown to strong seasons. Harbaugh’s brother Jim said in 2013 that Trestman “taught me everything” when they worked as assistants for the Oakland Raiders in 2002 and 2003, something that undoubtedly came up in the Ravens’ rapid search for Kubiak’s replacement. Trestman also served as the offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns in 1989 near the end of Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome’s Hall of Fame career as a tight end.

In his first year in Chicago in 2013, the Bears ranked eighth in the NFL in total offense and second in points scored with McCown and Cutler splitting starting duties. Of course, 2014 was another story as Chicago plummeted to 21st in total yards and 23rd in scoring with Cutler starting all but one game. Trestman was fired at the end of the season following a disappointing 5-11 finish.

Trestman’s unconventional résumé includes a return to the collegiate ranks 10 years ago as the offensive coordinator at North Carolina State before accepting a head coaching position in the Canadian Football League with Montreal, where he spent five seasons and led the Alouettes to two Grey Cup titles. Of course, the Alouettes are the same franchise that was originally the Baltimore Stallions before relocating in 1996.

This will be Trestman’s fifth offensive coordinator job in the NFL after he previously held the same title in Cleveland (1989), San Francisco (1995-1996), Arizona (1998-2000), and Oakland (2002-2003). The Minnesota native has also spent time as an NFL assistant with Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Miami.

Trestman will inherit a Ravens offense that set franchise records in points scored and total yards under Kubiak in 2014. He has roots in the West Coast offense with more of an up-tempo style and a greater slant toward the passing game than what Kubiak employed in Baltimore.

Given Trestman’s age and how long his trek was to finally receiving an NFL head coaching opportunity that didn’t go well in Chicago, you have to wonder if stability could be a bonus for the Ravens as Trestman may not be viewed as a viable head coaching candidate after his ugly ending with the Bears. Of course, Harbaugh and the Ravens will be more focused on Trestman continuing the growth the offense experienced this past season after a difficult 2013 campaign.

He is the fourth offensive coordinator to be hired by Harbaugh and the fourth former NFL head coach to accept the position, joining Cam Cameron, Jim Caldwell, and Gary Kubiak.

 

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Caps Win A Perfect Winter Classic

Posted on 01 January 2015 by Ed Frankovic

Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis was smiling and beaming in the locker room following the Caps 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Bridgestone Winter Classic and he had every right to be doing so.

Leonsis, who fought long and hard for the outdoor game in the DC area, watched his club pull out a late victory over the best team in the NHL in the Blackhawks on an amazing stage.

The temperature was perfect, the ice was as good as it could be (kudos to Dan Craig of the NHL) and the venue, Nationals Park, was spectacularly laid out, including the replica of the Nation’s Capitol building with a copy of the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pond out in front of it that led to the ice rink.

Washington’s star player, Alexander Ovechkin, had an outstanding game with a goal and an assist while goalie Braden Holtby was excellent in the cage again stopping 33 shots. Troy Brouwer scored the winner on the power play with just 12 seconds to go leading to a wild celebration and flying seat cushions at Nats Park.

The victory, the Caps 9th in a very difficult December schedule, moves them to 19-11-7 and back into 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division. Washington is now 18-1-2 when scoring first this season (they scored the first two tallies in this one).

It was a magical day for Washington and Leonsis, who believed that the greater Maryland and Virginia area could make a large hockey event work, and he was proven right.

Now for some analysis of this one.

Washington was extremely solid in periods one and three but they really struggled in the middle frame when they took three minor penalties. Two of those overlapped for 91 seconds so that meant the Caps had to survive a five on three situation against a talented Hawks team. Somehow the Capitals managed to do that, thanks to good goaltending, solid PK work, and over passing by Chicago. Afterwards Blackhawks coach Joel Quennville noted that when you don’t score on a five on three you often lose the game. He also wasn’t happy about his team’s lack of shots on goal during that situation. The two time Stanley Cup Champion was correct on both counts.

Part of the reason the Capitals were able to hold off a talented power play was Washington’s “Honest Abe” player of the game, Brooks Orpik. When last seen on Monday night, #44 was writhing in pain on the ice in Long Island clutching his right knee. Somehow what looked to be a potentially season ending injury was only a minor tweak and Coach Barry Trotz was able to field his best left handed defensemen against Chicago. Not only did Orpik suit up, but he logged a Washington game leading 24:44 of ice time, including 5:43 of the 7:26 the Caps were shorthanded! You just can’t over state what Orpik has meant to this team and both Eric Fehr (breakaway goal) and Ovechkin called him a “warrior” afterwards.

When Orpik was handed the Abe Lincoln gear that goes with being named, by his teammates, the Honest Abe player of the game, in #44 style he provided a quick and simple speech that closed with “I thought everybody was fully committed, so let’s keep it going.”

Trotz noted that Orpik is a guy that doesn’t lead by talk, but by showing up every day and doing things properly. He’s been a great example for his teammates and he’s been an invaluable player on the back end.

“You can only admire what he does and brings to the group. He just makes everybody better. He doesn’t say a whole lot in the room, he says everything with how he plays and how he lives and his actions and his commitment to the game. So, it really is an important piece to what we’re trying to do here in Washington,” said Trotz on Orpik.

The down side is that the Caps had to kill off so many penalties, whether you agree with the officiating or not (and it was not a good day for the guys in stripes, especially the last two calls by Francois St. Laurent on Matt Niskanen and Jonathan Toews). Washington too frequently is chirping at the referees and taking bad penalties. John Carlson’s cross check to the face that put the Caps down two men was a retaliation and unnecessary one. Too often the Caps are losing their focus and some of the penalties are just not smart, like Jason Chimera’s holding infraction and Brouwer’s board in the first period that took the Capitals off of the power play. Despite the issues, Trotz did point out a positive that has come from these mental lapses.

“The thing that we have been really good at this year is, when we get off what I call the rails a little bit and we lose our focus, we’re able to get back and find ways to win.”

That was certainly true on New Year’s Day, but the players I spoke with afterwards, including Orpik, Niskanen and Mike Green (two assists) all said the team needs to limit the number of infractions.

“Yeah we talked about [penalties] before and obviously the 2nd period we took quite a few penalties…every team has a good power play these days…moving forward I think we have to be more disciplined. When you are down that much it taxes certain guys that are penalty killers…we got a lot of good guys that don’t kill penalties so that throws them off a bit and takes them out of their rhythm. There are a lot of things it has an effect on,” said Orpik on Washington’s penalty issues, which helped aid Chicago in out shot attempting the Caps, 26-11, in period two.

“Barry talked about discipline and we sort of needed to refocus. I think we got away from our focus. I think we had a good 1st [period] and once we got into that second period maybe we got caught up with the emotion and the energy of the building and then our focus changed to complaining about penalties and what not…We got to be a little more disciplined,” added Green (two assists in 14:59) on what the team discussed after period two.

Clearly the Capitals aren’t helping themselves with some of these bad penalties. Complaining to the referees, whether justified or not, will not help the cause. Simply put, the players have to focus on their game and let Trotz and GM Brian MacLellan deal with the officiating.

In the end though, this was a huge two points for the Capitals on a perfect day at Nationals Park and the large majority of the 42,832 that attended went home happy, much like Capitals owner Ted Leonsis.

Notes: Power plays were 6 to 4 for Chicago and the overall shot attempts ended up 62-58 for the Blackhawks…the Caps lost the face off battle 42-36 but Nicklas Backstrom was 16-13…next up for the Caps are the Florida Panthers on Sunday at the Verizon Center at 3 pm.

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Ravens assistant general manager DeCosta staying put

Posted on 01 January 2015 by Luke Jones

A new year brought an old refrain from Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta.

He isn’t going anywhere.

According to an NFL Network report, DeCosta has turned down interview requests from the New York Jets and the Chicago Bears about their open general manager positions. The news comes as no shock as it’s well known that DeCosta is paid better than many general managers around the league and has publicly been referred to as the successor to longtime general manager Ozzie Newsome.

DeCosta’s wife is from the area, another factor that’s led to him having little interest in leaving the Ravens in the past.

The 43-year-old is considered one of the great personnel minds around the league and has regularly been pursued as a general manager candidate before turning away other teams in recent years. Previously serving as the organization’s director of college scouting and director of player personnel, DeCosta was formally promoted to the title of assistant general manager in 2012.

DeCosta joined the organization in 1996 after it relocated from Cleveland to Baltimore.

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Orioles agree to one-year deal with lefty reliever Wright

Posted on 16 December 2014 by Luke Jones

Searching to fill the void left behind by the departure of Andrew Miller, the Orioles agreed to terms on a one-year deal with left-handed relief pitcher Wesley Wright on Tuesday.

The 29-year-old went 0-3 with a 3.17 ERA in 48 1/3 innings with the Chicago Cubs last season. In seven major league seasons, Wright sports a 10-18 record with a 4.17 ERA, but the lefty has posted a 3.25 ERA in his last four seasons split among Chicago, Tampa Bay, and Houston.

In 2014, left-handed hitters posted a .273 batting average and a .594 on-base plus slugging percentage and didn’t record an extra-base hit while right-handed bats sported a .255 mark with a .719 OPS. Wright wasn’t tendered a contract with the Cubs and is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2015 season.

Wright’s addition gives manager Buck Showalter another left-hander to throw into the mix with closer Zach Britton, lefty specialist Brian Matusz, and long reliever T.J. McFarland. Matusz has been discussed in trade talks, but he remains with the organization for now.

A seventh-round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2003 draft, Wright made two appearances with the Rays in the 2013 American League Division Series, allowing a hit and a walk in two-thirds of an inning against Boston.

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Orioles acquire outfielder De Aza, infielder Kelly Johnson in separate trades

Posted on 30 August 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Looking to augment their roster in their final push for the American League East title, the Orioles acquired outfielder Alejandro De Aza from the Chicago White Sox and infielder Kelly Johnson from the Boston Red Sox on Saturday night.

Unheralded minor-league pitchers Miguel Chalas and Mark Blackmar were sent to Chicago to complete the deal for De Aza, who will provide a much-needed left-handed bat and speed, two areas in which the Orioles could stand to improve despite a comfortable seven-game lead in the division entering Saturday. The 30-year-old is hitting .246 with five home runs, 31 runs batted in, and 15 stolen bases while seeing time at all three outfield positions this season.

“We have been looking to get a little bit better balance to our lineup with the addition of a left-handed hitter,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. “De Aza is a left-handed hitter that can help balance out the lineup and contribute to the team. We thought it was important to continue to add major league players who can help us in September and also be eligible for the post-season when we advance.

De Aza is a career .268 hitter with a .331 on-base percentage and 77 stolen bases in seven major league seasons. In 2013, he hit .264 with 17 homers, 62 RBIs, and 20 stolen bases in 153 games.

The Orioles hope De Aza can provide what they hoped they were getting when they acquired David Lough from the Kansas City Royals last winter, but the latter is hitting just .213 in his first season in Baltimore and has largely been relegated to late-inning defensive replacement duties and pinch-running in the second half.

He is expected to report to the Orioles for Sunday’s game, meaning the organization will need to make a 25-man roster move to activate him. De Aza is eligible for arbitration and not scheduled to become a free agent until after the 2015 season.

In a separate trade, Duquette acquired Johnson and minor-league infielder Michael Almanzar from Boston in exchange for Triple-A Norfolk infielders Jemile Weeks and Ivan De Jesus. Johnson will give the Orioles a veteran option at third base in the wake of the season-ending injury to Manny Machado and is hitting .212 with six homers and 23 RBIs in 87 games split between the New York Yankees and the Red Sox.

Johnson has a career .250 average with a .332 on-base percentage in nine major league seasons spent with Atlanta, Arizona, Toronto, Tampa Bay, the Yankees, and Boston. Johnson has played games at first, second, third base, and left and right field this season.

“Kelly Johnson can play a couple of different positions,” Duquette said, “He’s familiar with the American League East, he’s played for all the other teams but ours, and now he’ll get a chance to play for ours. He’s got some power and he can get on base and he can hit right-handed pitching, and that gives us some more options to help our ball club. ”

Manager Buck Showalter said Johnson is not expected to report to the Orioles until Monday when rosters can expand to 40.

Almanzar was selected by the Orioles in the Rule 5 draft this past winter, but the organization elected to return him to Boston in early July. He is a career .251 hitter with 55 home runs and 333 RBIs in seven minor-league seasons.

Acquired in the Jim Johnson trade last offseason, the 27-year-old Weeks batted .278 in 62 games for the Tides while dealing with injuries this season. De Jesus was a .282 hitter in 113 games with the Tides.

The 22-year-old Chalas was 3-4 with a 4.48 ERA in 30 relief appearances between Triple-A Norfolk and Single-A Frederick this season. Over five minor league seasons in the organization, Chalas sported a 24-21 record with a 3.73 ERA.

Blackmar, 22, was 10-1 with a 3.18 ERA in 26 games (18 starts) for Frederick this season. In four years in the Baltimore organization, Blackmar went 21-13 with a 3.75 ERA.

Earlier Saturday, the Orioles outrighted pitcher Suk-min Yoon and infielder Cord Phelps to Norfolk, creating two open spots on the 25-man roster.

 

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markakis-game saver 8-20-14

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JUMP ON THE ROLLER COASTER

Posted on 26 August 2014 by Tom Federline

Thursday, August 21st – Birds up by 9 on the Spankee’s and 9 on the Boo Jays. Four (4) days later, August 25th – Birds up by 6 on the Spankee’s and 8 on the Boo Jays. Just when you start thinking – the Orioles (73 wins), might just be able to coast into the playoffs – BANG – O’s get  swept/outplayed by the Chicago…….Cubs (58 wins). That downer coming right after riding high sweeping the Chicago……….White Sox (59 wins).  Then to add salt into the wound, the Cubs sweep came at the hands of former Orioles, i.e. Jake “I’m on juice”” Arietta, Pedro “Strope Me Strope Me” and finally the guy who never pitched one inning for the O’s but collected a heckuva paycheck – “One hit” Wada. Up/down/hold on – roller coaster is at turn 1.

On top of being swept, lets add some more salt, O’s fans get the official news – Machado is gone for the rest of the year. Not that you didn’t know that already, especially if you had seen the knee buckle (live) that night. But you go, Orioles front office and media relations. You go, with your weak attempt to fill our minds with hope that it was only a “strained” ACL. The knee bent at almost a 45 degree angle and “it’s just a strain?” SO, during this past year we have learned Manny is not so “Mucho” Machado with week knees, week/slippery hands and bad aim. It’s a shame, Machado was just getting into playing shape, after missing preseason and over a month of the regular season. Machado threat gone joining the Wieters threat that was gone.  Down and further down – keep holding on through turn 2.

When the O’s are hitting, there are moments of, “Man – the Orioles may actually have a shot, they got this.” Unfortunately, those moments are to few and far between. But……….. those moments…… are there. The Orioles are still in first place of the American League East. They didn’t get there by luck. They don’t give up, they show sporadic confidence and even with the injuries they are fairly solid in the field. At least CC Sabathia is out for the year, so he can’t sabotage the O’s by taking Markakis out for this years playoff run. Up/Up and Up – getting ready for turn 3.

The dilemma is, they are probably going to need more game saving catches (Nick). They are going to need late inning wins and walk off home runs. They are going to need someone to pick up the offensive slack (Steve Pearce). They are going to need some serious staring pitching (Chen?Tillman). They are going to need some “lights out” relief pitching (O’Day/Britton). They are going to need some Orioles Magic (Buck-Buck). Down/Up/Down/Up – through turn 4.

Can the pitching save the Orioles? It’s going to have to. I’m feeling better about Cruuuuuuuuuz. If any team had a decent pitching coach, Jones would be out 90% of the time. Feed him down and away and he’s toast. Davis needs a shot of “juicy juice”. Brady – where are you? Isn’t that your job – “Juice” without getting caught? Davis whiffs and the whole stadium feels a breeze, consistently. Can we get Mark Reynolds back? Whoops weak moment there – forget that one. When the opposing team gets  Markakis out – their odds of winning the game quadruple. There is minimal threat left in the line-up. Wieters gone. Machado gone. Davis – no threat. I’m a big fan of Delmon Young – we need to see more of him. At least he is a major league hitter. Coast/Down/Coast/Up – getting set up for the final stretch.

Then there’s the secret weapon – the manager. The O’s have a shot with Buck-Buck. Buck-Buck is going to keep these boys focused. One of the few criticisms I have on Buck-Buck is, I wish he would get tossed more. Yes, I was and always will be an Earl Weaver fan. It’s going to take the leadership of Buck-Buck, Markakis, Jones and Hardy. If the O’ lose another key player – we are not going to be on any roller coaster ride. So you have your choice – The O’s Rollercoaster or the “Love Rollercoaster” – (Ohio Players). Both rides affect the blood pressure and adrenaline levels. I recommend jumping on both. Go O’s!

D.I.Y.

Fedman

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