Tag Archive | "danys baez"

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Some Worthless Observations On A Worthless Night For Baseball ….

Posted on 10 August 2009 by Rex Snider

I’m not about to double-talk or spew words out of both sides of my mouth. That’s right, no politics for me …..

I’ve been a staunch supporter of Andy MacPhail’s renovation project. I’m still a supporter. In fact, this is the easiest time to jump ship and join the masses of those who believe Baltimore will not host a baseball game, in Mid-October, before Barack Obama’s presidency ends.

With my optimism intact, tonight is hard to take. The Oakland A’s ??? Are you freakin’ kidding me ??? They’ve got the worst offensive attack in the game, and most of the team’s original power (Holliday, Giambi, Cabrera) has exited, since they last visited Baltimore, a couple months ago.

Yet, this watered-down version of the A’s is laying an ass-kickin’ on the Orioles. THANK GOD for thunderstorms, huh?

Let’s look at it this way …..

I could devote the remainder of this blog to my thoughts on how the Orioles played another lackluster game, but who really wants to read that? We all know it. Instead, I’m gonna mention a few things that came to mind while watching the game.

I hope you enjoy …..

• Is there anything worse than sitting in humid, blistering heat, while watching a horrible baseball game? The MASN broadcast showed plenty of fans, whose shirts were drenched in sweat. And, how about the little kids going shirtless? It reminded me of the Memorial Stadium decorum – one of the night’s lighter moments.

• It’s official, Aubrey Huff, Danys Baez and Melvin Mora have cleared waivers. All three players are free agents following the season (Mora has a buyout option), and contenders still don’t want ‘em.

• For some reason, Jason Jubb had a devout interest in personally observing tonite’s game between two very bad baseball teams. During the NASTY thunderstorm, he sent me a text message, wishing the formally-attired dude who held Snoop Dogg’s umbrella at Ravens Camp, last week, was nearby.

• Why would anyone go to an Orioles game during this series? I’ll bet the casual Orioles fan cannot name a single player in the A’s starting lineup.

• If I was the Orioles equipment manager, I’d bend the visor portion of every new hat before issuing them to players. I really HATE that stupid, flat look.

• Last week, Drew Forrester jokingly suggested the Orioles should hold a “reverse jerseys” night and wear the road grey uniform for a home game, against the Red Sox. Honestly, after attending Orioles games for 35 years, I can say I’ve never seen the grey roadies, in person. Yes, I would go to a game against the A’s, if they wore these uniforms.

• Speaking of GREY, someone needs to get Jim Palmer’s attention. No offense, but 63 year old men don’t have full heads of brown hair. It’s time to work in a little bit of grey.

• I watched Dave Trembley’s postgame news conference. I looked for something to exploit, as “worthless” for this blog. But, I didn’t have a problem with any of his answers. His team gave a worthless performance and there is no way of defending it.

• The announced attendance was 14,688 (30% full capacity), which must have included the 10,000 fans at Ravens Camp ANY DAY, last week. Do the Orioles really think we’re so STUPID ???

• I can think of worse things than an Orioles vs. A’s game. Doubt it? Perhaps, I’ll remind you, next January, when we’re cleaning ice off our windshields in the pre-dawn hours.

HAVE A GOOD NIGHT …..

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King Shame

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5 W’s and 1 H

Posted on 12 July 2009 by Luke Jones

The first half is in the books, and the Orioles are right where most of us thought they would be—last place and out of contention.

While it’s certainly been frustrating watching the Orioles’ inconsistent play, the club has also provided some excitement with the greatest comeback in club history—against the Red Sox, no less—and the unveiling of rookies Brad Bergesen, David Hernandez, Nolan Reimold, and the much-hyped Matt Wieters.

The 40-48 record and last-place standing does not reflect the positive strides made in the first half of the season.  Yes, there’s still a long way to go before we’re talking about the Orioles contending with the three heavyweights in the AL East, but as more youngsters join the fold, it’s easy to see this organization is in much better shape than it’s been at any point since 1997.

Will it be enough to put the Orioles back in the playoffs in the next few years?

Only time—and the willingness to acquire missing pieces via trades and free agency—will answer that question.

It will be interesting to see how active general manager Andy MacPhail will be as the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline approaches.  Aubrey Huff, Luke Scott, Danys Baez, Jeremy Guthrie, and George Sherrill would all figure to have value for contending clubs.  However, MacPhail’s patient approach is not conducive to making deadline trades.

Of course, the club does not HAVE to trade any of these players—though they would be foolish to keep Baez around—but the rest of July figures to be a busy time for MacPhail and his cell phone.

Here are the 5 W’s and 1 H for the week:

1.  Who is your biggest surprise and biggest disappointment for the Orioles in the first half?

If I posed this question in mid-May, the easy choice for biggest surprise would have been center fielder Adam Jones.  The Orioles’ lone All-Star representative is having a good year (.303, 12 home runs, 47 runs batted in) but has really cooled off after a blistering start.

The most pleasant surprise—if not an absolute lifesaver—has to be rookie starting pitcher Brad Bergesen.  The 23-year-old righty has shown great poise in leading the rotation with six wins (tied with Jeremy Guthrie) and a 3.54 ERA.

Bergesen doesn’t dazzle you with a blazing fastball or a devastating breaking pitch, but his heavy sinker induces ground balls—crucial for pitching at Camden Yards—and his command is comparable to a grizzled veteran.  It will be interesting to see if he can maintain the same level of effectiveness as teams become more familiar with the rookie in the second half.

The biggest disappointment has to be Guthrie.  The Orioles’ Opening Day starter hasn’t been right since spring training when he pitched in the World Baseball Classic.  Whether he’s been completely healthy is debatable, but there’s no question that Guthrie simply hasn’t made quality pitches to finish off hitters.

Guthrie is 6-8 with a 5.35 ERA and has surrendered 20 home runs in 18 starts.  If he can right himself after the All-Star Break, he would be an attractive option for a contending club.  At the very least, Guthrie rebounding would help stabilize a starting rotation that has struggled mightily outside of Bergesen.

2.  What are your thoughts on UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar?

I’ll admit to not being much of an MMA fan, but I’ve followed Lesnar going back to his days as a professional wrestler in the WWE.

Lesnar dominated Frank Mir—the only man to beat Lesnar—to retain his title at UFC 100 on Saturday night.  Perhaps more interesting than the encounter itself was Lesnar’s behavior following the match, which included a refusal to shake Mir’s hand and some lewd comments.

Though Lesnar apologized for his conduct, Vince McMahon had to be smirking when he learned of his former star’s behavior.  Lesnar has cemented his status as the most hated man in the sport, but it’s a good thing for UFC.  Fans love to hate a champion more than they love to cheer a champion.  To steal a page from pro wrestling, people will tune in just to watch the heel lose.

3.  Where would you most like to watch the Ravens play a road game?

After watching the Ravens lose to the Steelers in Pittsburgh last January—and being pelted with an ice ball by a Pittsburgh moron fan as I left Heinz Field—I’ll pass on a return to western Pennsylvania for at least a couple years.

I’m excited to go on the WNST Fenway and Football Trip the first weekend in October to watch the Ravens take on the Patriots in Foxboro.  It should be a great time watching Ray Lewis and the defense matching up against Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and the New England offense.

The trip to Green Bay in December is very tempting, but a Monday night in DECEMBER at Lambeau Field feels frigid just thinking about it.

4.  When will we see another Orioles pitcher throw a no-hitter?

San Francisco Giants pitcher Jonathan Sanchez hurled the first no-hitter of the MLB season on Friday night, and it caused me to think about the long drought the Orioles have endured in that department.

Other than a combined no-hitter by Bob Milacki, Mark Williamson, Mike Flanagan, and Gregg Olson in 1991, the last Orioles’ no-hitter was pitched by Hall of Famer Jim Palmer in 1969.  In the last 15 years, Mike Mussina and Daniel Cabrera flirted with no-hitters a few times, but neither was able to complete it.

Pitching a no-hitter involves a great deal of luck, and it is by no means an indicator of a team’s—or pitcher’s—overall success.  Sanchez was struggling and had even been removed from the starting rotation before Giants pitcher Randy Johnson went on the disabled list.  You just never know.  If you need proof, take a look at Don Larsen.  The only man to pitch a perfect game in the World Series had a career 81-91 record.

The New York Mets have won two World Series titles in their 47-year history but have never enjoyed a no-hitter.

5.  Why can’t LeBron James and Nike have a sense of humor?

Seriously.  It’s great that James and Nike hold a camp for young players to rub elbows with the NBA star, but when it was reported that Nike confiscated all recordings of Xavier’s Jordan Crawford dunking over James in a pickup game, I couldn’t help but shake my head.

Would it have really been THAT damaging to James’ reputation to allow the video to pop up on YouTube?  I’m sure the clever minds at Nike could have concocted a clever ad around it.

For now, we’ll have to settle for this:
King Shame

6.  How much longer do the Orioles go with Jason Berken and Rich Hill with Chris Tillman and others waiting in the wings at Norfolk?

Though both pitched well over the weekend, it’s hard to imagine the club continuing to go with either pitcher in the starting rotation if they stay at their current pace.  Even with the solid work in their last starts, Hill still has a 6.92 ERA and Berken isn’t much better at 5.87.

Tillman started for the USA in today’s Futures Game and appears close to being ready for the big leagues.  Despite giving up two runs in his only inning of work in St. Louis, the 21-year-old righty has a 7-5 record, a 2.50 ERA, and 88 strikeouts at Triple-A Norfolk this season.

Unless the club decides to give Hill another chance in the rotation, Tillman could easily be in Baltimore by the end of July.  After Tillman, David Pauley (7-6, 3.67 ERA) would probably be the next arm in line, though he isn’t considered to be a long-term answer in the rotation.

*****

Shameless Plug Alert:  I’ll be joining Glenn Clark on the Comcast Morning Show on Monday morning from 6 to 10 a.m.

To be totally honest, I can’t remember the last time I was up that early, but it should be fun.

Have a good Monday.

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Orioles’ future on display Sunday

Posted on 11 July 2009 by Luke Jones

The Orioles may be approaching the All-Star Break in a familiar position—out of contention—but their promising future will be on display Sunday afternoon, both in Baltimore and St. Louis.

Rookie right-hander Brad Bergesen—the Orioles’ biggest surprise of the first half—will take the hill in the Orioles’ final game before the break, but two other young pitching prospects will highlight their talents before a national television audience in St. Louis.

We’ve heard the numerous reports about the Orioles’ “Big Three” of Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, and Jake Arrieta, but how many fans have actually seen them pitch?

Probably not too many.

We’ll get the chance to see Tillman and Matusz on Sunday, as the two prospects will take part in the Futures Game at 2 p.m. on ESPN2.  Arrieta participated in last year’s game.  The annual contest features some of the most promising minor leaguers in baseball.

The 21-year-old Tillman—one of the key pieces acquired in the Erik Bedard trade—appears to be the next in line for a promotion to Baltimore, pitching to a 7-5 record and a 2.50 ERA with Norfolk.  The Triple-A prospect was recently rated as Baseball America’s eighth-best overall prospect in its midseason report.

Tillman, 6-foot-5,  is averaging more than a strikeout per inning and has added an improved changeup to a repertoire already including a mid-90s fastball and a sharp curveball.  Club officials are excited about his vast success at such a young age but are trying to balance this enthusiasm with a fear of rushing the young pitcher, a dilemma becoming more difficult with the struggles of starters Rich Hill and Jason Berken in Baltimore.

Even more impressive than Tillman is the progress of Matusz in his first year of professional baseball.  The club’s first-round pick in 2008, Matusz did not sign a contract in time to play with a full-season team last year.

After going 4-2 with a 2.16 ERA in only 11 starts at Single-A Frederick to begin the season, the southpaw was promoted to Double-A Bowie last month.  In his four starts with the Baysox, the 22-year-old has posted unbelievable numbers, including a 4-0 record, a 0.34 ERA, and 32 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings.

His most recent start was an eight-inning, one-hit effort against the Harrisburg Senators in which Matusz struck out 11 batters.  Matusz has allowed only one earned run since being promoted from Frederick.

Matusz was just one spot behind Tillman on Baseball America’s midseason list at No. 9, but the organization figures to handle Matusz similarly to Matt Wieters by allowing him to play an entire season in the minor leagues before promoting him early next season.

Of course, skeptics will argue that plenty of former Baltimore prospects have played in the Futures Game and flopped in Baltimore—and they would be correct with Matt Riley, Radhames Liz, and Garrett Olson as three examples—but a number of current Orioles have participated in the Futures Game including Nolan Reimold, Danys Baez, Felix Pie, and Lou Montanez.

The Futures Game, first staged in 1999, holds an impressive list of past participants who are now thriving at the big-league level.  Past selections include Lance Berkman, Ryan Braun, Adam Dunn, Josh Hamilton, Hanley Ramirez, CC Sabathia, Grady Sizemore, and Chase Utley.

There are no guarantees—after all, the young pitchers are still only hurling against Double-A and Triple-A talent—but it’s easy to get excited when considering Matusz, Tillman, and Arrieta are all rated higher than Bergesen was on the Orioles’ list of pitching prospects.

For the sake of Orioles fans suffering through another summer of meaningless baseball—at least in terms of the AL East standings—Sunday should be a nice reprieve and, hopefully, a promise of what’s to come.

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Brad Bergesen #35 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium May 19, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Brad Bergesen

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Brad Bergesen: My Orioles 1st half MVP

Posted on 09 July 2009 by Marco Romanell

The term “most valuable player” is one that has differing meaning to everyone. Is the most valuable player the player who has the most impressive stats? Is it the player that is the most recognizable? Or is it actually the player that is the most “valuable” to his team’s success?

To me, the definition for most valuable player is clear and concise. In fact, it is right there in the title. Most Valuable Player to me means the person, who has the most value to their team,which constitutes more then just wins and losses. So my Orioles first half MVP is none other then the new ” ace” of the starting staff, Brad Bergesen.

Many people will be quick to call me out for not choosing Adam Jones because of his numbers and his All-Star status, but they need to look deeper into what value Bergesen and Jones provide the Orioles.

Jones is currently hitting .308 with 12 home runs and 47 runs batted in. These numbers were impressive enough to make him the Orioles lone representative in the All- Star game but they do not make him my 1st half MVP. There is no doubt in my mind that when his career is over Adam Jones will be a perennial All-Star and one of the greatest Orioles to ever put on a uniform, right now I give the MVP nod to Bergesen for many reasons.

Brad Bergesen #35 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium May 19, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Brad Bergesen

Bergesen is currently 5-3 with a 3.59 ERA and only 50 strikeouts in 97 2/3 innings pitched. To find the true value of Bergesen to the Orioles, you need to look deeper then his stats.

After  pitching 5 2/3 innings in his major league debut on April 21st, Bergesen has lasted less then six innings only three times in his next 14 starts. In his last 8 starts Bergesen has pitched an average of 7.2 innings and has lowered his ERA from 4.94 to 3.59.

Sitting here and regurgitating stats is not going to show Bergesen’s true value but will give you a little basis for my argument. To me, Bergesen’s real value to the team is his ability to save the bullpen and give the Orioles a chance to win every fifth day. He works quickly, and his teammates know that when he pitches they usually only need three or four runs to win. I believe that Bergesen has the respect and confidence of his teammates and that is a value that can’t be measured with statistics.

Another important characteristic that Bergy has is his “bulldog” like mentality and willingness to pitch until he can’t pitch anymore. For Orioles fans that remember seeing Erik Bedard pull himself out after 75 pitches, It is refreshing to see a 24 year old that is willing to throw as many pitches as possible to get the job done.

Bergesen only failed to eclipse the 85 pitch mark just once- a game against the Philies where he tired himself out running the bases the inning before- and has thrown over 100 pitches seven times. The mantra of the Orioles over their 11 straight losing seasons has been that come June, the bullpen is on fumes and they lose a lot of leads. Brad Bergesen has done his best to buck this trend and the less Chris Ray is in the game, the better off the Orioles are.

Ask George Sherrill, Jim Johnson, Danys Baez and the rest of the bullpen who the Orioles 1st half MVP is and they will give you the same answer I gave: Brad Bergesen.

At 23, Bergesen represents hope and rejuvenation to the fans every time he pitches.

That might just be what makes him the most valuable.

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Koji, Bergesen and some other Orioles musings

Posted on 01 July 2009 by Marco Romanell

The Orioles had the greatest comeback in team history on Tuesday night bailing out Rich Hill who was once again ineffective. Today the Orioles placed Koji Uehara on the DL while Brad Bergesen was once again stellar.

Here are some thoughts on Koji, Bergesen and other Orioles musings:

Changes likely plentiful in the Orioles rotation:

Earlier today news came in that Koji Uehara would be sidelined for 7-8 weeks all but ending his stay as a fixture in the Orioles rotation, for the present and future. Koji is not scheduled to return until early September and by that point the Orioles will likely just decide to shut him down for the season. As of now David Hernandez will take over for Koji but if he struggles, he may be moved down.

Koji may not be the only starter that will not be in the rotation by season’s end ; in fact I believe that nobody but Brad Bergesen is “safe” to keep their spot. Rich Hill has been flat out awful of late and a few more poor outings could land him in the bullpen.

The most intriguing situation is that of Jeremy Guthrie. Anointed the Orioles’ “ace” before the season( a role now occupied by Brad Bergesen), Guthrie has been incredibly inconsistent but could be a major trade tool for the Orioles. Guthrie has won his last two starts and will only cost a team $650,000 if they were to acquire him. With pitching being at a premium throughout the league it is likely many teams will be calling Andy MacPhail asking about Guthrie. If the Orioles like what they hear, don’t be surprised to see Guthrie dealt.

If Guthrie is dealt and Berken continues to struggle expect Chris Tillman and Troy Patton to be in the rotation earlier then expected, probably  sometime in early August. In addition to these two there are any number of pitchers at Norfolk and Bowie like Jake Arrieta that could be September call ups.

Who is the Orioles best trade chip?

By no means are the Orioles going to have a Florida Marlins like fire sale but they will be sellers as opposed to buyers at the deadline. Many names like Aubrey Huff, George Sherrill, Danys Baez, Melvin Mora and Jeremy Guthrie have all had their names floating amidst trade talks. Andy MacPhail is not going to give these players away for nothing but I expect to see at least two players that are starters or major contributors to the club, playing elsewhere come August 1st.

The players that the Orioles are likely to get offered the most for are Aubrey Huff and Jeremy Guthrie. Huff is power left handed bat that has shown he can play first base better then people expected which now has him garnering interest from National League teams. One of the teams supposedly interested is the Mets, who have the reputation of parting with prospects to win now. If the Mets are in contention for the Wild Card and the Division and Carlos Delgado is still on the DL expect them to offer a lot to the Orioles to acquire Huff.

Jeremy Guthrie, as I mentioned earlier, should peak the interest of many teams due to his low salary and the fact that pitching is at a premium. Despite being 6-7 with a 5.11 ERA Guthrie is more then a serviceable major league pitcher who could be a very effective 3rd or 4th starter for a contending ball club.

Is Ty Wigginton the answer at hot corner?

Ty Wigginton hit another home run on Wednesday afternoon giving him six on the season which is four more then Melvin Mora. Wigginton has 16 fewer at bats then Mora and has the same number of RBI’s on the season. Wigginton is starting to look like the 20+ home run bat that the Orioles hoped he would be, while Mora is having his worst year in an Oriole uniform. I do not believe Wigginton is the 3rd baseman of the future but he is better currently then Melvin Mora and he should play more because of this. Mora will continue to start because of his tenure with the club, but how long can his anemic run producing bat be plugged into the number 5 hole in the lineup before the Orioles realized it is time for a change.

Base running blunders galore!!

Felix Pie was thrown out by five feet while trying to “stretch” a first inning single into a double, quelling any chance for a big inning. Pie joins the long list of Orioles that have made base running blunders to run the Orioles right of the inning, a problem that looks to be getting worse before it gets better.

Poor fundamentals are a direct result of poor leadership and I believe Dave Trembley is a major part of the Orioles poor fundamentals. I know every big league player should know how to run the bases, but if they can go out there and continue to make mistakes with out repercussions from the manager, then they will continue to make those same mistakes. Maybe instead of having the promotion where the kids run the bases after the game, the Orioles should be the ones running the bases instead.

There are still many questions marks about the ball club and it will be interesting to see how things play out after the deadline.

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5 W’s and 1 H

Posted on 22 June 2009 by Luke Jones

The Orioles certainly didn’t show the Phillies any “Brotherly Love” by completing a three-game sweep this weekend.

I attended the first two games of the series on Friday and Saturday night and had a great time.  Citizens Bank Park may lack the charm of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but the wide-open concourse is an excellent feature for those wanting to grab a snack or cold beverage without missing a pitch.

It was a pleasure meeting many of the rabid Orioles fans on the WNST/Miller Lite Bus Trip, and it was even better high-fiving and celebrating the closing moments of Saturday night’s comeback win with them!

Here are the 5 W’s and 1 H for the week:

1.  Who will be the best player not named Blake Griffin to come out of this year’s NBA Draft?

The 2009 NBA Draft takes place on Thursday night, and the Los Angeles Clippers have already committed to taking power forward Blake Griffin (Oklahoma), the surest thing in this year’s draft class, with the No. 1 pick.

After Griffin, there is plenty of talent but many question marks.  From Connecticut’s Hasheem Thabeet to international point guard Ricky Rubio to Davidson’s Stephen Curry, there is potential, but none are regarded as a sure thing.  Some NBA executives are calling this one of the worst drafts in recent memory.

If I had to choose a rookie from this class other than Griffin, I’d take a chance on Curry.  His heroic run in the 2008 NCAA tournament put him on the map, and he followed it up by leading the nation in scoring last season (28.6 points per game).

Though Curry lacks the ideal size (6-3) and athleticism for the NBA, his strong pedigree—he’s the son of former NBA player Dell Curry—and fundamentals will allow him to become a successful pro.  He won’t become an All-Star, but Curry will be a solid addition to an NBA team.

2.  What was the best Orioles game you ever attended?

Saturday night’s win has to be one of the top five or six Orioles games I’ve ever attended.  Yes, that’s pretty sad, but when you consider I was two weeks old when the Orioles last won the World Series, you can probably begin to understand.

My choice for the best game I’ve attended was a 7-5, 10-inning victory over the New York Yankees on June 3, 1997.  The Orioles were in the midst of their wire-to-wire run for the American League East title, and Rafael Palmeiro hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to put the Orioles ahead by 8.5 games in the division.

Walking out of the ballpark while gloating among the Yankees fans was a great feeling—and is nearly a forgotten one 12 years later.

3.  Where is the best starting rotation in the Orioles’ organization?

Though the starting pitching in Baltimore has improved, I am still eagerly looking at the rotation in Triple-A Norfolk.  The Tides currently have four of the top pitching prospects in the organization with Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, David Hernandez, and Troy Patton.

While it’s doubtful that all four will crack the starting rotation by season’s end, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these four, along with Brad Bergesen, making up the starting rotation by this time next season.  Obviously, there’s no guarantee—and it’s quite unlikely—they’ll all become successful big league starters, but it’s clear the Orioles have come a long way from the days of counting on one prospect like Rocky Coppinger or Matt Riley to save the rotation.

We’ve heard quite a bit about these names over the last two years, so it’s exciting to see them at the Triple-A level and on the verge of making the jump to the big leagues.

4.  When was the last time the Orioles earned an interleague sweep on the road?

Before this weekend’s sweep of the Phillies, the Orioles last completed an interleague road sweep against the Atlanta Braves in June 1999.

The Orioles completed the three-game set by beating the Braves, 22-1, on a nationally televised Sunday night game.  This was Cal Ripken’s famous six-hit game that earned several standing ovations from the Turner Field crowd over the course of the night.

Mike Mussina earned the win over Atlanta’s John Smoltz, capping off one of the few highlights of the 1999 season.

5.  Why did Dave Trembley allow Danys Baez to pitch to Ryan Howard in the seventh inning on Saturday night?

I certainly was celebrating the exciting comeback win on Saturday night, but it didn’t excuse Trembley’s terrible decision to pitch to Howard with a base open and two outs in the seventh inning.  Yes, walking Howard would have put the go-ahead run in scoring position, but the pitcher’s spot was on deck, and the Phillies sent Carlos Ruiz to the plate after Howard’s three-run shot.  Howard is hitting .299 against right-handed pitching, so the matchup against Baez wasn’t favorable in that regard either.

Just a hunch, but I’d take my chances facing Ruiz with the bases loaded instead of Howard.

I was sitting with Nestor Aparicio and my friend Mike—two of the most knowledgeable baseball fans I know—and all three of us immediately said it was the wrong move.  A few moments later, Howard confirmed our fears.

Saturday’s win was a great example of a team bailing out its manager.  The decisions to allow Gregg Zaun and Oscar Salazar to hit in the ninth inning worked out, but they did not cancel out the decision to pitch to one of the best power hitters in the game—whether he had the flu or not.

I hope Trembley personally thanked Brian Roberts for saving his bacon.  Regardless of the big win, it was the wrong decision.

6.  How likely are the Ravens to make a serious play for Brandon Marshall?

Not very.

John Harbaugh, Ozzie Newsome, and the Ravens are very serious about avoiding players with questionable character, and Marshall—regardless of his immense talent—fits that description.  When you also consider the team would have to surrender high draft picks and doesn’t have the salary cap room to afford the $7-9 million per year Marshall is seeking, it really becomes an easy decision.

Marshall’s dispute with the Denver Broncos is different from quarterback Jay Cutler’s, because it is not based on a conflict with new head coach Josh McDaniels; it simply comes down to wanting more money.

The Pro Bowl receiver is scheduled to become a free agent after the season, but an uncapped year in 2010 would change his status dramatically.  Since an uncapped system would change the number of years before free agency from four to six, Marshall would remain under the Broncos’ control for two more years—as a restricted free agent—and would not become an unrestricted free agent until after the 2011 season.  The Broncos hold all of the leverage in this situation, so Marshall desperately wants a new deal before that happens.

When you consider all of these factors, I would be surprised to see Marshall in Baltimore—or anywhere else other than Denver—this September.

*****

I hope all of the fathers out there had a great Father’s Day.  This is a tough day for me after losing my dad in 2004, but I have numerous great memories—many centering around the Ravens, Orioles, and Terps—to cherish.

He deserves more credit than anyone for cultivating my passion for Baltimore sports.  I’m sure he would have loved this weekend in Philadelphia.

Have a great Monday.

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Orioles upend Rays, 7-5

Posted on 12 May 2009 by Luke Jones

Despite a wild start to this one, the Orioles got an outstanding effort from the bullpen and center fielder Adam Jones, as they held on to defeat the Rays, 7-5.

Starter Mark Hendrickson lasted only two innings after surrendering five runs, but Brian Bass entered in the third and pitched four scoreless innings to bridge the gap to the later innings.  Danys Baez, Jim Johnson, and George Sherrill each pitched a scoreless inning to close out the victory.

Adam Jones sparked the offense with two home runs and drove in four runs.  The 23-year-old center fielder continues to be among the league leaders in batting average (.363) and leads the club with eight home runs.

Left fielder Felix Pie left the game in the fourth inning and was taken to the hospital with a stomach ailment.  If Pie is unable to recover for tomorrow’s game, the club will only have a two-man bench with Luke Scott unavailable until the start of the Kansas City series.  In case you were wondering, Nolan Reimold hit another home run for Triple-A Norfolk tonight.

All in all, not a bad ballgame despite the sloppy start for both teams.

The Orioles will go for the two-game sweep tomorrow night before leaving town on a 10-game road trip.  The Orioles will send rookie Brad Bergesen to the hill against Tampa Bay right-hander Jeff Niemann.

A reminder that WNST will be at Donna’s Tavern in Dundalk tomorrow night for the Coors Light King of Baltimore Sportstalk Competition semifinals.  Please come out and join us, and I thank the WNST audience for all of its support throughout the competition!

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Why the Orioles bullpen held a closed-door meeting

Posted on 05 May 2009 by Luke Jones

From the home office in Glen Rock, Pa., I bring to you the Top 10 Reasons Why the Orioles Bullpen Held a Closed-Door Meeting on Monday Afternoon.

10.  They’re still trying to figure out just how high Radhames Liz’s ERA was in his last stint with the club.

9.  “I know we’ve asked you before, but is it pronounced ‘Danny’ or ‘Dan-eez?'”

8.  They figured since they can’t manage to close the door late in the game, they might as well try to do it in the clubhouse.

7.  With minicamp starting Friday, the relievers discussed who among them could be that big-play receiver the Ravens lack.

6.  To cool complaints about not having established roles, the front office sent over a pack of these for the bullpen to share.

5.  “George, when you’re the closer, we called it colorful.  When you’re not, the brim’s just kind of lame.”

4.  Jamie Walker shared his new seminar titled “How to Critique Umpiring Tactfully.”

3.  After watching another episode of The Office, Chris Ray shouted, “Conference room, 5 minutes!”

2.  Figuring out how to get the bullpen phone to go straight to voice mail is not a one-man job.

1.  In an attempt to jumpstart the club, instead of pitching the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings, the relievers will now take turns hitting seventh, eighth, and ninth in the lineup.

(Update:  Gregg Zaun, Cesar Izturis, and Felix Pie were unavailable for comment, as they were working in the bullpen with pitching coach Rick Kranitz.  MASN’s Jim Hunter immediately praised the decision.)

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Major League Baseball In Cuba ???

Posted on 20 April 2009 by Rex Snider

By now, most of the world knows some sanctions regarding the United States’ relationship with Cuba have been relaxed. While the advantages merely reference travel for American citizens with family in Cuba, it’s the first tangible movement toward a reconciliation, in nearly 50 years.

When I first learned that President Obama was forging a possible productive relationship with Cuba, I immediately reasoned “what impact could this have on Major League Baseball?” It’s not a stretch to suggest Cuba could be the new “hot bed” of pro-caliber talent, within the Caribbean region.

Heck, with antiquated equipment, teachings and conditioning, Cuba has produced an impressive group of big league players – many of who risked their lives to reach the United States. The list of current players includes, Yuniesky Betancourt, Livan Hernandez, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, Danys Baez, Kendry Morales, Alexei Ramirez, Rey Ordonez, Jose Contreras and Alex Sanchez.

There’s an impressive list of notable former Major Leaguers of Cuban descent, as well. This list would include Luis Tiant, Rafael Palmeiro, Minnie Minoso, Tony Olivo, Tony Perez, Bert Campaneris, Jose Canseco, Diego Segui, Cookie Rojas, Mike Cuellar, and many others.

While such lists don’t rival the mass of players who’ve hailed from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela, it should be remembered players from these countries have always been free to travel to the Unites States and make a living by playing pro baseball. Cubans have not been afforded such a privilege.

Regardless of government regimes and politics, the Cuban people have always loved baseball and the Cuban National Team is a threat in any tourney. As many recall from the Orioles’ trip to Havana, attendance at Cuban games is abundant. Baseball has a real appeal on this island nation.

In a perfect world, Cuba would be built upon a democracy, and its Socialist ties would come to an end. If so, I could picture Havana with it’s own Major League franchise. It’s worked in Toronto. And, Havana boasts the population (2 million) to support a pro team.

That said, such a “pipedream” is even further from reality than a championship-caliber Orioles team. If Cuba became a free nation, based on Capitalism as soon as tomorrow, the country’s economy would need years of healthy recovery for a citizen base to actively and monetarily support Major League Baseball.

In other words, if Cuba really became FREE, the people would have to crawl before they walk. The infrastructure of the island nation is deplete of current technological advances and modern conveniences. The damn place is stuck in 1959 !!!!

The sad truth is Cuba will not be a free nation, anytime soon. Their Socialist stranglehold will forbid any real progress in mending the severed relationship with the United States. Regardless of relaxed travel perks, the United States cannot be a friend or ally of a nation where freedom has no place.

In addition, Cuba would have to cease its relationship with terrorist nations and enemies of humanity. Finally, Cuba would need to return EVERY LAST INCH OF THE PRIVATELY OWNED REAL ESATE that was seized, nearly 50 years ago. And, this is not going to happen.

In a sobering way, all of these issues are much larger than baseball. We’re talking about LIFE and FREEDOM. But, if and when Cuba is free ….. the game of baseball will benefit greatly.

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Final thoughts on the 5-4 win

Posted on 11 April 2009 by Luke Jones

I just got back from the ballgame as Mark Hendrickson outdueled Andy Sonnanstine, and the Orioles broke a 12-game losing streak to Tampa Bay, winning 5-4.

Here are my final thoughts on tonight’s win:

– Hendrickson was a pleasant surprise, allowing one run in 5 1/3 innings of work.  I was surprised Dave Trembley pulled him after allowing a single to Carlos Pena with one out in the sixth.  Hendrickson had only thrown 91 pitches.

If Trembley wants to maintain a strong bullpen into the summer months, he will need to allow Hendrickson and Adam Eaton to work late into the game—even if it means giving up a few extra runs and infuriating Orioles fans in the process.

– I echo the thoughts of Bob Haynie regarding the “O’s” hat.  I’d much rather see the cartoon bird hat (without the white panel) with the Friday alternates.  It’s still the best hat the Orioles have ever worn.

– In case we needed a reminder, Evan Longoria is one of the best players in the game.  He accounted for three of the Rays’ four runs with a solo shot in the first and a two-run blast in the eight.  Perhaps more impressive than his bat is his fielding prowess.  If you saw the play he made yesterday against Boston, you know what I’m talking about.

– Danys Baez looks very impressive in the early stages of the season, striking out four of the five batters he faced tonight.  He’s overpaid at $5.5 million, but Baez can provide some solid middle relief when healthy.

– Two more doubles for Adam Jones tonight.  He’s absolutely raking the ball right now.

– The Orioles made another base-running mistake in the second inning with Gregg Zaun getting doubled off second base following Cesar Izturis’ lineout to right field.  This is a very capable lineup, but they cannot continue to give up potential runs with such an inconsistent pitching staff.

– George Sherrill continues to remind me of a poor man’s Randy Myers.  The lefty struck out the side but gave up a home run to Dioner Navarro in the process.  Much like Myers, he rarely has a 1-2-3 inning but manages to get the job done anyway.

– Despite the well-documented missteps of the organization over the past decade, $6 Student Night continues to be a great marketing tool.  A large bulk of the announced 22,866 in attendance could be found in the left field upper deck.  While it isn’t exactly Section 34 at the old stadium, the college kids bring a nice energy to the ballgame.

Now, we just need to ban the wave, and we’ll be ready to go for the rest of the season.

The Orioles will go for their second-straight win against the Rays tomorrow night when Jeremy Guthrie takes the hill against Jeff Niemann.

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